6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Mini ster for Defence whether he is aware that the promise recently made by him to the effect that all soldiers, prior to their departure from Australia for the front, were to be granted final leave, sufficient to enable them to have two clear days at their . respective homes is not being observed in all cases, and will he issue instructions that his promise shall be carried out in its entirety?
– This matter was brought under my notice about two weeks ago, when I at once repeated the instruction to which the honorable senator has referred. If he will be good enough to supply me with any definite case in which the instruction has not been observed since that time, I shall be glad.
The following papers were presented: -
Defence Act 1903-1915. - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1917, Nos. 14, 16, 18, 26.
Statistical Returns in relation to the submission to the Electors of the Question prescribed by the Military Service Referendum Act 1916; and Summaries of Elections and Referendums, 1903-1916.
Statistical Returns showing the voting in relation to the submission to the Electors of the Question prescribed by the Military Service Referendum Act 1916, . within’ each subdivision of the States of-
New South Wales.
Papua - Ordinances of, 1916 -
No. 6 - Port Dues Revision.
No. 7 - Foreign Marriage Notice. ‘
No. 8- Roads.
No.9 - Trading with the Enemy.
No. 10 - War Precautions.
No. 12 - Liquor.
No. 13- Excise Tariff.
No. 14- Customs Tariff.
No. I5- Samarai Disused Burial Ground.
Papua Act 1905- Infirm and Destitute Natives Account -
Statement of the transactions for 1915- 16 of the Trustees appointed under Section 48 of the Act.
Postmaster-General’s Department- Sixth Annual Report, 1915-16.
Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for year ended 30th June, 1915.
War Precautions Act 1914-1916.- Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 312, 314.
– I ask the leave of honorable senators to make a statement in regard to the establishment of a defence reserve under the Defence Act.
-Is it the pleasure of the Senate that the Minister have leave to make a statement of the character . in dicated ?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I propose to lay on the table of the Senate certain regulations dealing with the matter, and I thought, therefore, it would be well to make an explanatory statement in connexion therewith, as the matter is one of some imports ance. The statement is as follows: -
To insure that the splendid experience gained by men of the Australian Imperial Force may be utilized as part of a national insurance for the future peace of Australia, the Government have decided to create, under the provisions of the Defence Act 1913-1915, an Australian Army Reserve.
Composition. - Class “ A” - Composed of men who have completed their trainingas prescribed by section 125(o) of the Act, and are liable to be trained in accordance with the provisions of section 126(d) of the Act.
On completion of their service in Class “ A,” officers and other ranks may be transferred to Class “ B.”
Claas “ B.” - Voluntary, under fifty years of age, composed of -
Class- “ C.”- ‘Members of Rifle Clubs.
Honorary Reserve. - There shall also be an Honorary . Reserve, in which the undermentioned may enroll, or to which they may, at their own request, be transferred -
Forthese classes the service will be voluntary, and, save in the case of rifle clubs, the period of training per annum will not exceed four whole days, during which period the men will be paid at Militia Force rates. The decision as to the classes to be trained each year will rest with the Minister for Defence.
Arms and equipment will be provided as they become available, and arrangements may be made for their proper custody in conveniently locatedarmouries.
For the. purpose of preserving the traditions and honours won by the members of the Aus- . tralian Imperial Force on active service, the militia units of the Commonwealth Military Forces’ will be re-numbered and given, as far as practicable, the numbers at present borne by the units of the Australian Imperial Force.
To each of the existing militia units so renumbered will be linked a reserve unit consisting of men who have served at the front in a unit bearing the same number of the renumbered militia unit of which they will form ‘ the reserve. This will insure that the numerical designation of the A.I.F. units who have made history for Australia will be carried on for all time in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, into whose Keeping that great tradition will be given, and who, for many years, will have the actual men who created the traditions as the reserve of many of their units.
Members of the Reserve who have served in the present war will “be allowed to retain their battalion arm patches, bo that, no matter where in Australia an A.I.F. member of the Reserve may be trained, . he will retain the outward and visiblesign of the unit with which he fought.
An opportunity will also be afforded to men who haveserved in South Africa or any of the Empire’s wars, prior to the present one, to give Australia the benefit of their warwon experience. Those men may join any unit which will best carry out the tradition of theirparticular arm.
It is reasonable to assume that, apart from the Militia Forces and other sections of the Reserves, this scheme will, within twelve months of the termination of the war, give Australia a force of from 150,000 to 200,000 - men trained’ in the latest methods of modern warfare who can, if Australia requires them, be quickly and effectively mobilized.
The Government, feeling that any man who, through no fault of: Mb own, has become incapacitated in the service of his. country, should not be forgotten in this scheme, has also made provision for an Honorary Reserve. No training. will be required fromthese men, but, belonging to the Reserve will enable them to keep in touch with their comrades, and the units with, which they were associated.
With the. object of giving the people an opportunity to help the Military . Authorities in all matters affecting the contentment and wellbeing of the men who fought for them, and also those who are being trained’ for the future defence of Australia, and holding that it is the sacred duty of all Australians to, in every legitimate way, encourage and help the men who have won for them the right to remain a free people, the Government have constituted the seventy-five Federal electorates of the Commonwealth into territorial associations. In drawing up the duties and functions of these associations, the territorial scheme of Great Britain has been followed wherever practicable.
For the purpose of recording the names, and tracing the whereabouts of Reservists, the Government have utilized the Electoral Department as being the least costly and most effective method of keeping in touch with mcn, many of whom will, in time, be scattered ali over the Commonwealth.
The regulations which govern the enrolment, administration, and training of the Reserve have been passed by the Executive Council, and as soon as they can be printed and distributed to the various-‘districts, the enrolment of Reservists will begin.
The Government hope, by means of this scheme, to keep up the spirit of camaraderie among the veterans, and to set before the young citizen trainee a standard of selfsacrifice and soldierly conduct, and further to preserve for all time the glorious traditions won at Gallipoli, Egypt, and on the western and other fronts.
The Government intrusted Colonel the Honorable Kenneth Mackay, CB., V.D., with the work “of drawing up_ this scheme, and for the purpose of carrying it into effect has appointed him, temporarily, to the position of DirectorGeneral.
When taking up his appointment, this officer urged that when, in the opinion of the Minister for Defence, the scheme was in working order, he be relieved, and that a soldier who has served in the present war be given the permanent position.
I lay on the table the regulations dealing with the Reserve.
– I ask the Minister for Defence before he resumes his seat how it is proposed that the new Reserve shall be linked up with the Reserve contemplated in the Kitchener scheme for the Commonwealth Forces?
– the Reserve contemplated in the Kitchener scheme is included in this. The honorable senator will have noticed that Class C comprises all the rifle clubs:
– - I; do not mean the existing Reserve under the Kitchener scheme, but the Reserve when the soldiers have completed their training.
-That Reserve is also included in this scheme. I repeat the following from the statement I have read -
Class A. - Composed of men who have completed their training as prescribed by section 125(c) of the Act, and are liable to be trained in accordance with the provisions of section 125(d) of the Act.
On completion of their service in Class A officers and other ranks will be transferred to Class B.
That is the Reserve contemplated in the Kitchener scheme. In order that honorable senators may, if they desire so to do, debate the statement, I move -
That the statement be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
– I desire, sir, to ask you a queston without notice. Yesterday I asked a question upon notice containing, I think, seven or eight paragraphs referring to an inquiry pending now for some time in connexion with the Federal Capital. The reply to my questions was supplied by the Minister for Defence. He stated that it was somewhat voluminous, ana that without’ reading it he would table it, and asked that it should be printed: I wish to know now whether the reply will be published in Hansard as an answer to my question 1
– In the circumstances, I shall have to ask the question again, and protest against such a course being taken.
ADJOURNMENT (Formal). The Unemployed.
– I have received a notice from Senator Findley which is somewhat out of order, inasmuch as it was handed to me after I had taken the chair, and is not signed. I think . the slight informalities might be overlooked. The notice is as follows: -
I desire to give notice that I will move that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow, at 11 o’clock, for the purpose pf discussing a matter of urgent public importance, viz., the distress amongst the unemployed at the present time.
– Before the motion is put, and in view, sir, of the statement you have made, I should like to know whether we may assume that in future the practice of the Senate in this connexion will be the practice which apparently has been introduced to-day. I have no desire to block the consideration of the motion, but I think that if it is to be understood that an honorable senator may at any time after you have taken the chair present such a notice in order to secure the discussion of a motion for the adjournment of the Senate, steps should be taken to alter the standing order bearing on the matter.
The PRESIDENT.- The “standing order does not prescribe the time for presenting such notices, but the practice followed has been to hand the notice in writing to the President before he baa taken the chair. Standing order 64 reads -
This notice is slightly irregular, as it should have been handed to me before I took the chair. It is also irregular inasmuch as it does not state that it is to-day that the honorable senator intends to move the motion, and, further, it is not signed. It is irregular in these respects; but as these are merely informalities the Senate might very well overlook them.
– May I say, though not by way of complaint, because probably Senator Findley overlooked the matter, that it has always .been the practice hitherto, as a matter of courtesy, for the honorable senator submitting such a notice to inform Ministers of his intention.
– The honorable senator is’ not entitled to discuss that matter. It is not covered by the standing order.
t- Gould. - May I be permitted to point out how undesirable it is to permit any irregularity of this kind in connexion with our proceedings.
– The honorable senator objects to it because he does not want the matter discussed.
– If the honorable senator does not think it worth while to comply with the Standing Orders, he should put up with the consequences. He can submit his motion to-morrow if he likes to put it in proper form and order. The Standing Orders are created to provide for the conduct of business in an orderly manner. If they are too autocratic, or allow insufficient opportunity for honorable senators to bring matters forward, they should be altered ; but while we have them, and a practice which has grown up under them for nearly sixteen years, it is very undesirable to depart from them. They require that a senator shall give notice in writing to the President before he submits a motion. The object is to allow the President to know when and how it is to come forward. Otherwise a notice of motion might be used to baulk or interfere with other business that would come forward legitimately. The President is not likely to take on himself the responsibility of doing something of which the Senate generally may not approve, in the way of interpreting the Standing Orders. Therefore, I am not speaking with a view to casting any reflection on your action as President of the Senate. You have brought the matter under our notice, and it is for us to say what we think of it before it is finally dealt with.
.- Order ! It is usual, when it is proposed to pursue any course which is not in accordance with the practice, to ask the leave of the Senate. I suggested that the Senate might very well allow Senator Findley to proceed, in spite of the slight irregularity of the notice, but as strong objection has been taken, I must rule the motion out of order.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish to state that I had no desire to show any disrespect to you as President of the Senate.
– That question does not arise.
