5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
.- I wish to make a personal explanation. Last night, on the motion for the adjournment of the House,. Senator O’Loghlin brought up the question of the new regulation adopted with regard to the provision for absent voting in the Electoral Act. I had not seenthe final draft at the time I spoke, and was informed that the effect of the alteration which had been made in the original draft, concerning which Mr. Cook and Mr. Maher had conferred, was in a certain direction. I have since ascertained, in looking through the regulation, that my words were not, perhaps, literally correct. I have since had an opportunity of conferring with Senator McGregor, and, as I informed the House last night, if the alteration is regarded by my honorable friends opposite as a departure in spirit or letter from the arrangement arrived at, the Government will be willing to withdraw the regulation and submit one in the terms originally arranged.
Suspension of Standing Orders : Address to Governor-General.
– Is it the intention of the Government to give facilities for the presentation of the six Constitution Alteration Bills to the vote of the people at the forthcoming election?
– I think I answered a similar question quite recently in this chamber.
– I thought you might have changed your mind.
– If that is the only reason the honorable senator asks the question, perhaps it is not necessary for me to say more than that I have not changed my mind, nor have the Government changed theirs.
Senator MoGREGOR (South Australia) [3.5]. - In view of the Minister’s reply, and other contingencies that have arisen, I beg to move -
That bo much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the submission by me of the following motion : - “ That an Address be presented to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, praying that, in accordance with section 128 of the Constitution Aot, he will be pleased to submit to the electors on the date to be fixed for taking the poll for the election of senators and members of the House of Representatives for the next Parliament, the six proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution duly passed on two occasions with the statutory interval, by the Senate, and not passed by the House of Representatives.”
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 19
– There being more than an absolute majority of the whole Senate voting in favour of the motion, I declare it carried and the Standing Orders suspended accordingly.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That an Address bc presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, praying that, in accordance with section 128 of the Constitution Act, he will be pleased to submit to the electors on the date to be fixed for taking the poll for the election of senators and members of the House of Representatives for the next Parliament, the six proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution duly passed, on two occasions, with the statutory interval, by the Senate, and not passed by the House of Representatives.
.- I feel once more that it is a mere beating of the air and waste of time to address any arguments to a Chamber constituted as this one is; but whilst I do not, therefore, propose to attempt anything like an analysis either of the motion or of the reasons which may be advanced in its support, there is one aspect of the matter to which I should like to draw attention - that is, the extraordinarily inconsistent attiude of honorable senators opposite. They are contending, both here and outside, that the provision of section 57, dealing with a double dissolution, ought not to be made operative, although at least literally every condition set out in the section has been met.
– We are not contending anything of the kind.
– Why, Senator Pearce, not long ago, took nearly the whole of an afternoon to show that no double dissolution ought to be granted in present circumstances.
– Not in the circumstances.
– Just so; and I wish to point out what the circumstances are. Literally, at least, whatever the merits of the case may be, the requirements of section 57 have been complied with. A Bill has been twice sent up by the other House, an interval of three months intervening, and has been twice rejected by this Chamber. Yet while honorable senators opposite contend that, although the conditions of that section have been met, a double dissolution is not warranted, they are now asking that the provisions of section 128 should be put into operation, although its conditions have not yet been met. Section 128 provides, not, that a matter shall be sent to a referendum merely because of a request of this House, but that where a Bill or Bills have been sent from this Chamber and twice rejected by the other House, or the other House fails twice to pass them, it is competent, for the Governor-General to take a certain course of action. But before it can be reasonably said that that condition has been met, honorable senators come forward with a motion to memorialize the Governor-General now to exercise his power under the section. The condition which would authorize him to do so has not, yet, arisen.
– What condition?
– The condition that the oilier House should reject or fail to pass the Bills. Is it to he held that the other Househas failed to pass them because they have been down there for a few days only, and merely because the Government declare that it is not proposed to create special facilities for dealing with them ?
– Has not the other House negatived an amendment containing a. direction to allow a discussion of the Bills?
– The amendment to which the honorable senator refers was simply moved in connexion with the Supply Bill. I rose without any intention to enter into a discussion of constitutional matters of this kind, as in other circumstances I should have been interested to do. I merely content myself with pointing out the extraordinary position the Opposition are taking up. The Bills are still in suspense, and it cannot he declared that they have been rejected, or that the other placehas failed to pass them.
– The Government have absolutely refused to have anything to do with them.
– Whatever the Government may have said, the other House has made no pronouncement on the Bills themselves, and there is nothing in section 128 which says that if the Govern ment do this, that, or the other, something else must be done. The section refers to what the other House does. It makes no reference to parties or Governments, and until the other House has either rejected the measures, or it can be said that it has failed to pass them, I venture to say that my honorable friends are much too premature. That is the only point I wish to raise at this juncture. If I thought that any profit was to be gained by arguing and analyzing this position at greater length I should not hesitate to trespass upon the time of the Chamber. But as I know perfectly well that my honorable friends, rejoicing in their great majority, have made up their minds to adopt a certain course, I recognise that no reasoning which might be addressed from this side would in any way affect the ultimate result.
– The argument of the Minister of Defence boils down to this : That these Bills have not yet failed to pass in another place in the second session in which they have been presented. What we propose is to pass an Address to His Excellency praying that he will take advantage of the powers conferred on him by section 128 of the Constitution to send the Bills to the country. Before that can be done at least one of the two Houses must have been dissolved. It is obvious that before His Excellency can accede to our request a dissolution must have come about either of one House or of both Houses. By that time certainly the Bills will either have been rejected or will have failed to pass. We know that from the composition of the other House. Therefore the condition suggested by the Minister of Defence will have been fully complied with and the Governor-General would have before him an Address from the Senate asking him to put in operation section 128 of the Constitution. Does the Minister suggest that we cannot pass this Address until after Parliament is dissolved? His proposition, if it means anything, means that we must not pass this motion until the position has been created that we have reached the end of the session and the Bills have failed to pass in another place. I point out to him that when that position is reached the Senate will be incompetent to pass anything.
– Then you admit that the condition has not been reached.
– I admit nothing of the kind. I contend that the Bills have failed to pass now, if not technically, practically, and certainly will have failed to pass when the other House. is dissolved. Whether at the time we present the Address to His Excellency the Bills have failed to pass is altogether beside the question. We have to present an Address at the only time when we can do so - in session, and that is now. When the Government came to deal with section 57 of the Constitution they said, “You must have no regard to the spirit of section 57. You must not even consider what it was intended for. You must tie yourself up to the strict technical meaning of the law. You must decide the question on a technicality. There must be no looking at the Bill over which the dispute has occurred. You must not take into consideration whether the Bill is of great moment or of no account. Whether it accomplishes anything or nothing the mere fact that it is a Bill which has been sent up twice and has twice been rejected fulfils the condition of section 57.”
– Hear, hear !
– But when we come to section 128 of the Constitution the Minister of Defence says, “ You may have Bills of the utmost importance. They may be Bills which are going to fundamentally alter the Constitution. Then it is not the technical meaning of the law-“
– Yes it is.
-“ But But the spirit of the law.”
– I have not said so. I have said that you are not meeting the requirements of the section, not the spirit of it.
– I leave it to the honorable senator to reconcile the two conflicting arguments, as I know that he can reconcile anything.
– There is one thing which you cannot do : You cannot state my views accurately.
– Nobody else can.
– I confess that I must plead guilty to this accusation, because when 1 come to reconcile the Minister’s attitude and argument with section 128-
– You have not stated my attitude accurately.
– I admit it is beyond my power to do so.
– You force me to say that you are misrepresenting me. That is plain enough, I think.
– I have not intentionally misrepresented the honorable senator. I think I have pointed out that we are taking the only course possible to comply with section 128. Is it not a fact that the Bills must be passed in the last session of the Parliament preceding an election or a reference to the people ? If there was to be another session between this one and the proposed reference or the election that would nullify the Bills. It would nullify the effect of their introduction in two sessions, clearly showing that if we are to address the GovernorGeneral on the subject we must address him while Parliament is in session. If the Minister’s contention is correct, that we cannot say that the Bills have failed to pass until we have reached the end of the session, it clearly shows that it would be impossible in any set of circumstances to address the GovernorGeneral. Surely there must be a practical way of doing the thing, and the only practical way is to present “ an address while Parliament is in existence and in session, and it must be in the session immediately preceding the reference which we desire him to make.
– It does not follow that the referendum shall take place immediately at the close of the session.
– No other session can intervene.
– The Minister knows that it must be in the last session preceding an election or the proposed reference.
– I do not know anything of the kind.
– I think it is clear when you come to look at the dates.
– You showed that you were wrong there by holding the referendum in 1911.
– The Minister does not see my point. We passed the Bill3 in the last session preceding the reference. I have clearly stated throughout my speech that the reference of the Bills to the people may be at a time when there is no election, or when there is an election. But the reference to the people, whether it is made at an election or not, must be after the Bills have passed the House in the last session. We cannot have a session intervening, and then refer the Bills.
– Where is the prohibition ?
– The prohibition is a question of time.
– Where is the prohibition ?
– Section 128 reads -
This Constitution shall not be altered except in the following manner : -
The proposed law for the alteration thereof must he passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, and not less than two, nor more than six, months after its passage through both Houses the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representatives.
– You can have two sessions in six months.
– There is no time limit when the Bill only goes through one House.
– No. The section continues-
But if either House passes any such propositi law by an absolute majority, and the other House rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, and if, after an interval of three months, the firstmentioned House, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law by an absolute majority with or without any amendment which has been made or agreed to by the other House, and such other House rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, the Governor-General may submit the proposed law as last proposed by the first-mentioned House, and cither with or without any amendments subsequently agreed to by both Houses, to the electors in each State qualified to vote for the election of the House of Representatives.
Does the Minister argue that the time limit in the first paragraph does not apply to the second paragraph?
– The period of six months does, but you can have another session before six months.
– If the present Parliament were due to expire, by effluxion of time, in six months, with the knowledge that there was another session to intervene, does the Minister suggest for a moment that a special referendum should be taken, or held over till the day of election?
– In such a contingency the Bills would not be brought forward till the last session. You must see that.
– The Government would be accused of being both stupid and inane if they brought Bills forward, except in the session immediately preceding the election during which they proposed to refer them to the people. My contention is that the effect of the direction as to the time limit, for all practical purposes, is that the Bills must pass in the last session of the Parliament preceding either the reference or the election.
– If they do not pass the other House, the time limit applies also.
– That certainly must be so. In the present position, would Senator Millen argue that he could go through . the next Parliament, and then, perhaps, in the middle of it,” or just prior to the following election, the Governor-General could say-
– I did not say anything of the kind. What I said was that there was no stipulation at the time which prevents the holding of an intermediate session.
– It is unthinkable that there could be another session.
– There is nothing to prevent the Government dealing with the Bills now but their stubbornness.
– We have to recognise things as they are. The Government have created a position in which a double or a single dissolution is certain. The Governor-General has, in some manner unknown, given them a promise - whether conditional or otherwise, we do not know - of a double dissolution. Either a double dissolution must eventuate or the Government must resign, in which case we would have a single dissolution, so that it is unthinkable that there could be another session. ‘That completely destroys the ground of the Minister’s argument that we could have taken another course than that Ave have adopted, or that we could have delayed the matter.
– Which would not be the same Parliament.
– We are taking the only practicable course which is possible. The Minister in this matter is doing exactly as he did on the address to the Governor-General last night, and that is, chawing the usual red herring across the trail. By some strange method of reading the Constitution, he attempts to make the people believe that we could have delayed the passing of this ‘address; that we could have waited for the session to end and then, in some mysterious way, have passed the address, when he knows that when the session ends our power is ended too as regards any action we could take in this matter. As the House which originated these measures, and which has twice passed them with a tremendous majority, we are taking the constitutional course of asking His Excellency to exercise the powers conferred upon him in section 128 of the Constitution.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [3.2S].- The Minister of Defence has accused honorable senators on this side of inconsistency as to the interpretation of sections 57 and 128 of the Constitution. They objected to the granting of a double dissolution under section 57 because the Bill in dispute was sent on to the Senate on the casting vote of the Speaker, and it was only a trumpery measure involving no great national issue. If we have a precedent established by the Governor-General reading the word “ may,” in section 57, virtually to mean “shall,” it will be very difficult for him to read the same word in section 128 in a different way. We want to put that point to the test. The Government, both here and in the other House, have declined to submit these Bills to the people. We do not want the Government to take any action on their own account, but simply to submit the measures to the people who are their masters and ours. If section 128 was put in the Constitution to enable either House to bring before the people proposed alterations of the Constitution, after a certain procedure, either House can insist upon the submission to the people of a proposed measure for the amendment of the Constitution which it has twice passed, and which has been twice rejected by the other House. If that section is not to be operative, it means that the Executive have to decide finally whether such proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution shall be submitted to the people. If that be the correct interpretation of the section, it is entirely inoperative so far as the Senate is concerned. If the popular
House is in favour of a proposed law for the amendment of the Constitution, and the Senate is also in favour of it, it will take the usual course of passing the necessary Bills as was done in the case of the measures submitted by referendum to the people two years ago. But if, as on this occasion, proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution are passed twice by the Senate, and do not find favour in another place, and the Executive can intervene, it simply means that the Senate is powerless to force the submission to the people of any constitutional alteration. I contend that it is mandatory upon the Executive, if they are not to flout the Constitution, to take steps to submit these proposed laws for constitutional amendments when the constitutional conditions of section 128 have been complied with. Our Constitution has not been long in existence, and we have not a large accumulation of precedents for its interpretation. I have here The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, by Quick and Garran, which is acknowledged to be a standard work upon the interpretation of the Constitution. Sir John Quick was one of the founders of the Constitution, and Mr. Garran is one of the chief law advisers of the Commonwealth at the present time. Dealing with proposed amendments of the Constitution, and referring to the method provided for in section 128, these authorities say -
This alternative method of originating an amendment was not in the Constitution as drafted by the Federal Convention. It was recommended by the Conference of Premiers, and was afterwards ratified by the people on the occasion of thu second referendum. It was designed to facilitate the amending procedure, and to deprive one Federal Chamber of the power to unduly obstruct or delay the submission of a proposed amendment to the people.
That was the object, according to these authorities, for the insertion of this provision in the Constitution. They go on to say -
The various successive stages in the second method are substantially the sumo as those prescribed by section 57-
That is the section which the Government are themselves putting into operation - as the earlier stages of a dead-lock in ordinary legislation, except that they apply equally to both Houses.
Quick and Garran then proceed to state the various stages through which pro- posals for the amendment of the Constitution pass. I direct the attention of honorable senators, and particularly of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, to the following statement, under the heading,” Reference to the Electors “-
When n proposed amendmenthas boon passed by the two Federal Houses, or when it has been passed twice by one Federal House, with the interval, and in thu manner prescribed, the procedure then assumes a form unknown in matters of ordinary legislation.
I specially emphasize the next sentence -
It becomes the duty of the Executive Go vernment to submit the proposed amendment to the popular vote throughout the Commonwealth, and it cannot become law unless it is approved by a majority of the electors voting and by a majority of the States.
That is to say, that it is then subject to the usual procedure prescribed for constitutional alterations. If the position is not as described by these constitutional authorities, and the Executive can intervene in a case of this kind, it means that the Executive are above the Constitution. They can, by the exercise of their authority, or, as Senator Millen has told us just now, by their refusal to act, make this section of the Constitution inoperative, and, in fact, override the Constitution altogether. That is the position at which we have arrived at the present time. The Government having denied to this branch of the Legislature an opportunity to submit these proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution to the people in the ordinary way, we are taking the only other possible course open tous, and are making a direct appeal to His Excellency the Governor-General to put section 128 into operation in respect of these measures since the Government have refused to do so.
– There is a consensus of opinion that section 57 of the Constitution has been interpreted deliberately in such a way as to aim a blow at the strength and usefulness of the Senate as a practically co-ordinate Chamber of the Federal Legislature. If, as Ministers contend,we in the Senate are to he denied any opportunity of putting before the people a proposed law for the amendment of the Constitution - to which the Government of the day object - the destruction of the Senate has been practically completed.
– That part of section 128 need not have been included in the
Constitution if the Government can do that.
– Just so. I was going to say that section 128 is a fraud and a farce altogether unless it is to be used in the manner indicated by the motion now before the Senate. The Leader of the Government in the Senate professes much virtuous indignation at the alleged inconsistency of Labour senators. Whenever the matter has been referred to in another place, the Prime Minister has unhesitatingly stated that no facilities would be given for the consideration of these measures in another place.
SenatorO’ Keefe. - He said it would be an injury to the country to facilitate their consideration.
– That, I believe, is the honorable gentleman’s latest utterance. On previous occasions, when asked whether he would give facilities for their discussion, the Prime Minister has consistently refused to do so.
– And they could not be discussed unless he gave those facilities.
