7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Holiday in Celebration of Armistice.
– Is the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister in a position to reply to my question of yesterday in connexion with the granting of a holiday, in connexion with the signing of the armistice with Germany,, similar to that obtaining on ChristmasDay and Good Friday, to all members of the Commonwealth Public -Service?
– I think the honorable senator will recognise that it hasbeen practically impossible for the Government, within the time that has elapsed since he submitted the question, to obtain an answer, but as soon as a reply is forthcoming I shall communicate it to him.
– Is the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister in a position to answer the question I asked on the 1st inst. as to . the yearly amount of Customs duty collected on cinematograph films since the duty was imposed?
– The gross revenue from 3rd December, 1914, to 13th June, 1915, was £35,534; for the year 1915-16, £84,897; for 1916-17, £90,806; andf or 1917-18, £68,469.
On the 1st inst., Senator Grant asked the following question: -
The honorable senator was informed that the information would be obtained and furnished. The information has been obtained, and the reply to the questions is as follows: - 1. (a) British, 924,000 feet; (6) other, 9,800,920 feet. 2. (a) British, £3,424; (b) other, £84,045; total, £67,469.
– Arising out of the answer, can the Minister say at whose request these reductions in duty were effected? T think that was one of the questions I asked.
– It is clearly impossible for ne to answer this question, and I submit that the honorable senator should give notice.
– Can the Minister say when the Senate will have an opportunity to discuss this question of reduction in duty.
– I am unable to say that the Government will provide any opportunity other than that furnished when the Estimates come up for consideration.
– Can the President inform the Senate why notice-papers of to-day’s business have not been distributed among honorable senators?
– Owing entirely to the protracted nature of the sitting it has been impossible to prepare notice-papers for distribution as on the ordinary days of sitting, and perhaps I owe the Senate ah apology in this respect. The only notice-paper I have is a proof copy which has not yet been printed, and I will give honorable senators every information possible regarding the business on the notice-paper for to-day.
– Can the Minister for Defence give any information regarding the case of the man named Kiely, who was arrested in Tasmania two or three months ago under the War Precautions Act, and in regard to whom an investigation was promised?
– To-day I signed an authority for a magistrate to conduct an inquiry, and later I hope to be able to give the honorable senator further information.
– Is it the intention of the Government to take steps to insure the continuance of the War Precautions Act for another twelve months; and, if so, what is the reason?
– The matter involved in the honorable senator’s question is under consideration.
– Can the Leader of the Senate say when ari opportunity will be afforded honorable senators to discuss the provisions of the Excise and Customs Bills, which have been laid on the table in another place, and which are now being administered ?
– A little while ago I understood that the honorable senator asked me if the Government could make an opportunity for the discussion of such matters, and my reply was that this opportunity -would be afforded when the Estimates came.np for consideration. His later question reminds me that he will have a further chance when the Excise and Customs Bills come before this Chamber.
– Will they come before the Senate during the session which finishes before Christmas ?
– They will come before the Senate immediately the other House hai dealt with them.
– Owing to the circumstances connected with the recently concluded sitting, of the Senate, it has not been possible for the Government to prepare answers to any of the questions of which notice was given yesterday for to-day. Therefore, I ask honorable senators to repeat them to-morrow.
Motion (by Senator McDougall for Senator Maughan) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Ferricks on acount of illhealth.
Disposition after the War.
– I move -
That the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia declares that it is essential to the future safety and welfare of Australia that the captured German Possessions in the Pacific, which are now occupied by the Australian and New Zealand troops, should not, in any circumstances, be restored to Germany; and that in the consideration and determination of proposals affecting the destination of these islands Australia should be consulted.
I am conscious of a sense both of responsibility and of pleasure in submitting this motion to what I believe will be the unanimous acceptance of the Senate. The matter has been in the minds of honorable senators for some considerable time past, and it was particularly brought under their notice by the action taken by Senator Bakhap. Although, I hope with sufficient warrant, I am assuming what the verdict of the Senate will be regarding it, I should like to point out that fresh circumstances have arisen, some of them within the last few days, which seem to the Government to render it desirable, if not necessary, that Parliament should be invited to register its opinion regarding the matters referred to in the motion.
Parliament, of all institutions, is possibly the one authority which, with the least likelihood of challenge, can venture to speak in the name and on behalf of the people who have elected it. The circumstances to which I have referred as having recently arisen are fresh in the minds of honorable senators. With the collapse and, indeed, the surrender of Germany, and the signing of the armistice, we are brought within appreciable distance of the gathering of the Peace Conference, at which the disposition of these islands, and many other matters arising out of the war and the armistice will be decided. Regarding many of the matters which will there be settled, Australia may be said to have, in common with the Allies, but a general interest. But there are certain matters, and amongst them the disposition of the captured German Possessions in the Pacific, in which Australia may claim, without fear of contradiction, to have a very special interest indeed. It is for this reason that, singling this matter out from many which will occupy the attention of the Peace Conference, the Government invite the Senate to associate itself with” them in the declaration of what I may call the- Australian policy . in this regard. Honorable senators will have noticed through the press that, speaking for the country he represents, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Mr. Hughes) has expressed in clear and unmistakable terms the view which he takes regarding this matter. The passing of this motion will, as the Government desire it should, strengthen the hands of the Prime Minister in the attitude he has taken upon this all-important matter. Recognising that a very grave responsibility rests upon them, and that a false move, or even a false silence on this occasion, might tend to the prejudice of Australian interests the Government submit this motion expressing their own views with confidence and a cordial invitation to Parliament to associate itself with them in this declaration.
The responsibility resting upon us at the present juncture is a threefold one. We owe responsibility, first of all , to the people whose interests are placed for the time beins; in our keeping. We owe a responsibility not only to the Australian people of to-day. We should have, indeed, but a poor conception of the circumstances which in all likelihood will surround the future of this country if we did not recognise that, in a sense, we stand now at the parting of the ways. If we were agreeable, or if through any unfortunate combination of circumstances these islands of the Pacific, with all their potentialities, not material, but military, should ever be allowed to pass into the hands of a possible foe, it is difficult indeed to put any limits to the danger which might arise to Australia in consequence. We owe it, therefore, first of all, to the country we represent that we should make our position in this matter abundantly clear.
We owe, also, a responsibility to the Imperial authorities in connexion with this subject. It is, I think, and I trust the Senate will agree with me, our duty to fully and frankly place before the Imperial authorities the views we entertain regarding the destination of these islands. We should expect that, similarly placed, the Imperial authorities would tell u3 exactly where they stood and what they wanted, In the same frank way, by agreeing to this motion, we seek to fully inform His Majesty’s Ministers at Home, not only of the view we take, but of the reasons underlying that view.
We owe a responsibility also to the Allies. It is quite conceivable, and, indeed, more than probable, that the deep interest which Australia necessarily has in the problem of the Pacific Islands is not, perhaps, as well understood by the larger and remote Allied nations as hy ourselves. They may, indeed, be pardoned if they fail to appreciate our point of view. Regarding Australia as we may assume they do. they might be pardoned if they said, “Here is a small group of 5,000,000 people all told in possession of a continent. Why should they stretch out for more territory?” It is conceivable that they might take that view, and might be misled by it. As we look to them as well as to our own efforts to see that our interests are safeguarded in this matter, we are bound, I think, to tell them now before matters have proceeded too far, exactly what it is we want and why we want it. The motion I submit seeks to do that.
While it is true that we are ourselves quite conscious of the soundness of our motives, it is possible that the world at large does not understand our reasons as clearly as we do, and I should like, in a few sentences, to place them on record. Australia is not moving in this matter with any desire for added territory. She has within the mainland of Australia itself quite sufficient to occupy all her energies and provide opportunities for the employment of all her physical strength and all her capital. It is not additional territory, therefore, that we seek, but it is greater safety to-day and for the future, so far as we can secure it. In asking that the captured German Possessions in the Pacific should not pass back to Germany, not only are we not moved by any desire to add to our territorial possessions, but we may urge, I think, with much reason, that if they are left with us, at any rate for a generation or two, they will represent, not an asset, but a liability. We are not, therefore, moved by any selfish or grasping spirit in submitting this motion. The one thing we have in mind is not added territory, but greater security and increased protection. Of late we have seen that Germany, having acquired a foothold in other countries, used it not for the purpose of peaceful and industrial development. We have learned enough since the 4th August, 1914, to know that she was using these islands of the Pacific as bases for future military operations. We cannot remain silent or idle until it is made perfectly certain that never again will these islands be passed over to the control of a country like Germany.
We have to remember in this connexion that, whilst twenty years ago the distance which separated Kew Guinea and the other islands of the Pacific from the mainland of Australia was quite considerable, to-day it is insignificant. The advance which has been made in the . navigation of the air and the undernavigation of the water has been such that this distance has been almost annihilated. As a consequence of this, the danger which might arise from the occupation of these islands quite close to our shores by. a people hostile to us is infinitely more serious now than it was a few years ago. One may assume that as science continues its work further developments will be made, and that danger will not lessen, but increase. We can, therefore, on the simple ground of regard for national safety, urge the adoption of the motion now submitted to the consideration of the Senate.
I think it has been stated before in this Chamber by my colleague (Senator
Pearce), that in the early months of the war, after the capture of German New Guinea, the Government came into possession of abundant and absolute proof that Germany was making her preparations there purely with a military objective. The wireless station erected there was of a power far beyond the requirements of the mercantile marine, and Germans in New Guinea were by means of that station; and stations at other places, in touch with Berlin itself. We found that the whole of the plans and surveys- they had made were not for a mercantile harbor and docks, but for a naval and military base. They covered all. the associated enterprises which are essential to the home of an operative navy.
If we wish to know why we move in this matter, I ask honorable senators to recollect the vital difference between the attitude of Australia towards Germany as a neighbour in the Pacific and towards other nations who have obtained a foothold in this part of the world. There has never been a whisper in Australia, much less any expressed fear, because of the possession by France of islands in the Pacific. We have, indeed, occasionally had our little commercial differences with France, but no one has ventured to regard the presence of the tricolour in the Pacific as a danger to the national safety of Australia. I may say the same with regard to our Dutch neighbours. We have never heard it suggested that there was any need to fear in the slightest degree the presence of the Dutch in New Guinea. The position, however, is quite different when we come to deal with Germany. Every man has felt in his heart, though he may not have considered himself called upon to express his feelings publicly, the belief that so long as German colours flew over the Pacific, just so long was there danger threatening Australia.
