5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs arrange for each member of the Parliament to receive a copy of the handbook on Papua, recently issued?
With reference to the question I’ asked last week about the damage done by flood waters from the Keswick military grounds, in South Australia, can the Minister of Defence now give the Senate any information on the matter?
– Since the honorable senator asked the question I have had an inquiry made, and the following brief report has been handed to me: -
The State Public Works Department, which is in charge of the work, reports that there is no foundation for the statements as to the failure of the surface drainage at the Military Depot. On the contrary, complete proof of its efficiency is said to have been afforded during the recent abnormal downpour of rain. Alderman Cooke appears to have been under a complete misapprehension if, as reported, he stated that the Department had diverted stormwatcr into the street. No such diversion was made. The surface waters from the Keswick Military grounds naturally run into that portion of the road which should be the water-table, but which is not formed, owing to the road forming the boundary between two municipal areas, neither of which will undertake the formation of the water-table necessary.
– That is an old trouble.
– In view of the allegations in the daily press as to discrepancies in regard to goods at the Ordnance Stores near Queen’s Bridge, will the Minister of Defence give instructions for a full and complete inquiry to be made to see whether those allegations are correct or not?
– It is not necessary to do that, because the inquiry on which the statements are alleged to have been based is not yet completed. It is still in progress.. At the same time, since attention has been drawn to the matter, arising 1 believe out of marginal notes on some papers laid on the table of the Library, necessarily I have directed that the inquiry should be expedited. I have every reason to believe that when the inquiry is completed the discrepancies will be shown to have arisen, not froman actual shortage of goods, but froman error in book-keeping.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs yet ascertained from the EngineerinChief for Railways the name of the contractor for the Kalgoorlie end of the Trans-Australian Railway who said that it took one man ten days to cut 51/4 cords of wood, as indicated in his reply to my question last Thursday ?
– No information has come to hand.
– Can the Minister assure the Senate when the information will come to hand?
– I think that I told the honorable senator, when this matter cameup before, that an inquiry would be made. I can only say that an inquiry has been set in progress, and that no answer has come to hand, but I will endeavour again to find out the name of the contractor.
Diphtheria: Transport Arrangements
– On Thursday last I. was asked two questions, which I should like to be permitted to answer now. Senator Guthrie asked -
Is it a fact that the Minister of Defence brought 276 boys and officers from Sydney by a steamer of the Orient Company - a cheap European company - in preference to a steamer belonging to a local company, at a higher rate than could have been obtained from a local company?
The answer to the question is -
The draft from H.M.A.S. Tingira travelled by an Orient steamer from Sydney to Melbourne. The cost was less than that quoted by the local company.
On the same point Senator Russell asked a question as to the cost of conveying the boys from Port Melbourne to Portsea. The answer which I supplied was that the Naval Board was not in a position to give details, as the boys had been conveyed by a State steamer, and no debit note had been received from the State authorities. Since then I have received the following report : -
The draft from Tingira, after arrival at Port Melbourne, had to be conveyed by steamer from Port Melbourne to Portsea. No Naval vessel was available, but by the courtesy of the State Government the Lady Loch, which was not otherwise engaged on that day, conveyed the draft to Portsea. This vessel has been frequently utilized in the past for Naval transport. No price was fixed on between the two Governments.
I presume, I may add, that theState Government will sooner or. later submit an account to the Commonwealth authorities, and if I might argue from similar transactions in the past, we have a right to assume that that will be entirely regulated
– The honorable senator is not entitled to argue in a reply to a question.
– The new State Government may treat you better than did the last one ?
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Patents Act 1903-1909. - Regulation amended. - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 300.
Public Service Act 1902-1911. -
Department of Home Affairs. - Appointments of F. L. Hatfield, A. A. Andrews, and L. Edwards, as Draughtsmen, Class E, Lands and Surveys Branch.
Prime Minister’s Department. - Promotion of D. B. Wheeler to new position of Clerk, 4th Class, Auditor-General’s Office, Central Staff.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act 1911. - Transfers dated 3rd December, 1913.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies are, all exclusive of sidings -
Motion (by Senator Clemons) agreed to-
That standing order No. 67 be suspended for the remainder of the session for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after halfpast ten o’clock at night.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Defence Act1903-1912.
Debate resumedfrom 28th November, 1913 (vide page 3611), on motion by Senator Millen-
That thisBill be now read a second time.
– I desire to say a few words before a division is taken upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill. In the first place, I wish to point out that the measure, together with a number of other Bills,has not received any consideration from the representatives of the people in Parliament. We, in this Chamber, are in a position to ensure its discussion, and it is our duty to do so. The attitude of the Government in this regard impresses me as being a very peculiar one. They started out by denouncing, not merely our electoral administration, but our Electoral Act. They affirmed that that Act contained a number of serious flaws, and that, therefore, it required revolutionary amendment. They brought forward an amending Bill, which contained a number of very important principles, one of which aimed at doing away with the secrecy of the ballot. It was the first time that any Government in Australia had had the courage to submit a proposal of that character. Nobody can accuse the Government of lack of courage, seeing that they actually submitted a proposal which would have practically permitted of open voting. Then they proposed to disfranchise about 30,000 electors by closing the roll one month before the issue of the writ. This would have disfranchised those persons who became twenty-one years of age between the issue of the writ and the closing of the roll. By so doing they exhibited that well-known Conservative fear of the young mind - of the progressive section of the community. Then alterations were proposed in regard to the method of redistributing electoral boundaries. All these proposals were brought forward obviously because the Government thought they were necessary. But before the Bill had reached even the state of debate they were dropped. The Government which brought them forward with a flourish of trumpets after a wellprepared propaganda scare had been carried on, unceremoniously abandoned them and then brought forward this poor little weakling - this unfortunate little infant - which they ask us to place on the statutebook. There is a gentleman associated with the Government who in his political history occupied the stage for some two or three years, and who was instrumental in passing legislation of a most sensational character. But within the short space of five years from the time that legislation was enacted the whole of it disappeared from the statute-book. It was scare legislation - legislation of an hysterical character - which was passed at the instance of one who has the reputation of being a strong, cold, calm man. The Constitution of the Parliament which enacted that legislation remained the same. The same party continued in power, and yet within the brief period of five years the very party who were responsible for having enacted that hysterical legislation had repealed practically every vestige of it. The individual at whose instance that legislation was passed is the present Attorney-General, then Premier of the State of Victoria. There is no doubt that the Bill which is now before us fall’s within the same category, and probably originated in the same mind. It bears on its face the imprint of the class of legislation of which I have spoken. What is it 1 It is a Bill to restore a series of provisions relating to the postal vote, which were contained in the Electoral Act of 1909. It is quite natural that the party which was prepared to countenance open voting- bo do away with the secrecy of the ballot - should be in favour of the postal vote, seeing that that vote does away with the secrecy of the ballot. The postal vote leads to open voting. It permits of intimidation, and therefore the Government are quite consistent in desiring to restore that method of voting . The postal voting provisions of the Act of 1909 have a somewhat singular history. Originally the proposal was submitted with a view to providing that those electors who could not attend a polling booth, either through sickness or because of the distance to be covered, should be afforded an opportunity of voting by post. When the proposition was first submitted, honorable members upon both sides of the Chamber welcomed it, because they thought that it would accomplish its purpose, and that its proper exercise could be adequately safeguarded. But history has taught us that it cannot be thus safeguarded, and that it is open to grave abuse. I shall now give the evidence afforded by the election of 1910. It was said that the postal vote was for the sick, and those who were at a great distance from a polling place. The State that has the highest death-rate ought to have recorded the most postal votes, because, obviously, it has the most sickness, and the same remark applies to the State that has wide distances, a poor railway system and a scattered population, if the vote is used legitimately. I do not think that those statements can be controverted ; and now let us look at the results.
– The sick people all come into the cities !
– I do not see that that affects the matter, because every State has a city, and, therefore, all the States are in this respect on an ‘equal footing. New South Wales is just as healthy a State as any other, and has no more than the average death-rate. Even when the small-pox was there, the people did not die, thus showing that they were very virile. In New South Wales, at the 1910 elections, there were 512,802 votes cast. This is a State with a population scattered over wide areas, and it has not as good a railway system as have some of the other States, and, therefore, there is a larger number of people at great distances from polling places. Here one would have expected the postal vote to be used, perhaps, more than in any other State. In New South Wales the number of postal votes cast was 6,219, of which 2,894 were by males and 3,325 females. Victoria, compared with New South Wales, is a compact State with a denser population per square mile; the death rate in the two States is just about the same, and in Victoria there are greater facilities for voting, there being more polling places per 1,000 electors. In Victoria 468,535 votes were cast, or about 44,267 less than in New South Wales, while the number of postal votes in the smaller State was 14,049, or more than twice the number in New South Wales. Of the 14,049 electors who used the postal vote, 6,341 were males, and 7,708 were females. We have some very striking results when we analyze the Victorian vote. Bendigo is well served by railways, and is so compact a constituency that it would more appropriately be described as urban than as rural. Practically, the constituency consists of the city of Bendigo and suburbs, and the immediately surrounding country.
– It extends for 40 miles.
– In New South Wales there are country districts which extend for hundreds of miles. In the one district of Bendigo, no fewer than 1,489 postal votes were cast; 562 by males, and 927 by females. Now I come to the electorate of Kooyong. In that electorate there were 27,076 votes cast, and of these therewere 849 postal votes, 423 by males, and 426 by females, representing 3 per cent. of the total vote. It must be remembered that Kooyong is, perhaps, the most favoured district in its means of locomotion affording access to centres. Not only is there a railway system, but the district is well served by trams, and, I suppose that more of the population own motor cars than is the case in any other part of Australia. The population consists mainly of the wealthier classes, who have the most leisure, and they have every means of conveyance, I suppose, except spring carts. So far as absentees are concerned, there ought to be fewer postal votes in Kooyong than in any electorate in Australia. It is said that the postal vote is needed for women who are in a certain state of health, but, as a matter of fact, Kooyong has the lowest birth rate in the Commonwealth. Puppy dogs are more fashionable than babies there. Collingwood, Bourke, and Maribyrnong each has a higher birth-rate than has Kooyong; and the residents in those places have less leisure, because they are of the working class, and, at the same time, their means of locomotion are more difficult. It is in such constituencies as the three I have mentioned that we find the classes who are accused of manipulating the elections, and yet they do not make anything like the same use of the postal vote as do the leisured classes of Kooyong, with all their advantages. Now, let us compare those figures with the figures relating to some of the other States. Western Australia is a vast State, with a railway system that is just reaching out - that is, practically, in its infancy. The population, especially in the agricultural and mining districts, is, from the very nature of things, scattered over wide areas. The total votes cast were 83,893. The number of postal votes was 1,977, of which 1,127 were cast by males, and 850 by females. The whole State of Western
Australia cast only 500 postal votes more than did the one electorate of Bendigo, and only a little over twice as many as the electorate of Kooyong, although I am prepared to put the birth-rate of Western Australia against that of Bendigo or Kooyong. When we regard these facts, it is obvious that there was a misuse of the postal vote. Thousands of people who had no right must have used the vote, and have made false declarations in order to do so. They must have declared that they were going to be more than 5 miles distant, or that they were going to be sick, when they knew that neither was the truth. The total number of postal votes cast for the Commonwealth was 27,611. It will be seen, therefore, that Victoria, the most compact State, with the densest population, a very good health record, and with one of the lowest birth-rates, recorded more than half of the total for the whole of Australia.
– How does the honorable senator account for that?
– I will say how I account for it presently. The district of Bendigo recorded more postal votes than the whole of Tasmania. In Bendigo there were 1,489 postal votes recorded, and in the whole of Tasmania only 1,233. In Victoria in that year the birth-rate was 24 per 1,000. Tasmania, with a record of fewer postal votes than the single district of Bendigo, had a birth-rate of 28 per 1,000. Western Australia, where far less postal votes, in proportion to population, were recorded than in Victoria, had also a birth-rate of 28 per 1,000. Now, what is the explanation? It lies just here: It was seen that under the postal voting provisions of the Electoral Act it was possible to get back to the position existing before the secret ballot was introduced. Before the introduction of the secret ballot, it was possible to buy votes, because a guarantee could then be given that the bargain made would be fulfilled. The introduction of the secret ballot did away with that; and to-day, though you might give a man £1,000,000 for his vote, you can have no guarantee but his word that he will exercise it in such a way as to carry out his bargain.
– Unless you have a postal vote?
-That is just my point. The postal vote brings us backto the position existing prior to the introduction of the secret ballot.
– But is it not pos sible to vote secretly by post?
– It is ; and it was possible to vote secretly before the secret ballot’ was introduced.
– No; there was open voting then.
– Even before the introduction of the secret ballot, a man might secretly exercise his vote against the person who was driving him to the poll, though the way in which he voted could be found out afterwards. Now that we have the secret ballot, it is impossible to know’ how any person votes unless through the exercise of the postal vote. At the time of the elections to which I refer there was an organizationwhich was established in greater force in Victoria thanin any other State of the Commonwealth. I refer to the Women’s National League. We have only to read a list of the officers of that organization to discover that it is organized, subsidized, and kept in being by the so-called aristocracy or “squattocracy” of Victoria. Read down the list of the members of the organization, and a list of the squatters of the Western District of the State, and you will find that the names are identical. The names of the big land-owners of the Western District of Victoria are repeated in the names of the officers of this organization, and this was especially the case in 1910. The organization has its being in the wives of the “ squattocracy “ of Victoria. They were its office-bearers and organizers, and they found the money. They are people who are in a position to employ domestic servants, and the bulk of them reside in the district of Kooyong. They have in their homes as many as five or six domestic servants. Under the Act, an intending voter could make an application in writing for a postal ballot-paper, but the writer did not necessarily have the postal ballot-paper sent to herself. She could have it sent to her mistress, or to an organizer of the Women’s National League. The League is stronger and more active in Kooyong from the mere fact that these people crowd there, since it contains the fashionable suburbs of Melbourne. They were “able to make a greater use of the postal vote in their stronghold than in any other electorate of Victoria, and they did bo. I have not the slightest doubt that if the present Government’s proposals were in operation then, and it were possible to go over the votes and identify them, it would be found that out of the 800 odd votes recorded there, probably 600 were the votes of domestic servants employed in the homes of the members of the Women’s National League, who live in the fashionable suburbs of Kooyong. It is said, “Why did not prosecutions follow? “ It is always an extremely difficult matter to secure a prosecution when it is necessary for the purpose to depend on the evidence of those who have carried out the breach of the law. The two persons who, in these cases, by connivance committed a breach of the law would be the organizer or representative of the Women’s National League, and a domestic servant, whose vote was to be obtained. It could not be expected that these persons would convict themselves of a breach of the law. As parties to the breach they would be liable to a fine, and they were not likely to give information which would lead to their own conviction. There were a few prosecutions in spite of these difficulties, and a notable case was that of a wealthy storekeeper and justice of the peace, of Coleraine, in the Western District - a mau named Lesser. It was proved that lie had induced a woman named Campbell to make a false declaration to the effect that she would be ill on the polling day. It was also proved that having got her to make that declaration he endeavoured to influence her vote. He was convicted of the offence. I do not know how the authorities secured the necessary evidence in this case, unless the woman gave the show away. We have only to consider the nature of these cases to see how extremely difficult it was to secure convictions. The best proof we can submit of abuses of the postal voting provisions are the figures I have quoted. They cannot be explained away. It is impossible, by any sophistry, to explain away the fact that more than half the total of postal votes recorded at the election were recorded in a healthy State with a low birth-rate. The figures show that the postal voting provisions were capable of manipulation to such an extent as to destroy the secrecy of the ballot. It is possible that, when we repealed those provisions, we went too far in neglecting to provide for genuine cases of sickness, and of persons unable to go to a poll on the polling day. We can plead in defence that we were so conscious of the scandals and abuses that had taken place under the old system, and the necessity for doing away with it altogether, that we may have swung too far in the other direction. We made provision for the absent vote to meet the case of persons away from the district in which they were enrolled on the polling day, and provided for establishing polling booths at hospitals. This did not entirely cover the ground, since it did not meet the cases of those who were genuinely sick, but not in hospitals, and those who were in hospitals, the authorities of which refused to allow a polling booth to be established there. We are prepared to give all these people the right to vote. The Labour party has never been the’ party to take, the vote away from any one. It has always been the party which has fought in the past to give every one a vote. It does not lie in the mouths of those who are bolstering up the State Legislative Councils and the iniquitous property votes for municipal councils to taunt the Labour party with trying to take away their votes from any section in the community. We have no reason to fear the vote being given to every one, since the supporters of Labour in the community are in a majority, and their majority is growing every day. It will be admitted that sickness amongst Labour supporters is as probable as amongst those who are opposed to the Labour party. Certainly, we are prepared to put the birth-rate of the working classes against that of the leisured classes. If that is done, it will be seen that infinitely more women of the working classes are prevented from voting by illness in connexion with the bearing of children than women of the leisured classes. We are anxious to preserve the secrecy of the ballot. There is nothing for which we would, fight with more determination, because no other party has gained more by the secret ballot than the Labour party. There would not have been a Labour party if there had not been a secret ballot; I doubt if there would have been a Labour member in any House of Legislature in Australia. We owe our opportunities more to the secret ballot than to anything else on the statutebook. The title of the Bill is a misnomer. If Ministers are sincere in their protestations, and really desire to enable sick persons who are unable to visit the polling booths to vote, we are prepared to assist them ; but to do that, an amendment of the Electoral Law is necessary. The old postal voting provisions did not necessarily give the sick a vote; probably under them, unless the sick were canvassed by political organizers, they did not vote. There were no facilities for voting provided for the sick, except by political organizations. If the sick are to vote in their homes, Government, not party, machinery should be provided to enable them to do so. It should not be for party organizations to collect votes. It is the duty of the Government to provide machinery for the collecting of the votes of the sick, and this party is prepared to vote for the provision of machinery for that purpose, and also for the collection of absent votes. I intend to propose the amendment of the title of the Bill to make it a Bill to amend the Electoral Act, and to propose also the insertion in it of the following provisions -
An elector who, owing to serious illness or infirmity, has reason to believe that he will not be able to record his vote at any polling place during the hours of polling on the clay of election may, at any time after the issue of the writ, and up to within seven days preceding the day of election, make application to the Returning Officer of the division in which he is enrolled that he be allowed to record his vote.
The Returning Officer, on a day previous to the election, and after the time for receiving application has expired, shall appoint an Assistant Returning Officer, who shall prior to or on the day of election call at the address of the person who claims a vote, and, if satisfied that the applicant is entitled to vote under the provision of this section, shall supply the applicant with a ballot-paper, which the voter shall mark in the prescribed manner in the presence of the officer, but so that the officer cannot see the manner in which the ballot-paper is marked, and shall then fold the ballot-paper so as to hide the vote, and then in the presence of the officer deposit the ballot-paper in a sealed ballotbox, which shall be provided, and remain in the custody of the officer until it is given into the charge of the Divisional Returning Officer. The ballot-paper shall be opened by and counted by the Returning Officer at the scrutiny after the closing of the ballot. Any elector who has reason to believe -
that he will not on polling day during the hours of polling be within five miles of any polling place, or
that he will on polling day be in quarantine within the Commonwealth, or
that - being a female elector - she will not on polling day during the hours of polling, on account of ill-health or infirmity, be able to attend at any polling place, may, after the issue of the writ, upon making a declaration in the prescribed form before a Postmaster, vote under the provisions of section 139 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902- 1911 or as an absent voter;
Provided that -
The declaration shall be made and the vote shall be recorded only at the post-office of which such Postmaster is in charge, and
The declaration shall not be valid unless such Postmaster stamps the declaration with post-office letter stamp of the date upon which the declaration is made.
If Ministers are sincere, I challenge them to support those provisions. Those in charge of the measure in another place said that if the Opposition brought forward any tangible proposal for accomplishing what is aimed at, the Government would support it. This proposal was brought forward, but the closure was applied to prevent its discussion. That cannot be done here. The provisions which I have read will be discussed, and their insertion will be put to the vote. We shall then see whether the Government’s solicitude for the sick, infirm, and absent is genuine, and whether Ministers will give an opportunity to these electors to vote, not at the expense of political parties, but by means of Government machinery brought to their door, and protecting the secrecy of the ballot. If the Government does not support these provisions, it will be for the country to judge which party has put forward the best scheme for allowing the sick, infirm, and absent to vote.
– I congratulate Senator Pearce upon his lucid and logical speech. His contention that the proposal to resort to the old postal voting system is practically a proposal to return to the antiquated and accursed system of open voting is unanswerable. That is the aim and object of the Government. The old saying, that those only are free who have a voice in the making of the laws which they are bound to obey, has lost none of its force with the lapse of centuries. It is as true to-day as in the days of the ancient Greek democracies, when the people met in the open, and decided public questions for themselves, instead of electing representatives to decide them. But speaking of the franchise, perhaps there is no other question around which such fierce battles have been waged. Everybody knows the position which the Labour party have taken up on this subject. When we entered the political arena over twenty years ago, what did we find? We found that the great mass of the people were voteless, whilst a select few could have almost as many votes as they pleased. In proof of that, taking my own State as an example, a man could, if he had property enough at that time, have as many votes as there were constituencies in the State. Indeed, at one election one man was on thirty-four rolls. The Labour party; recognising then, as they do now, that a free franchise is the basis of a proper parliamentary system, resolved that they would rectify affairs, and so they set to work. The first thing they turned their hand to and fiercely attacked was the old plural voting system, which they wiped out. Next they established a system of manhood suffrage, in fact, as well as in name, because it only existed in name before their advent. Then, emboldened by their success, they went further. Not content with manhood suffrage, they set forth to establish, and succeeded in establishing, an adult suffrage; and notwithstanding the statements . of our honorable friends that they are eager to extend the franchise, I say that if Australia can boast to-day of the broadest franchise on earth, it is entirely due to the efforts of the Labour party in that direction.
– What nonsense ! It was the Liberal party.
– My honorable friend is evidently a good judge of nonsense if we are to judge by his recent stupid utterances. I make this brief reference to the efforts of our party to show that they have ever been eager to extend the franchise, to broaden it out as much as possible, and to show also that our opponents have just pursued the opposite policy - that of restriction. They entrenched themselves wherever they could to prevent our party, in all our efforts, from extending the franchise. Thus we see that the policies of the two parties have always been diametrically opposed. The Liberal, Fusion, or Conservative party, or whatever you like to call them, have always been eager to restrict, whilst we have always been endeavouring, and
I am glad to say that we have succeeded in our endeavours, to broaden the franchise. Therefore, when the party who have always pursued that restrictive policy come down with a pretence of still broadening the franchise, of offering alleged further facilities to the people to vote, are we not entitled to view their proposals with suspicion? The brand of suspicion must of course be on them. We must take them for what they are worth ; we can only judge their proposals for the future by their actions in the past, and the aim of those actions has always been to deprive the great mass of the people of the right to vote. The real position is that our opponents dare not directly tamper with the principle of adult’ suffrage, and therefore they are prepared to attack it by subterfuge. They are prepared to attack the principle of adult suffrage in the insidious way of minimizing its effect, and their method is by introducing the. postal vote. From my experience, I have no hesitation in stating that the postal vote, to all intents and purposes, is an open vote, and Senator Pearce hit the nail on the head when he stated so; in fact, that is the crux of the whole situation. The effort of the Government is to bring us back to the days of the practical slavery of the masses, when a man had to go up in trembling before his “boss” and- openly declare for whom he voted. So far, there has only been one method devised by which it is possible to give an honest and conscientious vote, and that is per medium of the ballot. Even under that system, it is sometimes difficult ; but without a ballot it is absolutely impossible to’ give a fair, free, and honest vote. At one time, as has been stated, open voting was the law of the land. What was the result? Votes were openly bought and sold, and scrutineers were appointed simply for the purpose of seeing that the voters complied with the promises for which they had already been paid. There were coercion, corruption, and intimidation in the vilest forms; and there was no possibility of having a fair vote. The biggest rogue got the largest vote, if he had money enough to pay for it. That was the principle of open voting in the past. Honest men naturally yearned for something better than that. Speaking modernly, I think it is due to South Australia to say that, immediately after it got a free Constitution, in 1855, one of the first measures it enacted in the following year was an Electoral Bill, including the principle of the ballot. Within a year or two, the other Australian Colonies in existence followed the example, but it was not followed in England until 1872. It is a remarkable thing that the first political crisis in Victoria under constitutional government occurred over the system of open voting, when a Mr. Nicholson, according to Sutherland’s History of Australia, moved in the Assembly, and carried against the Government, a motion showing that the people then realized, as we realize now, that the open vote is a dangerous vote to Democracy. The motion I refer to reads -
That the voting for elections shouldin future be carried on in secret by means of the ballotbox, so that every man might be able to give his opinion undeterred by any external pressure, such as the fear of displeasing his employer or of disobliging a friend.