-That is so. Senator Millen tells us to-day that it is a matter not for the Government, but for the House of Representatives to decide. Was there ever a piece of more transparent humbug than such a plea? Do we not all know that the conduct of the business of the House of Representatives is in the hands of the Government of the day, and that if they are hostile to any particular business it is defeated, or the Government are defeated. If the Government are hostile to proposals of this kind, as the present Government have shown themselves to be, the forms of the House and the power they possess are ample to prevent any opportunity being given to honorable members in another place to discuss such proposals. There has been consequently an absolute and definite denial on the part of the Prime Minister and his Government of any opportunity this session, which means this Parliament, for the discussion of these measures in another place. This leaves no other course open to us but the one we are about to take. We know, of course, that the Government claim to act up to their alleged name of Liberalism. This is a name they have never deserved, because they are political wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the title is adopted to cover their innate Conservatism. We know that they do not trust the people which is supposed to be an essential doctrine of true Liberalism. We are, therefore, not surprised that they should adopt every dark and devious device to defeat an opportunity to have these matters put before the people. The point referred to by Senator O’Loghlin is of the very greatest importance, and one which cannot be too strongly impressed upon the electors. If a section of the Constitution, which was designed to enable either House of this Parliament to submit proposed amendments of the Constitution to the people, is to be interpreted in the way in which the present Government desire, it will mean that, whenever the two Chambers are in conflict on such matters, the House of Representatives, should it desire the passing of a measure for the alteration of the Constitution, will always be able to have the matter submitted to the people, since the party occupying the Treasury bench in another place will control a majority, and the Government, being in favour of the proposed alteration, will always have the ear of the Governor-General, and will be able to advise him to submit the proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution to the people. But whenever it happens that the Senate wishes to submit proposals for the amendment of the Constitution to the people, necessarily the party in power and the Government of the day will be in opposition to the desire of the Senate, otherwise the proposals would go through the ordinary procedure.
– I - In this view the section must be entirely inoperative, so far as the Senate is concerned.
– That is so. This Chamber, if that be the interpretation of the section adopted, will be denied the right to give full effect to the provisions of the Constitution. The party on the Government side are great sticklers for the sacredness of the Constitution. They profess that it must be carried out to the letter. Yet, for merely partisan purposes, they are prepared to absolutely destroy the power of the Senate, of which Senator Millen is a member, and of which he should be a defender. They propose a course of action which, if we were stupid enough to follow their advice, would result in a position about as successful as if a man who desired a reprieve from death were asked to postpone his application until his execution had been carried out. The construction put upon section 128 seems to me doubtful in one respect. I am not sure that legal men might not argue that the first paragraph covers the whole section. It seems to me somewhat doubtful as to whether the six months’ period prescribed in the one case is imperative as a limitation in the other. In the first paragraph of the section where it states that the proposed law must be submitted within six months after it has passed, it is distinctly provided that that is in the case of a proposed law which is passed by both Houses. When such a proposed law is passed by both Houses it may be submitted to the people after having been passed in each House in the one session, and within a period of not less than two nor more than six months.
– D - Does the honorable senator not think that the provision with respect to six months covers the other paragraph also ?
– I have said that it may be held by legal interpreters of the Constitution that that is so. But in my opinion the wording is not clear.
– The words “ as last proposed “ are clear enough to the lay mind.
– Those words have nothing whatever to do with the first paragraph. They mean merely as last proposed by the House in which the measure has just been carried.
– D - Does the honorable senator not think that if the provision with respect to six months did not cover the other paragraph some alternative period would have been provided in that case; otherwise a proposed law might be submitted two years or three years after it was passed ?
– If the honorable senator puts forward that contention he might contend similarly with respect to section 57. It is in the circumstances interesting to know to what extent the Constitution in this matter is deficient or ambiguous. That section distinctly states that if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or in the next session, again passes a proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, the GovernorGeneral may dissolve this Chamber. But it does not prescribe a definite time between the period when a proposed law is submitted to the Senate a second time, and the period when it shall fail to pass.-
– I - It is a weakness, all the same.
– Nevertheless, that i3 the position. Will Senator O’Keefe argue that because the first paragraph of section 57 states that there must be an interval of three months between the period when a proposed law is first submitted to either House and the date of its second submission, that interval governs the second paragraph of that provision 1
– The words are “ at least.”
– Oh, no. There are no words which specify the period during which the Senate may be required to pass, or reject, or fail to pass, a proposed law upon the second occasion on which it is submitted to it.
– I - I cannot see that the two things are quite analogous.
– If the position were analogous, I should say that the first paragraph of section 128 of our Constitution governed the remaining paragraphs. But the position is not analogous. It is clear that the Government of the day, if they propose to pass a law to amend the Constitution, know that they possess a majority, probably in both Houses, and, therefore, they can proceed deliberately to pass that law during the last session of the existing Parliament, with a view to submitting it to the people at the next election, just as the Fisher Government did in the case of the Constitution Alteration Bills in question. It might be right to specify in such a case that there should be no dallying with the matter - that any proposed law should be submitted within a well-defined period after it had been approved by both Houses. But when proposals have to be carried over the head of one branch of tlie Legislature, it may be reasonable to argue that the time limitation which is applicable to the first paragraph of section 128, is not applicable to the second.
– T - The position is rather vague, no doubt.
– Like many other parts of this much vaunted Constitution, it serves to show that that instrument of government needs to be amended from end to end.
– P - Putting a commonsense construction on it, the honorable senator thinks that the six months mentioned in the first paragraph of section 128 governs tha subsequent paragraph?
– The conditions in one case being so widely different from those which obtain in the other, I am not disposed to agree with that contention. But I would point out that the words upon which some honorable senators have seized have no point whatever. They contend that the words “ the proposed law as last proposed “ have reference to the preceding paragraph of section 128. I maintain that they have nothing whatever to do with it. The Government have determinedly set their faces against affording the electors of this country an opportunity to pronounce judgment upon the proposed laws known as the Constitution Alteration Bills. Now, for some years, the Labour party have distinctly stated from one end of Australia to the other that serious defects in our Constitution render it highly desirable that the powers of this Parliament should be extended. We know that distinguished members of the Liberal party - members like the Attorney-General - have expressed similar sentiments. We know that in its present form our Constitution is a lame and impotent document, and that it is hamstringing the representatives of the people in all directions. What other result could be expected, seeing that the British system of responsible government has been grafted on to the American system, which is founded upon entirely different ideas? The mongrel Constitution which has resulted is responsible for the defects which are daily experienced in its working. It is a Constitution which prevents the free expression of the will of the people. Take, for example, the working of our Defence Act. We cannot even decide that cadet parades shall take place in tlie day-time, and that the period thus lost by apprentices shall be paid for by their employers, because it would be against the Constitution to do so. In other words, that charter of government, instead of making for more freedom, makes for restriction. There are reasons which should actuate every good Australian in hurrying forward the time when an opportunity shall be afforded the electors to sanction an extension of our Constitution, which, from its very inception, has been held up as an instrument which would confer wider powers upon the people, but which is being used by our Tory friends to buttress monopoly and to restrain popular freedon. The Labour party deserve well of the people of Australia for having used their utmost endeavours to thwart the reactionary tactics of the Government by insisting that these measures shall be submitted to the electors. Should the Governor-General refuse to accede to the prayer of the petition presented to him, then the people of this country, and their representatives, will know exactly where they stand. We shall know that we have in the exalted position of GovernorGeneral a gentleman who is ready to interpret the Constitution in a partisan manner, and to the detriment of the great masses of the people of the Commonwealth. If he chooses to put himself in that position I do not envy him the balance of his term of office.
– I was rather amazed at the easy manner in which the Minister of Defence likened section 57 of the Constitution to section 128, and then twitted Senator Pearce with inconsistency because of the very able arguments which he put before us a short time ago, with a view to showing that the GovernorGeneral should exercise his own discretion in determining whether or not he should grant a simultaneous dissolution of both Houses of this Parliament. As one who carefully followed the remarks of Senator Pearce on that occasion, I say that no portion of his argument could be construed into meaning that the GovernorGeneral did not possess the power to grant a double dissolution. The whole trend of his observations showed that His Excellency had not only the power to grant a double dissolution, but also to refuse it. When the Minister of Defence attempted to institute a comparison between section 57 aud section 128 of our Constitution he did very well. It was delightful to listen to his phrasing. But there was no real substance in his arguments. The Governor-General has interpreted section 57 of our Constitution in a certain way, and in doing so I take it that he has followed the advice which was tendered to him by his constitutional advisers, who possess a majority in another place. The Constitution Alteration Bills, which we are endeavouring to have placed before the country, are all-important to the people of the Commonwealth. It is very important that the electors should have an opportunity of wideningour Constitution at a very early date. Those measures have passed through absolutely the same stageas the so-called test Bill of the Government passed through. They have been twice assented to by this Chamber, and an interval of three months has elapsed between their first and second submission to the other branch of the Legislature. They have passed the Senate, and have now reacheda dead end, where nothing further is likely to be heard of them unless some steps are taken by this Senate. Consequently, we are about to ask that those measures which have already been submitted to the people on two occasions, which were rejected by an overwhelming majority on the first referendum, but which were almost carried on the occasion of the second referendum, shall be again remitted to the electors. If that course be followed, there is reasonable ground to believe that the people will give a verdict in favour of widening our Constitution, so as to vest this Parliament with power to protect them from the inroads of trusts, combines, and monopolies. We are taking steps to declare that this golden opportunity shall not be lost. On the 5th September next the electors will be called to the polling booths in every part of Australia. What better time could there be for again submitting these measures for their consideration? If the Government will only forget themselves and their party for a while; if they will realize that the positions which they occupy are positions of responsibility, they will recognise that the importance of these questions is so great, and that the difference of opinion exhibited by the people on the occasion of the last referendum is so small, that it is their duty to advise His Excellency to again submit them to the electors.I would now like to place side by side the provisions of section. 57 and section 128 of our Constitution. Section 57 refers to disagreements between the two Houses. It reads -
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if. after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which” have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it. or passes it With amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, thu Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and tlie House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry nf the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
If. after such dissolution the House of Representatives again passes the proposed law, with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate., and the Senate rejects or fails to puss it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of the members of the Senate mid of the House of Representatives.
That is all that it is necessary for me to read of that section. Now, section 128 of our Constitution provides -
But if either House passes any such proposed law by an absolute majority, and the other House rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, and if, after an interval of three months, the firstmentioned House, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law by an absolute majority with or without any amendment which has been made or agreed to by the other House, and such other House rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, the Governor-General may submit the proposed law as last proposed by the firstmentioned House, and, either with or without any amend ments subsequently agreed to by both Houses, to the electors in each State qualified to vote for the election of the House of Representatives.
Compare the two sections. The Ministerial party, by means of a majority of one, secured by the Speaker using his vote - which, according to British precedent and custom, is not a majority that should be allowed to conduct the affairs of any country - have passed a certain test Bill, and have succeeded iu obtaining from the Governor-General the double dissolution they claimed that they were after. What will be the effect of the decision to dissolve both Houses upon the test Bill rejected by this House?
– Order! That matter is not now under discussion.
– I merely wished to draw an analogy between the effect of the exercise of the power of the Governor-General under sections 57 and 128, but I bow to your ruling. The Governor-General’s decision under section 57 is so far-reaching that all writers are perfectly satisfied that it has considerably curtailed the powers of the Senate.
We are not asking His Excellency to do anything under section 128 that will limit or restrict the powers or rights of Mie Senate or the House of Representatives, or infringe the liberties of the people. All we ask him to do is to cause to be placed before the people at the forthcoming election proposals which will give them the power to broaden the Constitution, and give this Parliament the power which every one believes that it should have, to protect them against the inroads of trusts and combines. Surely sixty-six members of this Parliament have the right to ask that that question shall be put to the people at the forthcoming election, if forty-five members of the other party can ask for and obtain a decision that dissolves both Houses at once.
.- Senator Millen tried to make out that our attitude on’ this question is inconsistent. Our attitude on this, as on all other matters, has always been consistent. The Government, on the other hand, have always been consistent in their inconsistency. Senator Millen said that Senator Pearce and other members of the Opposition had advanced the strongest reason why a double dissolution should not be granted under section 57 on a Bill of no importance to either Chamber or to any man, woman, or child in the community. We say that the GovernorGeneral could have exercised a discretionary power under section 57, and granted a single instead of a double dissolution. With a single dissolution the probabilities are that what is considered an unworkable institution to-day would have become a workable one. Our attitude was that the Governor-General had a discretionary power under that section. The Government said that he was not entitled to a discretion, and that the provision was mandatory. If section 57 is mandatory with respect to the so-called test Bill, I claim that section 128 is also mandatory and binding on the GovernorGeneral to submit the Constitution Alteration Bills to a referendum at the coming election. The wording is the same. As a layman, I go further, and say that His Excellency has no discretionary power under section 128, although he possesses it under section 57. It is mandatory on him to submit the Bills to the people by referendum after certain conditions have been complied with.
Senator Millen says that the conditions of section 128 have not been complied with - that the Bills have not been rejected by another place, or have not failed to pass. I should like to know what “ failing to pass “ really means. The Prime Minister absolutely declines to give another place an opportunity of discussing them. He says he is opposed to them, and will not facilitate their passage, because to do so would be injurious to the interests of the people. When Mr. Fisher asked questions on the subject yesterday the Prime Minister’s attitude clearly showed that the Government would do all in their power while the session lasts to prevent the members of another place obtaining an opportunity to discuss the Bills. If the Government were anxious that the provisions of section 128 should be rigidly complied with it would be quite an easy matter for them to say, “ We shall give an opportunity for the Bills to be discussed.” But they will not give that opportunity. They say they have no sympathy with them, and will do all they can to prevent the people from having an opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to them. Mr. Fisher asked yesterday -
Will the Prime Minister give facilities for the House to discuss the six referendum Bills, or will he recommend the Governor-General to send them to the people for the decision of the electors ?
Mr. Cook’s reply was
Is the honorable member serious?
There is a nice reply for the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to make to the Leader of the Opposition! I am sure that when Mr. Fisher asked the question there was no more serious member in the House. Mr. Cook went on -
If the right honorable gentleman thinks that I so appreciate my responsibilities as to recommend the Governor-General to send to the country a set of resolutions in which I do not believe one bit, he is mistaken. It is open to my friends opposite to take their own course in regard to these matters, and the GovernorGeneral can exercise his discretion as he sees fit.
That is exactly what the Leader of our party in this Chamber has done this afternoon. He has acted on the invitation thrown out by the Prime Minister for us to approach the Governor-General.
– No, the Prime Minister did not. He said, “You can do what you like.”
– What else could Mr. Cook have had in his mind when he made that reply ? He can only have meant that we could by way of an Address approach the Governor-General, and speaking as Prime Minister on behalf of the Government he added that the Governor-General could exercise his discretion as he saw fit. Will His Excellency be allowed to exercise his discretion as he thinks fit without any influence being brought to bear on him by any member of the Government? We know the Government did use their influence on him, and succeeded in getting him to interpret section 57 of the Constitution in their own way only. If they will give an assurance that they will not attempt to influence him with regard to section 128, I believe he will have very little hesitation in complying with our request. Later yesterday Mr. Cook said -
I do not believe in the Bills. I do not want to facilitate them. It would be an injury to this country if any facilities were given.
Who is to be the judge as to whether it would be an injury to the people to give an opportunity for the discussion of the Bills in another place? Why should the Government take up an attitude of defiance to an appeal to allow the people an opportunity of expressing their opinions with regard to these measures ? When they were first submitted to the electors a year or two ago the members of the present Government, who were then in Opposition, hailed them with satisfaction because they felt at the time that they were not popular. The Labour party were not worrying as to whether they were popular or unpopular. They said they were absolutely essential in the interests of the people, and submitted them to the electors. They were ignominiously defeated, and when they were submitted a second time in May of last year the members of the Fusion party thought they would again be rejected by an overwhelming majority, but when the results were made known they got the surprise of their lives. It is because the Government fear the people at the present time that they are doing all they possibly can to prevent the referenda being taken at the coming election. The Government have no right to set their faces against the people. What are their objections to the referendum ? We have heard members of the Fusion party mouth from innumerable platforms the assertion that they trust the people every time and everywhere. “Why do they not trust the people in connexion with the coming election? Why will they not allow the people to say “yes” or “no” to the six Bills? What have they to fear? Whether they have anything to lose or to gain, it is not an honest attitude for a Government to take up, to say that the people shall not have the opportunity which any self-respecting Ministry ought to afford to them. However, my hopes are that when the proposed Address is submitted to the Governor-General later, he will exercise the powers conferred on him in section 12S of the Constitution, and that the people, in spite of the Government, who have shown their hostility to the referenda proposals ever since they were first introduced, will not be able to have their way, and that the Bills, when submitted, will be carried by a majority in all the States.
– I intend to support ‘this motion with my vote. But I regret very much that, owing to the conduct of the Government, it will be necessary to appeal to the Governor-General. In my opinion, the Government have acted, not only unconstitutionally, but most unfairly in this matter. Section 12S of the Constitution seems to me to be perfectly clear on the subject. The conditions of the section have been complied with. The particular measures have passed the Senate on two occasions, and have failed to pass in another place. Indeed, the Prime Minister has gone out of las way to declare that he will offer no facilities for passing the measures there. That being the .case, what is the Senate to do? Are honorable senators to abrogate the functions which are imposed upon them by the Constitution? Are they to carry out the wishes of their constituents or not? That, it appears to me, is the matter which is now before the members of the Senate. Seeing that we are to have an election within a comparatively short period, when an opportunity ought to be given to the people again of voting on the referenda questions, I think that this is a fitting time to afford them the opportunity. Money will be saved. If a special referendum has to be taken in connexion with these proposals, it will cost as much as a general election. On that ground alone, a thrifty Government like the present one ought to see the desirability of saving a ,few coppers, a3 a Scotchman might put it, by having a general election and a referendum at one and the same time. But the Prime Minister has given the whole show away. He has decided that the powers which are sought to be conferred upon the people by the proposed amendments of the Constitution are bad in themselves. I have not the least doubt that if the people get the additional powers, it will be very bad for somebody, but it will not be bad for the great body of the electors - for the men, women, and children who have to be fed, and clothed, and provided for in Australia. It may be bad - and I believe that it will be bad - for the trusts and combines which are now ravaging this continent, and which are supporting with their ill-gotten gains the present Government, which is in power by means of a very slender majority in another place. The Prime Minister, as I have said, gave the whole show completely away. He has decided that it is undesirable that the Constitution should be altered in the directions indicated. Yet the Attorney-General has declared time and again that these extensions of powers are absolutely necessary. He has not only declared that, but he has gone further, and said that if the Labour party were not in power he would be prepared to advocate the extensions.