The opportunity has come to us largely, so far as these islands .are concerned, as the result of the gallantry and efforts of our own soldiers,- and we should be indeed foolish if, through any mistaken sense of sympathy for a beaten foe or any idealistic conceptions of the regeneration of mankind, we allowed this opportunity to make ourselves as safe as we can, to pass -without taking full advantage of it.
We cannot, and should not, forget Germany’s policy during the lives of those of us who are present in this chamber, to say nothing beyond that. Not merely in the purposes to which she sought to turn her foreign Possessions, but even by the means adopted of so-called peaceful penetration, Germany has constituted herself a danger. The hospitality of Australia was extended to her, and I have no hesitation or fear of contradiction in making the statement that she abused that hospitality. It might be said, and probably will be, that with the removal of the Kaiser we are dealing with a different Germany. I have yet to see any substantial evidence of that. I am not greatly touched by signs of death-bed repentance, or greatly impressed by offers of future good conduct made under the lash of defeat. I shall be much more disposed to accept a good character on behalf of the Germans when they have worked out their own salvation, and have proved themselves fitted to be admitted again to the company of free and respectable nations. Certain political changes have taken place in that country, but what are they? Can any one say that finality has been reached there? Can any one -pretend to understand what is taking place at the present juncture in that apparently distracted community? They are making, through some of their statesmen, certain professions. Germany has made professions before. She has signed public documents; but they have always failed to bind her, and the only occasion on which we shall be entitled, having regard to her own interests, to accept a declaration of good intent on the part of Germany is when, through the course of years, she has demonstrated that she, too, has learnt that honesty is the best policy, and that when she gives her word, she is prepared to keep it.
It may also be said that we need not be greatly perturbed in this matter, because we oan safely leave our interests in the keeping of the yet-to-be-created League of Nations. My answer is that the League of Nations is not yet created ; and, even when it is. it will take some years of experience before any community will feel that they can entirely and safely leave their interests in its keeping. I join with all those who trust that out of this idea may arise something which will supersede the barbarism of war; but I still say, paraphrasing the words of a celebrated historical character, “ Whilst hoping for the League of Nations, let us keep our powder dry.” For that reason Australia, in this matter, has largely to rely upon itself, and its first duty is to inform the Imperial authorities, and the nations with whom they are associated, of its desires and interests.
Let me refer again to the question of how far it will be safe, no matter what form of government is erected in Germany, for this country to be a consenting party to that new Government again taking possession of these islands. I hope for a change in human nature. It is conceivable, as I believe it is true, that these changes take place; ‘but I do not believe that there can be effected, in the course of twenty-four hours, a revolutionary, change in ideals which have been built into a nation for over a generation. If that change does take place, and a regenerated Germany again seeks its place in the comity of nations, we shall then, perhaps, with some measure of safety and confidence, be prepared to treat it as hitherto we ha.ve shown ourselves willing to treat other European nations which became our neighbours. But, for the present, the only safe thing for Australia to do is to impress on those in whose hands will be placed the responsibility of determining peace terms, that, in the language of this motion, in no circumstances ought these islands to be returned to Germany.
Whilst we affirm that the islands ought not to pass back into Germany’s keeping, we also urge in the motion that this country is entitled “ to be consulted in the consideration and determination of proposals affecting their destiny.” We not only urge that, but, I venture to say, we have a right to ask for and expect it. Hot only are our interests more vitally concerned in the islands than are the interests of any of the Allies, but we may urge with every right that we were participants in the war, and that it was due to our efforts that the islands were wrested from Germany. Although we did this only as part of our contribution to the common cause, it still gives us a special right to ask that our thoughts, our wishes, our objectives, and, above all, our safety, shall be duly impressed upon, and considered by, the Allies and their representatives. We ask to be consulted in the matter. That is the least that we can stress. We have a perfect right, as a selfgoverning community - and we should have that right if we were not a selfgoverning community - to ask that, in a matter so vitally affecting us, and so near home, we should be consulted in every step taken towards the final destination of those colonies. I had not intended to speak at such length, because I feel I am speaking to an assembly already convinced, which will recognise with me the vital importance of the matter now at issue, and be prepared at once to associate, itself with the Government in the adoption of the motion.
– lt is with very great pleasure that I second the motion, and address the Senate in support of it. As far back as 16th August of last year, I had the honour to suggest to the Senate the terms of a motion in favour of action similar to that now projected, and the Senate was good enough, and, I might say, wise enough, to adopt the resolution without very lengthy debate, and without a division. The resolution was sent to the House of Representatives, and, without wishing to strike a discordant note, I cannot help thinking that a mistake was made in not, as early as possible, securing the concurrence of that body in it, and forwarding it to the proper quarter.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) went to England in connexion with the great issues of the war, and is evidently finding the necessity of some support in this matter. That support the whole of the Australian people have been yearning to give him for months past. The terms of the resolution already adopted by the Senate have always found the greatest favour and acceptance with the Australian people. Prominent public bodies, such as influence public opinion,- have for months back passed resolutions embodying the spirit of the motion so eloquently submitted by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen).
The fierce and formidable nature of the people who have just acknowledged themselves to be vanquished was demonstrated in many cases in waters contiguous to the shores of Australia. If you ask me whether I can call any witnesses in support of my advocacy of the adoption of the motion, I say, “ Yes.” In the abysses of the ocean off the coast of New Zealand are whitening the bones of Australian men and women who were sent to their deaths by mines laid in New Zealand waters, as mines were laid right in the track of Australian coasting vessels, by the raiders of the people whom we have just so happily conquered. A vessel leaving the port of Sydney, having on board Australian troops and Australian women, and bound to the ports of German New Guinea, was captured in the waters adjacent to those territories by the very German raider to which I have referred. Our men and women were taken from the tropical waters near our country right round the fog-bound shores of Iceland, and eventually landed in Germany, and kept there as prisoners. I suppose some of them are prisoners there still, and will be liberated only in consequence of the success of our arms and the arms of our Allies. These are the witnesses - the Australian dead who lie at the bottom. of the Australasian seas - that I call in support of the cause I am advocating. Think you not that our men who have perished on the fields of Flanders would turn in their red graves if they knew that the only consequence of all their valorous sacrifices was to be the tame return of these colonies to this people, formidable for centuries, who have occasioned the world so much grief, and caused humanity to shed so many tears?
Occasionally I refresh myself by a serious consultation with the great minds of old. Only the other night I was reading in the pages of Seneca, a work written nearly 2,000 years ago, how the author speaks in his sententious way of the Germans as a people “ever keen for war.” They were keen for war 2.000 years ago; they are keen for successful war to-day, and would be keen for successful war tomorrow if they thought they could achieve their ends.
– They got a licking then from Caesar.
– They eventually helped to overrun the Roman Empire, which for some centuries had to exercise its energies in keeping them within bounds. In the language of the poet -
Shoulder to shoulder rise our dead,
From many a trench, with battle led.
The spirits of those soldiers- of ours would protest against any project of returning the territories contiguous to the Australian continent to this fearful people. Let it not be urged against us politicians afterwards that our men in arms were paladins, and that our politicians were timid men. Even the London Times, in discussing Mr. Hughes’ protest the other day, urged the Australian people not to be afraid, in pressing their just requests, of treading on the toes of other people. We are somewhat isolated in these southern waters. It is probable that, except among a few of the more cultured and reflective classes, the name of Australia before the war caused no great ferment. It is true that she is better known now because of the valour of her sons, but she cannot be accounted as very important in international matters among the great populations of Europe. It is because of that fact that it is necessary for us, as members of the Parliament representing our nation, to assert ourselves in support of something that we should have roundly and loudly asserted some time ago, and in support of the utterances and actions of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth who is now in the United Kingdom.
The Senate justified itself on the previous occasion by its fore-vision, by its courage in passing the resolution which, in more general terms, embodied the objective of the one so eloquently placed before us to-day. If the London Times, in the centre of the Empire, tells us that we should not be timid in advancing our just requirements, let us seize occasion by the forelock, pass this motion, and indicate to the peoples of the world Australia’s desires and aspirations, not for territory, but for her own safety.
I am in full accord with the statement of the Minister for Repatriation that he is not a very great believer in death-bed national repentances. There has been no election in Germany. We have been told of revolutions. We have been told of republics being established, but we are also told that Marshal Hindenburg, who was supposed to have fled, is in the full confidence of the new Republican, aye, Socialistic, rulers - that he and his army are at their disposal.
– And Dr. Solf still seems to be alive.
- Dr. Solf, who was a great supporter of the Imperial German idea of Deutschland uber alles, is still a big counter in the game that is being played. I say, in the language of our own poet -
Pool, can yon change the leopard’s spots, Or blanch the Ethiopian’s skin ?
You are not going easily to effect a revolution of feeling in the minds of these people, educated and trained by a whole century of successful military effort. I never under-estimated these people, formidable as they have been in every way. Only a. few week’s ago, when the first signs of the cracking of the German military machine began to be observable, owing to the surrender of Bulgaria, the opinions of the German populace were collected by newspapers of neutral nations, such, for example, as Holland. And this is fairly representative of the utterances of the German populace at that time, “ It appears that we have not come out as well as we thought we were going to do. We must work harder, therefore, to repair the national damage.” The qualities of a people of such a temper as that are not to ‘be lightly regarded. A people who, in the face of disaster, will- proceed to address themselves to working all the harder to repair the national damage, are a race on whom we must keep our eyes fixed. The Germans of Central Europe are more numerous than the white people of all our British Empire. They are a fecund race; they are more fecund than ours. We claim ancient stock, and that Bri tain is the mother of nations. The German people claim that Germany has been the mother of nations. Right through the centuries that mother of nations - if such she be - has put forth plans and actions which have disturbed the peace of Europe. Is it likely . that a people, with ideals and determination built upon the evolution of thousands of years, will experience radical change in all their characteristics forthwith ? Is it for us to prejudice the future inhabitants of this continent - our descendants ? They will look back upon us with curses if we are now so blind as to consent to anything -which will materially prejudice their interests. It is our duty to consider things as they are, to sum up human nature as it is, and to do what we believe to be absolutely essential in the interests of our people to-day and in the days to come.