That clearly shows that the opinion uppermost in the minds of all true Democrats in Victoria in the first year of its existence under responsible government was similar to what it is to-day.
– Voting by ballot was introduced in the House of Commons forty years in succession before it was adopted.
– In 1872, the House of Commons adopted voting by ballot, and, I am glad to say, followed the lead ofAustralia in that connexion.
– It was opposed by the great Carlyle.
– Every departure from the principle laid down in South Australia in 1856, followed in the other States subsequently, and in England in 1872, has been a step backwards and downwards to the old system of open voting. Under our present system, whatever the influence may be outside, when a man enters the polling booth and goes into the compartment provided for that purpose, he can give his vote without fear or favour, and beyond influence. But the moment an elector has to allow anybody to know how he votes, indeed, the moment he is permitted voluntarily to let anybody know how he votes, that moment the vote becomes subject to abuse, becomes subject to coercion and intimidation in their vilest forms. This abuse of our ballot system is not a product of our time. It is very old. If we go back to the period 139 B.C., and to 107 B.C., what do we find? We find that the Romans prescribed the use of the ballot for their assemblies -
Because the social and economic dependence of many voters on the nobility caused the system of open voting to be vitiated by corruption and intimidation.
– From what is the honorable senator quoting ?
– Fromthe Encyclopaedia Britannica. That quota- tion shows that, as far back as the time of the Roman Empire, the ballot system was recognised as the only practical system, whereby a free Democracy could, beyond the reach ofcorruption, intimidation, and coercion, exercise the franchise. What do the present Government propose? They propose to do what history teaches us has always led to the vitiation of elections. They intend to restore the postal vote, which, to my mind, is an open vote. Indeed, the postal vote is much worse than is an open vote. It is worse than the worst form of open voting. In the old days of open voting, an elector would attend the polling booth, and in the presence of scrutineers would declare himself ir favour of the election of Jones, Smith, or Thompson, or whoever his choice might be. He gave his vote openly, although, in many cases, it had been bought beforehand.
– And he gave it also in the presence of the squire.
– Of course. But he gave his vote openly. In the case of the postal vote, however, the political canvasser invades the sanctity of the home, where under the vilest forms of intimidation he compels the elector to vote just as he wishes him to vote. I say that the postal vote which permits of that sort of thing is much worse than is the old accursed system of open voting. As . the honorable senator who preceded me remarked, postal voting is not new either to the States or to the Commonwealth. Some of us have had much more experience of it than we desired. It has been tried both in’ the Commonwealth and in the various States. After it had been given a trial this Parliament appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the postal vote, and in the most positive manner’ that Committee absolutely condemned the system. Perhaps it is as well that I should place on record the finding of that Committee. It reported-
Without concluding that undue influence was used in connexion with the postal vote, the evidence adduced shows that under the present subsection advantage may be taken to destroy the free and secret exercise of the franchise. The application forms may be witnessed in blank, and these forms may be taken in numbers by agents for candidates when canvassing, and pressure brought to bear on persons whose names are on the roll. The evidence justifies your Committee in finding that many persons who voted by post had not reason to believe that they would be more than five miles from their polling place on the day of election, and were on that day within that limit. It would appear that the voting facilities provided have been used contrary to the intention of the Act.
That Committee was representative of both sides of the House, so that it was an impartial body. It was of a non-party character, and it declared itself absolutely against the postal vote. In Queensland this form of voting’ was introduced and used at the elections there in 1907 and 1908. Our experience of it was anything but pleasant. After it had been tried at these two elections, it was turned down, and, in the Governor’s Speech, at the opening of the Parliament of that State in 1908, I find the following paragraph -
The last two elections have demonstrated that in some respects our electoral law is defective. In particular the postal vote has been found to be a serious invasion of the secrecy of the ballot, and to afford facilities for practices which interfere with the expression of the opinion of the electors. It is, therefore, the intention of my advisers to re-submit for your consideration the Bill introduced last year for removing these defects.
Then an anti-Labour Home Secretary expressed his opinion of the postal vote thus -
It has been found in practice that the provisions for the postal vote are of such a nature that fraud is made easy. It is known that there was considerable abuse of the provisions during the last election, and it is, therefore, suggested that the best way to deal with the postal vote is to wipe it out altogether. Personally, I know the system was abused, and that it was open to great abuse.
Mr. Kidston, who was Premier of Queensland at the time, and who is no friend of the Labour party, said -
Every one of us knows quite well that the way in which the postal vote was carried out in many cases made it, to all intents and purposes, open voting. To all intents and purposes, if we continue our Electoral Act with this blemish in it, we abolish the protection of the ballot so far as women are concerned, and certainly as far as the majority of the women are concerned. I consider it is the duty of the House to wipe out the postal vote root and branch, and wipe it out at once.
That is the opinion of an ex -Premier of Queensland who had had experience of postal votingat two elections.
– Was he a Labour Premier!
– No, he was a Liberal Premier. Every authority that I may quote in this connexion will bethat of a man who is opposed to me in politics. It cannot, therefore, be said that I am bringing forward evidence which is favorable to my own political side. I should like to go further, and give the opinion of a few Returning Officers. The Returning Officer of the important constituency of Toowoomba says -
The general tendency of voting by post certainly impairs the secrecy of the ballot in more ways than one. It is within my knowledge that at the last election the handwriting of the voter on the postal vote could be identified by officials engaged in counting at the close of the poll. The freedom of the elector is forestalled,and the too generous use of the postal vote may cause an election to be decided before polling day. The fact that the votes of 243 male electors given under the postal system were recorded for candidates at the May election, I think, indicates that the declaration these voters made - that they would be absent from the district on polling day - in order to obtain such a right, was not always in accordance with actual conditions.
Mr. Thomas Mowbry, postmaster, of Laidly, says
Agents, in some cases J.P.’s, canvassed for postal votes, and a few application forms were sent in which had been signed by J.P.’s as witnesses, but without any signature of applicant. The latter must either have forgotten to sign, was not aware that he had to sign, or the form was signed by the witness first and then carried round.
There is nothing to prevent a person signing an application for a person unable to write, and then signing the certificate also.
It has been said by persons of both sides that application forms have been signed by persons other than the name would imply, and there may be some truth in the statement.
In view of possible abuse, I think the vote should be abolished. Extra voting places might be appointed, so as to give female voters better opportunities of recording their votes.
Surely a system that lends itself to such abuse should be condemned by every right-thinking man. The Returning Officer at Ipswich says - ,
As soon as the applications began to come in. I noticed that electors who were residents in Ipswich signed to have the postal certificate sent to another address than the address specified at the top of the application. I interviewed the Hon. A. H. Barlow on the matter, and it was found that in that respect nothing could be done- to prevent such a course. Scores of postal certificates went to one address, and were taken out to the several electors by the justice of the peace, collected, and posted by him.
In examining the ballot-papers, myself, assistant, and scrutineers were satisfied that in a very large number of cases the voter did not write the names, because, whilst there was the usual want of similarity in the signatures on the postal certificate, the writing on the ballot-papers was exceedingly good and of a similar character. I am of opinion that the postal voting in a great number of cases was not a secret ballot, and that it is open to very grave abuse.
We see that the system adopted was for the agents of the Liberal candidates to go round and collect the applications, and, after those applications had been dealt with at the offices of those agents, including justices of the peace, to secretly collect the votes at the houses of the electors. Mr. James McGill, Returning Officer at Sandgate, says -
The proportion of irregularities rapidly fell from quite 50 per cent. in the beginning to about 5 per cent. towards the end of the election. This was due to the fact that the canvassing was carried on chiefly by about six justices of the peace, who quickly learned how to fill in the forms.
This shows that our friends appointed justices of the peace to carry out the work. Another Returning Officer, writing from Ravenswood, says -
I have necessarily been kept very close in office for the whole of the month of May, as the agents of each candidate were very active and diligent, and constant attendants, pressing for their certificates as they lodged their applications, particularly those that were destined for outside places … of the postal vote I deem it right to report this : that it has been very much abused, through the fact of agents being permitted to act for the applicants (particularly the women), and which, I think, was never the intention of the framers of the Act. If agents were not permitted to so act, and that the applicants themselves only were obliged to apply, either personally or by letter, muchof the discontent that is expressed generally over this class of vote would be obviated.
– I understand that we are to-day honoured by a visit from a member of the British House of Commons, in the person of Mr. William Redmond. I should like to extend to that gentleman the courtesy due to a distinguished visitor, and I move -
That Mr. William Redmond be provided with a seat on the floor of the Senate.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– It is hardly necessary for me to submit further evidence to show that wherever the postal vote is permitted there you will find the worst forms of corruption indulged in. The Queensland elections and the Commonwealth elections amply justify that statement. If any man can devise a way in which it is possible to give a postal vote to the sick and invalid, so that it can be a secret vote - and secrecy in voting is paramount over every other consideration - he will have done something which has so far defied the ingenuity of politicians. It is all very well to say that we are depriving the sick and invalids of votes, but, if in order to enable them to vote we have to deprive thousands of people of the free exercise of the franchise, what is the good of it all? Much as I desire to give the sick and invalids the opportunity to vote, should a system be devised to enable them to exercise the franchise in secret, I am not prepared, in order to do so, to jeopardize the secrecy of the votes of tens of thousands of other people. There is away out of the difficulty, but it is not through the medium of the postal vote, but by a better and more up-to-date system, which will be submitted by my party in Committee, and which I hope the Government will see the wisdom of adopting. I was a candidate at two State elections in Queensland at which the postal vote was used, and it would simply appal honorable senators were I to tell them of the abuses that were indulged in there. In the first place, the Government appointed a shoal of partisan Liberal justices of the peace in order to carry out the postal voting provisions. In many cases these men were paid simply for the purpose of -going round collecting votes for their party. In the constituency which I had the privilege of contesting nearly all the mine managers were justices of the peace, and as such eligible to collect applications for postal votes, and later on the votes themselves. What did they do? What they did should be a lesson to honorable senators of what may happen under the postal voting system if it is re-enacted. These mine managers, in their spare time, went round to the houses of the miners employed by them, and, under the vilest forms of intimidation, compelled the wives of the miners against their will to record their votes for the Liberal party.
– Where was this done ?
– At Charters Towers, and in many other constituencies in Queensland. I speak positively of Charters Towers, because I was a candidate at the time for the representation of that constituency. Every house there was converted into a polling booth. Every day after the issue of the writ was an election day, and it was possible to estimate the result of the election - as far as postal votes were concerned - days ahead of the actual election itself. I am in a position to say that homes were broken up at Charters Towers as the result of the operation of the postal-voting system. Women, in their weakness, submitted to the tyranny and intimidation of these mine-owners. These men threatened them by giving them the alternative of voting for the Liberal party or depriving their children of bread and butter. I have not the heart to blame those unfortunate women, although they voted against me. They said, “ We cannot let our little ones starve. Much as we like the Labour party, since the alternative to voting for them is starvation for our children, we will submit.” Unfortunately they did submit, and when the bread-winner came home later and found that his wife had voted against his conscience, and her own, in order to save the family, in many cases the home was wrecked. This was brought about entirely by the accursed system of postal voting. Senator Millen was very eager, the other day, to get some evidence of any abuse that had ever occurred in connexion with the postal votes. If he were present to-day he might have ample evidence of such abuse. I have here a sworn affidavit, by an unfortunate old lady, which shows that she was cheated and robbed of her vote by the so-called Liberal party. It is just as well to place it on record, since the Senate has been challenged by Senator Millen to give one concrete case of injustice done under the postal-voting provisions. This is the affidavit to which I refer - (Exhibit No. 7.)
“The Elections Tribunal Act of 1886.”
Election for the Electoral Division of Charters
Towers, holden on the eighteenth day of May, 1907 a.d.
I, Maria Sorensen, of Charters Towers, in the State of Queensland, married woman, being: duly sworn, make oath and say as follows : -
Yet this woman signed the application for the postal vote, signed the certificate for the postal vote, and it was put in and recorded in favour ofthe Liberals, though she never voted at all.
– It is dated 18th May, 1907. Our opponents resorted to the vilest form of trickery, treachery, intimidation, and coercion in order to rob this unfortunate old lady of a vote, yet Senator Millen has the cool cheek to get up in this chamber and tell us that we have not been able to bring forward one case of the abuse of postal voting.
– What about the case that occurred in Western Victoria?
– This one case alone would justify the abolition of the postal voting system for ever. I have here a return giving the names of at least a dozen persons convicted of an abuse of the postal voting provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in connexion with the Commonwealth elections of 1910. I should like to place the details on record, but refrain from doing so because I have always considered it unfair to allow the name of a man who has paid the penalty of his crime to go into a parliamentary record. But let me refer to another case - a Victorian” one - which was mentioned by Senator Pearce. This is the report of Constable Harrington to his superior officer, regarding a breach of the postal voting provisions of the Commonwealth Act at Coleraine: -
With regard to Mr. Louis Lesser, of Coleraine, illegally witnessing postal ballot applications, I beg to report as follows : - “ On the 6th and 7th instant I made careful inquiries regarding this matter, and interviewed and obtained statements from all persons whose names appear in attached certificates. The first eleven applicants whose names appear in attached brief” are strong, healthy young women, all living from 300 yards to half-a-mile from the polling booth ; had no reason whatever for applying for certificates, and I have very little doubt they would have gone to the booth had not Mr. Lesser taken them the application forms and asked them to vote by post. Most of them are poor people, and either tenant’s or are in debt to Mr. Lesser, who is a storekeeper at Coleraine, and also a money lender. All the persons interviewed gave their statements freely, and I believe, if on oath, would say more. The statements of these eleven are exact copies of statements signed by them to me on the 6th and 7th instant. Senior-Constable Loftus, of Coleraine, who seems to have a very good knowledge of the Coleraine people and their habits, gave me every assistance in making these inquiries. He says he has no doubt the persons named in attached brief of statements are truthful.”
I remember that on one occasion, in Townsville, a postmaster consented to alter the date of the office stamp to bring certain postal votes into conformity with the law. That case was referred to here years ago by you, Mr. President. The abuses of the postal voting system are widespread, some persons apparently being willing to go to any length to intimidate would-be voters, and to capture votes. It has been suggested that the postal voting system is necessary to meet the requirements of country electors, but what are the facts? In the Queensland elections of 1907, nine compact town constituencies polled more postal votes than the rest of the State, the people living practically next door to a polling booth exercising the postal vote more freely than others who had long distances to travel to get to the booths. In 1908, the town constituencies polled 13,615 postal votes, as against only 7,900 for the rest of Queensland, showing that the postal voting system is not used in the country districts to anything like as great an extent as in the towns. Furthermore, the voting is better when postal voting is not permitted. That is because the postal voting system requires electors to be partisans, and to show how they are going to vote. Postal votes are collected by party organisers, and, to all intents and purposes, . are open votes. Those, too, who refuse to vote by post, and insist on going to the poll, are marked as voting in a certain way. The result is that many decline to vote at all. This is shown by a return which I have here, which proves that in Queensland the voting has been better without the postal system than with it. In 1907, with the postal vote, the percentage of voting was 71.61; in 1908, with the postal vote, it went down to 68.39; in 1909, without the postal vote, it ro3e rapidly to 72.39 ; while in 1912, without the postal vote, it rose to the high figure of 75.52. In South Australia, with the postal vote, the percentage of voting was not so good as it was in Queensland without it; and the same remark applies to Tasmania. “What do we find at the Commonwealth elections? We find that there was a higher percentage vote without the postal vote than there was with it. In 1903, the percentage of females voting was 39.96; in 1906, it was 43.30 ; while in 1910, it was 56.17. Those three elections were conducted under the postal vote. At the last elections, conducted without the postal vote, the percentage Of females voting rose to 69.71. Of course, it is understood that if anybody would derive an advantage under the postal voting system women would; but here we have evidence on record that the percentage of females voting was higher without the postal vote than with it. The same thing applies to males voting, showing that all the sick could not have been very much inconvenienced by the abolition of the system. In 1903, the percentage of males voting was 53.9; in 1906, it was 56.38; in 1910, it was 67.58; whilst last year, without the postal vote, it was 77.22. I shall now give the average vote for the whole Commonwealth, showing that there has been a tremendous improvement without the postal vote. In 1903, the average vote was 46.86; in 1906, it was 50.21; while in 1910, it was 62.16. The elections in those years were conducted with the postal vote. At the elections in 1913, without the postal vote, the average went up to the high record of 73.66. The Government have led us to believe that they are eager to grant a vote to the sick, and to invalids. What do they propose to do? In this Billthey are reenacting Part X. of the Electoral Act of 1909. That Part does not specially provide for invalids, and if it is reenacted there will not be an invalid vote at all. It is just as well to examine and see what the Government really wants us to do. This is not an invalid vote that is proposed, but a very general open vote. Part X. of the Act of 1909 includes this provision - 109 (1) An elector, who -
That is not an invalid vote. It certainly includes invalids, but it also includes almost anybody who has a conscience elastic enough to say that he believes, or has reason to believe, that he will not on polling day be within a certain distance of a polling booth. After the issue of the writ, the most healthy man or woman in Australia, on the solicitation of a paid canvasser of the Liberal party, can, without fear of a penalty or a punishment, make an application stating, “I have reason to believe that I will not on polling day be within such a distance of a polling booth ; I am going to the country.” He can sign an application for his ballotpaper, send in the application, get his ballot-paper forwarded to him, and re cord his vote ; but there is nothing to prevent him from changing his mind. He can say, “When I applied for a ballotpaper, I had reason to believe that I would not be within the prescribed distance of a polling booth, and accordingly I got my paper and have recorded my vote. Since then I have found that I will not be away on polling day; but it does not matter, I acted in innocence.” It will be seen that in that way the section can be grossly abused by any party that is so inclined. All the evidence we have had so far shows overwhelmingly that the Liberal party have always abused the postal vote, and will abuse it. They are the party who have everything to gain by an open vote, and the postal vote is an open vote. They know that, and that is their real reason for introducing the postal vote. They know that they are the men of wealth and position. They are the men who have most with which to buy the vote, and they are going to use this despicable method of purchasing it. When anybody tells us that this so-called invalid vote of the Government is a real invalid vote, we can discount the statement at once by saying that the vote is accessible to almost any man or woman in the country who has a conscience elastic enough to comply with the wishes of the canvassers of the Liberal party. That shows that it is not an invalid vote at all. It is practically a reestablishment of a system of open voting. Talking about the secrecy of the vote, let us see how it is going to be a secret vote. Section 118a reads -
The following directions for regulating voting by means of postal ballot-papers are to be substantially observed.
Then paragraph b provides -
The elector shall then, in the presence of the authorized witness, but so that the authorized witness cannot see the vote, mark his vote on the ballot-paper in the prescribed manner, and shall fold and secure the ballot-paper so that the vote cannot be seen.
In practice, what happens ? A canvasser walks into a drawing-room or a sittingroom, as the case may be, and takes a seat, and the voter is expected to vote in his presence so that he may not see how the vote is recorded. Most persons think that they have to vote openly before the canvasser, so that the provision as regards complying with the condition to make the vote a secret one is a perfect farce, and in practice, as I know from experience, it is, to all intents and purposes, an open vote. The provision continues - and in this connexion it is even worse than the provision in the old Queensland Act -
Under that provision, which the Government wish to restore, an authorized witness, who is generally a political canvasser, can take a vote for the purpose of posting it. In that case what happens? As a matter of fact ho can take it to the office of the Liberal Association, as votes have been taken, which I can prove. There they can be opened, and if they are in favour of the Liberal party’s candidate, they can be posted to the Returning Officer. If they are not in favour of that party’s candidate, they can be destroyed, as thousands of votes have been destroyed in Queensland. That is the system which the Government seek to reintroduce into the Commonwealth. If the Labour party never did anything else but wipe out a system which lends itself to such abuse, it has amply justified its existence. We are prepared to test the sincerity of those who profess themselves anxious to give a vote to the sick and invalid. The real object of this Bill is to diminish the effect of the votes of the Democracy of Australia. In South Australia, in Queensland, and in the Commonwealth, efforts are being made to manipulate and tamper with the Electoral Act, all with the one object of endeavouring to keep the Liberals in power. That seems to be the main object in view. I know from statements which we have seen that those who are so solicitous about giving a vote to a few hundred invalids would be prepared, if they had a majority behind them, to submit a Bill for our consideration which would disfranchise 10,000 young Australians who would come of age a month before the issue of the writ. That shows that the Government and their supporters’ haveno desire to give the Democracy of Australia a chance. We know, too, that they are prepared to deprive the electors of an opportunity to vote upon the most convenient day of the week, namely, Saturday. The mass of the people enjoy greater facilities for voting on that day than upon any other, whereas the leisured class can vote on any day of the week. In introducing this Bill the Minister of Defence made the most paltry speech I have ever heard from a responsible Minister in a deliberative assembly. The Bill is called a test Bill - a Bill to settle practically the fate of the nation. Yet the leader of the. Government in this Chamber moved its second reading in a speech of about five minutes’ duration, in which he evidenced that he himself was heartily ashamed of the pretensions of the Ministry. A more paltry effort on the part of an alleged statesman to put the case of his party before the people was never witnessed. I reassert the position that members of the Labour party wish to deprive no man or woman of a vote. The bigger the vote the better we like it. The broader the franchise the better it is for us. Any man who says that the Labour party intend to restrict the franchise is not speaking the truth. I hope that the result of the introduction of this Bill will be that the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Pearce, under which we shall have a clean invalid vote, and not a postal vote, will be accepted.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Keefe) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.30p.m.
Senate called by the Clerk.
The following senators were absent: - Senators Bakhap, Ferricks, Gardiner, Sir Albert Gould, and Keating.
The PRESIDENT announced that he had received apologies for absence from Senators Bakhap, Ferricks, and Sir Albert Gould; and that Senator Keating was absent on leave.
– May I offer an explanation of what appears tome to be an unfortunate fact? I received a notice that there was to be a call of the Senate, but it did not mention the hour at which the call was to take place. I know that Senator Gardiner is in Melbourne, but he is doubtless absent for that reason. It is only by accident that I was here in time.
– I took upon myself the responsibility of doing everything that could possibly be done to acquaint honorable senators with the fact that a call of the Senate was to take place today. The Standing Orders require that notice shall he given by post, but I ordered that a telegram should be sent to each honorable senator who was absent from Melbourne. It is true that no time was named for the call of the Senate, but every honorable senator was informed of the day on which the call would take place.
The Clerk again called the names of the senators who had been returned as absent, when Senator Gardiner answered to his name.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- Mr. President-
– Does the honorable senator propose to speak to the motion ?
– The honorable senator cannot do so.
– Why not?
– Because when this business was called on this morning, it was ordered to be taken as “formal.”
– May I ask how it is that honorable senators were not informed of the change in the hour of meeting?
– If some honorable senators thought that their business elsewhere was of more importance than attendance in the Senate last week, that is not the fault of the President or of the officers of the Senate.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 23
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Report (No. 2) presented by Senator Henderson, and read by the Clerk.
Debate resumed from this day (vide page 3887), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not intend to discuss the merits of this Bill, because, after the slashing speeches which have been delivered by Senator Pearce and Senator Mullan, very little remains to be said. But I think that an affront - I do not know that I would be wrong if I said an insult - has been offered to the Senate by bringing the measure forward in the way in which it has been brought forward. As an old member, . you, sir, know - and Ministers know - that whenever an amending Bill has been submitted, it has always been the practice to make its meaning so clear that everybody could understand exactly what we were asked to do. In the present instance a Bill has been brought forward in which, though its professed object is the restoration of the postal voting provisions of the Electoral Act of 1909, it is proposed absolutely to amend the existing Electoral Act. We are not told how it is intended to amend that Act-
– Honorable senators are asked to reverse the action which they themselves took in 1909.