– Do not take him seriously, or as an authority either. He would say anything.
– I am simply taking the Attorney-General’s words as he uttered them. He admitted that an alteration of the Constitution was desirable.
– And he is the constitutional mouth-piece of the Government.
– Yes, and the Government evidently think that an amendment of the Constitution is necessary, but, perhaps, not desirable in the interests of the trusts and combines and other institutions which are bleeding the people of Australia to some purpose. As I said at the beginning, I regret very much that we should have to trouble the
Governor-General in connexion with a matter of this kind. But for the neglect of duty on the part of the Government, but for its hostility to any questions of this character being submitted to the people, we would not be placed in that position. Our duty to the people of the Commonwealth, however, must comebefore our regard for the Governor-General or any other authority or institution. We were sent here, as I take it, to do certain things, and we are attempting to do them, nothwithstanding that the Government is trying to obstruct our action at every point.
– It is the most obstructive Government that I ever knew.
– Yes, the Government is obstructive. It is attempting to obstruct everything which is likely to be of benefit to the country. It will neither do anything itself nor allow anybody else to do anything. I have no idea what the Governor-General will do in connexion with this matter. As I have said, I am very sorry that we are compelled to approach him, hut his powers are clearly outlined in section 128 of the Constitution, and the conditions of that section, to my mind, have been complied with. Therefore, I submit that the GovernorGeneral is as much bound to send the referenda questions to the people, under the Constitution, as his advisers say he was bound to grant a dissolution of both Houses.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Address brought up, and (on motion by Senator McGregor) read by theClerk as follows -
To His Excellency the Right Honourable SirRonald Craufurd Munro Ferguson, a Member of His Majesty’s Most HonourablePrivy Council, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, GovernorGeneral and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Australia.
May it please Your Excellency : -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, respectfully request Your Excellency to exercise the powers vested in you by section 128 of The Constitution Act Vie. 63-64, chapter 8, and to submit to the electors the six proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution (herewith an nexed) duly introduced in and passed by this House of the Parliament; remitted to the House of Representatives on the9th December, 1913, and not passed by that House; again passed through all the stages by the Senate after the lapse of the statutory interval, and remitted to the House of Representatives on the 11thJune, 191.4, and not passed by the House of Representatives.
In this connexion we respectfully call Your Excellency’s attention to the fact that the Prime Minister, on the 4th June, 1914, before Your Excellency had been tendered advice to dissolve both Houses of the Parliament, in reply to a question stated that he would not afford opportunity for the discussion of these proposed laws; and on the 17th June, in reply to a request by the Leader of the Opposition, in the House of Representatives, that he would recommend Your Excellency to refer the proposed alterations of the Constitution to the electors, definitely refused so to do, andstated that- “It is open to the Opposition …. to recommend the Governor-General to refer their proposals to the country.”
In reply to another request for time to permit of the discussion of these proposed laws, the Prime Minister said he could not see his way clear to do so. And later, in reply to a further question whether he would give facilities for a vote to be taken on each of the six Bills, the Prime Minister said - “I do not see my way clear to facilitate these proposals being dealt with at all.”
In these circumstances we respectfully ask that Your Excellency will exercise your powers under section 128 and submit them as desired.
In support of our request we respectfully desire to direct Your Excellency’s attention to the following : -
On 26th April, 1911, the two proposed laws were submitted to the electors as required by section 128 of the Constitution, but the majority of the electors voting did not approve the said proposed laws, the Retires being -
We submit that these facts show that the necessity for amendment of the Constitution is widely recognised by the electors; that a very large number of the electors strongly desire it ; and that there is every probability that, if given another opportunity, a majority will approve the proposed amendments.
The present Minister for External Affairs, when Attorney-General in Mr. Deakin’s Ministry, in 1.909, in a lengthy memorandum (annexed hereto), in the course of which he pointed out the impotence of the Parliament to . deal with matters of grave national importance with which the States could not deal, definitely recommended amendment of the Constitution in order to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to make laws to -
In Mr. Irvine’s opinion, amendment of the Constitution following upon the recent decision of the Privy Council in the caseof the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, is now more than ever necessary. On the 26th March, 1914, speaking in the Equitable Buildings, Melbourne, before the Liberal Speakers’ Association, Mr. Irvine said - “ It was common ground amongst all parties that the hounds of legislative authority in the Federal Government would have to be enlarged . . . “ If we succeed in obtaining the end we desire - an appeal to the people of both Houses - it will be our duty to lay before the people of Australia definite proposals for an amendment . of the Constitution.” - (Argus, 27th March, 1914.) “ It was not too much to say that in the adoption of what Mr. Willoughby called the liberal interpretation of implied powers,’ the American Judges accepted a principle which was one of the main causes why the American States were now not mere congeries or aggregations of separate power, and often antagonist interests, but were welded into one nation. It was very largely due to the early adoption of that life-giving principle that the Central Government has been endowed, not merely with the definite powers granted in the express terms of the Constitution, but with other necessary powers which enabled it effectively to carry out its purpose. It had enabled the United States, notwithstanding other serious limitations in its Constitution, to become the great and practically united nation that it was to-day. The effect of the judgment of the Privy Council was to say that Australia did not possess the same powers in the same sense. “ His object was to ask his audience to consider some matters in connexion with a probable duty which they would have to perform at no very distant date of dealing with proposed amendments of the Constitution. He did not intend to outline any of the proposed amendments as far as the Government or the Liberal party was concerned. Without doubt, the Government would have to bring forward amendments in due course.” - (Melbourne Age. 27th March, 1914.)
The Honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Irvine) strongly supported, during the debates thereon, in 1910, most of the proposed amendments of the Constitution embodied in the proposed laws submitted to the people in 1011. In 1012, he stated in the House of Representatives that, while still believing the necessity for amendment, his reason for now opposing these proposals was - “because I do not trust honorable members opposite (i.e., members supporting the Fisher Government) . . It would be safe if we were in power - it is unsafe since honorable members opposite are in power.”
As the party to which Mr. Irvine belongs is now in office, it is submitted that the proposals for the amendment of the Constitution should forthwith be submitted to the people for their approval.
The Constitution clothes Your Excellency with ample power to submit the proposed laws to the electors, and we respectfully ask that Your Excellency will be pleased to do so on the date upon which the elections are to be held for members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Motions (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the Address, as read, be adopted.
That the President present the Address to His Excellency the Governor-General.
Address to the Governor-General.
– I desire to report that, in pursuance of the resolution passed by the Senate yesterday, and by appointment at noon to-day, I waited upon His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House, and presented to him the Address praying that the correspondence which passed between His Excellency and his Advisers in regard to the double dissolution of this Parliament might be made public.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the following letter, which appeared in the Adelaide Herald of the 17th June -
Complaint of a Voter.
John Bawden, 30 Grace-street, Goodwood Park, writes : - “I have lived in the same house for 20 years, and have always voted at the elections; also my wife. On making inquiries at the Trades Hall on Saturday I was thunder-struck to find we were both struck off. Surely something should be done at once to stop this underhand work. We have had no notice from the Electoral Department, and are quite in the dark. It is time some drastic action was taken.”
I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he will cause immediate inquiries to be made with a view to ascertaining the truth or otherwise of this complaint ?
– I shall be very glad to make inquiries if the honorable senator will oblige me with the newspaper cutting from which he has quoted.
– I direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to a letter which appears in to-day’s Age. The letter is headed, “Difficulties of Enrolment,” and reads - to the editor of the age.
Sir, - It may come as a surprise toyour readers that it is becoming a very difficult matter to obtain one’s name being placed on the electoral roll for the Federal Parliament. I personally have applied three times at the head office, 25 Collins-street, and up to date am not enrolled. Is it because I am a member of the proletariat, or why ? - Yours, &c, robert a. mcfarlane,
Australian Workers’ Brotherhood, South Melbourne, 17th June.
Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council investigate this complaint and furnish the Senate with the reasons why so many difficulties are placed in the way of electors securing enrolment?
– It is probable that the writer has looked at the existing roll. If so, he would not find his name there. However, I will inquire into the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs why, after a would-be elector has received from the Electoral Office an acknowledgment card, it frequently happens that his name is not placed upon the roll ?
– I can only explain that by saying that the existing rolls were issued last October. The new rolls have not yet been issued. They will be published in about a month. The elector whom the honorable senator has in his mind will probably find his name on them.
– I fear that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has misunderstood the purport of my question. As a matter of fact, the names of certain electors have recently been collected and forwarded to the proper quarter for enrolment. The person who forwarded them has since looked at the manuscript, and has found that the names do not appear there. What is the explanation of this?
– If the honorable senator will let me have the names of the individuals in question I will make inquiry into the matter.
Mk. Teesdale Smith’s Contract
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs whether his attention has been called to a short article in to-day’s Argus dealing with the Teesdale Smith contract? It is headed, “Pending Lawsuit,” and reads -
Owing to the fact that litigation is pending, the Ministry, acting on the advice of the Crown Law Department, did not supply certain files of papers, as it was felt that they should r ot be made public while the lawsuit was sub j udice.
I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether Mr. Teesdale Smith is bringing an action against the Commonwealth Government in respect of the contract on which he is now engaged, or of any other contract, and, if so, what amount is he claiming?
– If the honorable senator will give notice of his question I will endeavour to secure the information.
– I ask the Minis ter of Defence whether the article which is published in to-day’s Age, and which is headed, “ The Naval Board,” is substantially correct, and, if so, whether he is prepared to make a statement as to how he proposes to overcome the existing dead-lock ?
– I have seen the article referred to, and several other articles of a more or less similar character. So far as the condition of the Naval Board is concerned, and so far as I am able to understand it, these newspaper articles, highly sensational as they are, are without justification. I gave the House an assurance a little while ago that matters, so far as the Board were concerned, were proceeding in a businesslike and smooth way. I have no desire other than to re-affirm that now, and express my great surprise that public journals would open their columns to information clearly promoted by interested parties, without taking ordinary precautions to see that the alleged facts exist at all. Still more do I express my surprise that the papers which are doing this have shut their columns to official statements which I have made on the matter.
– Some time ago the Minister of Defence said that the personnel of the Naval Board was such that some members were not on speaking terms with each other. According to the article in to-day’s Age, it appears that the friction said to exist then has not been eliminated. Is it a fact that the men who were not on speaking terms, when the trouble first arose, are on the best of terms to-day, that exchanges are made, and that there is a most friendly relationship existing between them ?
– I do not know, nor am I concerned as to the relations existing between the members of the Board outside the Navy House. I was concerned only when those personal relations made their manifestations in the Department itself. They are not manifest there now. I have not heard an angry word at the Board meetings since a certain change, of which the Senate is aware, took place.
– I would direct the attention of the Minister to one statement appearing in the Age report, and ask if he said what he is alleged to have said there -
But the most recent advices from the Admiralty throw a new light on the position. The Minister stated that it was not intended to fill the vacancy of finance member, and that Rear-Admiral Creswell would remain as first Naval member, though it was officially stated during the life of the last Government that he would retire, and take up some post such as Commandant of the Naval College.
Did the Minister state, as he is said to have stated there, either that RearAdmiral Creswell would be retained, or that he would be retired?
– I have no difficulty in giving a negative answer to both those questions, but I do not read the paragraph in the way the honorable senator does. I am not certain whether the writer of the article wishes to make out that I affirmed that it had been officially stated by the late Government that Rear-Admiral Creswell would retire. That is one way the paragraph could be read, but, in any case, I have made neither statement referred to.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish emphatically to deny that at any time during the term of the last Government it was ever officially stated that Rear-Admiral Creswell was to retire, and be sent to the Naval College.
– Has the Minister of Defence any information with regard to the question of the horse allowance, out of which the three officers in South Australia have been kept so long?
– If only for reasons of economy, I shall endeavour to expedite the matter, but I told the honorable senator yesterday that it was due for consideration by the Board on Monday last. On arriving from Sydney yesterday I had not an opportunity to consider it, but I understand that the Board have made a recommendation, which is now awaiting my perusal. I shall be able to deal with it, possibly, to-night.
– Can the Minister of Defence supply up-to-date information as to the output of rifles from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, and also state whether, now that the political situation has become calmer, he has found time to fix the rental of the manager’s house? If not, what is the cause of the delay ?
– The honorable senator knows that I do not carry about with me the latest details of what the factory is doing. He was given the output up to quite recently, but if he desires supplementary information, I shall take steps to obtain it for him. I have not yet dealt with the other matter, because, although it may be thought easy to say what rental shall be paid for a house, it is necessary to consider how much of the money spent there was of value in the construction of the house, and how much was spent merely because of the awkward position of the ground selected for the site of the house, which in no sense added to its value or the convenience of the person occupying it.
Electoral Rolls : Objections : Removal of Names: Non-payment of Deposit.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The President has received from Senator McDougall an intimation of his intention to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the compilation of the Federal electoral rolls.”
Fourhonorable senators having risen in their places,
– I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until 2.25 p.m. to-morrow.
I take this opportunity of replying to some imputations made against me last week. When giving a few kindly words of advice to the Minister in charge of the Electoral Branch, in all good faith, for the benefit of the electors, and in the interests of good, clean government, I was taken to task by the Minister of Defence, who, in an endeavour to belittle what I said, almost put his fist through the Ministerial table. He demanded that I should bring proof of what I said. I have attempted to do so; hence my action to-day. I made no charges against the officers ofthe Electoral Branch, and only one charge against the Government. The charges I made were against the officials of political bodies outside who are allowed to interfere with the collecting of the rolls.
– They do not take names off the rolls.
– I did not say they did, but they hand in lists of hundreds of names to the electoral officers, and notice is sent to those people that they are to be struck off the rolls. The law allows them to do this, but it also says that objectors shall deposit the sum of 5s. in each case. If they are allowed to hand in these lists without the deposit, then the Government or their officials are allowing the law to be brought into contempt. If they are not, perhaps the Minister will explain how these things have happened. I resent the interference of any outside political body in these matters. Things are coming to such a pass now that it is not men of intellect or men who study economics or parliamentary government that are going to represent the people.It is those that have the most cash. So long as a. man is able to put up a certain amount towards his expenses and the expenses of others in the movement, he can get a selection in the Liberal interest anywhere. I know a certain gentleman who is a retired hotelkeeper. He. attempted to get a nomination in the Labour interest for an electorate near Sydney, but was refused because he was not suitable. He immediately went over and got a nomination in the Liberal interest and ran against the Labour man and was defeated.
– The honorable senator is not talking about Joynton Smith ?
– No; I am talking about Mayman.
– Joynton Smith went over your way.
– The Minister probably knows more about him than I do.
– He was appointed by your party to the Legislative Council after being turned down by the Liberal organization.
– I do not know about him, but Mayman, after being turned down by the Labour party, got the nomination for the Liberal party, and only got it because he bought it. I know a rising solicitor in Sydney - a man of intellect and ability - who tried to get a nomination’ at the same time and was turned down because he had not £1,000. He is a friend of mine, and those are his own words.
– Is that what it costs for a nomination ?
– I do not know. All I know is that that is why he did not get it.
– How much do you believe of all this?
– I believe it all, because it is absolutely correct.
– It is not correct that any man has ever had a chance to get a nomination for any sum.
– I have my friend’s words for it, and I know he is still a Liberal. I protest against the extent to which outside bodies, through their paid organizers, are allowed to interfere with the law of the land. I mentioned last week a certain constituency where an organizer, employed for a number of years, had the sole duty of wiping names off the roll, and he would certainly wipe off the names of political opponents and not of political friends. I said he had instructions from the secretary of the organization to do so. I have no positive proof that he had such instructions, but I know that the secretary would not be above giving them to him, because I have seen instructions sent by the same gentleman to editors of newspapers to break the electoral law. I have seen and read those myself, and if he is capable of doing that, he is capable of doing anything. I have here a letter from Narrabri, dated 1st May, from an old friend in business there, as follows: -
I hear that doubt has been thrown on the statement that the Liberals’ organizers are and have been actively engaged in putting names off the rolls per medium of lodging objections through their central representative, the secretary of the Liberal forces in New South Wales. But such can be established by the Department if they care to honestly investigate. Here is a sample - not long ago one of these organizers submitted about 300 names which he desired struck off the State rolls prior to the last election. A small proportion were duplications. Some were protests against persons who hud never left the district. On being put on his oath this organizer could not, dare not, swear that the persons he had objected to had permanently left the district, and he was fined for lodging frivolous objections. Mulct in penalties and costs in a few cases he abandoned the larger portion of the objections. Had no one opposed this palpable try on, then it is reasonable to assume that all the names objected to would have been missing from the rolls. The field in the Federal arena is more open, as there is no Federal Appeal Court as in the case of the State. Hence the same methods of lodging objections in a wholesale manner is being resorted to, and the cards, if sent, rarely reach these migratory toilers, they are deprived of their rights unheard. I do not think it too much to say, from reliable information, that thousands of names are being thus eliminated from the rolls in many electorates. The concrete case stated is a sufficient indication of what these hirelings are doing. P.S. - These matters affect the Senate as well as the House of Representatives.
When we find one of these organizers convicted in the Police Court and fined for lodging frivolous objections in the case of the State rolls, and when we see him dropping a great number of cases, we are justified in saying that the same thing is being done so far as the Federal roll is concerned, where the electors have not the safeguard of an Appeal Court. That letter came from the country. I have here another from the city, and the writer does not care whether his name is published or not. He is not in business and has no fear of the retribution or vengeance of the other side. He is the secretary of the Ship-painters and Dockers’ Union, and writes from Mort-street, Balmain, as follows: -
I desire to bring under your notice the fact that there has been a large number of my members struck off the Commonwealth roll. They are living in the same electorate, and. in some casesin the same house, as at last election, yet their names do not appear on the roll. I have made inquiries from them as to who objected to their names appearing on the roll. They have told me persons had called at their houses and made inquiries asto what party they were supporting; when they said the Labour party, a note wds made of it. They some time after looked up the roll, and found that their names did not appear thereon. The assumption is that objections were taken by the persons that called upon them. In Balmain we find, by comparing the State and Federal roll, that there arc at least 2,000 names not on the Federal roll that appear on the State roll. If something is not done at once, thousands of people will be disfranchised.
