4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Message received from the House of Representatives, stating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in the Bill.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Audit Acts 1901-1906. - Repeal of Regulation 47, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1911, No. 180.
Seat of Government. - Ordinance of 1911. - No. 2 - Rates.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - West Maitland, New South Wales : Commonwealth purposes. - Notification of the acquisition of land.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following papers -
Return to order of the Senate of9th November showing -
The number of postal voting papers issued in each State at the general election in April, 1910.
The number of postal voting papers returned to the various Returning Officers and used, in which the franchise was exercised.
The number of postal voting papers not returned to the Returning Officers.
The name of the State, electoral district, and polling place to which postal voting papers were not returned.
The names and ordinary occupations of the Returning and Deputy Returning Officers for such divisions.
The steps taken, or inquiries made, to trace such unretumed voting papers, and the results of such action.
Return to order of the Senate of 20th October showing -
The number of trade unions registered under the State laws in the respective States; (b) the number of individuals coming within the jurisdiction of such legislation ; (c) the occupations or industries in connexion with which such registration is made.
The number of registered industrial organizations (a) of employers, (b) of employes registered under the State Industrial Arbitration and Conciliation Acts, and (c) the industries in connexion with whichsuch registration is made.
The number of organizations (a) of employers, (b) of employes registered in pursuance of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904 and Acts amending same, and (c) the industries in connexion with which such registration is made.
– I desire to again ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he is prepared with the information regarding the land tax, which he promised, on the 20th September, to get for me?
– I have been making inquiries, and as soon as possible the paper will be laid upon the table.
– Two months ago the Minister said that.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the Government are yet in possession of statistical information showing the areas of land of less than one acre in the Commonwealth, and the amount of land tax received from areas of 1 acre and under?
– If the honorable senator wishes to obtain this information his proper course will be to move for the production of a return.
– I understand that a series of photographs of the route of the proposed transcontinental line were taken and exhibited lately at the rooms of the Royal Society. Will, the Minister of Defence kindly get copies of the photographs for the informationof honorable senators?
Senatorgivens.-Which transcontinental line ?
– The transcontinental line.
– There are two proposed.
– If the photographs are in the possession of the Defence Department, I say, “Yes.” If they are not there I will endeavour to obtain them.
– I read in the Argus of this morning that the Government contemplate the installation of wireless tele- graphy in Melbourne, and I desire to ask the Honorary Minister whether it is their intention to proceed with the establishment of a wireless station in Queensland during this financial year, and, if so, when?
– I am not in a position at the present moment to give the information which the honorable senator desires, but it is hoped that within the next three or four days the PostmasterGeneral will be able to make a statement which I trust will be satisfactory, not only to the honorable senator but also to others who have interested themselves in wireless telegraphy.
– Will it be convenient if I give notice of a question on the subject for Thursday or Friday next?
– I am not in a position to say exactly the day on which the honorable senator may get the answer which he desires, but the information is being prepared, and it is believed that not more than three or four days will elapse before it is available.
– I give notice of a question for Wednesday next.
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to ask the Honorary Minister whether, during the course of the investigations, any attention will be paid to the claims of the north-west portion of Western Australia? All the weather comes from that particular side, and I should like to know whether or not the Minister will take into serious consideration the advisability of erecting a station on the extreme north-western point of the State?
– Mr. Balsillie, the expert, has made extensive inquiries as to the most suitable places in different parts of Australia for the installation of a wireless system. It is believed that when the Postmaster-General makes an announcement in the course of the next few days every State will receive that consideration which is its due.
– I hope that the Federal Territory at Jervis Bay will not be overlooked.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What is the actual pay of a noncommissioned officer -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
Forty-four. 10. (a) £156 per annum. (b)£156per annum, increasing by biennial increments to a maximum, in sixyears, of £183.
The following table gives therate of pay for each subdivision and the number of instructors therein : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are - 1.Instructions have been given for survey of a railway route from Pine Creek to theKatherine River. No instructions have yet been given for any survey beyond that point.
-Arising out of the Minister’s answer, I desire to ask whether the instructions issued in connexion with the survey of the country between Pine Creek and the Katherine River are to complete the survey commenced by the South Australian Government, or whether it is proposed to make an entirely new survey ?
– I cannot say. I will make inquiries, and if the honorable senator will, to-morrow, ask a question, without notice, I hope to be able to give him a reply.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17th November, vide page 2825) :
Clause 21 -
Section one hundred and fifty of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 150. - (1.) In an election for the Senate, a voter shall mark his voteon his ballot-paper as follows : -
where he votes before a Registrar before polling day - in the manner prescribed by the regulations;
where his ballot-paper is a ballot-paper in accordance with FormO in the Schedule - by making a cross in a square opposite the name of each candidate for whom he votes; and
where he votes in accordance with the regulations relating to absent voting - in the manner prescribed by those regulations. “ 2. In an election for the Senate, a voter must vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.”
That all the words after “stead,” line 3, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ 150. - (1.) In elections for the Senate the voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper by placing the number 1 in the square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he votes as his first preference and by placing the numbers 2, 3, 4 (and so on as the case requires) in the squares opposite the names of the remaining candidates so as to indicate the order of his preferences for them. “ (2.) Where an elector votes before a Registrar before polling day or where an elector votes in accordance with the regulations relating to absent voting, the manner in which a voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper shall be prescribed by the regulations, but so that the principles contained in the preceding sub-section relating to the marking of first and other preferences shall be observed.”
During the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill I gave reasons why I thought that an amendment of the kind now moved should be made. I am endeavouring to provide for what is known as proportional representation. I think that it will be generally agreed that the system proposed would be a very great improvement upon that which at present prevails, and would secure the true representation of the people in the Senate.
– This question was brought up on Friday, when I decided that Senator Vardon’s amendment was not in order, oh the ground that it is not rele vant to the subject-matter of the Bill. The standing order relating to relevancy is No. 196, which provides -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the Bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
It appears to me that whilst Senator Vardon’s amendment would be relevant to the subject-matter of the principal Act, it is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill before the Committee, because it seeks to introduce an entirely new principle - a principle, I may add. of vital importance. The question has been before the Senate on previous occasions, and cognate questions have also been discussed. The amendment would alter the principle upon which voting is now conducted, because it would give a different value to the votes recorded for a certain candidate. It would almost certainly alter the personnel of the Senate. Had such a proposal been submitted in the Bill as read a second time, there is no doubt that it would have taken up a large part of the discussion on the Bill at that stage. The amendment is such as to alter the principles of the Bill as referred to the Committee, and if carried would further require the alteration of section 103 of the principal Act, which deals with the forfeiture of deposits. There would be a considerable difference in the number of votes which it would be necessary for an unsuccessful candidate to obtain before his deposit could be forfeited. I do not think it necessary to say any more. I know that it is a very open question, but in my opinion the proposed amendment is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, because it would vitally alter the principle of voting provided for in section 150 of the principal Act.
– You were good enough, sir, to inform me that you intended to take this view of my amendment. In the circumstances I move -
That the ruling of the Chairman of Committees be disagreed with on the ground that as the Bill proposes to amend section 150 of the Principal Act, specifying not only how a voter is to record his vote, but also the principle on which it is to be recorded, my amendment is truly relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill.
In the Senate:
The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report that in Committee Senator
Vardon moved the following amendment to clause 21 of the Bill: -
That all the words after the words “ stead,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - “ 150. - (1.) In elections for the Senate the voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper by placing the number 1 in the square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he votes as his first preference and by placing the numbers 2, 3, 4 (and so on as the case requires) in the squares opposite the names of the remaining candidates so as to indicate the order of his preferences for them. “ (2.) Where an. elector votes before a Registrar before polling day or where an elector votes in accordance with the regulations relating to absent voting, the manner in which a voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper shall be prescribed by the regulations, but so that the principles contained in the preceding sub-section relating to the marking of first and other preferences shall be observed.”
I ruled the amendment out of order on the ground that it is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and Senator Vardon then moved to disagree with my ruling in the following terms -
That the ruling of the Chairman of Committees be disagreed with on the ground that as the Bill proposes to amend section 150 of the principal Act, specifying not only how the voter is to record his vote, but also the principle on which it is to be recorded, my amendment is truly relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill.
I submit that according to decisions given more than once, and approved by a vote of the Senate, this amendment is not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, though it is relevant to the subject-matter of the principal Act. It must be patent to every one that if agreed to the amendment would bring about a vital alteration in the principle of the existing Act. The alteration of principle would be so farreaching that it is absolutely certain that if the amendment were carried the constitution of the Senate would be altered, if anything can be certain in politics. The effect of the alteration on political parties is beside the question, as this matter may be considered without party feeling. It will be remembered that at the last Senate election there were practically only two political parties before the country, and in each State the whole of the three candidates representing the victorious party were returned.
– There were more than two parties in some of the States - in Victoria and in Queensland.
The Chairman of Committees. - I say that for all practical purposes the voting strength in the constituencies was possessed by two parties only in each of the States. It must be plain that had this proposal for preferential voting been in force at that election the result would have been in each State the return of two senators representing one party and one representing the other party. That is about the best guide we could have in deciding whether this would not introduce a vital new principle. That being so, we have to decide whether although the amendment may be relevant to the subject-matter of the principal Act it can be introduced, in the way proposed, in this Bill. Some years ago when the Senate was considering an amending Electoral Bill, I submitted an amendment to substitute for the principle of the block vote for the Senate which is contained in the principal Act, and under which an elector must vote for not less than three candidates, the right of each elector to plump for one candidate, or to vote for one, two, or three candidates as he pleased. The then Chairman of Committees of the Senate, who, Ithink, was Senator Higgs, accepted my amendment after discussion, and ruled that it was in order. Senator Gould objected to that ruling, and the matter was thereupon referred to the President, Sir Richard Baker, who gave his decision against the Chairman’s ruling, and consequently against my amendment. I dissented from the decision of the President, and the question was considered at the next sitting of the Senate. After discussion a division was taken upon it, and although the voting was equal, eleven votes being recorded on either side, the fact remains that under the Constitution, the Senate upheld the decision of the President. The question then at issue was not nearly so vital as is the proposal of Senator Vardon, because it is certain that under it, when there are only two political parties before the country, and three members have to be returned, each of those parties will secure one representative, whilst the third seat will go to the stronger party. I think that statement of the position will be accepted without demur. That being so, surely the principle which is involved in the amendment of Senator Vardon is of such vital importance that it is outside the scope of the amending Bill !
Senatorsayers. - The principle is a good one.
The Chairman of Committees. - That is quite another question. I have no doubt that many honorable senators who would oppose Senator Vardon’s amendment in Committee would vote for it if it were submitted in a different way. I contend that a standing order has been expressly framed to meet this particular class of cases with a view to insuring that the rights and privileges of honorable senators shall not be unduly restricted, and that the procedure of the Senate shall hot be unduly hampered..
– What is the number of that standing order?
The Chairman of Committees. - It is standing order 327. That standing order was framed for the express purpose of meeting the particular class of cases that is now under discussion. It provides that certain new matter which is not relevant to an amending Bill, but which is revelant to the principal Act, may be introduced conditionally upon an instruction to the Committee, moved prior to the secondreading stage of the Bill, being passed. But even if Senator Vardon had obtained such an instruction, I am not sure that his amendment would be in order, that is if we are to follow the precedent which has been laid down. Reference to May’s Parliamentary Practice, Vol. X., will show that grave doubt exists as to whether even if the honorable senator had obtained an instruction to the Committee, he would have been in order in submitting his amendment. That question, however, does not arise here, because no such instruction was obtained. The motion which I submitted on the occasion to which I have already referred is set out in Hansard of 1905, vol. 28, page 4027. It reads -
That the following new clause be added : - “ 42a. Section one hundred and fifty of the principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the words’ the voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.’ “
– Was that ruled out of order for the same reason?
The Chairman of Committees.-Yes. The President’s ruling will be found on pages 4036-7 of the same volume of Hansard. Sir Richard Baker said inter alia -
Therefore we must consider the subject-matter of the Bill, and whether Senator O’Keefe’s amendment is relevant to that subject-matter. The subject-matter of the Act which it is proposed to amend really has nothing to do with the question. It is the subject-matter of the Bill’ which our Standing Orders say shall be the test. As has been admitted in the course of the argument, if a Bill were introduced practically to make some trivial amendment in an Act of great length and importance it would not be open, according to standing order 194, to the Committee to deal with all the subjects dealt with in the principal Act, which it was proposed to amend. As to the question of relevancy, what is meant by “ relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill?” There is always room for difference of opinion as towhat is relevant. It is all a question of degree. What might appear to one man to be relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill might appear to another man not to be so. Forinstance, on this particular question, it might be argued that the subject-matter of the Bill is the electoral law; that it is an amendment of the law effecting electoral questions. Therefore, it might be argued, the proposed amendment is relevant to the subject-matter. It depends upon the way in which you put it. But it seems to me that there is a great principle involved. That is this : On the second reading of a Bill we enunciate the principles contained in the Bill as drawn. Then the Senate goes into Committee to consider the Bill in detail. I do not agree with the proposition that the Committee could not amend this Bill in any particular except the particulars mentioned in it. I never stated that, and I wish it to be clearly understood thatI do not say so. But I do say this - that when this Bill was read a second time, it did not contain the important principle ‘that is now sought to be enunciated in it.
There was no discussion on that principle. Although Senator O’Keefe mentioned the matter, there was not, I say, any discussion on the principle of his proposed amendment at the second-reading stage.
I think that these remarks apply with greater force in the present case because the question of preferential or block voting was not mentioned during the secondreading debate.
– Yes, it was.
The Chairman of Committees. - It was not mentioned to the same extent as was done in 1905. The honorable senator will admit that his proposal was not generally discussed at that stage. Had it been circulated and discussed generally, possibly a great proportion of the debate on the second reading would have been devoted to the question of whether proportional or block voting was the better system to adopt.
– My amendment was put in print and circulated.
The Chairman of Committees. - The amendment was not generally discussed, and I am sure that my honorable friend will agree with me that to that extent it was hardly in the minds of honorable senators during the second-reading debate.
– Senator Symon mentioned it also, and spoke at length regarding it.
– That may be so; but if we adopt the principle which is attempted to he laid down, and allow an amendment like this to be inserted in the Bill in Committee, where are we going to land ourselves? We must not look at this particular Bill by itself. We must lay down a’ practice which is convenient to the Senate, and which will tend to the greatest convenience of the Senate and its mem bers. We must adopt a practice which will enable expression to be given to the views of the Committee, and will permit the introduction of amendments, which, however, must not be foreign to the purpose of the Bill when it was read a second time.
I do not think that any honorable senator can say that the amendment of Senator Vardon is not foreign to the purpose of. this Bill as read a second time - -so foreign that if adopted it would change the system of voting, the system of representation, and the personnel of the Senate.
Otherwise we shall get into confusion. What is the test by which the happy mean can be arrived at? It is - what was contained in the Bill when the Bill was read a second time?
There was nothing about preferential voting contained in this Bill when it was read a second time.
The Bill having been read a second time, can it then be radically altered in Committeeby putting in some great principle of far-reaching importance not contained in the original Act itself?
Surely this is a great principle of farreaching importance which is not contained in the original Act.
It appears to me that we ought not to adopt any such practice. If we did no one would know what was going to happen. No one would know, after a Bill had been read a second time, what novel principle might be introduced into it in Committee. There would also be this great disadvantage - that if it were necessaryto amend an Act of great importance, on which there was great difference of opinion, the Government would shrink from bringing down an amending measure to amend some details. They would say : “ If we bring down a Bill to amend the existing Act, the whole subject-matter of the Act will be open to discussion. It will all be raked in ; and, instead of having a short Bill which can be dealt with in a short time, we shall have a long general discussion, and, possibly, a radical alteration of the principal Act.” I am very anxious that we should adopt a practice which shall be as convenient as possible to honorable senators, and which will restrict them as little as possible in the discussion of Bills. But at the same time, we should adopt a practice which will serve to carry on, the business of the Senate and the business of the country - which is tantamount to the same thing - with as little friction and inconvenience as possible; which will enable honorable senators, when they have passed the second reading, of a Bill, to know practically what that Bill is going to be, and which will prevent honorable senators in Committee from radically altering a Bill by introducing provisions novel to the Bill itself.
I submit again that this amendment is vitally novel to the Bill itself.
I have the greatest respect for the opinion of the Chairman of Committees. I agree with what he has said as to general principles. Bui I consider that it is my duty to dissent from his ruling in this particular case.
I dissented from the ruling, and my motion was discussed at the following sitting; and, although the voting was even, under the provision in the Constitution, the Senate upheld the decision of the President. I submit that the decision of the President, until corrected or rescinded, has all the force of a standing order. I think that the amendment deals with a matter which might very well have been considered in the Senate. As it is of such vital importance to honorable senators individually, and to the conduct of business, and opinion seems to be so equally divided, I am very pleased indeed that Senator Vardon has disagreed with my ruling, so that we shall be able to get the decision of the Senate.
– I looked up the cases referred to by the Chairman of Committees. I found that, although Sir Richard Baker gave that ruling, he was opposed by some of the ablest members of the Senate ; and that when it came to a vote, the numbers were equal, eleven voting on each side. Ten senators besides the President voted in favour of his ruling, while eleven voted against him. It may be, perhaps, a very presumptuous thing for me to say, but I still believe that his ruling was wrong, and that Senator 0’ Keefe was quite within his rights when he submitted his amendment. The whole crux of this matter is the question of relevancy. Standing order 196 says -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the Bill provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
In giving his ruling Sir Richard Baker said -
The question to be considered is whether an amendment is relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. If so it can be moved whether it contains a new principle or not.
That was admitted, but he qualified it in the previous sentence when he said -
Amendments in Committee must be relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill as read a second time.
I desire, sir, to call your attention to the fact that the standing order contains no such words. It merely says -
Provided the same be relevant to the subnetmatter of the Bill and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
I do not think that v/e need be bound by the words of Sir Richard Baker when he confines the thing to the second reading of
– The amending Bill makes no provision for an alteration of the principle.
– I have already admitted that. The fact that the Government propose to alter section 150 does make, I submit, my amendment relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill. I do not think there is much in the argument of Senator O’Keefe with regard to the matter of the deposit. I do not consider that my amendment, if carried, would affect that matter. Nor do I think that there is anything in the statement that at the last election there were practically two parties. Under this system of voting it would not matter if there were- twenty parties. But granting that there were only two parties, in Victoria there were three parties, including a lady, who polled 60,000, which was more than all the votes in Tasmania.
The Chairman of Committees. - Not in proportion to the total number of votes polled.
– What I mean is that probably 60,000 voters in Tasmania would have some right to recognition, if they formed a third party.
– Not under the Constitution.
– No; you could not get it in Tasmania.
– This is not a Bill to deal with the Constitution in any way but one to deal with the method of election. It is a measure to alter the Electoral Act. I am very glad to have the sympathy of the Chairman of Committees. I feel quite sure that he would be very pleased if this scheme were adopted, and so, too, would many other honorable senators. There is a number of honorable senators who have hitherto been pledged to this mode of voting. Another statement made was that there was no discussion on this matter at the second-reading stage. That position can hardly be sustained, because I read the amendment to the Senate, and spoke on it at some considerable length. I had the proposal printed and circulated. Senator E. J. Russell also debated the matter, combating the ideas which I had put forward, so that, it cannot be said that there was no discussion at the second-reading stage.
– It was proportional voting which I discussed.
– My amendment deals with proportional voting.
– Did not Senator Keating speak on the matter, too?
– Yes. The objection that there was no discussion on the maimer at the second-reading stage does not .’told good.
The Chairman of Committees. - I think I said that there was no general discussion. I am subject to correction.
– If three or four honorable senators take up a subject and discuss it, some on the one side and some on the other, surely it can be said that a general debate has taken place regarding it.
– Would it affect the question if not a single senator had spoken on the subject?
– I am dealing with a point brought forward by the Chairman of Committees himself .as one of the reasons for declining to accept my amendment. Both Senator Keating and Senator E. J. Russell spoke on the subject during .the second-reading debate. It cannot be said, therefore, that there was no discussion at that stage. With regard <to the point as to obtaining from the Senate an instruction to t he Committee, I point out that in the .course of my second-reading speech I distinctly stated that I intended to move an amendment. I received no indication from the President or from any one else that that course could1 only be taken on an instruction to the Committee. I do not desire to say a word against the ruling of the former President of the Senate, Sir Richard Baker. No doubt he discharged the duties of his office ably and conscientiously. But, after all, he was only human like the rest of us, and may have taken too narrow and restrictive a view. Senator Symon and the present President of the Senate were both opposed to his ruling. Apart from that, however, it is surely open to us to form a precedent of our own. and’ to reverse the former decision. President’s decisions are not like the laws of the Medes and Persians. They can be altered. Surely an important question such as I desire to raise ought not to be shut out on a technicality. I contend that a system of proportional representation is a better and a sounder system than the prevailing one. The Committee ought tohave an opportunity of expressing an opinionon that point. It is scarcely fair to myself, or to the electors of the Commonwealth, that so important a subject should not be debated upon its merits. I therefore trust that the ruling of the Chairman will not be upheld.
– I consider that the ruling of the Chairman of Committees, if upheld, would unduly restrict the rights of senators. I pay no regard at the present stage to the merits of the question raised by Senator Vardon’s amendment. This is not the proper time for so doing. But I contend that a reasonable reading of the standing order gives scope for a full consideration of the subject in connexion with such a measure as the Electoral Bill. Surely, as the Bill lays down how an elector shall vote, the method of voting is also a relevant matter, and an opening is afforded for Parliament, if it chooses, to alter the existing system. We shall be following precedents too blindly if on account of a decision formerly given, on a matter which may have been somewhat akin to this, but which certainly wasnot the same, we -were to deprive ourselvesof the right of discussing this admittedly important matter. There would scarcely ever be an amendment which could be objected to on the same grounds if Senator. Vardon’s ‘amendment were ruled out of order for the reasons given by the Chairman of Committees.
– The Government have brought down a Bill in which they propose to amend section 150 of the principal Act. Senator Vardon simply proposes a further amendment of that section. The Chairman of Committees has ruled that as President Sir Richard Baker has declined to allow a similar amendment to be discussed Senator Vardon’s amendment is out of order. My contention is that it is fully within the power of the Senate, and within the power of the President, with the consent of the Senate, to rule that the former decision was wrong, and to allow Senator Vardon’s amendment to be debated. There was a strong difference of opinion as to the former decision, and the President’s ruling was upheld simply by his own vote. Only twenty-two senators out of a House of thirty-six voted. There were eleven on each side. I shall read the names from the division list. The ayes were Senators Croft, de Largie, Givens, Guthrie, Henderson, Higgs, Pearce, Stewart, Story, Turley, and O’Keefe (teller). The noes were Senators Baker (the President), Dobson, Drake, Keating, Macfarlane, Playford, Pulsford, Styles, Trenwith, Walker, and Millen (teller). As the decision was so close, that is an additional reason why we should now review it.
– Pull everything down that has been done !
– If the decision had been arrived at in a full Senate, there might be something to be said from that point of view, but inasmuch as President Baker himself had to vote to uphold his own ruling, we may well take stock of the result. I think that President Baker, with all due respect to him, took rather a high hand in voting against the motion that his ruling be dissented from. The other day, Mr. President, when a motion of dissent was submitted concerning a ruling of yours, you did not vote. Had President Baker adopted the same attitude, the decision upon the records would have been entirely different. But is it to be Weld that because something was done in the first or second Parliament of the Commonwealth, it should stand as a precedent for ever?” Is it not in the interests of the people of this country that we should allow free and full discussion on important points, and not rule them out on technicalities? I was very much surprised - indeed, it has been an education to me - to read what various members of the Senate said during the debate on the previous occasion. I see that you yourself, sir, in reply to Senator Dobson, said -
I do not see the slightest resemblance between the amendment which Senator O’Keefe has proposed and the amendment which Senator Mulcahy desired to submit. If the former were carried, the repeal of half-a-dozen words in section 144 of the Electoral Act would effect no alteration in the machinery for carrying out parliamentary elections. It does not deal with a principle of the Act, but merely enables an elector to exercise his franchise in his own way. The Government think it is necessary to amend sections 143 and 145 of the Act, but, according to this ruling, it is not competent for the Senate to amend section 144.
That case was on all fours with this. The Government are proposing to amend section 150 of the principal Act. Senator Vardon wants to extend the proposed amendment. Surely when an amendment of an existing Act of Parliament is proposed, the whole principle of the section to be amended is brought under review. If it is thought advisable we can alter any provision proposed to be amended by the Bill under consideration. If that is not in accordance with parliamentary practice, I do not know what is. According , to the ruling of the Chairman, we are not entitled to submit an amendment which would alter the original Act, but I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that the Government have themselves proposed in clause 21 of the Bill an alteration of the same provision of the original Act.
The Chairman of Committees. - The honorable senator will pardon me. My ruling was that the proposal of the Government did not involve an alteration of a vital principle of the original Act, but an alteration merely in small matters of form. ‘
– I maintain that, as the Government have proposed in the Bill an alteration of section 150 of the principal Act, that section is wholly open to review by the Committee. Senator O’Keefe has said that there was not much discussion upon this matter on the second reading, but as a matter of fact it was discussed by three honorable senators, and, as Senator Vardon intimated his intention to move an amendment dealing with it in Committee, it was useless to discuss the question at length on the second reading.
– No notice was given by the Government that they would oppose the proposed amendment.
– That is so. To show honorable senators further how a similar question was regarded previously, I refer them to. page 41 12 of Hansard for 1905. It will be found that Senator Givens, in reply, I think, to Senator Trenwith, made a long speech on the occasion dissenting from the ruling, to which Senator O’Keefe objected. He said -
The whole matter in dispute now is whether the amendment proposed by Senator O’Keefe is relevant to the Bill before us. Without labouring details, an examination of the Bill from the title onwards goes to show thai it is a Bill to amend the existing Electoral Act. It proposes the amendment or that Act in many and various ways. To my mind, the amendment proposed by Senator O’Keefe, the merits nf which I do not propose to discuss at this stage, is merely a minor amendment which does not deal with any important matter of principle as some honorable senators would have us believe. It deals with the question as to how the elector on whom we have conferred the franchise, shall exercise his vote - the limits within which he shall exercise it.
That is exactly what we say in this case. Senator Vardon’s amendment deals with the manner in which an elector shall exercise his vote, and the limits within which he shall exercise it. We are now arguing just as honorable senators opposite argued when a similar question was before the Senate on the 26th October, 1905. If honorable senators are prevented from moving such an amendment they will be unduly restricted. All that we ask is for a free discussion of the proposals submitted by Senator Vardon, and if the majority of honorable senators believe that it is not good in principle, or would not be in the best interests of the electors, it will be defeated. But it ought not to be defeated by being ruled out of order on a technicality. There are many honorable senators present who were not members of the Senate in 1905, and if they had been it is probable that they would have taken the view which you, sir, and honorable senators opposite, took on that occasion, when the ruling against Senator O’Keefe’s amendment was upheld by an equal vote. I hope that your decision will be that Senator Vardon’s amendment is relevant to the Bill, and let it be accepted or rejected by the Committee. It is your duty to decide whether the Chairman’s ruling was right or wrong, and 1 submit that it was wrong.
– Senator O’Keefe, on his ruling being dissented from, has referred us to the ruling of a former President, and, consequent amendments made in the Standing Orders, to prevent an undue restriction of debate in Committee. The honorable senator specially referred to standing order 327. The standing orders from No. 323 to 328 deal with the reception of instructions to Committees. Senator O’Keefe has contended that if Senator Vardon desired to have his amendment discussed, the proper course for him to have followed was to have asked the Senate to give an instruction to the Committee, and that, because he did not do that, he is now prevented from introducing his amendment. Senator O’Keefe has based his ruling upon the Standing Orders dealing with instructions to Committees. I respectfully submit that these Standing Orders do not touch the point at issue. Standing order 323” reads -
An instruction empowers a Committee to consider matters not otherwise referred to it.
That is quite clear, and probably Senator O’Keefe is right so far in suggesting that that standing order was framed in order to make clear a decision of a previous President of the Senate. Standing order 324 reads -
No. instruction can be given to a Committee to do that which it is already empowered to do.
That is axiomatic. Standing order 325 says -
An instruction may be given to a Committee to divide a Bill into two or more Bills, or -to consolidate several Bills into one.
That standing order really applies rulings given by Speakers of the House of Commons. It is evident that upon a revision of our Standing Orders, the Standing Orders’ Committee decided in this way to embody the decisions of Speakers of the House of Commons on different occasions, when Committees were called upon to deal with two or more Bills concerning the same subject. Standing order 326 -
An instruction to a Select Committee extends or restricts the order of reference, and may be moved after notice on any day prior to the report of the Committee.
That is to say that an inquiry by a Select Committee may be extended or restricted in accordance with an instruction from the Senate. I now come to standing order 327, on which Senator O’Keefe so much relies. It provides that -
An instruction can be given to a Committee of the Whole on a Bill to amend an existing Act, to consider amendments which are not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, but are relevant to the subject-matter of the Act it is proposed to amend.
That is not the point at issue now. The point which you, sir, have to consider is whether the amendment submitted by Senator Vardon in Committee is relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. We can here leave out of consideration the question of any instruction to the Committee. Finally standing order 328 says -
An instruction to a Committee of the whole requires notice, and can only be moved before going into Committee on any question.
That does not deal with the position before us to-day. I submit that these Standing Orders dealing with instructions to Committees are not applicable to the consideration of the question now before us. The only question which has to be decided is whether Senator Vardon’s amendment is relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill which is under consideration by the Committee. The question of whether or not an instruction was given to the Committee is not under consideration. Standing order 327 does not limit in any way the right of any honorable senator to submit an amendment so long as it is relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill. Senator O’Keefe having been “ bitten,” so to speak, is quite naturally inclined, out of respect for decisions given from the Chair, to say that what is sauce for one kind of bird must be sauce for another. But J submit that if a distinction can be drawn between the present case and that to which the honorable senator has referred, when a ruling was given by the late Sir Richard Baker - which, with ail respect, I submit, was wrong - it ought to be drawn. If you, sir, as the guardian of our privileges, can see your way to do so, I think you should liberate us from adherence to .the very harsh precedent which was then established. I need scarcely remind honorable senators that on the occasion to which reference has been made, a Bill was submitted to this Chamber, which has since become the principal Act, arid that one great feature of that measure was the block system of voting. It provided that where the electors of a State were called upon to return three candidates to the Senate, they had no option but to vote for three. Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, however, sought to allow an elector to abstain from exercising his full franchise, and to permit him, if he so desired, to vote for only one candidate. It will be readily admitted that such a proposal constituted an important and radical departure from the main principle of the Bill. On the other hand, Senator Vardon’s proposal merely seeks to make the block vote more effective. Consequently, I hold that there is a very broad distinction between the two cases - a distinction which justifies a fresh ruling on the matter. Now, I come to the question whether or not the amend - ment of Senator Vardon is relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. This measure seeks to amend the principal Act in many important particulars. For instance, it is proposed to abolish postal voting ; but until the second reading of the measure was moved, we did not know what were its provisions. We now know that the Bill proposes to abolish certain privileges which have hitherto been enjoyed by electors., and to extend some of the provisions of the principal Act in another direction. Have the Government a right to say, in connexion with any Bill, that certain principles shall be considered, and no others? If the Government can bring forward a Bill providing for the abolition of postal voting, and for the extension of facilities for absent voting, how comes it that the Committee cannot, by amendment, extend or restrict the franchise, which is clearly the matter under consideration, from top to bottom?
– Is there not a big difference between, the machinery and the principles of a Bill?
– In this Bill, we are dealing both with machinery and principles. If the Government may introduce a “Bill providing for the extension or limitation of the franchise in certain directions, is it not competent for a private member of the Senate to seek to extend or limit the franchise? In other words, why cannot a private member do exactly the same thing which the Government propose to do?
– A private member may move amendments which are pertinent to the Bill.
– That seems a conclusive statement, but it is conclusive only on the surface. What is the object of the measure which is now under consideration? In that measure, the Government are at perfect liberty to restrict the franchise, subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution.
– The Government seek to amend the principal Act in a certain direction, and any honorable senator is at liberty to move amendments so long as they are relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill.
– The Bill itself indicates the direction in which the Government seek to alter the principal Act. But they occupy this position - that they wish to deal only with certain principles.
– An amendment proposed by the Government was ruled out of order because it was not pertinent to the Bill.
– No; because it was not pertinent to the subject-matter of the Bill. That interjection is rather a handy one. The governing principle is : Is the amendment relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill? If the subject-matter of the Bill is to restrict or extend the franchise, to alter the machinery, and that is the purpose of this Bill-
– Is not that the very purpose for which the Bill was brought in? It restricts the franchise in some directions, if not expressly, indirectly, by abolishing machinery which gives facilities for voting, and which the Government think has been abused. Both principle and machinery are involved in that amendment. If the Government can give expression in the Bill to a principle of the franchise or a principle of its administration, how comes it that a private senator has not the power in Committee, even without an instruction, to follow their example? We shall never know where we are if that distinction be maintained, and what is a growing evil will be intensified, the power of Parliament over Bills becoming gradually less and less. For these reasons, sir, I hope that you will see your way to rule that the amendment is in order.
– Senator St. Ledger has stated that the Government have introduced a Bill to amend the principal Act, and that, in doing that, they made provision for the abolition of postal voting and certain other essential principles. Because they took that course, he contends that any private senator ought to have the right to move amendments, not only in regard to any provision in the amending Bill, but also in regard to any provision in the principal Act. 1 dc not think that any honorable senator will follow him in that line of reasoning; the Chairman has ruled that, unless amendments are pertinent to the subject-mattei of, not the Act, but the Bill, they are out of order.
– Do you drawa distinction between principle and subject matter ?
– It all depends.
– Between principle and machinery.
– It all depends. I may be wrong in the view I hold, but to me the matter seems plain and simple. In the principal Act we laid down clearly the manner in which every elector shall record his vote, namely, in a square, and that in that square there shall be placed a cross. This Bill does not in any sense alter that method of voting. No honorable senator can, by any stretch of the imagination, read into any provision of the Bill anything which would even suggest an alteration in regard to the method and manner of voting but by the abolition of postal voting, and by one or two other things which we have done-
– Mere trifles.
– Mere trifles in discussing a ruling of the Chairman. We have had to make really a machinery provision, a form by which certain votes shall be recorded - not that we desire to alter in any way the square or the cross. There is a big difference between a machinery provision and a principle. The principle is contained in the principal Act, and is not in any way affected by the amending Bill.
– You said just now that a square or a cross is a principle, whereas it is only machinery.
– Exactly ; and we can alter that because it is machinery.
– I know what is running in the minds of honorable senators on the other side. We might provide a triangle, or do something else. It is not proposed to alter the method or manner of voting in a square. The proposal of Senator Vardon is of a revolutionary character, because it would alter absolutely the method by which votes are recorded, and the way in which votes are counted in connexion with elections for the Senate. There is a big difference between a machinery provision and a principle such as he desires to enact.
– I should say so at once if this Bill did not involve some alteration of the franchise.
– We are not discussing an alteration of the franchise.
– But the Bill deals with that matter.
– The ruling of the Chairman of Committees was not only in accord with previous decisions, but it was one about which, I think, there cannot be any doubt, because, whatever views we may hold in regard to certain provisions in the
Bill, I feel sure that every honorable senator is agreed that this is a matter which can be discussed apart from party feeling. I believe that the Chairman gave a decision which can be upheld.
– I agree with the Honorary Minister that this is a matter with which we can deal without party feeling. It would be most unfortunate if the rules and methods of conducting business here were to be regulated by such a consideration. I take up the same attitude in this matter as I did in a matter with which I think Senator Rae was connected not long ago, when I held that honorable senators are entitled to a reasonable amount of latitude in discussing public questions. I do not hold the view which some honorable senators seem to take, namely, that debate ought to be curtailed whenever it appears that some honorable senators are exercising reasonably the rights which are conferred upon them to discuss a public matter. While I am against a good deal of Senator St. Ledger’s argument, I am utterly against the argument of the Honorary Minister. The latter argued, for instance, that the question of using a cross was a matter of principle, and, therefore, the Government did not propose to alter it. We consider that it is a matter of machinery, and not a matter of principle. I claim that honorable senators should be allowed a reasonable amount of latitude. We should uphold the rights of senators to discuss matters which are pertinent to the measures before the Senate. We have no better case than the one in which Senator O’Keefe was bitten, and possibly that has made him twice shy ever since. He went as closely as he possibly could to dealing with the general principles of an amending Bill, and he was ruled out of order. Let us see what the history of the case was. According to the Journals of 25th October, 1905, he moved the insertion of new clause 42 a to follow clause 42. I have been fortunate enough to get a copy of the Bill which was introduced here on the 30th September, and read a first time on the motion of Senator Keating. Clause 42 reads -
Section 149 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the word “ destroy “ and inserting in lieu the words “ cancel and preserve.”
As that did not seem to help me much I looked up section 150. I desire the attention of the Minister, because, after all, it appears that there is something about crosses and squares in these various clauses. Section 150, as it was passed, reads -
In elections for the Senate the voter shall mark his ballot-paper by making a cross in the square opposite the name of each candidate for whom he votes. The voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.
When the amending Bill was before the Senate in 1905, Senator O’Keefe moved that section 150 be amended by omitting therefrom the words - “ the voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.” In other words, his contention was that an elector should be allowed to vote for one, two, or three candidates, as he thought fit.