– It arises in your saying that I did not comply with the standing order. I endeavoured to comply with it. I admit I wrote the notice of motion out hurriedly, and, at best, my writing is not too plain, but I endeavoured to the best of my ability to comply with the standing order. The Clerk of the Senate can bear out my statement that I wrote the notice out at express speed, and I went at express speed to your room, and knocked at the door seven or eight minutes before the Senate met. I got no response, and the policeman on duty there told me that you were not in your room-. The fault, therefore, is not mine.- I made every effort to find you in your room, and you were not there; 3 o’clock was upon me, and I had not an opportunity of telling the Leader of the Senate what my intentions were. The only ,informality, therefore, is that I personally did not sign the notice-.
– And it is undated.
– As’ I told you, it was for to-day. I would not give notice of a motion “for adjournment to discuss urgent public business for to-morrow or the day after. The fact that it was a matter of urgent public business presupposes that I intended to move it today. These technicalities succeed, but the public will know who the objectors to my motion are.
.- Order! That is not a personal explanation.
– The motion has been ruled out on technicalities, and I simply want to show that in the circumstances the fault is not mine. If we are to understand that in future the rule must be rigidly observed, ‘ that the person who is going to move the motion is to sign it, and that when a person gives notice that he is going to move a motion as a matter of extreme urgency the President is to rule that it is not a matter of urgency for to-day, but that it might be for-
– The honorable senator is now arguing the question.
– I am-
– The honorable senator is out of order. Arguing a matter is not permissible under cover of a personal explanation. He is now trying to fasten on me the blame for his noncompliance with the requirements of the Standing Orders, for which the Senate, and not the presiding officer, is responsible. Honorable senators who have been in the precincts of Parliament to-day know that I have been available all the tim’e since 10 o’clock this morning until the Senate met at 3 o’clock. It is quite true that I left my room, at about ten minutes before the Senate met, for about three minutes, and with the exception of that three minutes I was in my room and continuously available to every honorable senator from 1,30 o’clock until the Senate met. Therefore, Senator Findley’s heroic efforts to find me will not meet with very much sympathy from anybody.
– The policeman at the door will bear me out, and a policeman’s word is always taken.
– The Standing Orders are emphatic with regard- to requirements of notices of motion. Standing order 101 says, among other things, that a copy of such notice, fairly written, printed, or typed, and signed by the proposer, and showing the day proposed for bringing on such motion, must be handed in. This notice complies with none of those requirements. Seeing,’ however, that I recommended the notice of motion to the generous treatment of the Senate, it was ungenerous and unfair, and entirely uncalled for, for the honorable senator to try to throw the blame on me for his own failure to comply with the requirements of the Standing Orders or the practice and procedure of the Senate.
. -Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator PEARCE. - The answers are - 1 Yes.
asked the- Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator PEARCE. - The answers are -
asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
Judge Eagleson . on the conduct, &c, of Mr. D. L. Gilchrist before the Royal Commission appointed to consider charges made by Mr. Gilchrist?
Senator LYNCH.- The Crown Law authorities advise that, although a prima facie case for prosecution can be made out, it is very doubtful if the Crown can establish its case. The Government are now considering what action shall be taken.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator PEARCE. - The answers are - 1 and 2. The question raised is one that should be taken up with the State Governments concerned, the arrangements for placing the contracts referred to having been made direct by the Imperial Government with State Governments.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator RUSSELL. - The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Senator PEARCE. - The answers are : - 1 and 2. The Government are acting in . close co-operation with the Imperial Government in this matter. All steps considered necessary have been taken.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator PEARCE. - It is proposed shortly to make an announcement in Parliament regarding the Imperial Conference, and representation of the Commonwealth thereat.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to afford Parliament an opportunity of giving effect to the declared policy of Australia with regard to Protection during the present session ; and, if so, on what date will the necessary measure be introduced?
Senator PEARCE. - The answer is -
The Government propose to take . an . early opportunity of announcing its policy on the Tariff.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, ‘upon notice -
Senator PEARCE. - The information will be furnished privately.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator PEARCE. - The answers are - 1..I cannot say;
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If, preparatory to legislation being enacted providing voting facilities for Australian soldiers at the various fronts, the Government will secure from the Imperial authorities full assurance that no prohibition of the publication of the details of the voting of the soldiers at any necessary election will be enforced by them?
Senator PEARCE. - All necessary action will be taken.
– Alleged facts, not facts.
– Well, alleged facts. It is the same thing. . The Government that issued the regulation to prevent any one from publishing anything in connexion with the vote of our Forces oversea at the recent military service referendum have really violated the regulation themselves, because the Prime ‘Minister asserted recently that a majority of the oversea vote was in favour of conscription.
.- For some weeks the honorable -senator has been continually in the habit of stating mistruths across the table of the Senate in connexion with this matter. I say again that I know nothing at all about the vote, and I never used my position as a member of. the Government to ascertain how the vote went, so I am not going to allow any honorable senator to say that which is not true. If the Government have any good reasons for prohibiting the publication of the vote of our Forces oversea, the Senate is prepared to listen to them, but, so far as I know, there is no good reason why that vote should not be published. I want to state also that if this motion is carried, it is my intention to endeavour to ascertain how that vote has been distributed throughout the different States. It is a most serious thing that- the vote of a huge body of men on such an important matter as this cannot be ascertained, and it will be my purpose, if this motion is adopted, to pursue the matter further., and urge the Government to take the public into their confidence by publishing such details as they are entitled to know. There has been a, lot of talk about this matter, and Mr. Hughes may or may not be correct when he says that the vote of our overseas Forces gave a majority in favour of conscription. If that is so, it should remove any objection by the conscriptionists to making it public. But if, on the other hand, the vote was in the other direction, we are quite entitled to know it. A great deal of public interest is shown in this matter, and I see no good reason why the vote should be kept secret. Some one has said that the British Government objected to the publication of the information; but one member of the British Government is reported” to have stated that it is the Commonwealth Government that objected to the publication of these particulars. If there is any misunderstanding between the two Governments the sooner it is cleared up the better.
– I may be, and if the Senate exercises its undoubted right by disallowing the part of the regulation referred to, there will be nothing in the way of having this information published. I only want the truth. I do not want it in the interests of any particular section of the community, and I say that, in an important matter like this, we should place no difficulties in the way of having this vote treated as votes have been treated heretofore, namely, so analyzed as to indicate the voting by the different States.
– We know how every electoral division in New South Wales voted, and we are entitled to the information which I am now seeking. It appears, however, that because our sol:diers are at the front, these exceptional circumstances are advanced as reasons why the vote should not be made known, but I maintain that the more publicity we give to the matter the better. The public of this country have nothing to fear by the publication of the vote, and therefore I am taking the full responsibility of moving that the regulation be disallowed, because I believe such a course will be in the public interest. If there are any reasons, against this course, I shall require to know what they are, but I do not want telegrams from some of our own officers, or anything of that kind, particularly if those men have been recently appointed.
.- I have handled a few of them. If ‘there are any grave reasons why the soldiers’ vote should not be revealed, let them be placed before the Senate. But I do not want any mysterious reasons assigned, because the time for mystery has gone by. I have much pleasure in submitting the motion.
– As amended by regulation.
.- They apply equally to all our soldiers abroad. The reason action was taken in this regard was because of a request made by the War authorities in the Home Country. 1 am not prepared, nor are the Government prepared, to discuss the reasons for that request, because we think that they are good and sufficient, and ought to be apparent to everybody. Consequently, we have decided, whilst that request, on the part of the Imperial War authorities remains, not to liberate the figures. I do not think that I need discuss the matter at greater length, because it is obviously undesirable that we should debate the reasons why and wherefore this vote should not be published.
– We all know how a division, as a whole, has voted.
– That provision was inserted in the Act in order that nien might be protected, and the way in which they voted might not be made known. The men on whose behalf this argument was most frequently advanced when the measure was under consideration were those ‘employed on stations - the men with whom Senator Gardiner has such an intimate acquaintance. It was pointed out at the time that if the “boss” or manager of a station knew how the hands had voted, they would be subjected to victimization, and, in order to safeguard their interests and to preserve the secrecy of the ballot, this provision was inserted in our Electoral Act. Now, if the motion submitted by Senator Gardiner be agreed to, we shall be violating the secrecy of the ballot. I do not think it matters very much whether the result of the soldiers’ vote at the recent referendum is made known or not. I have been astonished at the eagerness with which both sides claim that that vote waa cast in their favour. What would it signify if the result were known? If I were disposed to argue on the probabilities, I would naturally assume that the soldiers’ vote was a “yes” vote. But even if my assumption proved correct it would not matter one way or the other.
– The men in the trenches cheered when they heard the result.
– The honorable senator knows far more about the men in the trenches than anybody else I ever met.
– I suppose I got as close t’o the trenches, as the honorable senator did.
– I do not think so. I got right into them though I did not remain there very long’. I am not one of those who has . declared that although he is of military age he will not volunteer. If Senator Ferricks knows more about the trenches than I do, he must be something in the nature of a thought reader for he has taken very good care to keep a respectful distance from them. I was in the trenches for a very short time, but I do not know one-half of the things about the” men there that Senator Ferricks professes to know.
.- To my mind the secrecy of the ballot is the important thing which is now at stake. We have maintained that great principle for so long that we should insist upon observing the spirit of our Electoral Act now.. I think that this motion is out of order because it conflicts with one of the sections of that Act. If we have to make the soldiers’ vote known, we shall be obliged to give the details, and that will necessitate the publication of a very .much smaller number’ of votes than is permitted by statute.
– Why does not the honorable senator say that he is afraid of the .result ?
– Anything that Senator Ferricks says concerning the war is so utterly worthless, because of the exaggeration in which he indulges, that one can afford to laugh at the childishness of his remarks. 1
– I cannot help replying to them.
– But they are very truthful, and that is the important thing. Senator Gardiner must have recognised the point of my interjection a little while ago when I stated that his party had claimed that they knew all about the Anzac vote, and were aware that it had gone in their favour. Does the honorable senator realize the real meaning of his motion, and what may be its result in the future? If we are going to violate the secrecy of the” ballot on this occasion we shall certainly establish a precedent which will recoil, boomerang-like, upon him. It will be a bad thing if such a good Democrat becomes responsible for such a bad precedent. To my mind the most serious question raised by this motion is that of whether it is in order.
The PRESIDENT. - I rule that it is in order. (
– I have no desire to waste time, and in order to prove my statement I shall resume my seat.
Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) [3.531. - T desire the information which Senator
Gardiner seeks to obtain under this motion. With all due respect to the Imperial authorities, I fail to see the force of arguments which declare that the attitude of our soldiers abroad, as revealed by their votes on the occasion of the recent referendum, is something that should be kept particularly secret. But. I have to recognise that the Ministry is an association of honorable men, who state that a request came from the Imperial authorities asking that the details of the soldiers’ vote’ should not be published. Is that correct ?
– From whom did it come - from a paid officer of the Commonwealth ?
– He was merely the channel through which the Imperial authorities sent their request.
– The request came from the War Office.