That is the information on which I assumed, last week, the right to say that thousauds of persons were being struck off the rolls. The Minister then, with great emphasis, demanded one concrete case. I have got one.
– Supporting your statement ?
– I ask the attention of honorable senators while I read this notice -
The Commonwealth Electoral Acts 1902-1905. Notice of Objection to Person Objected to. To Patrick Gleeson, Middle Head.
Notice is hereby given that an objection has been lodged with me by the Registrar,
Mosman, objecting to your name being retained on the Electoral Roll for the Division of North Sydney, in the State of New South Wales, on the following grounds, namely : - That you do not live in the Division, and have not so lived for at least one month.
You are entitled at any time within twenty days from the posting of this notice to answer the objection either orally or in writing.
If you intend to answer the objection orally, you should attend at my office at North Sydney between the hours of 0 a.m. and 3 p.m. on some day before the expiration of twenty days from the posting of this notice.
If you intend to answer the objection in Writing, you should, before the expiration of twenty days from the posting of this notice, send to me by post, or deliver at my office, a statement in writing to show that the objection is not good.
If you answer the objection, notice of the decision on the objection will be sent to you.
If you fail to answer the objection within twenty days from the posting of this notice, the objection will bc determined, and your name may be struck off the roll, but no notice of the decision on the objection will be sent to you.
Returning Officer for the Division of North Sydney.
Dated the 5th day of February, 1914.
I have taken the liberty of getting a
Sworn declaration from this man. He says -
I beg to advise you that I have continuously resided at Middle Head since October, 1911, and in my present dwelling since February, 1913. Have been at home every night, and I object to my name being struck off the Federal roll.
Witness to signature of P. W. Gleeson - P. T. Evans, J.P.
Here is one concrete case. I ask the Minister to inquire into the case and tell us why the man had a notice served upon him, and why the 5s. was not deposited.
I could cite hundreds of cases if I chose to look them up. I have had every opportunity given to me by the electoral officer in Sydney to examine the whole of the papers in connexion with these cases. He also allowed me to see the instructions issued to the police. So far as he is concerned, I believe that everything is all right, but I told him that, in my opinion, he had no right to accept the objections to enrolment unless the fee was deposited. He said that that was not in his hands. It must be in the hands of somebody else. It must be regulated by an instruction he has received from headquarters. Objections to enrolment are received; notices are send to the persons concerned, who never get them or see them; in twenty days their names are struck off, and they are not notified of that fact. The electoral officer pointed out to me where a number of names had been duplicated, and from what I could see of the roll, undoubtedly at the last election it was inflated, because people did not understand the electoral system which had been introduced, and in their hurry to get away from the difficulties” of non-enrolment, to get away from the liability to a fine, they duplicated their names in many places. ] took a sworn declaration from a man who said that he was not on the roll, and that he had lived in the place for twenty years. I investigated the case and found that he was on the roll and that a card had been sent to him. There is one case where duplication had taken place. Since the notices have appeared in the press advising persons to see that they are registered, they are taking no chances. They are going down to the Electoral Office, thousands at a time, and byandby we shall find that the rolls are inflated more, and are in a worse condition than they were at the last election, because proper precautions have not been taken, the electoral officers not having kept to themselves the business of cleansing the rolls, but having allowed outside bodies to interfere in that work, which they alone should carry out. The police have their instructions, which are perfectly fair and correct as far as I could see, but they are only making notes. They go to a house and ask if so-and-so is there. He is not there; the people in the house may not know him ; he may have gone to sea in a ship or into the country. A note is taken by the police, and the Electoral Registrar or Returning Officer immediately sends out a notice of objection, but the man may not get it. If he does not get it in twenty days his name is struck off the roll, and he remains ignorant of the fact. Yesterday, Senator Oakes asked the Minister if he had seen a certain dodger which was sent out by the Political Labour Council in Sydney, and if it was correct that 75,000 people had been struck off the rolls.
– Yes, and I shall explain to the honorable senator and others why the dodger was sent out.
– Explain the statement as to 75,000 Labour voters being struck off the rolls.
– I will do so directly. Here is a letter which was written by the secretary of the Political Labour League to the Sydney Morning Herald, and which I am sure tl at a political student like the honorable senator must have seen. From the interest he has taken in these matters for many years I feel confident that a letter from a secretary to a Labour League could not appear in the press without his knowledge. If he had seen this letter he was not ignorant yesterday of the reason why the dodger was sent out. He was not ignorant of the reason why it stated that 75,000 Labour voters had been disfranchised. Mr. McLaren, the Chief Electoral Officer at Sydney, admits that 61,000 names had been struck off.
– Not 61,000 Labour supporters.
– T had better read the letter -
To the Editor, Sydney Morning HeraldSir,
The statement made by me in your issue of the 2nd inst. was not made without due consideration, and was intended to refer only to Labour supporters. If the Liberal electors had been included, the number would have been about .125,000. A little consideration of the matter will, no doubt, convince most of your readers that oven this is understating the true position of affairs. Let me say at once that I made no attack, direct or implied, on the police, for the manner in which they are carrying out their instructions. In your interview with the Inspector-General of the Police, that gentleman was quick to 6ce, and to admit, that there was nothing in my statements to indicate that any charge of dereliction of duty was made against the police, so that no more need be said on that point. In support of my statement that there were 75,000 Labour voters struck off the roll, Mr. J. G. McLaren, the Chief Electoral Officer for this State, admits in his interview of the 4th inst. that in the period between May 31st and December 31st, 1013, there were over 61,000 names struck off.
– Do not worry; give me a chance. I did not interfere with the honorable senator when he was speaking. The letter proceeds -
When it is recognised that these figures refer only to the seven last months of 1913, and that my statement referred to the position as at the present time, it is no use repeating that the information furnished by Mr. McLaren refutes the statement made by me. He did not get to within five months of present-day affairs. It should be obvious that as these 61,000 were struck off during a period when there was no general action taken by the police, that, even in the ordinary course of events, at least another 40,000 have been removed during the present year. But when it is recognised that in every electorate the police are actively engaged - not in putting names on the roll, but in taking necessary preliminary steps to secure their removal - it will be admitted, as I have no doubt the official figures will ultimately prove, 75,000 does not represent many more than half the names removed up to date.
– The letter says that the police were taking preliminary steps, but the circular said that the police took the names right off.
– They could not say that.
– They did say it; they could not say it truthfully, you mean.
– To show that Mr. Grant is very much within the mark let me mention that the Returning Officer of Cook division has furnished some figures up to date, but the cases are not all in yet. As regards the Cook electorate the police have noted as not at the addresses on the roll the following cases: - In the subdivision of Camperdown, 3,000 persons; in the subdivision of Newtown, 3,000; in the subdivision of Camdenville, 1,500; in the subdivision of South Annandale, 900; in the subdivision of East Annandale, 200; in the subdivision of Alexandria, 1,400; and in the subdivision of Mascot, 1,500; making a total of 11,500 votes. The complete figures are not ready yet. In one electorate in New South Wales 11,500 people have been noted by the police as having left the district. Will any reasonable man believe that that is correct? Will any reasonable man who has lived in any of these places say that a third of the population have shifted their residence during a year ? If this is going on all over the country, Mr. Grant was, in my opinion, well within the figures when he made the statement he did. I have given the Minister what he desired -one concrete case to go on with - and I have supplied him with the information in my possession. I intend to give him a few more names: Mr. and Mrs. White, of 34 Bullanaming-street, Redfern, have lived in the same house for twenty-five years, while Mrs. Dorey, with a family of six, has lived in the same street for that period too. There are other cases of that kind. I asked Mr. McLaren, the Chief Electoral Officer, the reason why notices had been sent to these persons, and he was good enough to inform me that a mistake had been made. If the Chief Electoral Officer is satisfied that a mistake was made in those cases, I suppose that we here are satisfied that a mistake has been made in a great majority of cases. I have moved the adjournment of the Senate to answer the assertion of the Minister that I had made statements which I could not prove. I have endeavoured to furnish the proof, and I think that every one on this side will be satisfied with that proof. I do not know whether the Minister would be satisfied, but in the interests of the people of Australia, and of good government, this or any other Ministry should take precautions to see that no political body is allowed to interfere with the enrolment of electors. We are coming quickly in this land to the adoption of the tactics of Tammany Hall and the abuses of bossdum in America. That is the reason I put this matter before the Government, and ask them to do something in connexion with it. I am not blaming the officials, but I do blame the Government for allowing outside people to lodge objections without requiring them to deposit the fee requited by the law. I should take the same course, no matter what Government was in power. I say that the rolls at the next election will be in a condition a hundred times worse than they were at the last election because of this interference by outside political organizations. 1 object to such interference, whether by onn political body or by another; but I say for the political body with which I am myself associated that I do not know of one paid organizer whom they have in the country. We have an office and a secretary and assistant, and. since we discovered the attempts which are being made .by the oppo- sing political party to disfranchise those who are supposed to be Labour voters, we have had in the field thousands of men and women who are going from door to door purely in the interests of the people, for love of Australia, and for love of the political party that they believe will do most good for them in this Parliament.
– I am very glad that Senator McDougall has taken the course he has done, because it gives ‘me an opportunity to say a word or two in reply to Senator Millen. It has been my fortune recently to receive, une or two nice little lectures from the honorable senator in my absence from ‘he chamber. Yesterday we had the remarkable statement from Senator McColl that all the proceedings that are being taken at the present time in connexion with electoral matters are taken under the Electoral Act passed by the last Labour Government. ‘ I asked the honorable senator whether he was prepared to say that the Labour Government had taken any action to abolish the 5s. deposit demanded under the Act from those who lodge objections to names appearing on the rolls. I received no reply to that question. I wish to say that the statement which the honorable senator made, and to which I have just referred, is absolutely inaccurate. The provision in the Electoral Act calling upon objectors to names on the rolls, to deposit 5s. with each objection is still a part of the Act, but it has been abrogated by the administration of the law? by the present Government. I am not. prepared to say that the administration! is corrupt, but I do say that the Government have ignored the provisions of an Act of this Parliament. If there is one duty which more than another a Minister of thu Crown is called upon to discharge it is to set aside political views when he finds himself in charge .of a Department of the State, and of the administration of an Act of Parliament. What is the position with which we are confronted to-day? The Ministry,, particularly in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department, are assumIng higher functions than those of the Parliament. They are assuming to make a law, not in the interests of the people of the whole of Australia, but specially in the interests of the people directly employed by them for the purpose of nullifying the provisions of an Act of this Parliament. We are told that we are making charges against the electoral officials. Nothing of the sort. We make no attack upon the rectitude of the officials. To-day the Government have practically given direct instructions that objections to the appearance of names on the rolls are to be received from political organizers. The present Government, through the associations with which they are closely allied, have organizers going round the country trying to discover names on the rolls to which they may object. These men are paid directly for this purpose. The Government, not daring to make a law to permit of this thing being done, ignore the law as it stands, and become a law unto themselves.
– They become law-breakers.
– They are absolute breakers of the law. Yet Senator McColl said yesterday that the law was the same to-day as it was when the Labour Government were in office. It is the same in substance, but the administration of the law is entirely different from what it was when the Labour Government were in office. Senator Millen, like a crestfallen politician, seemed last night to have lost his power of reason. In the earlier part of yesterday’s sitting the honorable senator made an explanation, and withdrew a certain statement he had previously made. Then he waited until I was absent from the chamber-
– Whose fault was it that the honorable senator was not here?
– One moment. I am not complaining, because I was absent.
– Then why say that I made a charge in the honorable senator’s absence?
– For this reason : Senator Millen, in the early portion of yesterday’s sitting, withdrew a previous statement of his. He made an apology in the form usually accepted in the Senate, but in my absence he was almost cowardly enough to repeat the statement which he had withdrawn earlier in the day.
– That is absolutely incorrect. I repeated no statement that was withdrawn.
– I say that it is absolutely correct. I can give the honorable senator’s words -
– Fifty per cent, exaggeration in one case and CO per cent, in another.
– Is that statement in order? I simply quoted a letter, and took no responsibility, but asked an ordinary courteous question of the Minister.
I re-affirm that statement, and I challenge the Minister to say that my question was not courteous.
– I made no reflection on the honorable senator.- The statement I made can be verified by simple arithmetic. I did not charge the honorable senator with any responsibility for the allegation which he quoted.
– Hear, hear !
– Then what was the meaning of the statement the honorable senator made last night?
– When the honorable senator read the letter I did not impugn his veracity with regard to it, but I did impugn the veracity of the man who wrote it. I withdrew no statement then, and I repeat it all now.
– -Last night, referring to myself, the honorable senator made the statement -
This is a sample of the gross exaggeration which is put forward as evidence of some corrupt practice on the part of the Government.
That was rather a strong statement for the honorable senator to make.
– I consider it a very mild statement for Senator Millen to make.
– Perhaps it was a moderate statement for the honorable senator, after all.
– Where is the statement I repeated when the honorable senator was absent, which, he says, I withdrew when he was present ?
– The honorable senator tried last night to put upon me the responsibility of making reckless charges when I made no charge.
– Let the honorable senator deal with the question of the Registrar at St. Arnaud.
-I will. The statement is that a representative of the Labour party lodged certain objections.
– With whom ?
– With the Electoral Registrar at St. Arnaud. It is true that the Registrar has given a reply with which I am satisfied. It is to. the effect that the police were out canvassing for the rolls, and he thought that that was sufficient. At the same time, while that was going on, Liberals all over the place were lodging objections, and in my own particular district, too. I wish now to say a word about Euroa. Senator Millen, last night, did not deny the statement that both men had received objectionsfrom Labour men and had refused them. In regard to them he said -
One of them has declared that he has never received any objections from either Liberal or Labour organizations.
That is very simple. I wish to eliminate the reference to one, because I find that I was in error. I desire to apologise to the Electoral Registrar at Euroa. The mention of his name was a simple mistake on my part. Senator Millen did not deny that objections were lodged with the Electoral Registrar at St. Arnaud.
– I did not deny what?
– These are the words the honorable senator used -
One of them has declared that ho never received any objections from either Liberal or Labour organizations.
– The other denied that he refused to receive them from either Liberal or Labour organizations.
– I want to put the matter fairly. “The man who lodged the objections at St. Arnaud still affirms that the Registrar would not accept them. I want to be fair to the officer. We have heard his explanation since, and I say quite candidly that I am prepared to accept it. We have the word of the Electoral Registrar that he was satisfied because the police were out in his district. I now come to the Swan Hill case. It was said that I made sweeping charges in connexion with Swan Hill. Senator McColl, as the Minister in charge of electoral matters, was asked a question 4>y me. I read a telegram I had received, and asked him a courteous question. He knew the district. I have not looked up the population, but I find that the electoral district is much wider than the township of Swan Hill, and that accounts for the difference in the figures. I only asked Senator McColl to make an inquiry, and whom should I ask to make such inquiries if not the Minister in charge of the Department ? That was not a crime on my part, nor was it an insinuation against the Minister. I asked for a direct inquiry into a specific case, since the Government asked us to give specific cases; but I took no responsibility for the statement I read. When we receive information from one part of the country or another, we are not expected to take a motor car and go to the scene and investigate. I asked the Minister to make the inquiries, and if that be a crime, I have to plead guilty. But I feel that, in asking the Minister questions on these cases, I did nothing that it was not my duty as a member of this Parment to do. Let me point out how careful I was in the matter. As soon as I received the wire, I asked for information on the subject from Senator McColl. I then wired, asking my informant to give me, approximately, the number of objections lodged at Swan- Hill against people who were really entitled to be on the rolls. I got a telegram in reply saying -
Am making inquiries; will wire you later.
I did what I could to get the best possible information from the centre. I put the Minister on the scent, and I hope the matter will be fixed up properly. I wish to refer now to another matter, in connexion with which I regret to say that one officer has evidently been accepting ridiculous objections, I do not know from whom, and has tried to cover up the tracks of the objector in a peculiar way. A Mr. Cornelius Ellis, a farmer at Bungeet, Benalla North subdivision, has lived for the past half century in the one house. He has never left it. He was on the roll, and received a notice of objection from the Registrar, whose name I do not wish to use unnecessarily, that he had ceased to live at this place, and was informed that he would be struck off the roll if he did not reply to the notice of objection. The elector did not reply to the notice of objection, but he sent in a new application card. When that card was received, it was evidently discovered that the game was found out, and must be covered up. The elector received a communication from the Registrar in these terms -
Your objection to the removal of your name from the roll has been noted, and the .Registrar instructed to retain same on the roll.
This was a communication in response to an imaginary reply to the notice of objection, because the elector never sent any reply to that notice, and it discloses a distinct attempt to cover up the objector. This elector appears to have been objected to for no other reason than that he is an uncompromising Labour man, and is well known as such in the district. I trust that this case will be satisfactorily cleared up. The Minister is at liberty to inspect the document sent by the Registrar to this elector. I have other cases to refer to, and may ask whether the Government are gambling on this matter. I have here two cases of neighbours of ‘my own - one who has been living for four years in the same house, and the other for two years in the same house, 36 Sheffieldstreet, Coburg, quite close to the Electoral Registrar’s office. Why were objections lodged against these electors?
– Because they were Labour voters.