And objection being taken that the proposed new clause was outside the scope and object of the Bill the Chairman ruled that the clause was in order.
And objection being taken, in writing, to the Chairman’s decision to the effect that the clause proposed by Senator O’Keefe was within the scope and object of the Bill - such ruling being opposed to the principles laid down in a recent ruling of the President and to the practice of Parliament - the Chairman left the Chair and the Senate resumed.
And the matter having been laid before the President, and senators having addressed themselves thereto, the President ruled that the proposed clause was not within the scope and ob*ject of the Bill and was not in order.
And Senator O’Keefe, taking objection to the ruling of the President, and motion being made, that the ruling be dissented from on the grounds that such a practice as is therein laid down would unduly restrict the power of the Senate in Committee.
Ordered that the debate be forthwith adjourned till to-morrow.
On the following day, “the Journals report -
Order of the Day read for the adjourned debate on the question - that the ruling of the President given on the 25th October, 1905, in reference to the Electoral Bill, be dissented from, on the grounds that such a practice as is therein laid down would unduly restrict the powers of the Senate in Committee.
There was debate, after which the Senate divided, and eleven voted on each side. The Ayes were Senators Croft, de Largie, Givens, Guthrie, Henderson, Higgs, Pearce, Stewart, Story, Turley, and O’Keefe. Senator Millen voted to uphold the decision of the President, and I understand that he intends to vote in the same direction to-day, being of opinion, as I gather, that an amendment to be in order must be strictly relevant to the Bill, and that Senator Vardon ought to have moved for an instruction to the Committee. The voting on the occasion to which I have referred was made equal by the fact that President Sir Richard Baker himself voted: to uphold his own ruling. I, am going to ask honorable senators opposite to drop all party considerations.
– Is there any Government or Opposition in connexion with points of order ?
– The point is that, in 1905, every honorable senator opposite who was then present voted against the ruling of the President. It would not be a bad idea if they would look up their own records. To be consistent they must vote with Senator Vardon on the present occasion.
– Why does the honorable senator lecture us?
– I am not lecturing my honorable friend, who is a new chum. I am referring particularly to Senators de Largie and O’Keefe, who were present in 1905, and voted in the opposite direction from which I understand they intend to vote to-day. Personally, I am of opinion, having gone through a number of decisions in reference to the matter, that Senator Vardon’s amendment is out of order, and that the Chairman’s decision is right.
– This is the first time such a matter has cropped up during my experience as a senator, and it is certainly interesting. Arguments on both sides are strong. What we have to consider is whether we ought to limit the power of the Senate to deal with measures that come before it. I do not think that the argument of Senator O’Keefe, that if Senator Vardon’s amendment were carried it would alter the whole party constitution of the Senate, has anything to do with the proposal to change the method of voting. The decision previously given was the result of a very close division, and there is good reason for considering the whole question afresh, with a view of determining whether the same stringency should be maintained on this occasion. The Bill covers the whole of the Electoral Acts passed from 1902 to 1909. If it were merely proposed to amend a section of the Act, one could understand an objection being taken to the amendment. But it is proposed to alter the whole law affecting elections. If the Chairman’s ruling be upheld, it will place too much power in the hands of the Government in reference to amending Bills. It will mean that a private senator who desires to effect an amendment of the law of an important and farreaching character will have to bring in a
Bill of his own. Otherwise, under this decision, the Government will be able to block him. Even if he brings in a Bill of his own the Government can block him by not affording him the necessary time. The Bill is now in the hands of the Senate, which can deal with it as it chooses. It is proposed to strike out entirely section 150 of the existing Act. The provision is put in the melting-pot. It is therefore, I contend, well within the province of the Senate to discuss the whole principle of the section. Of course, it is a question of degree. Does the proposed amendment come within the relevancy line or not? That has to be decided. But we ought to be careful not to limit our power, because by so doing we shall limit the power of those who sent us here.
– I do not propose to discuss specifically whether Senator Vardon’s amendment is in conformity with or in violation of a previous ruling, but I think I may ask the forbearance of the Senate while I point out that it must not be supposed that by upholding the previous ruling we shall curtail our power. Our Standing Orders provide ample means for exercising the right of moving amendments. If honorable senators do not act under the Standing Orders, or do not make themselves acquainted with them, it is their own fault. Any individual senator had two opportunities of proposing anything he liked in connexion with this Electoral Bill. He could either move an instruction to the Committee at the second-reading stage, or he could introduce a fresh Bill. Therefore, in no sense can it be said that by upholding the previous decision we curb or restrain our powers. If the argument that we do so were pressed to its logical extent, we should’ deprive ourselves of Standing Orders altogether, because at some point or other all standing orders tend to curb, not the powers of the Senate, but the desires of individual senators.
– THis question seems to me to be one of principle. After considering it from all stand-points, I have come to the conclusion that Senator Vardon’s amendment is not relevant to the Bill now before the Senate. It has been argued that a decision should be given from the Chair so as to admit of more latitude being extended to honorable senators. Senator Sayers contended that there should be an opportunity for general discussion upon this question, or upon any other question which may be submitted. Much has been said concerning the decision of 1905, and some honorable senators seem to be under the impression that that decision limited the powers of honorable senators. At that time I was under the same impression, but since then standing orders have been brought into effect, which, if they had been in operation in 1905, would have given to Senator O’Keefe an opportunity of moving his amendment. He should have moved an instruction to the Committee to consider the subject-matter of his amendment, and the Senate could have given the instruction had it thought fit. It has been laid down that the second-reading stage of a Bill is for the purpose of giving consideration to the principles it contains. Senator Vardon, Senator Sayers, and Senator St. Ledger have contended that there was a fair amount of discussion concerning the principle of the amendment at the second-reading stage. But that has nothing to do with the interpretation of the Standing Orders. Whether several honorable senators discussed the principle, or only one did so, does not matter. The references to the subject were merely incidental. As a matter of fact, I believe that three senators referred to it on the last day of the secondreading debate. I feel sure that if there had been an alteration proposed involving the manner of voting included as one of the principles of the amending Bill, it would have taken precedence of a number of minor matters that were thought worthy of discussion on the second reading.
– In this case, a whole section is recast.
– This is a minor matter so far as the Bill is concerned. In my opinion, it is a detail of the Bill. Because other alterations were proposed, it was found necessary to alter one section which provided for the method of marking a ballot-paper. But it was not proposed to interfere with the principle of voting in any way. Senator St. Ledger said that it was a Bill interfering with the franchise. It is not such a Bill.
– The franchise is dealt with in a separate Act.
– It is practically provided for inthe Constitution. This is a machinery Bill providing for the methods to be adopted at an election, and it lays down, amongst other things, the manner in which a balolt-paper shall be marked. It provides that it shall be marked, according to scheduleO, with a cross. It would be competent for any honorable senator to move that, instead of with a cross, the paper should be marked with a circle, a square, or any other device, or it might have been proposed to revert to the old method of striking out the names of candidates whom the voter did not wish to vote for. These are all methods by which a voter records his vote. But Senator Vardon has himself admitted that his amendment involves a new principle. It proposes that -
Where an elector votes before a Registrar before polling day, or where an elector votes in accordance with the regulations applying to absent voting, the manner in which the voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper shall be prescribed by the regulations, but so that the principles contained in the preceding subsection relating to the marking of first and other preferences shall be observed.
– Sir Richard Baker did not object to an alteration of principle provided it was relevant.
– The principle in this case is not at all relevant to the Bill under discussion. I must, therefore, rule that the Chairman’s decision was perfectly correct, and I consequently uphold it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 -
Section one hundred and fifty-eight of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following sections inserted in its stead : - “ 158. A ballot-paper shall (except as otherwise provided by regulations under section one hundred and thirty-nine or the regulations relating to absent voting) be informal if -
it is not authenticated by the initials of the presiding officer, or by an official mark as prescribed ;
it has no vote marked on it or has votes marked on it for a greater or lesser number of candidates than the number required to be elected ;or
it has upon it any mark or writing (not authorized by this Act or the regulations to be put upon it) which would, in the opinion of the Returning Officer, enable the voter to be identified : “ Provided that paragraph (c) shall not apply to any mark or writing placed upon the ballotpaper by an officer, notwithstanding that the placing of the mark or writing upon the ballotpaper is a contravention of this Act. “ 158A. Except as authorized by this Act or the regulations, an officer shall not place upon any ballot-paper any mark or writing which would enable any person to identify the voter by whom it is used.
Penalty : Ten pounds.”
– I should like to direct the attention of the Committee, and particularly of the Government, to the difference between the proposition contained in these proposed new sections and that contained in the section which is to be struck out. It is proposed practically to legalize marks of identification upon a ballot-paper. We have heard a good deal during the consideration of this Bill about the secrecy of the ballot, but, if ever there was a proposition to enable the secrecy of the ballot to be destroyed, it is that embodied in this provision. The existing section 158 provides that a ballot-paper shall be informal if-
Under the existing law, a ballot-paper so marked would be thrown out as informal. But what is proposed to take its place? We have, first of all in proposed new section 158, a proviso - that paragraph (c) shall not apply to any mark or writing placed upon the ballot-paper by an officer, notwithstanding that the placing of the mark or writing upon the ballot-paper is a contravention of this Act.
That is followed by this still more extraordinary proposal - 1 58A. Except as authorized by this Act or the regulation, an officer shall not place on any ballot-paper any mark or writing which would enable any person to identify the voter by whom it was used.
The big difference is that previously the marks which were allowed were marks authorized by the Act itself. Now it is proposed to authorize marks by regulation. I do think that it is going a little too far, when, without any reason assigned, it is sought to place in the hands of departmental officials the right to authorize marks of identification upon ballot-papers. I trust that before we proceed any further the Minister will give some reason, other than the fact that the officials want it, for this extraordinary change.
– The practice in connexion with State elections is for ballotpapers to be numbered. That is the practice, at all events, in Victoria.
– But not in any other State.
– It is the practice to put numbers on the ballot-paper.
– Then, of course, it can be known how everybody votes.
-In the past, some officers accustomed to the practice hitherto obtaining in a particular State have inad vertently put numbers on ballot-papers, and the papers so marked have been considered informal, and the voters thus disfranchised. We do not desire that any, voter shall be disfranchised through an error of a departmental officer. We shall take the precaution of rigidly instructing all those intrusted with electoral work not to put any kind of mark on the ballotpapers. If they do, they will be punished for their wrong-doing under the proposed new section 158A, but the ballot-paper will not be declaredinformal. I think the Committee should be pleased with such a provision. Surely honorable senators do not desire that a voter should be disfranchised because of a trifling error on the part of an electoral officer? Under the Government proposal, in such a case the officer will be punished, and not the voter.
– The Minister has quite overlooked the point to which I directed his attention, which is that it is now proposed to permit the officers of the Department to say what marks shall be authorized, instead of providing for that by the Act itself. The Minister has not said a word on that point. I direct the attention of the Committee once again to the extraordinary attempt which is made by the officers of the Department to get everything into their own hands. This has previously been resisted in the Senate, and by no one more strenuously than the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– Does the honorable senator not see that regulations will have to be made to punish the officers ?
– I am speaking now of marks which may be put on ballotpapers, and which it is sought to legalize by the action of the Department instead of by the Act. I am not dealing with an officer who has marked a paper wrongfully. Under the law as it stands, the Act itself authorizes the marks which may be placed on ballot-papers. It is now proposed to amend the Act, and provide that marks may be authorized by regulation. Let me ask the Minister in charge of the Bill what marks of identification it is intended to sanction by regulation?
– Nothing out of the way.
– Let us know what they are.
– I cannot tell the honorable senator. They crop up from time to time.
– It is of no use for the honorable senator to say that. We cannot issue a regulation subsequent to an election to authorize the making of particular marks on ballot-papers before that election.
– Is the honorable senator familiar with what happened at Port Fairy two or three days ago?
– No. except that the Labour candidate was beaten. That is the only result of that election which had any interest for me. If Senator E. J. Russell means to imply that at that election certain votes were declared informal because certain marks were placed upon the ballotpapers, that does not bear upon the point I am raising.
– It was a genuine mistake, I believe.
– This will not help that at all. The question is, Should Parliament in the Act itself, or the departmental officials, legalize any marks to be placed upon a ballot-paper.
– We do not want to legalize marks, but to provide that the voter shall not be disfranchised because of them.
– That has absolutely nothing to do with the point I raise, and I cannot believe that the Minister does not know it. Let me suppose that a voter goes to the poll and casts his vote. The Returning Officer places upon the ballot-paper some mark which is not authorized. How can any power to make regulations help that? I am speaking of the regulation issued before a poll saying what marks should be placed on the ballotpaper. Let me ask the Minister whether it is intended under this provision to authorize the numbering of ballot-papers? What marks is it intended to authorize by the proposed regulations? I can understand a ballot-paper being marked with the initials of the Returning Officer. That is quite right. It is provided for in the existing Act, and there is a reason for it. But what other marks -are we going to legalize by regulation ? Let us know what they are, and the purpose of them. I ask the Committee not to be confused by the different matters to which the Minister has referred. The Minister says that if a Returning Officer wrongfully marks a ballot-paper the voter should not be disfranchised. I quite agree with him; but I am not dealing with that at all. The question with which I am dealing is whether Parliament, in the Act, or the Department shall say what marks are legal.
– If a Returning Officer places a number or a dot on a ballot-paper, should that be sufficient to disfranchise the voter?
– No. I am not dealing with that. The proviso following paragraph c in the proposed new section 158, meets the point raised by the Minister.
– It does not meet all the points.
– It meets the point raised by the Minister ; that is to say that, if a vote is properly cast, no wrongdoing on the part of a Returning Officer will disfranchise the elector. But under the proposed new section 15 8a, departing from the present law, which leaves it to the Act itself to say what marks shall be legal, it is proposed that the Department shall have power by regulation to say what mark shall be legal. The Minister never discussed that proposition. I ask the Committee before it assents to it to join with me in asking the Minister what marks of identification it is desired to legalize by regulation. That is not an unreasonable request. Is the Minister making this proposal merely because the departmental officials desire it? Is he again going to display, I will not say the obstinacy, but the pertinacity which he admitted he unwarrantedly displayed on a former occasion?
.- The Minister’s only reason for this clause is that it has hitherto been the practice in Victoria to put numbers on ballot-papers. I know of no other State in which that practice has been followed. I have had thousands of ballot-papers through my hands, and I have never seen them marked other than by the initials of the Returning Officer. I protest against the administration of Acts of Parliament by means of departmental regulations. We are all familiar with stories of electors who, it has been discovered, have voted in a certain way and have been punished for so doing. Under an entirely new system of voting the electors at the recent Victorian elections displayed a great deal of intelligence. This was clearly evidenced by the fact that the number of informal votes registered on that occasion was relatively small. Under this clause we are asked to vest Returning
Officers with very great powers. I suppose that the next thing the Department will ask is that it shall be empowered to select the members of this Parliament without the people being consulted at all. I strongly object to giving Returning Officers more power than they at present possess. It cannot be denied that if a Returning Officer be a political partisan he can accomplish a great deal of mischief. Above all things, I wish to maintain the secrecy of the ballot. Under this clause many electors will probably say, “ I will not vote at all, because I cannot vote in the way that I desire without the fact becoming known, and without being punished for so doing.”
– To what part of the clause does the honorable senator object.?
– To proposed new section 158A.
– The Leader of the Opposition dealt with the departmental regulations, and the honorable senator is directing his remarks to Returning Officers.
– The Returning Officers are officials of the Department. From the honorable Minister’s remarks I gather that in Victoria a certain practice has been adopted under which a Returning Officer could ascertain . how any elector voted. That, I contend, is a bad system. In the other States the practice is to hand to an elector a ballot-paper, in one of the squares of which, opposite the name of the candidate for whom he desires to vote, he has merely to put his cross. Under that system there is no possible- way in which the Returning Officer can ascertain how an elector has voted. But if ballot-papers are to be numbered, the secrecy of the ballot, upon which we have hitherto prided ourselves, will be absolutely violated. I hope that the good sense of the Committee will reject the proposal.
– When I was on my feet previously I neglected to move an amendment which I had intended to submit. To remedy my omission, I now move -
That the words “ or the regulations “ in proposed new section 158A be left out.
– I should like Senator Millen to go a little further, because this extraordinary provision contemplates allowing a Returning Officer to put a mark upon a ballot- paper which would enable him to determine how an elector has voted. It reads -
Except as authorized by this Act or the regulation, an officer shall not place upon any ballotpaper any mark or writing which would enable any person to identify the voter by whom it is used.
– But the Act does not authorize an officer to place any such mark or writing on a ballot-paper.
– Then we do not need the retention of the words “ Except as authorized by this Act or the regulations.” I would suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that he should move for the excision of those words, and the proposed new section will then give a mandatory instruction.
– The whole of the clause is under consideration, I presume?
– Then I have a prior amendment, if the Leader of the Opposition will be good enough to temporarily withdraw his proposal.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– Paragraph c of proposed new section 158 provides that a ballot-paper shall be informal if-
– But paragraph a authorizes an official mark.
– I do not wish to amend paragraph c of the proposed new section, the proviso to which reads -
Provided that paragraph (e) shall not apply to any mark or writing placed upon the ballotpaper by an officer, notwithstanding that the placing of the mark or writing upon the ballotpaper is a contravention of this Act.
Now I have known of instances in which the provision embodied in paragraph a of this proposed new section has led to the disfranchisement of electors. In other words, .ballot papers have not been initialed by Returning Officers when they should have been so initialed. If we are going to say that the placing of any mark or writing not authorized by this Act, or the regulations made under it, shall render a ballot-paper informal, and if we are also going to provide that that provision shall not apply if the mark or writing has been put upon a ballot-paper in contravention of the Act, why should we not also declare that in cases in which a mark has been omitted from a ballot-paper through the default of the Returning Officer the elector shall not be disfranchised?
– Surely the honorable senator knows why?
– To prevent the “ stuffing “ of the ballot.
– If a Returning Officer can “stuff” a ballot by that means, he can accomplish his purpose equally well by the omission of certain authorized marks. If we are going to make these exceptions, we should also devise some method under which, in cases such as I have indicated, the penalty should fall upon the defaulting official, and not upon the voter. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent a Returning Officer who is actuated by corrupt motives from omitting to initial ballot-papers in the way that they should be initialed.
– If a ballot-paper does not contain the initials of the Returning Officer, but is otherwise in order, it will be evidence against that official.
– What is the good of that? It is small compensation to an elector who has been disfranchised to know that an officer has been punished. If the result of an election has not been imperilled in any way by the admission of a ballot-paper, in my opinion, such ballotpaper should be admitted. I would go further, and say that where a person enrolls an elector, but fails to forward his name for registration-
– The honorable senator is speaking of enrolment now.
– Yes. In my opinion, less harm would result from the wrongful inclusion of a name on the roll than from the omission of a name which should be there. I object altogether to the Minister’s proposal to introduce the Victorian ; system of numbering the ballot-papers.
– Or to any other means of identifying individual ballot-papers.
– Yes. I do not think, with honorable senators opposite, that all regulations are necessarily wrong because a number of things may be done more conveniently by regulation than by any other method. I cannot see what other possible means of identification or proof of honest possession of a ballot-paper can be demanded than the initialling of that paper by the presiding officer. If anything else is necessary to render the bal- lot-paper safe’ we ought to know what it is. I do not think that the statement has been generally made that a number of persons have been accused of voting in a certain way, and penalized by their employers.
– Yes, it has.
– The fear that it may be done is, I think, a reason for making the ballot-paper, and everything in connexion with the Act, as plain and simple as possible. I feel certain that a very large number of persons distrust the secrecy of the ballot. We do not want to feed them with reasons for entertaining that suspicion; but we desire, if possible, to remove in every legitimate way any reason for suspicion which may be aroused in the minds of voters, and which may keep them away from the polling booth. I certainly think that unless the Minister can give us a good reason why something else should be prescribed, he would be wise to consent to the elimination of the words.
– What is your prior amendment ?
– In the proviso to new section 158 I want to insert, after the words “placed upon,” the words “or omitted from.”
– There is no occasion.
– That would be “ real good.”
– If it is not informal there can be no harm in saying so.
– Here is an old campaigner who says that it would be “ real good.”
– Then I ought to have one supporter. If this proviso is only meant to provide for what might be called the accidental inclusion of some mark which the Act says shall not be placed on the ballot-paper, in the same way if the Act says that certain marks or initials should be placed there, but by accident they are omitted, that omission should not rob the elector of his franchise. Let the officer who is guilty of this contravention of the Act, whether or not through neglect, be penalized in such . a way as the regulations may prescribe, but do not let the elector be disfranchised by either corruption or neglect on the part of the official. Where all our Acts fail is in not sheeting home the blame to the official to whom the neglect is due. In this measure we introduce - unwisely, I think - the principle of compulsory enrolment. Surely the object of that provision is to secure that the utmost possible number of votes shall be recorded?
– But it opens the door for something else now.
– The Bill opens the door by providing that if any other mark is placed on a ballot-paper than the initials of the presiding officer it shall be rendered informal under paragraph c.
– Not made informal. The proviso nullifies that paragraph.
– It says that a ballotpaper shall be informal which would, in the opinion of the Returning Officer, be identified.
– That is a mark placed on the ballot-paper by any one else. The proviso exempts a mark placed on the ballot-paper by the official.
– I know that it does; but the proviso exempts it even though the official has contravened the Act. I also want to exempt a ballot-paper from being made informal if the official has in contravention of the Act failed to put on the ballot-paper the’ mark which he should have done. One is a- logical complement of the other.
– There is no danger in one, but there is in the other.
– There would be no danger to me in writing my name, “Arthur Rae,” across a ballot-paper. If I do not object, what harm is there in violating the secrecy of the ballot ?
– It would enable an employer to say to a man, “ Unless you sign your paper you will be treated in such a way.”
– It might lead to that; but the writing of the name of the voter across the ballot-paper would be of no more consequence than a statement by him as to whom he voted for. If an official omitted to place a mark on a ballot-paper that should not render the vote informal, unless it is proved by the surrounding circumstances that it has led to fraud. A presiding officer could no more render a ballotpaper informal according to this Act by writing my name across it than he could byfailing to initial it. In most cases these Bills, by reason of the stringency of various provisos and regulations, humbug and trash, introduce a thousand and one methods by which a man may be prevented from recording his vote, though pretending to give him. that opportunity. If we allow, as the proviso to paragraph c does, a presiding officer to contravene the Act by writing anything he likes across a ballot-paper, and then, on the other hand, say that the ballot-paper shall not be informal by reason of that officer having violated the Act, but shall be informal if he violates the Act by omitting to attach his initials, we shall give a thing with one hand and take it away with the other. I move -
That after the word “ upon,” line si, the words “ or omitted from “ be inserted.
– There is no necessity to make this amendment. Senator Rae fears that if a presiding officer omits to place his initials on a ballot-paper there will be a possibility of the voter being disfranchised.
– Paragraph a says so.
– No. Proposed new section 158 says -
A ballot-paper shall (except as otherwise provided by regulations under section 139 or the regulations relating to absent voting) be informal if -
it is not authenticated by the initials of the presiding officer, or by an official mark as prescribed.
There is an official mark.
– Suppose that he omits that?
– We do not want to proclaim the official mark to the world.
– What is it?
– There is an official water-mark on the paper.
– Suppose that you omit that.
– It appears on every bit of paper which a voter gets. Therefore there cannot be any doubt about that. The amendment is altogether unnecessary. Every precaution is taken in that way, and every voter is properly protected.
– Do I understand that if a water-mark is on the ballot-paper, and the Returning Officer omits to attach his initials, the ballot-paper will be admitted?
– Where does it say so?
– It says ‘ 1 Authenticated by the, initials of the presiding officer or by an official mark.”
– That is not good enough. If, in certain circumstances, ballot-papers, which have not been initialled by the default of the presiding officer are admitted simply because he finds a water-mark on them, what harm can there be in my amendment, which would make that clear?
– Because it is unnecessary.
– Senators Barker and Millen are presupposing that a wholesale issue of unofficial ballot-papers would result in the stuffing of the ballot-box, but my amendment, if carried, will not authorize the handing out of a single ballot-paper without being initialled. It will not do away with the safeguard which the initialling is supposed to provide, nor will it have the effect of freeing any officer who fails to initial ballot-papers from the consequence of his neglect. But where a presiding officer, in turning over a number of ballotpapers, takes out two papers accidentally, and hands one over without initialling it, my amendment will safeguard the voter. The Minister stated that the first part of paragraph a will protect the voter, because the official water-mark will still be on the ballot-paper. If he opens the door by providing that initialling is not absolutely necessary, and that a ballot-paper which is obviously a good one by reason of the water-mark, may be admitted, my amendment will not affect the water-mark. It simply provides that any mark or writing placed upon the ballot-paper or omitted from it by the presiding officer shall not render the ballot-paper informal. The amendment is perfectly safe, because it only provides for what the Minister says is already done. It makes that clear, and puts on the same footing an omission by an officer and the wrongful insertion of a name by an officer.
– I do not think that the Minister is quite clear in this matter. I think that paragraph a points out a’ difficulty. It has been stated that a water-mark, or its equivalent, will be sufficient to admit a ballotpaper even though it does not bear the initials of the presiding officer. In the first place, that is rather risky. On one occasion the Returning Officer knew my political opinions as well as I knew his. By the purest accident two ballot-papers stuck together, and these he gave me, which he certainly would not have done intentionally. The first of the two ballot-papers was initialled.
– That is a very euphemistic way of making a confession.
– It was the purest accident, because I am satisfied that it was the last thing which the Returning
Officer, whom I knew well, and who did not profess the same political faith as I did, would dream of doing. I may add that I handed1 the second ballot-paper back to the Returning Officer. Paragraph a provides that a ballot-paper shall be informal if - it is not authenticated by the initials of the presiding officer or by an official mark as prescribed.
Does the Electoral Office prescribe the water-mark on ballot-papers?
– Is the watermark known beforehand only to the officers ? Does “ prescribed “ cover that? I am not clear as to what the word means. Will the officers be able to prescribe at the last moment what mark a Returning Officer shall put upon ballot-papers? Otherwise difficulty may occur. It may be advisable under certain circumstances to send a telegram to a Returning Officer, even on the morning of an election, instructing him to put a certain mark on ballot-papers for the purpose of making doubly sure that nothing wrong is dona. Circumstances may arise that may induce the office to believe that it is desirable to do so with the object of observing the purity and secrecy of the ballot. I believe our electoral officers to be absolutely free from the taint of corruption, and think that they should have that power of prescribing the marks to be placed upon ballot-papers. Although practically the whole of the Returning Officers in the past have been appointed by Governments which were not Labour Governments, I have sufficient confidence in them to believe that they can be trusted with this power.
– The honorable senator has more faith than I have. There are some of them whom I would not trust any more than I would try to catch a bull by the tail.
– I take it that under this provision only the Chief Electoral Officer would have the power to prescribe what marks should be placed on ballot-papers. There was more in what Senator Rae stated than some honorable senators realize. May I give an illustration ? An election took place two or three days ago at Port Fairy, the result of which was that a certain candidate was defeated by 54 votes. But there were 179 informal postal votes. They were informal, not owing to the fault of individual voters, but simply because certain duly-authorized witnesses did not comply with the State law.
Consequently the 179 electors were disfranchised. We have information which goes to show - at all events, the assertion has been made, and I will give it for what it is worth - that sufficient of the 179 postal votes would have gone to the credit of the defeated candidate to insure his return.
– I thought the honorable senator held that postal votes always went against his own party ?
– I am not responsible for what Senator Millen imagines, and take exception to his drawing on his imagination so far as to attribute to me what some fanatics may have said. Let us assume that we do not know how those postal votes would have gone. Nevertheless, here was a candidate who was 54 votes behind, and had reasonable grounds for assuming that a considerable proportion of the disallowed postal votes would have been recorded in his favour. I have no hesitation in saying that the proviso to proposed new section 158 is absolutely necessary. It provides - that paragraph c shall not apply to any mark or writing placed upon the ballot-paper by an officer, notwithstanding that the placing of the mark or writing upon the ballot-paper is a contravention of this Act.
Senator Sayers attacked that proviso vigorously. Why? If a Returning Officer were a partisan - and I believe that the majority of Returning Officers are not - he could, except for this proviso, invalidate the vote of any elector whom he knew to be a political opponent, simply by placing a dot upon the ballot-paper. Suppose Senator Sayers himself happened to be a candidate, and that at a certain place a Labour partisan was presiding over an election. The person in question might have sufficient discretionto conceal his views, but might, nevertheless, be bitterly opposed to Senator Sayers. Except for this proviso he might, by placing a mark, as it were, accidentally, upon the ballotpapers of electors whom he knew to be supporters of Senator Sayers, invalidate a whole lot of them, and cause them to be rejected.
– No possibility.
– None of us desires to place such an enormous power in the hands of any partisan. The object of all of us is to secure purity of election in order that the views of the people may be faithfully registered.
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria- Honor to the Committee that the official mark is already provided for by regulation. In 1909 regulations were passed providing forthe official mark on ballot-papers being evidence of their validity in the event of the Returning Officer not initialing any papers.
– Does the Minister mean to say that, if a ballot-paper has an official water-mark upon it, it is valid although it may not be initialed by a Returning Officer?
– Yes; that has been the law since 1909.
– It is a great pity it should be so. I think that, instead of the word “ or “ we should insert the word ‘ and ‘ ‘ in paragraph a, so as to insure that the initials of the Returning Officer shall be placed upon a ballot-paper. To make the water-mark evidence of validity is an extraordinary thing.
– The regulation was not passed by this Government.
– What is to prevent anybody importing paper of the same quality, and having the same water-mark as that used for ballot-papers by the Commonwealth Government? I believe it is an absolute necessity that ballot-papers should be properly initialed, and no ballot-paper should be valid unless it was initialed by a Returning Officer. If what the Minister says is correct the door is open as wide as possible for the committal of fraud.
– I wish to direct attention to the danger which may arise from this manner of doing business. Senator E. J. Russell has told us that he has had handed to him two ballot-papers, one with only a water-mark and the other with initials upon it. To regard a paper as formal that has not upon it the initials of the presiding officer is to open an easy way to fraud.’ A presiding officer may initial a paper and hand two papers to the voter. The voter could put the initialed paper into the box and take the other with him to his party booth, and in that way uninitialed papers might be marked in a party Committee room before they were taken into a polling booth to be used in recording votes.
– A ballot-paper could be marked in the same way if it were initialed.
– A presiding officer could not initial two ballot-papers for one voter without his action being noticed by the scrutineers. I have known presiding officers to hand ballot-papers to electors without initialing them, and I have known a case in which an elector pointed out the omission, and asked that his paper should be initialed, as otherwise his vote would be declared invalid. I have been greatly surprised to learn that it is the law that an uninitialed ballot-paper may be declared formal. This only shows the danger of leaving such matters to regulation. I am certain that such a proposal would never have been agreed to in the Senate if honorable senators had been aware of it. This, however, is a case in which the elector has the remedy in his own hands, and if a ballotpaper has not been initialed by the presiding officer, he can request that the omission should be remedied. That cannot be said of the proposal now made, which I maintain opens the door to fraud by giving men the opportunity to commit fraud.
– Is the honorable senator speaking of my amendment?
– No, of the Bill. We shall be giving men an opportunity to commit fraud, and there is an old saying that “opportunity makes the thief.”
– Why did not the honorable senator condemn the Government he supported?
– I should have done so if I had known what was proposed. It was provided for by regulation, and I have always been opposed to leaving these things to regulation.
– It was not provided for by regulation, but by a special amendment of the Act, which the honorable senator approved of.
– I did not approve of it.
– The honorable senator says now that he did not know whether it was in the Act or not.
– I am satisfied that there is not one senator in every ten who knew that such a proposal was being made. I believe that even the Minister, if he were put upon his oath, would have to admit that he did not know of it.
– I know that the Government which the honorable senator supported introduced and passed it.
– And I say that if I had been aware of it, I would have opposed it, as I am opposing this provision now. 1 am not a lap-dog to follow any Government, and I am always prepared to oppose a Government if in my opinion they wish to do something that is wrong.
– This was not brought in by the present Government, but has been in operation since 1909.
– If it was done by regulation, let us repeal that regulation. Why should the Minister desire that this should be put into the Act?
– When a provision is not in an Act, the honorable senator wants it put into the Act, and when it is not’ provided for by regulation, he still objects to it. There is no pleasing the honorable senator.
– I object to this proposal whether it is provided for by the Act or by regulation. Lists of regulations are tabled from time to time, and honorable senators generally do not know what they contain. I hope the Minister will not refuse to give any explanation, as he did when we desired to obtain some information from him, the other night. All we could get from the honorable senator was that a proposal was submitted for the convenience of the Department. I do not know whether the object of this proposal is to put more power into the hands of the Department, but I may say that I regard this as a departmental Bill. I should prefer to retain the old practice of having nothing on the ballot-paper, but the name of the candidates and the initials of the presiding officer. Senator E. J. Russell said that a presiding officer might put a dot on a ballot-paper, but it would have to be a very small dot to escape the notice of the scrutineers. It is usual for a presiding officer to initial the ballot-papers in the presence of the scrutineers, and if he were to make any other marks upon them, it would be known.
– Are not the initials lithographed on the ballot-papers, in some instances ?
– No; they are written by the presiding officer before the papers are handed to the electors. I have witnessed a great many elections, and I have never known a ballot-paper to be allowed to pass as formal that was not initialed by the presiding officer. If we open the door to this kind of thing, the advantage will be to the man with most money. I like to see elections conducted fairly, and let the best man win, but if this kind of thing is to be allowed, we shall find hundreds of papers in the ballot-boxes without any initials upon them at all.
– The honorable senator can have very little confidence in the . Returning Officers .
– They are only human. 1 have mentioned a case in which there were more votes polled at the polling place than there were electors within 200 miles of it.
– - In Queensland?
– Yes ; at a place called California Gully.
– That shows how some people get here.
– lt was not a man on my side, but on the other side, who benefited by that. This proposal will open the door to a repetition of that kind of thing in Federal elections, and will give rise to a great deal of fraud, especially at small polling places in the different States, where there may be not more than thirty or forty resident electors. Candidates, unless they have money, cannot afford to send scrutineers there. Who will send scrutineers there? Obviously the men who posess plenty of means.
– With what part of the amendment is the honorable senator dealing?
– I am not discussing the amendment at all ; I am debating the clause. But, apparently, the honorable senator wishes to ‘open the door to more fraud. I do not see that his proposal is a workable one. I have seen thousands of ballot-papers counted, and not one of them was unsigned by the Returning Officer. The honorable senator is endeavouring to provide for a case which occurs very rarely. I say that each ballot-paper should bear the initials of the Returning Officer, and nothing more. If the Government intend to push this clause through, I am very sorry for them, because I feel certain that the electors do not desire the proposed alteration in our law.
– We have only passed two clauses during the whole afternoon.
– Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council expect the Committee to swallow a rotten Bill like this without consideration? What are we here for?
– To “stone-wall.”
– If the honorable senator is opposed to the clause, let him vote against it.
– I want to -let the country see the rubbishy legislation which the Government are anxious to put upon our statute-book.
– The honorable senator has been denouncing the actions of the Government which he supported.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
– I hope that when the Government review the position they will recognise that we should, as far as possible, close the door against fraud. To my mind the Bill is repugnant to all principles of fair play. Its provisions may be manipulated so that they may work in two or three different ways. My contention is that where there is a likelihood of abuse we should endeavour to remedy it. Under the Bill a Returning Officer may, by an act which is not illegal, be able to ascertain how an elector voted.
– I. do not intend to follow the bad example of my honorable friends opposite by attempting to retard the passing of this measure. It seems to me that Senator Rae’s amendment involves the question ‘of the initialing or non-initialing of ballotpapers by the presiding officers of polling booths. Now, either the initialing of those papers by these officers is or is not necessary. I can conceive of circumstances in which a very narrow margin of votes would result in a certain candidate being elected, and in which a few of the ballot-papers might not bear the initials of the presiding officer. In such circumstances, if the defeated candidate chose to contest the validity of the election, I think that his claim would be upheld. The proviso in its present form seems to me to penalize the voter for an act of commission on the part of the presiding officer. The necessary complement to such a provision is that a ballot-paper should not be rendered .informal merely because that officer has omitted to place upon it certain marks. Consequently, I contend that the amendment of Senator Rae is a perfectly logical one: Senator Sayers has said that the scrutineers of the respective candidates should see that no such omission occurred. But I would point out to him that there are hours on polling clay when it is impossible for the scrutineers to watch what the presiding officer is doing. We should leave no loophole of escape whatever. We should not trust to regulations, and if we insist that the placing of certain unauthorized marks upon a ballot-paper by the Returning Officer shall not disfranchise an elector, we should also insist that the omission to place authorized marks upon it should not disfranchise him.
– It will not.
– According to my reading of the clause, the amendment of Senator Rae is a necessary one, and unless the Honorary Minister can adduce stronger arguments than he has adduced, I shall be found voting for it.