– That is just the interjection that I wanted. What is it that we are asked to do in this Bill? We are asked to repeal sections 3, 4, 14, 23, 35, and 38 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911, and to say that the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1909, which were repealed by those sections, are hereby revived and reenacted. If the Government had used all its legal acumen to make the meaning of the Bill involved, it could not have succeeded better. Unless one has at least four Acts before him, the Bill is a Chinese puzzle. Surely we are entitled to courteous treatment in matters of this kind ! I am justified in asking the Minister in charge of the Bill if, even at this late hour, he will revert to the practice that the Senate has hitherto followed. He knows perfectly well that when we have been asked to amend an existing Act it has always been customary to print in the amending Bill, in type with lines running through them, the portions of the Act which it is proposed to amend. Whenever it has been intended to insert new matter, the practice has been to print that new matter in block type - that is, in type larger than that which is used in other portions of the Bill. I suppose’ that Ministers think that the Senate, is not worthy of ordinary courtesy. I do not know what other reason they can have for flouting us in this way. Surely, we were entitled to know what we were expected to do, and I say that it will be absolutely impossible to know what we have to do with the Bill now presented to us. I am sorry to seem to charge the Honorary Minister with a want of courtesy, but certainly courtesy is lacking when a Bill is brought before us in this way. For the first time we are departing from a custom which has always been honoured in this Chamber, of showing amendments in Acts of Parliament in a clear manner. It is impossible for honorable senators to follow the amendments made by this measure. The Bill consists of two clauses. The first gives the measure its short title. The second reads -
Sections three, four, fourteen, twenty-three, thirty-five, and thirty-eight of the Commonwealth Electoral Act1911 are repealed, and the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1909- 1909, which were repealed by those sections, are hereby revived and re-enacted.
Any honorable senator who wishes to discuss in even the briefest way any amendments which may be brought before the Senate will have to turn up the whole of the four Acts of Parliament involved in this Bill.
– Does the honorable senator know that this had to be a clean copy of the Bill as it came from another place ?
– I know that, but 1 think that the Senate ought to have been given some reason for departing from the custom. Does Senator Clemons think that this is a fair way to bring such a Bill before the Senate?
– I am not in charge of it, but this is the Bill as it came from the other House.
– If the Honorary Minister is not in charge of the Bill, who, in Heaven’s name, is?
– I am in charge of it at the moment, but I thought the honorable senator meant that I moved the second reading.
– We are entitled to ask that something clear shall be placed before us.
– the answer is that the Bill before us is the Bill as it came from the other House. ,
– It certainly does not reflect credit on those who drafted the Bill, or on those who were responsible for sending it up to us. Every word of discussion was suppressed elsewhere. We know from reports in the newspapers that the Bill was bludgeoned through. If there had been that opportunity for discussion which every piece of legislation is entitled to get, the measure would never have reached us in this form. It would have been simply impossible for a house of legislature to discuss such a Bill as this in its present form.
– I cannot agree with that.
– If the ordinary forms of discussion had been followed in the other branch of the Legislature, and the Bill had not been bludgeoned and “gagged” through without debate, I am satisfied that it would have reached us in a different form. I wonder whether any honorable senator Kas taken the trouble to find out what it really means. In order to understand the Bill, we have to turn to sections 3, 4, 14, 23, 35, and 38 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911. But that Act does not contain a provision relating to the postal vote. From the beginning we are in a hopeless state of confusion. There is nothing whatever in the Acts of 1911 referring to the postal vote. The sections which this Bill seeks to re-enact are not in the 1911 Act at all. The clause of the Bill also says that -
The provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1909 which were repealed by those sections are hereby revived and re-enacted.
In the first place, we have to turn up the 1911 Act, because this Bill purports to repeal certain sections in it; and then we have to turn up the Acts passed between 1902 and 1909 to find the sections which are to be hereby re-enacted. It will be impossible for any honorable senator to discuss intelligently any amendment which may be moved, unless he has in his hands copies of the Acts affected by this Bill. It was the Act of 1902 which originally placed the’ postal-voting provisions in our electoral law. They were amended by the Act of 1905. The Act of 1909 further amended them. Surely, quite apart from the merits of this Bill, and tlie reason for its introduction, there was a simple way of bringing the subject before the Senate. We know perfectly well the object of the Government in introducing it. It is not that they considered that it is important for the people of this country that the postal vote should be restored, because, as was clearly pointed out this morning by Senator Pearce and Senator Mullan, facilities for the sick and the infirm and for people living a long way from polling places to record their votes were offered to be passed by the Opposition in another place. It will be interesting to observe the attitude which the Government will assume when in this Chamber amendments are proposed with the object of giving the sick and the infirm, facilities for voting by post or in some other way. But the real reason for bringing this measure before Parliament is, as has been stated by Senator McColl over and over again, to secure a double dissolution. This measure is intended for that purpose only. Even if it is to secure that object in the end, surely the Government were under an obligation to bring the measure before the Senate in a clear and concise form.
– It is just as clear as, and more concise than, the amending Bill introduced bv the late Government.
– It may be more concise, because it is more brief, but it is certainly not as clear.
– It adopts exactly the same methods.
– Those honorable senators who were here on previous occasions may have the provisions relating to postal voting in their minds. They may not have to search through the series of Acts of Parliament to ascertain just what this Bill asks us to do.
– Members of the Senate had to do precisely the same when they were dealing with the Bill of the late Government as they will have to do now; neither more nor less. The 1911 Act is not the principal Act at all.
– It is an amending Act.
– Passed at the instance of the late Government.
– This Bill proposes to repeal portions of that Act, although it assumes that there are provisions in the 1911 Act which, as a matter of fact, are not there.
– They had to be dealt with before we could touch the principal Act. That is obvious.
– Generally, when Senator Clemons says that a thing is obvious, it is so, but in this case it is obvious that we have a departure from the ordinary method of bringing an amending Bill before the Senate.
– This Bill is on exactly the same lines as the amending Act passed by the late Government, and the procedure is precisely the same.
– In all previous Bills that I remember, which were intended to repeal sections of Acts, erased type was used.
– The 1911 Act simply said that- such and such a part of the original Act was repealed.
– I am referring to the Bill that was introduced, and not to the Act as it appears on the statute-book. We know that the provisions appearing in erased and block type in a Bill for the purpose of making its meaning clear do not afterwards appear in the Act as finally passed. Senator Clemons must admit that the method adopted in presenting this Bill is absolutely different from that which has been followed in the past. It would not have been any extra trouble or expense to have set out in this Bill the postal voting provisions of the 1902-1909 Act, which it is proposed to restore. If a majority of the members of the Senate thought as I do, they would refuse to proceed with this Bill in its present form. It is necessary to search all through the Electoral Bills passed since the establishment of the Senate to find out what is pro posed by this measure. The Government, might just as well have brought down a Bill to amend an Act passed in 1901, and possibly repealed in 1902.
– The provisions to> which the honorable senator is referring appear in print in the Electoral Act 1902- 1909. That is the principal Act, and it should not be difficult for any member of the Senate to refer to the principal Act.
– I am aware that, the Electoral Act 1902-1909 is the principal Act. The Act of 1902 was amended in 1905, and again in 1909. Then the Act of 1911 repealed certain provisions of the Act of 1902-1909, and in this Billit is proposed to restore some of the provisions which were repealed.
– Does not the honorable senator see that the Act of 1911, which was passed at the instance of the late Government, was not a consolidating Act, and contains the same reference back to the Act of 1902-1909 as the principal Act?
– That is all the more reason why what I am contending for should have, been done, and the pro* visions which this Bill is intended to restore set down in plain language before honorable senators.
– The Senate has to deal with things as they are.
– Can the Honorary Minister give us any reason why the old practice has been departed from on this occasion?
– I cannot admit that it has been departed from. In my opinion, there was no alternative but to adopt the course which has been adopted.
– I know that the Honorary Minister must make the best case he can for the Government ; but honorable senators generally are aware that in the case of previous Bills introduced for the amendment of existing legislation the proposed amendments have been set out in plain language for the information of honorable senators. I do not wish to take up time in discussing the merits of this Bill. It was pointed out by Senators Stewart and Mullan that a much more comprehensive Electoral Bill was brought forward by the Government in another place earlier in the session. That Bill was not proceeded with, and we have had this poor, miserable piece of legislation substituted for it. Senator Pearce pointed out that the provisions in the more comprehensive Bill were very dangerous for any Government to go to the country on.
– I think that the honorable senator was not in order in referring to it.
– I may not be in order in referring to it, but, if so, the President will no doubt pull me up. Seeing that another Electoral Bill was put before Parliament, and copies of it placed in the hands of honorable senators, I may be allowed to make a passing reference to it, and to say that it proposed several drastic alterations in the existing electoral law. Why have the Government gone back upon those proposals? Were they afraid to face the electors with them ?
– No, we were afraid that we would not be given a chance to put them before the electors.
-The Government would have just the same chance to put the provisions of that Bill before the electors as they have to put the provisions of this Bill before them if they had adopted the same procedure as was adopted in the case of this Bill, and had “ gagged “ the measure through another place. If that course had been followed, there would have been something worth while to put before the electors, and something worth fighting about. The Government wished to go a long way in the direction of open voting. They proposed to disfranchise some tens of thousands of electors who come of age in the month before the issue of a writ. They proposed to do something else of a very peculiar character. They would have put it into the hands of any individual, without the payment of the 5s. fee, to object to the name of any person appearing on any electoral roll.
– The honorable senator wishes to accuse us in both ways for doing it and for not doing it.
-That is not so.
– The honorable senator is blaming the Government for not going on with the previous Bill, and he is now blaming them for having introduced it in another place.
– I blame the Government, after they had introduced the measure, for not “gagging” it through in another” place, as they did this Bill. They knew that the provisions of the more comprehensive Bill were raising a storm in the country. That is why they withdrew it, and brought forward this miserable little thing, which, in the language of the Attorney-General, is a “ gelatinous compound,” and is not even fit food for infants.
– The first Bill was blocked in another place for forty days.
– It would have gone through as quickly as this Bill if the same procedure was adopted. The Government also proposed to disfranchise) some thousands of men who find Saturday the only day on which they can record their votes. There will be other opportunities to discuss even this little measure. My principal object in rising was to voice the dissatisfaction of honorable senators at the way in which they have been treated by the Government because of the form in which this Bill has been presented. It would have been a very simple matter to put into clear language in the Bill the provisions it is intended to enact. As it is now presented, honorable senators will be at a complete disadvantage if they are asked to consider an amendment upon it.
– I think that honorable senators opposite are all unanimous about it, and so are we.
– How does the honorable senator know that we are all unanimous about it? The Bill might be usefully amended in a dozen ways, but an honorable senator desiring to amend it would not know what words he was proposing to amend unless he had at his elbow a copy of every Electoral Act which had been passed since the establishment of Federation. It is not fair to the Senate to submit a Bill in this confused and jumbled form, and I trust that no Bill similarly framed will ever be presented in the future.
.- It is highly amusing to honorable senators on this side who have always believed in and advocated adult suffrage to find a section of members of the Senate and of another place evincing an eleventh-hour anxiety and sympathy for the enfranchisement of a small section of the community. It is common knowledge that, even at the commencement of Federation, the people of Victoria did not enjoy adult suffrage. It is common knowledge also that most of the Victorian so-called Liberals, when Federation became a live question, and a section’ of the people had decided that no form of Federation would be acceptable to them unless provision were made for adult suffrage, vigorously opposed the embodiment of such a provision in the Constitution. Now we hear, in fact, we see, some of these folks on platforms wildly enthusiastic in respect of womanhood suffrage, extremely solicitous about women’s votes, and extremely solicitous, too, that a number of the women voting, some of whom have a good deal of wealth and much leisure, shall be enabled to do what they were able to do up to 1910, and that is to go round in different directions, and by methods that were somewhat mysterious, sometimes were extremely mischievous, and that undoubtedly contravened the Electoral Act, get people to vote by post who could exercise their vote in the ordinary way. In regard to the principle itself, no true Democrat can offer any vigorous objection to it. I, and the members of the party to which I belong, believe in adult suffrage. We believe that every man and every woman in Australia should have the right to vote; I refer to those who are outside the walls of a gaol or lunatic asylum, and who were either born in Australia or are British subjects who have resided here for a certain time, in compliance with the Electoral Act. Laying that down as a principle, we say that every possible facility should be given to every adult voter to record his or her vote. In regard to the principle of voting by post, I offer no strong objection to it, if I could satisfy myself that it would be properly safeguarded; and that we have not been able so far to properly safeguard the principle is evidenced in this State, at any rate, by the immense number of postal votes that have been recorded. This morning, Senator Pearce gave some figures which were extremely interesting, and which we know have been before the public and perused by honorable senators. But in order that their significance may be more clearly understood, I propose to draw a comparison between Victoria and the other five States. No one will for a moment say that Victoria is an unhealthy State.
– It is the most unhealthy corner of the Commonwealth. I am always half-dead when I am here.
– I do not think that the honorable senator .is serious.
– I am. If you want to be healthy go to Queensland.
– Victoria may not be, on the whole, as healthy as Queensland, but, speaking in all seriousness, I am certain that the death-rate is no higher in this State than in any of the other States.
– Oh yes, it is.
– Very little.
– It is thirteen or fifteen per 1,000 in Victoria, while it is only ten in Queensland.
– However, that is a small matter in respect to the point I am endeavouring to make. Victoria is, on the whole, a healthy State. From the health point of view, it can be compared with almost any other State. With the exception of Tasmania, it is, as regards area, the smallest State in the Commonwealth; yet, at the elections of 1910, half the postal votes recorded in the Commonwealth were recorded in Victoria. In other words, 29,249 postal votes were recorded in the whole Commonwealth, and no fewer than 14,049 in Victoria.
– Do you not see what that proves - a higher state of political education in Victoria ?
– As a matter of fact, as many postal votes were recorded in the divisions of Bendigo, Laanecoorie, Kooyong, and Wannon, as were recorded almost throughout South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania - that is very significant indeed - and more votes were recorded in those four divisions than in the whole of Queensland. In Kooyong, nearly as many votes were recorded as were recorded throughout Tasmania. Yet in Kooyong there were polling booths situated almost within every 100 yards. What is the explanation in regard to the high percentage of postal votes recorded in Victoria? In my opinion, it is that interested people knew that the postal vote could be manipulated and obtained in favour of the candidate who had the biggest purse.
– Did he want them so badly at Kooyong?
– And that the services of people could be obtained who would not be too scrupulous in respect to the methods they would employ to get those votes. That was clearly shown in the election which was contested in Mel bourne by Dr. Maloney and the late Sir Malcolm McEacharn.
– A very close contest.
-Kin that contest, which was decided in favour of Sir Malcolm McEacharn, influences were exercised in certain directions, and to such an extent that, when a petition was lodged against his return, and the case was brought before the High Court, it was clearly shown that a number of postal votes were obtained under false pretences, and his . return was rendered null and void, mainly because of the methods employed in obtaining those votes. Mr. Justice Barton, who had had a long parliamentary experience, said -
Postal voting is the greatest stretch of the secrecy of the ballot which has been made in the* legislation of the States of Australia. I do not for a moment question its wisdom, but the fact that it was, to no slight extent, a departure from the secrecy of the ballot would make the Legislature very careful in surrounding it with safeguards.
The amendment which Senator Pearce’ has given notice of his intention to move will provide those -safeguards, and I shall wait with interest to see what reception it will meet with at the hands of the Government. We, on bills side, want to emphasize the fact that we are not against the postal vote so far as the sick, the infirm, and the invalids of Australia are concerned. Senator McColl may laugh at my remark because it will be proposed that the vote shall be extended to such persons.
– I am amused at your conversion.
– There is no conversion about myself , in regard to this matter. I have said to-day, and I have said on former occasions, that I am notopposed to the principle.
– What were you doing in 1911 ?
– In that year we amended the previous Act-
– Amended! You abolished postal voting in toto.
– And in amending the Act we struck out the postal voting provisions.
– That is all that you did.
– We did more than that, as the honorable senator well knows. We offered greater facilities to people who are absent from their subdivisions and divisions than ever obtained previously, in any part of Australia.
– Are they not sufficient to-day?
– They have a scare on !
– What scare ? The Government apparently have a scare. They are in a state of “ blue funk.” Because, although we are not permitted to call attention to what has taken place in another institution, we are not forbidden, I hope, to make remarks about something which is alleged to have taken place, and what has taken place has been fully reported in different newspapers throughout Australia. “ The man in the street “ has said that the Government are in a state of “ blue funk,” and when you ask him why, he says, “ After the last elections they made all sorts of serious allegations in respect to the manner in which people voted. They made statements on the platforms and in the press that wholesale personation had taken place, that thousands of people had been guilty of wrong-doing, and that the names and addresses of certain people were known who had been doing evil things.” Senator McColl was one of those who made the latter statement. Although the Government have been in power for nearly six months, I have not seen a word in a single newspaper in Australia, nor have I heard a word from the lips of a Minister, that any prosecution has been initiated in regard to those serious allegations.
– They Iia ve been busy with the stamps.
– I am going to deal with the stamps later. We have been told that, in order that there should not be anything that would call for public criticism or condemnation at future elections, the Government intended to bring forward legislation which would make for the purity of elections. One of the things which they declared would make for the purity of elections was the restoration of the postal vote. Yet, we all know - if I may use the vernacular of the streets - that if there was one thing which was at all “ crook,” so far as the purity of elections was concerned, it was the postal voting provisions of the Electoral Act which we repealed, and which had been largely availed of by paid agents and touts from one end of Australia to the other. I have no doubt that some of the elections were won by means of those agencies. We know that, when the election for the division of Melbourne was upset by the High Court, . and a fresh election was ordered, the late Sir Malcolm McEacharn was defeated, and Dr. Maloney was triumphantly returned. He has held the seat ever since. Yet, if it had not been proved that a number of postal votes had been obtained by false pretences-
– Some of the political agents were not particular about the places which they visited
– If we had not been able to procure certain evidence, the probability is that the representation of the division of Melbourne would have been in the hands of some Liberal to-day. The interjection by Senator O’Keefe reminds me that, quite recently, I saw a report in the daily newspapers of an application for the transfer from one person to another of thb licence of a certain hotel in this city. The report appeared under the headings “The Palace Hotel.” “Licence Refused,” “The Police make Allegations.” Now, I find that the Palace Hotel Proprietary Company consists of John A. Willson, J. H. Moss, Mrs. I. H. Moss, Miss Poulsen, Miss Wilson, and Dr. A. E. Jones. Mrs. I. H. Moss is a very prominent lady connected with the Women’s National League, which is largely interested in the restoration of the postal vote. She has, I know, condemned the Labour party because of their action in repealing the votingbypost provisions of the Act of 1909. She is a very capable platform speaker, who has, I believe, rendered signal service to Senator McColl in this State. Senator McColl may not be aware that the Palace Hotel is alleged to be not the best conducted hotel in this city. Many things are said about it which would make the hair of the average man stand on end.
– This is very ingenious. How does the honorable senator connect me with that hotel ?
– Mrs. Moss is a prominent member of the Women’s National League. I believe that she was an office-bearer at one time. I wish to point out that it would be possible for some of the women belonging to that league to manipulate votes in connexion with the Palace Hotel, where, I understand, a number of ladies are employed whose hours are pretty long, and where the atmosphere is a trifle vitiated. It might be alleged that a number of these ladies were physically unfit to record their votes at an election which was pending, and, in such circumstances, it would be very easy for Mrs. Moss, who is one of the members of the Palace Hotel Company, to go there and get a large number of postal votes recorded in favour of Senator McColl and some of his colleagues in opposition to the party to which I belong. Whether Mrs. Moss would do that I do not know, but she would be in a position to do it. This Bill and the Government Preference Prohibition Bill, we are told, are to be made test Bills. The three most important planks of the Government programme have been specialized. The “attention of the world is riveted upon them 1 The fact that the measures to which I have referred had been introduced to this Chamber was cabled to all British-speaking communities ! The three most important planks in the Government platform are the Bill which is now under consideration, the Government Preference Prohibition Bill, and the new postage stamp.
– Order ! The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing those matters on this Bill.
– I merely mention them incidentally. I understand that only yesterday special carriages had to be placed on the western line on account of the crowd of passengers who were making post) haste to Melbourne in order to obtain as many of the new postage stamps as possible 1 They said that the new stamp is going to make Australia “ gee “ as it’ has never “ geed “ before. Altogether it was Mr. Wynne’s day out. I do not for a moment think that any sane individual believes that the postal vote is a matter of such importance that the electors should be called upon to pay probably £100,000 to decide whether or not it should be restored. Even if the Bill be a test question, and we have a double dissolution early next year, we cannot have postal voting in connexion with that contest.
– Why not?
– We cannot have it unless the Government accept the amendment which it is intended to submit.
– Honorable senators opposite may agree to the Bill.
– No; I am opposed to it in its present form. Whilst I am anxious to allow the aged and sick to record their votes by post, I am not in favour of restoring the provisions which were operative up till 1910, and which gave to all persons an opportunity to vote by post. If people who are well are absent from their subdivision upon polling day, they can ‘still record their votes under the existing Act.
– The honorable senator has progressed a lot since 1910.
– I have always been progressive. Honorable senators opposite affirm that the repeal of the postal vote has resulted in the disfranchisement of 29,000 electors throughout Australia, of whom 14,000 are in Victoria. I think we might fairly reduce that number by fully 50 per cent., seeing that under the Electoral Act of 1911 facilities are given to absent voters to record their votes in any part of the Commonwealth. That being so, is it proper for the Government to seriously urge that the whole of Australia shall be subjected to the expense of a general election in order that we may decide whether 15,000 electors shall be enabled to record their votes by post?
– There is another consideration - the question of distance from a polling booth.
– How does the honorable senator meet tha’t?
– It is met by the projected amendment, which provides that electors who are distant 10 miles from a polling booth shall vote by post.
– Ten miles there and 10 miles back make 20 miles. That is rather a long distance.
– No matter what Bill we may pass, injustice will be inflicted. It is impossible to do absolute justice to every human being by Act of Parliament. But no fair-minded man will say that the facilities which were operative till i910 should be available to everybody. They were never intended to be so available. It was never intended that, in the division of Kooyong, for example, where there is a polling booth every 200 yards, electors who were not really sick should be entitled to vote by post. Yet, according to statements made to me by persons who are not prone to exaggeration, at the elections in 1910 numbers of postal votes were recorded in
Kooyong by persons who were in perfect- health, and who could, by walking a short distance, or by riding in some conveyance such as a tram car, have recorded their votes in a few minutes.
– Does not that apply in the Labour leagues, when they make a selection ? They sometimes give a man the right to vote by post.
– In Victoria, when we make a selection - that is to say when we have a pre-election ballot - every facility is given to those who are on i ur rolls to record their votes. We haveballotboxes in different parts of the electorates affected, and the ballot-papers are put into the boxes in the ordinary electoral way. I do not know what system is followed in other States. I am not, and never have been, absolutely opposed to the principle of voting by post. Senator McColl giggles, but there is no justification for doing so. I mean what I say. I. have been opposed to voting by post when there have not been sufficient safeguards,, because I know the improper uses to which the system has been put. I have seen things done with respect to electionswhen the postal vote was a matter of particular importance to a candidate, of which I have really been ashamed. They were pretty close to the border line of illegality, and at times they crossed the line. I have often wondered that prosecutions were not initiated against persons who were mixed up with these smellful practices. But with proper safeguardsI have no solid objection to postal voting. Therefore, I trust that in Committee the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Pearce will be accepted by the Government. Then the objections which were operative in 1910 against postal voting will disappear.
.- Before I deal with the Bill under consideration, I wish to say a word or two in reply to- an interjection by Senator McColl, who appears to Be amused at the sudden conversion of certain honorable senators on the question of voting by post. I wish to assure him that members of the Labour party in every part of the Commonwealth have at all’ times been most anxious to see that no sick person, man or woman, should ever be deprived of the vote. I am quite indifferent to what the honorable senator may say on the platform, when there is no one to contradict him, but I wish to place it on record that when he says that the members of the Labour party are opposed to giving the sick and infirm facilities for voting, he is saying that which is absolutely contrary to fact.
– I do not happen to have said so.
– The honorable senator has said so frequently.
– The honorable senator has said repeatedly, and has made capital out of the argument, that we have deprivedthe sick and infirm of opportunities of voting, and that, indeed, we were the party to rob them of the facilities given to them.
– So you did rob them. Senator Findley was in charge of the Bill.
– When the honorable senator says that the Labour party are opposed to giving such voting facilities to the sick and infirm, he is stating that which is contrary to fact.
– The honorable senator has the scare also.
– That remark is idle as far as this party is concerned, but Senator McColl himself has been scared more frequently than I have ever known a member of Parliament to be. He has been so much scared sometimes that he has had to slip out of the chamber. I hold in my hand a copy of the electoral code of South Australia for 1908. This measure was passed through the Parliament of that State when there was a Labour Premier in office. Every Labour man in Parliament at the time supported it. It contains about fourteen sections providing facilities for postal voting. They are, however, carefully safeguarded, though not as fully as many of us would have liked. This Act isnow on the statute-book of South Australia. In the face of it, will Senator McColl say that the members of the Labour party are against the extension of voting facilities to the sick and infirm?