– If the Imperial authorities asked for the suppression of the details of the voting of our soldiers overseas, I presume that they did so because of war reasons. That being so, I am not going to lightly flout their wishes, and consequently I ‘shall not vote for the disallowance of the regulation. At the same time, I must insist that it is highly desirable* that the information sought should be published, and, therefore, I think that the Prime Minister should represent to the Imperial authorities the wisdom of reconsidering their decision in regard to this matter. That is what I hope will be done. I made certain remarks, and addressed a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in connexion with the matter. I sincerely hope that the details of this particularly special appeal to the electors will be made available to the Australian people.
.- The affirmative and negative aggregates will be sufficient for me. I direct attention’ to this point: This was a very peculiar referendum, and had no constitutional effect. It was merely an attempt on the part of the Legislature to arrive at some idea as to what !the popular opinion was; on the matter of compulsory military service. In connexion with such a matter, the voting of the soldiers at the front might reasonably have been expected to have a special value attached to it. Their opinions on the question have certainly a very special value in my mind. That being so, I want to know how they voted. The results of that particular referendum may have a far-reaching effect upon the fortunes of the nation. While I shall not vote for the repeal of the regulation, I do not abate one jot of my desire to know how the soldiers at the front voted at the recent referendum. The Prime Minister has said that their votes gave a very substantial majority for the affirmative, but that is a half revelation which is very unsatisfactory in connexion with, such an appeal to the people. We are told that legislation is to be introduced to provide for the recording of soldiers’ votes at an ordinary general election. I venture to say that if the Imperial reasons for withholding the ^result of the voting of the soldiers at the referendum have any cogency, we may expect the Imperial authorities to say that it is also undesirable that it should be known- how soldiers at the front vote in connexion with an ordinary election. I can conceive a large amount of unavoidable looseness in connexion with the holding of an ordinary election.
– No prohibition of information as to the way in which the soldiers have voted will be regarded as satisfactory by me, but the responsibility of asking that the results shall be made public before the Imperial authorities are requested to reconsider their decision is one which I am not going to undertake. I wish to make my position quite clear. I desire that the Imperial authorities shall be asked to remove the ban, but that does not make it necessary that I should vote for the motion now before the Senate.
– Seamen would not stand being sacked in that way.
– The honorable senator overlooks the position which they would occupy. They might be in Naples, or at Havre, or somewhere else outside the Commonwealth, and they would have to stand it. We wantto preserve the secrecy of the ballot. The members of the Australian Workers Union were the men who, in every one of the States when the Electoral Act was being considered, asked that we should not count the votes recorded at any particular station, but should mix them up with a lot of others, and that unless 100 votes were polled at a particular polling place, they should not he counted there.
.- We are not dealing here with the votes of soldiers, sailors, tinkers, and tailors. There are too many tinkers and tailors on - the other side unfortunately. The disallowance of the regulation involves the violation of the secrecy of the ballot. We have soldiers in Mesopotamia, in Egypt, in England, and in France. These men are not in electoral divisions of the Commonwealth, but their votes must be recorded for the divisions in which they are enrolled. When I went to record my vote at the referendum I was told that I was at the front, and my name was struck off. It was mistaken for the name of my son who voted at the front, and I had to appeal to the Returning Officer before I was able to record my vote. My son’s vote was recorded for the district in which he lived. The votes of these men are scattered throughout the different electoral divisions in the different. States, but each will be counted for the division for which the voter is enrolled. Honorable sena- tors might just as well ask how every carpenter or blacksmith enrolled in a particular district voted , as ask how every soldier voted. Whether a soldier be in France, Egypt, or England, he is enrolled in a certain electoral division, and his vote is counted amongst the votes recorded for that division. What more do honorable senators want?
.- Honorable senators will be given details of the voting with respect to each electoral division.
.- Whether a man at the . front is engaged in the air in a flying machine, or beneath the sea in a submarine, his vote will be recorded for an electoral division of Victoria if he is enrolled for such . a division. There is no solid reason for disallowing the regulation, and if it is disallowed, there will have to be substituted for it some provision which must have practically the same effect. We are proposing to send, say, 1,000 individuals away, and are we to have a special polling place for them, and to show that they voted in a certain direction ? The thing is ridiculous onthe face of it. A thousand soldiers are sent to a particular place; the officers all vote “No,” and the men all vote “Yes,” but what satisfaction is it to us to know that? I do not propose to go into the matter now, but so far as the reasons giving for voting “ Yes “ and “ No “ at the referendum are concerned, I may say that I have received letters from officers and men on the subject. I can assure honorable senators that many men voted “No” because they did not want to he forced to go to the front with men who were unwilling to fight for their country.
.- It is a good reason. Some officers have said that they voted “ No “ because they did not wish to have charge of men who were unwilling fighters. They felt that men who did not . go to- the front willingly and prepared to do their duty to the country would seriously increase their responsibilities. We are asked now to disallow a regulation which provides for the recording of the vote of every man. at the front for the division for which he is enrolled.
– Under the Electoral Act at the present time the votes are not counted at polling places at which less than 100 votes are recorded. In certain circumstances we have found it advisable not to count the votes recorded at small polling places in order to prevent any violation of the secrecy of the ballot.
– Why should we know how the soldiers voted any more than how blacksmiths or drapers have voted ? Honorable senators opposite, to be consistent, should pro,pose that we should do away witu geographical^ boundaries and make provision for a professional or trade vote under which all the lawyers would be counted together, and all the blacksmiths and all the drapers would be counted in the same way. We have decided upon geographical divisions, and the votes of the soldiers will be recorded for the geographical divisions for which they are enrolled. The motion is due only to party bias and a desire to discover how members of a certain section voted.
– No one knows how a particular class voted. The honorable senator cannot tell me how the boilermakers voted. I am willing to wager that a majority of them voted “ Yes.” It would be a mistake to pass the motion.
– So “it was in their own electorates.
– It was not made public. Their votes should have been dealt with separately. In ordinary circumstances, being, outside Australia, they would not have been allowed to participate in the vote. Why should not the people of Australia and the Empire, and, for that matter, why should not Germany, know how they voted ?
.- I do not know how it went, but we ought to know. I see no reason for all this mystery and secrecy. I cannot understand the object of the War Office. What does it matter to Germany how the men voted?
.- I do not see that it matters anything. In any case,, the German Government probably know a great deal more about it than we do, as the German .secret service is very much more efficient than any secret service we have. It does not matter twopence, so far as Germany is concerned, whether we publish the numbers or not, but it would be exceedingly interesting to the people of the Commonwealth to know exactly how the men at the front voted on that occasion. I shall therefore support the motion to disallow the regulation.
– You do not really think this would violate the secrecy of the ballot ?
– I do. The object is to segregate a portion of the population and show how they voted. It is just the same in principle as if an attempt were made to show how a certain union voted. These men did not vote as a body of 200,000 or as a distinct district.
.- The argument might stand if all that was wanted was the aggregate vote of all the soldiers at the front, but soldiers on board ship were also included, and it would mean publishing the votes of small numbers of 50 or- 60. This would practically be telling the general public how soldiers on the Bon Accord recorded their votes.
.- That has never been distinctly’ specified. Senator Gardiner, an honorable man, as Caesar always is, asks this honorable Senate to-day to do the very thing that he left the Government for. He said they were violating the secrecy of the ballot. He is now trying to do the same thing himself. That is consistency carried to a fine art. I cannot understand the action of my honorable friend, who has been a hero, and posed before the public as a martyr.
– In the other case therewould have been no violation of the secrecy of the ballot. Senator Gardiner said it was intimidation of electors and paltering with the ballot-box, and protested against it by leaving the Government. .
.- He said that his object was to preserve the secrecy of the ballot. He now comes forward with a motion to do what he objected to before.
.- The motion will, in effect, reveal how the soldiers voted, whether they were a company of fifty or one hundred here, or of thirty or forty on board ship, or in transit on land. If the registrar is to give the information wanted he must show where he received the votes. I am astonished that an honorable senator, who was such a stalwart hero in one case, should do the very opposite when it suits his book.
– They are so similar that my argument is making honorable senators opposite squeal. There is no good purpose to be served by the motion, which is only prompted by curiosity. I was told by some honorable friends on the opposite side of the chamber that certain messages had been received in a sort of code to the effect that there were so many merinoes and so many crossbreds, or something like that, and that the message was interpreted to mean that so many of our soldiers had voted “ Yes “ and so many “No.” Whether that were so or not, matters very little to me, because I am quite unconcerned how the soldiers voted. What I am concerned in is the fact that the people of Australia, and our soldiers also, had an opportunity of voting on this question. They have made known their decision, and I am prepared to abide by it.
– The spirit of Democracy is against disclosing the ‘ sectional vote.
– There is no desire to ascertain a sectional vote, but we are endeavouring to ‘analyze the feeling of Australia in regard to what has been done.
.- No; I mean that important section, which ought to be the monitor to every other section, because I think Australia would listen to the voice of the men in the trenches, and it is a perfectly legitimate thing to desire that their opinion should be made known.
.- It is not a question of asking the people of Australia to do that. It is a question of ascertaining what the position is.
. -I will leave that to my honorable friend, seeing that he is interested in the capitalists, and I am not. I am interested in the Democracy of Australia, and I am prosecuting this argument with a view to determining the result of the decision of the people of Australia in connexion with the referendum vote. No truer interpretation of the position, can be had than by ascertaining the result of the ballot . in the trenches.
.- Whether it condemns or approves the decision of Australia, I am prepared to challenge the position, believing as I do that the action of the people was quite in accord with the spirit of Democracy. Opponents of the motion, who are pleading the cause of. the men in the trenches, say that” they are animated by a desire to help our ‘ soldiers. If so, they should freely invite the publication, of the soldiers’ vote in order that they mayprove that we who opposed conscription were wrong, and that we hadacted at variance with the views of our men at the front. If they are afraid to accept this challenge their . arguments on behalf of the soldiers fall to the ground. If we, by opposing conscription, have done our soldiers an injury, surely it is right that we should be warned so that we may retrace our steps, if necessary; but I have yet to learn that the men in the trenches desire that any of the sons of Australia should be forced to do that which they voluntarily have done so well. We should drop all this feeling, and . show our bona fides.
.- The opponents of the motion by refusing to publish the information asked for.
.- Then the Honorary Minister ought to be quite prepared to put . the cards on the table, and show what was the attitude of ‘our soldiers toward the compulsory referendum.
.- If any good reason can be given to the Senate and the country why the vote should not be made known, I will be absolutely silent.
– Let me tell the honorable senator that the Government had no communication from the Imperial War Office.
– If the Honorary Minister can assure the Senate that there are good diplomatic reasons for withholding the vote, that would satisfy every honorable senator in this Chamber; but the position is a most tantalizing one.
– Did it ever occur to the Minister that the cable might have been inspired from Australia?
– I mean that it might have been inspired from Melbourne.
– I have no desire to do anything to impair the usefulness of our oversea Forces in the prosecution of this war, but I do say that all this secrecy “has created a feeling of suspicion in the mind of the general community, and that it has -not had a healthy effect upon the recruiting campaign. Let it be known to the people of Australia that our boys at the front want men to come from Australia in the same free manner they themselves went, and I think the manhood of this country will be appealed to most effectively. This matter ought to be cleared up. We ought to know whether or not the action of the people in Australia was in accord with the spirit of the men who are so very bravely upholding the flag in the trenches.