That great man at the head of the United States Republic, President Wilson, is, no doubt, an acquisition to humanity. He is an idealist; but he is a lawyer; and he may be too much of an idealist. There were certain great men who were concerned in striking off the trammels of the human race at the time of the French Revolution, but who destroyed themselves and prejudiced the interests of their country because they held too much to idealism. I point out that there are certain items of the American policy to-day which do not disclose that belief in the German people which is likely to promote the prospects of the Germans being received straightway into the League of Nations, America, for example, is going on with her warship-building programme. We have just read in the public press that the United States Navy Department is about to proceed with the building of ten additional battleships, six more cruisers, and 140 destroyers at a cost of £100,000,000.
– A very practical commentary on the League of Nations.
– Yes, indeed. Do honorable senators believe that our embryo Australian Fleet will have to be recalled to the dockyards and there be dismantled? Do they think that that would be a safe step to take? If they do not, then they must realize also that it would he very unsafe, so long as protests still avail us, to give back to Germany her Pacific Possessions.
Is the German Empire still in existence? Does the German Empire, which attacked us, and from which we took those colonies by the valour of our sailors and soldiers, still standi Is it for us to return to her the territories formerly possessed by Germany? Is Germany to be a collection of small republics, or a great combined republic? If the Federal principle is still to be retained and upheld by Germandom, then the German is still as formidable, in my eyes, at any rate, as ever he has been. I certainly think that I shall not be doing my duty if I fail to protest against any suggested course involving . the return to Germany of the Possessions taken from her in self-defence by Australia’s fighting men.
– It is the character of nations which counts, and not the form of government.
– That is so; and I repeat that, 2,000 years ago, Seneca said that the Germans were a people keen for war. And in those days, let it not be forgotten, they were a people governed by various chiefs; moreover, the women took part in their counsels. The Germans were an extremely democratic people, judged in the light of Democracy as it wa3 then regarded.
I am sure that the Senate will not now stultify itself. It carried a similar motion, in an amplified form indeed, over a. year ago. The Senate will have justified itself as a legislative Chamber in the eyes of the Australian people by that one act of foresight alone. This motion is of world-wide importance, for we are the only people in the world who own a continent. We are an insular people. We inhabit a continental island. One of our States is an island. And it would be the height of national folly if, without protest, and due partly to our having made no protest, it was considered that we had indorsed the suggested and implied policy of returning to a supposedly regenerated German race the Possessions which we had taken from that people. I had hoped that the Commonwealth Ad ministration would have advanced an even more comprehensive motion than that which has now been submitted. I had hoped that the motion would have been aimed at supporting the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in respect to matters which he has already put forward in England. But, seeing that this is actually but the affirmation of a principle indorsed in this Chamber more than a year ago, I very heartily second it. I do so in full confidence that the Australian people will be justified in the eyes of the world, and that, whatever the Allies may see fit to do, and whatever the Peace envoys may deem desirable, those territories which have been taken from the Germans will not, at any rate, within the life-time of several Australian generations succeeding us, be restored to the German people, no matter what kaleidoscopic form of government they may choose to establish for themselves.
– 1 desire to say at the outset that, ii in the course of my utterances, I should display an amount of caution regarding the attitude of the Senate which may be deemed by the other side to be extreme, and which may be misinterpreted to indicate something different from that which I intend, it will only be because I feel bound to urge upon the Government the real necessity for national caution at this peculiarly critical juncture. The reasons which are actuating me in appealing for the most thorough care and caution on the part of responsible Ministers and public men are these : that it is easy to make an excellent speech if one’s mind is perfectly made up, and that it is simple enough to take a certain course if one is absolutely sure of one’s ground. I have not the slightest doubt but that Senator Bakhap is in. a very happy frame of mind regarding the matter before the Senate. And I feel, too, that that mental surety, so characteristic of his utterances, very fairly represents the opinions of the majority of the people of Australia. But it may be that Australia, while holding what ve may justly claim to be an almost unanimous sentiment, is, in this hour of victory, being carried away beyond the point where a deliberate and more reasoning frame of mind would ordinarily take
Let me refer to an historical occasion in the history of a great military Power - Germany herself, in fact - when she was in the same position as are the Allies today, having humiliated another great Power. Probably the strongest man in Germany at that time was Bismarck. He was anxious that there should be no acquisition of French territory, following upon the victorious outcome of the war of the 70’s. But he found himself carried off his feet by the victorious enthusiasm of the German people, who were determined that Germany should be compensated for the war which had been forced upon them, as they claimed, although we now know better in ‘the light of history. The demand was that French territory should be added to the German Empire. There is no man, acquainted with the facts of that disastrous war, and of the more disastrous peace which followed, but who must realize that the awful conflict which has just ended is, to some extent, due to the bad judgment of the German people then in attempting to humiliate proud France. I therefore repeat that it is well, in the hour of victory to be especially cautious.
When speaking upon the public platforms of Australia, I have never sought to disguise my proud feeling that Australia, so far as I aa concerned, should be first, second, third, and everywhere. But I am not prepared, at a time like this, to do anything, even while retaining that desire, to embarrass the “Homeland.” If, prompted by the burning sentiments which actuate our people, the Government assert that the retention of these Pacific islands shall be a condition of peace, what may be our position a few months hence if Great Britain, at the Peace Conference, finds herself unable to give us that which we claim in this motion? We are, I fear, creating a feeling, for the creation of which we may, perhaps, be sorry. I am not opposed to the motion, but I do urge the necessity for the exercise of caution upon a critical occasion like the present-
– It may be interpreted by the Australian people in such a way, that if, as the result of the Peace Conference negotiations, these islands are returned to Germany, a feeling of antipathy to the Homeland may bo created throughout the Commonwealth - a feeling that we shall not he able to overcome in the course of a year or two. I do not pretend that I am particularly desirous of maintaining any alliance to the disadvantage of Australia, but if we are anxious to maintain the Empire which has maintained us during the past four years - the Empire that we have assisted to uphold - it will be unwise for us to do anything which, should our efforts fail, will be calculated to strain the relationship which at present exists between Australia and Great Britain.
The statement has been made that what Australia has she will hold! That is quite a bold declaration. It is one of those statements with which a determined man, who has his mind made up, can sway an audience. But can we hold what we have? Does not Australia at the present time hold more than she , can put to the best advantage? Can we hold what we have and use it to the best advantage, not only of Australia, but of these Pacific islands themselves? The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) is to be congratulated upon the clearness with which he asserted this principle and upon his evident belief that we can give effect to it. Of course, we have had the military occupation of these islands for some years. But I recognise that military occupation of them is a very different matter from annexation.
– We are merely caretakers of them at present.
– Exactly. And have we carried out our duties as caretakers in such a way as to endear us to the inhabitants of the islands?
– According to the natives themselves, we have.
– During theperiod of our military occupation, the German trader has conducted his operations in such a way that he has been, permitted to secure labour recruits without interference, and as a result he has, to some extent, discredited the British flag.
– The natives are not flogged now as they were when the islands “were under the German flag.
– I have no desire to sound a discordant note by dealing with that aspect of the question. I admit that this motion, which has been so ably moved by the Minister for Repatriation and so fervently supported by Senator Bakhap, fairly- represents the public opinion of Australia. I can support it, and I intend to vote for it. I would not in any circumstances vote against it. Still, I think that the cautions utterances which I have made should be given their due weight.
It is quite easy to say - as Senator Bakhap did a few months ago, when his statement secured the unanimous indorsement of the Senate - that we should retain . these islands, and that we should not be satisfied with anything less. I realize as well as does anybody what our efforts have been in this great war. But those efforts sprang from a higher motive than that of the annexation of territory. They were the efforts of a liberty-loving people to maintain their freedom. We entered the war, not to obtain additional territory, but- to maintain the full liberties that we possess as a free people. The men who so valiantly gave their lives on the fields of Gallipoli and Prance made the supreme sacrifice for something better than increased territory which we should have to maintain and govern. No man can do more than give his life for the benefit of his race, and thousands of our soldiers have done that. Thousands of them have returned to this country maimed and broken. I should be sorry, indeed, to think that the glorious dead and the equally glorious living, suffered as they have suffered in order that we might secure additional territory. They were actuated by higher ideals’. They fought for the unity of our race, for the right to develop our institutions, and for the right to be free. 1 know that Senator Bakhap has never yet made the mistake of underrating the mighty power of Germany. A people equal in number to the population of Great Britain and her Dominions, who for 2,000 years have disturbed the peace of the world, and been very keen for war, will not be less keen if they are given sufficient time to recover from the effects of the- awful struggle which has been _ in progress during the past four years. President Wilson is hopeful that by a League of Nations we shall be able to link up all the nations of the earth for the maintenance of liberty, so that the peace of the world shall not be again disrupted by any nation seeking for greater powers. But it is -well for us, upon all occasions, to endeavour to put ourselves in the position of the other fellow.” It would not be very difficult, particularly in this audience, to put forward the view that the German nation entered the war which has just terminated, for exactly the same reason as did the British nation - in the full belief that it was fighting a just cause and that God was on its side. We must recollect that in many respects the German people are very similar to the British, people. I somehow seem to remember that this is the first occasion upon which Britain and Germany have met in a clash of arms. For centuries they were allies and victors in wars which brought glory to both nations. They traded side by side in a way which was for the betterment of the world. But on this last disastrous occasion the overweening ambition of German militarism destroyed the friendship of centuries, and brought these two great Christian countries into a death-grip that threatened the destruction of one or the other. I am satisfied that if we could allow the hot blood of war to cool, if we could permit ourselves to become thoughtful men, who look for a peace based upon reason, and not upon vengeance for wrongs inflicted, we should be able to insure a peace that would be enduring. The peace -which I hope will result from the armistice that
Whilst I intend to vote for the motion, and whilst I would not in any circumstances vote against it, I think I have justified my position by pointing out that we need to be careful lest we inflict an injury upon the British authorities whose hands we desire to strengthen. I know that this kind of talk is not calculated to provoke applause from honorable senators, but the views which I have expressed represent the opinions of one who endeavours to look at matters in a thoughtful way, and who is hopeful that an enduring peace will spring from the armistice which has been signed. I repeat that this motion fairly represents the settled opinion of the people of Australia, and that those honorable senators who have addressed themselves to it, have forcibly expressed their views upon it. I am not a lover of resolutions at any time, because I do not think it is possible to define in words what any number of persons actually think. I would rather that peace matters had been left to the Peace Conference without any attempt on our part to assert our claims. 1 would rather that we had been left free to accept the fruits of that Conference without the fear of experiencing any heartburning by reason of the fact that we have not been able to secure all that we have a right to expect.