– Does not that Act carry the facilities for voting beyond the sick and infirm ?
– Oh, yes, but with safeguards. In South Australia a person desiring to vote in this manner has to obtain a ballot-paper from a postmaster, mark it, and sign it in his presence, and put it in the ballot-box. It has not to be signed in the presence of a justice of the peace, a schoolmaster, or a policeman. The postmaster countersigns the vote without seeing for whom the elector has voted. Being a Government official he is quite disinterested. With such a provision as that,Iam satisfied that candidates and electors alike would be perfectly safe, although a suspicion has been created that improper action has occurred even with the safeguards provided in South Australia.
– What is the distance from a polling place prescribed in that Act?
– Five miles.
– The amendment foreshadowed prescribes ten.
– Make it five, if you like.
– The distance is immaterial, and I have no doubt that Senator Pearce would agree to anything reasonable. Australia is a country of great distances, where country electors have sometimes to go more than 50 miles to record their votes. When South Australia controlled the Northern Territory, it sometimes took a month to get the ballot-boxes from some of the outback stations; and even then men had to ride or walk 100 miles or more to record their votes. We need not split straws about the distance, but may be prepared to accept any reasonable amendment. Coming to the Bill with which we are dealing, I hold in my hand a copy of a measure introduced in another place before this Bill was brought in. It contains thirty-four clauses. It is a comprehensive measure dealing with the whole question in a way we can understand. Had that been sent up to the Senate, we should have had something clear to act upon. But, to use Senator McColl’s term, the Government “funked” it. They did not dare to persist with their provision that every elector should sign his name on the butt of the ballotpaper.
– The Government tried for forty days to get it through.
– That is so much platform piffle. If they tried forty days to get it through, howlong would it have taken them to “ gag” it through?
– They could have put their Bill through in forty minutes.
– How long did it take them to get this Bill through ?
– There were only six speeches upon it.
– Forty-one of the honorable senator’s party spoke on the other Bill.
– After that measure had been for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness it was dropped, and this Bill was dragooned through in less than forty minutes. No arguments were permitted to be brought forward in the debate. No information was elicited from the Government. No member of the Opposition was allowed to say anything on the subject. The Bill was bludgeoned through without regard to the rights of members, or the interests of the electors. Under” the Bill which was dropped, an elector would have had to vote on a numbered ballot-paper, so that any one could know how he voted if an inquiry were held.
– How could any one know 1
– If a man went into the polling booth, and had to sign a numbered ballot-paper, why could not any one who saw that paper know how he voted. Any elector in the Commonwealth could have been traced if it was considered advisable to trace him. The secrecy of the ballot was sacrificed altogether.
– The honorable senator is now talking piffle, I am afraid.
– I am telling the honorable senator precisely what was in the Bill. He, as a member of the Government, ought to have known that. If he does not know, lie evidently did not read the measure.
– The statement that any one could know how an elector voted is not correct.
– I say that it was possible under that measure for any elector in Australia to be traced.
– The same provision exists in Victoria to-day, and I believe also in Queensland.
– In common with Senator O’Keefe, I take exception to the extraordinary method by which this Bill has been presented to the Senate. That honorable senator expresses sympathy with new members of the Senate who were not here when previous electoral measures were dealt with.
That sympathy is much appreciated. I have spent a considerable amount of time in endeavouring to ferret out the connexion between a few lines in this Bill and the various Acts to which reference is made. But I must confess that I got hopelessly confused. I had to give up the task for a time, and return to it afterwards. I do not quite know whether I understand it correctly yet. In all my parliamentary experience, I have never seen a Bill introduced containing so little information for those who were to deal with it, or one which provided more confusion for those who tried to understand it. I have before me the latest print of the 1902-11 Acts. I find that the Bill we are considering provides amongst other things that -
Sections three, /our, fourteen, twenty-three, thirty-five, and thirty-eight of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911 are repealed.
In the first place, there is no section 4 in the Electoral Act of 1911. The sections are numbered in order 3 and 5, and section 4 has been left out presumably because it has been repealed by some other Act. Any honorable senator who wishes to follow the amendment of the electoral law intended to be brought about by this Bill must discover what has become of section 4 of the 1911 Act, and will probably find it in some other Act. Section 3, which is to be repealed, contains a tremendous quantity of useless verbiage which Parliament wisely cut out to save the intellects of returning officers and others having to administer the law. Section 14 referred to appears to have been substituted for section 4 of the Act of 1909, and has nothing at. all to do wl th the postal vote. Section 23 of the Act of 1911 is also to be repealed, and it appears to have been amended by another Act. It applies to the redistribution of seats, and so far as I have been able to find out has nothing to do with postal voting. I need not go through the whole of the sections referred to in this Bill, which is presented in a form which is most confusing and unsatisfactory. I do not wish to take up much of the time of the Senate iti dealing with the measure. In common with other honorable senators who are members of the Labour party, I have at all times been prepared to afford all possible facilities to the sick, the invalid, and the infirm to record their votes. But I have at the same time always been most anxious to see that no opportunities are afforded to unscrupulous persons to manipulate the votes of the sick, invalid, and infirm. I shall support the amendment which has been suggested by Senator Pearce, but I hope that it will be placed in print before honorable senators tomorrow. It is possible that some amendments might be moved upon it with advantage. There are some provisions of the South Australian law which I should like to see incorporated in a Federal Act. If, upon examination of the suggested amendment, I find it advisable to propose some alteration in that direction, I shall be prepared to do so. Honorable senators opposite profess a great anxiety to afford facilities to the sick and infirm to record their votes, but I should like to show how inconsistent they are in this matter. The late Representative Roberts, during the whole of his parliamentary career, took a very great interest in every one of the public institutions in South Australia, such as hospitals, gaols, asylums, destitute institutions, and so on. He was one of the first at all times to endeavour to secure every facility for the inmates of such institutions. At the last Federal elections a great cry was raised about the cruelty of the Labour Administration in denying to the sick and infirm the right to vote. The late Representative Roberts, possibly with the assistance of others, waited upon the Chief Secretary of the Fusion Government in South Australia, and asked him to permit a polling booth to be set up in every hospital in the State. One would think that the members of the Fusion Government in South Australia, who are of the same party as honorable senators opposite, would gladly provide polling booths in the different hospitals to give effect to their professed desire to provide facilities for voting to the sick and infirm. The Adelaide Hospital is under the control of the State Chief Secretary,” but the Government refused the request to have a polling booth established in that hospital.
– Although the Hospital Board recommended it.
– I thank my honorable friend for the reminder. Fortunately, several members of the Board are members of the Labour party, and they recommended that a polling booth should be provided in the Adelaide General Hospital. The Fusion Chief
Secretary of South Australia, the Honorable Mr. Bice, refused the request. I ask my honorable friends opposite whether that is evidence of an anxiety to provide voting facilities for the sick and infirm. .Have they any reply to make to that? Can they mention a single case in which the Labour party refused to provide such facilities for the sick and infirm ?
– What did they do for the thousands of sick outside the hospitals ?
– That is not a reply to my question. What reply does the honorable senator make, to his political friends in South Australia, who, with all the pretence and humbug of the Fusion party, refused facilities for the sick and infirm in the Adelaide Hospital to record their votes? There is an hospital at North Adelaide, which is a very excellent institution run by private individuals. The same application was made for the establishment of a polling booth at that hospital, and the authorities of that private enterprise hospital made the provision which the Fusion Government refused to make in a Government institution in the centre of the city.
– Why was the discrimination made?
– Because the Government of South Australia thought that the inmates of a democratic Government institution might possibly vote for such a democratic candidate as the late Representative Roberts, and they did not desire that we should secure any more votes than they could help. That is the inference I draw from the action of the Government of South Australia. No deaths occurred amongst the inmates of the private hospital at North Adelaide as a result of the tremendous excitement following upon the introduction of politics into the hospital, but the South Australian Chief Secretary thought that it would be a terrible thing to bring political tur-moil and strife into an institution where sick folks were being looked after. I have in my hand a copy of the last issue of the Commonwealth Government Gazette, and I wish honorable senators to pay particular attention to this notice coming from a Government who are pleading for facilities to enable the sick and infirm to vote, and condemning the Labour party for their cruelty in denying them such facilities. Here is the notice -
Department of Home Affairs,
Melbourne, 4th December, 1913.
Polling Booth under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-11 Abolished.
It is hereby notified that the polling place at North Adelaide Private Hospital (prescribed for the Subdivision of North Adelaide), Division of Adelaide, State of South Australia, is abolished as from the date of the publication of this notice in the Gazette.
– They cannot vote anywhere; they will be deprived of their votes.
– By this Liberal Government !
– Yes, by this Liberal Government. That is a notice signed by the great high priest of-
– Freedom !
– The honorable senator says “ freedom,’’ but I was more disposed to say “humbug.”
– - Does the honorable senator believe that a polling booth should be established in that private hospital ?
– I do believe it; but that is not the question.
– The honorable senator said just now that it was established there to secure special votes.
– I do not know how many patients there may be in that hospital, but I suppose the number would be from 100 to 200. . It is a very popular institution. I believe that there should be a polling booth established in every hospital, asylum, and every other institution, where free men and women, whether they are infirm or sick, are provided for, in every city and in every part of the Commonwealth. They should be given such an opportunity to record their votes in the interests of the political party in which they believe. It is a shame and a scandal that a Government, who pretend to be anxious that the sick and infirm should be permitted to record their votes, should publish such a notice as that which I have read. Notwithstanding all the hifalutin statements which have been made from the public platform, and all that has been said by Mr. Cook and other members of the Government about what the Labour party have done to prevent the sick and infirm recording their votes, this is the course that is followed when the Government get the opportunity. Here is absolute proof, under the authority of the Prime Minister, who says, “ I am not going to allow you sick voters in the hospitals to vote unless you crawl outside the best way you can. If you cannot do that, you can go without your votes.”
– Why pick out that one hospital?
– Because this is, I believe, the only hospital in South Australia where a polling booth was permitted.
– And it is in the Adelaide district.
– In Western Australia, there are hospitals where they have polling booths.
– That is what he complained about.
– I did nothing of the kind. That is one of those tricky remarks on which the honorable senator is. so keen. I tell the Senate that he is saying that which is absolutely contrary to fact.
– You said that it was allowed there because the vote would be in favour of the Fusion party.
– That is absolutely contrary to fact. I said that I believe in polling booths being there. What is the use of the Minister trying totwist a remark within a minute of its utterance ? What would he do on a platform where no one was present to contradict him ? I want to pin him down to this fact, that I believe in polling booths being in public hospitals and public institutions of every kind. It is quite immaterial to me, I said, for whom the inmates vote, so long as they have the right and the privilege to exercise the franchise. That is what I am concerned with, and nothing else. I would give to the inmates of these institutions the same privilege as I would give to persons outside of them. There ought to be no more intimidation exercised in regard to the former than should be exercised in regard to the latter. I want, again, to emphasize the point that has been made so frequently by our opponents, that we are opposed to permitting the sick and infirm to vote. They have only gone on supposititious cases ; their imagination supplies all the proof that they have furnished. I have provided proof this afternoon that the Prime Minister is the first man in the Commonwealth to-day who has taken steps to prevent the sick and infirm from recording their votes.
.- Before discussing the Bill, I wish to congratulate Senator Newland on the very fine speech he made, and which surely calls for some attention on the part of the Minister, inasmuch as many of the facts and arguments he adduced ‘ are, to my mind, unanswerable, and clearly show that the attitude taken by the Australian Labour party towards the postal vote can be justified, not only in the legislative halls, but anywhere, and at any time, by any Labour speaker who takes the trouble to understand his subject.
My honorable friend has shown how the party that prate so much of freedom and liberty have dealt with some sick and infirm people in South. Australia. There occurs to my mind an instance on a par with that quoted by Senator Newland, and that is the action taken in Tasmania by the Liberal Administration in the past, as well as to-day, of absolutely refusing to give a vote to an inmate in a benevolent institution. The Liberal party in that State have always refused to allow a pauper in an asylum or institution that is kept by the State the right to exercise the franchise.
– What about the old pioneers in Tasmania?
– My honorable friend reminds me of the case of the old pioneers, some of whom are now, unfortunately, in these institutions. Men who bore the heat and burden of the day in the early days of Tasmania, who helped to carve out of the forests the homes that other people are enjoying to-day, are refused by a Liberal Government the right to vote.
– They have always been denied it.
– Yes. The honorable gentlemen who are always prating about the people who are deprived of the franchise by the abolition of the postal voting system, absolutely refuse to do anything to remove that limitation.
When the last Electoral Bill was before the Senate, I remarked that, by supporting the abolition of the postal vote, I was taking a course by which one of my parents would be disfranchised. I remarked that, in spite of that fact, I still considered it my duty, in the circumstances, to vote in that way. I was referring to my mother, who has not been able to vote since the postal voting system was abolished; and, unless a proposal is brought forward which will distinctly safeguard the system, I shall not be found supporting its restoration. If, however, I was satisfied that .some system could be adopted by which my aged mother and other electors similarly placed would be able to vote in full security, and in a manner that would not lend itself to any corruption or any manipulation on the part of a political party, I would be very pleased to support such an amendment.
Although I do not claim to have had as: long experience as any honorable senators have had, still, I have had a little experience of the operation of postal voting in Tasmania, particularly as I lived in a district in which it was used very largely. This morning Senator Pearce quoted statistics in his excellent speech showing that the percentage of votes cast by post was the lowest in Tasmania.- I was very pleased to hear that statement, but, still, I lived in a portion of the State where the system was very largely used by paid pimps of the Liberal party, and used in a way that was common knowledge to all who resided in the district. I am referring to the midlands of Tasmania. The most common form of manipulation was that adopted by the large land-holders, who systematically and thoroughly scoured the back-blocks, where the boundary-riders, the shepherds, and the rabbiters existed, and practically forced or brought undue pressure to bear upon the men in their employ to use the postal vote. There have been brought under my notice many instances in which the wives of shepherds, boundary-riders, and other persons living in remote parts had been directly approached by the employer, and practically asked to vote by post. Two trips were made, each accompanied by a justice of the peace, and the employes were bluffed and intimidated into making use of the postal voting provisions when, had they been allowed, dozens of them could have gone down and exercised the franchise in the ordinary Way. Of course, “Mr. Master” always took fine care that the vote would he given in a certain direction. In other words, the vote was unmistakably influenced in a sinister manner.
I am well aware that when one is citing instances he is accused of being actuated by party bias. I propose to give only one of the most convincing illustrations of how the Liberals got to work, even in Tasmania, where, as Senator Pearce has pointed out, the proportion of voters by post was the lowest in the Commonwealth. I propose to read from a newspaper an extract in which the writer, in an unguarded moment, practically gave the whole show away, and put into print the methods adopted by the Liberal party at the first referenda. The North-western Advocate and Emu Bay Times - the leading Liberal newspaper of the north-west coast of Tasmania - published, on the 24th April, 1911, an article headed “Referendum Notes.” The subheading of the amazing admission I am about to quote is “ Patriotic Workers.” Let us see who these patriotic workers, according to this Fusion newspaper, were, what they were doing to merit commendation, where they were going, and the little methods they were using to obtain a, nice pat on the back from one of the reporters on the journal. The paragraph reads as follows: -
If Liberalism does not gain success, on Wednesday it will earn it. Everywhere throughout Tasmania Liberals are organizing to secure the defeat of the referenda as never was the case before. Not only will thousands of vehicles be employed, in the Liberal interests on Wednesday, but Liberal workers have been for days past devoting their attention to securing postal votes.
It will be noticed that they had thousands of vehicles, so that things were looking pretty good there, and they were going to spend some money -
Not the least energetic of workers in the Emu Hay district is Cr. J. Bramich. Mr. Bramich has undertaken to organize the postal votes in Oonah and Hampshire, and probably some thirty votes against the referenda will be in this way recorded that would not have been cast at all. Mr. Bramich, as a justice of the peace, is an authorized witness, and therefore his undertaking the work of canvassing and collecting ballotpapers is peculiarly effective. Four hard ‘days’ work are being put in by this enthusiastic Liberal, two days in securing applications for the postal votes and two more days in getting the papers marked and collecting (hem. Oonah and Hampshire districts are more than five miles from a polling place, therefore residents are entitled to vote by post. It is found that the average settler is in strong opposition to the Labour party and their pet referenda schemes. So are many farm labourers and those who are not so easily convened. Mr. Bramich has n.ade a number of such converts. -The Ss. per day argument is the most effective for the settler and farmer. “ Did you want to pay Ss. per day, wet and dry “ ? is the query. The answer of the settler and the farmer is not hard to guess. Of course, they cannot afford it.
But how does the argument affect the farm labourer? It is explained in his case that what affects his employer affects him.
– Does the writer imply that Mr. Bramich made many converts while he was acting as a postal returning officer ?
– Decidedly. The writer distinctly states that a justice of the peace, acting as a canvasser for the Liberal party, went round the country for the purpose of securing postal votes. Nothing could be clearer. The statement proceeds -
That the payment of a higher wage will mean a higher price for necessaries, with a lessened chance of employment. If farmers cannot alford to employ men to-day, what will happen when the wage is Ss. per day, “ wet or fine,” for any and every sort of farm labour, and without any variation? That is, 8s. for the best men, 8s. for the worst. The argument tells. Throughout the district named there will be practically a unanimous “No” to the referenda proposals.
There we have, with unblushing effrontery, a statement made in a Fusion newspaper, by a Fusion reporter, that a Fusion justice of the peace degraded his position by going round the country avowedly for the purpose of securing for the Liberal party votes in opposition to the referenda proposals. As he was a justice of the peace, he had no right to act in the capacity of a canvasser, and to use his influence as an authorized witness for a dual purpose. The statement I have quoted is typical of many other instances which could be cited all over Tasmania. How can we be expected to maintain the purity of the ballot if ‘ we allow ballot-papers to get right out of the touch of the Returning Officers themselves ? We have heard a good deal about roll stuffing, but the allegations have been merely fireworks-
– Made by some alligator.
– Even an alligator could not swallow some of the statements that have been made. Whenever they have been inquired into, it has been found that where there are Returning Officers in polling booths it is practically impossible for grossly irregular practices to obtain. But if we once permit of indiscriminate postal voting, we shall set up a position in which fraud of the worst kind can creep in. As a representative of Tasmania, I am not going to swerve from my former attitude upon the question of postal voting. But if a scheme can be presented by which we can safeguard that system from corruption, I shall be prepared to consider it. Until then, I shall oppose the Bill. I hope that honorable senators opposite, when they make statements, will do what preceding speakers upon this measure have done today, namely, produce facts in support of them. I hope that they will not follow the example of Senator McColl, who has repeatedly made statements outside this Chamber for which he could show no justification and no proof.
– What right has the honorable senator to say that?
– The right given me by my own common sense.
– Tell me when I made a statement of which I did not give proof ?
– The honorable senator made statements in reference to dual voting and’ roll stuffing, also allegations in respect of dead men having voted, which have since been proved in this Senate to be absolutely without foundation.
I am pleased that honorable senators who have already spoken upon this Bill have made statements which they supported with proof - not statements such as would go down readily enough at meetings of the Women’s National League, but not elsewhere. Thus the public who follow our debates - and I am glad to know that a wide section of the educated public is reading Hansard, with a view to finding out from the official records of this Parliament what honorable senators upon both sides of the Chamber have said - will be able to pronounce an impartial judgment. They will have sufficient evidence before them to show which party has been justified in its statements.
– The honorable senator has only made bald statements. He has given us proof of nothing.
– I rise to discuss this measure, which is designated “ A Bill for an Act to restore the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1909 with respect to voting by post.” It contains two clauses. When the gentlemen who to-day occupy the Treasury benches were candidates at the last election, they made a great deal of noise about our existing electoral system. They were very loud in their denunciation of our Electoral Act as it exists to-day. They particularly singled out two provisions of that Act, namely, that relating to the postal vote and that which compels every writer of an article or letter in a newspaper, from the time of the issue of the writ until the date of its return, to sign his or her name to it. They loudly declared that if they succeeded in displacing the Fisher Government they would repeal these obnoxious provisions. It may be well to review what they have done in the direction of keeping their promises. In another place they introduced an amending Electoral Bill of a very comprehensive nature, I admit. It provided for the restoration of the postal vote, as this apology for a Bill purports to do. It also provided for the removal of that section which compels the writer of any newspaper article or report to sign his or her name to it, and it further provided for the abolition of the secrecy of the ballot by compelling every elector who applied for a ballot-paper to sign his or her name to the butt. “What happened? I admit that the measure was debated at some length. That was only natural, because, if there was any provision in that comprehensive amending Electoral Bill which demanded the condemnation of every lover of Democracy, it was that which provided that every elector should sign the butt of his or her ballot-paper. It contained other obnoxious proposals, but that was the one around which the fight raged. There is not the slightest doubt about that. It was a challenge to the Democracy of Australia. All credit is due to those gentlemen who stood up and demanded that that particularly obnoxious clause should be removed from the measure before it was placed on the statute-book. The same Bill provided that the press should be catered for - in other words, that what is now well known as the “ press gag “ should be removed from our Electoral Act. The proposal was hailed with delight by the supporters of the Fusion Ministry and by the press of Australia. I did wonder why it was ever included in the Bill, but I know now. It was included because pressure was brought to bear on the present Fusion Ministry by their masters, the capitalistic press of Australia. Ministers were deputationized, and, practically, there was a demand from the press that this particular provision should be removed. I can stand in this chamber, as I have stood on many platforms throughout Western Australia, and justify that provision in our Electoral Act which compels every man or woman who writes an article to the press to sign his or her name to it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Keefe). - I hope the honorable senator will not debate that matter at length, although he will be justified in making an incidental reference to it.
– In discussing an amendment of the Electoral Act I thought I would be in order in debating the provisions of the principal Act.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The difficulty is that the Bill is not intituled a Bill for an amendment of the Electoral Act.
– I would point out that clause 2 refers to the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1911, and specifically mentions certain sections of that Act. Consequently, I, thought that I would be in order in referring to the principal Act.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I would point out to the honorable senator that the sections which it is proposed to repeal do not touch the question of signed newspaper articles.
– I am surprised at the fact that this Government should drop a comprehensive amending Bill “ all of a hurry.”
-“ All of a hurry “ - after forty days.
– If I had been a member of a Government whose members made the statements on the hustings that were made by the members of this Ministry, I would have insisted on sticking to the Bill, even if it took forty weeks to pass it. We are now asked to determine whether we will eliminate that portion of the present Electoral Act which abolished postal voting. This is the Bill upon which a double dissolution is sought. It is a most remarkable circumstance that, when that comprehensive Bill was dropped in the other branch of the Legislature, a supporter of the Government moved for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the electoral administration of the last Government. At the very same time, a Committee of the Senate was sitting inquiring into the whole question. Hero was an easy way of getting out of the difficulty. The Government, through Mr. Cook, made a promise that the Royal Commission asked for should be appointed when this apology for a measure was sent up here. If Mr. Cook had any respect for his own word, as a man, he would have appointed that Royal Commission forthwith, and would not have sent this tin-pot piece of legislation up to us.
– As he himself would say, “It is a piece of tripe.”
– It is not so easily digestible as tripe. The very next morning after Mr. Cook made his announcement that a Royal Commission would be appointed, out came the Argus with a leading article expressing wonderment as to why the Government was deserting its position, and contending that at least the question of the restoration of the postal vote should be determined. The masters of the Fusion Government stepped in and compelled them, in spite of themselves, to introduce this apology for a Bill.
– Much as the Trades Hall steps in.
– The Trades Hall does not step in as far as we are concerned. What happens with our party is that the trade organizations send delegates to the triennial conferences of the Labour party, at which our platform is determined. ‘
– In Victoria, the Trades Hall is the industrial part of our organization. We have political and industrial organizations.
– Anyhow, the Trades Hall does not intervene so far as we are concerned. We are elected on a platform, which is determined by a triennial conference of representatives of our organizations. As to the postal vote itself, I have doubts as to whether a perfect system could be evolved whereby the, sick and the infirm may be enabled to> register their votes on. polling day without danger of fraud being practised. There is no member of our party, who- desires to deprive- the sick and: the infirm of their votes. I. am not. so sure about< the party opposite. Senator. Newland, has quoted a case which occurred only five days- ago, in which, opportunities for the, sick and the infirm in. a. certain hospital to. exercise, the- vote are no longer to be given.
– And that in a. division, where an election is pending..
– The. suggestion was that the votes in that electorate would go in favour of a particular candidate.
– I listened carefully to Senator Newland’s speech, and did not construe any portion of his remarks as a suggestion of partisanship one way or the other.