– That is the only interpretation which I cau place upon it. I believe with the Minister of Defence that the officers are not responsible. Nor do I imagine that the Government are attempting to interfere with the officers. But I believe that they have adopted a scientific method of striking Labour voters off the rolls.
– Who have adopted it?
– I believe that the Government have adopted it. I do not believe that the officers are -guilty of any wrong-doing. I do not suggest that the Government have asked them to do anything wrong. But through their paid political organizers they have organized a system for the purpose of striking off as many Labour voters as possible. I will tell honorable senators how it is done. These organizers send in frivolous objections to the names of electors appearing on the roll. In a country district, let us assume that a man receives notice of such an objection. Perhaps he is busy at the time, and, accordingly, he says, “ I shall be going into town on Friday next, and I will attend to the matter then.” Friday comes round and the matter is forgotten. The VicePresident of the Executive Council knows perfectly well that the Department does -not receive replies to half the notices of objections which are sent out. What happens to the man who fails to reply ? Take the case of an ordinary citizen. When he receives notice of an objection having been lodged against his name, he probably says, “ I will inquire from one of my friends who understands this thing.” Accordingly, he puts the notice of objection away carefully, and it is ten. to one that it is forgotten by him.
– Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I desire to say a word or two in regard to the remarks of Senator Russell. I would not have been concerned about his statements, but that he has been driven from pillar to post, and has been challenged to produce the evidence upon which he based his accusation the other day. As a result, for very shame sake, he has had to come here and admit that he made 8 mistake.
– Did I say that?
– Does the honorable senator, or does he not, accept the officers’ statements?
– I do.
– If the honorable senator .accepts the officers’ statements as being accurate, then he is surely telling the Senate that he had absolutely no justification for the accusation which he made the other day, when he affirmed that the Electoral Registrars received objections from Liberal organizers, and refused to accept them from Labour men.
– I still affirm that.
– Then the honorable senator says that these officers received objections from Liberal organizers, and refused to receive them from Labour organizers ?
– Will the Minister of Defence allow me to get this in-
– I am taking the honorable senator’s own statement as it is recorded in Hansard.
– When an officer has done what I conceive to be a fair thing, I am man enough to say so.
– The statement which the honorable senator made the other day would have passed current with himself and his friends but for the fact that I challenged it and brought its refutation here.
– Will the Minister deny that the officer refused to receive objections from Labour men ?
– The officer’s own statement is that he denies it.
– Does the denial come from St. Arnaud?
– Yes. The statement which I read last night was -
The Electoral Registrar, St. Arnaud, absolutely denies that there was any refusal on his part to accept a list of names which should not be retained upon the roll from any organizer, either Labour or Liberal.
– My informant re-affirms the statement.
– Then, Senator Russell is re-affirming it?
– No; the honor-
Able senator will not do that. Instead, he says that his informant says soand«o. But the position is perfectly clear; he must either accept the statement of the official, or that of his informant. Evidently the honorable senator is still endeavouring to give currency to this libel on the officer. Yet a few moments Ago he said that he accepted the statement of the official.
– No. The statement I got was that the Electoral Registrar said that the police were now doing this work.
– What has Senator Russell to say concerning the statement which he made here last week ?
– That you refused to receive objections from Labour men.
– Here is the statement of the Registrar at St. Arnaud to the effect that he has not refused to accept objections either from Liberal or Labour organizers.
– A denial is no proof.
– I will admit at once that it is not. On the other hand, the charge is no proof.
– I say that my informant re-affirms his statement.
– Now the honorable senator brings in his informant - name unknown.
– His name is known in the Department. It is Langshorn, if the Minister wishes to know it.
– The statement which the honorable senator made last week was made for the meanest party reasons. He accused the officials of refusing to receive objections from Labour men, whilst receiving them from Liberals. He made the statement twice. It was not’ drawn from him, or from an inexperienced novice in politics. On the contrary, it was made twice by one of the coolest members in this Chamber. But there is no need to go back to last week, because Senator Russell repeats his statement now that objections were lodged by Labour supporters, and that the official refused to accept them.
– ‘The Minister invited me to give cases, and I gave them.
– The honorable senator need not say that he accepts the officer’s statement and then proceed to cite cases. Does he accept the officer’s statement, or does he not, or does he wish to wriggle between the two ?
– I accept the officer’s statement that the reason he refused to receive the objections of Labour men was that the police were doing the work.
– That is not the officer’s statement. His statement is that he never had any objections lodged by any organizer.
– That is not correct.
– Let me take down that statement.
– To what officer is the Minister referring ?
– To the Euroa one.
– Oh, no!
– I read the two statements, one from the St. Arnaud Registrar, who said he had not refused to accept objections from cither Liberal or Labour organizers, and the other from the Euroa Registrar, who declared that he had not received objections from anybody.
– I withdraw my statement in the case of the Euroa Registrar, because I had named the wrong district.
– Then there is somebody else who has done this thing. There is an official who has acted in this way ?
– In the absence of any proof I absolutely refuse to believe that any Electoral Registrar has discriminated between those who havelodged objections.
– S - Senator McDougall has supplied proof which looks pretty conclusive.
– He has given no proof whatever.
– H - He has given proof that things are being done which ought not to be done.
– That is not the point. Senator Russell’s statement was a definite one that two officials, whom he named, were acting partially.
– Does not the Minister think it is a fair thing for him to drop reference to the Euroa Registrar, seeing that I have apologized for my mistake?
– Senator Russell has been obliged for shame sake to withdraw his statement.
– If it be shamefaced for me to withdraw a statement which I made in error, I am shame-faced.
– The honorable senator would never have withdrawn it if he had not been nailed down to the bull-ring here.
– Oh, the Minister of Defence is a bag of tricks.
– He is.
– I quite understand the treatment that Senators Findley, Rae and others would extend to me. It is almost impossible for me to be allowed to utter two sentences without interjections.
– T - That is not true.
– If the Minister of Defence desires protection from interjections I shall insist upon absolute silence being preserved while he is speaking.
– The Senate knows me perfectly well, and it knows that I have no objection to reasonable interjections. But I invite honorable senators to look, occasionally at the reports of my speeches in Hansard, and I venture to say they will find that they are broken up into so many paragraphs till it is difficult to tell whether they are speeches or a series of conversations.
– Why does not the Minister allow Senator McColl, who is in charge of the Electoral Branch, to attend to his own business ?
– Because, in this particular matter, an imputation has been made against me. I did not intend to deal with the general aspect of this matter, but for the fact that Senator
Russell implied that I had dealt unfairly with him.
– What about this* fifty years’ man - Cornelius Ellis?
– I have never referred to a fifty years’ man.
– I gave the Minister the case yesterday.
– When we come to analyze it, I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable senator will again have to confess that he has grossly libelled a public officer. Senator Russell did not stop to make inquiries before he came here and made these charges against two officers of the Electoral Branch. He owes it to himself as well as to those whom he attempts to libel-
– I could not use words harsh enough to libel the Minister.
– Nothing that the honorable senator could say would be regarded as a libel by me. He does not hesitate to use his position as a member of this Senate to accuse two public officers of having refused to do their duty and of having discriminated between his own political friends and his opponents. I venture to say that if I had not challenged his statement it would have gone uncontradicted. He has attempted to excuse his conduct by saying that he has merely exercised his right to ask for information. But, in seeking information, it is not necessary to make imputations.
– I wish that the Minister of Defence would apply that moral to himself.
– The honorable senator, in making these statements, is attempting to do, covertly, what Senator Findley alone has had the courage to do openly - namely, to make accusations of corruption against officials and the Government.
– I rise to a point of order. That statement is absolutely incorrect. I have never made a statement against the officers of the Electoral Branch. They are a fine body of men, and every time I have the opportunity I endeavour to uphold them. The Minister of Defence knows that perfectly well. His statement is an outrageous one.
– I would point out. that I can take no official cognisance of “outrageous” statements, but only of statements which are unparliamentary.
– The Minister’s statements are worse than unparliamentary when he descends to these tricks. Let him play the game. He must not put into my mouth words that I have not uttered.
– I do not propose to do so, but I may fairly point out that Ilansard is not an inaccurate record of what transpires here. According to that publication, Senator Findley, in answer io my question - “ Who takes the names off the roll? “ - as will be seen by reference to page 1947 - replied -
The officer does it illegally on instructions from the Government.
– Hear, hear 1 - under instructions from tlie Government.
– Then the officer in that case does wrong because the Government tell him to do so ?
– Because the Government violate the Act which provides that a deposit of 5s. must be lodged with each objection.
– Then the officer must be acting illegally. Now, no officer can be made to act illegally by the Government, unless he be a consenting party. Nothing more need be said than that Senator Findley suspects the officers of the Department of taking names of? illegally because the Government tell them to do so.
– No; accepting objections without the 5s. deposit.
– The deposit has nothing to do with taking names off the rolls. The honorable senator’s statement is that the officers are taking names off the rolls illegally, because the Government tell them to do so. If that is so, and Senator Findley repeats it by his “ Hear, hear ! “ it amounts to the fact that the Government and the officers are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to break the law and defraud the electors.
– Hear, hear!
– Again Senator Findley applauds the statement that the officers and the Government are engaged in a conspiracy-
– Violating an Act of Parliament.
– A conspiracy to violate the law and defraud the electors. Why was Senator Russell so careful just now to say that he had no imputation to make against the officers?
– The officers are dominated by the Government.
– No Government could dominate an Electoral Registrar, and no Registrar would make himself a party to a violation of the law.
– A registrar can be instructed not to take the 5s. deposit.
– That has nothing to do with taking the names off the roll. If Senator Findley feels that the officers are doing wrong in proceeding when the deposit has not been paid, that is quite a different matter; but he said they were acting illegally in taking names off the rolls. He said not a word about the 5s. deposit. His assertion was that, in collusion with the Government, the officers were illegally taking names off the rolls.
– When did Senator Findley say there was collusion?
– He said the officer commits a crime on instructions from the Government. Is not that collusion?
– An officer who takes an objection without accepting a deposit of 5s. breaks the law.
– That is not the point. The point is the taking of narc.es off the rolls. No man could make the charge that Senator Findley made unless he had in his mind the spectacle of a Government giving instructions to officers to illegally take off the rolls names that ought to be there. I venture to say that this charge has been put forward simply for the purpose of making a little political capital.
– I stand by what I said.
– Then the honorable senator accuses the Electoral Registrars of taking off the rolls names that they know ought to be there.
– I make the charge against the Government, and not against 1110 officers.
– And against the officers. I have quoted the honorable senator’s statement from Ilansard.
– I stand by it.
– The honorable senator must do so, because it is there.
– Will the Minister assert that names are not taken off the rolls that ought to be there ?
– No, because it is possible for any one to make a mistake; but I am convinced that there is no evidence to support the statement that names that ought to remain on are being illegally taken off.
– I will give you some directly.
– I want cases. Can the honorable senator give me any evidence that the Government have given instructions to any officer to take off the rolls names that ought to be on them ?
– I have nothing to do with what the Government are doing. .
– It would be unreasonable to hold Senator Senior responsible for statements made by other honorable senators, but we have to recollect that all these statements put together represent the bombardment of the Opposition against the Government,
– H - Have instructions been issued to the officers that persons lodging objections need not deposit 5s.?
– That statement has been answered already by my colleague. I do not know the details of the work of the Department or what instructions have been given. Even if it were so, it would not affect the seriousness of the charge made by Senator Findley against the officer’s.
– I do not charge the officers; I charge the Government with being in it up to their necks. I said the officers were taking names off illegally, under instructions from the Government, who were violating the 5s. deposit provision of the Act.
– The deposit has everything to do with the lodging of objections, but nothing to do with the removal of names. It is a serious thing to charge any set of public officials with removing from the rolls names that ought to be left on. My experience of public officers, with an odd exception - and there is a black sheep in every flock - is that they are beyond the imputations which Senator Findley seeks to fasten on them.
– I have a higher opinion of the public servants than you have.
– Then why do you accuse them of acting illegally?
– I accuse the Government.
– Are you prepared to deny that a list of names was presented to the Electoral Officer at St. Arnaud ?
– He absolutely denies that there was any refusal on hispart to accept from any organizer, either Liberal or Labour, a list of names which should not be retained on the rolls.
– In the letter that I have here he admits that the list was presented.
– All that he denies is that he refused to accept the list. Senator Russell said he had refused to accept lists from Labour, and had accepted them from Liberal sympathizers.
– In the letter I have here, it is stated “the Electoral Registrar, St. Arnaud, states that a Mr. Langshorn advised him that he had a list of names that he intended to object to.” I am informed that that list was presented.
– In what the honorable senator read there is no statement that they were presented. It is a mere statement from somebody that Mr. Langshorn intimated to him that he had a list that he intended to present. There is no evidence to contradict the official statement that the Registrar did not refuse to accept lists from any one.
– This is signed by Mr. Oldham.
-The honorable senator said just now that he did not believe that any one was interfering with the officers. How, then, does he make out that there is a devilish scheme on foot on the partof the Liberal party to scientifically manipulate the rolls?
– Through their organizers.
-The honorable senator did not allege that any one was interfering with the officers, but Senator Findley does.
– I say the Government are.
– Senator Findley says these men are acting under instructions from the officers.
– From the Government.
– You are a liar, that is all !
– I do not know whether you heard the remark from the courteous Vice-President of the Executive Council, Mr. President. Se said I waa a liar. If he said that outside, I would know how to deal with him.
– I did not hear the remark.
– If the expression is unparliamentary, I withdraw it.
– You are a nice man to be sitting at that table as the representative of the Government. You ought to learn how to behave yourself.
– There is a wide difference of opinion between Senator Russell and Senator Findley as to what is going on. Senator Russell, more careful and adroit, and less reckless, is not anxious to outrage public feeling by launching accusations against public officers, but Senator Findley, more easily roused and with less complete hold on himself, rushes in with the accusation I have quoted.
– You have said that about forty times. It is a wonder you do not grow weary of it.
– I intend to say it a good deal more than forty times outside as showing the country the character that honorable senators opposite propose to give to the forthcoming campaign. They are starting out on a campaign which is going to commence with libel, and end up with the most reckless and unjustifiable Accusations they can rake up. Senator McDougall last week said that instructions had been given for the removal of names from the rolls, and I challenged that assertion. I do not. think that what he has said to-day is at all an answer to my challenge.
– I said instructions from the Liberal secretary.
– No instructions from a Liberal secretary will get names off the roll anywhere. As I understood the honorable senator last week, the instructions to which he referred could only have been given by the head of the Electoral Branch, or by senior officers to junior officers, and I did invite him to state distinctly by whom the instructions were given, and to whom.
– I said that instructions were given to the Liberal organizers.
– The honorable senator may have meant to say that, but he made no such suggestion. What he did say was, “ I shall produce proof.”
– In the morning I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether instructions had been given, and that is how you are confounding the matter.
– That irregularities may occur, I am not now arguing. What I do invite honorable senators to consider is whether it is not a perfectly fair thing, if they affirm, as they are doing, that the whole purpose of this debate is to assert that the Government is in some way deliberately and corruptly trying to manipulate the Electoral Act–
– Did you not instruct the Electoral Registrars to take objections to enrolments without a deposit of the amount prescribed by law?
– That has nothing to do with this point.
– It has everything to do with it.
– The only point I am now dealing with is the statement made by Senator McDougall, that instructions have been given about the removal of names objected to. Assuming for the purpose of this argument that there has been an irregularity as to the 5s., which I do not’ admit, that does not in itself affect the removal of a name, and it is quite a different thing from the statements which are being, made that the Government are using their position for the purpose of corruptly coercing or influencing the electoral officials under their control to take names off the rolls.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
, - t wish that we could discuss this question on the eye of an election without much heat. To my mind, by the twisting, of expressions and phrases, the misunderstanding between both parties in the Senate may be broadened instead of being whittled down to a vanishing point. If we allow our angry passions to get the better of our judgment, then, instead of doing something for the benefit of the community, who are on the eveof a great electoral campaign, we shall be doing something to their injury. Certain statements have been made about the Government acting illegally. I may bewrong, but I am under the impression that they have issued an invitation to organizers to lodge objections to the names of persons whom they believe not to be entitled to be on the rolls. I ask the Minister to correct me if I am wrong.
– I - It is a remarkable thing that we cannot get from the Minister in charge of the Electoral Office any assurance -that the officials have been told to carry out the law.
– It has been stated here, and I have not heard the statement denied, and the Minister does not now deny, that the invitation has been issued. I may be misinformed, but I am going to make the statement that the Attorney-General has said that the deposit of the 5s. with an objection to a name can be dispensed with.
– H - He said it on the floor of the other House, and his statement ought to be in Hansard.
– I wish to come to a direct understanding with the Minister. Section 67 of the Electoral Act reads -
Any name on a roll may be objected to by objection in writing lodged with or made by the Returning Officer.
Provided that a sum of Five shillings shall be deposited in respect of each objection lodged by any person other than an officer, to be forfeited to the King if the objection is held by the Returning Officer to be frivolous.