– During the course of this discussion I have given the Committee the assurance two or three times that not the slightest doubt exists in respect of the matter mentioned by Senators Rae and Needham. If an electoral officer or any person intrusted with ballot-papers on an election day neglects to place his initials upon those papers, that circumstance will not render them invalid. I informed the Committee that in 1909 an amendment was submitted by Senator Millen, who was in charge of an Electoral Bill at the time, for the express purpose of making that point perfectly clear. His proposal read -
A ballot-paper shall be informal if- -
it is not authenticated by the initials of the presiding officer (or, in the case of a postal ballot-paper, of the Returning Officer), or by an official mark is prescribed ;
While the late Government was in power regulations were drafted prescribing that the ballot-papers should be printed on a special quality of paper with a special water-mark. Under no circumstances can an elector obtain a ballot-paper unless it is of the prescribed kind. Whether the presiding officer neglects to attach his initials or not, the ballot-paper is valid, and the vote is counted. This clause will tighten up the provision in the Act. If an officer neglects to do his duty, he will be liable to be punished, but his neglect to initial a ballot-paper will not disfranchise the elector.
– My amendment will tighten it up in the other direction.
– It will do nothing of the kind. The clause will make the officer more careful, and also responsible for any neglect on his part. When Senator Millen was introducing the Electoral Bill, in 1909, he referred to this matter, which has been discussed so long to-day. Alluding to some of the amendments which were then proposed, he said -
A certain class of them is designed to prevent an election being upset on purely technical grounds when there is no doubt as to the ex pressed will of the electors. As an instance of this class of amendments, I would remind honorable senators of what occurred in connexion with a State election in South Australia. There, amongst other complications, certain postal votes were discarded, because the initials of the returning officer did not appear on the ballot-papers, although they had been placed upon the counterfoils. The Court held that as the counterfoils had been detached from the ballot-papers - although the officer who detached them testified to having done so - it was not competent for it to take such votes into account, although the will of the electors was clearly manifested. Some of the amendments embodied in this Bill seek to avoid a technicality of this kind. Under them it is intended that ballotpapers shall be printed upon a special kind of paper. That paper will bear a secret water mark, will be manufactured under the supervision and control of Government officials, and ballot-papers bearing that secret mark - even though the initials of the returning officer may be absent from them - will still be held to be valid, provided that the desire of the electors has been made sufficiently clear. At the same time it is not intended to dispense with the initialing of ballot-papers by returning officers. But should it be found that inadvertently a properly authenticated ballot-paper, clearly evidencing the wish of the elector, does not bear the initials of the returning officer the election cannot be invalidated on that account.
That is exactly the position to-day. A special kind of paper, with a secret mark, is used. It cannot be manufactured, as Senator Vardon imagines, by some evillydisposed person. Before he could send an order he would have to ascertain where the paper was made, its quality, and the watermark. He would have to findout a hundred and one things before he would be in a position to get the paper which is used for voting purposes.
– Will you give me an order to get out some for you?
– I think that the honorable senator would be the last person in the Commonwealth to attempt to do a thing of that kind. It would be much easier, much quicker, and much less costly to try to forge the initials of the officer intrusted with the ballot-papers. In addition to the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department, other Departments of the Commonwealth would be interested. The honorable senator might be able to give an order, and get a paper somewhat like the paper which is used, but, as certain paper is dutiable, the shipment would have to pass through the hands of the Customs officials. So that he would have to run great risk and danger if he attempted to do anything of the kind. In these circumstances, I trust that the Committee will not seriously entertain the amendment.
– The Honorary Minister has stated very correctly what was intended should be the practice of the Department in regard to the paper to be used for voting purposes. Although I cannot now, after the lapse of two years, recall exactly the precautions which were taken, I remember that the very great fear which was in my mind when 1 was introducing the Bill was quite set at rest by the precautions which were disclosed to me by the officials of the Department. And 1 feel confident that even Senator Vardon, if he should at any time feel animated by a desire to act in that way, which I do not expect, would find it absolutely impossible to forge the paper. I think that the amendment of Senator Rae is not only unnecessary, but would, if carried, be extremely harmful. Under the Acts Interpretation Act the singular includes the plural. If I read his amendment aright, it would have the effect of dispensing, not merely with the initials of the presiding officer, but also with the water-mark. He does not want that, I am sure. His amendment would be distinctly harmful, unless, of course, he wants votes to be cast on any ordinary piece of paper. I feel satisfied that he does not seek that. The effect of his amendment, if adopted, would be to validate a ballot-paper which contained neither the initials of the presiding officer nor the prescribed watermark.
– I cannot say that the speech of either the Honorary Minister or the Leader of the Opposition has convinced me of the uselessness of my amendment. As regards the possible harmfulness of it, I admit that very often an amendment, if inserted in a particular place, may require consequential amendments to be made, so that it shall not do more or less than is intended. If the desire is there, the Government, can always have a clause re-drafted to suit an amendment if they believe in the spirit of it. As regards the intention, I quite agree with the remarks of Senator Millen quoted by the Minister, but my contention is that paragraph a, where it says that the ballotpaper shall be informal if it is not authenticated by the initials of the presiding officer or by an official mark, as prescribed, does not leave it very clear, at any rate to the lay mind, that it may not be imperative to have both marks.
– I think that it leaves it too clear ; that is my difficulty.
– I think it leaves it pretty clear that both marks are expected to be on the ballot-paper, should the question ever come before a Court. It would be clearly arguable by lawyers as to” whether a mere water-mark was sufficient. I think it is very doubtful as to which way a Judge would interpret the paragraph. If, however, the clear intention is to admit a ballot-paper which, by inadvertence, has not been initialed by the presiding officer, and not to disfranchise, the elector, there cannot be any possible harm in saying so in words which will be beyond dispute. The fact that various opinions have- been expressed is proof that the paragraph is not clearly worded. My view is that every provision in a measure should be expressed in clear and emphatic language. If the Ministry and the Opposition favour this idea, they ought to have no objection to the use of words which would be unequivocal, and which would be complementary to the proviso in paragraph c, that .the use of unauthorized marks shall not invalidate a ballot-paper. If, on the one hand, it does not free the presiding officer from his legal obligation not to use unauthorized marks, and, on the other hand, it makes it obligatory upon him to initial a ballot-paper, my amendment will not in any way free him from his liability, but will tend to make it absolutely clear that an elector shall not be penalized by an offence committed by the officer. I realize that, while I have had the extreme pleasure of supporting a Labour Government, I have also had the experience, which I did not expect to have, that they are so absolutely perfect that no word, let alone a sentence, no crossing of a “ t,” or dotting of an “ i,” can possibly be wrong in anything which they propose. Therefore I shall not bother my head about attending here or considering any measure in the future, because I know that anything coming from the Opposition is more likely to receive attention than anything coming from this side of the Chamber.
– I think it is a matter of regret that Senator Rae should adopt this attitude to the Minister. I am rather inclined to agree with Senator Rae, except that I cannot exactly follow the meaning of his amendment. The clause provides that a ballot-paper shall contain certain marks, and he proposes that it shall be equally valid whether it contains those marks or not.” I feel quite certain that is not what he means.
– I mean the initials. This is the only place where I could get in the amendment.
-I should imagine that my honorable friend could get in the amendment at the end of the proviso to paragraph c. What we want to insure, I think, is that where the presiding, officer makes a mistake, by omission or otherwise, the ballot-paper, shall not be regarded as informal. I remember a case which occurred at a general election held in Queensland in 1896. At Mirani, in North Queensland, something like 300 votes were cast. There was no Labour candidate. The majority of the votes were cast in favour of what we might call the Radical candidate, and the balance - a comparative minority - in favour of what we might call the Conservative candidate.
– There were no Conservatives then.
– My honorable friend, who continually interjects, reminds me very much of the lines of G. K. Chesterton - “ My mind demands complexity,”
The lisping cherub cried.
I only smiled at him and said, “ Go on, the world is wide.”
My honorable friend is the “ lisping cherub “ who is always interrupting others. I can simply say to him, “ Go on, the world is wide. ‘ ‘ The case to which I have referred came before the Elections and Qualifications Committee, and all the papers so treated were rejected. They did not affect the election, but they went within halfadozen votes of doing so. The Returning Officer in that case, instead of doing what the law required, and putting his initials on the back of the ballot-papers, put them on the front.
– Was it not an absurdity that those votes should be disallowed?
– That is why I am with my honorable friend to a certain extent. The argument used against the validity of the papers was that an elector had to fold his ballot-paper in such a way that when he placed it in the ballot-box the presiding officercould see how he had voted, because at that time voting was effected by scratching out names of candidates for whom electors did not wish to vote. I am not going to say that if a ballot-paper was put in the box without any mark whatever upon it, it ought to be considered formal.
– But who ought to be penalized ?
– In 1883 there was a general election in Queensland. In a certain township a gentleman was standing for election, who, years afterwards, became a member of this Senate. At the time to which I refer he stood in the Labour interest; he became a reformed character. The method resorted to on that occasion was this : A man entered the polling booth and obtained a ballotpaper. He went into a compartment, where he was supposed to mark the paper ; but, as a matter of fact, he did not do so, but came out with a blank sheet of paper about the same size as the ballot-paper, and put that into the ballot-box. Then he went across the road with the ballot-paper in his pocket, and handed it to the members of the Committee of a certain candidate. It was a very simple matter for them to mark the ballot-paper in accordance with their wishes, and pass it on to another elector, who went into the polling booth, obtained a ballot-paper of his own, put into the ballot-box the paper which the Committee had marked, and brought the unmarked ballot-paper out with him again. That was done over and over again.
– That has been done in every State.
– I am glad to find that I am not libelling anybody. I did not know before that it had been done elsewhere. I have been associated with elections for years, but I had to deal with men who would absolutely scorn to resort to such subterfuges.
– It was done in New South Wales before the advent of the Labour party.
– And I suppose that ‘the Labour party have since perfected the method. I quite realize the force of the point which Senator Rae has been trying to make. What he means, I suppose, is that if you have ballot-papers properly watermarked, it does not really matter whether a presiding officer omits to put his initials on a certain ballot-paper, and that omission ought not to make a vote informal. I need not remind those who have had much experience of elections that at busy polling places a presiding officer, with a bundle of ballot-papers in front of him, will rapidly initial them and pass them out to his poll clerk, and that it is quite pos- sible for him to hand out two ballot-papers at once, though he has only initialled one. In such a case there is no intention to defraud or do anything wrong. I hold with Senator Rae that an uninitiated ballotpaper should not for such reason be invalidated. I suggest that he should ask the Government to see whether, when the Bill reaches another place, this clause cannot be amended. He might approach Ministers in his most diplomatic manner. He might suggest that the clause should be recast to provide that a vote shall not be informal through lacking certain initials.
– Ministers say that that is provided for now, but no one can see it but themselves.
– The honorable senator is manifestly unfair when he makes that statement. I say that the regulations prescribe what is required.
– I believe that the Government would meet us on the point, as any fair-minded Government would do. There should be some reasonable method of proving that a ballot-paper put into the ballot-box in a proper manner had passed through the hands of the Returning Officer.
– We all agree with that, I think.
– I believe that if the Government chose to use that united wisdom of which they are such eminent exemplars, they could frame a clause that would meet a case such as Senator Rae has mentioned, and also such cases as I have referred to as having occurred in Queensland.
– It will be admitted that this clause is not free from certain confusion. I wish to find out, for my own information, whether or not it is necessary, or allowable, that a Returning Officer shall place a mark upon a ballot-paper independently of his initials and of the private watermark. If the Minister says ‘that such an additional mark cannot be placed upon the ballot-paper, I am curious to know what is the object of the particular proviso which Senator Rae proposes to amend. Personally, I do not think that it matters much whether Senator Rae’s amendment is carried or not. The position appears to me to be that a ballot-paper can be invalidated on account of certain things, one of which is the omission of the Returning Officer’s initials or the official water-mark. That position is safeguarded by proposed new section 151, which requires a voter to mark his ballot-paper in the manner prescribed by the regulations. I presume that those words are for the purpose of safeguarding the position of the presiding officer.
– No ; they have nothing to do with it.
– I presume that they have special reference to the official watermark.
– No; that is an entirely different mark. The mark mentioned in proposed new section 158A is put on for the purpose of identifying the voter.
– Quite so; proposed new section 158A penalizes the officer. I quite understand the purpose of that provision. It is intended to prevent the putting of marks upon ballot-papers that are not authorized.
– Marks which would identify voters.
– But I cannot understand the proviso at the end of the first part of proposed new section 158. The two provisions appear to me to apply in a positive and a negative direction. It must be remembered that this clause will apply after ballot-papers have been distributed all over the Commonwealth, and have come into the possession of officers in charge of elections in different districts. It is clear that, under the proviso, if it becomes law, marks so placed on ballot-papers by officers would not make votes informal. Why should this superadded power be given to any officer in any district to place marks on ballot-papers in addition to initials? I think that instead of proposing to amend this proviso we should ask why it appears in the Bill at all. I have already said that it can only operate after the ballot-papers are in the hands of the Returning Officers throughout the Commonwealth, and then it is provided that though a presiding officer may mark a ballot-paper in contravention of the Act the paper shall not be regarded as informal. We should guard the secrecy of the ballot by requiring the initials of the presiding officer on a ballot-paper having the secret water-mark. I am not prepared to support a proposal giving officials the power to put any other marks on the ballot-papers.
– The clause does not do anything of the kind. On the contrary, it is proposed to penalize to the extent of £10 any officer who does what Senator Lynch thinks a presiding officer might do:
– That is in the next proposed new section.
– That applies to marks which serve to identify the voter, but the proviso to which Senator Lynch has referred covers marks of any kind.
– Senator Lynch’s argument was that if this proviso were passed an Electoral Officer would be enabled to so mark a ballot-paper as to be able ro identify the voter. I say that what is proposed by this Bill is that an officer guilty of such an offence shall be liable to a penalty of £,io. What object could an Electoral Officer have in putting a private mark on a ballot-paper to enable him to find out how an elector voted? He could, if he were a designing man, do that kind of tiling in any circumstances, and what is here proposed is that he shall be fined for doing anything of the kind. I cannot understand why so much time has been taken up in discussing a provision which is so very plain.
– It is due to the Minister’s obstinacy.
– It is not. I have heard honorable members on both sides say that electors have many times been disfranchised through some remissness of duty on die part of persons intrusted with responsibility at an election. In order that that may not occur in future, provision is made for the use of a certain kind of paper that cannot be easily forged, and if a presiding officer neglects to do his duty he will be fined, but the voter will not lose his vote.
– The Minister’s remarks would convey the impression that this proposes the introduction of seme new system, while, as a matter of fact, two elections have been conducted under it already.
– I thank die honorable senator for enabling me to remind Senator Lynch that this is no new departure introduced for the first time in this Bill, but has been in operation since 1909.
– Then what is the reason for re-casting the section?
– To tighten up the provisions of the law, and make a neglectful officer responsible for his neglect, and, further, to make it clear that merely because of that neglect no voter will be disfranchised. I have shown that the doubts of .Senator Lynch and Senator Rae are not well founded, and I hope the Committee will pass the clause without further delay.
– I point out that in paragraph a of the proposed new section j 58 an alternative is provided. I take it that if a voting paper has on it the initials of a presiding officer, and not a water-mark, it would be admitted as valid.
– No, it must have the secret water-mark.
– If that be so, then the word “ and “ should be substituted for the word “or” in paragraph a. As the paragraph is printed a ballot-paper will be valid if it bears the water-mark, or if it bears the initials of the presiding officer. If it has the one or the other it will be admitted as valid. Under paragraph a if the ballot-paper be a plain paper, without a water-mark, but bearing the initials of the presiding officer, it will be considered valid, and, on the other hand, if it has the official water-mark, but no initials, it will also be considered valid. If the Minister desires to do what he says he wishes to do, he should use the word “ and “ in paragraph a, instead of the word “or.”
– When the Minister was speaking I interjected that the delay in the consideration of this clause has been due to his obstinacy. I now repeat the statement in all sincerity. If the provision were as perfectly clear as Senator Findley would have us believe there would have been no room for discussion upon it. Of what use is it for the honorable senator to say that there will be regulations dealing with this matter, or to quote Senator M’illen’s speech on the introduction of a Bill. The speech quoted was admirable in its way, but it is not a part of the law of this country. Although Senator Chataway referred to me as a new chum here, I have been a long time in other places, and I have known Ministers as eminent as Senator Findley who, when any doubt was expressed about the terms of a regulation, were prepared to read it.
– Senator Findley never has any doubts.
– There is always trouble in dealing with people who are absolutely perfect. My amendment might, as Senator Millen has said, do more than I desire, but it certainly would put this matter in plain language, and it is better that we should adopt a provision which will not be open to argument in the Law Courts. The suggestion that the draftsmanship of this Bill is absolutely perfect is discounted by the discussion that has taken place. Senator Vardon has just mentioned a point which was not referred to before, and which further emphasizes the looseness with which this clause has been drafted. We have been told by the Minister that there is an alternative. That means certainly a choice of two things, and in this case a choice of the official water-mark or the initials of a presiding officer.
– That has to be read in conjunction with the section providing for the form of the ballot-paper.
– It would not be a ballotpaper unless it had the official water - mark.
– Why should we not use plain language. It is here proposed that a ballot-paper shall be regarded as informal if it has any marks, and it is provided later on that it will not be informal whatever marks are upon it. Did any one ever hear beforeof such clumsy draftsmanship ?
– It is not clumsy draftsmanship that is at fault, but clumsy interpretation.
– Not at all. The official interpreter has so far been unable to clear up any of the doubts that have been expressed by honorable senators on either side.
– He is not responsible for the honorable senator’s doubts.
– He is responsible for putting the clause in plain language, so that it can be understood by any intelligent man, and, in that, respect, I do not give way to his chief “ barracker,” Senator de Largie. The Minister is responsible for expressing this clause in plain language, or for accepting an amendment which will make it plain. I defy anybody to point to any Bill ever submitted to a deliberative assembly which was so absolutely perfect that it was not open to verbal improvement.
– The Minister has explained it over and over again.
– But the honorable senator has done nothing to enlighten us upon it.
– I have not been obstructing the progress of business.
– There is no obstruction involved in fighting for a proper interpretation of the clause; but if the Honorary Minister is too obstinate to listen to objections, and Senator de Largie is too stupid to understand what is said, I am not responsible.
– In my judgment, if ever a provision was clear and capable of bearing only one interpretation, it is that which is now under consideration. There is but one set of circumstances in which a ballotpaper can be printed with a certain watermark upon it, which is known only to the Government until it is issued to a presiding officer. Almost every honorable senator has complained from time to time that ballotpapers have been rendered invalid for reasons which on the face of them were absolutely wrong. Sometimes they have been invalidated by the act of an official. This provision makes it clear that if the officer charged with the duty of initialing a ballotpaper neglects to discharge that duty, the water-mark upon such paper shall be sufficient to prevent the disfranchisement of the elector. I disagree with those honorable senators who urge that this proviso will confer on presiding officers the power to place particular marks upon ballot-papers. It is quite clear that only the presiding officer at a polling booth and his poll clerk can handle a ballot-paper prior to its reaching the elector. Consequently, this provision rightly assumes that there can be no motive for either of the officers mentioned wrongfully marking a ballot-paper, save that of invalidating the vote of the elector. That being so, the clause provides for the imposition of a penalty upon the officer responsible for such marking.
– Proposed new section 158A does more than that. It legalizes marks of identification.
– It does not legalize them within the scope of the clause with which we are now dealing.
– It is part of the clause. It says that he may do certain things if he is authorized by regulation to do them.
– And does the honorable senator dream that the regulations will be framed for the purpose of enabling a presiding officer to identify an elector ?
– After preference to unionists, we are prepared to believe anything.
– Probably. In such circumstances, why does the Bill prescribe penalties? The two positions are absolutely illogical.
– It would facilitate progress if the honorable senator would adhere strictly to Senator Rae’s amendment.
– I am endeavouring to show that the amendment would make the clause read in an extremely peculiar fashion. Its wording would be positively ridiculous. I hope that the Committee will agree to the clause as it stands.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted (Senator Rae’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the words”or the regulations” in proposed new section 158A be left out.
I would like to direct Senator Henderson’s attention to the true meaning of the proposed new section. It reads. -
Except as authorized by this Act or the regulations, an officer shall not place upon any ballot-paper any mark or writing which would enable any person to identify the voter by whom it is used.
Put in another way, this is what the clause means : that when authorized by the regulations, an officer may place on a ballot-paper a mark or writing which will enable any person to identify the voter by whom it is used.
– Yes; but the honorable senator should remember that that must be done in the case of absent voting, or something of that kind.
– There the honorable senator is wrong, because absent voting is dealt with in another clause, and will be carried out entirely under a fresh set of regulations. We do not know what the regulations are yet. Turn, for instance, to clause 24.
-Does not new section 158 repeal section 139 of the Act, or the regulations relating to absent voting?
– To show that proposed new section 158 has nothing to do with the matter, I shall quote the words to which the honorable senator refers. It reads -
A ballot-paper shall (except as otherwise provided by regulations under section 139 of the regulations relating to absent voting be informal if, &c.
Section 139, which deals with absent voting, is in no sense covered by proposed new section 158. The latter deals with the ordinary voting, while absent voting is dealt with under a fresh set of regulations. Proposed new section 158A provides that an officer shall not place a mark of identification on a ballot-paper unless he is authorized to do so by the regulations. Reverse that, and it means that the Government ask power by regulation reauthorize an officer to put on a ballotpaper a mark of identification ; not a mark to identify the ballot-paper and prevent a fraudulent paper from being used, but a mark which will enable the officer to identify the voter.
– How can he identify one without identifying the other?
– The Minister knows what I mean. A water-mark, for instance, is a mark of identification for the ballot-paper; that is, to see that a fraudulent paper has not been used. Suppose that the regulations decreed that the presiding officer should number the ballotpapers. The numbering is not in any way necessary to prevent a fraudulent ballot-paper from being used; but it will enable the officer and those present in the polling-booth to identify the voter, because when they come to open the ballotpapers they will remember that No. 1 ballotpaper was issued to Mr. So-and-so. They could, as it were, trace the vote of” every elector who went to the poll.
– They could keep a list, if they liked, as the ballot-papers are issued.
– Exactly. What we are asked to do is to give the Department power, by regulation, to authorize these marks of identification. Hitherto the Parliament has kept in its own hands the right to say what marks should go on a ballot-paper. In loyalty to the principle of the secret ballot, or in justice to ourselves,we ought, before we grant this power, to have at least some reason put forward for the proposed change. I appeal to the Minister to give us a reason. To my mind, it seems fraught with danger to say that the Department shall, by a mere regulation, authorize an officer to place a mark on a ballot-paper which will enable him later to identify the voter.
– I trust that the Committee will not accept the amendment. It is not the intention of the Government, ;nor is it the desire of the Department, :that those intrusted with responsible work in connexion with elections should have the power under regulations to put any mark other than initials on the bulk of the ballot-papers. In this Bill we are doing what has never been done before since the establishment of Federation. Any voter who is absent from the division in Which he resides, and for which he is enrolled, can go into any polling-booth in the Commonwealth and record his vote. Whether he is out of his division and in his State, or out of his State and in another State, he can vote.
– I rise to a point of order, sir, as we do not want to be kept here all night. Is the Minister in -order in discussing the facilities given to voters on a provision the marginal note of which is “ Officers not to mark ballotpapers so that voter can be identified.”
– I presume that the Minister was using an argument by way of illustration, and was leading up to a more direct reference to the provision.
– I think that you might have let me talk about beetles the other night.
– I wish that Senator Chataway would not be so hasty, be*cause I was endeavouring to connect my remarks with the amendment, and with the provision itself. I was saying that, inasmuch as we are giving greater facilities to the electors than have previously been given, it is necessary to take every possible precaution against fraud and dis”honesty. Although power . will, perhaps, be given under regulations to the Department for marks, or perhaps numbers, to be placed on envelopes, on ballotpapers
– But this provision does not deal with absent voters at all.
– I am referring to *those who will record their votes away from the divisions for which they are enrolled.
– If the Minister will read the first line of proposed new section 158, he will see that these persons are excluded from this provision
– Notwithstanding what Senator Millen has stated, the object of this provision is to guard against any fraud or dishonesty on the part of those who record their votes in any part of the Commonwealth, particularly outside the divisions for which they are enrolled. It is necessary that every precaution should be taken to protect all parties and all candidates against imposition and fraud. It must not be imagined for a moment that the placing of a number on an envelope or on a ballot-paper will at once convey to an officer the name of the voter and the way in which he recorded his vote. If. such was the case, it is as certain as night follows day that a provision in the . Electoral Act of two States would have been, repealed long since. In. Victoria, this’ principle has been operative* almost since we have’ had responsible government.
– We ‘do. riot want Victorian law.
– There is- voting by ballot in Victoria and Queensland. T shall endeavour to show that in both States the provision for the numbering of the ballotpapers has not a partial, but a general application.
– In Queensland the number is sealed down.
– In Victoria, the Constitution Act Amendment Act of ‘1890 contains this provision -
When any person shall have tendered his vote in manner hereinbefore mentioned, and the name in which he shall demand to vote shall appear as well in an ordinary roll in force for the division of the province or district as in the elector’s right produced by him, or shall appear in the roll of ratepaying electors in force for the division of the district, the returning officer or deputy shall, unless such person be prohibited from voting for some of the causes hereinbefore mentioned, forthwith write upon the back of one of the ballot-papers so signed or initialed as aforesaid, and as near as practicable to the lower edge thereof, the number corresponding to the number set opposite such person’s name in such rolls, together with the figures and initial letters of the title of such roll, and so that in folding up such ballotpaper as hereinafter mentioned the voter may easily .conceal from view the said writing.
– Quote the provision in the Queensland Act.
– Yes. We do not propose to do what has been done in Victoria and Queensland for a considerable period. Section 72 of the Queensland Election Act of 1897 reads -
Upon delivery of the ballot-paper to the elector, the presiding officer or poll clerk shall, upon the copy of the electoral roll in use by him, or, in the case of a presiding officer other than the returning officer, upon the certified copy of the roll supplied to him by the returning officer, make a mark against the name of the elector.
The mark so made on the roll shall be prima facie evidence of the identity of the person to whom the ballot-paper is delivered with the elector whose name is so marked on the roll, and of the fact that such elector voted at the election.
The number marked upon the back of the ballot-paper shall, upon a scrutiny, be conclusive evidence that such ballot-paper was delivered to and used by the person who claimed to vote as the person against whose name such number is set in the electoral roll.
Section 76 says -
Every ballot-paper which -
– Are you quoting from the Act, or from the regulations?
– From the Act.
– Why do you not put this provision in the Act?
– It is not so much the principle to which honorable senators are objecting, as the fact that it is intended to deal with the matter by regulation, and not in the Act.
– Our first objection was that we did not know what sort of marks you proposed to put on the ballotpaper, but now we know that you propose to number them.
– Some of the ballotpapers may be numbered.
– Why have you kept back this information until now ? Why could it not have been supplied before?
– What information ?
– The fact that the Minister wants to put numbers only on some ballot-papers.
– I feel sure that every honorable senator is anxious to make our elections as pure as possible, and to prevent any possibility of fraud or dishonesty on the part of any electors. If occasion arises, it may be necessary so to frame regulations that probably numbers may be put on ballot-papers, which would, in the event of circumstances arising, be positive proof of dishonesty or fraud on the part of those who might personate electors. By means of these numbers we might not only be enabled to knock out fraudulent votes, but also to punish those guilty of such malpractices.
– The Minister has spoken of the practice in. Queensland. I do not think he knows much about it. In fact, I am positive that he does not. I will describe what takes place. When an elector enters a polling booth he gives his name. He is marked off” on the roll, and a ballot-paper is handed to him. That ballot-paper contains his number on the roll, which number, however, is gummed down in a corner of the paper. Nobody can see it, and it is never revealed except by order of the Judge in the event of a case arising for investigation. The n umber is put on the paper for the purpose of detecting personation. If a man personates another at a Queensland election, and the rightful voter afterwards asks for his ballot-paper, he is entitled by law to get it. His number is put on that ballotpaper exactly as it was put on the paper already used. But the vote so recorded is not counted unless there is an appeal. Then the only authority who can order that number to be inspected is the Judge appointed for the purpose. But even then no one actually sees the number but the Judge’s Associate. By this means a personated vote is identified, and the rightful’ voter gets his vote. Voting in Queensland is absolutely secret. The Minister, when he spoke of the Queensland system, did not tell the Committee that the numbers are gummed down, and that it is impossible for any one to see them.
– The papers are numbered for a special purpose, as is here proposed.
– But in Queensland everything is provided for in the Act. Take the election for South Brisbane, in 1888, when the late Henry Jordan was the defeated candidate. It came to his knowledge, and that of his scrutineers, that a certain amount of personation had taken place. I. was in Brisbane when the investigation took place, and went into Court to see what happened. The Judge’s Associate opened the gummed-down portions of the ballot-papers until he came to a number corresponding to the number on the roll of a person who had been personated. The Judge then disallowed the personated vote,. and allowed the right elector to get the benefit of his vote. In the result Jordan secured election by about twelve votes, the personated votes being sufficient to affect the result. It is wholly illegitimate to try and draw a comparison between that system and the one which the Government propose. The Minister wants to have the power to number papers as the Government think fit. He and his friends might want to discover how certain people voted. In that case they would order a returning officer to put a mark on the ballot-papers.
– The honorable senator should be as anxious as the Government are to identify a forgery.
– I am ; but the system proposed by the Government is not the right one for revealing personation. I be- lieve that the Queensland system is the only way of giving the proper elector the benefit of his vote, even if he has been personated. Will the Minister frankly tell us what he proposes to do?
– It is a matter for regret that the Minister should have dragged Queensland into the arena. His only reason for doing so was that Senator St. Ledger, Senator Sayers, and I have made remarks concerning the practice in that State. What Senator Sayers has explained concerning the numbering of ballot-papers is quite correct. They are numbered under the law. But when a ballot-paper is handed to an elector, the number is securely gummed down, and is never afterwards revealed, unless a case goes before the Elections and Qualifications Committee. In that event, if a charge of personation is made, and the number of an elector who has been personated is 288, the Judge’s Associate opens papers with a knife until he comes to papers numbered 288, whereupon the personated votes are counted and the fraudulent one is rejected. What is the proposal now before us ? It is that under regulations the Government may prescribe what marks shall be placed upon ballot-papers. This is an exceedingly nasty trick that the Government are trying to play upon the electors. Say that an election is to take place in April. Towards the end of the preceding December, after Parliament has risen, the Government can issue regulations authorizing the placing of marks upon ballotpapers. I should not mind if we had the assurance that the marks proposed to be put on are such as are used under the Queensland law. But the Minister actually tells us that numbers may be put on certain ballot-papers, but not upon the bulk of them. What does that mean? Does it mean that a certain chosen number of ballot-papers are to be numbered, whilst the great bulk will be unnumbered? The Minister nods his head when I put the question in that way. We are to understand, then, that under regulations the Government propose to number a certain proportion of votes in different parts of Australia? The secrecy of the ballotlies in all ballot-papers being similarly marked. But here we have a great Democratic Labour Government coming down to Parliament, and saying, “ We are going to pick out a certain number of special ballotpapers, and put an identifying mark upon them.” I thought that Senator Millen was rather stretching a point when he brought up this matter, but the Minister himself has said far worse things about the proposal than the Leader of the Opposition did. The Minister has been driven into a corner, and has been obliged to admit that this has nothing to do with absent voters.
– I mean by an absent voter a man who does not record his vote in the division for which he is enrolled.
– The honorable senator does not understand his own Bill. This clause was evidently drafted in a hurry to please some friends of the Government outside, who think that with a new Electoral Bill they may be able to carry an election or a referendum. When a reference is made to the Queensland law, I say that the practice adopted in Queensland is provided for in the Statute. The Minister tells us now that this provision will not apply to the great bulk of the electors, and it would appear that the object is to be able to discover how votes are recorded by certain people in certain places. I gather from the Minister’s interjection that it is intended to apply only to absent voting, but I would ask the honorable senator to tell the Committee how he connects this clause with the absent voting provisions of the Bill. At present, we are lost in a maze of contradictory explanations from the Minister and his supporters. If the Government are clear as to what they want, I would suggest that they should follow the practice of Victoria and Queensland, which have been quoted, and insert these innocent harmless provisions that have been spoken about in the Bill itself. We may not agree to their insertion in the Bill, but if they are inserted there, at least it will not be possible to alter them by regulation.
– I have a few words to address to the Committee, and if you, sir, will inform me when it will re-assemble, 1 shall be prepared to make my observations. [Quorum formed.]
– As this proposal is being discussed, some extraordinary and unexpected information is drawn from the Minister. It must now be plain that the proposed new section 158A is capable of at least three interpretations. First of all, if an officer makes a mark of identification upon a ballot-paper which a regulation, about which we know nothing, would authorize him to make, he cannot be punished. Then it is explained by the Minister that the proposed new section does not mean that at all. After about three hours discussion, we are informed that it is intended to apply to the absent voting provisions.
– I wish the honorable senator would not mix things up. T. call a man an absent voter who, on the election day, is away from the division in which he is enrolled.
– The Minister, to support his position, has referred us to the Victorian and Queensland Acts, in which a method is adopted by which, under certain conditions, it is possible to identify a voter. It may be admitted that, under a system of absent voting, some provision must be made for identification, in order to prevent personation, or to punish it where it takes place. That is the sole reason why, in Queensland, every ballotpaper is numbered. ‘ We are told by the Minister that it is possible that that will be done under this Bill in some cases, but if that be so, why do not the Government follow the Queensland precedent? The Queensland practice has been clearly explained, and honorable senators must recognise how effective it is for the prevention of personation, whether the voting takes place in a division, outside of it, or by post. Under the Queensland law, when an elector applies for a ballot-paper, he has to state his number on the electoral roll. That number is marked upon the ballot-paper, and is then sealed down. If, subsequently, another elector gives the same number, there is at once a presumption of impersonation, and the Act provides the means for detecting it.
– I do not wish to put too great a strain on honorable senators, but
I think we should have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– To show how careful they have been in Queensland in. dealing with this matter, I may state that they provide in section 72 of the Electoral Act -
Upon delivery of the ballot-paper to the elector the presiding officer or poll clerk shall upon a copy of the electoral roll in use by him or, in the case of a presiding officer other than the Returning Officer, upon a certified copy of the roll supplied to him by the Returning Officer, makea mark against the name of the elector.
– What is the object of that? Is it not to enable the voter tobe identified in case the necessity for so doing should arise?
– Its object is to guard against impersonation.
– That is the object of the provision in this Bill.
– Then why not insert it in the Bill? No exception has ever been taken in Queensland to the section upon which that provision is founded. Section 72 of the Queensland ElectionsAct is intended to operate as a deterrent against impersonation, and to provide a ready means of ascertaining who has been guilty of that offence. The provision goes on to say -
The mark so made on the roll shall beprima facie evidence of the identity of the person to whom the ballot-paper is delivered with the elector whose name is so marked on the roll and of the fact that such elector voted at the election.
The number marked upon the back of the ballot-paper shall, upon a scrutiny, be conclusive evidence that such ballot-paper was delivered to and used by the person who claimed to vote as the person against whose name such number is set in the electoral roll.
All these are machinery provisions, but they have not been left to regulations. They are set out in the Act itself. Their object is to prevent impersonation. Section 76 of the same Statute is also clear upon this point. It declares what shall be formalities and informalities upon a ballotpaper. It reads -
Every ballot-paper which -
The Minister has reiterated that the Government desire to preserve the secrecy and the purity of the ballot.
– Obviously not the secrecy.
– At any rate he says so. It is to be presumed that the Queensland and Victorian Governments also desire to preserve the secrecy and purity of the ballot. Accordingly, the Acts passed by the Parliaments of those States clearly define the formalities and the informalities of a ballot-paper. Under the Queensland Act only one little matter is left to regulations. But in this Bill the very opposite policy has been adopted. I ask the Government if the Senate is not as competent to deal with this matter as they are themselves? But over and over again we find that this regulation or that regulation governs certain clauses of the measure. I say that the matter is too important to the electors either to be left in doubt on the one hand or to regulations on the other. Honorable senators are, doubtless, familiar with the opera called The Grand. Duchess, and with the scene in it in which the handsome Sergeant Fritz is ogled by the Grand Duchess. The handsome sergeant feels the delicacy of the position, and we all know what he said on that occasion. I am sure that the Minister and very many of his supporters occupy a somewhat similar position to-night in that they are inclined to say “ Oh ! damn the regulations.”
– I am gratified that this debate has taken place, seeing that it has extracted from the Minister the reluctant admission that my statement in regard to the purpose and effect of the proposed new section 158A is absolutely justified.
– When the honorable senator puts it in that way it sounds almost like a policeman’s number.
– I am not quite certain that the services of a policeman are not required under the circumstances. Instead of reading the provision in a negative form I ask the Committee to read it in an affirmative form.I ask honorable senators to suppose that the regulations may authorize an officer to place on a ballot-paper a mark which will enable the voter to be identified. The Honorary Minister has admitted that this is practically the purpose of the provision. He has acknowledged that it is intended to number certain ballotpapers so as to enable the officials, not merely to identify the voter, but also to know the way in which he voted. If we are going to adopt that system we ought to adopt it in the Act itself, and not leave it to a regulation to be framed by any official. But are the Committee prepared to sanction a system under which we are going to destroy the secrecy of the ballot?
– How does the Minister know that? He has not seen the regulation. He does not know what it will contain. Neither is he aware of what regulation may be framed when he has vacated his present office.
– Oh !