As forthe future, the safety of Australia will depend upon the ability of her people to so develop their resources that they may fear no growth in the Pacific Islands where any increase in the white population is not likely to take place. If a division is called on the motion I shall vote with the Government. I do not suppose that a division will be asked for. I presume the motion will receive the unanimous support of the Senate, and I am satisfied that the Government have properly interpreted the feelings of all Australians on this subject. does or will concern herself with the domestic affairs of hundreds of millions of Asiatics living north of the Equator. Australia’s concern now, and in the future, is her own safety. We are the first nation in the history of the world to select a race-pure ideal as a basis of society, and we have a right to pursue our ideal in a peaceful, righteous endeavour and in security.
As I understand the sentiments ex pressed by Senator Gardiner, I agree with him that 5,000,000 of people, spread as we are over 3,000,000 square miles of the earth’s surface, and not yet able to develop all the riches nature has given to us, cannot pretend to. an Imperial authority. I anl sure that for a long time yet we must content ourselves with being an integral part of a world-flung Empire, and be satisfied with the knowledge that where the British flag flies there will be justice and safety for Australia. I do not think there is a general desire on the part of the people of Australia to float the Australian flag upon every island in the South Pacific, and to take upon themselves the responsibility of governing many thousands of coloured people living in those islands. These islands in the South Pacific are almost exclusively tropical, so that the white man will always have to depend upon the black for help. To my mind, it is geographically impossible that Australia should ally herself with complicated governmental problems that must constitute the overlordship of the whole South Pacific; but I do think it is the unanimous desire of the people that German influence near our shores should be eliminated, and that, therefore, German Possessions in those seas should change hands.
The Australian problem in the Pacific seems to me to be whether an ambitious and militant people shall have jumpingoff places to threaten our future safety, and I submit that, since the war commenced, the people of Australia have come to ‘regard with very different feelings indeed the influence of German control in certain of these Pacific Islands. At present we are holding such Possessions for the Allies, for the common cause, and I believe that most of us have begun to think of them as British. And it is now possible to discuss the Pacific problem along these lines. The problems are new, as a result of the war. There is no doubt whatever that Germany coveted Australia, and that this continent, with a successful Germany, was to be a jewel in the crown of Germanic power. German contempt for Australian Democracy has been stated on many occasions. Even the German scientists, who were shown considerable courtesy here just prior to the war, upon their return to Germany, as Senator Bakhap and others have shown, displayed the utmost contempt and cynical indifference as to the future of Australian Democracy. We know that the Germans made a close study of the topography and geography of Australia. ‘ This knowledge, considered in relation to what has occurred since the war began, has revealed to us a most sinister purpose. Germany studied the whole of Australia with remarkable thoroughness, as related to other parts of the world, with an evident intention to complete her dream of empire when she declared war against civilization, and against the British Empire in particular. We entered the war to secure a permanent peace and to create some form of international arbitration or league of nations strong enough to prevent any premeditated interference with the future peace of the world. The German colonies in the Pacific have not been colonies at all in the British or French sense of the word, but strategic points where her ships of war or trade might coal and have shelter during hostilities. I do not think it is reasonable then, to suppose that Germany should ever again have a chance to establish herself in those strategic points in the Pacific which, as pointed out by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen), are, owing to the march of modern invention and science, within practically a day’s journey of the shores of Australia.
The ocean unites us with those lands now, and. I see no reason why the Pacific problem cannot be solved by some sort of federation, preferably, under the British flag, of the tropical islands, wherein equal privileges might be given to all nations of the world, practically under a Free Trade administration. I do not think that we in Australia should he too ambitious to seek imperial power; but it must be remembered that Germans are still living in New Guinea, and are still working under Hun laws. They have been candid enough to admit that they came to the Pacific to create mischief. A recent article in a German paper frankly stated that Germany’s aim in the Pacific was to seize the Australian Commonwealth. Her designs have been no figure of speech, and I have no doubt that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) could tell us something of what had been going on in New Guinea prior to the war. Mr. Strong, a Melbourne writer, has given a good many details of Germany’s ambitious designs to prove that these strategic points were to be used by Germany at the proper time to jeopardize the safety of Australia. I do not wish to say much more; I heartily support the motion, which, if unanimously carried by this Parliament, will be cabled Home to the proper quarter, and, as a result, Australia’s views on this important matter will, at the proper time, be presented with a unanimous voice. Mr. Balfour has already stated that the British Government cannot be a party to the return to Germany of her colonies. A similar statement has been made by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Walter Long. I believe that Mr. Hughes in his references to this matter in England is voicing practically the unanimous opinion of the people of Australia. The motion is reasonable in saying that the captured German colonies in the Pacific shall not be restored again to Germany, and that Australia should be consulted with regard to their ultimate destination. It commits the Commonwealth to nothing more than that, and it has my hearty support.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.32]. - I compliment the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen) on the clear and forcible manner in which he introduced the motion to our notice. I contrast his tone and temper with the Boanerges “ Hands-off-the-Paci- fic “ style which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) indulged in, particularly when he went to Europe some months ago, a tone which I notice he has very considerably modified of late. I think it is a pity that, in drafting motions of a national character like this, the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition do not consult together in order to have them framed in such terms as would prevent any criticism of them in Parliament.
In yesterday’s debate this matter came up, and I was challenged to say what I would do with the islands of the Pacific. The view I enunciated then, I still hold, and that is that they should be treated in accordance with the views expressed by the P.rime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Lloyd George, and the President of the United States. Their opinions were quoted yesterday, but as they are pertinent to this motion, 1 think they will bear repetition. On the 5th January last, Mr. Lloyd George stated -
The German colonies should be held at the disposition of a conference, whose decisions must have primary regard to the wishes and interests of the native inhabitants.
About three days later, President Wilson expressed his views as follows -
The free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of colonial claims. The interests of the populations concerned having equal weight with the claims of the Governments.
I may add to these expressions of opinion those enunciated by two great Labour parties ou both, sides of the world, the one expressed by the Perth Conference, and the other by the British Labour Conference held on 17th December, 1917. This was the Perth Conference resolution on the subject -
That where an amicable arrangement cannot be reached by the Peace Conference in regard to captured colonies and dependencies, such territories shall be placed provisionally under international control.
The resolution of the British Labour Conference reads -
All disputes must be submitted to an International High Court, and all States must enter into a solemn agreement to make common cause against any State failing to adhere to this agreement.
There is a quite extraordinary unanimity between these four statements of opinion upon this matter. There is not a great deal of difference between these expressions of opinion and that involved in the motion before the Senate.’
I do not, of course, propose to move any amendment, but to put my own view of the matter, I should prefer to leave out all the words after “ Pacific “ in the motion submitted by Senator Millen, and to have it read in this way -
That the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia declares that it is essential to the future safety and welfare of Australia that the captured German Possessions in the Pacific should be placed under the control of an International Commission, as advocated by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States.
That would bring the resolution adopted by the Senate into harmony with the views of our co-belligerents, President Wilson and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and into agreement also with the resolutions adopted by the two great Labour and Democratic conferences to which I have referred.
– How does the honorable senator justify his statement that the motion, if amended as he suggests, would be in conformity with the utterances of Mr. Lloyd George?
.- I have quoted Mr. Lloyd George’s words.
– He said that the matter should be left to the disposal of the Peace Conference, but the honorable senator anticipates the decision of the Conference by saying what the disposition should be.
– We have gone a long way since Mr. Lloyd George’s statement was made.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.- I must ask Senator Millen to read again what Mr. Lloyd George said.
– The honorable senator proposes to put the islands under an International Commission.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Or Conference, if the honorable senator would prefer that.
– A Conference is a very different thing from a Commission.
.- I am prepared to substitute the word “ Conference “ for the word “ Commission,” if that is the only difference between Senator Millen and myself, and say that the German colonies should be held at the disposal of a Conference.
– Which might decide to return to them to Germany, to hand them over to Australia, or to deal with them in any other way.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.That is what I advocate.
– No; the honorable senator advocates that they should be placed permanently under the control of a Commission.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.If I substitute Conference for Commission, will Senator Millen and I be in agreement ?
– I do not say so. Should the Conference or Commission determine what is to become of the islands ?
.- I have no objection to the use of the exact terms in. which the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom expressed himself
The German colonies should be held at the disposal of a Conference whose decision must have primary regard to the wishes and interests of the native inhabitants.
– Would Japan be represented in that Conference?
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.Certainly, as one of the Allies Japan would be consulted, and will be represented at the Peace Conference.
I have no desire to see the Germans in possession of islands in the Pacific, at any rate in the vicinity of Australia. From what I have seen, and from what the “world has seen of the Boches during the last five years, the further they are away the better I like them. But I recognise that in the adjustments of the Peace Conference, possibly some concessions might be made to Germany. If that Conference should decide in that direction after full consideration and consultation, I do not think Australia should take up the position of standing in the way of a settlement, if we advocate the proposed League of Nations and the future peace of the world.
– What objection can the honorable senator see to our stating what we should like to achieve ?
– I prefer the motion in the amended form I have suggested, because I think that it would in that form be more in consonance with the views of our own Prime Minister, if I may so describe the Prime Minister of the “United Kingdom, and of President Wilson, who has taken the lead in the peace negotiations.
I have stated my views on the matter as clearly as I can by quoting the opinions of those with whose views on this matter I am in harmony. As to the proposal that Australia should be consulted, we submitted a motion to that effect on this side yesterday, and though it was not brought to a division, I believe that honorable senators on the other side favoured the views we expressed.
– Does the honorable senator propose to move an amendment upon the motion ?
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I have already said distinctly that I have no intention of doing so. I have suggested that in the framing of national motions of this character it wouldbe a good practice for the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition, representing both sides in this Parliament, to meet and. agree upon some terms which would not invite criticism from either side.