– A man could record his vote.
– Yes, but it would probably have been unsafe for him to do that, because a ballot-paper could be refused, or if not refused, it could be marked, and the man could have been given in charge for not obeying the proclamation.
– Anyhow, that is the impression I had.
The PRESIDENT.- Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in discussing this matter. I allowed Senator Senior to make a passing reference to it, and Senator Grant is4 entitled to do the same, but he is out of order in discussing the matter on this motion.
– The object of the motion is not to find out how individual electors voted.
:- No, it would not,N because the votes have already been recorded, and it is absurd for the honorable senator to suggest that there would be this interference.
– No, it would not, and there is no ground for that assertion.
– The mere repetition of that assertion will carry no weight whatever. The proposal before the Senate is that the total votes recorded by the Australian Imperial Forces abroad shall be divided into “Yesses” and “Noes.” There is no proposal to ascertain how the individual soldiers voted. That is all that the motion means.
– There is no proposal . to disclose individual votes. It is quite true -that there is a provision in the Electoral Act under which the votes at polling places containing less than a certain number of electors have to be taken to a centre in .a subdivision and counted there. I am not sure that it is the excellent provision which it is claimed to be. In looking through the returns connected with’ the recent referendum, I find that at Euston, in the Barrier district, fifty electors voted “Yes,” while thirty voted “No.”
– It is the latest information supplied to the Senate by the Chief Electoral Officer. Those figures are no more a disclosure of how the vote was taken than are the figures relating to the number of “Yes” and “No” votes cast on board our troopships. At Tarrawingie, fifty-four electors voted “Yes,” and twenty-four voted “ No.” Yet nobody suggests thatwe can tell who those fifty-four electors were, or that we can establish the identity of the twenty-four electors who voted “ No..” At Obley, in the Calare electorate, thirty-seven electors voted “ Yes,”’ whilst thirty voted “No.” But we do not know who comprised the thirty-seven electors who favoured conscription, or who composed the thirty electors who were opposed to it.
– The mere repetition of that statement does not influence anybody. It is a parrot-like cry.
– It is not a fact, but a fiction.
.- The Assistant Mini-‘ ster stated that we might just as well disclose how the tourist, who keeps on touring round Australia, voted outside his own electorate. As a matter of fact, how persons have voted before’ registrars, presiding officers, and under section 9 of the Act has been disclosed.
– Take the division of the Barrier as an illustration. There we find that the absent votes recorded before registrars numbered seventy-eight, those before presiding officers 4,089, and those recorded under section 9 of the. Act sixteen. Later on we are informed that the electors who voted “ “ Yes “ numbered 1,687, whilst those who voted “No” totalled 1,991.
– Why has not the honorable senator, the courage to make a straight-out charge ?
– Perhaps the Assistant Minister will tell us the name of the representative of Australia through whom the request came.
– It came from a paid officer of the Commonwealth.
– When I applied to Mr. Oldham for the information I was unable to get it. I could not ascertain how the divisional returns were made up, how many voted “Yes” in a division, and how many voted”” No.”
– No; I am speaking of the military vote. The following table shows the result of the voting in the different States: -
– Does Senator Mullan deny that some request was received from the Imperial authorities to suppress the information ?
Senator MULLAN.-I am not prepared to accept an instruction from a paid official of the Government as to what the people of the country and this Parliament should do.
– There has been no statement of that kind from the Minister.
– I challenge the Minister for Defence to produce the signature of any British official, before this debate ends.
Senator MULLAN. - Suppose the War Office did ask that the information should be suppressed, is that any reason why it should be suppressed? Every one knows that the policy of the Imperial Government is conscription. They did not consult the people of England on the matter at all. They simply imposed conscription upon them, and naturally, it would be very distasteful to them that the result of the voting here on the question should be made known. Their instructions- in such a contingency do not in the circumstances deserve to be taken into account. The crux of the matter lies in the dangerous precedent we are establishing of suppressing the vote of any section of the people of Australia. The referendum vote was taken upon the most important issue ever submitted to our people, but the result of a section of the vote has not been made known. Suppose that in a few months’ time we have a general election, at which the issue raised is conscription, as it probably would be. . Suppose, again, that the men at the front are, as they ought to be, given the right to vote at that election. If it was right to suppress the result of their vote at the referendum, it is arguable that it would be equally right to suppress it at the forthcoming election. If it is suppressed, what guarantee shall we have that the present Government will not pollute the ballot?
– I suspect the Government of which Senator Pearce is a member of being prepared to do many little tricks. I am not speaking in a personal sense, but am judging the Government by their ‘past actions. The members of the Government, who, on the eve of the referendum, tried to intimidate the electors of Australia by the secret regulation -which necessitated -the retirement of Senators Russell and Gardiner and Mr. Higgs from the Ministry,might do anything. I am not prepared to trust them as far as I could throw them, and that would not be very far. If an election is to be a clean election it should be held in such a way as to enable the closest scrutiny to be . made of all the votes recorded. If votes are to be recorded in the way in which they were recorded at the recent referendum, they cannot be scrutinized. We want to do awav with all the secret business. Senator de Largie said that in proposing the disallowance of the regulation, Senator Gardiner was opposing the spirit of the Electoral Act, and was proposing practically the violation of the secrecy of the ballot. I remind the honorable senator that at the last election for members of the Senate the regulation which we are discussing was not in force. I did not hear the honorable senator say at any time that the absence of such a regulation in the conduct of that election made for a violation of the secrecy of the ballot. If it did not do so in 1914, how will it do so when the next’ election is held ? There is clearly nothing in Senator de Largie’s contention. Senator Guthrie pointed out that we have no right to make a record of sectional votes. He reminded us- that under the Electoral Act we prohibit the counting of votes in small places. But there is no analogy whatever between that and the counting of the votes of tens of thousands of men at the front. I have here a return which was tabled to-day in order to anticipate Senator Gardiner’s motion.
– I could not get the information which is supplied before to-day.
– I asked for the information before, but I could not get it until to-day. What is the difference between making known the record of votes of men in Mesopotamia, in England, France, or Egypt, and making known the record of votes for the different States and divisions of the Commonwealth? The return I have before me shows how the people voted at the referendum in every division and subdivision of Queensland, and the same applies to every other State. If we permit these subdivisional records in the case of electors voting within the Commonwealth, what objection can there be to giving the same information concerning the votes of men at the front? There can be no objection unless the Government desire to cover up something, and to withhold from the people information which they are entitled to know. This return of the voting at the recent referendum, in the absence of the Anzac vote being specified, is, after all, merely a relatively accurate return. The majority given in the return for “ No “ forthe State of Queensland is over 14,000, but we have no guarantee that it was not 20,000. What applies to Queensland applies to every other State in the Commonwealth, so that the return is not worth the paper on which it is printed. If honorable senators consult Mr. Oldham, he will have to admit that it is only a relatively accurate return. I am sure that he will be able to point to the insuperable difficulties in the way of making it an accurate return in the circumstances. I will show honorable senators why this is the case. The regulation which we propose should be disallowed provides that this return should be made up in the following way : –
The votes cast at the Referendum held under the Military Service Referendum Act 1916’ by-
’ members of the Forces serving beyond Australia or having returned from such service; and
members of the crews of Australian transport vessels employed in the conveyance of members of the Forces to or from Australia, as shown in the returnsof the Commonwealth Returning Officers appointed under the Referendum (Special Voting) Regulations, may be dealt with in the following manner : -
they may in the first instance be allocated as far as practicable to the respective States, having regard, in the case of members of the Forces, to their place of enlistment or previous place of living, and, in the case of members of, the crew of any Australian transport vessel, to their previous place of living; and
the votes allocated to each State under the next preceding paragraph may be apportioned as nearly equally as circumstances will permit, to the respective Divisions of that State, upon the basis of the Electoral Enrolment of those Divisions.
What did that mean? It meant, in the first place, that the total votes of the Anzacs should be allocated to the States from which they came as nearly as practicable. It is important to remember that every man at the front who was eligible to vote had a right to record his vote under the Military Service Referendum Act, whether he was on a Commonwealth roll or not, and the fact that the votes were recorded of men who were not upon any Commonwealth roll made italmost impossible for the officers of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department to say towhich State the votes of those men should be allotted. Hundreds of men who enlisted in New South Wales may have come from Queensland. Scores of men enlisted in Queensland who came from New South Wales. A very important part of the 1st Military District, which comprises Queensland, includes a large section of New South Wales. If the place of enlistment were taken as a guide, a great number of New South Wales votes would be allotted to Queensland. It was clearly impossible to accurately allot to the different States the votes recorded by the men at the front. However difficult that task may have been, it was still more difficult to allot the votes to the respective divisions of the States. The regulation provided only that it should be done as nearly as practicable. The thing was a farce, and as a consequence this return is misleading. I am not blaming the electoral officers for this. I am quite prepared to acknowledge their capacity and honesty, but they were circumscribed in compiling the return by this obnoxious regulation, and had only to do the best they could. They have supplied a return which we must take for what it is worth, and, in my opinion, it is not worth the paper on which it is written. I guarantee that if Senator Gardiner perseveres with his intention, and secures a Select Committee to inquire into the methods adopted for the allocation of the soldiers’ vote at the recent referendum, we shall find some smellful business connected with it. I hope that the Senate will not hesitate for a moment about disallowing this regulation. There is no’ military reason to justify it. It was stated by a prominent member of the House of Commons that -the Imperial authorities had no objection to the information being made known, whilst we have been told here that the Imperial authorities do not desire that it should bo, made known. The evidence on the point is contradictory, and I am prepared to accept that of the Imperial authorities, and conclude that there is no military consideration to justify keeping this information secret. An injustice is being doneto the men at the front. The conscriptionist newspapers every day publish cuttings from letters from men at the front who are favorable to conscription, but they publish no clippings from the men who, according to Senator Ferricks, heartilv cheered the announcement that the referendum had been defeated in Australia. I hope, in the interests of fair play, that the result of the vote will be made known in the form of a proper return, and not a mechanical one. What the Government have done has been a purely mechanical allocation of the votes, the direction being that the votes shall be “ apportioned as nearly equally as circumstances will permit “ to the respective divisions of the State, and in regard to the State itself to “be allocated as far as practicable.” What kind of a way is that to compile a return? How would honorable senators like their elections to be subject to the allocation of votes in that way? If it is justifiable in this case, Mr. Hughes might argue that it would be justifiable in other cases, and might refuse the right to scrutinize the vote. At the impending elections the Government might attempt such a mechanical allocation of votes, which would open the door to corruption. Even if we had no doubt of the honesty of the Government, we should not place in their hands a weapon by which they might destroy the incorruptibility of the ballot.
– That is absolutely not so.
Senator BARNES. - I doubt the honorable senator’s statement. Had the soldiers’ vote been in favour of conscription the Government would have used it.