– Senator Lynch may advocate a system under which we can track every voter, but I do not think he will publicly declare that he is in favour of any official being enabled to place such a mark on a ballot-paper as will permit him to ascertain how each elector votes. If we are to have a system of numbered ballot-papers, we ought to provide for it in the Act itself, and make it apply generally. But to make the iniquity greater, the Minister says, in effect, “ You need not be so severe upon us, because we do not propose to number all ballot-papers.” Then what sort of system are we going to adopt? Are we to have numbered ballot-papers at the polling booths in the division of Bourke, in New South Wales, but not in other electoral divisions? The Minister has got himself into all this trouble because he has not obliged the officers advising him to fully disclose to him exactly the system which they contemplate, and because he has not informed the Committee of it. He may feel very confident in his big majority, and may thus be induced to believe that he is under no obligation to tell the Committee the nature of the system which it is intended to introduce.
– How is it that the honorable senator animadverts upon the big Government majority, and yet always votes with the Ministry in opposition to any amendment ?
– Sometimes I take to myself one of the attributes of Providence, and vote with the big battalions. But I vote with them only when they are right. If there be one characteristic of Senator Rae which impresses me more than another it is that he seems positively to revel in being in a hopeless minority. I repeat that the Minister is largely to blame for the time which has been occupied in discussing this clause, because he has not taken the Committee into his confidence, and because the Bill itself is absolutely silent as to the system which is to be introduced. I am absolutely staggered that honorable senators should be prepared to swallow a Bill which discloses nothing of the machinery to be adopted, but leaves everything to regulation, both in regard to ordinary voters and absent voters. There is not one member of the Committee who can tell us to what he is assenting in this clause. It is a very serious reflection upon the Committee, collectively and individually, when we find honorable senators supporting a system of which they know absolutely nothing. The Minister has merely said - as if he were weighted down by some great secret of State - “ I must have this power to make regulations, in order to carry out the provisions of the Bill relating to absent voting.” It may or may not be necessary for him to have this power. We do not know. Senators de Largie, Needham, Rae, and Henderson do not know.
– No regulation can be framed which is inconsistent with the Act.
– But what is the Act? Will Senator Lynch explain to the Committee the method under which it is proposed to allow electors who desire to vote out of their electoral divisions to do so? The Minister has not told us. If Senator Lynch can explain that ‘method, let him confer a favour on the country by informing us as to what is proposed. Let him disclose to us the system which the Minister says can be effectively dealt with only by this extraordinary power of regulation. Although I am by no means a novice in parliamentary life, I do not recollect, during the sixteen or seventeen years of my experience, any occasion upon which a House has been asked to swallow a Bill the purpose of which has not been disclosed. Yet here we have two provisions, one dealing with absent voting”, and the other with voting before the poll is taken. Not a single senator, not even the Minister, can tell the Committee how it is proposed that these votes shall be cast. The proof of that is to be found in this proposal. Why does the Minister want this power to do everything by regulation? He does not know yet what the Government propose to do, and, therefore, he cannot put anything in the Bill. He does not know what is intended, nor does the Department. If, however, they do know, they -are frightened to tell us what they want. Let us examine a little more in detail some o£ the Minister’s statements. First, he said that it was necessary to havethe right to place marks of identification, on ballot-papers. Let me interpolate here that he was clear and definite at least, on this point that he wants power to authorize the use of marks of identification, because it is necessary in order to check, fraud. This new system of voting is tobe launched with the assurance of the Minister that we have to run either the risk of fraud, or, in order to prevent that risk, the risk of the secrecy of the ballot being, destroyed. That is the first conclusion which we can, draw from the Minister’sstatement. He went on to say that it is absolutely necessary that the power of regulation should be given. Is the Committee prepared to pass any provision, simply on the Ministerial assurance that it is necessary ? Ought we not to> be told why it is necessary ? Are weto sit down here and, knowing that afterall in this matter the Minister is simply a speaking-tube through which others areaddressing the Chamber, take that assurance that it is necessary, without probing; a little further and asking him to say why it is necessary ? He can only say why itit necessary by disclosing ihe proposed methods in which absent voters will berequired to cast their votes - a point or* which the Bill is silent. I ask the Committee to consider the spectacle which it must present to such of the electors as take an interest in its proceedings. Not one senator knows the system which is to be introduced under this proposal, yet he is asked to give a blind assent to it. The Minister said that this power was required more particularly with regard to absent voters. If the provision had been limited to that it would not be so objectionable as it is, but power is sought to put thesemarks of identification on all ballot-papers. The Minister says he only wants it for the new system of voting. Why was not the provision worded to limit its operation to that? lt deals with all ballot-papers. A more scandalous inroad upon the secrecy of the ballot was never attempted. If, as tlie Minister said, this power is only necessary in the case of absent voters’ papers, why does he take power to mark all ballot-papers? Why should an elector, who votes in the ordinary way, be liable to have his ballot-paper marked?
– “ Except as authorized by this Act or the regulations,” which will provide probably for the absent voter.
– The Minister uses the word “ probably.” Why should the regulations do it? Are we to give up our legislative duly and responsibility altogether and leave this work to the officers of the Department? If so, we might just as well pass one clause providing that the people of Australia shall be entitled to vote under regulations, and leave it all to the mighty -massed intellect of the Home Affairs Department, directed by Senator Findley, to say how they shall be fashioned. The thing has become ridiculous. All the vital principles of the Act are to be eliminated, and, in their place, power to make regulations is to be taken. The Minister knows better than I do that, if this proposal had been made by any other Government, he would have been the very first to denounce it, but because he has allowed himself to become putty in the hands of officials he has not, I feature to say, thought out these matters for himself, but has really taken them as they have come -to him. He is doing not only an injustice to his past career, but an injustice to the Senate, because no one has fought more strenuously than he has done for the right of the Senate to discharge its duty and to exercise that control which it ought to have over electioneering and other matters. Let us assume that this power of numbering the ballot-papers of individual electors, so that an official can keep track of the way in which any elector votes, is necessary, though I deny it altogether. It is a serious reflection, either on the capacity of the officials, or their energy, that they could not have devised some other system. But if it is necessary to have the power of identification, it is for Parliament itself to deal with the matter in the Bill, and to say what the marks of identification shall be. The Minister appealed to the laws of Victoria and Queensland. Why does he not accept their verdict? If they furnish any argument at all it is in support of the contention that it is Parliament, and not a Department, who ought to shape the law. If the Minister wants the power to number the ballot-papers let him say so openly, and deal with the matter in the measure. Otherwise let him tell us that what is intended is something much less serious than that. Any one who has had some experience knows that whatever power is given to a Department will be used to the fullest extent. It is a lamentable commentary, both on our proceedings and on the whole tendency of Departments to gather this power to themselves, that they never once state frankly what they want. Here is a case in point : There was no attempt on the part of the Electoral Office to tell us that it is intended to number ballot-papers until the Minister, as the result of a long discussion, felt compelled to disclose what was in its mind. That ought to act as a warning to honorable senators. The first duty of the Department, and of the Minister, ought to be to state the reason underlying; a proposed amendment of the law. Butnever, iri the whole course of the proceedings on this Bill, has the Minister anticipated a discussion, or when a proposed’ change has been submitted from the Chair, volunteered a reason for it. Invariably we have had to fight, dig, and hammer away until he has been compelled to reluctantly give us some of the information to which we were entitled. There ought not to be any party aspect about this matter. Let every honorable senator quietly commune with himself and. ask this simple question : Am I in favour of a number or mark being placed on a ballot-paper which will enable an official to identify the voter.? If honorable senators are in favour of that, they can lightheartedly vote for the provision. If not, I appeal to them to urge the Government to postpone the consideration of the clause, with a view to asking the Department to see if it cannot devise some other means of preventing’ the fraud which it appears to fear. To my mind, this is one of the most serious matters with which we have been confronted. We have been striving for years to uphold before the world the great beauty of the Australian ballot, and its chief feature was its secrecy. This is putting in the thin edge of the wedge, which, if driven home, will ultimately destroy that secrecy, so far as absent voting is concerned.
– It is very difficult to follow the Leader of the Opposition in regard to some of his reasoning. He made a vigorous and somewhat violent attack on the Government because it desires to provide for a certain form of voting by regulation. He said, in effect, that it did not matter to him whether the principle was good or bad, as long as it was put in the Bill.
– No. I should not have been so stupid as to say that.
– The honorable senator asked, “ Why is it left to be dealt with by regulation? Why is it not provided for in the Bill ?” He did not offer the slightest objection to the matter being provided for in the Bill.
– In that case, we should know what was proposed. Senator Millen. - Exactly.
- Senator Millen appears to know all about it, judging by the amount of energy which he has displayed during the last quarter of an hour.
– I do not know, and that was the reason for my energy.
– The honorable senator knows that regulations must be consistent with the Act.
– But the Bill is silent on this point, and you know it.
– The honorable senator knows that when he had charge of an Electoral Bill he repealed seven forms in the schedule to the principal Act, and took power to deal with the matters by regulation: One of the forms related to voting by post.
– I put in a much more elaborate form.
– The form .of the ballot-paper was provided in the schedule to the Act.
– The Bill which I helped to pass contained no fewer than four pages of directions as to what was to be done in order to obtain a postal voting paper.
– I do not care whether the Bill contained fifty pages of directions. The honorable senator knocked seven forms out of the Act, and took power to deal with the matters by regulation.
– I knocked out one schedule.
– Yet the honorable senator finds fault with this Government for doing what they think necessary in the interests of the Act and its administration. Some time ago I said that we were doing more than any previous Government had done in the way of offering facilities to persons to exercise their vote, no matter where they may be located. When I referred to absent voters, Senator Millen knew what I was referring to. He need not have referred to proposed new section 139a, which deals with a different matter. I call an absent voter a man who is absent from the division in which he lives, and for which he is enrolled. As we are making provision for any adult to record his or her vote in any part of a State or division, or even outside a State, we want to take precautions against fraud and personation ; and we believe that it will be necessary to pass regulations providing, not for the nullification of the secrecy of the ballot, but for identifying a forger or a personator in case of an election being challenged. No one, for a moment, thinks that we can desire to pass regulations solely for the purpose of fossicking out the way in which any man or woman votes. That is not the intention at all. The bulk of the ballot-papers will have upon them no other mark than the initials of the responsible officer. But regulations will be framed to provide for the numbering of the ballot-papers that will be utilized by those who record their votes in places other than the divisions where they live, or where they are enrolled. I see no danger whatever in that. The practice prevails in Queensland.
– Under the Act.
– It prevails also in Victoria. In both States it has a general application. I have never heard any one in the State which I have the honour to represent impute that the Government which introduced the existing Act had an ulterior object in view. I feel sure that Senator Millen has no desire to leave any opening for personation. But if he wants to take every possible precaution against that kind of fraud, it will be necessary in the interest of the purity of elections, to have some mark of identification upon voting papers that will be recorded in divisions other than where the electors so voting are enrolled. For that reason I hope that the Committee will not accept the amendment.
– The Minister is responsible for whatever waste of time may have occurred in discussing this position. When the clause was called on the Minister gave us not a word of explanation. After hours of debate, however, we have got something out of him. If he had explained earlier he would have saved hours of- useless discussion.
– Cannot the honorable senator refrain from further discussion now that he knows it to be useless?
– The discussion was useless simply because the Minister did not give us the information we required.
– The honorable senator has the information now.
– We have little enough. The better way would have been for the Minister to have a copy of the Bill interleaved and annotated by the officials. Then he could have explained what is intended. Why not put into this provision the safeguards that were contained in the original Act with regard to postal voting? There were four pages of sections safeguarding the use of the postal vote. The matter was not left to regulation. In this instance put the safeguards in the Bill.; then there can be no mistakes about them. As it is now, the regulations may be altered at any time. I do not wish to impute improper motives, but I say that in matters of this kind it is essential that the working provisions should be inserted in the regulations which we pass. I protest against this provision going through unless we strike out the words “ or the regulations,” and unless the Minister agrees to follow up this clause with other clauses stating exactly what he wants to do. We ought not to consent to legislate in the dark, leaving it to the Electoral Office to frame a lot of regulations which Parliament may know nothing about.
– Senator Findley has referred to the postal vote. Let me show how careful the Electoral Act, as passed when I was in charge, was to leave as little as possible to regulation. Under this Bill, everything is left to regulation from the time the elector approaches the booth until the final disposition of his vote. Not a single limitation is set out in the measure itself. But see what the provisions in the existing Act are with regard to postal voting. First of all, there are sections setting out that electors are entitled to vote by post. Then there are provisions with regard to authorized witnesses and the issue of the certificate which are not left to regulation. The inspection of the application is provided for in section no. Later, provision is made as to what the Returning Officer shall notify when postal votes are issued. The way the elector is to vote is set out in the Act. The duties of magistrates, of witnesses, of the persons voting by post, the provisions as to the preliminary scrutiny, and the counting of the postal ballot-papers are all set out in the Act itself.
– The honorable senator repealed six schedules.
– Yes ; because the necessary provisions were set out in other sections. Compare that with what the Government are proposing with regard to absent voting. There is simply a provision that an elector shall, subject to regulation, be entitled to vote outside his own division. The rest is left absolutely to regulation. If that had been proposed by any other Government, it would never have got through Parliament, and it ought not to go through. The only chance of it going through now is that honorable senators opposite think that whatever may be wrong with it, the administration will, at all events, be under the control of their own political friends. They would never intrust such a power to their political enemies. That being so, the proposal stands selfcondemned. When a party is satisfied with a thing only as long as it is controlled by its friends, and dissatisfied when it is. controlled by its enemies, it must stand selfcondemned.
– We are as anxious as the honorable senator is to prevent personation.
– What is involved here is the destruction of the secrecy of the ballot. It is impossible to believe that this is the only way in which we can guard against fraud. But if it be the only way, let the Minister agree to put the whole of the provisions in the .Bill with the same precautions as are set out in the Victorian and Queensland Acts. There every precaution is taken to prevent the secrecy of the ballot being infringed.
– It is the same in this case.
– If that be intended, why not provide for it in the Bill ? Why develop this habit of leaving everything to the officials ? Here is a, proposal to introduce a radical change in our electoral system, by which an elector, no matter in what division he may be enrolled, can vote anywhere in Australia. But all that is to be found in the Bill relating to . it consists of three or four lines saying that an elector shall be entitled to vote at any place in Australia. There is not a single line as to the precautions to be taken, and there is not a member of the Senate, not even the Minister himself, who can tell us how it is proposed to safeguard the privilege. If the Minister does not know, is it becoming in a deliberative Chamber to adopt a proposal without an explanation as to what it means? We are voting entirely in the dark, legislating in accordance with departmental directions, and opening the road to the destruction of the secrecy of the ballot. Those who take that view will join with me in the appeal I again make to the Minister that he shall at least safeguard this proposal by modifying, and showing what is intended. If he is not prepared to do that now, let this clause stand over until the Minister can consult the departmental officers and devise some scheme which, whilst securing against fraud, will also protect the individual against inroads on that secrecy which is at once his privilege and his protection.
– The ballot without secrecy is like the play of Hamlet with the character of Hamlet left out. It is made clear that in the Queensland Act provisions are set forth for the identification of voters under certain circumstances. Where charges of fraud or personation are alleged, the ballotpapers may be scrutinized by a Judge. But the Queensland Act itself provides for that. While the Queensland Act affords facilities for identification where a prima facie case of fraud is made out, it guards the secrecy of the. ballot, which is interfered with only in the case of a disputed election, in order to decide who is the lawfully-elected candidate. We have the statement from the Minister that he intends to use this provision for the purpose of identification, but we are not told what provision is to be made by the regulation to preserve the secrecy of the ballot. The Queensland practice has been quoted as an example, but the Queensland Act provides for both. As the Minister is, in this provision, seeking, to some extent, the same object, why does he not follow the Queensland precedent, and make it clear that the regulations providing for identification shall not violate the secrecy of the ballot? If this proposed new section be agreed to, this will be the first occasion in the history of Australia on which the secrecy of the ballot will be left to regulation. If there is one thing of which we have been proud, it is that in every Act dealing with the franchise passed in this country the principle of the secrecy of fee ballot has been the main object sought to be obtained. If the Minister will not accept the suggestion to postpone this proposed new section for further consideration, the Committee will be in the position, not of being addressed by a hopeless minority, but of being in the hands of an utterly helpless and hopeless majority.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Millen’ s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …. 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I should like, before this clause leaves our hands, to direct attention to another rather extraordinary feature which gives support to my contention that it was drafted by officials of the Department with a sole regard to themselves and their convenience. In this clause there is provided a penalty of £10 if an officer places upon a ballot-paper an unauthorized mark, but if honorable senators will turn to the proposed new section i8ie, they will find that if any person other than an officer does this he will be liable to a fine of £50. If an ordinary citizen makes - an unauthorized , mark upon a ballot-paper his portion is to be a fine of £50, but if one of our officials, who has had instruction and should be qualified for his position, violates the Act in this respect, these lordly officials, the masters of our Acts, and the men who make and interpret them, consider that he should be let off with a £10 penalty. I wish only to direct attention to the fact, as, after the last division, it may be assumed that anything that the officials suggest will be accepted without question.
– If the Minister is prepared to take up the position suggested by Senator Millen, and call upon us to swallow the provisions of this Bill without question, we shall at least swallow them standing up. I think the honorable senator should give some explanation of the extraordinary difference in the penalty provided for an offence of this kind by an official as compared with that provided for a similar offence committed by an ordinary citizen. There should be some reason for the difference proposed, and unless we are told what it is, it may be necessary to move an amendment which will make the penalty equal in each case.
. -I donot know that I should have any objection to accept such an amendment as has been suggested by Senators Millen and St. Ledger, but the difference referred to may not be so great as it appears to honorable senators who have found fault with the Bill. It provides a maximum penalty of £50, but it does not follow that an elector will be penalized to that extent. He may be fined only £1 or £2.
– And the officer may be fined only£1.
– Yes. But we must recollect that the officer will be permanently employed in the service of the Commonwealth, and, in addition to being fined, he may lose his position. So that, whilst the fine in respect of an official is not so high as that which may be imposed upon a member of the community, the consequences of an offence on his part are quite as serious, if not more so.
-He may commit an offence to help the Government of the day.
– I will not object to the amendment. I shall content myself with pointing out that a difference does exist between the position occupied by an officer of the service and that occupied by a member of the community.
– Need I remind the Honorary Minister that all presiding officers are not permanent employes of the Commonwealth, as has been alleged by him. I do not suppose that one-half of them are members of our Public Service. As a matter of fact, we all know that it is very difficult to induce suitable men outside the Public Service to accept positions as presiding officers. Of course, our own officials cannot refuse to discharge the duties attaching to such positions. But the Minister’s statement that presiding officers are members of the Public Service is so much beating of the air. The pay which they receive is not alluring - indeed, it positively amounts to sweating. Do we expect persons who have to do two days work for a guinea to possess the highest qualifications? Certainly not. But they are the best men whom the Returning Officers can secure for the money. The Honorary Minister has stated that the fine which may be imposed upon a presiding officer for a breach of this part of the Bill may be £1 or £2. But if the penalty is to have any effect, a minimum and a maximum fine should be prescribed. I should like to see the penalty reduced in the case of an offence by an ordinary elector. It is a farce to think that electors in remote portions of the Commonwealth will ever see any of the regulations which may be framed in this connexion. They may commit an offence inadvertently, and thus disfranchise themselves. But an officer who commits a breach of the law will do so wilfully. I repeat that the remuneration of presiding officers is anything but alluring. In Queensland, they are paid double the amount which the Commonwealth pays them. However, I do not wish to increase the penalty; I prefer to leave that matter to the Government.
– The point raised by Senator Millen is one of considerable importance, and the Honorary Minister has deliberately thrown out to the Opposition an invitation to alter the penalty by practically declaring that the Government will accept any amendment which may be proposed. But if the Government do not really believe in the penalty prescribed by the clause, why do they not propose an alteration themselves ?
– They are afraid of the officials behind them.
– That is a new warcry. The country is run by the Departments, and not by the Labour Ministry.
– I have it on the highest authority that Ministers are merely animated rubber-stamps stranded on a sad seashore.
– Does the honorable senator believe that?
– Probably I do not. But the statement was made by a member of the Government. In proposed new sub-section i8ie, the penalty prescribed in the case of an elector - other than the elector to whom a ballot-paper has been lawfully issued - who makes any mark or writing on such ballot-paper is£50. But in the case of an official who commits a similar offence, the penalty imposed is only £10. As the Minister has practically challenged the Opposition to raise the latter penalty to£50 I wish to ask him whether he is prepared to reduce the penalty prescribed under proposed new section i8ie to £10?
– Wait till we reach that provision.
– I would remind Ministers that we have it on the highest authority that preference is to be given to unionists. Is there any connexion between the fact that where a low penalty isprescribed unionists will be employed, whereas under proposed new section i8ie, where the penalty imposed is a high one, Commonwealth officials will be employed? The Minister may think it a trivial matter that a permanent official may be fined £50 whilst a temporary employe, who, under the policy of the Government, will probably be a unionist, may, for a similar offence, be fined only £10. If we allow the clause to pass, is the Minister prepared to reduce the maximum penalty to be imposed?
– “If we allow.”
– When the Vice-President of the Executive Council challenges me in that fashion, I am bound to reply to him. I notice that, Ministers do not dare to apply the “ gag.”
– The instrument which was created by the Government that the honorable senator supported.
– It was Mr. Watson’s Government which created it. If I move an amendment to reduce the penalty provided by proposed new section 18ie to £10, will the Government accept it?
– Their friends may do wrong for £10, but an officer who does wrong is to be fined £50.
SenatorCHAT A WAY.- This is another illustration of the doctrine of “ spoils to the victors.”
– Hear, hear !
– I hope that that “Hear, hear!” will be recorded in Hansard. The penalties provided for offences committed by the friends of the
Labour party are to be made as low as possible-
– To impose a fine upon a man is a queer way of giving him spoils.
– Even a fine of £50 in the case of the Minister of Defence would be something in the nature of a spoil. In order that we may obtain a more definite statement from the Honorary Minister, I move -
That the word “ Ten “ in proposed new section 158A be left out, with a view to insert in. lieu thereof the word “ One.”
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 -
Section one hundred and sixty of the Principal Act is amended by adding thereto the fol lowing sub-section : - “ (2.) All ballot-papers used for voting in. pursuance of section one hundred and thirtynine or in pursuance of the regulations relating to absent voting shall be dealt with as prescribed by the regulations.”
– This innocent-looking provision absolutely gives to the Department the power to provide, from A to Z, a complete voting system for those who are to vote before nomination day and for those who are to vote away from their polling places. Instead of sketching in skeleton form the provisions to guide the Department in shaping the regulations, it hands over to the Department the absolute right to say how when, and where absent voters are to vote, what is to be done with the ballot-papers, how they are to be scrutinized and counted ; in fact, the whole treatment of the ballotpapers, from beginning to end, is to be left to the Department. I challenge the Minister to cite a country in which the Parliament has left to a departmental regulation the absolute control and direction of the electoral system. Yet that is what is proposed here. I know perfectly well that there is no honorable senator, irrespective of the party to which he belongs, who would assent in cold blood to a proposition to leave to the Electoral Office the right to say how, when, and where a man shall vote. The duty of Parliament is to lay down clearly and definitely the provisions which shall control the voting, but this innocent-looking clause throws the whole onus on the Department. All ballotpapers used in regard to absent voting are to be controlled, from the time they are printed until they are destroyed, according to regulations by the Department.
– This clause does not say that.
– Will the Minister get up and tell us what it does say?
– It says “ all ballotpapers used,” not “ all ballot-papers to be used.”
– When ballot-papers have been used for absent voting the question of Wow they are to be counted, the question of whether they are to be posted outside the polling booth for every one to see or to be hurried to Melbourne to be counted, the question of whether they are to be counted at the place where they were cast, and the question of what is to constitute a formal ballot-paper, are to be left to regulation.
– What about your statement that, from the time they were printed until the time they were destroyed, these ballot-papers were to be controlled by the Department?
– Suppose that I concede that to the Minister of Defence, as a matter of fact, from the time ballotpapers are printed they are absolutely under departmental regulation.
– I should hope so.
– Therefore, I was literally correct in what I said. In regard to the new system, Parliament is shirking what ought to be its duty. In the case of normal, or postal, or absent, voting, we have always set out the main lines of procedure, leaving the Department to fill in the details and sometimes little matters of machinery which it was not possible or necessary to set out in the measure. In regard to ordinary voting, for instance, we set out most elaborately what the voter is to do from the time he receives his ballot-paper until it is deposited in the ballot-box, in order to secure the secrecy of the ballot. In order to be consistent, we ought to abolish those provisions, and leave to the Department the right to deal by regulations with the ballotpapers of ordinary voters. There can be no justification for this proposal, nor has any Minister attempted to justify it.
– I should think not, because it does not exist.
– Will the Minister show me a clause which directs how the scrutiny of absent voters’ papers is to be conducted ?
– You are now dealing with the time after the vote is given by the absent voter.
– My statement is that the whole procedure is left to be prescribed by regulations. Is the matter of voting, for instance, left to regulation?
– Where is the method of voting for absent voters set out in the Bill itself? If the Minister can point to such a clause, I promise him that I shall not say another word to-night, but. will allow the Bill to go through. He knows that his statement is absolutely inaccurate.
– I do not.
– I ask the Minister to name a clause, or otherwise to tell me where it is to be found, which sets out how the absent voter is to vote.
– It is dealt with in section 147.
– That section reads, as amended by clause 20 -
Except where otherwise prescribed by the regulations relating to absent voting, upon receipt of the ballot-paper the voter shall, without delay -
That refers to an ordinary voter, and not to an elector who is voting on an absent voter’s form. Clause 20 expressly excludes from section 147 those who vote as absent voters. The only provision which deals with the matter at all is new section 139 A, which is to be found in clause 17 -
On polling day, an elector shall be entitled to vote at. the polling place for which he is enrolled or at any prescribed polling place for the subdivisions for which he is enrolled, or he shall be permitted to vote at any other polling place within the Commonwealth under and subject to the regulations relating to absent voting.
All that is provided in the Bill is that the absent voter shall be entitled to vote at any polling booth, but everything else is to be left to be dealt with by regulation.
– Will you now read subsection 2 of new section 139 a?
– It reads -
The regulations relating to absent voting may prescribe all matters (not inconsistent with this Act)-
The Government can put in any regulation where the Act is silent. The honorable senator’s interjection confirms my statement that the Act ought to set out the directing principles. In regard to absent voting, no principles are laid down in the Bill. All that it says is that an absent voter may vote at any other polling place within the Commonwealth, under and subject to the regulations relating to absent voting. In the case of postal voting, the principal Act provided that a man might vote by post, but it went on to provide that his postal voting paper must be obtained and dealt with in a certain way, and that, after he had voted, the scrutiny must be conducted in a certain way, . leaving the gaps to be filled in by regulation. In this case, however, everything relating to absent voting is left to be dealt with by regulation. We are shirking our legislative work. We are throwing on the administrative branch of our Government what ought to be the work of the legislative branch. It is for Parliament itself, and not the officers of the Department, to say how an absent voter shall vote, and what is to be done with his voting paper after it is cast. Senator Pearce said that the Bill clearly sets out what is to be done in regard to absent voting papers, but it clearly does not, because sub-section 2 of new section 139A says -
The regulations relating to absent voting may prescribe all matters (not inconsistent with this Act) necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying this section into effect, and in particular may provide for -
the form of absent voters ballot-papers;
the manner in which votes are to be marked on absent voters ballotpapers;
the method of dealing with and the counting of absent voters ballotpapers ; and
the grounds upon which absent voters ballot-papers are 10 be rejected as informal.
I appeal again to Senator Pearce, who interjected that he could point me to a clause showing that I was wrong in what I said, to cite a clause which deals definitely with any of the matters to which I referred.
– I can show that you abandoned what you started off with.
– Let us deal with what the Minister has abandoned. He interjected that he could show me in the Bill words which deal with the various things to which I have drawn attention.
– I can show words which can prove what I interjected.
– I appeal to the Committee whether the Minister did not interject that he could point me to a clause which deals with these things, and that it was not until after he had conferred with those sitting alongside of himthat he found his mistake.
– What I said was set out in the Act is set out there.
– What is set out?
– I am not going to assist the honorable senator in maintaining a “ stone- wall.”
– The Minister is astray if he thinks that I am taking part in a “ stone-wall.” I have no wish to detain the Committee, and would resume my seat at once if it were desired to report progress.
– I shall do that when we have made progress.
– I should think that the Minister would be desirous of getting: away, not merely from this Committee, but also from the peculiar position in which he has placed himself. I challenge him to produce any provision in the Act empowering officials to say how, when, and where voting shall take place. The thing is so monstrous that were I to address any audience other than that whereby the fate of this measure was pre-ordained, it would decline to believe that a Government had fathered such a proposal ; and if convinced by the measure itself, would scout the idea. I do not think that the proposal can have emanated from Ministers themselves. [Quorum formed.] Let honorable senators contrast what is now proposed with what is the law regarding normal voting, or voting at a pollingbooth. In the latter case, the formi of the ballot-paper, and every movement of the elector in the booth, is provided for by law, together with particular directions to the officials, governing their actions, right down to the destruction of the ballotpapers a month after the voting. Why, in regard to this new system, is everything to be done by regulation ? No doubt, the supporters of a Ministry have to swallow a great deal of what they do not approve; but if Labour senators think, as they must, that what is proposed is going too far, there are ways by which they can. make their opinions known without openly rebuking Ministers. As in connexion with normal voting and postal voting, every contingency is provided for in the Act, I am impelled to the belief that, if Ministers are acting consciously, and not merely as the tools of the Department, in the abandonment of all safeguards in connexion with this new system there is some ulterior and sinister purpose. We have already passed a clause in which we have given the Department the right to put an identification mark upon ballotpapers. Now we are required to go further, and to abandon every privilege that Parliament has hitherto retained to itself in regard to the electoral law - the right to prescribe the method and form of procedure in which votes shall be cast. What would have been said if the Government had brought down similar provisions with regard to normal voting as they have proposed in relation to absent voting? There are elaborate provisions in this very Bill as to normal voting. Would any one consent to leave the whole of those matters to be dealt with by regulation? If not, why should we leave to regulation the whole of the matters relating to the voting of the great body of electors throughout Australia who will make use of these absent voting provisions ? We are doing nothing to guard against fraud, nothing to preserve the secrecy of the ballot, nothing to provide for the counting of the ballotpapers, for the scrutiny of them, or for the preservation of them after an election. Everything in regard to absent voting is to be under the direction of the Electoral Office itself. I decline to believe that any Government would have drafted such provisions of its own volition. There is manifest, throughout the Bill, a clear intention of the Electoral Office to gather all power to itself ; and I say with deliberation that this, of all Government Departments, has been from the beginning striving to make itself,not a mere administrative agency, but a semi-judicial Department, gathering to itself the power to make and interpret our laws.
– Why not have one clause only ?
– Exactly; what is the use of all these clauses? Why not leave everything to regulation?
– Why not stop sneering at the officials, and get down to the Bill?
– I am not sneering at the officials; I am attacking them, if you like. If they were open to be sneered at I should not be speaking as I am doing now. But I admit that they are capable officers whose attempts to aggregate power to themselves needs to be attacked and resisted.
– The honorable senator is “ smoodging “ now.
– I say that the officials are laying themselves out to wrest to themselves the power which rightly belongs to Parliament, and to Parliament alone. Let us assume that therewere gathered together haphazard, at some public place, a number of electors who were talking over our electoral system. Suppose that some one suggested to them that it would be an excellent idea to enable returning officers to put distinguishing marks upon each voter’s ballot-paper at an election. Would that proposition be favorably received? Yet we have deliberately sanctioned the proposal that such marks shall be placed upon ballot-papers.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I can only assume that Senator McDougall does not know what we have been doing.
– The honorable senator is now referring, as he has done a number of times, to a clause which the Committee has passed. I ask him to confine his attention to clause 24.
– My only reason for again referring to the matter is that this is another attempt to get into the hands of Departments power which rightly belongs to Parliament itself. I venture to say that no man can read the Bill through without feeling astonished that the Electoral Office has become so audacious as to ask for these powers, that the Ministry has become so subservient as to concede them, and that there is in existence a Parliament which will tolerate for five minutes such a provision as we are asked to receive andindorse.
Senator FINDLEY (Victoria- Honorary Minister [11.40]. - Senator Millen has said that the Electoral Office is audacious, and that the Government is subservient to it. I find it very difficult to understand his position. If the Electoral Office wanted to burden itself with a great amount of additional work and responsibility I could understand an eager anxiety on the part of responsible officers, like Oliver Twist, to ask for more and more.
– Their work is lessened when they can make their own laws.
– Their work is simplified, and their task made much more pleasurable to them when their duties are specifically laid down in an Act of Parliament.
– Nonsense. They have to adhere to an Act of Parliament, but it is much easier for them to make regulations to suit their own convenience.
– It is unfair to make such attacks upon departmental officers who have no possible chance of defending themselves. Senator Millen says that, in all previous Acts, the provisions with regard to normal voting were specifically laid down. As a matter of fact, section 159 of the principal Act provided that ballot-papers, used for voting, should be preserved “ as shall be prescribed.”
– It was not left to regulation as to when ballot-papers should be destroyed.
– The honorable senator hops about in all possible directions. Senator Millen says he objects to all these matters being left to be provided for by regulation; but, in 1909, he himself provided regulations for these very matters.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The regulations to which I now refer provided - (i.) The Divisional Returning Officer for the division for which the voter declares that he is enrolled shall examine the declaration on the envelope containing the absent voter’s ballotpaper, and if it appears to him that the person whose name is signed to the declaration is enrolled for the division, and that the declaration is duly attested, he shall accept the ballotpaper for further scrutiny, but otherwise he shall reject the ballot-paper without opening the envelope. If he accepts the ballot-paper for further scrutiny he shall open the envelope without destroying the declaration and extract the ballot-paper and without unfolding it place the ballot-paper in the ballot-box. (ii.) When all the absent voters’ ballot-papers received have been dealt with as prescribed in paragraph (i.) of this regulation, the ballotbox containing accepted ballot-papers shall be well shaken and the ballot-papers may then be taken out and the scrutiny of them proceeded with : Provided that in cases where a large number of absent voters’ ballot-papers have to be dealt with the procedure prescribed in this paragraph may be taken from time to time when the ballot-box contains one hundred ballotpapers for each election or referendum, but so that the Divisional Returning Officer shall keep enough ballot-papers in the ballot-box uncounted so as to secure as nearly as practicable that all ballot-papers when counted shall be taken from a number not being less than one hundred for each election or referendum. (iii.) At the scrutiny the Divisional Returning Officer shall open the absent voters’ ballotpapers, and shall allow and count those which are formal, and shall disallow and reject those which are informal. (iv.) An absent voter’s ballot-paper shall be informal if -
Alteration) Act (as the case requires) in force for the time being ; (b). in an election for the Senate, it has votes indicated on it for a greater or less number of candidates than the number required to be elected ;
– Under what sections were these regulations framed?
– Section 139. I think I have read sufficient to convince fairminded senators that there is a great deal of insincerity and inconsistency on the part of some honorable senators of. the Opposition. Section 139 contains the following proviso -
Provided always that the regulations under this Act may provide facilities for enabling electors to vote at elections for the Senate or for the House of Representatives at other polling places within the State in which the election is held, and may provide for all matters (not inconsistent with this Act) necessary or convenient to be prescribed for the purpose of carrying this part of this section into effect, and in particular for the following matters : -
the form of ballot-paper to be used ;
the method of dealing with the ballotpapers ; and
the allowance or disallowance and counting of the ballot-papers.
– Nothing could more amply justify the statement that the Minister is a phonograph than what he has just said. He seeks to make us believe that the regulations he has read were presented by myself, whereas they were made under an Act passed in . 1905.
– The honorable senator approved of them in 1909.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Then why did not the honorable senator have them repealed ?
– Does the Minister seek to repeal every Act on the statute-book of which he does not approve? The Minister is seeking to convey the impression that I was responsible for the particular regulations, and the section under which they were issued. The regulations, I say, were in conformity with an Act framed in 1905 ; but in order to score a miserable petty point, or, more likely, deceived by the information conveyed to him, the Minister did not make that fact known to honorable senators.
– Why did not the honorable senator repeal the law ?
– The honorable senator knows that it is not possible for a Government, much less a Government with a narrow majority in both Houses, to repeal every law objected to. It was one thing, in the early days, to give a certain measure of power to a Department, and a different thing to throw away the last shred of parliamentary power. I had nothing to do with what has just been read; but let me read the provision for which I was responsible : -
Where the polling at an election for the Senate and the polling at an election for the [-louse of Representatives takes place on the same day, it shall not be necessary for an elector to make two declarations in Form Q in the Schedule to enable him to vote at the elections, but one declaration shall suffice for that purpose.
The Minister ought to have known that that is the only amendment of the Act with which I have had to deal, and so ought those who gave him the information that he has thrown before the Committee. The Minister seems to think that, because I was at one time favorable to some regulations, I therefore ought to be favorable to all regulations. That is an absurdity. It is the duty of Parliament to lay down the skeleton of the Act, stating specifically what ought to be done in certain circumstances, and leaving to regulations only so much as it is impossible to set out in the Act itself. To an extent unparalleled in any previous parliamentary session, or any Act of Parliament, we are leaving to departmental regulations matters which have previously been set out clearly and distinctly in the Act itself.
– The word “or “ may lead to confusion. The clause provides for voting in pursuance of section 139, “or in pursuance of the regulations.” Proposed new section 139, which is embodied in clause 17 of the Bill, lays down clearly what is to be done by absent voters.
Sitting suspended from 12 (midnight) to 12.45a.m.(Thursday).