– The problems to come before the Peace Conference will be very difficult of solution indeed, and I agree with Senator Gardiner that we should be careful that any utterances of ours may not be such as would embarrass those who, we may reasonably ‘ expect, will be our spokesmen at that great Conference? I recognise the danger and difficulty which might arise from a disposition to put forward too great demands. But I cannot for the life of me see how any Australian public man in asking that the colonies we have taken from Germany shall notbe returned to that nation, is going one inch too far?
I have been quite unable to follow some, of the speakers in this debate, and particularly Senator O’Loghlin, who seemed to be chiefly anxious to get in a gibe or insult at the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Mr. Hughes), and by that means to weaken his position in London at the present time.
– I am in entire agreement with him, and am supporting and advocating his views.
– The honorable senator is so much in agreement with Mr. Hughes that he could not resist a tendency on the other side, which is becoming almost intolerable, to insult and gibe at the Prime Minister on every occasion. He had praise for the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of America, but for the Prime Minister of Australia nothing but gibes. If that is the spirit in which matters of this kind are to be discussed it would be far better if the” speakers disposed to talk in that way retained their seats, and refrained from doing injury to their own, country.
I quite recognise the difficulties of the position, and that we should be careful not to embarrass any one likely to be on the Allies’ side. But. if that is the proper attitude to adopt, surely common courtesy would demand at least the same treatment for our own representative?I take it that if this motion means anything at all, it is intended to commit us to support of the attitude assumedby the Prime Minister of Australia throughout the whole - of these proceedings. Any man who weakens Mr. Hughes’ position in London is not a friend of Australia? He is merely allowing his petty spite and spleen to get the better of his judgment.
– Mr. Hughes has done more damage to Australia than has any other man.
– There it is again. It is very difficult to reply in calm and deliberate words to an insult of that kind.
At a farewell dinner given by the Australian High Commissioner to the delegates when I “was in (he Old Country, on the night previous to our leaving, General Robertson, afterwards successor to Lord Kitchener, made a most significant remark, which is, perhaps, truer today than when it was uttered. He said, “ We shall win the war, but shall we win the peace?” As a soldier statesman, he saw the difficulties ahead. Many difficulties have, .been met since then by force of arms, as he foresaw; but, knowing the conflicting interests of various countries throughout the world, he also saw the danger of a dispute when those elements clashed around the Peace table.
– Was he afraid of our Allies?
– He knew only too well that On this occasion, as in the past, when it was a question of negotiating peace, there were tremendous difficulties ahead. I leave Senator Guy to. put his own interpretation on General Robertson’s remark. Any thinking man, who has given attention to the war problems that have arisen in the last four or fiveyears, can understand, its significance. What are the great problems that must be settled at- the coming Conference? None of us wishes to embarrass the Home Government in any way. We all wish to help them and their Allies, alongside whom we have -been fighting. ‘ But one has only to mention the various countries involved, all of which have grievances they ave looking forward to settle, to realize the tremendous task ahead. What about Constantinople, that great stronghold, which has been a bone of contention in world politics for countless generations? What of Asia Minor, the land that connects three of the great continents of the world? Look at the confused hotch-potch in the Balkans. Think of the enormous task of the settlement of Poland, the dismemberment of which was, perhaps, the greatest crime committed in the history of Europe. Picture the enormous task of settling the Jugo-Slav States of Austria. Think also of the problem of Alsace-Lorraine, which is, perhaps, nearer settlement than any of the other questions to which I have referred. Consider the awful position of Russia, not to mention the indemnity for Belgium, Northern France, and several other countries. Without considering any of the things nearer home, think of the great problems to be settled at that Conference, and you will have some glimmering of the magnitude of the issue. It is only right that we should be cautious in our remarks about other countries, and the men who are to represent them, and we should be equally careful what we say and do about our own representatives.
I look on New Guinea and other German Possessions in their relation to Australia, as in the same category as Heligoland has been in relation to Great Britain since Lord Salisbury handed it over to Germany. Are we going to be so foolish, so blind to the dangers of the future, jas to hand the Pacific colonies back to Germany to be a curse to us, as Heligoland has been to Great Britain in the naval warfare of the last few years ? Our difficulties will be very great, even if those Possessions are handed over to us. They will not be a source of profit to us for many years to come. Rather they will be a great’ expense, and the question we have to settle is whether we are better fitted than the German people to undertake the burden .and expense of managingthem. We must be prepared to -carry the white man’s burden in the Pacific. ‘ I differ from Senator Pratten’s reference to our taking possession of the Pacific Islands and running the whole concern on Free Trade lines. I could not imagine Australian polices being so comprehensive as to make that scheme possible.
I am inclined to” think that the worst . of the danger to the world’s peace is over, so far as the Central Powers are concerned, always providing that they are able to establish firm Governments on a Republican basis. If they can do that, I do not fear them in the lea3t as a danger to the peace of Europe. If the Hohenzollerns are simply seeking shelter in Holland until a settlement is worked up by their friends, who may be able to worm themselves into the management of German affairs, and they can get back on to the throne, as the history of France shows attempts .to have been made by the French royal family to get back to their throne, then the danger to the world’s peace will still exist. But if the German Republics are properly established, and the Hohenzollern dynasty is kept out of their ‘borders, I do not expect them to disturb the peace of the world very much in the future. »
We must recognise that the consideration of all these matters- constitutes a gigantic task for the Peace Conference. As -the whole world is putting in its claims, why should not Australia put in hers? Surely we have played a sufficiently important part in the war to justify us in demanding a say in the destination of those islands which are likely to he a menace to our welfare if restored to German hands. That is all this motion says. It supports the Prime Minister’s attitude, and if we back him up in this way, no other Government can take umbrage, because we are simply making themost.modest request, and putting forward the minimum claim that. Australia is entitled to.
.-I am heartily in accord with the motion. I have always said that the safety of Australia depended on its Navy and its naval outposts. I have seen British rule in New Guinea, and although I did not see German rule there, I have heard of it, and I never want to see the German flag flying over the natives of the South Seas again. The Australian Government, in administering Papua, have attempted at all times to tame its savages by kindness and good-will. The German has tamed his with the whip and the boot. That would have been our portion here if they had been able to conquer, as they thought they would. I was one of those who early in the war drew the attention of the Defence Department to a German who was claiming that the German flag would be flying over the Sydney General Post Office in 1916. I had his premises raided, although the Defence Department at first told me that I was making a mistake. Twelve months after they gave me that answer, they found 500 rifles, and ammunition, in his possession. That is what I have always felt, so far as Germany is concerned. Years ago, when some held out the hand of friendship to Germany, I belonged to a union that would not work with Germans when they arrived in this country, but sent them back to their own. I knew then what the proximity of German Possessions to Australia meant. I care ‘not whether the islands are put under British or any Allied rule; but I hold that Australia should make herself known, and claim the. right to control them for the sake of her safety and future welfare. If at the Conference table the Allied Powers say to us, “ We cannot do this,” I am willing to accept their decision; but we should make bold now to claim the right to govern these islands as naval outposts for the protection of Australia.
I was sorry to hear Senator de Largie sound a note that should not have been introduced in this debate. I am in accord with every action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in the fight he is now putting up in London. I am opposed to him in certain directions: but so far as Australia is concerned, his fight for economic freedom is a good one. This country should be self-contained. Only by that means can we achieve the advance that this nation is capable, of. No matter how the motion is altered, I will agree to anything of its description, and vote against nothing which expresses its sentiments. I shall have very great pleasure in voting for it.
– When we examine the terms of the armistice handed out by General Foch to the German emissaries; we get some idea, of the tremendous task that confronts the Peace Conference in the near future. While the voice of Australia may not be very loud, we ought to make it as emphatic as possible in putting forward our claim to the islands in the Pacific. It is much to be regretted that the British Government years ago did not more fully realize the correctness of the attitude of those Australian statesmen who attempted to deal with matters outside of Australia’s boundaries. Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, one of Queensland’s prominent statesmen, determined to avoid any trouble with a foreign nation in the Pacific, and he annexed the whole of New Guinea to Queensland. Unfortunately, the British Government failed to. realize the significance of his action, and refused to indorse it, as* the result of which the weight of many considerable “ difficulties was brought down upon our heads. The determination of the Federal Government, immediately on the. outbreak of war, to secure New Guinea and the other German Possessions in the Pacific, would not have been necessary had not the British Government refused to indorse the action of Sir Thomas McIlwraith.
I quite agree with those who say . that ‘ we do not want any more territory. Look at our Northern Territory, with its huge expanses and its comparatively infinitesimal population. “We do not want more territory for the mere sake of its possession. But we want the former German Possessions in the Pacific to prevent any hostile action towards Australia. And it would be foolish, therefore, to offer any objection to the motion. Possibly, the motion might have been differently worded to express a little more or a little less; but it will undoubtedly meet withthe approval of an overwhelming majority of the Australian public. The Peace Conference may not regard this as a matter of considerable importance by the side of other problems which will confront the plenipotentiaries. I hope, however, that Germany will get none of her colonies back. I ardently trust that Germany’s regime in Africa is at an end. I feel sure that the Peace Conference will give close attention and favorable consideration to- our request that the former German islands should not in any circumstances again come under the control of Germany.
.- I am in accord with every word of the motion. It is judiciously expressed, and is all that the Australian people are asking for at present. . I have always strongly favoured the principle that the islands of the Pacific, so long as any of them were in the hands .of a foreign country, were a menace to Australia. That is what we found to be the case at Rabaul. There, the Germans had established a naval base, from which they could have descended on Australia in three days. There has been a suggestion that the motion might be amended by leaving out all the words after “ Pacific.” Why should we delete the reference : “ are now occupied by the Australian and New Zealand troops”? Australasia sent her troops to Rabaul, and, seeing that it has been captured, why should we not keep it? To propose that that territory should be placed in the hands of an international commission meets with no approval on my part. The whole of the trade of those islands is Australasian. Our merchants have opened up the Pacific Islands trade. All that we are asking in this motion is that in the determination -of proposals’ affecting the destination of those islands, Australia should be consulted. We do not ask for them, but that we should be consulted as to their destination. It is in the interests of the future safety of Australia that there should be no foreign Power in the Pacific. At the last elections I went further than that. On the public platform I put it strongly that at that time, when we were in considerable . danger from the enemy around our shores, if we could come to an agreement with Prance to buy New Caledonia, such decision would certainly meet with my approval. Thus we would have no foreign Power about us in the islands of the South Pacific, no matter, what might be the situation in the North Pacific.