– Neither did I.
– He was endeavouring to point out that, in a constituency where an election was pending, the sick and the infirm will not have- an opportunity of recording their votes unless they crawl out, or are taken out on polling day. They are to be deprived of that opportunity under- a proclamation signed by Mr. Joseph Cook. If Mr: Cook be so anxious that the sick and the infirm should exercise the franchise, why is he depriving the inmates of a particular hospital of the opportunity of voting where an election takes place on the 10th of next month ? In face of that instance, this Government can no longer lay claim to a desire to allow the- sick and the infirm to exercise the right of citizenship. I have had some experience- in connexion with the postal vote. I remember an election’ a few years ago, when I was not a candidate; but simply an interested onlooker. A duly authorized officer in a trap patrolled the hospitals and other places where people might be sick, and I saw> him distributing postal ballot-papers, as freely as one might distribute- dodgers announcing a public meeting. He continued to do so until I drew the attention of the police to what he was doing, and the ballot-papers in his possession were taken from him. Does any one suggest a way in which we can safeguard the secrecy of the ballot, and maintain the purity of our electoral law, while permitting postal voting ? Amendments have been, foreshadowed which may be worthy of consideration. L certainly am- prepared to assist in passing any amendment which will enable the sick and the aged and the infirm to vote,, provided, the secrecy and. purity of the ballot be maintained But I am. beginning to, think that this measure, has. not. been, sent up, to us with the cordial consent of the whole Government.. Short as. it is, the. Bill’ was “ bludgeoned “ through another place. The representatives of the people, with a few exceptions, were denied the opportunity of speaking upon it. In the action of “ bludgeoning “ it through I can hear the voice of Mr. Cook, but I can see the hand of Mr. Irvine. The Attorney-General is the man who is responsible for forcing- this- apology foi a Bill up to the Senate. It might have been a wise thing, before the Government sent the Bill up to us, for them’ to arrangewith their friends’ in the various States to make a determined effort to allow every man and woman to vote for the Legislative Councils, irrespective of the possession of property; and also to have allowed the aged residents of some of our benevolent asylums, who, because they are in receipt of what is termed State relief, and have the brand of pauperism placed on- their brows’, to vote on- election day. I could accept as- sincere the attempt of the Government to restore indiscriminate postal voting if their organizations throughout Australia would assist in doing what I have suggested. Under our. electoral, law no inquiries- are made: as to whether- a man or woman is in receipt of State relief or not.. All that is inquired about is whether the person demanding a vote is a citizen, of Australia. If, so, he is permitted to record a vote-.. That provision is not made in the electoral laws of certain of the States, and. I should welcome the advent of a movement in those States to provide that the men and women of Australia who have blazed the track, made Australia what it is, who have- given their best to the country, and who in. some cases have shed their blood on the battlefield to uphold the Empire to which we belong, should have the right to record their votes, although they may be in receipt of State relief. I regard this Bill as a mere electioneering cry, and. nothing more. There is no. sincerity behind it. The man who ordered it. to be drafted, and whose’ name- 1 think. I have mentioned, has no sincerity in his heart on this subject. He has no wish, that the aged, sick, and infirm should have votes. What does he or anyother member of .the Ministry .care about them?
– Only so long as they can use them.
– ^Senator Buzacott’s interjection discloses the reason for this Bill. The Government .have suddenly become solicitous for the sick, aged, and infirm. Why did they not make this movement general throughout the States ? Why did not .Mr. Irvine, when he had the ball at his toe in Victoria, carry legislation in the State Parliament to give the <sick, aged, and infirm votes on State election days? There was no fear that the ‘honorable gentleman would ever introduce such progressive ‘legislation. There is no probability that the present Government, whilst they occupy the Treasury bench, be the time long or short, and I think it will be short, will ever submit any piece of humane and progressive legislation, whilst the honorable gentleman to whom I have ‘referred remains a member of the Ministry. There is no probability that any such legislation will emanate from another place whilst he is the guiding spirit there. I have ‘not .much more ‘to say, as I cannot feel any enthusiasm over such a paltry measure as this. It is submitted that it may lead to a double dissolution, and an appeal to the people. Did ever any one hear of such a paltry cry? Did ever any one know of such a thing being put forward as the -battle ground for an appeal to the people on a dissolution cf the National Parliament? A comprehensive Bill to amend the electoral law was introduced by the Government in another place early in the session, but they dropped it in a hurry, as a man will drop a hot potato, and we have this weakling presented as the effort of Mr. Irvine, the coolest man in the Cabinet, urged on by the press. Now that it is before us, we are told to be very careful how we shall deal with it. We are told, “ If you do not pass this Bill as it has been sent up to you, you will at once invite a double dissolution.” I am compelled to laugh at the suggestion. I will vote for the second reading of this alleged Bill, and will endeavour with my colleagues on this side to put it into some decent shape when we get into Committee.
– In common with other members of the Senate, I hold .that the greatest facilities should be afforded to the people to record their votes for the election of the members of Parliament who are to make the laws under which they live.. We may take that as a proposition on which both sides may be agreed., There can be no question that every honest man will desire to give the fullest facilities to the electors to .record their votes in favour of the persons whom they desire to represent them in Parliament. Whilst we have an .electoral system, we seem to be somewhat at loggerheads as to how our parliamentary elections should be carried out. In one place, the people believe in the block vote. That “is not considered satisfactory in another place, and a method is adopted of striking out the names .of candidates who are lowest on the poll, and having a second ballot. In yet another place, people hold that that system does not attain perfection, and that it is better that the Hare-Spence system of election should be adopted. In the circumstances, honorable senators on this side may be excused if’ they are unable to regard the measure now before the Senate as the ultimate word to be said on the question of parliamentary “voting. I take it that this measure, as it appears before us, is born out of a desire to find a catch war cry for election times. Some persons, because they have been sick, or live at a distance from a polling place, have complained to their representatives that they were unable to record their votes for them at an election. This is brought forward as a reason why the electoral law should be altered. I remember that, on one occasion, a gentleman who was connected with the law as a solicitor, said, “ Whenever you try to make a law to meet hard cases, you make a bad law.” It seems to me that if we try to meet every hard case in a matter of this kind, we shall make a law which will leave so many opportunities for fraud and wrong-doing that we shall be immediately compelled to repeal that law. I think that the Electoral Act passed ‘ by the late Fisher Government is one of the most useful pieces of legislation on electoral ‘matters that we have seen. Everything seems to have been taken into account, and every opportunity given to men and women to record their votes without let or hindrance, with the exception that where an elector is ill, and unable to go to the poll, he is deprived of his vote, not by reason of anything^ contained in the Electoral Act, but because of a physical disability for which his physician has not found a cure. I do not consider myself uncommonly dull, but I have to confess that, on looking through this little Bill, as it has been termed, it appears to me to be a most mysterious document. It ought to be headed, “ A Bill to promote confusion in the minds of those who consider it,” and its preamble should read, “ This Bill is intended also, when it becomes law, to give facilities for the perpetration of fraud.” To justify statements of that kind, let me ask honorable senators to call to mind what appears in clause 2, which is really the “sum total of the Bill. It provides that sections 3, 4, 14, 23, 35, and 38 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1911 shall be repealed. If we turn to section 3 of the Act of 1911, we shall find that it is a definition section. It is, therefore, proposed to repeal the section which enables one to understand the other provisions of the measure in which it is included. I should like to know whether that is. the purpose for which the Government have introduced this Bill. Section 3, of 1911, defines “Candidate,” “Division,” “Elector,” “ Electoral Registrar,” “ Justices of the Peace,” “Minister,” “Officer,” “Prescribed,” “Registrar-General of Deaths,” “ Returning Officer,” “ Rolls,” and “Subdivision.” This section is to be repealed by this Bill. The next reference is to section 4, but, by an unfortunate error on the part of the printer, no section 4 appears in the Act referred to. I mention these matters in order that honorable senators may understand that if this Bill be passed as it is, we shall make of no use certain provisions of the Act of 1911, and we shall be stultifying useful electoral work which has been done before. Honorable senators who have preceded me have referred to the postal vote. I happen to know something about the way in which postal voting provisions have operated. I referred to the matter once before, but I may again call attention to the manner in which postal votes were manipulated at an election at which I was myself a candidate. I obtained figures on the subject directly from my Returning Officer. I know the names of individuals who exercised tlie privilege of voting by post, but, as I honestly believe that they were not concerned in any attempt at fraud, I shall not refer to them by name. I mention the matter for another reason also, because, in an interjection the other day, the Minister of Defence said that no specific cases were brought forward. I ask the attention of the honorable senator to what occurred at an election at Mount Gambier. There was a little post-office situated at Mil-lel, which lies about 5 miles to the north-east of Mount Gambier. On the counterfoil which was torn off before a postal vote was dropped into the ballot-box there was a number. The numbers were taken by my scrutineer, who gave me the results. I ask honorable senators to notice how consecutively the numbers appear. When I tell them of the different places where the post-office stamp wandered, it will be seen that there is clear specific evidence. It is not the result of the exercise of imagination, but it meets the interjection which was made the other day that specific cases were not given. First I have numbers 368, 369, 370, and 371, and next I have numbers 389, 393, 394, 395, 396, 409, and 413. These figures are clear enough to show that the votes were recorded consecutively. When I mention that the voters were living about 5 miles away from the post-office at which they were supposed to have recorded their votes, and they were living from 1 to 2 miles apart from each other in man)’ cases, and all in the direction of the post-office, it will be seen that there is unmistakable evidence that the postoffice stamp was taken to the people, and that they did not vote at the post-office. If we are to facilitate postal voting by means of that kind, we are absolutely making a way for fraud. I will give the names of the streets in which the persons lived. Number 413 lived in Gray-street, Mount Gambier, and so did number 409. They were next door neighbours, but they were 5 miles away from the post-office where, according to the post-office stamp that was used, they were supposed to have voted. Numbers 395 and 393 lived in the next street - Elizabeth-street, Mount Gambier. Number 394 - a sister of number 413 - lived also in Gray-street, Mount Gambier. Number 396 lived in Claraville, which is about half-a-mile from the Mount Gambier Post-office and half-a-mile further away from the Mil-lel Post-office, yet the Mil-lel Post-office stamp was used. Number 389 also lived in Claraville, and was a sister to the previous voter. Numbers 371 and 370, sisters, lived in another partentirely from Mount Gambier, but still 5 miles away from the post-office where they were supposed to have voted. Number 369 lived on the Penola-road, 4 miles from Mil-lel, and 1£ mile from Mount Gambier. Number 368 lived within 200 yards from another post-office that was 5J miles from Mil-lel and 2$ miles from Mount Gambier; and yet their own postoffice stamp was not used. There is the case of a lady living on Penola-road, not far from the residence of number 369, whom I know full well, .and who is intimately related to. one of the most prominent Liberals in Adelaide. The signature in this case was unlike her own signature. The signature that was on the application did not correspond with the signature on the voting-paper. Does not that look queer? Then I have the case of a lady living in Suttontown, where it was just the same way. There is also the case of a lady living at Worrolong, which is only about 2 miles from Mil-lei Post-office. In those three cases the signatures did not correspond. The question might naturally be asked who signed the papers. When we see distinct evidence of practice which can be characterized as nothing but fraud, does it not seem that fraud went one step further, and, shall I say, that there” was forgery ? But that does not end all. When several of the votes came to be examined by the scrutineers, the postmaster’s stamp, as witnessing the signature, was there, but the signature of the elector was not. For our opponents to say that the postal vote will remove all the difficulties when they are up against specific cases like these is to state what is not true. It will puzzle any one to understand this measure, because by relation it refers to the Electoral Act of 1911. Preceding Acts have been amended to such a degree that the Act of 1911 becomes a consolidating Act pure and simple, but the references do not correspond with the references given in this measure. For instance, paragraph a. of section 109 of the principal Act of 1902, referring to the male person, says that any person who has reason to believe that he will on polling day be 5 miles away from the polling place shall have the right to vote. The distance was increased to 7 miles by section 31 of the Act of 1905. But paragraph b of section 109 refers to the lady, and the words “believes that she” therein are omitted by the amending Act of 1905. We find that the Act of 1905 is continually amending the Act of 1902, and that is consolidated in the Act of 1911. But the references do not correspond to the provisions it is desired to repeal. It looks as if this ill-digested and illconsidered measure was undertaken . in a hurry, conceived in haste, and brought forth as an abortion. It distinctly suggests that in order to keep faith with those to whom an amending Bill was promised the Government suddenly brought forward a measure in which they present the biggest tangle that has ever been put before us. If any honorable senator, no matter on which side he may sit, will show me how the Bill can be so amended as to provide for bond fide sick persons having a vote, I will not deprive them of it. If the Government wish to set up a system under which the votes of persons who are as well as they can possibly be, can be utilized by political agents as they may desire, I am nob going to assist them. If, on the other hand, they will show me a method that will enable the invalid or the afflicted to record their votes, I am not going to deprive them of the opportunity. It is a cruel taunt which is thrown at Labour to-day, that we are the persons who have deprived the sick of the suffrage. Senator Newland has shown distinctly that that charge rests at the door of the Minister of Home Affairs. It would not have looked so glaring had a case been selected where no election was pending. Had not the case occurred in the Adelaide division, the representation of which, unfortunately, was rendered vacant by the lamentable and sudden death of Representative Roberts; had the hospital in question not been in that division, the case would not have been so striking; but, occurring as it does to-day on the eve of an election, it is a complete answer to those who on every platform are trying to make out that Labour is depriving the sick of the franchise. I hope that the next time my honorable friend, who is looking at me through his spectacles, gets on the platform and speaks as he is reported to have done on some occasions, he will, at any rate, have a semblance of truth in what he says.
– Did not the Labour Government take away the postal vote?
– Is not that a very simple question?
– Answer “yes” or “ no.”
– May I ask this question : Did the Honorable Joseph Cook take the vote away from sick persons in the Adelaide Hospital, or did he not? When a reply is given to that question I am prepared to answer the other. The Labour party in Parliament have done more to give both the sick and the well the vote than all the others have done. That is a complete answer to the question. We have not singled out the sick only, or the rich only. We have given a vote to the poorest man.
– The honorable senator’s party has robbed them all.
– My honorable friends have deprived every miner at Moonta and Wallaroo of a vote for the Legislative Council, and have made that branch of the South Australian Legislature the most effective party weapon that was ever forged. I cannot for a moment think that Senator McColl expects me to answer his question, except by referring him to the general attitude of the Labour party. If honorable senators opposite are sincere in their protestations, they will come forward with a workable proposition. But, in my judgment’, they intend this Bill to be merely a “ gag “ for the elections. I think it will be within our power to pierce their armour at every joint, and to show that their attitude has always been one of deception rather than of straight-out fighting. I shall wait to see what amendments are proposed before agreeing to support this piece of political hypocrisy, miscalled a Bill.
.- I did not intend to speak at length on this Bill, but there are some aspects of it which ought not to be permitted to pass without each honorable senator expressing his disapproval of the conduct of the Government - not so much his disapproval of the Bill as of the manner in which it has been introduced. This measure, instead of being submitted to another place, and afterwards being transmitted by message to the Senate, was first published in the daily newspapers, not as a Bill for the deliberate consideration of Parliament, but as a challenge to the Senate to vote against it, and thus precipitate a double dissolution. I wish to point out to the Leader of the Government in this Chamber the unwisdom of dealing with honorable senators in that fashion. I say unhesitatingly that the members of the Senate have always exhibited a willingness to deal fairly event with minorities. Seeing that that willingness has been met by the introduction of this Bill, the Government, if they wish tocontinue peacefully in their positions, will be well a’dvised to abstain from putting: before us any more of this threatening; legislation. The Bill is one of the insolences of the Government. Minister* and their supporters in this Chamber comprise only an insignificant remnant, of a one-time big majority. Their numbers total seven.
– When they are alB here.
– Exactly. I have not seen them all here yet. Even* a call of the Senate does not bring thewhole of them here. It is up to the Government to treat the overwhelming majority of this Senate with, at least, ordinary courtesy, and it is not fair that a Bill of this character should first bepublished in the press of the country.
– A facsimile of it was published.
– Exactly, and? that facsimile was accompanied by a threat that a double dissolution was to> be brought about by this means. After the general elections in New South Wale* on Saturday last, I venture to say weshall hear less of a double dissolution in> the future, and it would not surprise moto see Ministers attempting to get into* recess this week, so as to avoid the possibility even of a .single dissolution. There are some aspects of this measurewhich deserve to be discussed upon their merits. In 1893, Senator Millen and myself sat side by -side in a Labour Conference. At that time he iwa* representing the organized carriers, who* were agitating strongly against Afghancam el-drivers at Bourke. From thatperiod onwards, many of us, believing that the postal vote was a desirablemeans of allowing electors who would not. otherwise be able to exercise the franchise, to record their votes, industriously set to work to induce Parliament to grant, us that concession. It did so. But what, was our experience ? We found that this anti-Labour party, which gets its funds - as we have seen from the sworn evidencegiven recently .in certain Courts - from powerful .organizations, .has used the postal vote in the most corrupt manner. We find that employers have asked their employes to apply for postal vote ballotpapers. At the same time, every obstacle has been placed in the way of bond fide electors who required to vote by post getting such ballot-papers. The latter are compelled to get some magistrate or Public Service official to sign their applications. But in the case of the power - holding class, all electors who wish to vote by post are responsible individuals. I say that the practice has been for an employer to invite his employes to apply for postal voting ballot-papers, to sign their applications, for them, and, when the papers came to hand, to ask them to vote as he wished them to vote. I know of cases in which 150 individuals were threatened with loss of employment if they did not do as they were told, and in which men who had rendered years of good service to their employer were discharged simply because they dared to stand loyal to the Labour movement, and refused to vote at the dictation of the squatter. This Bill has been introduced in the hope that, by the manipulation of a few votes, the so-called Liberal party may still be able to cling to office, and to bolster up their fast-falling majorities from one end of the country to the other.
– Their chances do not appear to be too rosy in New South Wales.
– I am pleased to say that the happenings of last week may induce the Government to close the doors of this Parliament during the present week. Already they have “cold feet.” When the system of voting by post was embodied in our Electoral Act for the use of honest men and women, it was availed of by a corrupt parliamentary party, whose members call themselves Liberals, and who, according to their own showing, during the recent elections, handled thousands of pounds contributed by powerful organizations, and used that money corruptly to obtain postal votes under conditions which enabled them to witness how those votes were cast.
– That was not anticipated when the postal voting system was adopted.
– Certainly not. It was never anticipated that a dishonest section of the community would strive to drive a coach and four through an Act of Parliament. One man, who is a store keeper, was on several occasions fined varying amounts;, which, with costs, totalled £25, for having endeavoured to induce people falsely to sign applications for postal voting ballot-papers.
– Senator Millen said that he wanted one case - only one case.
– If he will stand to that statement, I will certainly furnish him with that case after the adjournment for dinner. I will supply him not only with the name of an individual, but with the names of a number of individuals’ who were fined for the same offence. These cases show the influence exerted by a corrupt parliamentary party which used its funds to secure the return of so-called Liberal representatives. I do not like using the term “ Liberal “ - I prefer to say “anti-Labour” - representatives. If the Government are sincere in their desire for a double dissolution, why did they not come down with some measure of importance on which to precipitate a crisis ? If they want a double dissolution, Ave are quite prepared to grant it to them upon any question that aims at interfering with any of our social or financial legislation. We all know that there is not a single member of the Ministry who is in favour of the present land tax. I have heard’ Senator Millen point out in this chamber how the operation of that tax was driving capital out of the country.
– He called it robbery.
– Instead of introducing this measure, why did not the Government introduce a Bill to bring oldage pensioners under the Insurance Act, as the Attorney- General promised the electors he would do? Why have not the Ministry brought forward a Bill to abolish the maternity allowance?
– Senator McColl says that that is a “ dirty- political bribe.”
– I am not going to make use of any statement by Senator McColl. He spoke very hastily upon that matter, and soon discovered his error. But if the Government are looking for a double dissolution, why had they not the courage of their convictions, and why did they not bring forward some measure of importance? I am prepared to grant them a double dissolution upon this Bill, if necessary. If it. had not been for the dislocation of the Public Service, I would have granted them a double dissolution on their financial proposals long ago. If they will ask for three months’ Supply, we will soon show them who is looking for a double dissolution.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m..
– I was endeavouring, when the sitting was suspended, to show that the experienceof the manipulation of the postal vote by the party responsible for placing this Government in office had led to innumerable cases before the Police Courts. One case has been referred to particularly. I understand that Senator Millen has challenged the production of actual facts; and, although this instance has been referred to by more than one speaker, I shall place it on record again for his satisfaction. Senator Millen always speaks as if he were unaware of the corrupt practices of his party. This evidence should suffice to convince him. No one should be more careful than he of the use of rash language. Some time ago he made the statement that there were about 5,000 cases of double voting at the last election. Boiled down, what did that amount to in any case? It meant that in the whole of the constituencies of the Commonwealth, with over 7,000 polling places, there had been only 5,000 cases, not really of double voting, but of the wrong marking of names on the check rolls. According to the highest electoral authority, the percentage of people who were wrongly marked on the check rolls was much below the average. Yet Senator Millen instanced the erroneous marking of the rolls as evidence of corrupt practice on the part of the electors.
– This was the first time on record when there was no election petition against a successful candidate in the Commonwealth.
– Yes; and not only that, but there was no proof of corrupt practice such as was alleged. Nevertheless, people holding responsible positions have not hesitated to make statements which are totally without foundation. As far as the postal vote is concerned, however, we have it on record that an offender appealed for leniency on the ground that there were thousands of such cases in this State alone. Yet Senator Millen professes to be unaware that the postal voting system was corruptly usedin the past. I shall take care, at any rate, that he knows of this case that was brought before a magistrate, and in which fairly severe penalties were inflicted. The facts are these -
Louis Lesser, a J.P., and a wealthy storekeeper at Coleraine, was recently fined at Hamilton for offences against the Electoral Act. He was tried in the police court, before Mr. Williams, P.M., charged on several informations with having committed breaches of the Federal Electoral Act in regard to postal ballotpapers in his capacity as an authorized witness. The first case taken was that in regard to Selina Campbell, a married woman, of Coleraine, whose name appeared as an elector on the roll. In relation to this, three charges were preferred against the defendant, namely : -
That on April 22 last he witnessed her signature on an application for a postal certificate without being personally asquainted with the facts stated, and not having ascertained by inquiry that the statements made by her were true ; (2) that he had induced her to make a false statement, to the effect that she was ill, and would be unable to attend the booth on polling day ; and (3) that he attempted to influence her vote. After hearing evidence the bench imposed the following penalties : Campbell’s case, first charge.£5, with £5 5s. costs; Bird’s case, £a, with£5 5s. costs; James’ case, £2, without costs.
There is a case in which the evidence went to show that this wealthy property owner actually went round from house to house trying to compel people who were leasing houses from him to vote in accordance with his wishes. It is not the only instance on record, but it stands as clear proof of the truth of what I am alleging concerning the corrupt use of the postal vote. Does Senator Millen want any more proof that his party corruptly used this means in the past? Perhaps the revelations which have occurred might prevent them from carrying their corrupt practices to the length that they did before. But, nevertheless, I have no doubt that they think that they may be able to improve their hold upon office by the use of the postal vote at the next election. It matters not whether they do or do not. The record of the use they made of it in the past cannot be wiped out. I venture to say that the common experience of members of Parliament regarding the postal voting system was that it was an attempt to break down the secrecy of the ballot. As Australians, we are justly proud of the ballot, because of the fact that our people introduced it to the world as an effective method of protecting the voter against the influences of people who might have power over him in one way or another. I say that any one who attempts to undermine the secrecy of the ballot, and its sacredness, does not deserve well at the hands of the electors of the Commonwealth. Senator Millen may easily retort that I was one of those who advocated the postal vote when it was first proposed. I candidly admit that I did. t admit that a measure of this kind would, in the hands of honest people, be an additional means of enabling those who could not attend a polling place to record their votes. But, in the hands of a corrupt party such as that which sent this Government into power, it has been shown to be a means of bringing pressure to bear on people who owe money, or who are, in some way or other, dependent upon others, and of compelling them to exercise the franchise, not in accordance with their views, but with the wishes of those who have power over them. Moreover, this Bill has been introduced in the most objectionable form. It has been introduced as a threat to the Senate. I do not know how long I may be a member of this Chamber, but as long as I am here no threat that may be used by the party now in office will ever prevent me from voting in the direction in which I conscientiously believe I ought. If the Government wish to introduce a measure upon which the Senate could be driven to the country, they might have selected a better ground. They have posed before the community as the friends of the farming classes. Why have they not “ gagged “ through the other House, as they “ gagger “ this measure through-
– The honorable senator is not entitled to refer to the proceedings of the other House in that way.