– I am satisfied they would have used it before if it had been in favour of conscription. It has been stated by people whom I have no reason to doubt that the Prime Minister had the road cleared to publish the result of the soldiers’ vote on the morning of the referendum. That statement has been made fifty times by people of some standing.
– I am inclined to think there is something in it, and from the way in. which the Government conducted the fight I am satisfied that they would have no scruples in doing it. The people of Western Australia knew nothing about what was happening in the other States. After the vote was taken, drayloads of printed matter which had come from the eastern States, and had been bundled into corners in the post-office in heaps, were thrown out.
.- They were not allowed to get any of that printed matter. One of the newspapers that largely influenced the vote in the eastern States was- not allowed to be distributed at all in the West, so that it is no wonder that the people over there voted with so little knowledge. I have been told, also, that the soldiers went for their ballotpapers, recorded their votes, handed them over to some officer, and did not know what became df them afterwards. If the soldiers’ votes are ever taken again, some much better method must be brought into existence. I am not prepared to allow any Government that conducts a ballot in that manner to have the power which thi3 regulation gives to juggle with 200,000 votes, which could settle an election in’ any division in Australia.
– But the Australian absent vote was also counted then.
– It was, and the honorable senator can get the extent of the Australian absent vote by referring to those returns in past years. It does not account for the dwindling of the “No” majority. We know how our honorable friends were quaking in their shoes when they saw the “ No “ majority coming down under the influence of the absent vote. That was done by the overwhelming soldiers’ vote, so that it is so much humbug for them to try to make people believe, or even to make themselves believe that the soldiers’ vote gave a majority for “ No.” The reason for the an- nulment of the regulation is obvious. It is the same reason that led the same honorable senators to move for the annulment of the other war precautions regulation which was designed to protect this country against the dissemination of reports that might possibly have led to the sinking of transports. Honorable senators have’ been told that the Government received a request from the War
Office that for military reasons the details of the vote should not be published. Yet they talk here as if the vote itself had been suppressed or had not been counted. We have been accused of juggling with the figures. If they think the Government capable of that, they do not give us credit for the full amount of viciousness that they suggest, because if the Government juggled with the figures, what was the use . of doing so simply to reduce the “ No “ majority? If we were corrupt, low, and unscrupulous enough to do that, surely weshould have at least created a majority in favour of our own proposals? The thing is so obvious that a child can see that it is so much humbug and nonsense, talked to gull a few people outside into the belief that the Government are in some way corrupt, and that because it is not desired for military reasons to make known the details ofthe vote, the Government have some deep and -underhand scheme behind it to prevent the votes being counted, or not to give full effect to those that were . cast. Senator Barnes, in a light and airy, and altogether irresponsible fashion, said that he heard certain things, or that somebody said them. He did not say by whom they were said, and he gave no authority. He said he had been told that certain soldiers handed their votes to officers. That is altogether at variance with the facts, which are that the carrying out of the vote was as far as possible placed in the hands of men who were not officers. Brigadier-General McC, Anderson is not a military officer in the proper sense of the term. He was the Chief Electoral Officer, and utilized as far as possible the Red Cross officers who were in England to help him.
.- I do not know. I cannot say whether there were scrutineers in every place in Australia, let alone at the front.
– The honorable senator assumes that everybody who had. anything to do with the matter was corrupt. Statements were apparently made to him at the street corner, and he did not take the trouble to ascertain whether they were in the slightest degree reliable. In a most casual and irresponsible way he hurls practically a suggestion of corruption at those who conducted the ballot at the front. All that I can say is that the instructions were that, so far as practicable, they were to observe the conditions laid downin the Electoral Act. Because the soldiers’ vote gave a majority for “Yes,” an attempt is made to discredit that fact, and then to create the belief that that majority was obtained corruptly. Those statements are not worthy of the honorable senators who make them, and will not do them any good in the country. They will not get the people of Australia to believe that the men with whom they have been associated right up to now are corrupt and rotten in their public life. The people will ask them, “ Why were you so long associated with those men? Why did you sit cheek by jowl with them?Is it only since they dissociated themselves from you that they have become corrupt?” Such suggestions will not do them or their cause any good, as they will find. The public- of Australia have a higher opinion of their public men than to be taken in by things ‘of that sort. No good purpose is to be served by the motion. Its only object is to defeat the request of the Imperial authorities at the War Office.
– The statement was sent to us ‘by our representative at the War Office that the War Office had asked him to make that request.
– Yes. Requests come from our representative to us. He is the channel of communication.
– I do not know that he did say it.
– I have known many fabrications to be cabled here. The fact remains that that request was made to . us through our representative at the War Office -and responded to by us.The only purpose to be served by the motion is to defeat the request by the’ War Office.
’.- Quite so. The honorable senator who moved the motion did not ask that the voting at the camps in Australia should be given, and his action therefore shows the hollowness of the proposal. The motion has only been submitted for the purpose of creating suspicion, and to lend colour to the assertion that the majority of the soldiers overseas voted “No.”
– You said that you knew more about the conditions than I do.
– I said nothing of the kind. What I said was thatI knew the Australians at the front were pleased when the announcement was made that the referendum had been turned down in Australia.
.- I do not say that, but I have here given the authority upon whichI made the interjection. Some of our boys at the front were pleased that the referendum in Australia had been defeated, because they went away as volunteers, and they wanted, when they came -back, to find the same Australia as that they had left. ,
.- But the carrying of the referendum would make this country a very different Australia. The hypocrisy of the Government in refusing to make public the result of the soldiers’ vote abroad has ‘ just been disclosed by Senator Pearce, who said he was prepared to give particulars of the soldiers’ votes at the military camps. Surely the same military reasons would apply to the disclosure of the votes of Australian soldiers on this ‘side of the world as the publication of the votes of our overseas troops. Senator Pearce seems to think that those who are supporting the motion doubt the earnestness and sincerity of the Government - I do for one - in withholding the information asked for, and he thinks that corruption is imputed. Well, I impute corruption here and now.
The PRESIDENT.- Order ! The honorable senator must not impute any motives.
– I am not imputing corruption by the Government, but by the man who was responsible for the management of the referendum campaign. The whole campaign in Australia was corrupt from beginning to end, and. any person who kept his eyes open and saw what was going on in Australia at that time must have known that there was corruption.
– There was corruption such as I. hope will never be repeated in Australia.
.- No; nor do I include the officials. After a perusal of Mr. Hughes’ manifesto to the troops at the front, we are entitled to assume that the soldiers’ vote was an overwhelming “ No.” What did he ask of the soldiers? He asked them to give the people of Australia a lead. What did that mean ? It meant that the vote would have been published, if it had been satisfactory from his point of view, before the vote was taken in Australia. He has now told us, however, that the voting at the front could not be published for military reasons. Is it suggested that if the soldiers -voted “Yes”’ this information would have been withheld ? I hope that the conditions obtaining in Australia during the ‘two months prior to the taking of the referendum will never be seen again. They brought me back to the time that I read of the other day in the Historical Records of Australia - the years from 1813 to 1815 - when Governor Macquarie had tofight the same battle that we were engaged . in during the referendum. He had to fight the military caste, and in the Historical Records to which I refer appears the statement that two military officers who had been out on the “ loose “ met a girl in the street and endeavoured to force their attentions upon her. She sought shelter in the house of her employers-
The PRESIDENT . - Does the honorable senator consider his illustrations relevant to the discussion before the Senate?
– I am endeavouring to show the dangers of military rule in Australia, which we had to combat prior to the referendum.
The . PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator’s argument may be an admirable one, but it is hardly relevant to . the motion.
– Very well, Mr, President, I will endeavour not to transgress. I submit that no good reason has been advanced by the Government why the results of the soldiers’ vote should not be published.
. - Surely Senator de Largie cannot be serious when he makes that statement, because all we are asking for is the total of the soldiers’ vote in the affirmative and the negative. We are not endeavouring to find out how any individual soldier voted.
. - We want to know how the soldiers voted in order that we may ascertain if those who advocated the affirmative prior to the referendum were in the right as to the views of our troops. It is not too much for me to say that those responsible for the affirmative side of the campaign desecrated the graves of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli by the contemptible references they made to the appeals of the dying for conscription in Australia. They exploited the soldiers living and dead, and claimed that bur troops were crying out for conscription as being the only method by which reinforcements could be obtained.
.- The honorable senator is out of order in pursuing ‘a discussion upon the conscription .question, and I must ask him, therefore, to keep more closely to the motion.
– In this Demo:cracy of ours, which we defended in the referendum campaign, it is unworthy that any Government should withhold information from the people.
– To see how far you were from the truth. When any Australian soldiers prior to the referendum wrote to friends in Australia- advocating conscription, those letters were rushed to the press for publication, but we have, not seen any letters since the taking of the referendum, because the Government are withholding . from the people information” which rightly belongs to them. If the publication of such views can be regarded as of such great significance, and as affecting the military operations of the Allies, where are we going to stop under the present military system ? Until the Government make public those figures concerning the vote of our troops at the front, the people of Australia can come to only one conclusion, namely, that our soldiers voted “ No “ by a very large majority.
.- Order ! Senator NEWLAND. - I feel very keenly upon this matter. I have not besmirched the reputation or the memory of any Australian soldier. The honorable senator should be ashamed of himself for having accused those who differ from him of being guilty of such a thing.
– It is not.
.- The honorable senator and those associated with him during the referendum campaign plumbed depths to which no advocate of conscription ever sank.
.- The honorable senator has neither the right of free speech nor of free action. He has sold his liberty as a member of this Parliament to a section which has no responsibility to Parliament. A great deal of capital is sought to be made out of the fact that in the manifesto issued by the Prime Minister to our soldiers at the front he asked them to give Australia a lead. The very worst construction is put on that statement. If these man had cast a tremendous affirmative vote they would have given a lead to Australia just as much as they would have done had the result of their voting been made known. There is no proof that the Prime Minister attempted to manipulate their votes. Mr. Hughes is an honest man, and the men who were connected with taking the referendum among the soldiers were also honest. There is not a member of the Government who is capable of committing any of the wicked misdeeds of which they have been accused this afternoon. They have not lost all sense of decency. They are as honorable to-day as they were three or four months ago, when honorable senators opposite were pleased to be associated with them. I know something of the feeling of the boys at the front concerning the defeat of the referendum in Australia. Whilst it is true that some of them were not disappointed with the result- not because they did not require assistance, but because they did not wish to have the stigma of ‘ conscription attached to themselves - it is also true that there are hundreds and thousands of men in the trenches who exceedingly regret that conscription was not carried.
.- I know from the same source as the honorable senator gets his own information. There are thousands of men in the trenches who exceedingly regret that conscription was not carried. I have a son who has been in the trenches for two and a half years, and I know what he thinks of the matter,and also what his brother officers think of it. I know what responsible men who hold positions in command of brigades think of it. ‘
– Of course, it is the military cult.