– The words “ or in pursuance of the regulations” allow to be substituted for new section 139 anything that the Government, or the Department, may choose to prescribe in the form of a regulation. I agree with Senator Millen that we are going too far in giving the Department power to prescribe by regulation something which will probably override what we have already passed. I enter my protest against this practice.
– Proposed new section 139 makes provision for voting before polling- day, by electors who will be absent on polling day, and the form of ballot-paper is left to the regulations. There are two forms of ballot-paper, one for the ordinary voter, prescribed by the Act, and another for the absent voter, which is left to the regulations. Why should that be? What has it to do with us if something was left to regulations, as the Minister has pointed out, in section 139 of the Act of 1905? That section, which is now being repealed, dealt practically with Form Q. If anything wrong was done in 1905, the Ministry then in power were responsible. The amending Bill brought in in 1909 simply provided that where the election for the Senate and the House of Representatives was held on the same day, no duplication of Form Q was necessary. It is quite possible that the Government of the day, when introducing that amendment, overlooked the necessity for a special provision in the Act to deal with the ballot-paper in those cases. Possibly, we also overlooked it during the second reading of the Bill, but is the Senate never to learn wisdom, and never to retrace its steps in the light of experience? Because something wrong was done by Noah, and we only find it out in these days of Labour socialistic domination, is it to be allowed to go on for ever? One would think so, to judge from the Minister’s arguments. There is an inconsistency in the Act now, and I do not care two straws whether it existed before or not. The two forms of ballot-papers for what I call present voters and absent voters respectively should be prescribed in the Act, and not by regulation. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that the Minister was exhibiting positive tenacity throughout the Bill. I think it is becoming superlative obstinacy. The Minister is trying to drive the Bill clause by clause through what he knows is going to be a cyclone, when, by submitting to common-sense and observing at the same time the highest political principles, he could get rid in a few minutes of the whole of the difficulties which now occupy hours, and even days. He has not attempted to give a semblance of a reasonable answer to our objections to this provision. The Minister could, in five minutes, have a clause drafted prescribing the form of ballot-paper in the case of absent voters ; but if the Government will not submit to reason, they deserve all they get every time they get it. The ballot-paper is almost the essence of the franchise, and the provisions regarding all forms of it should be made as uniform as possible. We are here till the small hours of the morning because the Government are, so to speak, white-ant eaten with obstinacy in this matter. There is not a man with a pretence to reason and independent judgment, and with the power to exercise both, who would not willingly assent to the Government doing that which we propose. When a point like this has been pressed for 50 many- different reasons, it is difficult to understand the almost superlative stupidity of the Minister and his supporters in resisting it.
– The use of the word “ stupid “ in such a connexion has been held to be out of order.
– The honorable member must not use that expression.
– Then I shall say that it is difficult to understand their superlative want of reason and intelligence. I shall have no hesitation in availing myself of all the power conferred upon me by the Standing Orders to have this clause thoroughly discussed, to protest against it, and to emphasize the obstinacy of the Government. In every State Act dealing with the franchise, the form of the ballot-paper to be used is given, and the whole framework upon which the electors are to exercise their franchise is invariably included. Why cannot the Minister yield to our proposal? By doing so he will not sacrifice any principle; but, on the contrary, will help to strengthen the hands of the Parliament. Every amendment coming from this side of the chamber is designed to strengthen the hands of Parliament, and to make our legislation clear. The country might reasonably be asked to congratulate itself on the possession of an Opposition in the Senate which, although small in number, is determined to resist this exhibition of useless obstinacy on the part of the Government. By prolonging this sitting the Government are inviting the electors to look more closely into this clause of a Bill which is being bludgeoned through the Chamber by the force of a large and almost silent majority. I believe that if the Minister were to say to his supporters, “ You are free to vote as you please upon this matter,” we should find them voting with the Opposition. There are some very important and debatable clauses yet to be dealt with, and I regret that, so far as this provision is concerned, the Government appear to have tightened up their supporters - to have induced them to remain silent - and to treat this as a party measure.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 25 -
Section one hundred and sixty-one A of the Principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following sub-section : - . “ (3.) If the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State refuses, on the request of a candidate, to direct a re-count of any ballot-papers, the candidate may, in writing, appeal to the
Chief Electoral Officer to direct a recount of those ballot-papers, and the Chief Electoral Officer may, as tic thinks fit, either direct a recount of -the ballot-papers or refuse the appeal.”
– I must ask the indulgence of the Committee whilst I make something more than an incidental reference to clause 26 in connexion with the clause now tinder consideration. .The two embody a definite proposition, and it is hardly possible to consider the one without making some reference to the other. These clauses deal with the circumstances in which a candidate may claim a recount, and their effect is that the candidate will be absolutely at the mercy of the Chief Electoral Officer. Hitherto we have gone so far as to deprive Parliament of the right to interfere in the matter of a disputed election, and have referred such matters to the High Court. The proposition in this Bill is to take from the High Court some of the power we decided to vest in it, and to vest that power in the administrative officer of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department. Under the law as it stands at present, a candidate may by lodging the necessary deposit make an application to the High Court for a recount and obtain it. Under this Bill that right is to be denied him, except by the good grace of the Chief Electoral Officer. I am dealing more particularly with a Senate election, although the same principle would apply to an election for another place, because it comes first in the Bill, and next because we are considering this matter in the Senate; and I lay particular stress upon the way in which the clause would operate in connexion with a Senate election.. Clause 25 leaves it in the hands ‘of the Chief Electoral Officer, who does not occupy a judicial position, and would not necessarily act upon evidence submitted to him, of his own volition, to refuse to grant an application for a recount. There is no opportunity afforded a candidate asking for a recount to submit _ evidence at a public inquiry. The ipse dixit of the Chief Electoral Officer is to settle the question as to whether a candidate shall have a recount or not. In order that I may prove that statement, and justify my opposition to this clause, it is necessary that I should go a little further and show what would happen if the Chief Electoral Officer chooses to refuse a recount. I have no doubt that I shall be told that a candidate may still secure a recount by appealing to the High Court. If he could 1 should have very little objection to the clause. I wish to show that if the Chief Electoral Officer refuses a recount there is practically no> human possibility of a candidate obtaining it, because in the very next clause it is provided in the proposed new section 161B that-
At any recount the officer conducting the recount may, and at the request of any scrutineer shall, reserve any ballot-paper for the decision of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State.
I wish the Committee to bear in mind that the only ballot-papers which are reserved for a recount are those which have been objected to by one or other of the scrutineers, and they would represent a very small percentage of the total number. The proposed new section goes on to say -
The Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State shall decide whether any ballot-paper reserved for his decision in pursuance of this section is to be allowed and admitted or disallowed and rejected.
That carries us a stage further. The papers reserved are those to which the scrutineers have lodged an objection, and the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State then decides whether those reserved papers shall be allowed or rejected. Then we come to the next stage, in connexion with which the proposed new section provides -
In the event of the validity of the electionbeing -disputed, the Court of Disputed Returns may consider any ballot-papers which were reserved for the decision of the Commonwealth’ Electoral Officer for the State.
The Committee will see that the only papers which the Court of Disputed Returns can consider are those reserved for consideration by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, and not the whole of the ballotpapers polled.
– Only those about which there is any dispute.
– Exactly. My point, however, is that a candidate shall have a right to a recount, irrespective of whether papers are in dispute or not. Surely the possibility of error in a count has been shown time and again, where there are thousands of votes concerned in an election. Let us’ see whether a candidate is to have a right to a recount, irrespective of the sanction of the Chief Electoral Officer. The proposed new section goes on to provide - but shall not order any further recount of the whole or any part of the ballot-papers in connexion with the election unless it is satisfied1 that some mistake or error in connexion with the counting has been made which renders a recount necessary.
– Hear, hear !
– If the Minister, by bis interjection, means that a candidate is to have the right to one recount, and that is made clear in the Bill, I shall be satisfied. I contend, however, that, as the Bill stands, if the Chief Electoral Officer refuses a recount, the only papers which can be counted by the Court of Disputed Returns are the reserved papers to which objection has been taken by the scrutineers. In my own State of New South Wales, at the last Senate election, there were no less than 450,000 votes cast for Senate candidates. I do not know what number of papers were disputed, but, as compared with the whole, they must have been a mere circumstance. Suppose a losing candidate at a Senate election is 1,000 or 2,000 votes below the winning candidate, will any one contend that it would be unreasonable for him to ask for a recount, irrespective of any disputed papers and irrespective of any public official ? Yet, under this Bill, it is left to the Chief Electoral Officer to say whether there shall be a recount or not. The Minister shakes his head, and I am led to hope that it may be the intention of the Government to give a candidate a right to claim one recount. If the Minister is relying upon the use of the words “ any further recount “ in this connexion, I would point out that, as used in the proposed new section, they cannot mean a second recount. What they mean is a recount further, or beyond, and in addition to the reserved papers. If Ministers are agreed that a candidate should have a claim to one recount, there is no need for me to discuss this matter further, because a very simple alteration of the proposed new section would make that quite clear. If, on the other hand, it is intended, as the clause now provides, that the right of a candidate to a recount is to depend upon the view which the Chief Electoral Officer takes of the matter, I ask every honorable senator present, in the interests of his party and of the electors, to decline to accept such a proposition. We know that, for good reasons Parliament has divested itself of the tight to consider disputed elections, but the Government are now asking that a public officer, under the control, be it remembered, of the Minister of the day, shall determine whether there shall be a recount granted or not. Is it right or feasible that the whole question, it may be, of the representation of a State shall depend upon the view which an individual in a public Department may take of the circumstances of the case? The Chief Electoral Officer for a State may say, “ I shall not put my officers to the trouble of recounting a parcel of 450,000 votes, because there is a difference of 5,000 votes between a winning and a losing candidate.” It is true that 5,000 votes may represent only a very small percentage of. the total votes cast ; but I venture to say that there has never been a recount yet which has not resulted in an alteration of the totals of the first count. When we find that mistakes occur from time to time in connexion with an election for the House of Respresentatives, where, the numbers as compared with a Senate, election are comparatively small, and at a State election where the numbers are still smaller, we are justified in assuming that an equal percentage of errors creeps into the count for a Senate election. Yet the Government propose to deprive a Senate candidate of the right to ask for a recount. I ask the Government to say whether they intend that a candidate shall have the right to one recount, and are prepared to submit an alteration of the proposed new section to make that abundantly clear; or whether they intend’ that the right to a recount shall rest with their own officer. I am willing to admit that if the Chief Electoral Officer consents to a recount, there is some justification for refusing to ask the Court to order another. My whole point is that if a candidate complies with the provisions of the Act, and puts up the necessary deposit, he should be entitled to a recount, irrespective of one or all of the Government officials. I am not speaking without having consulted those whose opinions on the interpretation of a legal provision is of some moment when I say that the word “ further “ to which I have referred, must not be held to mean a. second recount, but must be held to mean a recount further, or in addition to the recount of the reserved papers. If this view of the provision be correct, it is a prohibition, not of a second recount, but of any recount other than that of the reserved papers. I should like before I go any further to get from the Minister a statement as to whether it is intended there shall be a right to one recount.
– Must not the right to decide the question rest with some one?
– It might rest with the Court.
– Would the honorable senator carry it that far?
– I have no objection to an appeal being made to the Chief Electoral Officer where the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for a State refuses a recount. But, suppose the Chief Electoral Officer says, “ I will not grant a recount,1’ does not Senator Lynch recognise that a candidate should have a right to a recount at some stage of the proceedings?
– If the decision is left to the Court, will it not rest upon some one man’s shoulders?
– An opportunity would be afforded to put the evidence before the Court.
– Could he not do so before the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth ?
– How can he put evidence before that officer? Senator Lynch’s interjection means - if it means anything - that the Department is to have judicial functions conferred upon it, which is exactly what it is striving for. Does the honorable senator wish to make our Electoral Officers the judges in these matters?
– Under this clause, is it not “possible for a candidate to get two recounts ?
– No; but I say that he has a right to one recount.
– Does not the word “further” imply that one recount has already been made?
– No. After having consulted those whose legal reputation in the country is unchallengeable, I say that the word “ further “ refers, not to a second recount of the whole of the ballot-papers, but to a recount further than the reserved papers.
– I think that that interpretation is right. The honorable senator desires that a candidate shall have the right to a recount without being required to produce evidence in Court ?
– I want a candidate to have the right to a recount of the whole body of the ballot-papers, and not merely of the disputed ones. I submit that it ought not to be left to any official who is under the dominance of the Government of the day to determine whether or not a candidate may have a recount.
– The principal Act gives a candidate that power.
– No. It gives a candidate the power at- any time to gostraight to the Court of Disputed Returns, and to ask for a recount. But as the clause stands a candidate must make hisapplication for a recount before the declaration of the poll. What does that mean ? Very frequently a candidate may not be able to make up his mind whether he ought to apply for a recount until after the poll is declared. He may then decidethat he requires a recount, but it will be too late, because the application must be made before the declaration of the poll. He cannot go to the Chief Electoral Officer or the Court. If the Government tell me that they will insert in the Bill a provision under which a candidate may obtain a recount of the ballot-papers I shall be satisfied.
– Does the honorablesenator really interpret this provision tomean that a candidate cannot go to the Court ?
– Undoubtedly. I make that statement after having consulted two lawyers, both members of Parliament, whose reputation in this country is unchallengeable. The Minister of Defence seems to think that a “ further “ recount meansonly a prohibition against a recount after one has already been made. But I again stress my point that it means a recount of the ballot-papers in addition to the disputed papers. It rests with the Minister to make that position perfectly clear. In view of the grave doubt that has been raised, it would not be a very difficult matter so to alter the clause as to make it abundantly plain that the right of a candidate to apply to the Court of Disputed Returns for a recount of the votes cast is quite independent of any action which the Chief Electoral Officer may take.
– Much that Senator Millen has said in opposition to this clause, and incidentally to clause 26, was said by him during the debate upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. He appears to take particular exception to the wording of sub-clause 3 of proposed new section 1 6 ib. He says, in effect, that a candidate should have the right to demand a recount of the votes if he is dissatisfied with the way in which they have been. counted. Now clause 25 seeks to confer upon a candidate greater power than he possesses under the principal Act.
– It gives him the right to appeal to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer.
– Yes, and under the principal Act he has no such right.
– The appeal to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer is not worth a hang, as the disputed election for the Division of Riverina proves.
– The procedure adopted is as follows : - First of all the votes are counted in the presence of the scrutineers. They are examined in their presence. An agreement is arrived at between the officers and the scrutineers who represent the different candidates at the election. Then any matters in dispute are referred to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, who, fortified with the decisions of the High Court, is called upon to determine what are formal, and what are informal, votes.
– The Government seek to make him a judicial officer then?
– Not only will he have those decisions before him, but every Electoral Officer who is intrusted with responsibility on election day will also be fortified with them. Senator Millen objects to sub-clause 3 of proposed new section i6ib, which reads -
In the event of the validity of the election being disputed the Court of Disputed Returns may consider any ballot-papers which were reserved for the decision of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, but shall not order any further recount of the whole or any part of the ballot-papers in connexion with the election unless it is satisfied that some mistake or error in connexion with the counting has been made which renders a recount necessary.
He, takes particular exception to the words-
– To the prohibition imposed upon the Court.
– There is no such prohibition. If evidence be forthcoming to prove that a proper count has not been made-
– How can that matter be determined in the absence of a recount ?
– How can anything be determined without evidence? Would the honorable senator go into any Court unless he had evidence to support his claim ?
– If I were a thousand votes behind another candidate at an election, I would say that past experience would justify me in believing that there might be a greater discrepancy in the counting than that.
– Then the honorable senator wishes to give every candidate the right to go before the Court of Disputed Returns and demand a recount of the whole of the votes. Is that so?
– If he is as close to the other candidate as I have indicated, “ Yes.”
– If a candidate is prepared to pay the expenses incurred he should have the right to a recount.
– If the votes recorded in favour of a defeated candidate were close to the number cast in favour of the successful candidate, Senator Millen would give the former the right to a recount, but not otherwise.
– Does not the Minister propose to give him that right?
– If he can prove that an error has been made.
– How can he prove that in the absence of a recount?
– Supposing that sub-clause 3 of proposed new section i6ib were not in the Bill, would any Court grant a recount to a candidate, unless he could satisfy it that errors had been made ?
– Yes; undoubtedly. Time and again applications for a recount have been granted when the number of votes registered on behalf of rival candidates has been close.
– But the candidate who desires a recount had first to prove that mistakes had been made.
– The procedure adopted is as follows : - A count is first made by theAssistant Returning Officer; a recount is made by the Divisional Returning Officer in the presence of scrutineers. Every doubtful ballot-paper may be referred, at the instance of a scrutineer, or by the Divisional Returning Officer, on his own initiative, to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State. The Commonwealth Electoral Officer, fortified by the decisions of the Court (which are furnished for his guidance, and the guidance of other officers and scrutineers) will admit or reject the ballot-papers referred to him. If all persons concerned are satisfied with the recount up to the stage at which certain doubtful ballot-papers are submitted to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer.
– The honorable senator is speaking of a recount. How is a candidate to get that in the first instance?
– He cannot get it unless he can bring forward evidence that errors have been made.
– The Minister says, “ if all parties are satisfied with a recount up to a certain stage.” But the candidate has not got any right to a recount under the clause.
– The recount is made by the Divisional Returning Officer.
– - That is not provided for in the Bill.
– A candidate must produce evidence that mistakes have been made.
– He cannot get that evidence without a recount.
– The honorable senator desires a candidate to have the right to demand a recount under any circumstances.
– I want him to have the same right that he has always enjoyed.
– He cannot obtain a recount at present unless the Court chooses to allow it:
– I am willing to leave the matter to the Court, but the Government impose a prohibition upon it.
– Nothing of the kind. The candidate has first to satisfy the Court that an error has been made in the counting of the votes.
– Why not put the clause in this form -
Subject to the approval of the Court, &c. ?
– No. I do not think that the Committee would seriously entertain the suggestion that any candidate should have the right to demand a recount of the votes unless he could prove that mistakes had been made.
– If a candidate is willing to pay the expenses connected with the proceedings, he ought to be able to secure as many recounts as he wishes.
.- As I understand the clause, the matter of a recount of the votes is to be left finally in the hands of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. Whether any candidate shall be granted a recount will depend upon that officer’s ipse dixit, because the former may apply to the Returning Officer for the State for a recount, and his application may be refused. He may then appeal to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, who may refuse the application, and that refusal will be absolute. It is said that the candidate may appeal to the Court, and that if he produces evidence the Court may grant him a recount. He may know that he ought to be allowed a recount without being able to produce evidence in support of his application. Unfortunately I have had an experience which cost me, not only a good deal of anxiety, but also a good deal of money. I shall take my own case to illustrate our contention. I stood first for election at the end of 1906, and when the scrutiny was finished I was in a minority of fourteen votes. A friend went to my son and said, “ Your father had not a scrutineer at Hindmarsh ? “ When my son replied, “No, I think not,” my friend said, “Tell your father, whatever he does, to get a recount of the ballot-papers in the Hindmarsh box.” My son remarked, “ Tell us what you know about the matter.” My friend said, “ T will not tell you. anything, but I want you to tell your father to be sure to get a recount of the papers in the Hindmarsh box, because it will pay him to have a recount.” My son asked him to speak out, and he said, “I dare not; my life would not be worth living if it were known that I had taken any part in this matter.” I applied to the State Electoral Officer for a recount, which was granted.
– On the bare ground that you had requested a recount ?
– Yes. The voting was very close, there being only fourteen votes between myself and the late Mr. Crosby, who was one of the Labour candidates. As the recount proceeded, my minority increased from fourteen to over forty. I had forgotten about the matter which was referred to me ; in fact, I had given up the thing, and arranged to go to Tasmania for a holiday. The last, or very nearly the last, box to be counted was the Hindmarsh box, and then a curious fact was revealed. It turned out that ninety votes which had been recorded in favour of the Hon. Thomas Playford had been credited to Mr. Crosby. There were no mistakes with regard to any other names. This discovery turned the scale so that, instead of being in a minority of fortyfive, I came out with a majority of fortyfive. In that case I could not go to the
Returning Officer and say that 1 had evidence that there ought to be a recount, because the informant had declared that, if his name were mentioned in the matter, his life would not be worth living. I could not use his name; I could not say to the Returning Officer that I could produce evidence which would strongly favour the granting of a recount. If these ninety votes had been credited to the proper persons at the time I should have been in a majority of over eighty votes, instead of in a minority of fourteen votes, and if anybody had wanted a recount it would not have been myself. Even when a recount had been made I should still have come out with a majority of forty-five. Because these mistakes were made I had to fight in the Court of Disputed Returns the illegal action of the State Parliament in appointing a gentleman to the vacant seat in the Senate. I had to fight the thing through the High Court to get, not my rights, but the right of the people to elect a senator. I would not like to say exactly how much money I had to spend before I could do that. In view of these facts, do not honorable senators think it proper that a candidate should have the right to a recount, especially if the voting is at all close? Under this provision a candidate at an election for the Senate may appeal to the State Electoral Officer. If that officer does grant a recount, well and good; but if he sees no reason to do so, the candidate may appeal to the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, who may either direct a recount or refuse the request. Then the candidate is at the end of his tether, unless he chooses to go before the Court of Disputed Returns. If he is in a position such as I was in, he cannot produce the evidence that there ought to be a recount. He may feel quite satisfied in his mind, from the information or the advice he has received, that there ought to be a recount, but he cannot put an. informant in the box and ask him to tender evidence. A candidate ought not to be in that position. Sub-clause 3 of proposed section 161B provides that the Court - shall not order any further recount of the whole or any part of the ballot-papers in connexion with the election unless it is satisfied that some mistake or error in connexion with the counting has been made which renders a recount necessary.
How is the candidate to get that evidence unless he is satisfied that some mistake or error in connexion with the counting has been made which renders a recount necessary? It was impossible foi me to show that there was a mistake or an error at the Hindmarsh booth, although there was a very serious error, and one which has never’ been accounted for.
– Was not the presiding officer solely responsible for allowing such a mistake to be made?
– - I am not prepared to say, as I was not present at the count. I think that if I had had a scrutineer there the error might not have occurred, but one cannot appoint scrutineers for the whole of the State except at very great expense. I do not wish to blame the presiding officer or the officer who conducted the scrutiny, because I know that he is a man of integrity and honour, who, I am sure, would not lend himself for a moment to do a thing that was wrong.
– The thing may have been done, but not intentionally.
– If there had been a number of errors it would not have had a suspicious look, but when it is remembered that ninety votes which had been recorded in favour of one candidate had been credited to another candidate, there, is a somewhat suspicious look about the matter. I think that that will be admitted. I am only calling attention to things which happened to show that there may be a case where a man cannot produce evidence, although he may feel quite sure in his mind that there ought to be a recount. Under this provision, the Court will have to say to the candidate, “ We cannot order a recount of the papers unless you can give evidence which will warrant us in doing, so.” I think that the provision ought to be a little more elastic than it is, and that if a candidate can assure an officer, or even the Court, that he has reason to believe that some error has been made, but is not able to produce actual evidence, his application ought not to be refused. Practically the provision leaves the whole thing in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer, and if he says “ No,” that will virtually end the matter. I do not think that that state of affairs ought to be allowed. ( I hold that if a candidate can honestly assure the Commonwealth Returning Officer that he has reason to believe that errors have been made, and that a recount will make a difference, or. is necessary, he ought to be allowed to have a recount without producing actual evidence of an error or a mistake. I have related my own experience, because I think that it is apropos of the clause. I hope that the Minister will be willing to agree to a modification of it.
– I shall move an amendment in clause 26, which, I think, will meet, to a very great extent, the objections urged by Senators Millen. and Vardon. The Government do not desire to’ prevent a candidate from having an opportunity of getting a recount if there is any likelihood of a recount affecting the result of an election.
– I am glad that the Minister has given way in this matter. Mo one would wish to prevent a man who had just and reasonable grounds for asking for a recount from getting one. I have had a good deal of experience in this matter, and it was always my practice, between the unofficial and the official declaration of the poll, to have a recount of the papers, at which, the scrutineers and the candidates could be present if they wished. Sometimes a whole bundle of papers is put aside, and, if it were not for the recount, would not be credited to the candidates. Where the difference between the votes cast for two candidates was 4,000 or s, 000, a recount would not be asked for ; but it should be given when a candidate has fair and reasonable grounds for believing that it is justifiable. The experience of Senator Vardon shows the need for recounts at times.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) (2.1 a.m.]. - The Minister has done right in proposing the amendment. The main ground of dispute is nearly always in regard to informal papers, which are put on one side. If the formal voting is very close, the ‘ validity or invalidity of the ballot-papers which have been set aside becomes a matter of much importance. Should a candidate take a case before the Court of Disputed Returns, and succeed in getting papers which have been declared informal pronounced to be formal, the margin is narrowed down, and it becomes essential to see that a mistake has not been made in the counting of the votes whose validity is unquestioned. I have had experience of a case of the kind. Under the amendment candidates will be fairly treated.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 -
After section one hundred and sixty-one A of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : -
(3.) In the event of the validity of the election being disputed the Court of Disputed Returns …. shall not order any further recount of the whole or any part of the ballotpapers in connexion with the election unless it is satisfied that some mistake or error in connexion with the counting has been1 made which renders a recount necessary.”
Amendment (by Senator Findley) proposed -
That all the words after the word “ that,” line 10, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ such recount is justified.”
– It would be of assistance if it were provided that voting-papers not marked in accordance with section 158 should be regarded as absolutely informal. Neither an officer nor a Court should be asked to say what was intended by the person who marked them. My experience is that informal papers of this kind are cast as much for one candidate as for another. But when a case comes before the Court, we find the Judge picking up one paper, and saying, “ There is a smudge here, under which I cannot discern any mark. I accordingly treat the paper as informal.” while, holding another up, he remarks, “ I can distinguish a mark under the smudge on this paper, and, therefore, I declare it to be formal.” It is impossible to say what was in an elector’s mind when he marked” a paper improperly, and it would be much better if the task of trying to ascertain the intention of those responsible for these informal papers was not imposed on any one.
– An additional reason for the amendment is that, under the Act as it stands, the Chief Electoral Officer is made the highest interpreting authority, but under the Bill he may be a party to a case, and it . is, therefore, undesirable that it should be left to him to determine whether a recount should be made.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 27 agreed to.
Clause 28 consequentially amended and agreed to.
Clause 29 -
After section one hundred and sixty-four a of the Principal Act the following section is inserted in Part XII. : - “ r64B. - (1.) At an)’ recount the officer conducting the recount may, and at the request of any scrutineer shall, reserve any ballot-paper for the decision of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State. “ (2.) The Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State shall decide whether any ballotpaper reserved for his decision in pursuance of this section is to be allowed and admitted or disallowed and rejected. “ (3.) In the event of the validity of the election being disputed, the Court of Disputed Returns may consider any ballot-papers which were reserved for the decision of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, but shall not order any recount of the whole or any part of the ballot-papers in connexion with the election unless it is satisfied that some mistake or error in connexion with the counting has been made which renders a recount necessary.”
Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland [2. 10 a.m.]. - An extraordinary amendment of the electoral law is proposed by this clause. Scrutineers may be appointed to act in a polling booth, but if a scrutineer desires to go out for half-an-hour, an acting scrutineer may be appointed in his place. I wish to know whether half-a-dozen scrutineers may be appointed during the election day, and whether each of them will have the power to demand a recount?
.- It is a matter of human impossibility for some men to remain in a polling booth from the commencement of an election to its close. Power is therefore given for a candidate to have more than one scrutineer. If a scrutineer desires to be relieved, an acting scrutineer may take his place, but there will not be innumerable scrutineers around any polling place.
– The innocence of the Minister convinces me that he must have been born and bred in Victoria, and must have remained in this State throughout his life. I want to know whether the officer conducting an election may, in accordance with proposed new section 164B, “ reserve any ballot-paper for thedecision of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer “ at the request of an acting scrutineer, as well as of a scrutineer? It appears that there may be as many as four or five scrutineers acting for a candidate during a day. Can any one of them demand a recount?
– A scrutineer will be present when the count is going on.
– My honorable friend is a past-master in dodging the issue. I want to know whether any acting scrutineer, as well as any scrutineer in chief, so to speak, can demand a recount. It is interesting to know that a candidate can change his scrutineers every hour if he pleases, and eventually put each of them up to demand a recount of certain papers. But I doubt whether it will be found that this provision will work very conveniently.
– I also doubt whether the provision to which Senator Chataway has called attention will be workable. There are polling places at which there are as many as ten presiding officers. Presiding officers may want to go out just as scrutineers do. But the Bill does not provide for relieving presiding officers, nor does it provide for relieving poll clerks. A candidate may appoint half-a-dozen scrutineers to act for him, and all of them will have access to the booths. I think that is undesirable. If it be desirable in the case of scrutineers, it is equally desirable in the case of presiding officers and poll clerks. We have to repose great trust in presiding officers, but apparently the framers of this Bill do not think that they can act safely out of the sight of the candidates’ scrutineers. Surely the duties of presiding officers are just as arduous as are those of scrutineers. But there seems to be something peculiar in the view of the Government about scrutineers, that a candidate can appoint two or three to act for him at each separate pollingplace, and that they can relieve each other at intervals during the day. It appears that access to the booth cannot be refused to any scrutineers appointed ; and this, of course, presents opportunities for scrutineers to carry intimations in and out. Have all the scrutineers the right to be present at a recount ?
– No candidate can have more than one scrutineer in the booth at the time.
– I wish that Senator Sayers would make correct statements. He has told us that under the Bill a candidate may nominate as many scrutineers as he chooses, and that no provision is made for relieving the presiding officer and other officials during the long days. As a matter of fact, section 126 provides that the presiding officer may appoint substitutes to serve during his temporary absence; and, although a candidate may appoint scrutineers to relieve one another, only one scrutineer for each candidate can be present at the recount.
– I submit that the Minister has not answered the question put by Senator Sayers. Under the new arrangement it is quite possible for scrutineers to go outside and give information to a candidate’s committee. The clause provides that a recount can be demanded by any scrutineer, and we ought to know what “ any scrutineer “ means.
– It means the scrutineer present at the count.
– How many scrutineers are to be allowed to demand a recount? In any case this clause is contradictory, because we have placed every difficulty in the way of a candidate getting a recount.
– There are two classes of scrutineers - the scrutineer appointed by the candidate and the relieving scrutineer. Both are scrutineers, and the phrase “ Any scrutineer,” in sub-clause1,may mean either or both. The intention Of the Minister obviously is that this shall apply, not to the relieving scrutineer, but to the scrutineer appointed by the candidate. Why then cannot he say so in definite terms in the clause, by using the phrase “ At the request of the scrutineer,” or “At the request of the scrutineer duly appointed by the candidate “?
– Of the scrutineer of any candidate.
– Is that intended ?
– Then why not express it?
– Any scrutineer of any kind appointed by any candidate at any election.
– Phraseology of that sort would make the Bill almost ironclad. I hope the Government will consent to express what they mean, and not the exact reverse of it.
Amendment(by Senator Findley) agreed to -
That all the words after “ that,” line 21, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ such recount is justified”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 30 -
Section one hundred and sixty-five of the Principal Act is amended by adding thereto the following sub-section : - “ (2.) Where the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State-
has been advised by a Divisional Returning Officer that certain absent. voter’s ballot-papers, . which have been issued at some remote polling place in connexion with the election, cannot reach him for the purpose of the scrutiny in time to permit of the return of the writ within the period originally, fixed therefor, and
is satisfied that the votes recorded on those ballot-papers could not possibly affect the result of the election, he may, subject to the concurrence of the Chief Electoral Officer, declare the result of the election and return the writ without waiting for the receipt of the ballot-papers or counting the votes thereon.”
. -We are in danger of getting into a very complicated condition in regard to absent voting. Under these provisionsvotes can be recorded all over Australia, and how is it possible for the writ to be returned, or any one declared elected, until a complete statement is obtained as to the vote’s recorded? There are no provisions in the Act itself regulating how these votes should be taken.If a man goes to a booth and says, “I am an elector in such-and-such a district,” but does not know his number or his division, is he to be allowed to vote on a Q form on that scanty evidence? Where shall we land ourselves if that loose method of doing business is carried out? No one should be declared elected until the whole of the returns have been sent in from the most distant parts where any one could have been able to vote. This matter should be clarified by a statement from the Minister.
– We have had cases since the establishment of the Commonwealth where the return of the writ has been delayed through the breakdown of transport arrangements, although it has been known officially that the votes from outside places could not in any way have affected the result. This provision is intended only to meet exceptional cases. I am informed that something similar occurred in connexion with the election of Senator Vardon. There isno occasion for the Committee to worry, because every precaution will be taken to safeguard the interest of all candidates. There will be, in future elections, a considerable number of absent votes recorded throughout the Commonwealth, but the number of votes so recorded, and the number that each candidate has secured, will be officially known. Something might happen to delay the sending in of the return, and to prevent unnecessary delay in declaring the poll this provision is inserted.
– 1 do not know that the clause is objectionable in itself, but the point raised by Senator McColl is full of interest, and, in view of the Ministerial attitude, full of mystery. The clause has been introduced with a particular regard to the proposed system of absent voting. It seems to me that unless the Government know a great deal more than they have told us, we shall be landed in a sea of difficulties. Hitherto it has only been necessary to send these votes to one place in each State, but here we have the possibility of votes being cast, say, in Broome, Western Australia, for a Tasmanian electorate. It will not be sufficient for a mere wire to Come from Broome to Hobart stating that a certain number of votes has been cast there in respect of a certain candidate for a Tasmanian electorate. Surely there must be some check on the votes so cast. In the case of normal voting there is some check in the fact that a man votes in his own electorate. But if a Hobart elector votes in Broome, the presiding officer there is not likely to have the rolls for the whole Commonwealth, and he will have to rely on the declaration of the man that he is entitled to vote. Surely we are not going to say that a mere wire from a returning officer there will be sufficient.
– The Returning Officer would not- even know for what candidate the votes had been cast. The matter was explained in connexion with the previous clause.
– No. The statement made by Senator Findley was that the secrecy of the ballot would be provided for. Senator Pearce now lifts the curtain a little higher. It is a pity that the Government have not fully disclosed the system which they propose to adopt. Returning to my illustration of the Hobart elector voting at Broome, it is clear that votes so cast must be brought to Hobart, or to some central place, say, Melbourne. to be checked.
– They are to go to the electorate in respect of which the man is enrolled. If only five votes were cast in Broome in respect of a candidate for a Hobart electorate who was leading by 500, the result could not be affected.
– So far as the clause goes, I have no objection to it, because the
Electoral Officer has to be satisfied that a vote so recorded cannot affect the result of the election. But Senator ‘McColl has pointed out the tremendous difficulty in carrying out this new proposal. Five votes might be cast at Broome, five at Pert Darwin, and at various other places in respect of a Hobart electorate.
– The Returning Officer will know exactly how many there are.
– I admit the desirableness of this clause, which will operate only where the outstanding votes are insufficient to determine an election. But let us assume that the voting for the Hobart electorate, to continue my illustration, is close, and that votes in respect of it are cast in various parts of Australia, so as possibly to affect the election. In that case the clause would be inoperative, but, being inoperative, can the Government guarantee to gather up all these outstanding votes within the time fixed for the return of the writ ? Senator Pearce has recognised that we might have to extend the time beyond the period for which the provision is made. An election might thus be tied up indefinitely. I am sure that the Minister will find that some modification of this provision is required. Whatever proposal the Government have in mind, they should keep clearly in view the necessity of having an absolute check on all absent votes before they , are taken into account.
– They will do that.
– I have reason to think that they will not, unless they are called in question. Unless this system is to be absolutely checked it will throw open the door to the most fraudulent voting ever known in this or any other country.
– I suggest that this would be a convenient time to suspend the sittings for half-an-hour.
– Let us get on with the work.
– There is a good deal in the suggestion made by Senator McColl, who has discharged a public duty in calling the attention of the Committee to the position. This means a very wide extension of the existing voting facilities, and it is to be regretted that the Committee has to take largely on trust nearly the whole of the principal provisions of this Bill in regard to absent voters. We shall not know what arrangements will be made for transmitting the records to their respective destinations, and what safeguards will be imposed. It is quite right that an election, say, for the Senate, should not be held up because a ballot-box containing only a few votes, which cannot affect the result, has not reached its destination. I believe a ballot-box containing a few votes, which could not affect the result of a Senate election for Queensland, was wandering about that State for .some time, but that the Returning Officer, knowing that the result could not be affected, declared the result of the poll without waiting for its arrival. The Government desire to meet such a contingency, but it is a pity that the Committee has not been furnished with more information.
– Whilst this clause has been under discussion several points have occurred to me in respect of which the proposed system is likely to be ineffective. Senator Millen has referred to persons voting in Western Australia in connexion with a Hobart election. During the cane-cutting season in Queensland there would be in all probability a large number of Tasmanians up there, and should an election occur whilst those people are in Queensland they would undoubtedly desire to record their votes. There might be 300 voters in respect of that electorate in the remaining five States of the Union, and the result of the election for that particular electorate could not be declared until the ballot-papers had reached Hobart and had been checked. Then, again, it might be found upon examination that two votes - one in Queensland and the other in Hobart - had been cast in respect of the same elector. A dozen cases of impersonation might be discovered, and these would have to be inquired into before the return of the writ. I fail to see any safeguards in connexion with this provision’. At the first blush it might not appear that the votes cast by absent voters were sufficient to upset an election, but so many cases of impersonation might be discovered as to bring about the defeat of a candidate on a re-count. The Honorary Minister is assuming that every vote cast will be correctly recorded. The Returning Officer in Queensland would have to accept the assurance of persons claiming to vote there in respect of a Hobart electorate that they were on the rolls for that division, and by the time that the votes so cast had been examined the absent voters might have left the district in which they had recorded their votes. We are opening the door to a great deal of risk. I do not see how it will be possible to prevent personation under this clause. It appears to me that it is offering a premium for impersonation. I know of a case which occurred at Bundaberg, where about 100 votes were recorded by people who had not been in the State for more than three weeks.