.- I desire to utter a word from the point of view of a soldier. Senator Gardiner said that the fightingmen who left the shores of Australia did not do so . with any greedy intention in the matter of seizing enemy country. But we have to remember that those, men went to fight in order that the British Empire might be safe in the future. I heartily agree with Senator Gardiner that there was not one man of those who left our shores who went forth with any intentions as to territorial conquest, and for any greedy purpose.
– It was no sordid trade war.
– It was not. And yet, if anything should happen so that the occupancy of those’ islands became a menace to Australia, those responsible for such a situation would not have done their duty to the glorious dead who sacrificed themselves that Australia and the Empire might remain free. Already the various returned soldiers’ organizations have passed resolutions in relation to this subject. On several- occasions those organizations have expressed themselves very clearly and definitely upon the futu re of Germany’s captured Possessions. The views of those men who, when duty called, left everything to strike a blow for Australia and the Empire, should now have weight. . I support the motion, and sincerely trust that we shall have the satisfaction of witnessing assent to the proposals indicated therein.
– This is a far greater question than it appears upon the surface. Possibly, it is more far-reaching than . most of us realize. We may be charged that we are simply covering up an attempt to acquire more territory. My own feeling, however, is that it is not a desire to possess more land, but a wish, rather, to save that which we have. Germany’s possession of Rabaul, and the extensive operations which she undertook there, were not simply a circus show. There was a purpose behind it all. Without a shadow of doubt there appeared to Germany a vision that that would be one” of her most Important naval bases outside of Germany herself. To return those islands to Germany now would be to invite her to carry on her operations again, but in a much more desperate manner than was previously the case. If before the war Germany considered Rabaul of such importance that it was worth her while to spend a huge sum of money there, how much more important would that same territory be regarded by her as a future jumpingoff nl ace from which to launch a vengeful attack upon Australia? It may be held by some that this motion will, to a certain degree, fetter the hands of the British Government; that it may. be a hindrance to British representatives at the Peace Conference for Australia to protest at the present juncture.. It. is incumbent upon us, however, not to be silent. We have honorably borne our- portion of the cost of this great struggle. We have paid our. share of the great sacrifice, and it is in . no sense egotism for us now to say that as regards the destiny of the Pacific Islands the safety of Australia must be a foremost consideration. Therefore, there need not be, and there should not be, any dissenting oice in the Senate. Surely, we, as Australians, care enough for Australia to possess an Australian spirit. It is singular that any one should hold that the future disposition of the captured German Possessions should be handed over to a foreign Commission. How could such a body grasp the vital significance of enemy control of those islands, from the view point of Australia ? It does seem to me the weakest policy which could be suggested, that this question . should be determined by a foreign Commission. My own view is that Australia should put her view with all the dignity that is commensurate with the sacrifices she has made. She should say that the interests involved are vital to her very existence, and should assure Great Britain that her Dependency will be endangered if a foreign foe is permitted to come so near her door.
– In view of the gratifying fact that it has been accepted with practical unanimity by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, very little remains for me to tlo in connexion with this motion^ In the circumstances, I do not feel that I am justified in detaining honorable senators for one moment longer than is necessary for me to express my own personal gratification - a gratification which will be shared by the Chamber generally - that it has been possible for the Senate, -upon a matter of such grave and vital importance to the people of Australia, to register a-unanimous decision.
Question unanimously resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented: -
Debate resumed from 13th November (vide page 7778), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time;
– In my previous remarks. I stated that proportional representation formed a part of the Ministerial policy at the last general elections. I also affirmed that had that system been embodied in this Bill, we should not have been subjected to the test of physical endurance to which we have been subjected. This measure is to be bludgeoned through both Houses of Parliament to enable the Government of this country to snatch a party victory at the election for Corangamite on 14th December.
– The Government will experience’ another disappointment.
– If the people of that electorate are as intelligent as I think they are, the very fact that this Bill is being bludgeoned through “Parliament will prompt them to vote against the nominee of this alleged National Government. Had the figures for the recent Swan election been reversed, there would have been no need to bludgeon this Bill through Parliament. Had the Government nominee (Mr. Hedges) topped the poll, there would have been no cry about minority representation.
– In this country the Tories have always represented minorities.
– I have here . a list of men who have been returned at various times to this Parliament, on minority votes. Yet nothing was said about this alleged evil until the advent of. the Cook-Hughes, combination. The following gentlemen have been returned to this Parliament on minority votes: - Agar Wynne, Balaclava, 1906, anti-Labour; M. P. Considine, Barrier, 1917, Labour; Sir John Quick, Bendigo, 1903, anti-Labour; J. N. H. Cook, Bourke, 1901, 1903, antiLabour; T. Macdonald Patterson, Brisbane, 1901, anti-Labour; . M. Culpin, Brisbane, 1903, Labour; D. A. Thompson, Capricornia, 1903, Labour; and J. G. Wilson, Corangamite, 1903, 1906, anti-Labour. At this time no particular hurry was evidenced to amend our electoral law.
– There was no National Government in. existence then.
– The Government call themselves a National Government; but they are neither national nor rational. The list further includes: - R. A. Crouch, Corio, 1901, 1903, anti-
Labour; F. Clarke, Cowper, 1904, Labour; J. Thompson, Cowper, 1906, anti-Labour; W. G. Spence, Darling, 1901, Labour; Sir P. P. Fysh, Denison, 1903, anti-Labour; A. C. Palmer, Echuca, 1910, anti-Labour. I might add something to the anti-Labour in Mr. Palmer’s case. Then comes A. C. Groom, Flinders, 1901, anti-Labour; J. Gibb, Flinders, 1903, anti-Labour; W. H. Irvine, Flinders, 1910, anti-Labour; W. J. McWilliams, Franklin, 1903, anti-Labour; P. Skene, Grampians, 1901, 1903, anti-Labour; J. T. Browne, Indi, 1906, anti-Labour; C. C. Salmon, Laanecoorie, 1906, anti-Labour; J. Mathews, Melbourne Ports, 1906, Labour; R. Harper, Mernda, 1901, 1906, 1910, antiLabour; J. Wilkinson, Moreton, 1901, W. B. S. C. Sawers, New England, 1901, an ti- Labour ; A. Bruce Smith, Parkes, 1910, anti-Labour; W. Massy Greene, Richmond, 1910, anti-Labour; G. B. Edwards, South Sydney, 1901, anti-Labour; J. B. Ronald, South Melbourne, 1901-03, Labour; R. W. Foster, Wakefield, 1910, anti-Labour; S. W. Cooke, Wannon, 1901, anti-Labour; A. Robinson, Wannon, 1903, anti-Labour; L. Atkinson, Wilmot, 1906,anti-Labour; P. Phillips, Wimmera, 1901-03, antiLabour; F. G. Tudor, Yarra, 1901, Labour. I might also add the name of A. P. Corboy, Swan, 1918, Labour. From this list, it will be seen that the majority of those who have been elected on minority votes have been, or are, opposed to Labour.
– And we are now trying to rectify an obvious injustice.
– And I shall assist the Government, because an injustice has certainly been done to Labour in this Parliament.
But there are other reasons why the Government are anxious to bludgeon this Bill through. There are some lessons to be learned from the Swan by-election. The Government candidate, Mr. W. N. Hedges, was backed by the Federal Government, the National Federation, the vested interests of Australia, the capitalistic press, and the “ Cashional “ Labourites, who are now quite ready to take cash with both hands so far as elections are concerned. Mr. Hedges had the imprimatur of the Government, but when it was “seen that there was a danger of losing, negotiations for peace ensued. There was the cry for “ peace by negotiation “ ! For what? To win the war ? No ; but to win the Swan seat in the House of Representatives. Mr. Stewart, a member of the Legislative Council of Western Australia entered into negotiations with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), who suggested that Mr. Lefroy, the Premier of Western Australia, should arbitrate between Mr. Murray and Mr. Hedges, although the latter had already received the indorsement of the Government and the interests to which I have already referred.
– But how do you explain the falling off of 3,000 in the Labour votes?
– That may be explained . by remembering that a large number of men who would have voted for the Labour candidate were overseas fighting in the war.
– But the same could be said for. Hedges.
– Perhaps ; but the majority of overseas voters, fighting soldiers, would be in favour of the Labour candidate, and their absence from the division will explain the diminution in the total number of votes polled for the Labour representative.
– And there is always a falling off in the vote at byelections.
– Yes. We can never expect so large a poll at a byelection as at a general election. Mr’. Basil Murray, the Country party’s nominee was backed by an organization of men and women, and Mr. Corboy, the Labour candidate, was similarly supported, and the result shows that men and women in organizations can still beat all the weight and influence of any mercenary combination. A large amount of money was spent during the Swan campaign, but not on behalf of the Labour candidate.
Let me draw another comparison. At the general election in 1917, the Government candidate for Swan Division polled 17,452 votes as compared with 6,172 in favour of the candidates against the Government. The Swan by-election held just recently gave for Government candidate 5,635, and for the candidates against the Government, 13,215. This does not look like a vote of confidence in the present Government.
– But the Labour candidate did not poll all those votes.
– The honorable senator has added the votes given to the Country party’s candidate to those polled by the Official Labour party’s nominee.
– The farmers of the Swan electorate, by selecting Mr. Basil Murray, who subsequently outvoted Mr. Hedges, gave to the St. George’s Terrace Conservatives and their National Labour marionettes a severe body blow. Another self -constituted autocracy gone bung ! This, wo have been told, is not a “poor man’s Government. All their barracket and supporters are certainly select, superior and patriotic. But their methods are such that soon a poor man’s Government will be. returned to represent adequately 90 per cent, of the Australian citizens. It has been said that Labour was fortunate to win the Swan byelection. Probably Labour was fortunate, but if the Swan by-election had not been won by Labour, we would not have been put to the physical test of endurance that we had to submit to last night. .
– Is that why you “ stone-walled “. the Bill ?
– I admit the Bill was “ stone-walled “ from this side of the Senate last night. But the trouble did not start here. It started in another place, where the guillotine was set to work on this measure.
– We shall have to get one of those instruments in’ this chamber, too.