– The honorable senator is hunting for some phrase which will throw discredit . on what a man is saying. I know a’ clerk who went from South Australia, and who for bravery at the front was decorated with the Victoria Cross. At every meeting that he addresses in connexion with the recruiting campaign, he expresses regret that conscription was not carried. I have been told the tales that were disseminated at Salisbury Plain for the purpose of inducing the men in camp there to vote “ No.”
-The gentleman whom the honorable senator calls “ Billy Hughes” I call the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth.
.- We have no right to refer to him in that way here. Senator Mullan and those associated with him had plenty of representatives in England to put their case before our soldiers there.
– As a matter of fact, there were men going through the camps at Salisbury Plain supplying them with reasons why they should not vote “Yes” on this question. Doubtless their statements influenced a very large number of our troops; but I do not care whether the vote cast by our soldiers was a large affirmative one or not.
– I am not concerned with the figures. The fact is that a request came from the War Office in England that for certain reasons these figures should not be made public.
– Here, again, is a statement that the Prime Minister of. the Commonwealth is a gentleman who wilfully and maliciously lies to the people of this country.
.- The honorable senator is doing no damage to the Prime Minister, or to anybody who believes in him.
.- I tell my honorable friend that the Labour movement is in dead earnest so far as the Prime Minister is concerned to-day, and the honorable senator and his friends will find it out before they are ready. Behind all the fireworks which have been indulged in to-day is the fact that those responsible for the conduct of this war have asked the people of Australia to do a certain thing. Here, in the face of that request, it is proposed to open the door, and to do the very thing which we have been requested not to do. Is it right that the men who are responsible for the defence of the Empire, and who are doing their best to win this war, should have their wishes flouted in that way ?
.- The honorable senator asks me if I am aware that it was a paid officer of the Commonwealth who made the request. The Minister for Defence has already told us that the request came through theusual official channel. Of course, Senator Mullan does not believe that. He believes that the Minister for Defence is as capable of telling falsehoods on- this matter as is the Prime Minister.
– He said that the request came through the usual official channel.
– I am prepared to accept the word of the Prime Minister and of the Minister for Defence on the matter. Above all, I hope that the Senate will not flout the request of the authorities of Great Britain who are responsible for the conduct of this war.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to repeat his statement that the request for the suppression of the information came from the Commonwealth.?
– I am prepared to repeat the statement that a British Minister told the House of Commons that the request came from the Commonwealth. That appeared in the press only a little while ago.
– Is that not the same thing?
– I can show Senator Gardiner, and will show it to him, if he wishes, the cable I referred to, in which we were asked not to publish the result, for military reasons.
– A cable from the War Office, or from one of our own officers ?
.- I set no value on such a cable from one of our own officers. He might be an intelligent and capable man, and a man of business capacity, but, in the circumstances, I would set no value upon a -cable from him on the subject.
.-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is not that the usual way?
– Then the sooner” that usual way is altered the better it will be for the relations between the Commonwealth and the War Office. If this method of communication is continued, it may lead to a -condition of things which, applied to a matter of more importance, might end very seriously.
– I am makingno suggestion as to his worthiness. He may be the finest officer in the world,, and yet this information should not have been kept secret. Senator Bakhap yesterday wanted to know the result of the soldiers’ vote, and was determined to get it.
– The honorable senator says that he wants the information, but he will not support me in a motion which will enable- him to obtain it.
– Of, course it will. Once we remove the regulation prohibiting the publication of the information, I shall take further steps for the appointment of a Select Committee to obtain the information.
.- Senator Bakhap will not help me to secure a Select Committee to obtain the information. The honorable senator talks, but he will not act. He has “ crayfished” on this occasion, as he has done on previous occasions. He talks fluently and finely, but he has never yet been found giving a vote to back up the opinions he has expressed so eloquently on the floor of this chamber.
– I have been strengthened in my view of the desirableness of the motion by the weakness of the opposition to it. It is contended that the publication of the results of the ballot will interfere with the secrecy of the ballot. To-day, the Government have laid upon the table of the Senate a return giving the fullest information regarding the results of the ballot in the recent referendum at polling places where only sixty or seventy votes were recorded. I say that the only guarantee that the people can have of a fair ballot is the publication of the results. I. am -not seeking or desiring to secure information as to how certain sections of our soldiers voted. What I want to know is how the soldiers’ vote went at the referendum. That is what the country wants to know. I want to know, further, how the soldiers’ vote was divided between the different States. I think that honorable senators should insist upon knowing that. The publication of that information could have no effect upon the wax. I venture to- say that men at the front who voted “ Yes “ .at the referendum will fight as well as those who voted “ No.”
DINER. - I did not want to be led into that. I resigned from the last Ministry because Mr. Hughes proposed a regulation, not only to interfere with, men desiring to vote, but to make it possible that the ballotpapers issued to Senator de Largie and myself, for instance, might be marked “proc.” or “ proclamation,” and it might be discovered how we voted. There was ample reason for my resignation also in the way in which the Prime Minister treated the members of the then Government who turned that proposal down. All that I am asking for is that we shall be given the same information with respect to the soldiers’ votes as we are given with respect to the votes recorded at any polling booth in Australia.
– I am asking that this regulation preventing the publication of the result of ,the voting by the men at the front shall be disallowed, and that their votes shall be treated in the same way as were the votes recorded by soldiers at, say, the Liverpool Camp. I have been asked why I have not proposed to interfere with the voting of the soldiers at the Liverpool Camp. The answer is that it is because the Government did not interfere with it. They issued no regulation prohibiting the publication oh the result of the voting at the Liverpool Camp. I have addressed many public meetings recently, and when I was askedin Western Australia how the soldiers voted I said that I did not know. It was not any business of mine even to hint that they had voted “ No,” but I did say that they voted “Yes” in such numbers that the present Government considered that it would be best not to let the public know how large those numbers were !
– By . carrying the motion Senator Bakhap will assist me to remove all the mystery surrounding the matter in a very little time. If, as the honorable senator says, the difference between the two sides amongst, the soldiers was only 16,000, I say that, in view of the fact that at that time there were between 150;000 and 200,000 men at the front, the result speaks well for their manhood and love of liberty. If, with
General Birdwood’s manifesto, the manifesto of the Prime Minister, and all the other forces brought to bear, upon them, the result was as Senator Bakhap has stated, it was to the credit of our soldiers. I say that the people of Australia are entitled to know the correct figures in connexion with the soldiers’ .vote.
– If Senator Bakhap can show me a better way, I shall be prepared to support him. I shall not merely talk in support of his proposal, but will be prepared to vote for it. The first thing to do to get the information we desire is to remove the prohibition against its publication.
.- I do not propose to flout the Imperial authorities. I have challenged Ministers on that point, and my challenge has not been accepted. They have referred to information received from one of their own officers, and by wire at that, and when it is claimed that that is the usual method of communication between the Imperial Government and the present Commonwealth Government, I say that the sooner it is altered the better. -
– I have been responsible for a great deal. I suppose that v,hat I did while a member of the last Ministry will follow me for the rest of my political life. The Government should themselves have relieved us from the necessity of having to compel them to make this information public. What right, for instance, have they to prohibit a writer in a newspaper saying what Senator Bakhap has said here to-day. The honorable senator has said that there was a majority for “Yes “ amongst the votes of the soldiers at the front of 16,000. Under the regulation with which we are dealing, no “writer for a newspaper dare say that, or he” would be prosecuted under the War Precautions Act. If the publication of this information could have any effect upon the war, there might be some justification for prohibiting it.
– Let me analyze what Senator Pearce said on the subject. He stated that when the absent votes were coming in, and the soldiers’ votes were absent votes, the “No” majority was diminished, and it could easily have been seen from that that the majority of the soldiers’ votes were “Yes” votes. But if we turn to the results in New South Wales we shall find that, although there was a “ No “ majority of about 108,000 on the Saturday, a week or a fortnight later when the absent votes came to be counted, the “ No” majority rose to 118,000. It should bc remembered that New South Wales has sent more men to the front than has any other State in the Commonwealth, and, at the time of the referendum, she had sent over 100,000 to the front
– In proportion to population New South Wales has sent mere men to the front than any other State. I challenge the honorable senator io produce the figures.
– Honorable senators have to bear in mind that New South Wales is referred to as the second Military District, but Broken Hill is included in the 4th Military District, and the Tweed River District is included in the 1st or Queensland Military District, whilst part of the Riverina comes within the 3rd or Victorian Military District. When these facts are taken into account, I repeat that, in proportion to population, New South Wales has sent more men to the front than has any,other State.
– We can give ‘that in, and Western Australia still leads in proportion to population.
– Then I shall ask for the correct figures to-morrow. These are some more figures which we desire to have, and further information which the public is entitled to receive. At the time of the referendum, New South Wales, had sent over 100,000 to the front, and I have shown that Senator
Pearce ‘s method of analyzing the soldiers’ votes could not be applied to the results obtained in New South Wales. At one time it rose to 120,000, and then diminished to 118,000, but when the soldiers’ vote was counted the majority was about 10,000 in advance of what it was a couple of days after the poll was taken.
– I am simply saying that it was a fairly evenly balanced vote. I am not particularly interested whether the vote was evenly or unevenly balanced, or even whether “ Yes “ or “ No “ won. What I am interested in is that those who watch the public interests here shall have the figures in order that they may be able to check them, and see how they were divided among the different States and the different electorates. I want to see that those who are here to watch the public interests have as much information as the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes or Senator Pearce has. We are entitled to it, and the people sent us here to maintain that position. There has been no reason for any of this secrecy. The Government are sheltering themselves behind a telegram from one of their own officers. They are putting him up to create a mist of secrecy around themselves. It is very significant that, although three Ministers have spoken since, not one of them has accepted my challenge to produce the request from the War Office.
– I do not want to see a wire from their own officer. If the motion is carried, I intend, if the Government will not give the information, to take steps to get it. We shall appoint a Select Committee to examine the officers, who will be able to give the evidence as to the figures, once the regulation is disallowed. If the Government do not supply the information, I shall take steps to-morrow to move for its supply by the Electoral Office in the form of a return; in which case it will be a public document.
.- Would you make it a penal offence to refer to a Government or Parliament as the “ Win-the War “ party ?
– I would make it contrary to law for political organizations to. use it for party purposes. If the Minister will not meet our wishes, we shall have to adopt another phrase. We do. not want recruiting organizations to form non-party leagues under this name, and then to find political parties pirating it for their own ends.
.- This title was picked by the Director-General of Recruiting for recruiting purposes only, and therefore should be protected. This is a fair request, and, I make it with the best intentions, as recruiting and the desire to help the recruiting movement forward should not be confined to any one party, but should be common to all.
– But we were told that recruiting is above political parties.
– The honorable senator must see, however, that this precedent, if established, might be used by a Minister against his own party. A
Minister might say, for instance, that he could not allow the use of the words “ Labour party “ because the members of that- organization were not the Labour party.
– It might be argued that the use of such a title would be prejudicial to recruiting, and I feel sure therefore that, on reflection, the honorable eenator will see that it would not be in the best interests of his own party to establish such a precedent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Compulsory Military Service Refer endum: Soldiers’ Vote.