– I remind the honorable senator that the clause before the Committee has nothing to do with impersonation. It enables the Electoral Officer to declare the result of an election, though a number of votes, cast in remote places, may not have been received, if they are insufficient to alter the result.
– I quite understand that, and if all the votes cast were properly recorded there could be no objection. My point is that, in the case of votes recorded, for instance, in other States for the electorate of Denison, in Tasmania, some of them may have been personated, and I point out that, if a candidate were leading by even 400 votes, 300 of these absent votes might alter the result if it were subsequently shown that there had been personation in connexion with votes recorded in the other States, or even in the Denison electorate itself. However, if the Government are prepared to take all the risks, it is useless to point out these difficulties, since they have the necessary majority to carry their proposal, and as one of their own supporters said to-day they are not prepared to take suggestions from either side.
– I agree that, if possible, the result of an election should be declared before outside votes are received at the central polling place. But we have to remember that the writs of election have to be returned at a certain date, indorsed with the total number of the votes received by each candidate. This proposal is due to an incident which took place in connexion with an election in Victoria, where some outside place was cut off by floods, and it was impossible to get the votes recorded there brought in without considerable delay, and though they would have made no difference in the result the election could not be declared until they had been received. I wish honorable senators to consider that this provision will apply to the whole of Australia, and it may happen that, after a writ has been returned, indorsed with the election of a certain candidate, outside returns subsequently received may alter the declared result of the election. May’s Parliamentary Practice deals very fully with the issue and return of writs, and the value of writs when they are returned. Supposing that an official says, “ I do not think that any further returns which may be received can make any difference to the result of this election.”
– It is not a question of what he may think, but of whether he is certain.
– Not long since my honorable friend was quite certain that he would get this Bill through Committee by a certain time, but he must now recognise that he was in error.
– Is that the honorable senator’s reason for talking?
– No. My reason for talking is that I wish to do justice to the electors of Australia. I have scarcely spoken during this morning’s sitting. .
– But the honorable senator has read a lot.
– I have merely read clauses from the Bill which is under consideration. I do not wish to weary the Committee by reading too much.
– The honorable senator is sarcastic.
– Not at all. May, upon page 633 of the 1906 volume of his Parliamentary Practice, says -
If a member becomes a peer by descent, a writ is usually moved soon after the death of his ancestor is known.
Again, on page 638, he says -
At the end of the session in 1894 two writs were issued on the same day for the borough of Leicester, a constituency returning two members, as the sitting members had accepted the Chiltern Hundreds and Manor of Northstead. The Returning Officer held a single election to fill the vacancies. His action and the validity of the returns made by him were raised as a matter of privilege at the commencement of the next session, and a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the matter. The Committee reported that the course pursued by the Returning Officer was erroneous in point ot procedure, and that the election was not duly held, but recommended that the House should take no action in the matter as the Returning Officer had acted in the exercise of an honest judgment for the convenience, and with the consent, of all parties directly concerned in the election and without any intention of influencing the result.
That case is almost exactly upon all-fours with cases which may arise under this clause. We have Returning Officers who are perfectly honest, but who may certify to results which are false. Then’, on page 639 of the same edition of May, we have recorded a case which relates to errors in returns. The passage in question reads -
If any error should appear in the return to a writ, such as a mistake in the name of the member returned, or in the date of the return, or in the division of the county for which the return is made, evidence is given of the nature of the error, either by a member of the House, or some other person who was present at the election, or is otherwise able to afford information ; and the Clerk of ,the Crown is ordered to attend and amend the return.
In our Australian Parliaments we have no official who is known as the Clerk of the Crown. It is true that at one time we had an officer who occupied a corresponding position, namely, the Clerk of Parliaments. But owing to certain changes which were made consequent upon the death of the late Mr. Blackmore, that office was abolished. The point which I am endeavouring to make is that when a writ has been returned, which is badly indorsed, there is no parliamentary procedure ‘ under which the fault can be remedied. Upon page 640, of the same edition of May, I find the following -
If no return be made of a writ in due course, the Clerk of the Crown is ordered to attend and explain the omission ; when, if it should appear that the Returning Officer, or any other person, has been concerned in the delay, he will be summoned to attend the House ; and such other proceedings will be adopted as the House may think fit.
We must deal with this matter of allowing a writ to be returned before an election is completed. In certain circumstances it may be easy enough to forecast the result of an election in closely-settled districts, but I know that, in the Gregory electorate, in Queensland, there is one polling booth which is distant 500 miles from the .nearest telegraph office. How can any one know what the- voting will be at a place like that? A person may guess at it, but that is not good enough where the election of a representative of the people i:’ concerned. In the absence of Senator Findley, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and the Minister of Defence, what power there is to re-open a case after a writ, duly indorsed by our own officials, has been returned, should it subsequently transpire that the ballot-boxes from remote centres have altered the anticipated result? . We know very well that newspapers frequently assert, in connexion with elections, that a count of the votes contained in the remaining ballot-boxes cannot possibly alter the result. We know, too, that it often happens that the expected result is upset by the final returns. Yet it is here proposed to place in the hands of an official the power to indorse a writ, and to return it to the Chief Electoral Officer before the whole of the votes polled at an election have been counted. I have no desire to indulge in captious criticism. I believe that the officials who are advising the Government in this matter know very little about the conditions which obtain throughout Australia. If they did, they would recognise that it is absolutely unfair to the people to say, in effect, “ We guess that the result of a particular election will be so-and-so. “ In my opinion, we shall be acting unwisely if we embody in the Bill a provision which permits an election to be decided before the votes registered have actually been counted. I invite the Government to say what method they can resort to if for some reason or other the indorsement on a writ” should be found to be wrong. It is easy enough to say that the matter can be referred to the Disputed Returns Committee. Suppose that Jones in the central district does not get a majority against Brown, that the State Returning Officer indorses the writ with the name of Brown, and that a distant place sends in a further return which changes the result of the election. The writ has been returned, and Brown sworn in. Probably Jones will not find out for a considerable time that the position has been altered. When he makes that discovery he will have to put his case before the Disputed Returns Committee, and then go to the High Court. Is that a fair thing? If the official had been compelled to wait until he actually knew the result of the count Jones would have been declared elected, and it would not havecost him a farthing apart from his ordinary election expenses. I think that the Government should put a limit on the provision. I have some sympathy with the idea that we should allow a candidate to know the result of the election as soon as possible, but this clause gives to an official the right to declare the result when probably it may be very much in doubt. If the Government would only tell us that in such a case they would be prepared to ask Parliament to bear the expenses of Jones there would be a certain amount of reasonableness in the provision.
– I do not propose, sir, to discuss the clause, but to suggest that you might leave the Chair for half an hour in order to allow honorable senators to get a smoke or a cup of coffee.
– At half-past 4 o’clock.
– I am not addressing the Government, but the Chair. I would point out to you, sir, that it is in your province to leave the Chair for a fair and reasonable time.
– At midway between supper-time and breakfast time.
– I am addressing the Temporary Chairman, who has the whole matter in his hands. I am not addressing the Government, one-half of whose supporters are now outside the chamber with the Minister in charge of the Bill. I may have to ask you, sir, what standing order prevents me from smoking in the chamber ?
– I would suggest to you, sir, that half-past 4 o’clock will be a convenient time at which to suspend the sitting. Arrangements are being made for refreshments to be ready at that hour.
.- There is no precedent for suspending asitting between supper time and breakfast time. Ever since I have been a member of the Senate a sitting which has been suspended at midnight for refreshments has been continued, if need be, till breakfast time at 8 o’clock. I think it will be reasonable to have a break in the sitting at half-past 4 o’clock.
– I am somewhat surprised, sir, at Senator Millen making this proposition to you. During the last ten. years he has been present at various late sittings. He has been in charge of the business during a portion of the period, and I am sure that he would not have entertained such a proposition. If he wants to smoke, let him leave the Chamber.
– I am not going to leave the Chamber, I shall smoke here when I want to do so.
– It is only a matter of continuing the sitting for forty minutes. In my experience we have never had a suspension of a sitting after supper until breakfast time. I think that the arrangement which has been made on this occasion is a very good one, and we will proceed with the consideration of clause 30. Clause agreed to.
Clause 31. (Amendment of. section 166.)
– This clause applies to the House of Representatives the same rule as is applied in the previous clause to the Senate. I believe that the Government will probably find it necessary, after they have had some experience of this measure, to make an alteration which will not allow a writ to be indorsed by a Returning Officer, and returned before the result of the poll is actually ascertained. I ask the Minister to state what steps will be taken in the event of a writ being returned, and it being subsequently found that a count of votes has altered the votes, and a candidate has been put to a large amount of expense in asserting his right to be a member of the other House.
– Such a position cannot arise, because neither the Commonwealth Officer nor the Divisional Returning Officer can act without the concurrence of the Chief Electoral Officer who will be armed with all information. He will know the number of absent votes which have been recorded, where they have been recorded, and for which divisions they are claimed. He will add up the absent votes not yet returned and put them against the candidate who apparently has the right to be returned. If that does not make any difference he will be perfectly safe in declaring that ‘candidate elected, because, if the votes should happen to go to his opponent, the result could not be altered.
– It would have made matters very much simpler and easier if the Minister had made this statement when I spoke about twenty minutes ago. I paused in my remarks, and put a question quite plainly. If the Minister had then given the assurance which he has just given he would probably have been ten minutes further ahead with the Bill than he is.
Clause verbally amended and agreed to.
Clause 32 -
After section one hundred and seventy-two of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted in Part XIV. “ 172A. - (1.) Every organization, association, league or body of persons which has, or person who has, in’ connexion with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense -
on behalf of, or in the interests of,’ any candidate, or
on behalf of, or in the interests of, any political party, shall in accordance with this section make a return of the money so expended or expense so incurred’. “ (2.) Every organization, association, league or body of persons which has, and every person who has, in connexion with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense in printing publishing or issuing electoral advertisements or notices, or procuring the in- ‘ section in any newspaper of any advertisement article or report or matter intended or calculated to affect the result of the election, shall in accordance with this section . make a return of the money so expended or expense so incurred. ; (8.) The Chief Electoral Officer may by notice! in writing in the prescribed form require the President or Chairman and the Secretary of any organization … to make a return. . . . ‘ 172B. - (1.) The proprietor or publisher of a newspaper published in the Commonwealth shall, , in accordance with this section, make or cause to be made a return setting out the amount of electoral matter in connexion with the election inserted in his newspaper in respect of which payment was or is to be made, the space occupied by such electoral matter, the amount of money paid or owing to him in respect of such electoral matter, and the names and addresses of the organizations, leagues, bodies of persons or persons authorizing the insertion thereof.
Penalty (on proprietor) : Five hundred pounds
– This clause can hardly be expected to pass without some comment from this side. The proposals now before us serve no public purpose, but have been drafted apparently to gratifyparty curiosity, and, perhaps, to make political capital. It is provided that every organization, association, league, or body of persons which has spent money on behalf of the candidate or party must make a return of its expenditure. I do not think that any organization of which I have any knowledge would object to doing that, but what public advantage will accrue from it, seeing that there is no limit to the amount which may be spent? Proposed new section 172A places an obligation on every “organization, association, league, or body of persons.” If any individual were asked to mention an organization connected with politics, his reply would be a trade union, but curiously enough trade unions are not mentioned. Will it be contended later that they are exempt from an obligation which is placed on other bodies of electors ? Preposterous claims have been put forward in the name of unionism. It has been asserted in some public utterances that unionists should be permitted to do what they like, provided that the interests of their union require the action they take, or that they think that those interests require it.
– Is not a trade union an organization?
– The Arbitration Court recognises the term “organization.”
– If organization covers every collection of electors, why are the words “ association,” “ league,” and “ body of persons “ also used? It is an old and well-established principle of interpretation that the expression of certain things means the exclusion of others not expressed. Is it intended, by expressly referring to “ organizations,” “ associations,” and “ leagues,” to exempt unions ? Why is any other word than “organization” used if that includes everything?
– We might not catch the honorable member’s association.
– In New South Wales there is a reform association and a liberal league, both of which seem to be specially referred to; but care has been taken to make no reference to unions. The Government can, by reason of its majority, force these provisions through, but the Opposition would be wanting in its duty if it failed to point out the monstrous character of this proceeding, an obligation being inflicted on one section from which another is carefully excluded. The second part of proposed new section 172a presents similar sinister aspects. Whilst it calls on all organizations, with the exception of Labour unions, to make a statement of their expenditure on advertising, it relieves Labour journals of the obligation which it imposes on anti-Labour journals. Every organization, association, league, or body of persons which has in connexion with an election incurred expense in printing, publishing, or issuing electoral advertisement notices, must make a return of the money so expended. That leaves untouched a publication like the Vanguard, which was started by the Labour organizations at the commencement of the last elections, and dropped on the day that the poll closed. In it there was nothing in the nature of an electoral advertisement paid for per inch or per column, but the whole venture was supported by the funds of the unions which launched it. While anti-Labour journals publishing advertisements would come under the section to which I refer, Labour publications like the Vanguard would not. Generally speaking, the press will laugh at this attempt to injure it. The idea that there is anything to disclose is ridiculous. My protest against such a provision is not so much on account of its main objects as because of its unfairness and onesidedness. I do not see that any advantage is to be gained from the disclosure which is provided for. I think that to require it is a piece of impertinence, though not much harm will come of it; but it is not fair to require it of one side and not of the other.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the advertisements appearing in Labour journals on behalf of Labour candidates are not paid for? If so, he knows little about the movement since he left it.
– I never belonged to it, and an interjection like that makes me thank God that I was never connected with the party. So far as advertisements of meetings and the like are concerned, nothing is gained by the provision. If I see the announcement that a meeting is to be addressed by a certain candidate at a certain place on a certain day, I know at once that it is paid for. The object of the clause is to compel newspapers to disclose the payments made for the publication of matter likely to influence an election which does not appear ostensibly as advertising matter. Let me show where this proposal is so absolutely one-sided’. Take a country newspaper which published a political article for payment received. It would have tomake a return under this clause. But the Labour journal would not have to make any return, because it would not have received specific payment for specific articles. Nevertheless, I venture to say that there was not a line published in the Vanguard for which specific payment was not received. The books of that publication, if any books were kept, would not show the receipt of payment for the publication of articles, although the whole paper was run in the interests of the Labour movement. Nevertheless, that paper, which was not started without an expenditure of political funds, would not be called upon to make any return. The result would be that we should have our Labour friends running round the country saying, “ We spent only a few pounds during this campaign, whilst our. enemies spent so much money!” If we are going to introduce these ludicrous proposals into our electoral system, let us treat all political parties alike. I propose to move an amendment to cover such cases as I have instanced. That object will be accomplished by inserting after the word “expense” in sub-clause 2 the words, “ printing or publishing any newspaper, or in.” That amendment, if carried, would cover, not only an expense incurred - as assumed by the authors of this Bill - by the Liberal organizations, but also expense incurred in purchasing space in existing journals, and in papers run particularly at election time. Unless Ministers desire .to stand self-confessed as authors of a one-sided proposition, they ought to accept the amendment. Turning to the latter portion of the clause, dealing with the proprietors of newspapers, I wish to show the amount of venom introduced into this proposition. The spirit in which it is drafted is disclosed by the fact that the penalty to be imposed upon a newspaper which fails to make out a return is ,£500. I ask the Committee to consider whether I am not justified in introducing the word “ venom “ in this connexion, when the most serious offence under the electoral law - bribery - is punishable by a fine of £200 as a maximum, whilst the penalty to be imposed upon the newspaper proprietor failing to make out a return, or making out an incorrect return for electoral matter, is nothing less than £500. Is not this an instance of a desire to satisfy the craving for revenge of the party opposite?
– It shows a desire for justice.
– Justice ! £200 as a penalty for what ought to be regarded as the most serious possible offence under the electoral system, and .£500 for a news- » paper proprietor who merely fails to make a return of receipts from advertisements ! That is the Minister’s idea of justice !
– One is an individual and the other a wealthy corporation.
– It is not the wealthy corporations that will do these things. It is the country newspapers that will suffer. Does Senator McGregor think that he can secure the publication of a speech of his in the Sydney Morning Herald, or in one of the Melbourne morning newspapers, for payment ? I do not know so much about the newspapers of. .South- Australia, and neces sarily speak with some diffidence concerning them, but I should be surprised to find that it was the practice in that State to permit a public man to command the right to have his speeches inserted in the leading columns at advertising rates.
– I doubt whether a Labour man could get his speeches published an the principal Victorian newspapers, even if he paid for them-
– I should imagine that many of the members of my honorable friend’s party are under great obligations to the Melbourne dailies.
– I spoke several times in connexion with the recent Victorian elections, and was not reported, whilst members of the Labour party were reported by the daily press.
– This talk about wealthy corporations is merely setting up a bugbear.. The wealthy newspapers are not going to care a bit about this provision. In Sydney there has never been an election, State or Federal, that has not cost the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph more than they got out of it.-
– Oh !
– Let the Minister for Defence take the trouble to turn up the files of either of those newspapers during the last Federal election and calculate the receipts from election advertisements at per inch. Then let him calculate the expense incurred in sending special correspondents and reporters around the country with Ministers, and with the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think that he will say that those journals received payment for matter published in the news columns.
– They got a return from the sale of the papers.
– That goes on all the time, and they are not asked to make any return concerning fluctuations in their circulation.
– Who pays for the articles “ Farmers to Farmers,” “ Women to Women,” and so on?
– If Senator Pearce means that reading matter published in the Sydney Morning Herald and Telegraph is paid for I join issue with him. I have no knowledge of the conduct of those journals apart from my acquaintance with what they publish ; but I absolutely decline to believe that any person can get into their columns a single line of reading matter simply because it is paid for. . , . :
– The honorable senator has little experience of them then.
– Does Senator McDougall reiterate a statement, which is a libel unless supported by evidence, that these newspapers insert reading matter at advertising rates ? If he has information to support that statement let him give us the benefit of it.
– This clause does not only deal with articles paid for.
– Of course not, but it does deal with them.
– And with articles not paid for.
– I should like to know where the clause deals with that matter.
– I will show presently.
– The clause says “ in respect of which payment is or is to be made.”
– I have seen speeches of candidates published and acknowledged as paid for. ,
– Where ?
– In the West Australian. Senator MILLEN. - That is quite possible. That is the only way, I suppose, in which Senator Lynch could hope to get his speeches reported anywhere, and I have no doubt that he is fully conversant with the means and knows what has to be paid. But Senator McGregor’s interjection was that it was the wealthy corporations that were going to be hit. It was not the wealthy corporations that took payment for publishing Senator Lynch’s speeches.
– I was referring to a Liberal candidate, and the West Australian acknowledged receiving payment.
– Apparently this speech was paid for as an advertisement. I have even seen a letter which had been sent to a newspaper, and not inserted as a letter in the correspondence columns, afterwards inserted as an advertisement and paid for at advertising rates. That is a perfectly legitimate thing to do. The same is the case in regard to the speech of a candidate. In the case Senator Lynch mentions, where publication as an advertisement was acknowledged, what harm was there? I presume that the newspaper managers said to themselves, “ Any speech that Senator Lynch makes is not of sufficient interest to our readers for it to be published as an item of news ; but, if Senator Lynch likes to utilize our advertising columns, his speech will not be; worse than other mat ter that goes into them, and as his money will be quite as good as anybody else’s, his speech may as well go in.” But I was dealing with the£500 penalty for failure to make a return under this clause, and contrasting it with the £200 penalty proposed for the most serious offence known in connexion with electoral matters, namely, bribery. The only answer Senator McGregor can make is that the£500 is coming out of the pockets of wealthy corporations. That brings us back to consider the newspapers that are. doing this sort of thing. If there are any newspapers which are subject to financial influences at election time, they are the small struggling country journals. One can easily understand that, with their limited financial resources, their limited space, and their limited circulation, they are not able to publish full reports of speeches or to insert a great many political articles. These newspaper proprietors not unreasonably say that it does not pay to shut out other matter, and that it is quite fair to ask the candidate to reimburse them the expense. These newspapers, however, do not represent the wealthy corporations to which Senator McGregor referred, but . are struggling newspapers which take a few pounds to compensate them for the labour and expense incurred. Yet the proprietors of these small newspapers are to be fined £500 if they fail to make a. return, or made an inaccurate one. At the same time, Senator Lynch, as a metaphorical instance, may go bribing every elector, and yet be fined only £200. I see no advantage, and a great deal that is pernicious in the proposal, even if it were complete. I wish to make is abundantly clear that my chief objection to the proposal is that it is designed to throw an obligation on newspapers and organizations not friendly to the promoters of this measure, while relieving from that obligation those newspapers and organizations which support them. I have suggested a couple of amendments to this clause, which has been drafted with a reprehensible ingenuity that cannot be accidental. Unless the Minister expresses a willingness to modify the proposal, and accept amendments which will make it quite clearthat it is intended to apply all round, and not merely to those newspapers and oiganizations which are opposed to the Ministerial party-
– If we do not accept theamendmentswill that be any proof that the clause will not apply all round?
– It cannot bedenied that, as facts are to-day, this clause throws an obligation on anti-Labour papers from which Labour papers will be free.
– That is not so.
– Will the Minister show how such a paper as the Vanguard will be required to make a return?
– I shall only be too pleased if the Minister does attempt to show that this provision is meant to apply to all newspapers. If we get that far, it will- only remain to ascertain whether the clause does so apply, and if it does not, to get from the Minister an expression of his willingness to make the language so clear that there can be no possible doubt as to its all-comprehensiveness.
Sitting suspended from 4.30 to 5 a.m., (Thurs day).
– I think the Minister might have replied , to the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition is not present to hear any reply.
– Even so, a reply ought to be given. As suggested by Senator Millen, there is a conspicuous absence of the words. “trade unions,” from this clause, although every other imaginable political association is included. Trade unions represent, perhaps, the most powerful, economical, and political organizations inAustralia, or in the world ; and we have not hadthe slightest explanation of their omission. If there is any attempt to distinguish between political organizations, the reign of political corruption has begun in Australia. We have no precedent in any constitutionally-governed country for such -legislation as this. In some constitutional countries, more especially in the United States of America, the power of political parties has been used corruptly; andyet there has never been -any attempt, so far as I can gather, to interfere with them in this way. The Bill is a remarkable confirmation of the anticipation of some of the friends and more of the foes of the Socialist Labour party in Australia that, when that party came into power, the first use they would make of their position would be to use the electoral machine and the franchise so as togive their political friends - .
– Fair play !
– Some of the Labour party’s opponents call it the “ control of the machine.”
– Is there no “ machine “ on the other side?
– There is not alittle of evidence that the “ machine “ referred to by Senator Rae has ever used its power corruptly. Charge after charge of corruption has been made against the political organization on this side, but in not a single instance is such a charge recorded as proved. Until it can be shown that the political machine on one side or the other is corrupt, and that the ordinary criminal or electoral law is not sufficient to cope with the position, it is an outrageon our liberty to introduce a measure of this kind, which is intended to tyrannize over and so tie up the opposite organization so that it cannot act. In the absence of any explanation we cannot but conclude that the exclusion of trade unions is intended to strike in a party direction. If, as we are told, this Bill will affect trade unions, let that be made perfectly clear; and there would then be at any rate, a semblance of an attempt to be impartial. What is the meaning of the words “ any person who has in connexion with any election “ ? In the case of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act we had the Judge saying that that measure had been thrown at him, and that, in regard to one important portion of it, not the slightest assistance had been given him in the way of ascertaining the intention of Parliament. The Judge went on to say that he had to take the section in question by and large, and find out as best he could what Parliament meant. It was in the best traditional spirit of the Judicial Bench to make that suggestion, so that Parliament in framing future Acts might not leave Judges in a similar difficulty. I do not think there is any body of verbal experts who could tell us the meaning of those words, or who would not each give a contradictory interpretation. We are asked to deal with political machines in an unprecedented manner, and yet words are used which are evidently incapable of ordinary interpretation. Only the Government, and. possibly, its caucus supporters, know what is the precise meaning intended to be conveyed; and the position is stranger still when we find the enormous penalty of £500 attached. Then, again, can anybody throw any light on the meaning of the words “ on behalf of or in the interests of any political party?” What is the meaning of “any political party?” We have heard over and over again that there are now only two political parties, speaking generally ; but in a drastic measure of this kind we have no right to speak in generalities. There are many political parties apart from the two large parties ; indeed, there are two or three parties amongst honorable senators opposite. There is, for instance, the party of which Senator Rae may be said to be a conspicuous and worthy member, and we have Free-traders, Revenue Tariffists, and Protectionists, including those who would adopt absolute prohibition, if, at the same time, the wages of all workers were increased to correspond. If an issue were raised on any of these questions, it is quite possible that the party, which is now united, would break up into three or four for the purpose of any election. How are we to define “ political party “ under such circumstances? Protectionists and free-traders would separately organize, although they are merged together as the Labour party in this chamber. Would these organizations be called political parties ?
– Yes; if they ran candidates.
– If that is to be the test, it is not so expressed in the Bill. People who believe in decimal coinage may form themselves into societies, subscribe funds, and address questions to candidates on the subject. By so doing they may bring themselves within the scope of this provision, and be compelled to furnish returns of their expenditure. I give these instances to show how unjust the intention of the clause is, and how imperfectly that unjust intention is expressed. Not the slightest attempt is made to safeguard the interests of persons acting for legitimate purposes of political reform. The clause is so framed that it may strike at the best political institutions in the community, and leave untouched powerful organizations which by corruption or tyranny may have an undue or unholy influence in politics. Even if the amendment is accepted - and it was suggested as much by Senator Rae as by this side - and trade unions are expressly mentioned in the Bill, they will be able so to manage their operations with a little legal assistance as to escape from its operation.
– Then why weep about their being left out?
– This outrage ought to be analyzed from every point of view.
– Is it in order for any honorable senator to denounce a Bill as an outrage ?
– The honorable senator was, in my opinion, referring to the clause as a political outrage. 1 do not think he was out of order in applying that term to it.
– Inthe whole history of constitutionally-governed countries there has never been perpetrated such an outrage on the community as this. Besides being outrageous, it is also useless. Trade unions were and are still economic bodies, and although they are gradually becoming political bodies, especially in Australia-, their constitutions may be so framed, whether they are registered or unregistered, that they will appear to be economic all the time. They employ, and very properly so, an army of organizers to bring about the improvement of the economic conditions of the workers ; but these men, for every word they address to their fellow workers on the economic and social side of their positions, address- half-a-dozen to them on the political side. The clause is framed with such malicious political ingenuity that even if trade . unions are expressly named in the Bill they can still escape its provisions.
– Name one that has ever attempted to do so.
– The point is that the clause, as framed, would allow them to do so, and they are the only possible bodies that can escape. The organizers of the Australian Workers Union and similar bodies go out. in droves throughout Australia suggesting means by which, through the Legislature and in other ways, the employers can be compelled to raise the wages of the workers. “ .
– They have done it, too.
– So long as it is done within the legitimate sphere of trade unionism, the man who would seek to stop it is a tyrant.
– Then why associate yourself with those who would crush us to the ground?
– If I thought that the political party with which I am at present associated or any political organization to which I belong would seek to deprive the. trade unionists of every lawful means of combining, or prevent them using every lawful means for improving their conditions, I would renounce any connexion with them and any responsibility for their actions. I shall always denounce any such attempt, and so far as it has ever occurred I have privately expressed myself against it. We cannot fetter any organizer in his individual right to technically dissolve a meeting gathered together for economic purposes, and resolve it again into a meeting for political purposes.
– The honorable senator is discovering mares’ nests. They make no such pretence ; they do it openly.
– Even if they do, they cannot be touched by the Bill. I hope we shall amend the clause by putting in the words “ trade unions,” in order that the Bill may bear on its face evidence of our intention that it should embrace every body which is in reality political.
– There are some unions that are not political bodies.
– Very few in Australia to-day are not. I have given them credit for their good work, and now I must say, to their shame, that some trade unionists have expressed the belief that it is their bounden duty to make this land of ours, which is one of the freest on earth - -
– The honorable senator is going beyond the scope of the clause.
– The strongest partisan journals in Australia are the subsidized newspapers of a political party. Their very existence depends upon the financial support they receive from a political party, and yet that is the class of journalism, that,, isnot going to be touched by the clause. I believe it was never intended bythe other side that it should touch them. On the other hand the moment a, campaign , is started every great journal that may support our side has to account for every expense incurred for an article or advertisement in connexion with it. Again, therefore, unfair discrimination is made. Every Labour journal in Australia to-day is subsidized, and could not exist unless it expressed the political opinions of the Labour party, and backed up Labour candidates. Yet those journals cannot be touched, while the rest of Australian journalism is struck at. A newspaper, like an individual, has the right to express its political opinions, subject to the law of libel, but it has been assumed by the Go vernment that every newspaper in Australia, outside the Labour journals, has turned against the Labour Socialist party, because it is subsidized by anti-Labour candidates or organizations to do so. It has been urged, as an instance, of the unfair play of the ordinary journalism of Australia, that it suppresses the speeches of Labour candidates, but any offence in that direction is, as a mole-hill to a mountain, when compared with the offence committed in the opposite direction by Australian: Labour journalism. Where is there a Labour journal in Australia that will give any space to a speech by a prominent member of this party? They teem with personalities with regard to their opponents, and some of them more or less deliberatelymanufacture utterances that have never been made by any of us. This clause, and the defence of it, is a most striking instance of Satan reproving sin. I did a good deal of platform work in the recent State elections, and I say that, time after time, when I spoke, I was never reported at all by the Argus or Age.
– Did the honorable senator say anything worth reporting?
– That may or may not be; but I was associated very prominently with the one big victory that was scored over the Labour party.
– The honorable senator was very prominently reported in connexion with ‘ the Williamstown meeting: when he told the electors that he had a message from Mars for them.
– The reporter must have been dreaming to have written such a thing, because I am confident that I didnot say anything of the kind. A large amount of space was given in the Argus, and an almost equally large amount in the Age, to prominent Labour candidates, while many of our side who spoke in support of our candidates were not reported at all. It is to the credit of those journals that they did not adopt a partisan attitude in reporting the speeches in that campaign. The charge, therefore, fails against, the two great Melbourne dailies, and the same thing applies in Sydney and Adelaide. I hope I have now silenced for ever the charge that the Argus, at any rate, was partisan, and bought.
– Every one will admit that this is a very one-sided provision, designed to strike at all Liberal organizations, and especially to exempt all organizations which, although carried on as trade unions, are really political in their aims and objects. We maintain that it will not give fair play. The Minister of Defence said it would affect all organizations, but he has not shown that it will. We have heard a great deal as to what the press make out of a general election. My experience is that they make very little. It has been interjected during the course of this debate that articles of the character of “ Women to Women” are practically paid for by certain organizations. I do not believe that they are, and we certainly have no proof for such an assertion. Under this clause it will be possible for any political organization to subsidize a newspaper for two years and nine months without fear of punishment, but as soon as a general election is announced the position will be altered. I suppose that the Government will then appoint a censor, who will read the leading articles in the daily newspapers and recommend that proceedings should be instituted where he believes an article has been published in the interests of and paid for by an organization supporting the opponents of the Ministry. At the present time a candidate for the Senate is not permitted to expend more than ,£250 in connexion with his campaign. I do not know whether this provision is intended to affect the law in that regard. An attempt might be made to prove that articles published in a newspaper in favour of the return of a certain candidate were worth a certain amount to him, and that that amount should be included in his return as to election expenses. I have not had much experience in regard to metropolitan newspapers, but my experience of newspapers published- in provincial towns with a population of from 1.0,000 to 20,000 is that they report both sides on an equal footing. I take it that if a candidate for the Senate, or any organization on his behalf, expended more than £250 by way of election expenses, that expenditure would invalidate his election. But if an organization chooses to pay a newspaper or any individual to do certain work in support of the candidature of some person for the Senate without his knowledge or consent, is that to disqualify him? No candidate should be penalized in respect of payments made without his consent. I trust that the Minister will give us the promised explanation, and show that these provisions will apply to all organizations.
.One can have only a feeling of contemptuous pity for a party that will stoop so low as to bring in legislation of this kind in an attempt to defeat its political opponents, and which, when an attack is made upon it, allows the responsible Minister to run away and make no reply.
– He has not run away.
– The honorable senator has had ample opportunity to reply, but has failed to do so. The only spirit in which these provisions could have been conceived is that of the viper who sought revenge by biting the file. This provision does not touch the right to organize. Parties will still have the right to organize and to spend as much money as they like. Whenever the Labour party meets with a rebuff it immediately raises the cry, “Look at the money that was spent in opposition to us.” It has been said by them that £40,000 was spent in the fight to secure the rejection of the referenda proposals. I do not think, however, that one-eighth of that amount was expended. In order to bolster up that cry, however, and to make people believe that there is something in it, they introduce legislation of this kind. There can be no doubt that this clause is intended to affect Liberal organizations. If that is not the intention of the Government, then let them accept an amendment which Senator Millen intends to propose extending its provisions to trade unions and all other organizations. A conspicuous feature of the great newspapers throughout Australia is their fairness to all parties, and especially to those to whom they are opposed. Their opponents are given even better reports than their friends receive. This, after all, is only a puerile attack on the press, and will have no effect. It is but a poor return for the treatment which the press has extended to the Labour party. There is no limitation in this clause in regard either to party or to individual. The large and the infinitely small - the great organizations as well as a single individual - are brought within its scope; but the proposed penalty of .£50 would not act as a deterrent in the case of any organization, or person of means. Temperance Societies, Protection and Free Trade Associations, Single Tax Leagues, and any other body of people supporting a particular cause, will come under this provision ; and I have no doubt that the Government will ultimately find that it will have a boomerang effect and come back upon them.
– I had hoped that there would be no necessity for me to speak further on this clause after the militant and confident statement of the Minister that he was prepared to show that it was not intended to do what it declares shall be done. I have waited patiently for an hour and a half for his promised statement ; but we have been left in that state of delightful ignorance which the Ministry evidently intend to keep us in so far as this provision is concerned. An interjection made by Senator Rae while Senator St. Ledger was speaking has led me to the conclusion that these provisions are going to be more far-reaching in their effect than I thought in the first instances they would be. The honorable senator declared that he would describe as “ a political party “ any party that ran a candidate for Parliament. I would point out that the Temperance party, which spends money - as it is entitled to do - in furtherance of its cause, not infrequently questions candidates on matters affecting the Temperance question, and having ascertained their views, may decide to support any one of them. In such a case, is that body to make a return of the money expended in furtherance of the central idea of its organization ? The liquor trade is also organized, and would, in the same way, come within these provisions. I can enumerate association after association which, ordinarily speaking, is outside the realm of political organization, but which will be brought under the yoke which the Ministry is seeking to place on all those who do not see eye to eye with the Labour party. So far-flung, will be the effect of this clause, that the Ministry will either shrink from enforcing it, or, if they do attempt to enforce it, so many public bodies will be affected, that a great public outcry will be raised, and one of the first duties of their successors will be to repeal these provisions. I wish to place on record the fact that we Iia ve not allowed these provisions to pass without a fair and comprehensive view of the iniquity that is sought to be perpetrated by them. I move -
That after the word “ Every,” in sub-clause i of proposed new section T72A, the words “ trade union registered or unregistered “ be inserted.
I should be perfectly satisfied if this proposed new section read “Every organization or body of persons,” and so forth. But it seems to me that, by specially enumerating organizations, associations, and leagues, the provision expressly excludes trade unions. If that is not the object of it, there can be no objection to my amendment, or to so amending the proposed new section that it will read “ Every organization or body of persons,” and so forth.
– I desire to reply briefly to the criticism that has been levelled against these provisions by Senator McColl, Senator Millen, and Senator Sayers. Senator McColl has, apparently, conceived the idea that they are specially designed to do an injustice to organizations which, he says, are opposed to the Labour movement.
– Is that not so?
– Nothing of the kind. These provisions will be applicable to all organizations, whether favorable or unfavorable to the Labour party. Under the principal Act the expenses of a candidate for the Senate may not exceed £250, and those of a candidate for the House of Representatives may not exceed £100. Senator Sayers contends, however, that there should be no limit to the expenditure which any person or organization may incur in the interests of a candidate, provided that it is incurred without his consent. Such a provision would defeat the very object of the Act in this regard, which is to enable persons of limited means to enter either House of the Parliament. If we were to allow any organization to expend more than £250 on behalf of a candidate, so long as it did not do so with his consent, the position would’ be farcical.
– It would not be on his behalf. He would not have asked the organization or individual to incur that expenditure.
– It would be a contravention of the main provision in the principal Act if an organization or private individual were allowed to spend whatever it pleased on behalf of a candidate.
– We cannot find any one so generous’ as to do that.
– We can readily imagine that there are citizens of Australia any one of whom would not hesitate to spend ,£2,000, if the Act permitted it, in an effort to secure his return to’ this Parliament. Senator Millen says, in effect, what Senator Sayers Kas said - that an organization should be allowed to expend whatever it pleases in furtherance of the return of a particular candidate.
– I am not denying it, but I did not say it.