– I thank you, Mr. President. I quite recognise that an offensive reference of that kind to the manner in which this Bill was put through the other House is not within the limits of debate. I do not desire to transgress your ruling. I accept it. I admit that I must not say that this Bill was driven through the other House by the use of the “ gag.” In other words, I am not allowed to refer to the fact that the Ministerial party, with its majority of one, used the forms of Parliament to prevent free and fair discussion upon this Bill in another place. Whether that remark be out of order or not, I do not know, nor is it very important. The fact remains that here is a measure to restore postal voting, . which comes to us without having been discussed anywhere, except in the public press. I understand that I am at liberty to refer to that, and also to the discussions on the subject from the public platform. Whether we. accept or reject this measure, the intention of the Government is to give their party an opportunity of using the corrupt devices which they employed two or three years ago. But they will fail in that object. The reason for that is that we have in this country an honest public. It may occur sometimes that a dishonest party may secure a majority, but once you let the broad light of public opinion into the dark ways of those who resort to corrupt processes, so soon will an end be put to the corrupt system. Our intention is to throw light upon the fact that, of all the boasted reforms which Ministers and their supporters promised the country at the recent elections, the only results so far have been this Bill, and the alteration of the postage stamp, on which they have obliterated the symbol of a White Australia. Of course, they imagine that the kangaroo is sick. But Australia was never more healthy than she is to-day, and that emblem of nationality, the kangaroo, will go bounding along long after these sycophants of loyalty are forgotten.
– They will now have an opportunity of licking Royalty.
– I understand, as far as the postage stamp is concerned
– The postage stamp is entirely foreign to this Bill.
– I shall not attempt to discuss it. I was only referring incidentally to the fact that, of all the boasted reforms of the party opposite, the principal thing they have done is to wipe out the emblem of a White Australia from the postage stamp, although they cannot wipe out the principle. This Bill also embodies one of the great reforms which the Ministerial party went to the country pledged to bring about. I venture to say, however, that, after the happenings in New South Wales this week, we are very close to the end of the session, and that Ministers will not be so anxious to take any risks as they professed to be a few days ago. They will not be so anxious to go’ before the electors and face the fact that they have done so little in the interests of the public.
– This measure will, of course, reduce the cost of living.
– I suppose it will, and add a little to the incomes of those people who make money by corrupt practices, as shown in the cases which have come before the Police Courts. It will give the professional canvassers opportunities of spreading their lies, and of giving circulation to the political professions of the Ministerial party. This Bill may add a few shillings to the incomes of those people, but it certainly will not reduce the cost of living to the great bulk of the Australian public. Members of this Government charged our party with being directly responsible for the increase. I do not blame them for not knowing that the cost of living had increased all over the world.
– Order ! The honorable senator must know that the Bill before the Senate has nothing to do with the cost of living, but is intended to afford additional facilities for voting.
– While I apologize if I transgress the rules, let me say that I thought .that I was making it quite clear that this Bill does not reduce the cost of living.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order. He must know that the cost of living does not come within the purview of the Bill before the Senate-
– I thank you, sir, for your ruling, and I shall not transgress it, but I hope you will listen to my explanation. I am surely entitled to make an explanation. I was pointing out that as the Bill does not reduce the cost of living, and as the Government pledged themselves to the electors to reduce the cost of living-
– Order ! The honorable senator, under cover of an explanation, is evading my ruling. I ask him not to pursue that line of argument.
– I regret very much, sir, that you did not hear me to the end of my sentence. If you had done so I think I should have been able to show that I was perfectly in order. If I am not to be permitted here to finish a sentence, which I believe to be perfectly in order, I shall have to finish it outside. I did not intend to transgress your ruling, but I wished to put before the Senate the fact that the Government have asked the Senate to occupy its time in passing [this measure when it was pledged to in troduce measures to reduce the cost off living. I do not think that that statement can be said to be out of order.
– I did not rule such> a statement out of order, but I ruled that, a discussion of the cost of living generally is entirely out of order on this Bill.
– That was what I was leading up to, and 1 have no wish’ to dispute the ruling of the Chair or to come into conflict with you, sir, in -any way whatever. I recognise that this Bill! has no bearing whatever upon the condition of the people of the Commonwealth.. I regret that it should be the only Bill’ which the Government have put beforethe Senate. We have sat here in themonths of July, August, September, October, and November. We are now sittinghere in the month of December, and this Bill is all that the Government have toshow for the labours of the Senate over alfc these months. It is very discreditable tothe Government that at the close of the session they should occupy the time of theSenate with such a puny little measureas this.
– The mountain has* brought forth a mouse.
– It is not big enough to be called a mouse. It might be more appropriately compared to * mosquito. I shall not further detain the* Senate upon it, but I enter my protestagainst the reintroduction of a system* which the supporters of a section, and avery small section, in the Senate haveproved in the Police Courts of every Statein the Commonwealth to be used for corrupt purposes. It is a system which thepowerholding class who support the present anti-Labour Government are most anxious to have re-introduced, because it was wiped off the statute-book by theLabour party. If our opponents are successful in having it restored to the statutebook again, it is at least satisfactory to know that It will be so safeguarded that their corrupt practices under the system must cease. The public are now aware of their methods of conducting elections, and’ the means they adopt in all the States toviolate the secrecy of the ballot. This Bill must be regarded as another attempt by the parties who are behind Senators Millen, McColl, and Oakes to tamper once> more with the sacred -system of voting by ballot. ‘ 8
– It is absolutely necessary that in a politically free community, such as Australia is, every citizen should be able to record a vote at election time whether he be ill or well, and whether he be present in, or absent from, bis electoral district. The one thing necessary to the free expression of the people of the country is that every citizen should have the. fullest possible opportunity to record his vote when election time comes round. Anything that interferes with that must be held to be opposed to the purity of our electoral system, and to all our ideas of good government. In this country, theoretically at all events, there is no privileged class. Every man and woman in Australia is supposed to be equal at the ballot-box, if nowhere else. Every woman over twenty-one years of age is the equal of every man in the community at the ballot-box. That being the theory, our practice should conform to it as nearly as possible. I hold the opinion, and have always done so, that for people who are ill and, consequently, unable to go to a polling booth on election day to record their votes, and for people who live at a distance from a polling booth, there should be ample opportunity afforded to exercise a free vote; that is to say, a vote without fear of intimidation or victimization. I know that the members of the Government and their supporters will say that nothing has ever been done to interfere with electors in that way. Unfortunately, the evidence is all to the contrary. We know that the fondness of the Liberal party for the postal voting system is owing almost entirely to the way in which it lends itself to opportunities for corruption and intimidation, and for the application of forcible means to voters to compel them to record votes against their deliberately adopted convictions. That is a sort of thing which ought not to be allowed to exist in Australia. Politically we are free, but industrially, I regret very much to say, the vast majority of our people are in a condition that is tantamount to slavery. They are free men at the ballot-box, but in their ordinary employments they are, to all intents and purposes, living in a condition of serfdom. That being the case, and the employment of men, and. of women too, being of more immediate consequence to them than even their votes; we must do all that is necessary to guard sacredly their right to give a free expression of their opinions at election times. The postal vote has been tried in the various States, and has been found wanting. The Liberal Government of Queensland repealed the postalvoting provisions of the State Electoral Act. They swept them off the statutebook altogether. That was done, not by Labour men, but by Liberals, by politicians who are now standing behind the Fusion Government. Let me quote what one of the lights of Liberalism said about the postal vote in Queensland. I refer to Mr. William Kidston, who was at one time Premier of Queensland. I find, from page 578 of the Queensland Hansard for 1907, that, speaking in the Queensland Legislative Assembly on the 29th August of that year, Mr. Kidston said: -
If the members ofthe Committee wanted to do their duty to the electors of Queensland, they would strike out the postal vote root and branch. He admitted at once that if they had some method by which those electors who were at a long distance from a polling booth in outoftheway places could get a chance of voting, and yet vote secretly, it would be a good thing. He also admitted that if they had a system by which people who were ill - not so ill, perhaps, as not to care about voting, but who were prevented by a slight illness from going to the poll - if they could arrange to allow those persons to vote, and could assure them that they could vote secretly, he would be willing to adopt such a scheme.
Let me say here and now that the alternative scheme submitted to the Senate by the Labour party this afternoon completely fills the bill so far as that statement of Mr. Kidston’s is concerned. He went on to say -
He defied honorable members to show how they could’ give the postal vote and not open the door to wholesale interference with the secrecy of the ballot. The great objection to that vote was that, when an elector took his ballot-paper to some place away from the scrutineers and returning officer, political agents would be after him, and employers’ agents would be after him, to see that he voted in the right way. He had known a doctor to use his power as a doctor to get a man on a sick bed to vote for his own candidate. Whenever they allowed a man to vote outside the ballot-box, they, to all intents and purposes, destroyed the secrecy of the ballot, and they were doing an injury to thousands, or putting it in the power of unscrupulous men to do injury to thousands for the sake of 200 or 300 people.
That was the opinion of Mr. William Kidston, a leading light of Liberalism in Queensland some six years ago. I feel that he had very strong reasons indeed for making those statements. However much I may be in favour, as I have previously indicated, of giving every elector the fullest opportunity to record his vote, ill or well, and absent from or present in his electoral district, I cannot fail to see that the method by which the postal vote has been administered has lent itself to most serious consequences so far as the violation of the secrecy of the ballot and the recording of the real will of the electors are concerned. The evidence of intimidation, victimization, and corruption in connexion with this form of voting has been practically overwhelming. I believe that it is because it lends itself to that sort of thing that the postal vote is so beloved of the present Government. The present Federal Government are the lineal descendants of the political party which, for many years, refused any share in the government of the country to persons other than those who held property. By degrees the barriers have been broken down, but it has been only against the will and in- the face of the fiercest antagonism of the Conservatives of Great Britain and the oversea Dominions during the whole of the period over which these reforms have extended. When we consider what the history of this party has been in the past and is to-day, are we not quite entitled to ask ourselves the question, “ Can the leopard change his spots; or the Ethiopian his skin?” We know that it is impossible in the case of either. Our friends, the ConservativeFusion Government, knowing perfectly well that if the free opinion of the people of Australia can be recorded at the ballotbox they will be swept from the political arena, have adopted the methods of the political sharper, for really that is the only term I can use to cover their practice. They say, in effect, “If we cannot get a fair verdict from the jury, we will try to pack the jury.” This is an evident attempt on their part in that direction. They are afraid of a fair verdict. They will not trust a free expression of the people’s opinion; they want to stifle it. If that is how they trust the people, I know how the people ought to trust them. If a man will not trust me, surely he is not worthy of my trust. If the honorable gentlemen who form the present Government are afraid of a verdict of the people which is not interfered with, then their intentions are far from being strictly honorable. They know per,fectly well that if this measure is passed, as they intend it shall be passed, they can, through their agents, bring pressure to bear upon thousands of the weakest people in the Commonwealth. This afternoon, Senator Pearce told us about the Vere de Veres of Kooyong; how it was one of the most densely populated and richest electorates in Australia; how the birth-rate was the lowest; how the number of motor cars was the highest; how polling booths were planted almost everywhere; and how, not only the convenience for voting, but the capacity of the voters themselves to get to the polling booths was greater than anywhere else in Australia. Yet in that electorate there were more postal votes cast than anywhere else. What is the obvious inference? It is that the average mistress in Kooyong - and I believe that there are a great number of the newly rich there - brought pressure to bear on her maids to vote according to her own ideas. I make that statement advisedly. Young women have told me how their mistresses handled them in connexion with political matters; and these girls, in a large number of cases, were afraid to resent that course of action. They should have resented it; they ought to resent it. I might even go so far as to say that the person, whether male or female, in this hour of the twentieth century, who submits to injustice is nearly as bad. as the person who attempts to inflict it. But the person who attempts to inflict injustice in a free country such as this is ought to be hanged as high as Haman. There ought to be no place in Australia for people of that character or description. They ought to be treated as pariahs, as people having a. social plague, and, if it were possible, they ought to be deported to some country more in harmony with their particular feelings and actions. That is how the large postal vote came to exist in the electorate of Kooyong. These fine ladies were members, I believe, of - what is the. league? - my friend, Senator McColl, knows all about it, because I believe he is very much in request at their meetings. I have not the slightest doubt that he -tickles the jewelled ears of these fine ladies with the rolling cadences of his sentences, and all that sort of thing, and they are mightily afraid of this movement, which is going to deprive them of many luxuries of life. That is the secret of all this active interest which the fine ladies of Australia are taking in matters political. They look at their grand houses, beautifully furnished; they go into their little retiring rooms, and take out of their jewel cases their diamond rings, their bracelets, their tiaras, and all the other things-
– And their teddybears.
– Yes. They think of their motor cars, , their joy rides, their balls, their fetes, and all the luxuries of the particular caste to which they belong, and they say to themselves, “ All these will go into the melting-pot if that wicked Labour party again get into power.” That is exactly how they look at the matter. I know it just as well as if I inhabited their brainpan. But if that is the case so ‘ far as the rich are concerned, how ought the women who work for their living to look at the matter? They ought to look at it from exactly the opposite point of view. They ought to say, “ We, at least, have a right to enjoy some of the comforts, some of the decencies, and even some of the luxuries of civilization.” The franchise is the key to all these things. With that key they can unlock the storehouses of nature, compel a more equal division of the wealth of this community, sweep away poverty and superfluous wealth. Some honorable gentlemen, especially on the other side, may say that what we are after is equality. I do not care whether it is called equality or is given some other name. ‘ What I want to see now is the total abolition of poverty in this country the restoration of manhood and womanhood to every citizen. I want to see the men and women in this country not mere industrial slaves, not persons who bow the head and bend the knee to the capitalists, but persons who are independent of the capitalists, and that is the reason why I desire to have a pure electoral system - a system which will give them the power to get what they ought to have. This Bill is a deliberate attempt to interfere with the purity of our electoral system, and it ought to be resented by every citizen. Some honorable senators have complained that this is not a big enough issue. Any issue which affects our electoral system is big enough to go to the country with. There cannot be any bigger issue. The man who tries to “ square “ or to “ pack “ the jury ought to be brought before his betters at the earliest possible moment. So far as I am personally concerned, if the Government want to fight on this issue, I am quite willing to accommodate them whenever they feel that they are ready, and I am sure that every member of the Labour party stands in exactly the same position. I am certain that if we go to the people on this issue, our opponents at least will not come back as victors. Senator Millen, when he gets up to. speak, or some other senator on the Government side, will probably taunt the Labour party with having been faithless to their own principles, inasmuch as they deprived a number of sick and infirm and absent people of the franchise, and, notwithstanding all our talk and fine words, that we ourselves have interfered with the purity of the electoral system. Unfortunately, there is some degree of truth in that statement; but everything human is subject to human law. If you create an extreme in one direction, that extreme of itself provokes an extreme in another direction. We had the corruption which the misuse of the postal vote brought into our electoral system. That of itself created in the minds of the Labour party - and, as I have shown, of the Liberal party in Queensland - a desire to sweep the thing away.
– If the postal vote was favorable to the Conservative party, why did Mr. Kidston want to repeal it?
– The Labour party were behind Mr. Kidston in Queensland, and demanded the abolition of the postal vote. I did not approve of its abolition then. I did not approve of its abolition even when our own party proposed it in this Parliament. I said that the principle was good, and that an attempt ought to be made in the direction of discovering a righteous administration of the principle before the postal vote was swept away. I think we have arrived at that position to-day, and if the Government are wise they will accept the amendment given notice of by Senator Pearce. I hope that they will do so, because I wish every individual in the Commonwealth to have not only the right, but the opportunity, to vote. That being my opinion, I welcome anything which goes to extend the franchise in the broadest sense of the term; but if the Government’s Bill is carried, we will have a repetition of the old thing. We will have the intimidation, the victimization, and the corruption that prevailed years ago in the various States. We will have the paid professional political canvasser going round and button-holing the women, young and old, and a large number of the men - such men as can be imposed upon by threats, or cajoled into voting the way our Liberal friends desire them to do. That is a state of things which we do not wish to have. I am very pleased that Senator Pearce’s amendment has been brought before the Senate, and I hope that it will be passed. I have no desire to place the slightest obstruction in the way of any man or woman recording his or her vote. I do not care how people vote. Believing; as I do from the bottom of my heart, that the people who live in a country ought to governit, and that no other person should be allowed to interfere between them and full power over the destinies of the country, whatever they decide I accept for the time being. If I agree with them, well and good. If I do not agree with them, I will do my best to persuade them of their error. But, in any case, for the time being the majority should rule in Australia. The proposal of the Labour party will not only insure a vote to every sick person and to every absent person-, but also insure that no pressure can possibly be brought.to bear upon any individual. If the Government’s idea is carried out, the old era of corruption will be re-established. We shall have the same old thing from end to end of the continent, improper pressure being brought to bear upon voters, especially on women, who are in more or less dependent situations. I say that such a state of things is deplorable from every point of view - from the point of view of the party on the Government benches, as well as from that of the Opposition. I am sure that not one of us desires to have anything approaching a slave population in Australia; and I say that, if men and women are afraid to record their votes in accordance with their convictions, or if they record them in fear and trembling lest they may be dismissed from their employment, or suffer some temporary monetary or social inconvenience, a vital injury is done, not only to them, but to the whole of the people of the Commonwealth. I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill, but I shall also support the amendments outlined by Senator Pearce.
– I desire to say a word or two upon this Bill I have not had the advantage, having been called away upon urgent business, of hearing all that has been said by other speakers upon it, so that it is possible that, in my few remarks, I may repeat sentiments which have already been uttered. But, as those sentiments - coming, as they did, from this side of the chamber - are sure to have been good ones, their repetition will not harm anybody. In the first place, I am opposed to this Bill “ lock, stock, and barrel.” I am. as strongly and as bitterly opposed to it as I am opposed to the propounders of it. It. is a disgrace to this Parliament that we should be faced with such a measure. I am ashamed that a Government which could not dig up something more than this paltry and contemptible Bill should enjoy even an hour’s: office in this country. The measure is an insult to the Senate. When the Leader of the Government trots about tha country making hypocritical speeches concerning endeavours to drag the Senate before its masters, the electors-
– Hear, hear!
– He knows as well as does Senator Millen and Senator Oakes that there is nothing under the sun that they would rather do than stay where they are.
– Then vote against the Bill.
– Does the honorable senator call this thing a Bill ? If it had been passed by the House of Representatives of the United States, I should condemn the members of that body as a lot of pusillanimous idiots. As for the idea of founding a double dissolution on a thing like it, it is an insult to the King’s representative to suppose that he will take any notice of it.
– Senator Stewart says that it involves a great principle.
– It involves a violation of a great principle.
– It is a bigissue on which to go to the country.
SenatorRAE - There is nothing that the honorable senator dreads more than that.
– We will take our chance.
– It is a mighty poor one.
– It is equal to -the honorable senator’s.
– I am perfectly willing to meet Senator Oakes .at any time, and as the Commonwealth Constitution prevents us, if we resign our seats, from contesting the vacancy thus created, but puts the selection of a successor within the power of reactionaries, I must challenge him to some other method of settling our difference. I am quite willing to resign my seat and to run against Senator Oakes for a seat in the House of Representatives >at the first opportunity. I understand that a number of honorable senators upon this side of the chamber intend to support the second reading of the Bill, with a view to subsequently bringing forward certain amendments. I must say that I think those amendments will effect an improvement in the Bill. But do not the Government see the contemptible position in which they will be placed by their adoption? If the real governing party in this Senate agree to the second reading of the measure, it will be only for the purpose of disembowelling it, and pf inserting a fresh title. .Yet the Government are willing to accept that position. If it is proposed to give a vote to the sick and infirm under conditions which can be thoroughly safeguarded, I shall be in favour of it. But I am absolutely opposed to restoring the postal vote, because there is no doubt that it paves the way to corruption and fraud. I can understand a party which can flourish only in that kind of atmosphere welcoming anything that will bring it about. If we had the same opportunities as are enjoyed by honorable senators opposite, they would be wiped off the political slate. Their number in another place would not be more than the number of honorable senators who are now sitting in front of me were it not for the press of this country.
– And wealth.
– That means the press, which is owned by wealthy individuals. If, in spite of all these forces, the Government are able to get only a precarious hold on the sweets of office, they would not have the renowned Buckley’s chance of appearing here if the conditions were at all equal.
– Do be serious.
– There is no reason why I should not express my honest opinion that it is degrading to the ‘Senate to in troduce contemptible legislation of this character.
– What surprises me is that the honorable senator is so mild.
– I do not know that I am -out of order in speaking of legislation as . contemptible, but certainly I believe that the motives behind it are contemptible. We know from evidence which has been adduced by Senator Gardiner, and which I quoted last year, that convictions have been .recorded for fraud in connexion with the postal voting system. But nobody knows better than do my honorable friends opposite that there are thousands of things of which we are morally certain, but which it would not be possible to prove in a Court of law. Therefore, the gibe that is frequently hurled at us, that in only a few instances has fraud been proved, counts for nothing. I say that there are hundreds of cases in which the evidence is convincing to any reasonable person that this kind of fraud has been perpetrated. When we reflect that out of 29,000 postal votes recorded in the Commonwealth about onehalf were registered in Victoria, which, owing to its compactness, offers greater facilities for voting than does any other State, it is obvious that it must be so. Probably Senator McColl, who is continually hurling charges of corruption against the electors, had in his mind some of his own friends and supporters, who had manipulated the postal vote. Probably he judged other people by the character of his political associates. Wd know that the avowed object of the Government is to bring about a double dissolution by means of this Bill, and a kindred measure, which I hope will be fired out without any mercy with the well-merited contempt that we feel for it. To suppose that any representative of His Majesty will degrade the Senate by sending it to the country on the ground that it has rejected such trifling, sectional, and contemptible legislation is to suppose something which a few deluded followers may believe, but which Ministers themselves cannot for a moment seriously entertain. Unless we can amend the Bill so as to absolutely confine the postal vote to sick and infirm persons, under conditions which will absolutely prevent the possibility of their votes being manipulated, I shall not support it. It is all very well to talk about ideal systems of voting, but in every walk of life we have to get as near the ideal as is practically possible. The objection which can be urged against a system of personal voting by taking the ballot-box to the sick is obviously that of expense. If we are going to disregard the question of expense, and at any cost place it within the power of the sick and infirm to vote, I say that, when the vote is. recorded, there should be some person present other than an official. With that sort of safeguard, we might nominally accept the Bill - although I consider it would be a humiliation and a degradation to do that - for the purpose of proceeding afterwards to wipe it out altogether, put another Bill in its place, and then alter the contemptible title under which it has been introduced in this Chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
This Act may be cited as the Postal Voting Restoration Act 1913.
.- I move-
That the words “ Postal Voting Restoration “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Electoral Act Amendment.” This amendment will make the clause conform to the scope of the Bill as it will be if the amendment which I intend to move . on clause 2 be carried.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 3, 4, 14, 23, 35, and 38 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1911 are repealed, and the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1909 which were repealed by those sections are hereby revived and re-enacted.
– I have an amendment to move upon that clause. The more convenient way of dealing with it will be first to negative the clause, with a view of inserting my amendment, which has been circulated.
– I cannot say that I am sorry that my honorable friends opposite are taking the action they intend to take upon this clause. We have listened during the debate to some very sweeping and wholehearted denunciations of postal voting. We have been informed that it is the equivalent to all that is corrupt in electoral practice; that, it tended to violate the secrecy of the ballot; and Senator Stewart declared that it opened the door for every form of fraud. It was further asserted that the postal vote was used to enable us to pack the jury. Senator Stewart made out that the party responsible for the introduction of this Bill gives evidence of its refusal to trust the electors. I have enumerated only a few of the milder forms of denunciation.
– Nothing could’ be bad enough.
– I am aware that no terms could be sufficiently violent for those who denounce this Bill, yet we are suddenly confronted with the spectacle of the party opposite becoming converts to the principle of the postal vote which they have been denouncing.
– No? “ A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I have not the slightest doubt that this is an ingenious scheme devised by my honorable friends to save their political faces. That is what it comes down to. I feel bound to say on behalf of our party that we can, at least, congratulate ourselves, whether .this amendment be carried or not, that we shall, at least, have saved the vote for the sick, the infirm, and the aged people of this community.
– We were always in favour of that.