– I would not mind how soon the weapon dropped on the honorable senator’s head or the head of his leader. I would not mind the use of the gag or the guillotine in connexion with other measures, such, for instance, as taxation proposals. I am quite sure that honorable senators opposite cannot point to any instance in the history of any other Parliament where the Government have descended to this means in order to bring about a fundamental alteration of a country’s laws ‘which give the franchise to people under certain conditions. I . have not said that the electoral laws of this country are perfect. All laws require alteration by Parliament as experience teaches, but no law has a more far-reaching effect upon the freedom of the people than has one dealing with their franchise.
– The honorable senator has been talking for an hour, and he has not yet touched upon the only two points of difference between this- Bill and the existing laws.
– It is because of the two main proposals embodied in this Bill - the adoption of the preferential vote and the postal-voting system - that I say the measure should have formed part of the policy of the Govern- . ment submitted- to the electors, and should not have been introduced until after a general election, and not at atime when many thousands of the citizens of the country are absent fighting in another land.
I have here a volume of the Par-‘ liamentary Debates of the Federal Parliament extending from the 5th September to the 10th October, 1911. If I choose to quote from it the debates upon the postal-voting system, I could confound the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), who now supports in this Bill the re-introduction of that system. In these pages of Hansard he is recorded as having obstinately, determinedly, and successfully assisted in erasing provisions to give effect to postal voting from a previous Act. I have some regard for the health of honorable senators, and will not on that account put them to the strain of my reading Senator Pearce’s remarks on the postalvoting system. I content myself with the statement that, so far as preferential and postal voting are concerned, the honorable senator has gone back on his professed principles of a few years ago. Every honorable senator opposite who was a member of the combined Labour party in the past in supporting the pro visions of this Bill re-introducing postal voting is recreant to the opinions he has previously expressed in this chamber.
– That does not apply to me.
– The honorable senator was a member of the party that submitted a Bill to abolish postal voting.
– I did not vote for it. I was not bound to vote against the postal vote.
– So far as I know, the honorable senator did not raise his voice in support of postal voting.
– Yes, I did.
– Then I have unwittingly done the honorable senator an injustice ; but I know that he wasa member of the Labour party who abolished the system, and the Minister for Defence was a member of the Government responsible for the introduction of a measure by which that was done.
– The honorable senator is a regular Sherlock Holmes to have discovered that.
– It did. not require a Sherlock Holmes to find out that Senator Pearce is the Minister for Defence. That required a Royal Commission. I leave the honorable senator at that, and perhaps it is -as well for him that I should do so. I have said all that I intend to say on the second reading.. I shall vote against the motion, and in Committee I shall refer to some of the clauses of the measure which I think should be amended.
– I had intended to deal at some length with the provisions of this Bill, but in view of the time already occupied by honorable senators opposite in connexion with it I intend to very greatly curtail my remarks. One point stressed by the Opposition is that the Government are endeavouring to get this Bill through as quickly as possible in order that its provisions may operate at the coming Corangamite election. That appears to me to he a very laudable object indeed, . and I fail tosee why any one should be indignant with the Government on that account. I venture to say that, if the opinion of the electors of Corangamite could be obtained on the question, it would be found that they are thankful that the Government intend to give them the advantage of the democratic system of voting provided for in this Bill at the election about to take place.
– The question is whether the principles of the Bill are right or wrong.
– That is so, and honorable senators opposite, who have delayed the passage of the measure, have, so far, not attempted to show that any one of the principles contained in this Bill is wrong. Their purpose has been to prevent the Bill becoming operative in time for the Corangamite election. One reason why I am prepared to curtail my remarks on the Bill is that I may, to some small extent, assist the Government to place this measure on the statute-book before that election takes place.
– The whole attitude of the Opposition is an electioneering one.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator.
– That is the whole attitude of the National party, n nd Senator Foll has admitted it.
– I repeat that, in my opinion, the Government are to be commended for their efforts to give the electors of Corangamite the advantage of the democratic, method of electing their representatives provided “for in this Bill. I have never supported the Government with more pleasure than I do on this occasion. My only regret is that a Bill to provide for the preferential system of voting was not passed before. As_ Senator Gardiner admitted yesterday, it is a very desirable system. I think it is now being proposed very largely as a result of the coalition between the two political parties in this and in another branch of this Parliament. For a number of years a Liberal Government held office in the Commonwealth, and for a number of years the Fisher Government were in power, but no attempt was made by either’ to introduce a measure of this kind.
– The first Federal Government* introduced a measure of this kind in the Senate.
– Senator Keating knows more of the history of the early days of this Parliament than I do, and I accept his correction, but the measure to which he refers never became law. Had such a measure been placed on the statute-book, we should have had on many occasions a more true reflection of the views of the people than has been recorded during the last few elections that have taken place. I have taken the trouble to compile some statistics with regard to the last and previous elections, which bear out my contention that it would have been a good thing if a measure providing for preferential voting had become law in this country some time ago.
One reason why I am pleased’ to support this measure is that the system of preferential voting was adopted as one of the first planks of the platform of the Returned Soldiers Political Federation. When returned soldiers in Queensland began to organize politically over two years ago, their organization was known as the Returned Soldiers and Patriots National League. It is now known as the Returned. Soldiers Political Federation, and similar organizations are federated throughout the Commonwealth. One of the first principles laid down in the platform of the organization was that of preferential voting. The reason the members of . the Returned Soldiers Political Federation adopted the system of preferential voting in their first political effort was that they considered that the existing party system of government had outlived its usefulness. They thought that by doing something to get rid of the bitter party system now prevailing in Australia, they would be acting in their own interests and in the interests of their country.
-J)o they support nonparty government?
– The soldiers’ political organizations throughout Australia are pledged to a system of non-party, government and elective Ministries.
Senator Needham and others have objected to the electoral law being amended while a large number of our Australian citizens are absent fighting the battles of the Empire, but the Government need have no misgivings on that point. When our men return, as I hope they will very soon, and find that the National Government have brought about a state of affairs that will enable them to give freer expression to their political opinions than they could in the past, the Government will have no cause for regret; rather the sol-: diers will have cause to thank them for their action. The soldiers are already organized politically, and their political federation will be. greatly strengthened by the preferential voting system. Now that the preferential voting system is about to become law, if the soldiers, through “ their organizations, find that none of the candidates offering is suitable in their opinion, they will have the. opportunity to select a candidate of their own choosing, and in many cases will, I believe, return their own candidates, not only to this Parliament, but to the various State Legislatures.
– They have put no land tax plank in their platform yet.
SenatorFOLL. - The honorable senator’s reputation is so great that, if the soldiers desire, through their political organizations, to go into the question of the land tax, I am sure Senator Grant will be one of the first they will approach.
Proportional representation was most ably dealt with by Senator Pratten this afternoon, but all its advocates seem to have missed the point that it is proposed to apply it only to this branch of the Parliament. The figures of the last and previous elections show that the House of Representatives is much more greatly out of proportion to the number of electors on each side than isthis chamber. Those members in another place, who are so anxious to put this House in order, should first of all put their own House in order. Before they endeavour to take out the mote from their brother’s eye, they should take away the beam from their own eye. ‘ Another place is far more in need of proportional representation than is the Senate.
I am pleased that the postal vote is to be restored. I understand’ that it was repealed by our honorable friends opposite because they ascertained on analysis that the majority of the postal votes were cast against them. Their action is rather inconsistent with the recent action of the Ryan Government in Queensland. ‘ At the last Queensland elections held in March this year the postal vote was reintroduced by the Labour Government, on practically the same principles as those of the system originally adopted by the Federal Parliament. So far as I remember, a declaration was necessary that the person making use of the postal vote would not be able to visit the poll on election day, on account of illness, infirmity, old age, or some other justifiable reason.
– There is the difference. The Federal law used to say, “Any person who has reason to believe that he will not be able to visit the poll on election day.”
– I am -sorry I have not with me a copy of the Queensland amending Act passed prior to the last Stale elections.
I regret that the Bill contains no provision for establishing a uniform State and Federal roll. The matter has often been mentioned in this chamber, and I was led to believe that the Government would in the ‘ near future take such action as would make it possible for us to do away with the existing duplication of work. I hope they will give the matter further consideration, and take definite action.
– The Bill provides for’ a uniform electoral roll.
– The Minister gave the Senate no information as to the progress being made in the negotiations with the States.
– There is only one step after this Bill, and that is for the States to agree.
– Provision is made in the Queensland Act not only for compulsory enrolment, but for compulsory voting. Section 63 of the Queensland Elections Act is -
It shall be the duty of every elector to record his vote at every election held for the electoral district ‘ on the roll of which he is enrolled.
But this provision shall not be construed to compel any elector to vote contingently under the provisions in that behalf hereinafter contained.
There is a system of preferential voting in Queensland, but it is not compulsory on the electors to make use of the contingent vote. “When this Bill is in Committee I hope the Government will consider the advisability of making voting compulsory. That would be a good thing, because the worst fault on the part of the electors is apathy, and the Government should do everything possible to encourage people to take greater interest in the politics of their country. Senator Gardiner’s attitude is that, while he is not quite sure whether he is in favour of compulsory voting or not, he does not like to apply compulsion. All our laws are a form of compulsion. We pay taxes compulsorily and send our children to school compulsorily. It is now compulsory to enroll, and register removals, under the Federal law, and the Government should complete the process by making voting compulsory.
Something should be done to prevent the large amount of plural voting and impersonation which takes place at elections, both State and Federal. Every election discloses the fact that’ impersonation has taken place, and that many people vote early- and often.
– That was not proved by the Electoral Commission.
– It was proved up to the hilt that there had been a great deal of impersonation and double voting at the recent Queensland election. And I fail to see any’ reason why this provision should not be included in the Bill now before the Senate.