– The honorable senator said that the Temperance organization and the Licensed Victuallers’ Association might be disposed to spend a large sum of money in the furtherance of their respective objects, and might advocate the return of candidates who, in their opinion, would do most to advance the respective causes they had at heart. But surely Senator Millen would not desire that power should be given them to spend what they liked in support of any candidate’s return? When it was thought right to limit the expenditure of candidiates no complaint can be made against this proposal to safeguard the provision we have made. Organizations should not be allowed to do what a candidate is not allowed to do. I do not think that honorable senators opposite are honest in what they have said about the prominence given to Labour candidates in the daily papers of Australia. Mine was not an isolated case, but at the last Senate election I do not think I was given 10 inches of space during my campaign, which lasted twelve weeks, whilst candidates standing in opposition to the Labour party were reported times out of number, and the reports of their utterances filled many columns. These provisions will be applicable to all journals, no matter what political party they support, and it should not be forgotten that there are now many Labour journals in Australia ; that there will shortly be a daily Labour newspaper published in Sydney ; that there is one already at Broken Hill, another at Adelaide, another at Hobart, and in all probability there will be one published very shortly in Melbourne. With regard to Senator Millen’s amendment I have only to say that it is already provided for in sub-clause 2 of proposed new section 17 2 a.
– Then the honorable senator can have no objection to the insertion of the words?
– I have no very strongobjection to their insertion, though I think they are unnecessary. I think that honorable senators opposite do an injustice to the Government, the Labour party, and the Labour movement when they contend that this provision is especially designed to work unjustly against the organizations opposed to the Labour party.
– I am disposed to move the insertion of the words “ Friendly society or Masonic order.” Now that the Committee is going out of its way to specifically include trade unions, and compel any, great or small, that may have spent any money upon an election to furnish a return of their expenditure, I can see no reason why we should not specifically include also every other organization that may be likely to spend money upon elections. We know that big financial institutions and chambers of commerce spend thousands of pounds upon elections, and yet it is not proposed to include them. If we do not specifically name all other organizations we should not specially mention trade unions. I shall not press any amendment now, but I hope the Minister will see that every other organization shall be compelled to furnish a return of money spent upon elections as well as industrial organizations such as trade unions.
– Senator Millen’s amendment provides only for the inclusion of organizations that were already included under the clause as it stood.
– I will accept the Minister’s explanation that the amendment does not make any difference, but that may not be generally understood. I have heard honorable senators speaking of the army of organizers sent through the country by the Australian Workers Union. I have no doubt that those who made that reference believed they were telling the truth, but any one who has any connexion with the Australian Workers Union will know that in proportion to their business they do not send as many men through the country organizing as an ordinary warehouse in Melbourne or in Sydney will send out to push the sale of its goods. I am afraid that as trade unions are being specifically included in the provision charges of political expenditure will be made against them, and they will be given infinite trouble.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted (Senator Millen’s. amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I hope to be able to convince Senator Gardiner in a few words that the acceptance of the amendment will not affect trade unions to any greater extent than they would have been affected if it had not been agreed to. I quote, for the honorable senator’s information, the following definition of “Association” from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act - “ Association “ means any trade or other union, or branch of any union, . or any association or body composed of or representative of employers or employes, or for furthering or protecting the interests of employers or employes.
The honorable senator will see that the words “organization” and “association” were already included in the Bill. They cover trade unions, whether registered or unregistered ; and the acceptance of the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition did not make the slightest difference in the effect of this provision.
– I think it is a great pity that we should use so many practically synonymous terms in the same clause. I cannot see how there can be any rational objection to the organizations or newspapers referred to in this clause making the proposed returns. The argument that certain organizations will, by the adoption of evasive rules, escape this obligation, is utter nonsense. As the Australian Workers Union, and other similar organizations, have been referred to at such length, it should be in order for me to reply to some of the aspersions cast upon those bodies.
– No aspersions were cast upon the unions ; but the contention was that the clause was so framed as to leave them outsideits operation.
– It does not do anything of the kind. ‘
– I contend that it would not have that effect. I cannot see how any union undertaking political work could escape the obligation to make a return under this clause. The Australian Workers Union has never made any pretence of being non-political. Amongst its published objects is to secure social justice by political means, and by its rules a certain portion of its funds are devoted to political purposes. We are not afraid to publish every penny we have expended, or ever will expend, on political purposes. As a matter of fact, that has always been done. I might mention that when we first attempted to register the organization in the New South Wales Arbitration Court we found that the Pastoralists Union- the employers’ organization - desired to register also. But when they discovered that they would have to publish a balance-sheet they withdrew. They absolutely refused to expose their hand, because they would either have to commit perjury or disclose the fact that they had a secret service fund with which they carried on their iniquitous proceedings to down our union. I protest against the frothy humbug of honorable senators opposite in professing that the organizations behind them are not guilty of any corruption and have nothing to be ashamed of.
– This will not help the honorable senator.
– That may be so; but it will, at any rate, be a reply to the mean and stupid reflections which have been cast upon the Australian Workers Union, of which I have been a member since it was originated twenty-five years ago. The organizations with which honorable senators opposite are associated have flooded this country with lying and pernicious literature, and have suborned the perjured rats from every political party in the Commonwealth. They go round the country traducing Labour men and every article of our platform, twisting, distorting, lying, and deceiving - words fail me ! - in order to maintain the party opposite in Parliament. By their perjured villiany they assist the party opposite, who , try to hide themselves under the fairsounding name of Liberals, when we know that every Conservative and reactionary force in the Commonwealth is ranged behind them, as well as every sweating employer and every scoundrelly’ manufacturer ; and every one associated with them, no matter to which organization he nominally belongs, appears to be capable of twisting the whole of the Ten Commandments into service on their behalf. I feel that I must express the real indignation which every honest member of this party must have for those who are ranged behind honorable senators opposite, and who, by trading upon the ignorance of some and the prejudice of others, manage to secure the return of those honorable gentlemen. Yet we find honorable senators who are supported by such people, and doing their dirty lying work, traducing the Australian Workers Union, which is not only the largest but one of the fairest and finest organizations which has ever existed in the Commonwealth, and has done more than any other organization to bring to their knees a class of employers who have practised every meanness of which employers are capable. The Australian Workers Union has compelled these employers in recent years to hand over a little of the plunder and spoil they took from thepockets of their poor workmen a generation before. Honorable senators who have traduced this organization should hide their diminished heads in shame. They should go home; and not waste the time of the Senate in an effort to uphold the fort and resist the so-called Labour tyranny on behalf of these miserable, lying, perjured rags which will give prominence to everything they have to say about our side.
– What about “ The case for Labour?”
– They publish “ The case for Labour ‘ ‘ so that they may still be able to pose as impartial, and be able to sell, for the workers’ pennies, a newspaper which would not have half its present readers were it not for the eloquence, wit and logic embodied in those articles.
– And Mr. Hughes lends himself to that?
– I am not Mr. Hughes’s keeper. In regard to the Australian Workers Union, I say that every one of its organizers know that the advancement of the Labour propaganda is part of their work. They never attempt to disguise or conceal that fact. They would never dream of adopting the subterfuges which have been suggested by honorable senators opposite to escape the provisions of this Bill. The Australian Workers Union has nothing to be ashamed of, except that a number of its members are not sufficiently wise to insist upon more money being expended upon political work.
.- In the speech of Senator Rae we might have sought your ruling, sir, as to whether a good many of the terms which he employed were quite in accordance with parliamentary practice. But everybody recognised that it was only Senator Rae who was speaking, and at this hour of the morning we were glad to have the tedium of what would otherwise have been a tame sitting somewhat relieved. But when the honorable senator, after pouring out some of the sentences which he did, turned round and made the statement that words failed him, he indeed trespassed too much upon our good nature. Although we know Senator Rae, and he knows himself, and is even now smiling at the rhetorical fireworks in which he indulged, I say that if he were to repeat his statements outside this building he would go perilously close to breaking the law of libel.
– I have often said the same thing outside of Parliament, and will do so again.
– The honorable senator spoke of some organization whose money he declared had helped to put members of the Opposition where they are to-day to do its “ dirty lying work.” If he repeats that statement in cold blood, and says that I have been put here by the money of any organization to do its “ dirty lying work,” I will throw the words back in his teeth, whether it be here or outside. He also spoke of the “ perjured villainy “ of the organizations which are behind us. Now, there is onlyone word in the English language which can accurately describe such a statement. I say that it is a lie.
– It is not.
– Will not the honorable senator admit that it is true?
– As far as I am personally concerned - and the remainder of the Opposition can speak for themselves - it is not merely untrue to say that “perjured villainy” is responsible for my presence here to-day, but it is as untrue as Senator Rae knows it to be. It is easy enough for him to come here and indulge in the Domain style of oratary, but if he had the slightest proof that any organization had paid my way to get me here for the purpose of doing its “ dirty lying work “ he would have published the facts long ago, and have allowed the people of this country to judge of them.
The honorable senator not only did himself an injustice, but did a great injustice to members of the Opposition when he absolutely distorted the words which its members had used in regard to the Australian Workers Union. I made the first reference to that organization during the debate upon this Bill, and I challenge any honorable senator to point to any utterance of mine which is recorded in Hansard in condemnation of what that body is doing. I only wish that I had an organization upon my side of politics which was half as keen to carry out its work as is that union. What I said was that, under this Bill, an effort was being made by the Ministry to shield its friends from the obligations which it seeks to impose upon other organizations. I do not blame the Australian Workers Union for that.
– The honorable senator’s party has, over and over again, stated that that union dominates the Government. The Age and the Argus have both said so.
– The point that I wish to make abundantly clear is that, nothing which I have said was in any way a reflection upon that body. I altogether resent the imputation that anything uttered from these benches was in the slightest degree a reflection on what the Australian Workers Union, or any other union, is doing in furtherance of its political aims and its objects of association. What I did w.as to condemn the attempt which is made in this Bill to relieve these unions from an obligation which will be imposed upon other organizations.
– The honorable senator may say that.
– And my statement may be right or wrong. But it is altogether wrong to say that when we criticise this Bill we criticise the union. Coming more particularly to the clause under consideration, I did urge the Minister, some little time ago, instead of inserting the words which the Committee decided to insert, to strike out all words such as “ association,” or “ league,” and to make the clause read “ Every organization, &c.” Senator Rae, who has since declared that that is what he desired, was asleep at the time, and only woke up when it was too late to accomplish his object. We have had the assurance of the Government that there is no desire on their part to differentiate between one party and another in regard to the treatment which’ is meted out under this Bill. That being so, I wish to make it perfectly clear that no organizationLabour or otherwise - ought to be permitted to avoid the obligations thrown upon it simply by publishing its own return of expenses incurred during an election campaign. May I point out that the clause does not cover the case of a league which publishes its own newspaper, and we know that newspapers of that kind are published. The Vanguard is a case in point. From time to time, too, the Liberal party has published similar journals when a general election was pending. Such organizations ought not to be allowed to escape the provisions of this clause, merely because, instead of subsidizing an existing newspaper, they, foi the time being, run their own journals.
– The probability is that the publication of these squibs - they are not newspapers - will be stopped.
– Whether their publication is prevented or not, their case ought to be covered by the clause. 1 say that this proposal does not apply to organizations which may publish a newspaper for the express purpose of influencing an election. I therefore move -
That in sub-clause 2 of proposed new section 172A after the word “ expense,” where first occurring, the words “ in printing or publishing any newspaper or “ be inserted.
The insertion of these words would cover the class of operations to which I have referred. They would apply to an organization which, instead of spending what it desires’ to spend upon an existing journal, decides to run its own newspaper for the purposes of an election. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment for the reason which I have already given, and thus to put beyond the shadow of doubt the fact that this provision is intended to cover all matter published for the purpose of influencing an election.
– I should like to say a few words regarding this amendment, because, at an earlier hour of the sitting, when Senator Findley was absent from the chamber, Senator Millen spent some time in elaborating the point which he has raised, and I took a few notes of his statements. But before doing so I propose to offer a few observations upon the opinion expressed by the honorable senator in regard to the Australian Workers Union, for which he now professes such a high admiration. I have taken the trouble to look up his statements as they are recorded in Hansard, and I find that they do not quite square with his recent professions. While he was speaking Senator Rae interjected -
It is a very cheap union, to which Senator Millen replied -
It may be cheap to those who belong to it, but I think it is certainly a very profitable union to some other people.
That remark, I suppose, had reference to officers of the union. At another stage, while Senator Millen was referring to the contributions of the northern branches of the union to their paid press, Senator Rae interjected -
They contribute less. and the answer of the Leader of the Opposition was -
I do not know how much less, but, at any rate, we will say that 5s. per head is taken from the annual contribution of these members. We may, therefore, calculate that £12,000 a year is being paid to purchase, to subsidize, to bribe, or to hire, a press - whatever term honorable senators opposite like to choose.
– What is the use of talking in that way?
– Because it is the only way of talking that my honorable friend would be able to understand.
This is the way in which the honorable senator speaks of the organization for which he professes such a high admiration. After quoting one of its rules, he proceeded -
When the honorable senator talks of sordid considerations, let us see the position of my honorable friends, opposite, as set out in rule 87 in this interesting book. “ All members’ tickets, receipt books, official reports, and rules shall be printed at offices owned and controlled, or partly owned and controlled, by the union.”
What about sordid considerations now?
Further on he says -
If they can live without the support of a political organization, it is strange that recently they had to pass a resolution threatening legal proceedings against those who would not pay up - proceedings which would open the possibility of men going to gaol without a trial by a jury.
It seems that the honorable senator has a peculiar method of expressing his admiration. In regard to the amendment which he has submitted, I propose to show that it is entirely unnecessary. He has stated that the clause will relieve Labour journals of liability in respect of advertisements and articles which they may publish, but that it will not touch the case of special news papers which are run by the Labour party for the purpose of an election.
– Run by any party.
– The honorable senator was not so scrupulous earlier in his remarks. He said that the advertisements and articles published in these journals are not paid for as such. Now, sub-clause 2 of proposed new section 172A reads -
Every organization, association, league, or body of persons which has, and every person who has, in connexion with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense in printing, publishing, or issuing electoral advertisements or notices, or procuring the insertion in any newspaper of any advertisement, article, or report, or matter intended or calculated to affect the result of the election, shall, in accordance with this section, make a return of the money so expended or expense so incurred.
What could be wider than that? Every organization which publishes a leaflet or any printed matter, daily or monthly, which is calculated to influence an election, will be obliged to make this return. It was intended by the Government that such publications should be covered by the provision, because we have nothing to hide in this matter. Every conceivable case is met in that way, and certainly the class of case in which the Leader of the Opposition said that the Labour party is specially prolific.
– I propose to reply briefly to the remarks made by Senator Rae in the fiery speech which he has just delivered.
– If that speech was a fiery one, Senator Millen’s attack on the Australian Workers Union was a blast furnace.
– Comparisons are proverbially odious, and in this matter comparisons are worse than that, because during the criticism of this clause I distinctly stated that I have never had anything but approbation for the legitimate work, economic and political, of every trade union. I said that I would at once repudiate any association of persons, political or otherwise, that would seek to restrict the right of trade unionists to combine’ for their economic or political advancement. Now I wish to point out that not a single unionist upon the opposite side of the Chamber could have done more justice to trade union organizations than I did in the speech which I delivered a short time before Senator Rae made his venomous reply. He described members of the Opposition as the “tools of perjured political organizations,” and declared that we had lent ourselves to those organizations, and sat here as their in- struments
– He was not referring to the honorable senator.
-He was referring to the Opposition collectively. He made that statement after I had distinctly affirmed that I would repudiate any political party and any organization which sought to restrain or coerce any trade unionist from asserting his political or economic position. I said that any combination formed to prevent him from doing that, would be a tyrannical one. I made the same statement long before I entered this chamber. In saying that, I think I voiced the general opinion of the Opposition in regard to unionism, and therefore it was almost infamous for Senator Rae to assert that we are the tools of a perjured party who seek to persecute, and tyrannize over, trade unionists.
– The honorable senator speaks in one way and acts in another.
– I deny that. There are few men whose tongues or pen has been busier than has my own, either inside or outside this chamber. I defy anyhonorable senator opposite to point to a single utterance of mine derogatory to the right of a unionist to associate himself with his fellows for the purpose of improving his economic, his political, or his social position. In employing the venomous terms which he did, Senator Rae was allowing the latent passion of political prejudice to bubble over. But I do not wish to pursue this matter further. If I may be allowed to reply to his attack with the same vigour that he himself displayed, I say that I cast back the accusation which he hurled at our party, and in which he must necessarily have included me, despite the tone of the speech which I had delivered only a short time previously.
– I did not say that the honorable senator was a tool.
– What is the use of the honorable senator endeavouring to hedge? He made no exception to his statements. He included the whole of our party. The Leader of the Opposition has indignantly repudiated his accusation, and T may be pardoned for repudiating it -with an even greater degree of indignation, seeing that only a few moments before I had spoken in favour of the fullest recognition being given to the right of unionists to combine for their social, economic, and political advancement.
– Does the honorable senator deny that he charged them with endeavouring to evade the provisions of this Bill?
– Yes. Let the honorable senator consult the Hansard record of my utterances. What I said was that when the members of any organization thought that legislation curtailed their rights and liberties it was only human nature for them to endeavour to evade it. I still believe that, notwithstanding this measure which I have stigmatized as an outrage upon any political machine and every political organization. This clause is equally an outrage upon the whole of them. Whatever political or economic principles they may profess, I say that they will seek to evade - lawfully where they can - legislation which they think unjustly curtails their rights. In saying that I make no reflection upon them. I defy .anybody to point to a single utterance of mine derogatory to the legitimate claims of unionism. What sort of reflection is it to say that persons who will not join trade unions shall have their lives made “a hell on earth “ ? Nothing will recoil more heavily or more quickly against the Labour party than unrebuked expressions of that kind.
– I do not care whether the clause i* amended in the direction desired by Senator Millen or not. On a previous occasion he pointed out how the Worker of New South Wales can evade the provisions of this clause. There is what he terms a subsidy to be -paid for the maintenance of that journal. It is not merely a subsidy, but a payment to the newspaper, in another form, out of the annual amount which is deducted from the subscriptions of the members of the Australian Workers Union. In return for that subscription, each member of the union gets a copy of the newspaper sent weekly, post free, to any addressin Australia. At the ordinary rate of a penny per copy the newspaper would cost 4s. 4d. per year. The edition which is sent specially to the members of the union apart from that which is offered to the publiccontains matter of special interest, and is retailed at 2d. per copy. There are more single copies sent out” from the Worker office than from any other newspaper office, except possibly from the Bulletin office. The members of the Australian Workers
Union get very much more than the 5s. which is deducted from the annual subscription in order to keep the newspaper going. It has, I may add, the largest circulation of any weekly newspaper in Australia. Let us see in what way any newspaper will be affected by merely publishing all the year round articles in advocacy of a certain policy. For what reason do honorable senators opposite say that a newspaper will have to send in a return because it advocates a certain line of policy ?
– They want to make the distinction between a corporately-owned and a privately-owned newspaper.
– We want to put all newspapers on the one footing.
– Is the sum of £12,000 which is contributed in the form of an annual subsidy to be charged as payment for political organizing work?
– Do you think that the clause calls upon a newspaper to make a return for a period of twelve months?
-The Worker, to which I refer, embraces South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales. Recently it devoted a considerable portion of its space to the consideration of the politics of Victoria owing to the imminence of a general election here. Is it intended to charge the cost of the production of the newspaper for the three or six weeks during which it gave special prominence to political matters concerning Victoria, when political matters relating to other States were more or less dealt with in those issues? The return which is required by this clause is intended to apply to the advocacy of the candidature of a particular person, and not to the advocacy of the general principles. If any amendment can be suggested which will more clearly bind every newspaper to furnish a return, no matter by whom it is owned, I have not the slightest objection to offer, but I think that it would only load up the clause to make such an alteration.
– The Minister of Defence has stated that the clause is intended to embrace in its compass all publications, whether initiated .for the purpose of an election or otherwise. If that is the case, can there be any possible objection on his part to make the intention perfectly clear? It only relates to a. return of any money expended, or any expense incurred in print ing, publishing, or issuing, electoral advertisements or notices.
– No; it deals with more than that.
-That is the only, part of the provision which is pertinent to my argument. Clearly what is contemplated is what takes place ordinarily where an organization or an individual prints or publishes, or causes to be printed or published, an electoral advertisement, or a notice, or a handbill, or obtains an advertisement in a newspaper which is apart from itself or himself.
– It does not say that.
– If the Minister will look at the provision, he will see clearly that it requires a printer or proprietor of a newspaper to give a return of the amount which he is paid. He has to set out the articles for which he is paid.
– No ; the expense to which the registered proprietor of a newspaper goes, not the amount which he is paid.
– That is not the ob. ligation laid upon the proprietor of a newspaper by this provision. He has to show the articles for which he is paid.
– Any expense incurred by any person.
– The Minister is confusing that with the obligation thrown upon the proprietor to set out in detail the articles for which he is paid. If the Liberal League of Sydney, for instance, started a journal in connexion with the next election, not a single article would be paid for.
– Still, they would incur expense.
– The newspaper would simply send in a return showing that it had not been paid for a certain article.
– Then it would not comply with the Act. ,
– The Minister pretends that he wishes the provision to cover all the cases to which I have referred. But it is doubtful whether,, by reason of the language used, some newspaper which is published for the purpose of an election will not be left outside the compass of the provision. All I ask is the insertion of words which will make it quite clear that it applies, not merely to those organizations or parties which put advertisements or electoral matter in journals owned by others, but also to journals which are started for the purpose of an election. I suppose that there is no big city which has not seen ajournal issued by one party or other for the purpose of an election. Even suppose that there is a possibility that the clause does cover such a journal, the words I proposed to insert will do no more than the Minister says he is willing to do; but they will lift entirely out of the region of doubt the point I have raised.
– Can you show where any newspaper can escape under the provision?
– I have endeavoured to show that. Sub-clause1 of proposed new section 172B says -
The proprietor or publisher of a newspaper published in the Commonwealth shall, in accordance with this section, make, or cause to be made, a return setting out the amount of electoral matter in connexion with the election inserted in his newspaper in respect of which payment was or is to be made.
The Vanguard was admittedly published by the Labour party for the purpose of the last election only.
– It would not be touched by that provision, but by sub-clause 2 of proposed new section 172b.
– If we are going to alter sub-clause 1 of proposed new section 172B we ought also to alter the provision to which the Minister has drawn my attention. Suppose that an organization decides that for the purpose of an election it will run a newspaper. The proprietor or publisher of, say, the Vanguard or the Federalist, having to make a return under sub-clause 1 of proposed new section 172B, will say, “ There is no political matter in respect of which I have received or expect to receive payment.” The whole beginning, middle, and end of the newspaper would be the payment which it had received from the association. Yet you could not point to a leading or side article or an item of news, and say that it had been paid for. I ask honorable senators to put it beyond doubt that the provision before the Committee applies to all publications of that sort. My amendment will not be in the interests of one party more than in the interests of another party. At the last election the Labour party published the Vanguard, and it is on the cards that at the next election the Liberal party may follow that example.
– They will publish the Rearguard.
– I think the Minister will find that the Labour party will be fighting a rearguard action. As he says that he wants only the same thing as we want, I ask him to accept my amendment.
– You want to be able to go outside, and say, “ The Government were going to exclude their newspapers from this provision, and I compelled Ministers to include them.”
– Then the Minister is refusing my amendment because he fears that the Opposition will make a little political capital out of it?
– We are not refusing the amendment, because provision is already made in the Bill.
– The Minister refuses my amendment, not because he thinks it is right or wrong, but because he fears that some little political capital will be made out of its acceptance. If I had wished to do that I should have allowed this imperfect clause to go through without alteration. For political purposes it would have suited me for the Bill to pass untouched. But in view of the Minister’s declaration, that he declines to accept my amendment for the reason that the pride of the Ministry might be touched, because he fears that it might be possible for the Opposition to make a little political capital out of his acceptance, I recognise that it is hopeless to further appeal to him. I trust, however, that the Committee will recognise the force of my statement. I have not heard a single statement to suggest that the class of publications to which I have referred ought to be exempt.
– Nobody has said so.
– The Minister is very careful to resist the insertion of words which will make it quite clear that such publications are covered.
– We will not admit that they are not included.
– In his present spirit of obstinacy, of course, the Minister will not make that admission. A genuine doubt exists as to whether the provision does cover a certain class of publications. The Minister says, “ I want to do what the Opposition wished to do,” but for fear that it might be thought outside that some little pressure had been exercised on the Government, he declines to accept my amendment. The Government know perfectly well that nothing which we could do could force them to act against their will. The Government supporters know that quite well, too. All we can do is to appeal to them, and having made an appeal, I ask the Committee to come to a vote.
– Before a vote is taken, I ask what may be called this semi-somnolent Government to make some reply to the statement made by Senator Millen on behalf of the Opposition.
– I regret that I have to differ absolutely from the view which is taken by the Minister. I have had the benefit of a short consultation on the effect of the clause as proposed to be amended by Senator Millen, and if there is anything I feel clear and certain about it is that the Minister is missing entirely the purpose at which he says he is aiming. I cannot see how it will be possible to get hold of a special newspaper which will not accept articles from outside persons because of the specialists whom it employs on its staff. Some of these special newspapers last for a few months, while others have a perpetual existence. It is an assumption of gross pragmatism on the part of the Minister to say that he alone is infallible as to the interpretation of this clause. It must be clear from the criticisms which have come from this side that if the amendment were inserted there could be no doubt as to its scope. Otherwise we probably will miss the very purpose which both sides have in view. It is a case of superior pragmatism for the Minister, with a sort of hoity-toity air, to walk out of the chamber under a criticism of this kind. He ought to have the good taste to remain here and listen. I feel myself as capable of judging what is the effect of a clause as the Minister is, and in a case where we have no party interests to serve it is worse than pragmatism for Ministers to treat us in this way, to assert that they are infallible in their interpretation and will not discuss, even with a semblance of patience, an amendment which, if adopted, would insure beyond the shadow of a doubt the accomplishment of the very object which both sides seek to attain.
– There appears to be some misunderstanding about this clause. The demand is to be made upon every individual who incurs expense in connexion with an election - there is no limit - to declare the amount of it, a point to which, I think, I drew attention on the second reading. If a citizen, taking just the degree of interest in politics that a member of the Labour party would approve, entertains a candidate, he will have to make a return showing the cost of the entertainment.
Should that not be intended, the Government should make the meaning of the provision clear. Were I candidate for the Tasmanian representation in the Senate, and Senator Long put me up for the night, he would have to make a declaration of the cost of my entertainment, whether he were paid or not.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted (Senator Millen’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Findley) proposed -
That proposed new section 172A, sub-section 8, be amended by inserting after the word “Secretary,” the words “ or other officer.”
– Here again is evidence of imperfect drafting. The effect of the amendment is to give the Chief Electoral Officer power to ask for a return from the president, chairman, secretary, or other officer - from all four or from one only.
– We merely wish to make certain that a return will be furnished.
– Of course, the Chief Electoral Officer is not required to ask for more than one return, and he is not likely to do so, though he will have the power.
– It seems to be thought that some one may escape if the provision is not made as all-embracing as possible.
– I ask the Minister what is meant by the word “officer”? I can find no definition of it that will apply as it is proposed to use the word here.
– The word is defined in this measure.
– According to that definition the word applies to the Chief Electoral Officer, the Electoral Officer for a State, a returning officer, an assistant returning officer, an electoral registrar, a presiding officer, an assistant presiding officer, a doorkeeper, and a poll clerk.
– Then the Chief Electoral Officer will be able to demand a return from the doorkeeper of an electoral league.
– The Government, or the Department, appears not to know what it wants, and not to understand the effect of its proposals. The Warrego Shearing Association, which I visited the other day, did not have a doorkeeper, and none of the other persons coming under the definition could furnish the statement required. While I support the amendment, I nevertheless think that the Government should seriously consider the question of introducing into the definition clause words to explain the meaning of the word “ officer.” Otherwise, the word may be taken to mean anything or nothing.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further amended verbally and consequentially, and as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 8.30 to 9.45 a.m., (Thursday).
Clause 33 -
Section 174 is amended by omitting paragraph (IV.) therefrom.
Amendment (by Senator Findley) agreed to -
That after the words “ paragraph IV.” the words “ of the principal Act “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 33A. Section 176 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the words and the supply of meat or drink at any political meeting held after the issue of the writ and before the close of the poll.”
– I rise to order. It is a matter of considerable regret that the Government, with a large majority behind it, should have a. follower who does not desire to push business through. I suggest that Senator Ready’s amendment is outside the order of leave.
– I must uphold Senator Millen’s point of order. I do not consider that the amendment is relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, which contains no proposal to amend section 176 of the principal Act. The amendment is not in order.
Clause 34 (Illegal conveyance of electors to or from the poll).
– The Government desire to delete this clause, and, therefore, we hope that it will be negatived. Section 180 of the principal Act will remain in operation.
– It is a matter of keen regret that the Government have not informed the House and the country why they intend to negative this clause, which imposes penalties upon any person who, in behalf of, or in the interests of a candidate, hires or employs any vehicle for the purpose of conveying electors to or from the poll. Before we have had time to consider the clause, we are asked to drop it. I complain, first of all, that the Government have brought down a proposal about which they have told us nothing, and. that they now seek to retreat from it like a parcel of whipped boys, without affording any explanation of their retreat.
– We are meeting the wishes of the Opposition.
– Then I suspect the Government at once. After the persistent and obstinate attitude of the Government all night, when they profess to meet the wishes of the Opposition, they stand, not only suspected, but absolutely condemned. The Minister in charge of the Bill has not even waited to learn the views of the Opposition on this clause. He gave us no opportunity of expressing them before appealing to the Committee to strikeout this very vital proposal which, with all solemnity, the Government had put into the Bill. We were entitled to rather better treatment, seeing that we had just rescued Ministers from the trying ordeal of a conflict with one of their own loyal supporters, Senator Ready. Surely we are entitled to be furnished with some reason for this remarkable change of front. The Government carefully inserted in the Bill a proposal to render illegal the hiring and employment of any vehicle for the purpose of conveying electors to the poll. They have suddenly abandoned that position.
Why? If the Minister is prepared to tell us 1 shall resume my seat at once. Otherwise I am put in the painful position of having to roam over a large area of speculation to find out why a Government that came along with such a valiant front had certainly played the part of political cowards, and run away from their own proposition. It appears fo me, in the first place, that the Government were moved by a large spasm of virtue which caused them to determine that there should be “ no more cakes and ale “ at election time in this country. Therefore, they proposed to render it impossible for any organization - which, of course, meant the organizations of their political enemies - to hire vehicles” on election day. But, perhaps, it has been conveyed to Ministers that a large number of votes are vested in the cab interest, and that the drivers and proprietors of these vehicles would lose a considerable amount of money if the clause were adopted. Consequently the Government have suddenly retreated from their position. If I am doing them an injustice, Ministers should let us know. But they have not furnished us with a single reason for this change. We are entitled to look for some more or less sinister motive, judging them by their past actions.
– Senator Millen has made the statement concerning the cab interest on more than one occasion during the discussion on this Bill. He has insinuated that the Government were moved to abandon their desire to have this provision inserted in the Bill because there were numbers of cabmen and cab proprietors whose votes we should lose on account of the proposition.
– There is no doubt about that.
– The suggestion was very nearly on the wicket, was it not?
– Nothing of the kind. No such view has ever been entertained by the Government. It was intended to tighten up the provisions of the Electoral Act by preventing the wholesale engagement of any kind of vehicle - motor cars, hansom cabs, waggonettes, &c. - by candidates or their friends who might be disposed to spend money in such direction. But, after further consideration, the Government felt that, no matter how closely they might desire to safeguard the provisions with regard to -the employment of vehicles, it would be well-nigh a matter of impossibility to prevent their utilization in connexion with elections. Therefore,’ we desire the provisions of the principal Act in this respect to remain in operation.
– If the Government have been judged unfairly in this matter they have only themselves to blame. Why did they not tell the Committee why they proposed this clause in the first instance, and why they now wish to drop it? But no explanation was furnished until now, when the Minister, stung by the fact that I had pretty well discovered the secret of the change, has furnished an excuse which his most whole-hearted admirer must consider p remarkably thin. Nevertheless, the Minister’s explanation is welcome, because we like to know what the Government, have to say for themselves. I venture to express the opinion that Senator Findley himself will not expect me or any omer honorable senator to accept his statement as entirely reassuring!. He has told us that the Government desired to tighten up the provisions of the principal Act. Do they not desire to tighten up those provisions any longer? Was the clause inserted in a hurry and with out thought? The Government have had something like twelve months in which to consider their measure. After this long period of deliberation they came to the conclusion, to use the Minister’s euphemistic term, that it was desirable to “ tighten up “ the provisions. But no sooner did they bring down their Bill than they abandoned one pf the provisions which they had been twelve months considering. In five minutes they came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to carry out the clause. I suggest that my explanation is, after all, a very much more convincing one - that it has been conveyed to the Government either by their friends in the ranks of the unions or otherwise-
– The honorable senator is usually fair. Hie should not make unfair statements.
– I am putting the matter very fairly. I consider that my explanation is far more plausible than that given by the Minister. Here is a Govern- , ment which has had the Bill under consideration for a whole year. It did not insert any clause in a hurry. I have no doubt that the Bill was drafted in the Department long ago.
– It was not drafted by the Department.
– I think that the Minister, for his own credit, had better say that it was, and so escape, at any rate, some of the odium which would otherwise attach to him. The whole Bill must have been before the Cabinet for consideration three or four times. It was introduced into the Senate containing this clause. Now we are asked to believe that, as a result of further consideration, and without any pressure or influence from outside, the Government have decided to abandon the provision. Honorable senators can accept that explanation or mine, as they please.
– We have been told that the Government find that it would be practically impossible to apply this clause effectively. In the early hours of the morning, when we were considering clause 32, the application of which involves enormous difficulties, Ministers had no hesitation in forcing it through. But they drop clause 34 without a moment’s consideration, and after a forced explanation, which no one can accept as genuine. What kind of stuff is that to give us ?
After section one hundred and eighty-one of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 181A. (1.) - The proprietor of every news- paper shall cause the word’ advertisement’ to be printed as a headline in letters not smaller than long primer to each article or paragraph in his newspaper containing electoral matter, the insertion of which is or is to be paid for or for which any reward or compensation or promise of reward or compensation is or is to be made.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds. “ (2.) The words ‘ electoral matter ‘ include all matter intended or calculated to affect the result of the election, and any report of the speech of a candidate if the report is or is to be paid for. “181b. - (1.) A person shall not exhibit or leave in any polling-booth any card or paper having thereon any direction or instruction as to how an elector should vote or as to the method of voting.
Penalty : Twenty pounds. “(a.) This section shall not apply to any official instructions exhibited by proper authority at any polling-booth. “ 181C. - (1.) A candidate, or a person acting on behalf of, or in the interests of a candidate, shall not employ, for reward, any person as canvasser or committeeman or in any capacity in connexion with an election, unless the expense incurred could be lawfully incurred by the candidate under Part XIV. of this Act.
Penalty : One hundred pounds. “(2.) ‘Reward’ in this section includes any payment or promise of payment direct or indirect to the person employed or to the wife or husband or any relative of that person. “ 181D. - (1.) A person shall not make any untrue statement in any electoral paper, or in answer to any question under this Act, or in any information supplied to any officer or canvasser for the purposes of the preparation of new rolls.
Penalty : One hundred pounds. “ (2.) Sub-section (1.) of this section shall not affect the liability of any person to be proceeded against in respect of any other offence, but he shall not be liable to be punished twice in respect of the same offence. “(3.) In this section the words ‘electoral paper ‘ include any prescribed form. “ 181E. Except where expressly authorized by this Act, a person (other than the elector to whom the ballot-paper has been lawfully issued) shall not make any mark or writing on the ballotpaper of any elector.
Penalty : Fifty pounds.”
– A term is used in proposed new section 181 a, which Senator Findley’s technical knowledge should suggest to him the desirableness of altering. The term “ long primer “ is employed. It is an obsolete term. Printers’ types nowadays are cast on a scientific principle, and the old names for types are passing out of use. What used to be called long primer is now called 10 point. I suggest to the Minister that it would be better, in his own interest and in the interest of the Bill, and of the trade, that “10 point “ should be used instead of “long primer.”
.- I am not prepared to accept Senator Vardon’s suggestion, because all newspaper offices are not furnished on the point system.
– Yes they are.
– No; there are many newspaper offices in the country that use the old style of type.
– No type is cast on the old system now.
– But a quantity of type cast under the old system has not been thrown out.
– Nonsense !
– I know what I am talking about. Senator Vardon is speaking of his own office, and of other well-equipped offices with which he is familiar. But there are, in different parts of Australia, many newspaper enterprises which are not up to date, and are not furnished on the point system. I will add the words “10 point or “ if the honorable senator pleases.
– Considering the Minister’s professional experience, I should have thought that he would have willingly accepted the suggestion of Senator Vardon, with a view of making the Bill perfect.
– Would the honorable senator compel a newspaper office that was not furnished on the point system to buy new type?