I have no wish to attack the Ministry merely for the sake of attacking them, but if they have invited organizations or bodies, political or otherwise, to bring objections to enrolment to the Returning Officers, and have instructed those officers to put the objections forward without the deposit of the 5s., they have done what Senator Findley had in his mind when he said, “ They have ordered their officers to act illegally.” That illegality is unquestionably committed under the instruction of the Government. I give them credit for honorable intentions when the instructions were issued for a desire to purify the roll. I give them credit for doing the same thing as our Government would have done had they remained in office. But surely they must realize now that their invitation to organizations with paid organizers is an invitation to men, even though they cannot get names taken off the roll, to make the attempt, at no cost to themselves, and puts the electors concerned to a great deal of trouble. Let me give a case which happened in New South Wales quite recently. In the Macquarie electorate a Liberal organizer objected to a large number of names, and the persons whose names were objected to lived on the very edge of the electorate, many miles from the town where the cases would be heard. The making of the objections became known, the objectors were brought into the Court, and a penalty amounting to £7 was imposed upon one organizer. He withdrew the rest of his objections, and the electors who had appeared to show cause were allowed their expenses for coming from a distance. It was simply a try-on, the canvasser thinking that the electors concerned - who were Labour voters - would not hear of the objections,, and that their names would be struck off the roll. If the work of the organizers had stopped there, I would not think it worth while to refer to the matter, but it went further. One hundred and fifteen applications for enrolment were made, and, strange to say, the applications ran in alphabetical order, so many names beginning with A, B, C, D, E, and so on. This fact aroused the suspicion of certain persons, who made inquiries, and discovered that the handwriting in which the applications were made was that of the Liberal organizer. A special officer was appointed to inquire into the cases, and he reported as I have explained. When objection was taken to the 150 names, they were struck off. It was an apparent attempt to stuff the roll on the eve of an election. I wish to impress upon the Government that it is their duty to keep the rolls pure, and not to invite organizations to enter objections to* the names of any electors without depositing the 5s. in each case. The provision for lodging the deposit with an electoral officer when an objection is made was enacted to safeguard electors from being interfered with by organisers of the character I have indicated’. In giving the invitation they did to organizers, and in instructing their officers to accept objections without the deposit, the Government did an illegal act. I do not care how the act is covered up; it is illegal. A high person in another place is reported to have said that the Government carried on the parliamentary business by straining the Standing Orders. The Government may be trying to conduct the elections by straining the Electoral Act, but they will not do any good to their cause. I wish to call the attention of the Minister responsible for the administration of the law to the seriousness of the position in which he and his colleagues are placed if they once depart from its strict letter. This is one of the occasions in which the suspicion is sure to arise that an unfair deal is being perpetrated. Senator McDougall has told us this evening that, approximately, in the Cook electorate in New South Wales 11,600 objections to enrolment were taken out. Now there are not 11,600 electors iti this electorate holding the political views of our honorable friends opposite.
– What is your authority for the statement?
– I got the number of objections from the member representing the Cook electorate, Mr. Catts, and I have his assurance that the figures are correct.
Sena-tor Millen. - Where did he get them from?
– From the Returning Officer.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister in charge of the Electoral Office to wire across to Sydney for the information, and I shall be very pleased indeed if, when he speaks byandby, he is able to inform the Senate that he has been in communication with the Chief Electoral Officer for New South Wales. I shall be delighted to learn that there have not been hundreds of thousands of notices of objections issued in that State. It may be due to the excitement incidental to the approach of a general election, but I am under the impression that the paid organizers of the Liberal party from one end of the State to the other have been earning their money by putting in objections, irrespective of whether the persons objected to had left the district or not, in the hopes that some names would be taken off the rolls.
– You have been teaching them bad lessons in the past.
– You know most about that, because you were a Liberal organizer for years.
– That is a half admission from Senator Oakes that the Liberal organizers have learned their lessons well, and are doing the thing I complain of.
– I do not admit that.
– In our respective organizations the honorable senator and I occupied similar positions for a brief period. I am prepared to believe that he made the statement that he would never try to manipulate the Electoral Act or improperly put names on the rolls. I would not ask the honorable senator to believe that of me, because those who are acquainted with me know that I never bothered about doing that sort of thing. I am too fond of a stand-up fight to want to win a contest by means of trickery. The cause that rests on trickery alone is doomed. As regards the electoral officials, I am personally acquainted with the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth, Mr. Oldham, and the Chief Electoral Officer for New South Wales, Mr. McLaren. I cannot speak of other officers because I do not know them personally. I do not believe that two men with a bigger grip of the ramifications of the Electoral Act, of how it works, and the means of conducting elections satisfactorily, could be obtained than Mr. Oldham and Mr. McLaren. But when the Government go out of their way to place a weapon in the hands of political organizers, whether Liberal or Labour, by inviting them to take in names to the Returning Officers, instead of requiring them, as the law prescribes, to deposit 5s. with each objection to a name, they open the door to trouble, and this is only the beginning of the business. Section 67 of the Act distinctly provides how objections to enrolment are to be made. When we use the term “striking off names” instead of the term “ objecting to names,” the Minister always cleverly draws a distinction, and points out that there is a difference between the two things. According to my reading of section 67, no name should be struck off a roll until an objection has been taken, and the sum of 5s. has been lodged with the objection.
– A - At present; anybody can object to a name, but it requires an official to strike the name off the roll.
– I can cite a case - and this may be true of thousands of others - where an elector was struck off the roll without any notice having been sent to him at all.
– I have another case.
– Lest it might slip my memory, I tell the Minister now that the case is that of myself. A considerable time ago I wrote to the Department stating that I wished my name to remain on the roll for the Orange subdivision of the Calare electorate, as I lived there when I was elected to the Senate. I received a notice saying that my name had been struck off.
– When you wrote to the Department, where were you living?
– I was then living in Sydney.
– Is your name on the Sydney roll ?
– Did you not receive a. letter from the Electoral Office asking where you, as a member of the Senate, wished to be enrolled ?
– I did; and in reply my name was kept on the roll for the Orange subdivision in the Calare electorate, but quite recently I received a notice that my name had been taken off the roll. I want to know why that was done. The proper procedure, I think, was for an objection to be lodged to the retention of my name, and a notice of the objection to be sent to my address.
Sitting suspended from6.30 to8 p.m.
– I commenced my remarks by saying that the compilation of the rolls and the provision for taking the ballot at the ensuing elections should not be regarded by honorable senators on either side as a party matter. But the Government are in a peculiar position in this connexion, . because they must not only be free from blame in what they do, but must be above suspicion. I am under the impressiou that the number of objections lodged in New South Wales was so great that, to protect themselves, the Returning Officers had to get the police to go from house to house and ask whether the electors said to be living there were really living there. They have been visiting houses and making notes of the names of the residents, but they did not take with them application cards, in order that people might be put on the rolls. That led us to believe that there was some underground system at work, with the object of depriving Labour electors of the right to vote. It may not have been altogether fair to the Government to put that construction on what has been done, but I appeal to the Minister in charge of the Electoral
Branch of the Home Affairs Department to administer the Act. strictly from now on, and require the 5s. to be deposited with each objection. If that is done, it will put a stop to the wholesale objections of which we complain. There are thousands of shearers in Australia, many of whom are away out in the pastoral districts of Queensland, and in many cases objections have been lodged to the names of these men. It is not a fair thing that a shearer, who has had to go out of the district in which he is enrolled to follow his employment, should have his name struck off the roll. I do not wish to blame the Government for this, but they are to blame if they have not more consideration for these people. At a time when party feeling is aroused, it is possible that a perfectly innocent act may have a suspicious appearance, and be regarded as proof that there is something wrong. Amongst the shearers and other electors in New South Wales there is a suspicion that the Government intend to issue a regulation to prevent men who are working outside the electorates for which they are enrolled from recording their votes at the ensuing election. The press are responsible for giving publicity to that statement, and if we have a suspicion that the Government desire to prevent Labour voters from recording their votes, we are not to blame for that suspicion. It is the Government who are to blame.
– I am very glad indeed that this discussion has arisen, because there has been a good deal of talk lately about electoral matters. Insinuations and suspicions have been expressed that are entirely unfounded, and it is just as well that the matter should he threshed out, that we should have a fair explanation, and should know exactly where we are. I have been in charge of electoral matters since February last. I have brought about a few changes, and I am glad to say that the most drastic change, that involved in the appointment of permanent, Divisional Officers, has not met with any adverse criticism, so far as I have been able to ascertain.
– It is on its trial yet.
– So far, it has not met with adverse criticism. I wish to say, with regard to that matter, that I did not interfere with the appointment of these officers in any shape or form. I did not know one man who was appointed in any of the States, nor did I know his politics. I did not know any of them, even by sight, until they were appointed. I did not interfere in any way with their appointment, but left it entirely to the Public Service Commissioner and the Chief Electoral Officer to secure the appointment of those best qualified to carry out the duties of the office. I also decided that there should be a revision of the rolls. No one will contend that a revision was not absolutely needed. We all know that the rolls had got into a congested state, and, in order that we might have clean rolls, and up-to-date rolls, it was absolutely necessary that there should he a revision. The revision of the rolls is carried out by the electoral officers. The matter is entirely outside the purview of the Minister in charge of the Department. He canuot interfere with it in any shape or form. If I tried to interfere I should probably he told to mind my own business. The work is carried out by the Chief Electoral Officer, the principal electoral officers of the States, the Divisional Returning Officers, and the Electoral Registrars. So far as I know, the persons who actually carry out the work of revision in all the States are the police. They are retained for this duty because they are officials, are not suspected of party bias, and can act independently. They know the districts in which they reside, and, in my opinion, are the persons best fitted to carry out this particular duty. So far as I can learn, the investigation and revision of the rolls have beeu absolutely justified.
– How has it been justified?
– By the fact that the rolls were found to he in such an unclean state. On that ground the investigation was absolutely justified.
– And yet they refuse to take claims from sailors. The whole of the sailors of Australia are being disfranchised.
– Who says so ? We have not altered the law one whit.
– You will not accept their claims.
– I do not know of anything like that. I know that we have not altered the law in any shape, andthe regulations have been only 3lightly altered in the way agreed upon between Mr.
Cook and Mr. Fisher in another place, and Senator Millen and Senator McGregor here.
– What does the honorable senator mean by saying that the rolls were found to be unclean?
– I mean that they were found to be congested and duplicated. Many duplications havebeen discovered, and they were generally in an unsatisfactory condition. Senator McDougall began by saying that he made no charge against tha Government or against the electoral officers. I have no fault whatever to find with the tone of the honorable senators speech. I did not take a note of all the names he brought before the Senate today, but I can only say that I shall be very glad to have every case he mentioned fully inquired into. It has been repeatedly said - and I think Senator McGregor made the remark this afternoon - that Liberal organizations are putting names on the rolls. They cannot put any names on the rolls. Names are only enrolled where persons send in claim cards to the Electoral Registrars.
– They can be sent through a Liberal organizer.
– A claim card can be sent through the wife or daughter or friend of an elector by post or in any other way.Unless the Electoral Registrar to whom a claim card is sent has some doubt as to whether it is a proper claim, he enters the name on his roll, and then sends the card to the central office, where the card index is kept.
– I do not think any one objects to names being put on the rolls.
– The Electoral Registrar enters the name upon his roll, which is open to the inspection of any one who cares to call and see it at any time during office hours. The claim card is sent on to the central office. If, for instance, the name of the applicant is J ames Robinson, all claim cards bearing that name are examined to see whether the signature on the new card received is exactly like that of any previously received. If it appears to he the same as the signature upon some other card, it is further inquired into, and if not, the card it put into the card-index, and the name remains on the roll without any further scrutiny. Senator McDougall said that some persons called at different places and inquired whether those persons residing there were Liberal supporters, and if it was found that they were not, their names were struck off the rolls. Such a person could not have been a Government officer or a policeman. If some persons really did that kind of thing, it has nothing to do with the Government or the Electoral Office.
– Yes, it has; because of the facilities afforded to people to do such things.
– No facilities are given by the. Government to persons to do such things; but this is a free country, and people can do these things if they like.
– Facilities were afforded by not requiring the 5s. fee with each objection.
– I shall come to that directly. It is the work of the police to go from place to place to verify names.
– It was before the police started their work that all this happened.
– If a policeman finds that a person is away from the place of residence for which he is enrolled, he may get definite information that he has left the district. I can only say that I deeply regret that any man who has to go into the country to earn his living, and is away for a month, three months, or even six months, in consequence, leaving his family at his usual place of residence, should be removed from any roll on that account. I should not countenance anything of that kind. Mistakes have, no doubt, occurred, and they are not all on one side. I can assure honorable senators that I have received a number of letters from Liberal electors who make the same complaints as they have been making here to-day. I send the complaints on to the Chief Electoral Officer, and ask him to make inquiry into them.
– The honorable senator admits that there is some justice in the complaints that have been made from this side?
– I admit that.
– Why does not the honorable senator admit that without being nasty ?
– I do not think that I have been nasty.
– Not now; the honorable senator is very nice now.
– I say that these mistakes occur all round. It may be that they are the result of carelessness on the part of those who have to make the inquiry; but I am sure that the electoral officers are only too glad to rectify such carelessness, and put things right when they have the opportunity to do so. Some remarks have been made at which I cannot be blamed for taking umbrage. One remark was made by Senator Russell. The honorable senator said that the Government have adopted a method of getting Labour voters off the rolls, and have given direct instructions to organizers to get them off.
– “ Organizers with whom the Government are allied,” is what I said.
– I took the honorable senator’s words down at the time. He said that we gave direct instructions to organizers to get them off.
– The honorable senator may be mistaken in taking a hurried note; the statement is incorrect.
– I repudiate the statement altogether. No member of the Government has interfered in electoral matters; and I challenge the fullest inquiry into anything that I have done in connexion with such matters. The Electoral Commission may go to the Electoral Office and find out from any officer whether I have attempted to influence him in any way in connexion with his duties.
– Is the honorable senator not connected with political leagues that have tried to get people off the rolls illegally?
– I am, of course, as a member, connected with political leagues.
– The honorable senator is one of the principals.
– I am not. But, even if I were, what has that to do with the matter ?
– The honorable senator should discountenance these diabolical tricks.
– What diabolical tricks ?
– Your organizers objecting to the names of men who have been on the rolls for twenty years for the same place.
– I say that that occurs on both sides. Senator Findley said -
Officers arc doing it illegally, getting names off by instructions from the Government. They arc dominated by the Government.
That is not the case. The electoral officers are not dominated by any one. I am in charge of the Department, but I have never interfered with them, and have never given them instructions. They do their work entirely on their own, and are responsible to the Chief Electoral Officer for the way in which they do it.
– Will Ihe honorable senator permit me to ask him one question? Who issued invitations to leagues to object to names? Did the Government >do so, or was it the officers who did so ?
– I shall come to that directly. We have been told that the (electoral officers are a fine body of men. I agree with that statement; but honorable senators opposite must remember that, when they charge the Government with doing certain things in connexion with electoral matters, the members of the Government could not do those things themselves. The work has to be (Carried out by the officers, and when the Government are charged with wrongdoing in electoral matters, practically and inferentially, the electoral officers are charged with the wrong-doing. I come now to the 5s. fee which has to be deposited by any one lodging an objection. A printed form has to be filled in, and the objector has to lay a direct charge. That assures to him a strict inquiry into the circumstances of the case. The electoral officer has no option but to inquire into it to the fullest extent if the 5s. deposit be lodged. But there are many names sent in for the purpose of giving information to Registrars. These names come from all quarters.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council give one instance in which a Labour organization has asked for the removal of names from the roll?
– I cannot give the name of either a Labour or Liberal organization that has done so. When names are sent in for the purpose of supplying information, no duty is imposed on the Electoral Registrar to inquire into the circumstances surrounding each case. He pleases himself as to whether he does so or not. If we are to have clean rolls, an officer should make use of all sorts of information.
– When a name is sent in for the purpose of supplying information, does the officer simply lodge an objection based on that information ?
– No, he does not act on that alone. It is the duty of the officer to make inquiries as to the accuracy of the information which he receives.
– Do the officers put the responsibility on the elector himself ?
– They make inquiry through the police, through lettercarriers, and in other ways. I do not know that there is any great harm done by allowing them to get information in the way I have outlined. Mr. W. H. Irvine’s name has been dragged into this matter of the non-enforcement of the 5s. deposit. I remember that in a speech, I believe, at St. Arnaud, he invited the assistance of all organizations to secure clean rolls. But that is a very different thing from asking organizations to use their power in the way that has been suggested.
– Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council justify him in remitting the deposit of 5s. in the case of each objection?
– He has not remitted that deposit, because in many instances objections have not been lodged. Names are sent in merely for the purpose of supplying information.
– Does not the honorable senator call that an objection ?
– I do not.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– In conclusion, I merely desire to say that if. honorable senators find there is anything wrong in the administration of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department, I am quite prepared to put it right. My only desire is that the names of those who ought to be on the rolls shall be there, and that the names of those who ought not to be there shall be removed.
.- This afternoon the Minister of Defence worked himself into a fine state of frenzy, and attempted to put into my mouth words which I have not uttered in this Chamber or elsewhere respecting a body of men who have responsible duties to perform, and who, to the best of my judgment, perform those duties in a manner highly creditable to themselves and to the electors of Australia. The Minister quoted a statement which I made a few days ago, when I declared that names were being illegally removed from the rolls by departmental officers under instructions from the Government. In repeating that statement, I hope to make my point perfectly clear to Senator McColl, Senator Oakes, and Senator Keating. The last-named was very much interested in the speech which was delivered by the Minister of Defence, and he applauded the declaration of the Minister that he would repeat my statement elsewhere, and inferentially tell all the electoral officers of Australia that I had said something derogatory to them.
– That was a Millen twist.
– It was a twist of words highly characteristic of Senator Millen, who never misses an opportunity of endeavouring to read into a sentence uttered by an opponent, words which are not there. What I said on the occasion in question, I still adhere to. I shall endeavour to prove to the satisfaction of any unbiased person that the statement which I then made is borne out by the conduct of the Government in violating an Act of Parliament. It is common knowledge that some time ago the AttorneyGeneral issued an invitation to party organizations throughout Australia to assist the Electoral Branch in removing from the rolls as many names of electors who are known to he opposed to his own party as possible, without calling upon them to deposit in each instance the 5s. fee which is prescribed by the Act.
– The honorable senator has accused the Minister of Defence of putting words into his mouth which he did not utter. Consequently he ought not to put words into the Minister’s mouth.