– I move-
That Statutory Rule 1916, No. 273, Regulations under the War Precautions Act 1914-16, be disallowed.’
In moving this motion, I wish to point out that the particular part of the regulation objected to reads as follows -
No person shall publicly announce, publish or exhibit any figures or alleged facts as to the results of the voting by -
The Government that issued this regulation prohibiting any one from publishing any facts-
– And you said the other thing.
– The honorable senator might be a peacemaker in disguise.
– Under the Elec. toral Act you bundled all the station votes together so that we could not ascertain how the station hands voted.
– You handled a lot of them in the Defence Department.
– May I point out that the motion, even if it be carried, will not be operative, because the effect of the regulation in question died to-day with the tabling of the last matters connected with the recent referendum campaign. To-day no newspaper would be liable for the publication of the figures relating to the voting of our troops oversea, but it would have to guess the figures, because it is not likely to be in possession of the correct information.- To my mind, the real question at issue is- whether the Government are going (to release the figures for publication as far as they know them. The vote of the Anzacs in London has been distributed, as far as possible, according to the last known addresses of the men in Australia, and the transports were treated in exactly the same way in strict compliance with the Electoral Act as amended to meet the special circumstances.
– The Assistant Minister speaks of the Anzacs in England.Do his remarks apply equally to the soldiers at the front?
– In the first place, I recognise that there is a very great principle involved in the motion that has been moved, inasmuch as Labour, on the democratic side, has always stood for the secrecy of the ballot. Under the existing law it is provided that that secrecy may not be violated, and that a minimum number of votes must be recorded before the result of any vote can be made known. ,
– We know how the soldiers received the verdict.
– Why take notice of them then ?
– The honorable senator’s replies are not very courteous.
– The honorable senator will not be able to waste time in that way.
– A message from the Imperial authorities would come direct.
– The details?
– If the soldiers at the front are to vote at a general election, they will do so upon absolutely the same conditions as at the referendum.
– Senator . Gardiner has been very* ill-advised in moving for the disallowance of this regulation. When we were on the same side, .and fighting for the Electoral Act, our whole purpose was to insure the secrecy of the ballot. -I know that Senator Gardiner was one of those who .urged that, for instance, the vote recorded at a small station should not be made known. Twenty men might be employed upon a station, and all. their votes might go for a certain candidate, and they would get the sack next day when that became known, because they did not vote as the “ boss “ desired. What the honorable senator now proposes is really that in the case of the crew of an Australian ship, who may number twenty, the way in which they voted shall be made known’, and if they have not voted as the skipper desired they will get the sack at the very next port of call.
– Will that not also apply to the soldiers’ vote?
-We want details.
– Those will not be details of the votes we are talking about.
– Hear hear; a very good reason.
– To be logical, the honorable senator should advocate that subdivisional polling places should be done away with.
– We could do the same with the soldiers’ vote.
– We know how a certain section voted in the Federal Territory, and in Norfolk Island.
– I see no good reason why there should be so much mystery in this matter. I can easily understand the hostility of the War Office, not only to the result of the. vote being made public, but to the vote itself. Nothing could be more distasteful to the aristocracy and plutocracy of Great Britain, and to the people who rule Great Britain generally, than the fact that Australia before resorting to conscription took a vote of its people. That action on the part of Australia must have seemed outrageous to them. Probably the idea in the mind of the War Office when it requested that the numbers should not be made public was that it did not care to give an impetus to the idea of taking a referendum upon any question of public importance. In any case, it ought to be made clear to this Parliament that the War Office did re quest the Government not to disclose the numbers. So far as I have been able to gather, that has not been done yet. We have heard a great deal about interfering with the secrecy of the ballot-box, but the number of “ Ayes “ and “ Noes “ and informal votes in nearly every small district in the Commonwealth has been made public. Here we have between 200,000 and 300,000 citizens of Australia who at the time the referendum was taken were scattered over Europe, Africa, and Asia. They voted because they were citizens of Australia, but they voted outside Australia under special provisions of the Electoral Act. If the vote in the small township of Horse Flat is to be made public, why should not the vote of those 200,000 or 300,000 men also be made public?
– Because it went against the principle the Government advocated.
– A great deal.
– I see no real purpose to be served by disclosing this information. The principal argument seems to be that certain people would like to know the figures. The vote of the soldier oversea was re- corded as though he lived at his old address. The Opposition are, therefore, seeking to disinter his vote from those of the rest of the electors. Honorable senators who are so jealous of the secrecy of the ballot-box are now trying to unscrew the lid. ‘
– Then you destroy the secrecy of the ballot if you publish the full vote of a State?
– That is not intended; all that is wanted is the total vote for and against. ‘
– Your logic is bad; you have the thing upside down.
– He said it was using undue influence on voters.
– The secrecy of the ballot would not be violated by publishing returns.
– If things are different they are not the same.
– I sincerely hope that- the motion will be carried, not because we are prompted by a spirit of inquisitiveness and want to know how our soldiers voted, but because I think the people of Australia should know whether they were justified or not in turning down the proposal for compulsory military service outsidethe Commonwealth. Proof as to whether that was the right or the wrong course will be disclosed by the publication of the vote taken at the front. At present, we are not in a position to say whether our soldiers gave a majority for or against compulsion; but believing as I do in the Democracy of Australia, I am loath to think that the majority vote against compulsion in Australia was not a reflex of the vote at the front.
– A section of Australia.
– Would you ask the people of Australia to reverse that decision if necessary?
– The capitalists who go touring the world may vote as absent voters before they leave the Commonwealth, so why not have a special record of their votes?
– Then, if your logic is correct, an affirmative vote by the soldiers would condemn the people of Australia for voting in the negative.
– Who is raising the feeling ?
– I do not know the figures myself.
– It was desired for military reasons not to publish the vote. If a Minister wanted to get the information for his own use, it would not be fair.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the British War Office desired that it should not be published.
– Let me assure the honorable senator that I saw the cable, and, acting upon it, I got out the regulation at the request of the War Office, through Australia’s representative in. London. I was in charge of the Electoral Office at the time.
– I would not be inclined to believe that the Australian representative at the War Office in London would inspire a cable of thatsort.
– I listened carefully to the remarks made by Senator Senior, who endeavoured to show that the action of Senator Gardiner in retiring from the Ministry was in direct opposition to that taken up by him in regard to this motion. But I point out that the positions are entirely different. At that time, as Senator Senior must know, if his memory serves him aright, the Prime Minister proposed to give all eligible men who had not reported under the proclamation the shock of their lives when they came up to record their votes on the 28th October. Had the Prime Minister kept the intention to himself, probably he would have been able to give a number of people a sudden shock on polling day, but fortunately for us, if unfortunately for the Prime Minister, he allowed his intention to become known, and we were wondering what the shock would be. Subsequently we learned that he proposed to interfere with the right ‘ of individual electors at the ballot-box, and that was the reason,’ I take it, that Senator Gardiner retired from ‘the Ministry. He was not prepared to see the rights of any elector interfered with at the ballot-box at the instigation of the Prime Minister.
– You are wrong.
– That would be the result of it.
– It would mean tampering with the ballot-box
– You can deny ‘it as much as you like, but that will be the effect of it.
– Why not find out how light-house keepers vote ?
– Who gave the honorable senator that information ?
– The honorable senator may apologize as much as he likes, but he is interfering with the secrecy of the ballot.
– It is a fact.
– This is an attempt at a shameful interference with the secrecy of the ballot.
– So far as all persons are concerned, but not as regards sections.
– Is the honorable senator told how the miners or the tradespeople voted ? “Senator GRANT.- No. We do not ask the Government to disclose how the infantry, or the artillery, or the officers included in our oversea Forces voted. But we do wish to know the total votes recorded in favour of “ Yes “ and the total number cast in favour of “ No.” To my mind it is exceedingly doubtful whether this information can now be supplied. I also entertain a doubt as to whether the request to suppress this information came direct from the War Office, or whether it was instigated by some person outside of it, and subsequently came through the War Office.
– I gave full particulars to the Senate. I told honorable senators that I had seen the cable, and who had sent it;
– Is the honorable senator speaking of the ordinary civilian vote ?
I am at a loss to understandwhy the Government - if they have this information in regard to the soldiers’ vote - should not disclose it. There is no military purpose to be served by its suppression. I believe that the reason why it has not been disclosed is that the result of the vote was a big disappointment to the Ministerial party. That party anticipated that the men at the front would have cast a substantial majority in favour of “Yes,” whereas the voting disclosed either that the figures were very evenly balanced or that there was . a small majority in favour of the “ Noes.” I hope that at the earliest possible moment this information will be supplied, and I shall vote in favour of the disallowance of the regulation which has prevented its publication.
SenatorMULLAN (Queensland) [4.52]. - I am pleased that the Leader of the Labour party in this chamber has moved to disallow this regulation. The regulation never should have been made, and indeed it never would have been framed but for the fact that the Government desired to serve a political instead of a military purpose. Anybody who looksat it will see that it was a mere afterthought on the part of the Government. I am sure that if there had been an overwhelming “ Yes “ vote on the part of the men at the front it would have been published in Australia, not on the day after the referendum, but a few days before it, in order to give the electors a lead. My proof of that statement is to be found in the manifesto issued by the Prime Minister to the men at the front, the concluding paragraph of which reads -
Australia Looks to You.
Soldiers of Australia, your fellow citizens; confronted with the greatest crisis in their history, look to you for a lead. Your votes are being taken first. I appeal to you, who have gone out to fight our battles, who have covered the name of Australia with glory, to lift up your voices, and send one mighty shout across the leagues of ocean, bidding your fellow citizens do their duty to Australia, to the Empire, to its Allies, and to the cause of liberty, and vote “Yes.”
He said that the Australian soldiers were to vote first’, that they were to give their fellow Australians a lead, and that they were to lift up their voices and send one mighty shout across the leagues of ocean telling them how to vote.” What useful purpose could be served by giving the men at the front that instruction unless it were intended that the result of their votes should be made known in Australia prior to polling day? Additional proof of my contention is to be found in the fact that the regulation itself was not made until five or six days after the result of the referendum was known. The referendum was taken on the 28th October, and this regulation is dated 3rd November. That is conclusive evidence that the regulation was only passed for a political purpose. It was a political expedient, and had no relation whatever to ‘the military . situation as it stood. The present Government, for political reasons, have allowed the censor to run amok. Only the other day we had the Prime Minister parading around Melbourne and
Sydney with an invitation from the Imperial authorities to attend the most important Conference ever proposed, in his pocket, and intriguing in the meantime in order to secure a political advantage over his opponents before the information was disclosed. That shows the depth of degradation to which politics have been brought in this country by the intrigues of the present Government. It is little wonder that we view with suspicion all that they do.
– The Minister says that the instruction came from the War Office.
– Yes; I have already made the statement, and I repeat it now.
– “Suspicion haunts the guilty mind.”