– I cannot understand why the Bill prescribes an old and obsolete style of type. The Government must be actuated by Conservative principles. At the present time the Commonwealth is subsidizing a newspaper in Papua that is furnished on the point system. Why do they do that and still ask us to provide in this Bill that advertisements shall be headed in letters not larger than long primer ? I am not a practical printer, and do not profess to know as much about the subject as Senator Findley does ; but I do know that the point system is now used all over the world, even in comparatively small printing offices. If the Bill were in charge of Senator McGregor, or Senator Pearce, I could understand a reluctance to accept the suggestion for amendment. We may accept Senator Pearce on guns and Senator McGregor on chaff or haggis, but we do not expect Senator Findley, who has been closely associated with the printing trade, to resist an amendment of this character. He knows that to lay down that the type used is to be not smaller than long primer is to mention an obsolete term that is not regarded in modern methods of calculating type sizes.
– It is ; Hansard is printed in long primer.
– What is the body of the type?
– A long primer face with a bourgeois body.
– I can talk printers’ jargon as well a? the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator will never have a “ long face.”
– My honorable friend belongs to the type that is called “French grotesque,” butIwill not pursue that point. Let us have up-to-date terms used in this Bill. I am ashamed of the Honorary Minister. I blush for him as a printer. He knows that long primer type cannot be measured except by a sort of rule-of-thumb. There are two different type systems. There is the English system, which measures type according to certain names and sizes - pica, long primer, bourgeois, brevier, nonpariel, pearl, and so forth. The American system, which measures eight, ten, twelve, sixteen, and twenty-four points, is now being adopted all over the world, and it is one that can be easily understood.
– Why not have both?
– I do not mind.
– That is what we. propose to do.
– The Honorary Minister has not said so, except by interjections, which are so complicated that we’ really do not know whether or not he understands the business before us.
– I notice that the clause provides that a person shall not make an untrue statement in any electoral paper or in answer to any question, or in any information supplied to any officer or can-‘ vasser for the purpose of the preparation of the new rolls under a penalty of £100. Section 182 of the Act, however, dealing with electoral offences, provides that no person shall “ wilfully make a false statement “ in any claim, application, return, . or declaration, or in answer to any question under a penalty of imprisonment not. exceeding two years. It appears as though the draftsman has not been sufficiently careful to look at the old provisions; and I should like to, know whether there has been an oversight or whether there is any special reason for this double provision. The word “canvasser” is used, and I ask whether it is intended to superimpose on the compulsory enrolment system the present system of police canvass? If so, I am afraid that no end of difficulty will be created, because the two systems can never work side by side. If we have the police canvassing, even partly, the electors will fall back on the familiar practice of leaving the business to the police. The only way to carry out compulsory enrolment is to make a public announcement that the whole responsibility rests with the individual electors.
– Are we not to have canvassers to ascertain whether or not the law is being obeyed?
– My questions arise from the fact that the Honorary Minister never explained how the compulsory system is to be put into operation - whether it is proposed to adopt a system similar to that of the census or what.
– Section 182 of the principal Act, to which Senator Millen has called attention, provides for a punishment of imprisonment not exceeding two years for any persons who “ wilfully “ makes a false statement ; and it will be seen that this very serious offence calls for a heavy penalty. It is not desired, however, to make it an absolutely criminal matter for a person to make an untrue statement; and, therefore, we think that a fine not exceeding £100 is sufficient. As to the card system, I am satisfied that Senator Millen is as familiar with what is proposed as is any member of the Senate.
– How can that be when the Honorary Minister has never explained it?
– The honorable senator would not be satisfied with any explanation, but I am convinced that he knows what has been done up to the present.
– I do not.
– Then he ought to, because I dare say he has received a copy of the regulations, which are clear and distinct. The regulations set forth that every adult citizen who is entitled to vote, and who does not fill in a card and forward it, is liable to be punished.
– I have not read the regulations, and if I were to receive a notice of that kind before the Bill becomes law, I should not comply with it.
– Then the honorable senator would run the risk of punishment. Every elector is being supplied with a copy of the regulations setting forth what the card system means. In Victoria, to my knowledge, the police are delivering copies of the regulations and cards at every house, after making inquiries as to the number of persons therein entitled to vote.
– The Minister seems to be indignant because I am not aware of what is proposed under the card system ; and yet he proceeds to give us information which he has hitherto steadfastly withheld from the Committee.
– I gave the information when I made my second-reading speech.
– The honorable senator never told us that the police are going round with two sets of cards - one for the householder, and another for the inmates. This call on the householder to fill in cards for the other people is ultra vires, for there is no power to compel an elector to fill in any card but his own.
– That is not desired. Everybody is responsible for the filling in of his own card.
– Under the existing law, there is no right to threaten the elector with punishment in regard to the filling in of a householder’s card, and such a threat is an outrage. Whatever power there may be to compel each individual to fill in a card, there is no power to compel any one to fill in any card except his own, and even that power I doubt. Are these house-to-house visits of the police to be the beginning and end of the card system? There are a dozen ways in which the system can fail. For instance, there are many electors who do not live in houses, but in camps in the bush ; and there ought to be some provision to supply them with cards.
– Those people are being visited to-day.
– Are the police going round to those people with cards? We are running a danger if we attempt to graft the police canvass on compulsory enrolment, because, so long as the people know that the police are collecting the names, they will refrain from voluntary enrolment. The proper way is to let every elector know that he is personally responsible, and that in future the police will not “ wet nurse “ him.
– Neither will the police do so.
– Are the police to continue to visit such places as those to which I have referred?
– When will the police stop doing so ?
– They will not do so after the first enrolment.
– I repeat that this is going to be a great weakness in the introduction of the system; and the only way,, with any chance of success, is to let the electors knowthat they will receive no more official assistance.
– They are told that in the regulations.
– The Government had better withdraw the police altogether.
– The honorable senator has just complained that persons in remote districts will not get cards.
– I am asking what provision is being made for them.
– And, at the same time, the honorable senator suggests that we should not employ the police.
– If we are to have compulsory enrolment, the less we have to do with the police the better. We ought to be informed what provision is being made, not merely for fixed residents, but for the travelling population, to easily obtain cards, and to forward them to the Department. We may anticipate that cards will be available at every police station, and other public offices ; but we have not beent old so. Further, we have not been told whether there is any provision for free transmission of the card through the Post Office.
– I received the cards a month ago.
– Not under this Bill. Senator Findley. - There is power to issue the cards under the existing law.
– I dispute that altogether. The fact is that the Department has tried on a game of bluff, and it is not surprising, because it has largely lived on bluff during the whole of its existence. When a citizen receives an official-looking card he assumes that there is some legal power behind it; but I venture to say that the first time the Department attempted to launch a prosecution it would find out its mistake. However, the Department is so well aware that the game is one of bluff that it will never launch a prosecution. This discussion has elicited from the Minister a skeleton idea of what is proposed, but we have had to dig pretty hard for that skeleton. The Minister ought to complete the story and tell us exactly what is contemplated under this card system. The Minister smiles ; and I dare say he thinks it preposterous that a weak Opposition should dare to make such a request.
– The Honorary Minister does not know.
– If the Honorary Minister will frankly declare that the Government are legislating without knowing what they are going to do, the Committee will be lenient. Honorable senators opposite, who are voting for this Bill, are not in a position to tell their constituents what is proposed to be done under this clause. Can Senator Barker tell us?
– I am not the Minister in charge of the Bill.
– The Honorary Minister ought to let honorable senators know whether the surmises I have made are correct. What steps are to be taken to keep a check in order that there may be no duplication? Electors may vote all over Australia, and this will make the task of supervision constant and heavy. Are checks to be employed in. each division or throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, as they should be? An elector who moves from Victoria to South Australia ought not to be allowed to remain on both rolls. I should like to draw attention to an extraordinary position with regard to the Commonwealth and State rolls. Generally speaking, the percentage of voters who vote in Commonwealth elections is a gradually rising one; but, for some reason or other, the percentage is a gradually falling one in the case of the States. I am speaking generally, because I believe there is one State in which this tendency is not operating. We cannot believe that the electors are keener to vote in Federal elections than they are in State elections ; and I think the difference arises from the fact that one set of rolls is more perfect than the other. The card system ought to be so complete that duplication is impossible or will be reduced to a minimum; and I appeal to the Minister to make a full statement as to what is contemplated. By such a step he cannot jeopardize the Bill, because he has the majority behind him, and the information is due to honorable senators.
– I made a suggestion to the Honorary Minister in no spirit of hostility, but with a view to render him friendly assistance. Of course, if the Honorary Minister prefers to leave the clause as it is and run the risk of rendering it useless, it is not my fault.
– Would an amendment to make the type ten-point or of long primer be acceptable to the honorable senator?
– It would be better, than what is provided now. I desire to, move that before the word “untrue” the word “ wilfully “ should be inserted. A person might quite unintentionally make an untrue statement, and a penalty of £100 for such an offence is very heavy.
– That is the maximum; the fine might be only £1. In any case, there is a section in the principal Act which provides the punishment of imprisonmentfor making a “ wilfully “ untrue statement.
– That is another question ; and I desire to afford the same protection under each provision.
Amendment (by Senator Findley) proposed -
That after the word “ than,” line 7, the words “ten-point or” be inserted.
– I am with the Honorary Minister, but I do not think the proposed amendment really covers the ground. I suggest that, instead of the words proposed, the following be inserted, “or type of similar face calculated on the point system “ after the words “ long primer.” Apparently Senator Findley does not take any interest in the Bill.
– I accepted Senator Vardon’s suggestion, and now another member of the Opposition wants something else.
- Senator Vardon’s suggestion was to fix a limit of type of a certain body, but that does not mean type of a certain face. I would urge the Minister to insert after the words “ long primer “ the words “or type of similar face calculated on the point system.”
– When the Government decide to accept advice from the Opposition they should accept it in its entirety or leave it alone. By accepting Senator Vardon’s advice partially they will make the Bill as ridiculous as it deserves to be. Either one term or the other would have been right, but to put the two in together is absurd. If the two denominations agreed in size there would be no objection to putting them both in as alternative terms, but what the Minister intends to do is just the same thing as telling some one to purchase a certain thing which was “not to be smaller than 9 inches or 10 inches.” It is obvious that the smaller dimension would suit all purposes. The 10 point is a shade smaller than long primer, and, if it is intended to put that in, it should stand alone as marking the minimum to which the Government agree.
– The Honorary Minister said police were going round leaving cards for people to fill in. Is that in Victoria or in all the States ?
– It is being done, andwill be done
– The honorable senator spoke about Victoria. Apparently he cannot get away from that State. Cannot he give a plain “Yes” or “No” to my question? He will not get his Bill through any the quicker by attempting to browbeat me. New section j8.ib is one of the most ridiculous things which could be put into an Act. An elector, after receiving his’ voting paper, goes into a polling booth, which is strictly private. No one can overlook what he is doing. He may leave in the booth a card or dodger, for which the next man entering the booth may be blamed. This is a provision which cannot be enforced unless the secrecy of the ballot is violated. New section 181c provides - “ (1.) A candidate, or a person acting on behalf of, or in the interests of a candidate, shall not employ, for reward, any person as canvasser or committeeman or in any capacity in connexion with an election, unless the expense incurred could be lawfully incurred by the candidate under Part XIV. of this Act…… “(2.)Reward’ in this section includes any payment or promise of payment direct or indirect to the person employed or to the wife or husband or any relative of that person.”
– That will be very rough on your party.
– That interjection bears out our contention last night, that the purpose of the Bill was to penalize the Liberal party as much as possible. It is provided in new section181d - “ (1.) A person shall not make any untrue statement in any electoral paper, or in answer to any question under this Act, or in any information supplied to any officer or canvasser for the purposes of the preparation of new rolls………
The only matter regarding which untrue statements are likely to be made is that of age. If a woman put down her age at thirty when she was really thirty-five would that be an offence under the Act?
– Is it an untrue statement ?
– I should say so.
– Then the honorable senator has answered his own question.
– But it would be merely a misstatement of fact with no intention to deceive, and not in any way invalidating the paper, the person having in any case readied the voting age. An offence of that sort should certainly not be punish- able with a penalty of £100. A person of eighteen or nineteen stating that he was twenty-one in order to get on the roll would be making an untrue statement for a fraudulent purposes, and should be punished. A number of penalties are provided in this clause. If a person cannot pay a fine of £10 or . £20, is he to be liable to imprisonment? It is provided in new section 1 81e- “ 181E. Except where expressly authorized by this Act, a person (other than the elector to whom the ballot-paper has been lawfully issued) shall not make any mark or writing on the ballot-paper of any elector.
I thoroughly agree with that. We were fighting last night to prevent the Returning Officer making any mark on the ballotpaper other than his initials. The Minister refused to accept our amendment on that point; but I am glad to see that, in this part of the Bill, he makes it a punishable offence for any person other than the elector or Returning Officer to mark a ballotpaper.
– If the proprietor of a newspaper does not cause the word “ advertisement “ to be printed in the form of type which we have yet to determine upon over electoral advertisements, the penalty is to be£500. ls the Minister really in earnest in that proposal ? If he is, I can only say that the spirit of Draco is abroad in this Chamber.
Senator VARDON (South Australia) 1 1 1. 1 a.m.]. - I made my suggestion to the Minister as a practical man from a practical stand-point, taking it for granted that the point system was being generally used now, but he informs me that types cast on the old system are still in use in country offices. To rhept that he proposed to insert the words “ ten-point or “ before the words “ long primer.” It is true, as Senator Millen said, thatthose sizes are hot exactly the same, but the difference between them is the differenceof a very thin sheet of paper. I am prepared to accept the amendment moved by the Honorary Minister, as it will answer all purposes.
– The point system refers only to the body of the type, but what I gather the Government want to do is to make sure that a certain sized face of type shall be used.
Amendment agreed to.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) holds that new section i8id, with regard to untrue statements, deals only with minor inaccuracies which are not wilfully false. If so, a penalty of£100 is unduly severe. The untrue statement may be made inadvertently; and, although the penalty provided is a maximum, a bench is apt to be led to think that Parliament takes a much more serious view of the offence than is actually the case. A much more serious offence later on is punishable with a maximum penalty of only£5.
– We shall be able to meet you. Move to make the penalty , £20.
– Before that amendment is moved, I would . point out that if any untrue statement is made, even inadvertently, a penalty has to be inflicted on the maker. I therefore propose to move to insert the word “ wilfully “ after the word “any,” and before the word “ untrue.”
– I cannot accept that.
– Then the Minister may do a great injustice to innocent persons, even though the penalty is to be reduced to . £20. The man who accidentally makes an untrue statement in this regard will have to suffer the indignity of being convicted of committing an offence against the Act, and fined.
– Although the intention to commit it was entirely absent.
– I am surprised that the Minister refuses to accept the amendment.
– On every side we shall be met with the plea that it was not wilfully done. How can you get into a person’s mind and prove intent?
– The case can be heard, and evidence produced. How can the intention be proved in the much more serious case provided for elsewhere in the Bill, where the word “ wilfully “ is used?
– That is a much more serious case, involving imprisonment; and evidence would have to be forthcoming to prove wilfulness.
– It would be just as easy to get evidence to prove the intent in one case as in the other. Senator Long has suggested that I should move the insertion of the word “ wilfully “ after the word “ not,” instead of after the word “ any,” and I propose to adopt his suggestion. I move -
That after the word “ not,” line 40, the word “ wilfully “ be inserted.
– I ask the Committee not to accept the amendment. It is perfectly true that in respect of a person wilfully making any false statement in any claim, application, return, or declaration, or in answer to a question under this Act, the punishment is imprisonment not exceeding two years.
– How are the Government going to prove wilful intent?
– That provision takes into consideration the possibility of two or more persons conspiring together to evade the electoral law.
– But the prosecution has to prove that there is wilful intent in that case.
– Yes, and it is because we consider the offence a very serious one that we make it punishable by imprisonment. We desire now to make provision to deal with persons who make untrue statements under the Act. It is difficult to prove in all cases that there has been wilful intent, although very often there can be no reasonable doubt that the untrue statement was wilfully made, and persons who make untrue statements in connexion with the electoral law ought to be punished. We are extending the provisions of the law as to absent voters, and wish to take every possible precaution against impersonation or fraud. This proposed new section provides for a penalty of £100, but I shall endeavour to meet the wishes of the Opposition by proposing that it be reduced to £20. It does not follow that any one convicted of an offence under this provision will be fined the maximum penalty. In only a very serious case would that penalty be imposed.
– But even a fine of a shilling would brand the person concerned as practically a criminal.
– Those who infringe the law by making untrue statements ought to be punished. A trivial offence would, no doubt, be punished by a nominal penalty, but in a serious case the maximum penalty might be imposed.
– In reducing the maximum penalty fixed under this proposed new section, the Minister will give away nothing, because whatever the maximum penalty -might be, a small fine would only be imposed for a trivial offence. We have to remember that, under this measure, electors are required to supply a number of trivial details, and that if by accident an untrue statement in regard to any of those details were made, there would be no escape under the proposed new section for the person making it. This is not a party matter, so far as I am concerned. It is because I recognise that persons might innocently make an untrue statement, and under the provision as it stands would have to be punished, that I propose the insertion of the word. “ wilfully.” I am surprised that the Minister will not accept what is, after all, a very reasonable proposition.
– –The Government in connexion with this Bill, and a good deal of legislation introduced by them during the present as well as last session, are bringing Australia under a sort of Code Napoleon. They are taking up the French idea that a man is .to be assumed guilty until he has proved his innocence. The amendment, however, is in accordance with the British idea of justice, and ought to be accepted. The Government are building up a reign of terror. New crimes are being invented by them from time to time, and here we have another. Unless the word “ wilfully “ be inserted as proposed, a man may be punished for an untrue statement innocently made. During the last few days my wife and I have received cards from Queensland requesting us to place our names on the Federal roll for that State. My wife’s name is on the Victorian roll when she is living here, but I will not go on the Victorian roll. I keep my name on the Queensland roll. An eminent member of the Senate told me recently that his name is on two State rolls and one Federal roll, and he argued that I should be justified in allowing my name to appear on more than one roll. I could honestly answer questions, and cause my name to appear on three or four rolls, but I have not done so. However, I do not wish to waste time.
– There is plenty of time, so far as we are concerned.
– Even so, I shall not waste a moment. The desire of the Opposition is that under this proposed new section a man shall be deemed guilty only when he wilfully makes an untrue statement. 1
– It will be for the Bench to determine whether or not an untrue statement is wilfully made.
– We are asked now to add to our electoral law a provision that is entirely new. I hope that the Committee, however, will insist upon the insertion of the word “ wilfully “ as proposed by Senator Vardon.
Question - That the word proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Senator Millen called attention to the penalty of £100 proposed by the clause, and I said I was prepared to reduce the maximum penalty to£20. I therefore move -
That the words “ One hundred “ in subsection 1 of proposed new section 181D be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Twenty.”
– Senator Millen desired to know from the Minister what the proposed card system really is. I have been making inquiries on the subject, and can obtain no satisfactory explanation. If the Minister is unable to explain it, I suggest that he should get the Chief Electoral Officer to submit a. statement in writing showing just what it is proposed to do.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the honorable senator is in order in discussing the card system on this clause?
– Let me remind yon, sir, that the clause deals with canvassers for the purpose of collecting information for the preparation of the new rolls. We have been told that these rolls are to be prepared for the mysterious card system which has not been explained, and since a penalty of£100 is provided for the offence of giving false information under the clause, we have a perfect right to know what the proposed card system really is.
– To my mind the card system is inseparably associated with the question of the preparation of the new rolls, and I therefore rule that Senator Vardon is in order.
– I hope we shall be given some information about the system. I was at first under the impression that it was going to be a comprehensive and complete system, but I fear now that it is not going to be anything of the sort. We should have a statement from the Chief Electoral Officer as to how the system is to be worked, in order that we may be assured that it will lead to a more complete and better-kept roll than we have had in the past.
– It is easy to imagine that inlarge centres of population the card system can be worked with the aid of police and post-office officials, but we should be informed as to how the Government propose to work the system in connexion with the enrolment of the nomadic population of the west and north-west of Queensland, of western New South Wales, and, possibly, also of Western Australia. There must be an essential difference between the method adopted for carrying out the system in towns, and the practice to be followed in its application to a remote and sparsely-settled district. I have made a courteous request for specific information on the subject, and yet the Minister remains silent, and has not the courtesy to give me a reply.
– I have no desire to be discourteous to Senator St. Ledger or any member of the Opposition, but it is useless for members of the Government to be continually making statements about the card system in reply to the questions put by honorable senators opposite, if they do not listen to what is said or are. not present when the explanation is given. I say now that every possible precaution will be taken to see that every adult citizen entitled to be enrolled shall be supplied with the necessary card to fill in, and send to the proper authority in order to secure enrolment. This will be done by means of the police and post-office officials, and if the facilities afforded in this way are not sufficient, other provision will be made to give effect to the system.
Amendment agreed to.
– I notice that in sub-section 3 of the proposed new section i8id it is provided that the words “electoral paper” include any prescribed form. I should like to know whether the Minister has any information to supply to the Committee with regard to what is an “ electoral paper.”
– I should say that the card would be an “electoral paper,” and so would any form necessary for the carrying out of the provisions of the Act.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 36 and 37 agreed to.
Clause 38 -
After section one hundred and eighty-two e of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 182F. Any officer who contrary to his dutyfails to initial any ballot-paper, correctly mark any certified list of voters, or properly attest any declaration shall be guilty of an offence.”
Penalty : Ten pounds.
– I do not propose to move any amendment upon this clause, but I suggest to the Minister that the Government have overlooked the necessity of altering section 182c. It is not being revised by this Bill, but I think it should have been. It provides that -
When any person has signed a claim to be enrolled as an elector, any other person who induces the claimant to let him have custody of the claim for transmission to the electoral registrar, and fails without just cause or excuse to transmit the claim to the electoral registrar, shall be guilty of a contravention of this Act.
In view of what I understand is proposed under the card system, I suggest that this section shall apply, not merely to a claim for enrolment, but also to a claim for transfer.
– I do not think that is necessary, because the transfer also means enrolment, and section 182c will in no way weaken the Bill or the system about to be introduced.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 39 -
After section one hundred and ninety-six of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 196A.- The Chief Electoral Officer shall be entitled to enter an appearance in any proceedings in which the validity of any election or return is disputed, and to be represented and -heard thereon, as if he were a party respondent to the petition.”
– The proposed new section 1 96 a provides for a new departure, and we have not yet heard any reason for it. I wish to know why the Chief Electoral Officer is to be entitled to enter an appearance in any proceedings. If he does so, and a verdict is given against the person making the appeal, that person may be mulcted in the costs of the Chief Electoral Officer. I do not think that is fair, and I hope the Committee will refuse to pass the clause.
– I hope the Committee will do nothing of the kind. Honorable senators must know from experience that it would be in the best interests of the Department, of the candidates, and of justice itself, that officers of the Department who are charged with a neglect of duty in any proceedings under the Act should be represented, and an opportunity afforded them to reply to the charges made.
– What about the costs-?
– They will rest with the Court, and, as honorable senators are aware, the Government of the Commonwealth has already paid very large sums of money in connexion with cases heard before the Court of Disputed Returns. In three or four of such cases, officers of the Department have been charged with neglect of duty.
– More than charged ; the neglect has been proved.
– It is easy for the honorable senator to say that.
– Let the Minister take the South Australian election. That supplies the proof of my statement.
– I do not say that all officers are infallible. I refer honorable senators to a. recent case with which they are, perhaps, familiar - the case of Crouch v. Ozanne. In that case serious allegations were made against officers of the Electoral Department, and though’ the Court held that the grounds of Mr. Crouch’s petition were frivolous, the Department had no opportunity of replying to and disposing of the charges made against it by the petitioner. In the interests of all concerned when, in connexion with disputed elections, charges are made against officials of the Department, they, as well as the persons who are dissatisfied with the results of an election, should be given an opportunity of presenting an appearance before the Court.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [12.10 p.m.]. - I think it is a great” mistake to attempt to introduce this provision in this form. We can all imagine cases in which it would be very desirable that the Judge should be given the power to call the Chief Electoral Officer or a representative of the Department before the Court as a witness, or to defend the administration of the Department. The proper officer would be the Chief Electoral Officer. But when an unsuccessful candidate and the successful candidate at an election are parties to a petition presented to the Court of Disputed Returns it will be a very serious thing if we bring in a third party and multiply the costs in respect of an issue in which primarily he is not concerned. But the reason my honorable friend gives for the introduction of this clause is that in the past charges have been made against Presiding Officers in polling booths - charges which directly affect the Department. What I wish to point out is that the proceedings which are instituted in connexion with an electoral petition are not instituted for the purpose of inquiry into any such charges. They are brought for the purpose of settling a dispute between two persons, and if incidentally reflections are passed upon the administration of the Electoral Department, the President of the Court should have the power to call the Chief Electoral Officer as a witness. But to convert a petition to determine whether or not a candidate has been properly elected into a double-barrelled procedure is a very different matter. No respondent to a petition ought to be obliged to fight a claim of that sort. Although the Government would be very careful in such circumstances not to unduly assert their own power, still the risk ought not to be incurred. My honorable friend must see that his proposal would add a new penalty in the case of a sitting member whose seat had been challenged. His object is no doubt a good one, and there are circumstances in which it is de- sizable that the Chief Electoral Officer should be afforded an opportunity .of defending his administration. But that should not be done by changing the character of the proceedings. I would suggest to the honorable senator that he might consider the clause with a view to effecting his purpose by making at least two changes in it.
– Is it the duty of the President of the Court to guard the administration against any unwarrantable reflection ?
– Certainly. Whenever charges are made against the Electoral Department, if the matters alleged for. unseating the successful candidate are matters of maladministration-
– That was not so in the recent case of Crouch v. Ozanne. The departmental officers never -had an opportunity of getting into Court to review the statements made by the petitioner.
– That position would be met by empowering the President of the Court to call the Chief Electoral Officer as a witness in his own defence. My serious objection to the proposal is that it is undesirable to duplicate the investigation by adding to it an inquiry into charges affecting the Department. If such charges are preferred they ought to be made the subject of departmental examination and acquittal. An inquiry as to whether a candidate has been properly elected does not affect the Department at all, except so far as matters which have been omitted to be done, may touch its status,. No officer of the Department would be dismissed merely because the President of the Court stated that there had been certain irregularities, and that, as a result of those irregularities the elected candidate could not hold his seat. If charges are made against the Department, the Chief Electoral Officer ought to be afforded an opportunity of being heard in his own defence. It would be a poorly constituted Court if its President could not say to the parties, “ If you do not call so-and-so as witness I will do so.” From that point of view the purpose of my honorable friend could be achieved by merely giving the Court of Disputed Returns power in any case in which irregularities are imputed to the Department, to summon and examine such persons as it may think necessary.
– Might it not be sufficient to alter the clause to read, “ The.
Chief Electoral Officer may with the sanction of the Court enter an appearance ‘ ‘ ?
– That would effect an improvement in it, because at present no ground is stated upon ‘which the Chief Electoral Officer may enter an appearance. He may do so in any case. I should like the latter part of the clause to read, “ and shall be deemed to be for all purposes a party respondent to the petition.” Unless it be put in that form, the Court, under section 202b of the principal Act would not have power to award costs against the Department.
– I wish to put this view to Senator Symon, who is better able to read the provisions of the Bill from a legal stand-point than I am : Quite a number of disputed elections have been taken to the Court of Disputed Returns, where it has been proved to the satisfaction of that tribunal that, because of certain informalities on the part of responsible officers, elections have been declared invalid. Now, we believe that a provision of this kind would enable the Department to enter an appearance, and if it were proved to the satisfaction of the Court that its officers were responsible for such informalities, the Court would have power to award costs against the Department. But, as the law stands at present, the Department has not an opportunity of appearing in Court, no matter what the successful or unsuccessful candidate may say in regard to it. Although the Department may have been remiss in its duties, the costs are heaped upon the shoulders of the successful or unsuccessful candidate, with the result that on three or four occasions appeals Have been made to Parliament to grant monetary aid to those who have been unnecessarily burdened by the principal Act.
– They were appeals for the expenses incurred in a nullified election.
– They were appeals for costs incurred in elections which had been rendered invalid by the informalities of departmental officers.
– May I suggest that the purpose of the Honorary Minister would be achieved by the insertion of a provision empowering the Court in all cases to award costs against the Department?
– This clause was embodied in the Bill with a view to strengthening what we regarded as a weakness in the principal Act. But I am not going to adhere rigidly to it. Therefore, I move -
That after the word “entitled” in proposed new paragraph I()6A, the words “by leave oE the Court of Disputed Returns “ be inserted.
– I am very pleased that the Minister has seen fit to accept the suggestion of Senator Symon, which will remove one of the objections urged against the clause by members of the Opposition. There is one reason why it is desirable that the change should be made. The Chief Electoral Officer is an administrative officer, who should not be in any sense of the word a partisan, and who should be careful at all times to avoid siding with one of the contesting parties. If he were marked out as an individual who had a right to enter an appearance in every petition relating to a disputed election, he would always be in opposition to the defeated candidate, and there is a possibility that he would come to be regarded as a partisan rather than as an administrative officer - a position that would be absolutely intolerable. I feel sure that before many years have passed he will have cause to be thankful that he has been prevented from being placed in a position of that kind.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Findley) proposed -
That after the word “ thereon,” the words “as if he were “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ and in such case shall be deemed to be.”
– I think that the amendment will probably affect the question of costs. It may be that the costs of an appeal to the Court may be distributed between the respondent and the Chief Electoral Officer, and, in such circumstances, the petitioner may be exposed to the liability to pay a double set of costs. Is that altogether wise?
– Senator St. Ledger’s remarks have raised a technical point, and on the spur of the moment I am not able to say definitely whether there might not be a double set of costs incurred by the petitioner. But if the Department be made a respondent in the case, it will have to bear its share of the expense, just as will any other party who appears before the Court.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [12.33 p.m.]. - I would point out that under the first part of the clause, which empowers a Chief Electoral Officer to enter an appearance, he must become a party to the proceedings. Then, by virtue of a provision in the principal Act, all discretion as to the awarding of costs is vested in the Court. The amendment is necessary if effect is to be given to the first portion of the clause.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 40 agreed to.
Clause 41 -
Section two hundred and six of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : -
Amendment (by Senator Findley) agreed to-
That after the word “ six “ the letter “ (d) “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 42 -
After section two hundred and seven A of the principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 207B. - (1.) A person (whether an authorized witness or npt) shall not -
Penalty : Fifty pounds. “(2.) In this section the words ‘electoral paper’ include any prescribed form.”
– I would like to ask the Minister whether the authorized witness has not been abolished? I was under the impression that an authorized witness was a witness to the postal vote, which has been abolished. If so, these words are unnecessary.
– In connexion with the card system, provision is made for authorized witnesses to signatures.
– Where - in the Bill ?
– Well, I am glad that the Minister has directed attentionto it, because I have missed it.
– Further, a declaration made in respect of absent voters requires to, be attested by an authorized witness.
– Then where is the list of authorized witnesses?
– Sub-section 3 of section 56 of the principal Act reads-
A claim may be in the prescribed form, and shall be signed by the claimant and witnessed by a prescribed person, and shall be sent to the electoral registrar keeping the subdivision roll or polling place roll (as the case may be) on which the claimant claims to be enrolled.
That, I think, will satisfy the honorable senator.
– I merely wish to point out that as the term ‘ ‘ authorized witness ‘ ‘ was originally applied to persons who witnessed the signatures to postal votes, it would be better for the Department to adopt some other term in respect of this clause.
– I am quite agreeable to the word ‘ ‘ authorized”” being struck out.
– Section 109a. is the only part of the Act in which, so far as I know, the term “ authorized witnesses “ is used, and therein a long list of officials is set out as coming under the term.
– I propose to ask the Committee to substitute the word “ prescribed “ for the word “authorized.”
– This clause is a prohibition against any person signing his name as a witness on a blank electoral paper. Is it necessary to use the phrase “whether a prescribed witness or not” when the prohibition is against anybody ? If there is a certain form which can be only signed by a prescribed witness, the clause will apply in that case as well as in others.
– I find that the words to which the honorable senator has called my attention are not necessary. Therefore I move -
That the words “ (whether an authorized witness or not) “ be struck out.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 43 -
After section two hundred and eight of the principal Act the following section is inserted :- “ 208A. Prosecutions for offences against this
Act or the regulations may, in the absence of any express provision to the contrary, be commenced at any time within three years after the commission of the offence.”
– This clause enables a person to hang up for three years a prosecution which he may desire to launch. It is too long a period, I think, to allow a person to nurse a grievance or to hold a sword over the head of another man. Not only that, but as time went on it would probably become exceedingly difficult for the defendant in a case to find evidence to rebut the charge when made. I do not know what the procedure under the ordinary law is, but this clause seems to specifically authorize a person to rest on his alleged grievance for three years and then to launch a prosecution. That is absolutely unfair to the other person. There is a possibility of the provision being used most unfairly. Three years is the term of a Parliament. Suppose that one of two candidates wins a seat by a narrow majority, and he thinks that he has evidence to lay a charge against his unsuccessful opponent. He does not present the charge until the lapse of nearly three years.
– A case of that kind will not come under this provision. He will have to take action within forty days of the return of the writ.
– I am not referring to the case of an unsuccessful candidate claiming the seat.
– Surely the honorable senator cannot imagine a successful candidate having a grievance?
– I can imagine a successful candidate entertaining a fear as to what may happen on the occasion of the next contest. Suppose that at the last election which was held eighteen months ago, a successful candidate felt that he had found evidence of some wrong-doing on the part of an unsuccessful candidate. And he decided to hang up the case until the eve of the next general, election, when his old opponent would be representing himself to the electors. That is one of the occasions when this provision might be used most unfairly. If a man has a case of wrongdoing under the Act, he should not be allowed to rest for three years and then bring it forward when the possibility of obtaining rebutting evidence may have disappeared.
– Surely the honorable senator would not allow a man who had done a serious wrong to escape all punishment ?
– No; but this provision applies to minor cases as well as major cases. Take section 180, for instance, which requires any hand-bill or pamphlet, or advertisement to carry on it an imprint, or the name of the person authorizing publication. Surely it is monstrous to allow a charge of. that de scription against a man to be hung up for three years. Section 159, too, has a bearing on this matter. It says -
All ballot-papers used for voting shall be preserved as and in such custody as shall be prescribed until the election can be no longer questioned, when they shall be destroyed.
Let us suppose that the time within which an election can be questioned - a matter of some three months - has passed away, that at the expiry of that period the ballotpapers are destroyed, and that six monthsor twelve months, or three years later, a person comes along and launches against a man a charge of having tampered with the ballot-papers. That is a monstrously unfair thing to allow. If the Committee decides to allow a charge to be launched within a period of three years after the , alleged offence has been committed, it ought to modify section 159 by providing that the ballot-papers, which may be the proof of either the wrong doing or the innocence of a man, shall be preserved for a similar period.
– That is provided for in clause 44, which introduces a provision in place of section 209A.
– Either the Department or the authors of the Bill have overlooked the fact that proposed new section 209A is in flat contradiction with section 159, or it is intended that the former should not apply to ballot-papers which have been dealt with.
– This clause provides that the limit shall be three years; and, therefore, section 159 is in perfect harmony with it.
– Perhaps the Minister will tell me the period within which an appeal can be lodged against an election?
– Within forty days after the return of the writ.
– Section 159 provides that, at any time after the expitation of’ forty days, that is on the forty-first day after the return of the writ, the ballotpapers shall be destroyed.
– The hearing of a dispute may be going on after the expiration of the forty days.
– Suppose that there is no appeal lodged against the election?
– Proposed new section 209a specifies when the ballot-papers shall be destroyed. *
– Section 159 provides that the ballot-papers shall be destroyed when the election can be no longer questioned.
– And the pro vision before the Committee says that it can be questioned for three years.
– Not an election. The honorable senator is confusing an appeal against an election - a matter with which I am not dealing - and an offence against a provision of the Act.
– If that is the case, no one will be sure of keeping his seat.
– That is exactly what I am trying to ascertain. The honorable senator must not suppose that the Government are keeping alive for three years the right to challenge a seat, but “they are keeping alive for three years the right to charge any person with tampering with ballot-papers.
– When the evidence is all gone there is no case against a person.
– It would be a serious matter if, after the ballot-papers were destroyed, any person could launch against a man a charge of having tampered with them, or done something else.
– He would bring the charge at his own risk.
-Ii is easy for the honorable senator to speak in that way, but I submit that, where there is no evidence to justify the proposed change in the law, it ought not to be put in the power of a person, either innocently or maliciously, to hang up a charge over another person. Under this provision a malicious person could do no end of injury to an innocent person if he were so disposed. It does not affect the interest of a man whose seat has been allowed to go without challenge. Once that time has expired he is no longer concerned in charges. Fifty charges may be launched, and it may be proved that every ballot-paper which was cast in his favour was forged, but that will not unseat him. It is monstrous to allow a charge against a wrongdoer to be tied up for three years. I hope that the Minister will see the wisdom pf allowing the clause to drop, or, at any rate, of modifying the period. I again call his attention to the flat contradiction between proposed new section 209A and section 159.
– I think that Senator Millen has lost sight of the fact that if the period were shortened wrong-doers would only have to dodge justice for a few months, when they could snap their fingers at the law Courts.
– ‘But this provision covers minor cases, too.
– It also covers serious offences.
– The Government ought to separate the offences.
– In my opinion a period of three years is quite short enough. Suppose that a person commits a most serious offence against the Act. Two years may pass before anything transpires. If the period were shortened, as Senator Millen has suggested, a wrongdoer, whom no one here wishes to defend, might be allowed to go scot-free, because the law provided that after the expiry of a very brief perioda wrong-doer cannot be brought to justice even though his wrongdoing has come to light.
Senate adjourned at 12.57p.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 November 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111122_SENATE_4_62/>.