– I do not hesitate to say that objections to the retention of thousands of names upon the rolls have been sent in by these political pot-shooters in the hope that their efforts will result in the removal of the names of many to whom they are politically antagonistic. What does the Act say in regard to the removal of names from the rolls ? Section 71 of the Electoral Act of 1902-11 says-
Any name on a roll may be objected to by notice of objection lodged with the clerk of the Revision Court not less than twenty days before the day fixed for the holding of the Revision Court.
Provided that a sum of Five shillings shell be deposited in respect of each objection lodged by any person other than an officer, to be forfeited if the objection is held to be frivolous.
That provision of the Act has been violated by the Government and the VicePresident of the Executive Council knows it. It is idle for him to say he is not aware that in Victoria there is a political organization which possesses a substantial fund, and which employs an army of paid organizers to go from place to place, and to send in innumerable objections to names which appear on the rolls of this State.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the Labour party ?
– No. The Labour party has not a big fund for that purpose. The invitation extended to party organizations by Mr. Irvine is a very serious matter indeed, because as soon as partisanship of that kind is encouraged, all sorts of tricks will be resorted to in order that victory may rest with the side which is desirous of having on the rolls the names of as few individuals who are in opposition to its principles as possible. We know that there would not have been the thousands of objections lodged if effect had been given to the law, and a fee of 5s. had been required to accompany each objection, because these persons know full well that many of their objections would not stand investigation.
– The lodging of the deposit insures bond fide objections.
– Exactly. But there is nothing bond fide about many of the objections which have been lodged. In districts which I could name, I know that objection has been taken to the names of men who were on the last electoral roll. One individual whom I have in my mind came to me the other day, and said, “ An objection has been lodged against my name remaining on the roll. They cannot remove my name.” I replied, “But they have done it.” I then asked him if he had replied to the notice of objection which he had received. He answered “No. I did not do so, because I voted at the last election. My name was on the last roll, and I have not since changed my residence.”
– That case is typical of thousands.
– Exactly. Many of these persons not being as familiar with the provisions of the Act as are those individuals who exhibit a deep interest in electoral matters, have taken it for granted that the objections lodged against the retention of their names would not be fatal, and, consequently, have not taken the trouble to reply to them. As a result many thousands of names have been removed. In other districts objections have been lodged, not by the Electoral Officer, not by the departmental officer, but by paid organizers. I ask Senator McColl if it is not a fact that the Electoral Branch receives by every mail innumerable objections against names appearing on the rolls in different parts of this State?
– I have never seen the correspondence.
– I accept the honorable senator’s statement. But I am satisfied that if he makes inquiries he will discover that Mr. Oldham and his departmental officers receive quite a big mail every morning as the result of the invitation which has been extended by the Government to organizers to do this kind of work.
– That sort of thing always went on.
– I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will not quibble in that way. That sort of thing never went on until the present Government assumed office.
– It was unheard of.
– When the late Government were in power, they took very fine care that the Act was rigidly observed, and that no man was permitted to lodge an objection unless his objection was accompanied by. a deposit of 5s.
– The very fact that the Attorney-General extended that invitation to organizations showed that it was an innovation.
– Of course it did. As a result of that invitation, many persons who were unemployed found employment in attempting to remove thousands of names of Labour voters from the rolls of Australia. I ask Senator McColl in all fairness whether an organization which has a substantial fund behind it, and which is in a position to employ hundreds of organizers to assist in removing the names of Labour voters from the rolls is justified in doing it?
– I think that all organizations are doing it.
– The only organizations which are doing it for party purposes are those which are supporting the present Government. While the Ministry are not directly responsible for what is being done, they are privy to it. They are winking the other eye at all the work that is being done by party organizations to strengthen them in the coming fight. The Labour party have never been guilty of conduct of that sorb. The Government are deserving of the strongest condemnation because of the assistance that they have rendered to the organizations which are behind them, and which are doing their damnedest to remove from the rolls names which ought in no circumstances to have been objected to. Fancy men who have lived for half-a-century in an electoral division being objected to. Senator Russell brought up the case of a man who had lived for fifty years in one house, and who must be known all over the electorate, being objected to. Why ? For no other reason than that they thought he was a Labour voter. Perhaps they thought that he had reached an age at which he would not trouble himself much about electoral matters, or understand the nature of an objection, or that, having lived for halfacentury in one district, he would be under the impression that no one, in any circumstances, could legitimately remove his name from the roll.
– It is the Registrar who removes the name.
– Perfectly true. The honorable senator said that the strictest inquiries are made in regard to all objections lodged, but it is a matter of human impossibility for that to be done in every case. If it is true that thousands of names have been objected to in one division in New South Wales, how can the strictest inquiries be made as to whether those are legitimate or illegitimate objections?
– The police have been going from door to door.
– But the objections lodged in writing are not lodged by the police at all. They are lodged by partisans.
– The police are generally the persons sent to inquire about them.
– The police have altogether different work to perform from that performed to-day by party organizers.
– Do not the police go out and inquire about objections?
– Not always.
– When they do, do you believe they act honestly?
– I believe they do.
– Do you think Postal officials act honestly?
– I believe they do, but it is impossible for them to do justice to the work they are called upon to perform, as the result of the action of the Government in inviting organizations to lodge wholesale objections to names remaining on the rolls. The honorable senator will never get a roll satisfactory to the people by such a method. Rather, if persisted in, it will bring about an absolutely chaotic condition of things.
– We cannot too often repeat our objections to the administration of the Electoral Act by the present Government. When I made some comments yesterday, Senator Millen accused me of doing electioneering work, and distributing political placards. If anything that can be said here from now till the Senate is dissolved can arouse the electors to a proper understanding of the way they are being robbed of their votes, I intend to indulge in it to the fullest extent of my powers, whether it is called political placarding, electioneering, or anything else. If it is electioneering to warn the electors of the way they are being treated, and to sheet home the blame to the Government, I am ready to accept the responsibility for doing it. The principal charge against the Government is that organizations have been invited by the Attorney-General to lodge objections wholesale, and that they know that the only political organizations possessing any considerable means are those behind the Government. Yet no Minister has attempted to reply to all the objections and criticisms levelled against them; to dissociate himself from those .organizations or throw any blame on them for what has been done. Ministers have not attempted to free themselves from the guilt which is rightly theirs, and which, therefore, they must share. If any Labour organization was pursuing the same tactics, and a Labour Administration was in power, they would be rightly condemned. Senator Oakes is continually trying to make out that Labour organizations act in a similar way, but I have been a member of a Labour organization in New South Wales for 28 years, and have never objected to any name being put on the roll. I would rather see anybody on the roll twice over than see any one who should be there left off once. I have assisted to get hundreds on the rolls by witnessing or filling in claims, but have never attempted to get any one off. I have never known the organization in which I have filled every position, from that of full private to chief, to devote a farthing of its funds, or any of its energy or activity, to doing anything of the kind.. We have rather done our level best to get others on to the rolls. Individuals may here and there have tried to get names off - I do not mean to say that we are by nature purer than other people - but we have never had any organization that has set out to do any work of the kind, whereas the well known and deliberate endeavour of the organizations behind the Government, and in fact their chief mission in politics, is to throw their opponents off the rolls. That kind of thing will go on and grow worse if the country has the misfortune to harbour the present Government on the Treasury bench much longer. New South Wales has shown during the last 20 years that the heavier the percentage of votes, polled in any election the greater and more striking has been the success of the. Labour party. It is therefore to our advantage to get the fullest number possible on the rolls. We try to educatethe people into a better knowledge of the. use of the vote, and have expended a good deal of money in endeavouring towiden the political knowledge of the.- electors; but we have never taken up the reactionary attitude which is so pronounced on the other side. No member of the Government has attempted to free himself from the blame that rightly attaches to the Government by dissociating himself from the management of the organizations to which they belong. If they said, “ We reprobate the illegal and dastardly use that is being made by these organizations of the privileges which they have got hold of, and will do our best to put a stop fo it,” we might have some belief in their sincerity; but we find that they are on the defensive all the time, and trying by mean little quibbles to show that those who lodge the charges have made mistakes. No member can take his oath that every statement in a letter that he gets from some distant part of his own State is correct. We bring forward evidence that is beyond all reasonable doubt, which is all that we can be expected to do, and yet Ministers shelter themselves behind the miserable quibble that, as we cannot swear to its correctness, they have a right to assume that the facts as alleged do not exist; that we have discovered a number of mares’ nests. There would not be such a general outcry from all parts of the Commonwealth unless there were considerable grounds for it. I have a letter from a resident of Fifield, in the Condobolin district of New South Wales, stating that the police have gone round the district, under instructions, carrying State and Federal rolls. If they enroll any one on the State roll they give him a receipt, and I believe that he can vote on producing that receipt whether his name is on the roll or not. In the case of the Federal roll, however, the police, under instructions, tick off the names of those whom they meet in their travels. An individual whose name is ticked off is all right, but if the police call at a man’s house and he is not there, even though he may be only 500 yards away, they do not tick his name off, and the fact that there is no tick opposite his name will be primâ facie objection to his remaining on the roll. Did honorable senators ever hear of such a dastardly and infamous method being fathered by a Government to reduce the number of voters in the country districts? If we had a Government who really believed in their professed principles; if we had a Government who were Liberal in fact instead of merely in name, and really trusted the people and legislated in their interests, they would be only too anxious to give every qualified person a vote. But while professing that they want to give every one a vote, and in the words of the Prime Minister wish to get a clean roll and act honestly, notwithstanding the objections and the denials of Senator McColl, they are passively, if not actively, doing all they can to assist in getting names off the rolls. If Senator McColl is worthy of the position he holds, and is prepared to act up to the principles he has professed to-night, it is not sufficient for him to say that he, as an individual citizen of this State, desires to see every person have a vote who is entitled to be enrolled. He must also discourage and, as far as his position enables him to do so, prevent people from wrongfully objecting to names on the rolls. There is only one way in which that can be done, and that is by the Government retracing their steps, disowning the reactionary and criminal invitation of the Attorney-General, and promising that in future no objection shall be received unless it is accompanied by the fee of 5s. No other promise can be of any good to us. We know very well that pious aspirations count for nothing; that men must not merely profess to be good, but show their contrition for their past sins before they will be trusted to do right in the future. If the Ministry would frankly and honestly state, “We have sinned; we have no right to have these wholesale objections shovelled in by not enforcing the payment of the fee; we will restore the rule, and see that honesty is observed,” they would deserve some belief, but otherwise they do not.
– I have listened to the discussion on this motion with some degree of interest. I feel that Senator McDougall, who brought forward this question, has discharged a duty which he owes, not only to his constituency, but to the Commonwealth as a whole. The more it is made known that these proceedings are taking place the more it will conduce to pure, clean rolls, because it will awaken within electors a desire, not only to have their names on the rolls, but when the opportunity comes to exercise the right which is theirs. I cannot understand, however, the oft-mouthed sentences that we hear from the Government, that they are desirous of having clean rolls, that the present rolls are congested and unclean, that there are many duplications, because I find that the statements are absolutely contradicted by the records supplied to us in a parliamentary paper by the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Oldham. It is well known that the polling at the last election was the heaviest since Federation. It is well known, too, that the election was very keenly contested. My contention is that if the rolls were in the congested and unclean state which the Government allege; if they need so much purification as the Government profess; if there was such a number of duplications on the rolls as the Government assert, it would have been impossible for Mr. Oldham to bring out the analysis of the votes and the proportion of those who voted, compared to ‘ those on the rolls, which he has brought out. On pages 9 and 10 of this parliamentary paper, honorable senators will find an analysis of the votes recorded in 1906, 1910. and 1913. In New South Wales the percentage of those who voted in 1906 was 51.70; in 1910, 61.44; and in 1913, C9.28. In Victoria the percentage in 1906 was 56.72; in 1910, 66.58; and in 1913, 75.49. I ask how that could take place with congested rolls. In Queensland the percentage in 1906 was 45.94; in 1910, 61.15; and in 1913, 77.26. In South Australia the percentage in 1906 was 36.51; in 1910, 53.21; and in 1913, 80.10, showing the biggest increase of the lot. In Western Australia the percentage in 1906 was 36.23; in 1910, 62.15; and in 1913, 73.50. In Tasmania the percentage in 1906 was 54.18: in 1910, 58.51; and in 1913, 75.32. These figures are an absolute refutation of the statement which has been made and repeated, not only in the Senate, but in the other Chamber, and on nearly every Liberal platform, so that the gentleman who was altogether out of the control of this Government up to that time - I do not impute that he is in their control now - has given distinct evidence here from the results of the elections themselves that the two things could not obtain at the same time - that is, congested rolls and a heavy percentage of- voters. If there was a number of duplications or undue congestion, it would follow that the proportion or percentage of voters must necessarily be less. If. on the other hand, we find, as we have found, that the polling was increased to a. very large percentage, that pricks the bladder, and refutes one of those statements which are so often used on the Liberal platform, and which have no truth in them.
– You had better prick the bladder where Mr. Oldham said that there were 180,000 extra names on the rolls.
– The honorable senator knows very well that Mr. Oldham distinctly said that it was impossible to get absolutely clean rolls without omitting the names of a number of persons who ought to be on the rolls.
– That is the charge, that the rolls were inflated.
– I have gone carefully through the evidence given by Mr. Oldham - I regret that I have not my copy here just now - and it entirely bursts the bladder that the Liberals so continuously float in the air.
– It did not burst one bladder, anyhow.
– Mr. Oldham says, and Mr. Knibbs bears out the statement, that on account of the migratory population in Australia it is a moral impossibility to have every name on the rolls and not one name duplicated.
– Hear, hear; that is what I said : I say that the rolls were inflated.
– But I. say that the rolls were not unduly inflated.
– Mr. Oldham says that there were 180,000 extra names on the rolls.
- Mr. Oldham says that, in. Australia, there are 700,000 persons migrating every year, and I say that out of that number 180,000 cannot be described as an inflation, seeing that we have a total enrolment of over 2,000,000. It has been continually said by Ministers that the cases which are cited have no strength in them. Let me give another case, and I may mention in passing that cases are reported to us from all sides. Mr. John Bawden, of 30 Grace-street, Goodwood Park, wrote to an Adelaide daily newspaper in these terms -
I have lived in the same house for 20 years, and have always voted at. the elections; also my wife. On making inquiries on Saturday I was thunderstruck to find we were both struck off. Surely something, should be done at once to stop this underhand work. We have had no notice from the Electoral Department, and arc quite in the dark. It is time some drastic action was taken.
The writer of the letter gave his name and the place of his residence. This is only another of many cases’ which could be given. It shows unmistakably that there is some system going on which deserves to be most strongly reprobated, and I cannot quote stronger language than that which was used by a Liberal journal in South Australia, immediately after the last election. On the 7th June, 1913, it published a leader, from which I have extracted a few sentences that can be applied well to our honorable friends on the other side; the hens have come home to roost in this matter -
A few days ago numbers of South Australians, perfectly honest in the ordinary affairs of life, made thieves of themselves by stealing votes. Most of them would scorn the thought of robbing hen-roosts or safes, but they lightheartedly, and with a zealot’s fiery enthusiasm, and in the name of what they term principle, stole what is much more valuable than the contents of either hen-roost or safe.
They may plead . . . that they were justified by any and every ‘means in “ downing “ the political enemy, and never reflected that that “downing” would mean the “ upping “ of immorality; but no sophistry can affect the clear verity that a man who steals a vote is more than a burglar - because the burglar must at least have some courage, whereas the vote stealer is only a sneak thief.
I want to put it this way : that a man who steals from another the opportunity of giving a vote is, in the language of the Liberal journal I have quoted, a sneakthief and worse than a burglar. This thing is going on systematically. It is not as if it occurred in one place - we could pardon that - but it occurs all over South Australia, and our honorable friends from other States say that it is going on there too. I recognise that it is time that we put up a very strong protest against the proceeding, that the Government should be required, at least, to carry out the Electoral Act. Having given them the name of an elector, I ask the Minister who is in control of the Electoral Branch to see whether the fee of 5s. was paid by the person who objected to the name of John Bawden of Goodwood Park? If he will do that, he will oblige me and other electors; but. as long as the Electoral Act remains on the statute-book, they must administer it as they find it; not as they would like it to be if they had the power to alter it. I, as one of the representatives of South Australia, enter a protest against this proceeding being allowed to continue any longer.
– I desire to say a word on the motion brought forward by Senator McDougall. I have no fault whatever to find with the general tenor of the honorable senator’-s speech. He said that he was dealing with a grievance which affected a number of supporters of his in New South Wales, and a number of electors in various parts of the Commonwealth. The language in which he addressed himself to the Senate was temperate, and no fault could be found with it, but as the debate proceeded, it was clearly evident that there was an electioneering side to the question, of which honorable senators opposite have not been slow to take advantage. Incidentally charges have been made, as we expected they would be, against members of the Government in this Chamber as well as members of the Government in another place. It has been said that they are parties to a scheme for trying to defraud some of the electors of New South Wales who are believed to have Labour tendencies. We can state the case very frankly, because the Electoral Act at present in force in the Commonwealth is the Act which was passed by our friends opposite, and was introduced by the last Labour Government. Whether we like it or whether we do not, we have to conform to the law. The law that is beingcarried out is not working exactly as honorable senators opposite would like, and we have evidence in this Chamber that the contention on the other side is that it is being put to an improper use by Mr. Cook.
– Mr. Cook’s name was never mentioned during the debate.
– The Prime Minister was mentioned - I do not say by Senator McDougall, but by other honorable senators.
– Why do not the Government insist on the 5s. deposit with objections, according to the law?
– I shall deal with that later. This is the first move in the drama which will occupy public attention on the 5th September next. I have here a circular sent out by the Labour authorities in New South Wales supporting honorable senators opposite. It is headed “ Cook’s Latest.”