– How is it, then, that the party opposite struck the postal vote out of the electoral law by the Act of 1911 ? How is it that they then made no provision to enable the classes I have enumerated to vote? The records of the Senate show that it was at the instance of honorable senators opposite that the provisions were taken out of the Electoral Act by which the sick, the infirm, and the aged were enabled to vote. My honorable friends did beyond question, in 1911, destroy the only machinery by which the sick, the mothers of . the nation, and others who were disabled temporarily or permanently, were deprived of the only opportunity they had of taking part in the expression of the political wishes of the country. Now, however, confronted with our efforts to restore facilities previously taken away, they come forward, and reverse the position which they took up then. They submit what they call an alternative, which is going to insure in a large measure to the same class whom they disfranchised before machinery to enable them to exercise the facilities of which they were defrauded. Why did not my honorable friends in 1911 bring forward some such amendment as they submit to-day? The reason is that they have since been before the electors, and have come to the conclusion that they did not accurately gauge the position. They are now seeking to climb down, and are no longer prepared to stand before the public, and say, “ We will not give votes to the sick and the infirm people of this community.”
– We never did say so.
– -But my honorable friends took away the machinery by which the vote was exercised by those classes. I remember debates which took place in this Chamber, in which day after day we fought for the retention of the postal voting provisions, whilst honorable senators opposite denounced them lock, stock, and barrel, as Senator Rae has done to-day, declaring that they ought not to find a place anywhere in the Commonwealth electoral law. Having done all they could to rob the three classes referred to of the opportunity of voting, they now turn round, and say that they never opposed giving the sick people opportunities of voting. If so, I can only say that they took the most extraordinary way of disguising their true feelings. Honorable senators know the Electoral Acts as well as I do.
They know that the original Act, including the postal voting provisions, is to be found at page 70 of Vol. 8. If we turn to the Act of 1911, we shall find that that measure, for which my honorable friends are responsible, contains sections which struck out the postal voting provisions of previous legislation, and took away from the sick, infirm, and women voters of the country the opportunity to vote by post.
– The honorable senator seems to be annoyed that we are going to give them the vote.
– I am not annoyed if my honorable friends will admit that they are now proposing to give them the vote which they took away from them before. The honorable senator, by his interjection, has enabled me to be brief. He admits that honorable senators opposite are now returning the vote which they took away from certain electors on a previous occasion. By making that admission, he has justified the party on this side in everything they have said.
– The honorable senator admits that we are proposing to give the vote to the sick and the infirm.
– I admit that in this proposal my honorable friends come forward and say, ‘ ‘ We have sinned ; we crave pardon; and we now seek to include in the electoral law some machinery which will enable people, whom we disfranchised before, to record their votes.”
– The honorable senator ought to be quite happy.
– I am; and I say that the party on this side are entitled to congratulate themselves. They are entitled to look for the thanks of the electors, who will now be assured, whether the amendment is adopted or the Bill goes through as it stands, that we have secured for them the opportunity to vote.
– Then the honorable senator accepts the amendment.
– I do nothing of the kind. If my honorable friends think that it is only necessary to provide machinery to enable sick people to vote, they should accept the Bill. The amendment is a placard declaring the fact that the party who did their best, andwere successful, in robbing the sick and infirm of an opportunity to vote are now forced into such a position that they come forward of themselves, and propose machinery by which those votes may in future be cast.
– Then why not accept it 1
– Because it is not as perfect as the machinery we propose. There are one or two objections which I may be permitted to urge against the amendment. I trust I may be able to do this, although I recognise that the amendment itself is not actually before the Committee. In extending an invitation to the Committee to strike out the clause, Senator Pearce’s intention is to substitute for it the amendment which he has proposed, and, in the circumstances, I think that no exception can be taken to my pointing out what appear to me to be defects in the proposal.
– - The amendment may require amending.
– I have no doubt, from what he has said on the Bill, that Senator Rae will extend every help to those who may wish to amend the amendment. ‘There are two principal and practical objections to it, apart from the fact that it proceeds upon an entirely different principle to that on which the Bill has been drafted. Senator Rae referred to one objection when he spoke of the expense. I wish honorable senators to consider the nature of the country in which we live, and the enormous expense which would be thrown upon a returning officer who, under the amendment, is called upon in a widely scattered district, and within seven days of the poll, because he could not act before, to find possibly quite a number of men whom he can trust to act as his assistant returning officers, and send them out north, south, east, and west to gather up the votes of those who have notified ‘him that they desire to vote in the way proposed by the amendment. I could understand an amendment of this kind coming from members of the Senate, whose knowledge is limited to city localities, but I am somewhat surprised that Senator Pearce, with the knowledge of the limitless miles which represent his State, should not have seen the impracticable character of his amendment. I do not know the mileage of the larger electorates of Western Australia, but I do know that some of the electorates of New South Wales are 300 or 400 miles across. Imagine, then, the position in which a returning officer would be placed under the amendment. He may receive fifty notices from places in different directions in a very extensive electoral district of the intention of electors to vote in this way* He is then called upon, seven days beforepolling day, to find men whom he can> trust to gather up these votes. We know that every man will not do. The men selected must be men ‘ in whom the returning officer has -some confidence, and. it would be no easy matter to find twenty or thirty men of that kind at a moment’snotice. He might have some little intimation of the necessity of action in this direction at an earlier date, but it seems probable that the bulk of the notices will come in within seven or eight days of the polling day. There is at once thepractical difficulty of finding the men to> traverse these wide electorates in order to pick up isolated votes here and there. There is, first of all, the enormous expense which would be involved. It is noexaggeration to say that to send a special messenger to remote places in some of tha districts, which Senator Rae and I know very well, for the purpose of gathering; these votes would cost anything from £5 up to £7.
– We might cure the elector for less than it would cost to collect his vote.
– It would be almost as expensive as sending out a doctor. Another objection arises from the want of time to give effect to the amendment. la some electorates it will be absolutely a physical impossibility for a man to travel to .and from different parts of an electorate in the time provided for. Senator Rae knows the black soil country as well as I do, and I should like to know what chance he thinks an officer selected for this job, who would not necessarily be a trained bushman or accustomed to sit in a saddle for any length of time, haveof travelling over 100 or 120 miles of such country after heavy rain, and getting back in time for the polling day: The scheme, as outlined by the amendment, is quite impracticable.
– How does the postman get through ?
– He does not have to get through in a limited time.
– He has.
– The postal vote is= not limited to seven days before polling day.
– The same difficulty existed under the postal vote.
– In some electorates’ a man would have to start ten days before polling day if he wished to record a postal vote.
– Honorable senators are now putting forward a proposal the defects of which they are themselves admitting. Under the amendment, the returning officer cannot send out his assistants to collect the votes until within seven days of the polling day, although he may have received notice of the intention of a voter to vote in this way a month before.
– The honorable senator is contending for the original postal vote, and under that system, if it be restored by this Bill, it might be fourteen days before a person could record a postal vote.
– It is not a question of the time in which an elector gets a vote. Under the amendment my honorable friends say that there shall be only one way in which these votes’ shall be cast, and that is by sending out an officer to collect them. We should not make a fraud of the Act. If my honorable friends desire that people should vote in this way, they should make proper provision to enable them to do so. I say that the amendment would add greatly to the expense, and the machinery provided by it would break down the first time it was invoked in a scattered and extensive district.
– So did the postal vote in the remote districts, and in closely settled districts it was abused.
– First of all, the postal vote did not break down. If under the postal voting provisions an elector failed to put in his application for a postal vote, he ran the risk himself of losing his right to vote. Here my honorable friends say, “We will send out to collect your vote for you. You must not send it in.” And they limit themselves for this purpose to seven days immediately preceding the polling day, which, as I have shown, will be quite insufficient.
– Seven days is the minimum time allowed.
– Yes; “ any time after the issue of the writ.”
– It is not the minimum time. Senator Pearce was good enough to hand me a copy of his amendment, and the words used are “ at any time after the issue of the writ, and’ up to within seven days preceding the day of election,” an elector may make his application to vote in this way. The time fixed for the receipt of these applications is up to within seven days before the polling day. There, therefore, cannot be more than seven days after a person has notified his desire to vote in this way, and it must be within that time that the returning officer has to make his’ arrangements to send out and collect the votes.
– Even that is better than the postal vote, because, under the postal voting provisions, the applicant has to make his application to the central divisional officer; and, under my proposal, the returning officer appointed to collect the votes may be appointed from the district in which the voter is living.
– -The honorable senator is confusing the position of the elector with that of the official who’, under the amendment, would have to collect the votes.
– The official who has to collect the votes may be sent out from the district in which the voter is living.
– The returning officer must send out a man from some centre, and under the postal voting provisions a voter could make his arrangements for voting by post a considerable time before the polling day.
SenatorBuzacott. - He had to appear before an authorized witness to sign his application.
– He had.
– He had to appear before an authorized witness again to record his vote.
– He had.
– And he had to travel sometimes 200 miles to record his vote.
– No; that is assuming that there were 200 miles between the elector and the nearest authorized witness. Under the postal voting provisions if an elector failed to make the necessary arrangements to record a vote, the responsibility was his own. My honorable friends, by this amendment, say, ‘ We will not allow you to exercise your vote by making use of the ordinary channels of communication. You must remain where you are, and we will send out an’ official to collect your vote.”
– Quite right, too.
– All right; but the official should be sent out under circumstances which would insure his being able to collect the votes in time to have them recorded at the election. I have not risen with any Idea that anything I can say will influence the vote upon the amendment, but to make what I consider the ob- jections to it clear. It is impossible for me to regard the amendment as any improvement on the machinery we have provided for in the Bill, and I therefore do not propose to accept it. I have stated two objections to the amendment. Let me now mention a third. To me it seems little short of barbarous that we should insist that a woman whose condition is so helpless as, in the opinion of my honorable friends opposite, to call for some concession, should be compelled to go to a post-office to exercise her vote. This is proposed, although the amendment shows that she is in such a delicate state of health that we ought to be ashamed to ask her to do anything of the kind. My honorable friends propose -
That, being a female elector, she will not, on polling day, during the hours of polling, on account of ill-health or infirmity, be able to attend at any polling place, may, after the issue of the writ, upon making a declaration in the prescribed form before a postmaster, vote- and so on. We are to assume that the female elector is in such a condition of ill-health or infirmity as not to be able to attend a polling place, but my honorable friends say that she shall attend at a postoffice. If she’ is well enough to attend at a post-office she is well enough to attend at a polling booth. My honorable friends recognise that she may, because of her illhealth, be unable to attend at a polling booth, but if she does not attend at a postoffice they will not allow her to vote.
– The honorable senator knows that a similar provision exists in South Australia, and there has been no cry from his party against it.
– I am not dealing now with South Australian politics. My honorable friends are only adding insult to injury when they say to a woman, “ Although we recognise that your bodily condition is such that it is not fair to ask that you should attend at a polling booth, we shall compel you to go to a postoffice before we will allow you to vote.” There may, and I suppose there always will, be defects in any electoral machinery we can devise. But I submit that the machinery sought to be restored by the Bill before the Committee will emerge from examination more triumphantly than can that contained in the amendment submitted by Senator Pearce.’
– I am very pleased to see a little warmth imparted into the discussion. Honorable senators opposite have been as tame as white mice the whole of to-day, although the Bill has been getting “ what for “ from nearly every honorable senator on this side. I have also been amused by the little outburst of the Minister of Defence, and the attitude he assumes towards the sick.
– Outraged virtue.
– Yes. What does it amount to ? Although he and his party have all the sympathy in the world for the sick and the infirm, yet it all amounts to a few shillings extra cost. That is all that their sympathy is really worth. I contend that, from a practical point of view, there is really nothing in the points that have been raised by the Minister of Defence, if we take the position occupied by this side, that we are perfectly willing, and always have been willing, when it could be properly safeguarded, to give the sick and infirm ample facilities for recording their votes, if those facilities can be protected against the fraud and the corruption which we know to have been practised in the past. We believe that the amendment of Senator Pearce will achieve that object. We believe that the sick and infirm will be able to register their votes in the way provided for in the amendment. But it is all nonsense for the Minister of Defence to talk about the impossibility of the amendment; to say that there would be an army of officials required to carry it out. When the “sick and infirm only are provided for, there will not be the thousands of postal votes recorded that were recorded in Bendigo and Kooyong at a previous election. The sick and infirm are few in Australia compared with other countries, and it is only for those classes that we provide in our amendment. Another thing I would like to point out is that the sick and infirm are all very carefully provided for in the abundant hospital accommodation throughout the Commonwealth. They will be easily found there, and not very far from returning or deputy returning officers. Although there may be one or two isolated cases, such as the Minister of Defence has referred to, which it would be morally or physically impossible to reach, the same objection applies to the postal voting system, which he advocates. In Australia there are places where it would take a fortnight to send an application, a fortnight to receive a ballotpaper, and a fortnight to get it back again after the election was over. In the Electoral Act of 1911 we made ample provision for those who are travelling in different parts of Australia. ‘ They can go to any polling booth, whether they are sick or well, and record their votes.
– That is a provision which was never made before.
– Yes. With respect to the women for1 whom Senator Millen said we are not doing anything, I would point out that they have from the issue of the writ to polling day to provide for the recording of their votes. I am sure that in the case of the majority of Australian women, if anything was likely to happen a month before polling day, or immediately after, they would be in a fit condition a month before to go anywhere. I have seen women riding on horseback and driving in all kinds of conveyances a month before an event of that description took place. If they are able to do that, they are able to go a month, or three weeks, or a fortnight, before polling day and see that their will is recorded, so far as an election is con.cerned. There is no necessity for the existence of a postal vote in their case. We are making ample provision, and that I am sure is all that the women of Australia will ask for. The Minister of Defence got into an imitation fury with respect to the previous attitude of the Labour party to the postal vote. We did believe at one time in the postal vote if it could be safeguarded. We were prepared to give, and did give, an opportunity to the electors of Australia to use the postal vote. But such use was made of it by the paid organizers of the Liberal party that we became disgusted with it, and we do not think it is a thing which ought to exist. I ask Senator Millen have we no right to change our minds 1 I am sure that he has changed his mind often enough. There was a time when the Labour party took up the honorable senator, and were glad of his assistance and his support; we believed in him, but; as soon as ever he deceived us, we threw him overboard. Consequently, we have as much right to change our minds with respect to the postal vote as we had to change our minds with respect to his adherence to the party that sits on this side of the chamber. And so, as regards a change of front in connexion with the postal vote, he need think it no more wonderful than the change of mind which we have undergone with respect to the Prime Minister and many others who once pretended to be ardent supporters of the Labour party.
– I do not think that the amendment is altogether perfect. But then, as Senator Millen himself said, we would look in vain for an absolutely perfect measure. Perfection is hardly applicable to present-day conditions, anyhow. When we leave the Millens and other like folk, and reach the millennium, we may, of course, be fit for perfection. When it was proposed to abolish the postal vote, nearly every speaker on the proposal expressed regret that it had to be done in order to prevent the abuses which made themselves so apparent. We all expressed our utmost desire to meet the cases of those who did make a genuine use of the system if it were possible, but the fact of the matter is that there was a serious abuse.
– An alleged abuse.
– Probably the honorable senator does not take any notice of this kind of cases.
– I have only heard of one or two isolated cases.
– Murderers are not picked up at every street corner, but we find the necessity of having very drastic laws to deal with the occasional murderers and burglarious folk who infest the country more or less. There was ample evidence, which may not in many cases have been sufficient to convince a jury, but was quite sufficient to convince any person who only looked for ordinary evidence, that abuses had commenced, and that if they were allowed to continue, the temptations offered to those who are willing to make a misuse of electoral power would have become tremendous in their extent, in all probability, even in the course of another election; because, if there is one thing more than another which causes illegal practices to be resorted to by one section, it is when they find them, being resorted to by another section. It; begets retaliation, and, while it is popularly supposed by the ordinary moralist that two wrongs’ do not make’ a right, yet, in practice,’ it generally works out that they do. When a man finds any persons trying to do him, he- tries to do them in return and get even with them.
– And the result is right?
– The result, of course-, may work out roughly somewhat approximate to it. But, while two things may, as it were, mutually neutralize each other in that way, yet the general wrong that is done- by lowering the standard of public morality is considerable, and is incalculable in its extent. When behind a man-made law there is a moral justification as well - the legality itself is of no value to me - anything which detracts from the consideration of that tends to lower the whole- tone of society.
– So long as you lower the standard at each end, you increase it in the middle, I suppose ?
– I might very fairly ask my jocose friend, who has become a model of morality and geniality since he went to that side, to treat the matter seriously. Surely our honorable friends- there, do think that there is- something serious in the provision of votes for the sick ! It is well known - and, of course, Hansard can prove it - that- nearly every honorable senator on this side who discussed the abolition of the- postal vote1, expressed regret that some persons who did require to use it for valid reasons would be deprived of it.
– Did not Mr: King O’Malley say that it had to be removed after much prayer and meditation ?
– After considerable meditation as to what steps might be taken to so safeguard the postal vote as to render it unnecessary to abolish it altogether. A considerable amount of thought was given to that, and- some honorable senators, particularly those from Queensland, who had had experience of its operation in that State, believed that it was practically impossible so to safeguard the postal vote as to prevent, not merely the abuse which had become apparent, but the growing abuse which would have sprung from the immunity enjoyed by those- who had started the practice.
– You mean to make sure that it would go your way.
– Of course, the honorable senator cannot get away from the tactics of the. common garden variety of Liberal organizer, a man whose whole political capital consists in impugning the motives of his opponents.. I know that; while the honorable senator can do that with a genial smile, it is the kind- of stuff which is bound to lower and degrade the politics of this country. And yet it is the cheap stock-in-trade of the party opposite.
– After the stuff we have listened to to-night, that is pretty strong.
– The chief stockintrade of the party opposite is to send round a number of well-paid organizers paid out of funds coming from such bodies as the Beef Trust, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and monopolies generally, to get hold of the “ lug “ of any simpleminded electors, and pour all sorts of misrepresentations, half-truths, and distortions into their ears. Naturally, of course, Senator Oakes can only live politically on that sort of thing on which he has been reared and suckled1. We know that he would not have got the position of an organizer from the time he lost his seat in the State Assembly until he won a seat here, unless he had been a good, willing, humble tool of the kind of people of whom Mr. Archdale Parkhill is a typical sample.
– Is that how you got your appointment as an organizer?
– No; because our party scorn to adopt, the- tactics of the general secretary of the movement which, employed Senator Oakes, before he got a seat in the Senate, when he. did, as I have mentioned before, circulate statements, giving advice to a. man, whom he mistook for an. alleged Liberal instead, of a Laborite. “ Throw plenty of mud on the. Labour party ; that is the policy, because some of it is sure to stick.”- That has been the practical working motto of the party opposite all the time - from the chief downwards.
– What has that to do with the postal vote,?
– People who are so shameless, so lost to all political decency, are> quite capable of misusing, and, abusing the .postal vote, and using it for the purpose of illicitly obtaining support which they could never hope to win on their merits. I say that if the postal vote had never been abolished, and if our party had been capable of resorting to the mean and dirty practices of the party opposite, we could have .scored on that vote just as they .did.
– There is not a crime in .the electoral calendar of which honorable senators opposite have not been guilty.
– There would be no Liberal party in this Parliament .but for the support which it receives from the daily press, and from the unscrupulous money power which is behind it.
– We do not coerce money from anybody.
– Because those who are prepared to do the dirty work of the capitalists can get any amount of money slung at them. The postal vote was abolished because the abuse which had reared its ugly head required to be stifled. It was an urgent matter which admitted of no delay. We had to abolish the postal voting system before another election took place if we were to preserve .the purity of the ballot. With that object in view, our purpose was to cut this cancerous growth out of our electoral law straight away. Of course, it would have been a good thing had we been able to put remedial measures in its place. But the most urgent work was to get rid of the evil, and at our leisure we were prepared to support any workable proposals by which those electors who are unable to attend a polling booth might be enabled to exercise the franchise.
– The absent vote provides for a great many of them.
– Exactly. Even though a few persons may have been disfranchised as a result of the abolition of the postal vote, there is no doubt that the facilities granted to absent. voters are not equalled in any other country under the sun. At the last election a bigger percentage of votes was recorded throughout the Commonwealth than was ever recorded before. Nobody can urge that on that occasion there were any great rallying cries to draw the electors to the poll. In various portions of the Commonwealth I met electors who informed me that year after year their work had taken them away from their homes,, so that men who were fifty years of age had exercised the franchise at perhaps only one or two general elections. These individuals assured me that the absent voting provisions of the Electoral Act gave them opportunities for recording their votes which they had never enjoyed before. In regard tothe objection of Senator Millen to the personal vote on the ground of expense, it has already been pointed out that the impossibility of officers travelling over large areas in the time at their disposal applies equally to the postal vote. Nomatter what system we may adopt, while we have wide and sparsely-settled districts, there will be some electors who will lose the opportunity of voting. But if we do all that is humanly possible for the great majority nobody can object. I would like the mover of the amendment to agree to amend it by inserting after the word “ officer,” in the second sub-clause, the words “ and in the presence of any adult friend or relativewhom the voter may desire to be present.” That would permit of a sick person having; his or her nearest friend or relative present in the room when the vote is being cast.
– At the express wish of the elector ?
– Exactly. The adoption of the amendment I have outlined would remove a lot of embarrassment which ‘ might otherwise be experienced by persons who were so seriously ill as to become* -quite unnerved.
– It will admit of * danger, too.
– - I do not think it will admit of so much danger as would theadmission to the room of an officer who, for aught we know to the contrary,, might be capable of deliberately misinterpreting the wish of the voter. Letus suppose that an elector was so physically unfit that he had to get the officer to vote for him.
– If he is so ill as that, he should not be worried with a. vote.
– I think that the honorable senator is wrong. A person mayhave his arm broken-
– That is provided for in the principal Act. That will apply here.
– If it will apply here, then Senator Pearce admits that theremay .be -instances in which a voter may require to vote by proxy, so to speak.
I ask that some person other than an offi cer shall be permitted to be present when the vote by a sick or infirm elector is being recorded if the voter so desires. If a blind person enters a polling booth, he is at liberty to take a scrutineer with him.
– So he can here.
– While he can do so technically under this proposal, he cannot cart scrutineers round with him. I desire that provision shall be made in the clause that a person other than an officer may be present when a postal vote is being recorded, if the elector so desires.
– Is there anything to prevent that being done now?
– Then there can be no objection to making assurance doubly sure by adopting the amendment which I have outlined. I think that the provision, as a whole, will be workable. I shall support the amendment of Senator Pearce, with an addition of the kind I have indicated, so that a sick or infirm person, who might otherwise be embarrassed by an officer coming into the room, may be fortified by the presence of his or her nearest relative or friend whilst the vote is being recorded.
– I listened very attentively to the remarks of the Minister of Defence, and if he will consent to amend the Bill in the direction which has been indicated, he will command my support. I was never very much concerned over the question of the postal vote. If I were a candidate for any electorate, I would not care if all the votes recorded were postal votes. In order to show that the party to which Senator Millen belongs does not believe in the postal vote, or is aware that that vote is very much abused, I propose reading an extract from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 22nd September of the present year. It is as follows: -
The experience of the Willoughby and Mosman Liberal Leagues in connexion with the work of candidate selection has strengthened objection to the present system. In Willoughby about 700 names, out of a total enrolment of less than 4,000, have been objected to by one or other of the various candidates in the field. At Mosman the work of revising the rolls has proved very unsatisfactory. There were 500 names objected to, and when the lists were thoroughly examined, many names were found for whose membership tickets no butts could be discovered.
It was then decided to abandon postal voting, and to require members to vote personally at arranged booths. The whole matter has created considerable feeling amongst the candidates concerned.
The Liberal league does not mind disfranchising the unfortunate women. In the Liberal league at Mosman there is a large number of women. They are a fighting force, too, for only the other day it was reported in the press that at the final selection for Liberal candidates some of them picked up chairs, with which they hit men over the heads. This is the class of person to whom my honorable friends opposite wish to give the postal vote. In regard to affording voting facilities to patients in hospitals, I may say that in 1907 I had an experience of that. One who is very near to me was confined to a Sydney hospital, and from what I saw of the women in that institution, they did not desire to vote at all, and resented the interference of the Liberal canvassers, asking to be let alone. There are certain hospitals in which men and women are laid up for many months. Arrangements could easily be made for them to cast their votes. The amendment indicated by Senator Rae is a very fair one, and I shall support it when it is ‘moved.