– It was being printed.
.- I support the motion, and regard it as of the highest importance to the people of this country to secure and make public the result of the soldiers’ vote if there is a possibility of getting it. When the fight was going on, the supporters of the Government influenced many thousands of votes by telling the people that the soldiers in the trenches were unanimously in favour of sending reinforcements1 in the way suggested by the Government. It is important, not only to Australia, but also to other Democracies which may have to fight the same thing as we have passed through, to have a. true record of the- only concrete instance, so far as I know, of soldiers away on active service being consulted about, and casting a large vote against, compulsory military service. The people of this country may some day have reason to be thankful that there is a vote of that sort on record, so that we may be able to tell them, “We had one fight on this matter. We consulted the people mainly interested, and upon whom the Government relied to carry the proposal, and it is on record that they voted by a very large majority against compulsory military service.”
– What was the good of using it after the referendum was taken ?
– They are fabricating it, whoever they are.
– They knew more’ than the eastern States did, anyhow.
– I know that these addresses are so much wind. Honorable senators have seized every opportunity to cre’ate the impression that the soldiers voted against, conscription, - although in their heart of hearts they know that that is not the fact. One very easy test can be applied to that claim. The soldiers’ vote was an absent vote, and from the time the absent vote came to be counted the “ No “ majority gradually dwindled.
– Were there scrutineers at the count for “Yes” and “No”?
– You do not know much about it.
– Will you give the name of any officer in the British War Office who requested that the result be not published ?
– Is that how requests come from the War Office ?
– Why did Mr. Walter Long say that he saw no reason why the result should not be given ?
-It was cabled here.
– Can the Minister say whether the votes; of the soldiers at the front, as far as practicable, were assigned to their respective States or districts ?
– Were the votes nf the men taken in the camps at Seymour, Enoggera, and other places also assigned to their respective States?
– And the same provision applied ‘ to the voting at ,the front as at the camps here?
– I did not intend to take part in this discussion, and should not have done so except for some remarks made by Senator de Largie this afternoon in reply to an interjection that I made. I stated by interjection that the soldiers at the front received with acclamation the news of the rejection of conscription in Australia, and because I was unable, at the moment, to say in which part of the trenches this incident occurred, Senator de Largie cast a doubt upon my statement. We have not all had the opportunity that was given to Senator de Largie. He was able to go to the other side of the world, and to come back professing a great knowledge of military matters, but he has shown, by his attitude in this discussion, that travel has not improved his conception of affairs in regard to the referendum. When a senator makes a statement, either by interjection or “from the floor of the Senate, other senators should at least give him credit for honesty of purpose, and not impute that he is talking recklessly and at random. I distinctly remember reading in the columns of the Sydney Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago a statement that the Australian soldiers at the front were pleased when they received news ofQthe defeat of i the referendum in Australia. I have since looked up the files, and I find that in an issue of the Telegraph of 25th January there appeared a report of a . meeting presided over by Mrs. Langar Owen, who, I understand, is the wife of a prominent barrister of New South Wales. The report stated -
Mrs. Langar Owen presided yesterday at a “ win the war “ meeting held at the Town Hall, under the auspices of the -Australian Federation of Women.
Mrs. Langar Owen is reported to have said at that meeting -
There was an enormous amount of ignorance to combat.
That applies also to some of those who have been on the other side of the world - and that -the Australian boy possessed a pecu liar temperament. From one dear to her -
I suppose this referred to her son, who also was in the trenches, and was as near to the danger zone as Senator de Largie got when he was there - she had heard that the news that the referendum in Australia had been turned down was received by five minutes’ cheering by the wet and hungry Australian boys. If appealed to in the right way, hundreds of Australian boys would be found ready to go.
That is the paragraph upon which I based my interjection to Senator de Largie, and I do not think he received it in anything approaching a spirit of fairness, because he suggested that I was talking at random. In fact, he characterized the statement as childish, and said that every statement I made in regard to the war was unfounded because I had not been so close up to the firing line as he had ; though, by the way, he was always safe from injury.
– You do notsuggest that they were all pleased, do you?
– The carrying of the referendum would not make them anything else. They went away as volunteers; they would come back as volunteers.
– We all agree with that.
– Do you include the Electoral Officer in that charge ?
– It would interfere with the secrecy of the ballot.
– The same principle was the subject of a no-confidence motion in another place.
– You ought to be ashamed of yourself to make such a charge.
– What do you want it for?
– I would not have added my quota to this discussion but for the statements made by the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. I cannot allow any roan to accuse me of haying desecrated the graves of men in Gallipoli and France. The statement is a. disgrace to tho man who made it.
– It is true.
– It is. The honorable senator fought his whole campaign on it.
– Why, you would not even give freedom of speech to your own Ministers !
– How does the honorable senator know?
– Yes, all the officers.
SenatorNEWLAND- There is not one officer who has returned to South Australia who has not expressed regret that the referendum was hot carried.
– Has the honorable senator any idea of the tales that were told at the instigation of Billy Hughes to induce the men to vote “ Yes “ ?
– He is still “ Billy Hughes.”
– What nonsense. A message from the Queensland Government was censored.
– The honorable senator is not game to vote for the publication of the figures.
– All moonshine. All inspired by Hughes.
– He inspired statements from Lloyd George right through the campaign.
– The Labour movement laughs at the Prime Minister now.
– Is the honorable senator aware that it was a paid officer of the Government who made the request ?
– The Minister stated that an officer communicated the request - not that he made it.
– He is Hughes’ “ man Friday.”
– Before the Leader of the Opposition re-t “ plies, there are a few points that I desire to emphasize. In the first place, it has . been stated by the Minister for Defence that the Government are withholding the information sought by Senator Gardiner because of a request which was made to -it by the War Office. That request was conveyed to us through the medium of a representative of the Government in London. This statement is doubted by some honorable senators. Suppose that the “doubting Thomases” are correct, and that, as a fact, no such request was received from the British Government, can we not apply our own intelligence to what the position in the trenches would be to-day if these figures were made known in deference to the request of the Leader of the Opposition? Let us try to picture to ourselves what would happen. We know that the first essential qualification for a soldier is obedience.. We know that much heat was engendered in the country, and perhaps a little in the Senate, by the discussion of conscription for military service. We can say with certainty that the same thing’ would occur if the matter were discussed in the trenches, where no such heat should be engendered at all. Even if ‘there were no request on the subject from the War Office, I ask honorable senators opposite to consider what the result of making this information known in the trenches would be. There are men at the front who are heartily in favour of conscription. That is not disputed by any one. There are men in the trenches to-day who, apparently, are just as strongly against it, and honorable senators may easily picture for themselves what the position in the trenches would be if, when the men were called upon to obey, as soldiers must, the orders of those in high command, they were engaged in heated arguments for and against conscription. If honorable senators will only apply their common sense to this matter, they will realize that, in the. interests of putting up the best fight possible against our foes, we should prevent the introduction into the trenches of any information which would provoke disputes and dissension amongst our soldiers. The best way to provoke such dissension would be to publish the results of the voting at the referendum, as suggested by those who are supporting the’ motion now before the Senate. When it is said- that to disallow the regulation would have a good result, I reply by saying that, from the point of view of insuring unity amongst our soldiers, no good could possibly result from the publication of information which would give rise to disputes amongst them. That is my contribution to the debate, and if honorable senators will only use their common sense they will be found opposing the motion.
– I am not surprised at the extent of the debate to which the motion has given rise, but I am surprised that three Ministers have each refused to accept my challenge that they should produce the request which we have been told came from the War Office. I am quite prepared to believe’ that the Government received some information on the subject from one of their own officers. I am prepared to .believe that one of their own officers has said that the War Office would not like to have the figures published ; 0 but against that I set the information we have received that a Minister of the Crown, in answering a question on the . subject in the House of Commons, stated that the request for the suppression of the information came from the Commonwealth and not from the British. Government. The Government can easily settle all doubts on this matter by producing the instruction from the War Office which they are said to have received. The reason they have not produced it is that they have not got it. Senator Pearce has said that I have moved my motion with the same motive as that which T. had in doing something . else.
– I read it. The statement was that’ the Commonwealth was responsible for the non-publication of the information.
– No. The honorable senator’s statement is that we requested the British Government to suppress the information.
– It came from our own officer, but the same officer from whom all cables from the War Office come.
– Even if he cabled at the request of the War Office?
– It is the usual way in which all such requests come to us.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Commonwealth officer is not worthy of credence.
– I want it now.
– The carrying of this motion will not get for me what I want.
– I want the Government to ask the Imperial authorities to remove the prohibition.
– The honorable senator, is blowing bubbles through a clay pipe now.
– Then the honorable senator’s resignation from the last Ministry meant nothing at all, and was only make believe.
– The difference is that there are no German trenches in front of the polling booths in Australia where the sixty or seventy votes the honorable senator has referred to were recorded.
– There was a majority of from 16,000 to 20,000 who voted “ Yes.”
– This is not the right way in which to obtain the figures.
– The honorable senator would flout the Imperial authorities.
– The honorable senator was responsible for it.
– I do not know that the majority for “Yes” was 16,000 or 20,000, but I heard so.”
– She has not sent more men than other States in proportion to population.
– Western Australia lias sent more in proportion £o population than has New South Wales. ,
– Did not the “ Yes “ majority increase in the other States in a similar way, and did not those States give a total majority for “Yes”? On your showing; those States represented two-thirds of the soldiers.
– They offered to show you the telegram.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to. .
” Win-the War “ Organizations.
Motion . (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- As chairman of the State Recruiting Committee of Tasmania, I yesterday asked the Minister for Defence, on behalf of the Committee, that the phrase “ Win-the- war “ should be retained for recruiting purposes only, and not allowed to be used by political organizations. The Minister refused to take that step, with the result that in Tasmania, and no doubt all over Australia, “Win-the- War” leagues have been formed of persons of all shades of political opinion, for the purpose of assisting recruiting”, and then have found the name pirated by other bodies for political purposes. Already in Tasmania the newspapers are using the phrase in connexion with the new party that is likely to be formed to take possession of the Treasury bench. The name should be protected by regulation, so that any suspicion of political motive behind its use may be prevented. I earnestly urge the Minister to reconsider his decision.
-You want to be free to call the opposing Government anything you like, but you will not let them pick their own title.
– I gave this matter consideration when Mr. Mackinnon suggested it to me. We talked it over, and I thought it was not a proper use to put the War Precautions Act to. I still think so. No one can say that the patenting of this set of words is necessary to obtain recruits for our Forces in the field. . No one can say that its use by a political party for its organization will interfere with recruiting by recruiting organizations. The course the honorable senator is asking me to adopt is dangerous. It would probably prevent any political party from using a . particular word or set of words. Does not the honorable senator see the danger of that? Does he not see that if we establish a precedent now we might, on the plea that it would probably interfere with recruiting, on some future occasion prevent another political’ . party from adopting some other word or words?
-I am beginning to see there is something in this.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 February 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170214_senate_6_81/>.