– We have heard of that before.
– The inference from this circular is that Mr. Cook was responsible for what appears under the heading to which I have referred -
Police are taking names off the rolls, but will put none on.
Seventy-five thousand Labour voters disfranchised.
Labour voters must act at once.
As rolls close immediately.
Police are collecting State rolls, but not the Federal.
You may be fined £2 if you do not see to your enrolment at once.
Call at the post-office and see the Federal Toll. Be sure it is the Federal roll, as the State rolls are also exhibited there.
If your name is not on the roll, get an enrolment card from the post-office and send it on at once. Next week may be too late.
Do it now, and save £2.
The inference again being that Mr. Cook is responsible if an elector is fined £2 for not being enrolled. It is a clever electioneering dodge, and about the equivalent of a circular issued in New South Wales during the last State election, when a member of the State Labour Ministry accused the Government of which I was a member of the “ Rock-chopper incident.” They said the rock-chopper died in gaol, when, as a matter of fact, he died a month afterwards. Our friends opposite no doubt consider this sort of thing smart. It is one of the unscrupulous electioneering dodges of the party opposite to charge the Government with being parties to this kind of thing. Senator Findley has denied, with a great deal of virtuous indignation, that he is a party to accusing any electoral officer of unscrupulous conduct.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator’s words, as quoted from Hansard by Senator Millen, were to the effect that he accused them of acting illegally; but qualified the statement to some extent by saying that they acted under the direction of the Government.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable senator cheers that statement. He sets up the position that these electoral officers are willing to break the law of the land, provided they get instructions to do so from the Minister.
– Yes, and they are doing it.
– The honorable senator now admits that that is his statement. I say that I hold a much higher opinion of the electoral officers of the Commonwealth than to think that any of them would be parties to breaking the law at the dictation of Ministers.
– Is it not a fact that they are violating the provision of the Act which says that 5s. must accompany every objection to a name appearing on a roll?
– I say no. That is my answer to the honorable senator.
– It is common knowledge that they are doing it.
– We can agree to differ on that point. To show his inconsistency, Senator Findley immediately afterwards said that associations of the Liberal party came down and put in bunches of objections to the names of people on the rolls, and that the names objected to were always those of Labour supporters.
– Yes, always.
– Exactly ; but when the honorable senator charges Liberal organizers with that kind of thing the inference is that the electoral officials are parties to another swindle, and take those names off the rolls at the instigation of Liberal organizations. Does the honorable senator indorse that?
– No; I say they are political “ pot-shotters.”
– I say that the charge made is a most serious one. It means that the officers of the Electoral Department, with whom the responsibility solely rests, are taking names off the rolls at the dictation of the Government, and, failing interference by the Government, at the dictation of any political organization - in this case a Liberal organization. I throw that hack in the teeth of those who make the charge. I have a better opinion of the public servants of the Commonwealth than to think that they would remove names from the rolls at the dictation of any organization. The information upon which action is taken has a right to be supplied, and can he supplied without any instructions to the Electoral Branch.
If the information is considered to be “worth anything it is investigated. Who conducts the investigation? Is it Mr. Oldham, or, in New South Wales, Mr. McLaren? No. We know that the work of investigation is handed over to the police, so that we have here a further charge that the police are parties to this swindle, and to this desire that people should have their names removed from the rolls. On hehalf of the police I throw that charge back in the teeth of the men who make it. The police have a duty to perform, and it may be a very unpleasant duty. From my knowledge of them, I believe that they act fairly between the two parties. Liberals sometimes say that the police are against them, and when we find that Labour men say that the police are against them also, we can assume that the police discharge their duties fairly and efficiently. Senator Rae was pleased to be highly indignant. My knowledge of the honorable senator is of many years’ standing. I could quite understand that for the time being the honorable senator forgot that he was in the Senate’ chamber, and thought that he was on the platform in the campaign for the election of senators for New South Wales. If in such circumstances the honorable senator flings a few charges about in violent fashion, I for one am not at all surprised. The honorable senator says, “ Where is the money behind their organizations? “ He says that we on this side represent the only political party that has any money. The honorable senator hurls these charges without any knowledge whatever.
– The honorable senator knows that his party gets money to fight elections much easier than ours does.
– I do not know that the honorable senator can say that we get money much easier than does the Labour party. We know that the Labour party put the thumbscrew on, and get money out of the workers. The money we get is voluntarily given to us.
– Where does the thumbscrew come in ?
– In the last ten years the workers have provided Labour organizations with £1,000,000.
– A million is not much to a trust.
– Will the honorable senator say that it is not much to squeeze out of the workers? I notice that my honorable friends do not deny the- £1,000,000. I advise them to look up their arithmetic a little before they talk about their organizations having nomoney. We are continually hearing their ad misericordiam appeal, but they get more money out of the workers than wasever given to any other political organization.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - Notfor politics.
– And the statement is: not true.
– I know that ithurts, and I say that it is true. Senator Rae informed us that the police went round at a place called Fifield with aFederal roll in one hand and a State roll in the other. He said that they weretaking names for the State roll, and’, marked the Federal roll at the same time, and from that he assumed that the policewere going to put names on the Federal’ roll. From the statements made in thecircular I have quoted, it would appearthat the police were not doing that at all. Incidentally, we have had proof this evening that the police were doing that work.. No matter how the question is looked at, it is clear that, after all, the responsibility for taking the names of people off the rolls falls upon two sets of public officials^ - first of all, after objections are lodged, on the officers of the Electoral Branch, and, secondly, when the objections are investigated, on the police. If a police officer sends in reliable information in support of an objection, the name objected to is removed from the roll quite automatically. What, in the circumstances, have honorable senators opposite to complain of ? They say that political organizations and individuals take names off the rolls, and, with the object of slinging mud, they couple the Government of the day with them, and say that they are responsible for what is done. Honorable senators opposite know very well that Messrs. Oldham and McLaren are men of responsibility and integrity, and that no Government would dare to go to them and give them instructions to do anything behind the Act. If any member of the Government dared to do that, he would be told very properly that he was asking them to do something which could not be justified. Yet the charge made by our friends on the other side is that we go to the officers of the Electoral Branch and issue these instructions to violate the Act. We cannot issue, instructions to the individual clerks, and any instructions given must be given to the heads of the Department. In the circumstances, such charges fall back upon the honorable senators who make them. In the course of his remarks on the motion, Senator McDougall read a letter from Mr. Grant, in which the statement appeared that the police took the preliminary steps to take names off the rolls. Does the circular which I have quoted say that the police took preliminary steps ? It would lead any one to believe that Mr. Cook instructed some one to take the names off the rolls.
– Not at all.
– I ask the honorable senator what do the statements in the circular mean ? It states that 75,000 Labour voters have been disfranchised, and this is all under the heading, “ Cook’s Latest.” Will not anybody assume that Mr. Cook had given direct instructions to have those names removed from the rolls? Mr. Grant says that the police took the preliminary steps.
– Who instructed the police ?
– The Chief Electoral Officer, I presume.
– Who had a conference with the Premier of New South Wales to ask that police should be allowed to do the work iu that State? It was Mr. Cook.
– There was a conference between Mr. Cook and Mr. Holman, but the police were asked to do the work on behalf of the Chief Electoral Officer.
– So that Mr. Cook took the preliminary steps after all.
– So far as I could learn from the statements appearing in the press, the conference was to arrange about the printing of the rolls. Senator McDougall stated that when Mr. Grant went down to see Mr. McLaren, the Chief Electoral Officer in New South Wales, Mr. McLaren said that names were removed from the roll. I ask honorable senators to notice the difference between the two statements. Mr. McLaren says that names were removed, and this circular comes out, and not content with reproducing Mr. McLaren’s statement, those responsible for the issue of the circular make the statement that the- names removed were those of Labour voters only. What right had the other side to use information given to them by Mr. McLaren that 60,000 names were objected to and then make the statement that they were the names of Labour supporters?
– Mr. McLaren gave the information to the public.
– Did he say that those were the names of Labour supporters ?
– Then what does the honorable senator’s party mean by saying that they were the names of Labour voters ?
– They knew more than Mr. McLaren did.
– We may presume that our friends opposite were trying to create the impression in New South Wales and throughout the Commonwealth that the party in power to-day are so unscrupulous as to manipulate the Electoral Branch for purely party reasons. For party electioneering purposes, our friends opposite have tried to create in the minds of unthinking persons in the Commonwealth the impression that the pArty in power have been unscrupulous in their actions in connexion with the electoral rolls. We have nailed that lie down absolutely here to-night, and we shall do so from every platform in the country.
Senator NEWLAND (South Australia) 1 9. 15]. - It was very amusing to observe the tremendous amount of fiery energy which was expended by the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, as the result of his inspection of the highly-coloured circular to which he directed our attention. This is the second occasion upon which we have had an exhibition of that circular, and the honorable senator cannot be complimented upon anything he said to-night in connexion with the so-called purifying or purging of the electoral rolls. I do not propose to expend any time in answering the honorable senator’s statements beyond saying that he attempted to saddle the Labour party with the responsibility of having libelled our Returning Officers, the police, and every other person who is connected with the work of purifying the rolls. I say that the labour party have not libelled any person who is engaged in that task. They have merely attacked the Government for their failure to enforce the provisions of the Act. It would have been better if the honorable senator had devoted his attention to persuading the Government to conform to the law, instead of libelling the party with which I have the honour to bc associated. All that is necessary is that the Ministry shall immediately issue instructions to the electoral officers of the various States that the law must be observed, and that in future a fee of 5s. must accompany each objection. That would put a stop to the indiscriminate so-called purging of the rolls, and would render it unnecessary for us to expose the malpractices which are going on at the present time. I did intend to refer to a few points in connexion with this matter; but I have no desire to prevent Senator -McDougall from having a few minutes in which to reply. I do wish, however, to place on record a statement which emanates, not from a Labour organization or a Labour newspaper, or a Labour man. but one which has been published by the official organ of the Liberal Union in South Australia. It may interest honorable senators to know that on 2nd February of this year the Liberal, the official journal of the Liberal party in that State, published the following: -
Mr. Freeman,the general secretary, is paying special attention to this feature- that is purging the rolls - and has discovered in the last two months 2,500 names on the roll of electors who had lost their qualification.
I wonder how he investigated these cases. I wonder whether he paid the necessary fee in each instance. If so, he must have dealt with fifty names per day. That would mean that he lodged a sum of £12 10s. per day in the shape of deposits accompanying the objections, or over £70 per week, or nearly £4,000 a year. That is the amount which the Government would have received from the Liberal Union in Adelaide if that organization had observed the law. Is it not time that the Ministry took notice of the statements which appear in the journals of its own party, instead of devoting so much attention to Labour newspapers? The secretary of the Liberal Union in South Aus tralia is paying so much attention to purging the rolls that, if the provisions of the Electoral Act are being enforced, he must bc running his organization into debt to the tune of thousands of pounds annually. I wish to tell the Government that, unless something is done in this matter, the last has not been heard of it. If T had time to discuss the details of this case, I could show that the Liberal Union of South Australia is making itself particularly busy in endeavouring to get names struck off the rolls.
– The Government must accept the whole of the responsibility for the unsatisfactory position which obtains to-day in regard to our electoral rolls. They cannot saddle the Labour party with any blame in this connexion. Only the other day a man named Brassener stated in evidence before the Electoral Commission at Ballarat that he had objected to 4,180 names appearing on the rolls for the Ballarat division, and that out of that number 3,200 names had been struck off. This gentleman was succeeded by another witness who in the meantime had made investigations at the post-office, and who had discovered that, though objection had been taken to the 4,180 names, only 500 of them had been wiped off the rolls. Mr. Brasseuer was evidently gambling on the chance that many more names had been similarly treated. I venture to say that had the law been complied with by requiring him to make a deposit of 5s. with each objection, he would not have lodged anything like so many objections. A third witness handed to the Commission a list of forty names of electors who had been removed from the rolls, and whom he had been the means of restoring, and he told that body that, if necessary, he could supplement it with another 100 names. I say deliberately that the Government have attempted to strike off the rolls of this country as many Labour voters as possible. They must accept the fullest responsibility for their action, and I am thoroughly satisfied that on polling day the electors will ram that fact home to them. I come now to the case of another gentleman, who was an organizing secretary of the Liberal party in New South Wales. In giving evidence before the Electoral Commission, he said -
Liberal organizers working inconj unction with fair-minded registrars inEden-Monaro bad over 3,000 names removed from the Federal rolls which had no right to be there. Several registrars did not display the same readiness in cleaning the rolls.’
I suppose that the latter were not “ fairminded “ registrars. That, I say, was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Fusion Government to play to the party with the longest purse. During the last election they had some experience ot spending money belonging to the trusts. We know that on that occasion they sent paid organizers all over Australia. In all probability they thought that the stream of gold would continue to flow into their coffers, and that they would be enabled to send paid organizers throughout the Commonwealth, and to gamble on the chance that these persons would be successful in getting many thousands of names removed from the rolls. I could say a great deal more upon this subject, but, as Senator McDougall wishes to reply, I gladly make way for him.
– I owe no apology to anybody for having initiated this discussion. We have heard from the Government today something which we have never heard before. When listening to the remarks of the Minister of Defence, I thought that there would be nothing for me to reply to. But since then we have had from Senator McColl an admission that there has been collusion between the Government and political bodies outside.
– Oh, no.
– I understood the Vice-President of the Executive Council to say that the Government had invited organizations to assist them in cleaning the rolls. That is an act which does not redound to the credit of the Ministry. So far, I have not heard of more than one party organization that has been invited to assist in cleansing the roll.
– If this kind of thing were encouraged, we should not have any rolls at all, because there would be nobody left on them.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council has said that all organizations are doing this. Then what is the matter with father doing it?
– The honorable senator knows that they have been doing it for years.
– There is a trite saying that “ an old poacher makes a good game-keeper.” I have been in this business longer than has the honorable senator. I know what used to be done by the old political parties in my own State before the cleansing hand of the Labour party appeared upon the scene. There was a time in the history of New South Wales when influence and money could put any man into Parliament. But that time disappeared twenty-one years ago. I regret there are indications that a similar practice is now being revived. What does the Vice-President of the Executive Council mean by cleansing the rolls? Obviously we cannot cleanse anything which is not dirty. His statement, therefore, implies that the previous Administration tolerated unclean rolls. I say that the Fisher Government always insisted upon a deposit of 5s. accompanying each objection, in accordance with the law. I regret that there seems to have been some understanding between the Government and various organizations under which complaints could be lodged against the retention of names on the rolls without the deposit of 5s. in the case of each objection being enforced. I do not wish to say a single word against the officers of the Electoral Branch. I am here to protect them. The Government should also protect them from insult and from misstatements. Only the other day the secretary of the Liberal party in New South Wales stated on oath before the Electoral Commission that the names of certain men appeared on the rolls for certain places, and that those names had been duplicated. I had the privilege of looking over the rolls, and I found that that statement was absolutely incorrect. He may have believed it to be true when he made it. The Chief Electoral Officer had to sit there and bear all the ignominy heaped upon him. It was not to complain of any action of the Electoral Branch that I rose to-day. In his outburst, Senator Oakes drew attention to the colour of a circular, but I guarantee that there were plenty issued in other colours. At any rate, it is doing its work, for at the Newtown Electoral Office last week 1,500 people came along in one night with a little dodger of this kind to find out if they were on the rolls, and hundreds found that they were not. I am surprised at honorable members opposite taking objection to such an innocent little thing. It is nothing in comparison with the “cow” dodgers issued at the last election, with which I would be ashamed to be associated. Senator Oakes says they are going to nail the lie down on every platform. That will be congenial work for them, because they are used to nailing down their own lies. The honorable senator blamed the late Government for the law they made and left for this Government to administer, but the late Government never attempted to break their own law. When they were in power, the system adopted was for the police to go from house to house with enrolment cards, which they left to be filled in. These were afterwards collected, and the police saw that they were properly signed. The system being carried out to-day is simply to verify the rolls by seeing that people live at the addresses given. Next door to where I ‘ live there are a dozen young men, some of them engineers, firemen, and stewards employed at sea. They are travelling from port to port along the coast for a month at a time. If a notice is left for them, they probably do not see it when they come back, but, if they do not reply within twenty-one days, their names are struck off the roll, and they receive no intimation of the fact. This class of people has every right to the franchise, even though their home is, to a great extent, on the sea. The idea of the Labour party is to give everybody an opportunity of exercising the vote. I would rather see the awful postal vote with all its horrors re-enacted than see anybody deprived of a vote. It was not the postal vote itself, but the abuses connected with it, that caused it to be taken from the statute-book. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator PEARCE (for Senator
Stewart) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What was the date of the Commonwealth Public Service Inspector’s last inspection of the Brisbane Mail Branch, as provided by section 8 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act?
How many, if any, of the sorters whose increments were stopped as a result of adverse reports of the Advisory Board came under the Inspector’s notice?
Does his report,as framed on the result of his last inspection, coincide in the main with that of the Advisory Board, viz., that these sorters are not worth the increment due to them ?
Will the Minister lay a copy of Mr. Walcott’s report, made npon the said sorters, upon the table of the Senate?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
With reference to the recent changes in military appointments, will the Honorable the Minister state -
If it was contemplated removing Colonel W. J. Clark, the Commandant of Tasmania Military District, to Western Australia, or any other State?
If so, did the Commandant of Tasmania, when at head-quarters recently, discuss with the Minister his remaining in Tasmania, and state his disinclination to be removed ?
At any time verbally or in writing did Colonel Clark express or desire to remain in Tasmania his full term, andstate that he would rather resign than be transferred ?
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Senate adjourned at 9.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140618_SENATE_5_74/>.