– I have already referred to the South Australian Electoral Code of 1908. I am sorry that Senator Millen was not in the chamber at the time when another incident was referred to, namely, the action of the Prime Minister in causing the removal from one of the hospitals of Adelaide of a polling booth. The Minister spoke at length of the cruelty imposed upon women in having to go to the postoffice to record their votes. It may be worth while to read for his benefit the clause of the South Australian Electoral Code to show that the Parliament of that State has inflicted the horrible injustice and insult to the women of compelling them to attend a post-office to record their votes in precisely the same way as is suggestedby Senator Pearce’s amendment.
– That does not make it right.
– No; but the Fusionist party in South Australia has agreed to this provision, and at the present time neither section in South Australian politics is dissatisfied with it, or making any attempt to repeal it. Paragraph c of section 111 of the Electoral Code of that State reads -
- That, being a female elector, she will not, on polling day, during the hours of polling, on account of ill-health or infirmity, be able to attend at a polling place on the roll for which she is registered, or at a polling place for the sub-district on the roll for which she is registered, may, after the issue of the writ, upon making a declaration in the prescribed form before a postmaster, vote as an absent voter.
That is exactly the provision suggested by Senator Pearce. South Australians will not thank Senator Millen for attempting to interfere with a provision that works so well in that State, that even his own section in politics take no exception to it. The objection of Senator Rae, as to the possibility of undue influence being exerted by poll clerks, is met by section 148 of the principal Act, which provides that an absent voter who cannot see, or is illiterate, may take a friend into the polling place. The last few words meet the case exactly -
When the voter so desires, a person appointed by such voter shall mark, fold, and deposit his ballot-paper for him. i
That provision might well be worked in conjunction with the amendment of Senator Pearce. The South Australian provision which I have quoted may ease the conscience of the Minister with reference to Senator Pearce’s amendment.
– I shall support Senator Pearce’s amendment. It might appear to any person not acquainted with Senator Millen’s agility that the members of the Labour party were engaged in trimming and shuffling on this question. The point might be raised that the electors have never asked for the amendment proposed by the Government in this leaflet legislation of theirs. There are five States in which the position of parties to-day is as it was before the last election, and there is only one State in which the Ministerial party managed, by an’ accident, to win elections which gave them in the House of Representatives a majority of one. So that the Government are not justified in telling the country that there ha3 been a pronounced demand for the restoration of the postal vote. But I waive that point, merely drawing attention to it by the way. The members of the Labour party regard the postal vote as being as much to be detested now as ever it was. We want it to be abolished in the sense in which the Minister understands it, because .we know that it has been surrounded by many abuses in the past. We have not shifted our ground. We believed before the last election that the postal vote was necessary, and we believe so still. But it seems to be forgotten that it was really the Labour party that originally secured the insertion of the postal voting provisions in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. We gave it a fair trial, but we came at length to the deliberate decision that it was inseparably associated with abuses which ought to be stamped out. The party that is at the present time talking about widening the franchise is the party whose Prime Minister has removed a polling booth from one of the hospitals of Adelaide.
– The honorable senator does not state the reason why it was removed.-
– But it was removed. What has been the attitude of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in regard to giving women votes? While he was in State politics in Victoria, by voice and by vote, he always opposed women’s franchise. The Labour party has never occupied that position. We believe, not only in votes for women, but also in provisions which would enable the nomadic class throughout Australia, to have a chance of exercising the vote. But we recognise that the machinery devised for postal voting was open to the grossest abuse, and, while our party occupied the Ministerial benches, we decided that the postal vote would have to go. We have not changed our position. We have only changed our attitude as to the method of avoiding the abuses. We propose, therefore, to exclude justices of the peace and postal voting officers. We propose to exclude canvassers from touting for votes for their paymasters, who are almost invariably attached to that party which now controls the government of the Commonwealth. We want the postal vote to be maintained with such adequate safeguards as Senator Pearce’s amendment will provide. We wish sick people and absent voters to have an opportunity of exercising the franchise. We are satisfied that the electors are fairly nauseated with the crocodile tears which accompany the expressions of sympathy enunciated by Ministerialists. What did they do in regard to the maternity bonus? The method in which they voted against thatmeasure indicated that, if they had their way the sick women would never have obtained the welcome allowance which they get to-day, owing to the action of a Labour Government. If Ministers only realized the full import of the earthquake shock which they got in New South. “Wales the other day, they would by this time be on their road to the GovernorGeneral with their resignations, and the Labour, party would be, as it ought to be and will, soon be, on the road to the Treasury bench. If we were there we should introduce an amending Electoral Act in. the very direction proposed today. We do not. tout for votes or for popularity. The fact of our. presence in such numbers here is a proof that we have never touted for popularity, but have rather stood by unpopular issues until we made them popular by sheer dint of the belief we had in their virtue and by the sacrifices we were prepared to make for them. The gentlemen now in charge of the Government have trimmed their sails to every breath of wind that blew. If they had not the continual benediction of the press of this country they would never be where they are. Except for the press, there would not be sufficient of them left to bury the corpse of their party. I have been doing some political’ grave-digging in New South Wales recently, and know what the feeling is in regard to this Government. The position of the Labour party in respect to the postal vote is the same as it was when we originated the proposal. Our only change has been in regard to the method which should be employed to prevent abuses. We widened the franchise at the last election further than it was ever widened before, and the facilities for voting which we provided were availed of throughout the Commonwealth. We were not condemned in New South Wales-, the State from which our opponents secured their majority, on this issue alone. There was no public demand for this amendment of the Electoral Act. Those who now occupy the Treasury bench have read a wrong meaning into the so-called mandate they received from the people. They received no man- date of this kind at all. If you go to all the divisions of the Commonwealth it will be found, beyond all doubt, that there never was a public demand for this leaflet legislation. This proposal is put forward only for the purpose of currying favour with a particular section. It is, in keeping with the false, hollow, and counterfeit sympathy which our- opponents have expressed for the sick women of the Commonwealth. They have travelled on that in. the past. They have nothing but shams and counterfeit arguments’ to travel on. Senator McColl may laugh, but it comes with a, bad grace from a man who has turned so many times, and. has faced so many ways, and who would not give a vote to women.
– The honorable senator is absolutely wrong. I have always voted for the vote for women.
– That is a sample of the honorable senator. He says, “ I always voted for the vote for women.”
– The honorable sena: tor knows nothing of what he is talking about.
– Here is the VicePresident of the Executive Council, who sometimes sits in the chair of the viceregent of His Majesty the King. He should be a man above men; a man on the mountain top.
– He is as good a man as you. are, at any rate.
– Order !
– He should be a man from whom we have a right to expect at least truthfulness. I direct the attention of honorable senators to a Bill which, was introduced in the Victorian Parliament. This Bill was brought into the Legislative Assembly of Victoria by the late Mr. Munro, in 1891. Its object was to amend the Constitution of Victoria in certain directions, and one of the principal amendments proposed was to give the women of Victoria the right to vote. The late Mr. Munro, in speaking on the Bill, made use of these words - ;
I have read up all the arguments which I have been able to find against the extension of the franchise to women, and I have not been able to discover any tangible objection, not one. There can be no argument against women suffrage, which could, not be used, equally well against manhood suffrage. .
– Hear, hear !
– That statement- was made by Mr. Munro on the; second reading of the Bill. After debate, a division was taken on the second, reading, which will be found, recorded at page 1719 of the Victorian Hansard for 1891. The division list shows that there were 39 Ayes and 13 Noes, and the pairs on the Bill were : For the measure, Duffy, Shiels, and Tucker; against the measure, Cameron, Officer, and McColl.
– Bowled out again.
– That was not on the women’s vote at all.
– Hansard is wrong again, probably.
– I will easily put that right.
– I have only to say that the position of the Labour party in this regard is the same as it always was. They are not looking for any votes at all. They arenot seeking to make themselves popular.
– No, but they are running away from the unpopularity of their past action.
– If they were seeking popularity, they might have said the kind of things which their opponents have manifested the possession of a special art in saying. They are here to-day, anxious to devise some means by which the best of our citizens, who are obliged to work in the remote districts of the Commonwealth, may be given an opportunity to record their votes. Many of them were deprived of their right to vote through thelast amendment of the electoral law we made, but that defect was to have been remedied if the political balance at thegeneral election had turned in our favour. We do not want to have any shuffling with words, or to occupy a false position. Our position with regard to postal voting remains the same, only we are anxious to hit upon some method to enable voters in remote districts to record their votes as easily as if they could go in a motor car to the polling booth. The men and women who are obliged to go far and wide to look for their livelihood have, in common with the sick, always had our especial sympathy. The people we desire to stamp out are the paid and interested touts who have gone round the country in the past seducing electors of their votes. This amendment will shut down hard and fast upon that type of tout, who has been employed chiefly by thegentlemen who have “ fluked “ on to the Ministerial benches and are there at the present time.
- Senator Lynch has, probably unwittingly, quite mistaken the position with regard to a vote of mine to which he has referred. Speaking from memory, I wish to say that the late Mr. Munro brought in a Bill providing for single voting, an adult vote for men, and a women’s vote. I said that I would support that Bill because it provided for the women’s vote. Mr. Munro later withdrew the provision giving votes to women from the Bill. I said that if he withdrew that provision I would vote against the measure. He did withdraw it, and consequently I voted against it.
– Does the honorable senator think that Senator Lynch did not know that ?
– Too thin.
– What? Does the honorable senator mean to say that I am telling an untruth?
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added to the Bill : - “ 2. An elector who, owing to serious illness or infirmity, has reason to believe that he will not be able to record his vote at any polling place during the hours of polling on the day of election, may at any time after the issue or the writ, and up to within seven days preceding the day of election, make application to the Returning Officer of the division in which he ‘is enrolled that he be allowedto record his vote.
The Returning Officer, on a day previous to the election and after the time for receiving applications has expired, shall appoint an Assistant Returning Officer, who shall, prior to or on the day of election, call at the address of the person who claims a vote, and if satisfied that the applicant is entitled to vote under the provisions of this section, shall supply the applicant with a ballot-paper, which the voter will mark in the prescribed manner in the presence of the officer, and, if the voter so desires, of a relation or other person, but so that the officer cannot see the manner in which the ballot-paper is marked, and shall then fold the ballot-paper so as to hide the vote, and then in the presence of the officer deposit the ballot-paper in a sealed ballot-box which shall be provided, and remain in the custody of the officer until it is given into the charge of the Divisional Returning Officer. The ballot-paper shall be opened by and counted by the Returning Officer at the scrutiny after the closing of the ballot.
Any elector who has reason to believe–
That he will not on polling day, during the hours of polling, be within five miles of any polling place, or
That he will on polling day be in quarantine within the Commonwealth, or
That - being a female elector - she will not on polling day, during the hours of polling, on account of ill-health or infirmity, be able’ to attend at any polling place ; may, after the issue of the writ, upon making a. declaration in the prescribed form before a postmaster, vote under the provisions of section 139 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902- 1911, or as an absent voter.
Provided that -
The declaration shall be made and the vote shall be recorded only at the post-office of which such postmaster is in charge, and
The declaration shall not be valid unless such postmaster stamps the declaration with post-office letter stamp of the date upon which the declaration is made.”
I think there has been such a long discussion on the merits of the amendment that it is unnecessary that I should do more than formally move it.
– I rise before the clause goes through to ask the Leader of the Government whether there is not, on the other side, a sufficient sense of the dignity with which the business should be conducted by the Government to suggest an explanation from Ministersas to whether they intend to continue to sit where they are, in view of the adverse vote which has been recorded against them, and in view of the fact that a clause is now being inserted in the Bill which entirely alters the measure as it was introduced in the Senate? There are other assemblies in which public business is conducted in the way in which it is usually conducted here. But I do not think there has been any previous example of a Ministry clinging to office in this way. We have never, I think, previously witnessed the spectacle of a Government having an important measure of this kind taken out of their hands, and altered in such a drastic manner, without some kind of protest. This should certainly be expected from a Government who claim to have been returned in order that they might restore constitutional government. I want to know from the Leader of the Senate if he considers that it is constitutional government for a Ministry to suffer the indignity of an alteration of the principal clause of a measure without a word of complaint - afraid to put in a protest against the business being taken out of his hands? I have seen other Governments conducting the affairs of the party, but they have done it with an amount of dignity which, at any rate, entitled them to respect, but neither in the Senate nor outside will any party or any one that has followed the constitutional procedure of this and other Parliaments have any respect for a Government who will have their measure treated in this way without a word of protest from them.
Question - That the proposed new clause be added to the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title consequentially amended and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, including amendments in the title.
Standing Orders suspended; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
Thatthis Bill be now read a third time.
– I want to ask the Government whether they will undertake to expedite the passage of the Bill in another place, so far as their influence will go?
– Take the hint.
– I think that we have a right to ask the Government, considering the assistance we have rendered tonight to make this a workable measure, to give us an assurance that the time will not be wasted, and that they will use their influence in another place to get the Bill made law before this year expires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Millen), by leave, agreed to -
That in view of the fact that Senators Bakhap, Ferricks, and Sir Albert Gould have sent apologies for their absence from the call of the Senate, and that Senator Keating was absent on leave granted by the Senate, the said senators be excused for failure to answer such call.
Portraits of Distinguished Australians - Liverpool Military Encampment - Senator McColl and Womanhood Suffrage - Auditor-General’s Report - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway: Tree Planting.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [10.47]. - I desire to refer to a matter which I regard as of some importance, and for which, I believe, the Commonwealth Treasury will be responsible. With many other members of this Parliament, I visited the Queen’s Hall this afternoon for the purpose of inspecting the portraits of distinguished Australians which have just been hung there. In one of these portraits in which I was particu larly interested, I entirely failed to recognise the lineaments of my . very old colleague and chief, the late Right Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston. Others who were formerly members of the South Australian Parliament, and who knew the right honorable gentleman intimately for a number of years, occupied a similar position. I have been told by persons competent to judge that these portraits have all been executed in the highest style of art. But, whatever may be said from the stand-point of their artistic execution, I . say that in the most essential attribute of a portrait - its resemblance to the original - that which purports to represent the late Mr. Kingston utterly fails. Those of us who recollect his portly form, his manly bearing, and his genial and beaming countenance, will signally fail to recognise in that portrait any resemblance to him. The late right honorable gentleman has been rather unfortunate from the stand-point of the endeavours which have been made to perpetuate his memory. In South Australia a committee was appointed for the purpose of perpetuating his memory by means of a statue. In that statue how do honorable senators think that this great leader qf the Australian Democracy is depicted? I am speaking only from a reference which I saw to the matter in the newspapers a few weeks ago. This great leader of Australian Democracy is represented in court dress. To my mind, nothing could be more inappropriate. I am sure that that is the last form in which he would desire his memory to be perpetuated. I do not know whether these pictures have actually been purchased, but, if not, in regard to the one of which I speak, as an old South Australian and an old colleague and friend of the late right honorable gentleman, I strongly protest against its purchase.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Minister of Defence to a report of the almost inhuman treatment to which young soldiers have been subjected at the Liverpool encampment. I have read that their food was not fit for pigs, that they have been marched daily for miles without a drink of water, and that they have been refused permission to purchase a drink of anything elseYoung soldiers have returned from that encampment dissatisfied and almost bordering on revolt. If we desire these young men to take an interest in their training, we must give them some little privileges.
– What sort of privileges?
– I say that their treatment has been almost inhuman. I ask the Minister to institute inquiries into the matter, with a view to seeing where the fault lies. Of course, it may be said that if these young men are going to become soldiers, they must suffer hardships. That is absolute rot. Men have come away from previous camps with nothing but good feeling.
– There has never been an encampment at which these complaints have not been made.
– Oh, yes, there has ! It has been stated in thepublic press that these young men have been treated more like pigs and dogs than human beings. We are building up in Australia a defence system which will surely break down, because on the one hand we have permanent officers, whilst on the other we have volunteer soldiers. The two things will never harmonize. We have plenty of militia officers ‘who are willing to undertake the duties which are performed by the permanent officers. But they are never given an opportunity to qualify, and practically they are not wanted. I thoroughly believe in our compulsory training system, but we need not inflict hardship upon the trainees when it is possible to make the conditions oftheir training more pleasant. I hope that the Minister will inquire into the matter and let us know the real facts of the case.
– During the discussion on the Postal Voting Restoration Bill, I had occasion to refer to Senator McColl’s past attitude on the question of womanhood suffrage. I stated that, while he was a member of the Victorian Parliament, he voted against the second reading of an amending Constitution Bill which provided for womanhood suffrage. Thereupon, the honorable senator rose and said that he voted against the second reading of that measure on account of the withdrawal from it of a provision which conferred votes upon women.. I have looked upthe Victorian Hansard for the 1891 session, and in volume 67, page 1716, I find the following passage : -
I intended to vote for the second reading of this Bill, but in consequence of what I have been told, that the Premier is going to withdraw what I consider is really the most important part of the Bill, because woman suffrage is the complement , of one-man-one-vote-
Then three pages intervene before the division. Whilst during the debate recorded on those three pages the Premier of the day, the late Mr. Munro, interjected several times, he did not once say that he withdrew that portion of the Bill. That circumstance justifies me in concluding that, when the measure went to a vote, it still contained a provision for the granting of womanhood suffrage, and that Senator McColl voted against it.
– The statement which the honorable senator has read is clear enough.
– When Senator McColl voted against that Bill, it had in it a provision to confer votes upon women.
– I stated previously that I thought the honorable senator had unwittingly fallen into an error. It is quite correct to say that I voted against the Bill, but the statement had been made that the provision in regard to womanhood suffrage was to be withdrawn. The very words which the honorable senator has quoted confirm what I say.
– I desire to add a word or two to what Senator McDougall has said in regard to the trouble which recently occurred at the Liverpool encampment. I do not wish what I am about to say to be regarded as an attack on the Ministry, because we ought to consider this question as one which is above all party considerations. But I wish to point out that there must be some legitimate reason for the discontent that has been engendered in our young soldiers at this military encampment. Probably Senator Millen will recollect the trouble which was reported as a riot there, and which occurred ten or twelve days ago. On that occasion some young fellows were anxious to obtain drink in Liverpool, and the bridge was guarded to prevent them crossing it.. Last Tuesday, when I was passing through Liverpool in the train, I saw the guard, which had been stationed there several days before, was still being maintained. Its members had their bayonets ready to get to work if required. Seeing that when they are well managed there is no body of men more amenable to reasonable discipline than are. Australians, it seems to me that the necessity for continuing that guard constitutes a serious reflection on the way in which these young soldiers are being mismanaged.
– The honorable senator is not going to advocate the establishment of a canteen, is he ?
– No. I believe that a number of officers who obtain positions in our Defence Forces are imported men, and that the trouble arises from their attempt to manage our Citizen Forces in the despotic manner in which soldiers of the Old Country and of other European countries are managed. If these despotic methods are not to be toned down to meet the Australian character, undoubtedly trouble will arise.
– Instead of making these general statements, why not bring me evidence which I can inquire into?
– I am telling the Minister all I know.
– General statements about despotic treatment - when, where, and by whom ?
– There is nothing general in the statement that trouble did arise, and that the troops there were supposed to be in a state of. insubordination, which necessitated keeping an armed guard at the bridge, as if it were a frontier post armed against a foreign country. I saw those troops with my own eyes.
– Does the honorable senator say that the guard ought not to have been there ?
– There should have been no necessity for its having been there.
– That is another matter.
– I fully admit that if a guard was necessary, it should be kept there until the crack of doom, but I say that the system must be a bad one when an armed guard, with fixed bayonets, is necessary to prevent our troops from crossing a bridge. There is something pretty rotten which wants looking into when that state of things exists.
Senator MAUGHAN (Queensland)
Auditor-General’s report is likely to be circulated ? Will the Minister kindly look into the matter, and. give us some information about it at the next day of sitting ?
.- I should like to know what has been done by the Government, or whether anything has been done by the previous Administration regarding the. planting of Australian hardwood trees along the line of route, of the transcontinental railway? When the- Bill for the construction of the. railway was before Parliament, I brought under notice the desirableness of planting hardwood trees on. suitable reserves along the route. If anything is to be done at all, the sooner it is done the better. During the recess I hope the Government will take steps to initiate a. system of planting, with a view of supplying the timber necessary for replacing that which will be used upon the railway. I hope that the Minister will bring the matter under the notice of the Government, and of the surveyors, so that suitable localities for planting may be marked out as soon as possible.
– With regard to the question asked by Senator O’Loghlin, as far as I know - I cannot speak with absolute confidence - a Committee of experts was appointed by the late Government to take charge of thematter of the portraits of prominent Australians who were connected with the foundation of the Commonwealth. The selection of the painters for each of the portraits was left to that Committee. The particular portrait to which Senator O’Loghlin referred has been painted under that system.
– Ought not the Committee to see that the portraits are executed properly ?
– No more than we have to see that members of the Senate have to execute their duties properly.
– There should be somebody to see whether the portraits are worth paying for.
– I believe that all these matters have been referred to the Committee.
– Have the portraits been finally accepted ?
– I believe those hanging in the Queen’s Hall have been accepted. If I. find I am in error, I will make a correction to-morrow.. With, regard to Senator Maughan’s question, the Auditor-General’s report ought to be in the hands of honorable senators tomorrow at the latest.
– I have just obtained a copy of one.
– I have not seen it myself.
– I wish to supplement the information that the Honorary Minister has given to Senator O’Loghlin. The portrait of the Right Honorable C. C. Kingston, now hanging in the Queen’s Hall, has been painted under the direction of the Committee of Experts which was appointed by the late Government. It will be remembered that an Historical Memorials’ Committee was appointed to look after that matter. The Committee includes the Prime Minister, the late Prime Minister, and, by virtue of their offices, Mr. Speaker and myself, together with some other gentlemen. Of course, the Committee does not claim to be a committee of experts. They take the advice of experts. Those portraits were finally accepted on the advice of the Experts Committee. I took exception to the portrait of the Right Honorable C. C. Kingston, which did not appear to resemble what he was during his membership of the Federal Parliament. However, others stated that it was a fairly good representation of him as he was twenty-five years ago.
– Several others said that the portrait must be fairly true, inasmuch as it was painted from a photograph of the right honorable gentleman. It does not appear to me to be a good representation of him as I knew him. The Committee, however, have accepted the portrait, and I am afraid that the position is practically irrevocable.
– I have noted Senator Gardiner’s remarks on the subject of planting hardwood trees, and will report them to my colleague, who is concerned with the construction of the transcontinental railway. With regard to the treatment of the cadets at the Liverpool camp, I interjected that Senator Rae’s remarks were general. I repeat that statement. The statements made here to-night are prac tically those which appeared in some of the newspapers. They were vague and general, and not a little sensational. I am asked to inquire into those statements. The statement is made by Senator McDougall that all the troops were treated like dogs and pigs.
– I said that that was stated in the newspapers.
– The newspapers are ‘inclined to be, as Senator McDougall himself is, sensational. I have asked for something definite upon which I can base an inquiry that will be worthy of being an inquiry. What am I to inquire into ? As to whether the boys were treated like pigs and dogs, all I can say is that I know nothing of the matter, except that whatever was the rule before I went to the Department is the rule today. I have not altered a single thing, except in one respect. I have prescribed a more liberal ration than previously prevailed. If the troops are now being treated like pigs and dogs under the more liberal ration which I prescribed, what must their condition have been before ? If these statements are true, I shall be glad to have them inquired into, but vague, general statements do not convince me that anything was wrong.
– We shall have to have a Select Committee to find out.
– Oh, your Select Committees !
– The Minister should not take these things as being a slur on him individually.
– But you are hurting the Defence Force by giving publicity to these general statements.
– There will not be a word in the newspapers about it. There will be no publicity to our remarks.
– The honorable senator is giving currency to statements which I say were gross exaggerations and libels., Take the statement of Senator Rae about this great outrage.
– I do not say that it was a great outrage. I simply say that if the troops had been properly managed what I saw would not have been necessary.
– There is no necessity to say anything more on the subject. The honorable senator takes it as certain that the fact that the guard was put at the bridge shows that the troops were not properly managed.
– I do.
– I want something more definite before I oan say there is room for inquiry. All that I know is that the statements which appeared in the newspapers about a riot having occurred were gross exaggerations. What actually occurred wa9 that there was a little “ sky-larking “ such as will always occur amongst youths, and a number of them said that they would cross the bridge in spite of the guard. A number of others went down to the bridge apparently to enjoy the conflict which might occur with the guard. To say that there was anything like a riot is a gross misuse of language.
– They got into Liverpool in spite of the guard at the bridge.
– And I gather that the honorable senator rather applauds these boys for breaking guard in order to go into town and get drink. The guard was placed there in the interests of the boys themselves.
– Does the honorable senator say that the statements were gross exaggerations f
– I do.
– What does he think of the newspapers which support his party, and have published these exaggerations?
– I think it is about time to go.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 December 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131209_SENATE_5_72/>.