Dealing with the question of proportional representation, at the last Federal elections in Queensland, the total number of votes recorded for the Nationalist party was 173,322; and for the Labour party, 160,448. That was so far as the House of Representatives was concerned; and there was a difference of only 12,834 upon a total vote of 329,770. The percentage of votes recorded in favour of the successful candidates to the number of the formal votes cast was 54.41.; and the percentage in respect of- the unsuccessful candidates was 45.59 - a difference of less than 9 per- cent on the total number of formal votes cast. Yet six “ Nationalist candidates were returned, and four Labour candidates. That is- to say, there was 50 per cent, more representation given to the Nationalists, although they secured less than a 9 per cent, majority. Despite that, there are honorable members of another place who tell us that the representation of this Chamber is out of proportion. I suggest that they peruse these figures and learn for themselves that they are much more’ out of proportion in regard to representation in that Chamber than is the representation in the Senate. In N;ew South Wales the Nationalist party received 357,179 votes, and Labour candidates gained 286,490. The total votes recorded numbered 643,69.9. The number of seats won by the Nationalists was seventeen, and of those gained by the Labour party, ten. That means that the Nationalists gained 70 per cent, more. representation in the House of Representatives than the Labour party, despite that the total percentage of votes secured by the Nationalists as compared with those secured for the Labour candidates was “59.47 as against. 40.53. That equals an excess of only 19.47 per cent., and yet there was 70 per cent, more representation. These figures clearly prove that our present system requires examina-. tion, and those gentlemen who, in another place, advocate proportional representation, should first put their own house in order. With respect to Victoria, the total number of votes cast for the Nationalists am.ouj.ted to 311,173, and for the Labour candidates, 271,033. The total vote was 582,206. ““‘ae percentage of votes recorded in favour of the successful candidates to the formal votes cast was 60.71, and for the unsuccessful candidates, 39.29. *Yet the seats secured were fourteen as against seven, or 100 per cent, more representation for the Nationalists, although they received a majority of only 21.42 per cent. In South Australia and Western Australia the results were even more glaring; they certainly gave the advocates of proportional representation in. those States serious cause for reflection. In South Australia the Nationalist total was 94,568, and the Labour figures were 66,611 - a percentage of votes to the successful candidates in proportion to the number of formal votes cast amounting to 58.67, while the Labour proportion was 41.33 per cent. Those figures show a difference of only 17.34 per cent., and yet the Nationalists secured six seats as against the one uncontested seat of the Labour party, namely, that for the electorate of Adelaide; which means that the one party secured 500 per cent, more representation on a majority of votes recorded, amounting to only 17.34- per cent. In Western Australia the whole of the five seats were gained by the Nationalists, whose total votes numbered 67,467, while the Labour votes amounted to 35,291. The whole of those were cast without securing any Labour representation. The percentage to the votes recorded was, for the Nationalists, 65.65, and for the Labour candidates, 34.35. The effect is that 35,291 voters in Western Australia secured no representation at all under the present system. Tasmania revealed a practically similar state of affairs. The total of votes cast for the Nationalists was 37,580, and for Labour candidates, 26,272. The percentage of votes recorded in favour of the successful candidates to the number of formal votes cast was 58.85, while the percentage for the Labour candidates was 41.15. And yet the Nationalists secured the whole of the representation upon a majority of votes cast, amounting to only 17.70^ per cent.
I am not advocating one particular system or another at present. I have not had an opportunity of going thoroughly into the whole matter, but the figures which I have quoted will show to honorable members in another place who ardently advocate proportional representation, that .they would do well to puttheir own affairs in order before seeking to better the situation with respect to this Chamber. There is something radically wrong with our whole system so far as the arguments of advocates of proportional representation are concerned. At the last Queensland State elections there was only a very narrow majority secured for the Ryan Government - something considerably less than. 20,000 votes. Yet the representation there cons’sted of forty-eight members of the Official Labour party and twenty-four members of the Opposition.
– That i3 an argument for proportional representation.
– I admit that it is. It is in the popular Chamber of the Federal Parliament, however, where reform is necessary. It is far more essential, if Senator Pratten desires to bring about proportional representation, that he should first turn his attention to the requirements of the House of Representatives.
– A redistribution of seats would be necessary there; but it would not be needed so far as the Senate is concerned.
– The only effective way would be to adopt some such system as is in existence in Tasmania; and that would be, practically, to do away with electorates altogether.
– Single electorates.
– The only way in which we could secure truly proportional representation would be to do away with electorates so far as the House -of Representatives is concerned, and to adopt some system of block vote. I am not sufficiently familiar with the subject, however, to present any considered scheme in relation to that now. While the present system prevails the representation of the electors in another place will be entirely out of proportion.
We may hope that when preferential yoting becomes the law of the land representatives of various parties will occupy seats in the Federal Parliament. I trust that among those representatives there will be a very fair sprinkling of the Returned Soldiers’ party. It is quite possible that in the near future we shall havenot only the two existing parties, but that there will be representation of the Farmers and Settlers’ party, and of the Returned Soldiers’ party. That will be a desirable state of affairs, in that it will constitute the first step towards the eradication of party politics. I trust that the
Government in the near future will also turn attention to the question of elective Ministries. If preferential voting” becomes the law, and various parties have their representatives in this Parliament, the Government might well consider the advisability of selecting Cabinet Ministers from every party in Parliament. I hope that before long we shall see the present party system, to a large extent, at any rate, wiped out, and that the Go1 vernment will consider the matter of elective Ministries, which will naturally bring about non-party government.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
.- As this Bill has been awaited with some expectancy and interest by the people of the State which I represent in this- Parliament, I may be pardoned if I occupy the attention of the Senate for a few minutes in discussing it. It is a matter of common knowledge that the measure has been in course of . preparation at the hands of the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) for a very long time. Its preparation, indeed, was very well advanced before the death of the late lamented Mr. Manifold. It is not, therefore, a measure which has been introduced for the simple purpose of meeting the exigencies of the approaching Corangamite election. But I wish to make my attitude towards it very clear. I believe in two of the principles which are embodied in the Bill, and my opinion of it is shared by nearly every honorable senator. If it be a Bill which is designed to satisfactorily provide for certain electoral needs of the whole of the voting citizens of the Commonwealth, surely it is logical that we should make it operative at the earliest possible moment. Consequently, I indulge in no apologies regarding its introduction. I hope to see it passed without delay, so that the electors of Corangamite may have the advantage of an up-to-date electoral measure, which has been framed in the interests of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth.
Last night some most extraordinary language was indulged in concerning the projected speedy passing of the Bill. We were accused of infamous crimes because we hope to see it speedily placed upon our statute-book. But there is nothing criminal and nothing to be reprobated in our. action in this matter. I voted for the suspension of our Standing Orders in the hope that the measure may be passed at a sufficiently early date to permit of it becoming operative in connexion with the impending election for Corangamite. As a Tasmanian, I desire to say that in our State we have in operation two of the reforms which are embodied in the Bill, and also a third, which, I regret, is not contained in it. In other words, we have postal voting for the State and municipal elections, we have preferential voting for the Legislative Council, the representation of that body being based upon single member constituencies, and we have the system of proportional representation applied to elections for the House of Assembly. It will be seen, therefore, that I speak . with some knowledge of postal voting and of preferential voting, and that I know something of the system of proportional representation, since I . was first launched on my political career through its instrumentality.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the Hare-Clark Spence system?
– And the single transferable vote?
– Yes. There will, however, be a feeling of disappointment in Tasmania at the absence from the Bill of the requisite provision for proportional representation in the Senate. I believe that that disappointment will be somewhat mitigated by the statement of the Acting Prime Minister that the Cabinet will. at least take into consideration a measure designed to provide for proportional representation in the Senate. I do not intend to attempt to secure the introduction of that system into this Bill, because I feel it would be tactless on my part, inasmuch as there is a general desire that preferential voting shall be made to apply immediately to single-member constituencies for the other branch of the
Legislature. Seeing that a considerable time will elapse before the next Senate elections, I am content to defer action in that connexion in the hope that the Government will frame a measure to give effect to the proportional system of representation in this Chamber.
– I hope not.
– If they do not, it will be incumbent .on some private member to introduce such a Bill,- in order that we may ascertain the attitude of members of this Parliament towards that principle. I find, even in correspondence, 2 bout the very vexed matter of the Prime Minister’s promise in Launceston, that a certain confusion exists as between the principle of preferential voting and the principle of proportional representation. A great many persons appear to regard these terms as being interchangeable. Now, preferential “voting, as applied to single-member constituencies for the House, of Representatives, is designed to insure a majority verdict for the elected candidate. On the other hand, proportional representation is intended to secure, not merely the representation of the majority,” but the representation of any considerable minority.
– Sectional representation.
– Sectional representation according to the numbers of each particular section. With minority representation, preferential voting has nothing whatever to do. We might have preferential voting applied to every electorate for the House of Representative’s, and there might not be a single candidate of the minority party returned. But proportional representation takes cognisance of the interests of any very considerable section of the. voting community. That is the difference between the two principles. I notice that some members of another place appear to entertain the insane idea that preferential voting should be applied to the Senate elections without having incorporated with it the .principle of proportional representation. Although I favour the adoption of preferential voting for single-member constituencies for the other Chamber, I am in favour of the application of that principle in the case of Senate elections only when it is incorporated with proportional representation. I would no more dream of applying the preferential voting system alone to the Senate elections than I would of flying. It is the simplest thing in the world to demonstrate that a substantial minority could _ secure the return of a majority of representatives in the Senate if we did not have..allied with the preferential principle the system of proportional representation. Say, for example, that the Red party can poll a vote for a Senate election of 750,000 and that the Blue party can poll a vote of 500,000. In such circumstances the Blue party” is in a minority of 250,000. But if amongst the Red party’s nominees there be one candidate, of outstanding ability who secures a larger proportion of the 750,000 votes than his colleagues, two seats may easily be filled by candidates of the minority party and only one seat by a candidate of the majority party. Say that Allison,- of the Red party, secures 600,000 votes, Bennett 100,000, and Carter 50,000. The minority party, would, of course, have its votes more evenly distributed, so we will assume that Downey obtained 175,000 votes, Emmett 170,000, and Fuller 155,000. Of the majority party’s candidates -Carter would be cut out on the first count. Now let us assume that the No. 2 votes were recorded in favour of Bennett. He would have 150,000 votes, but he would still be in a minority. In other words, he would be cut out second, leaving only one seat to be filled by the nominee of the majority party and two seats to be filled by candidates of the minority party. Therefore the system of preferential voting is unscientific as applied by itself to Senate elections.
– It would be a farce without proportional representation.
– Exactly. Yet some members of this Parliament have got. into their heads the insane idea that the principle of preferential voting should be applied to our Senate elections.
I am in favour of its application to them onlywhen it is combined with the system of proportional representation.
– It only means a. separate count.
– It means, as I have shown the danger of a minority securing a majority of the seats. It is not of much use to talk to a Tasmanian’ about the transferable vote; because he has had a long experience of it, and is well versed in its working. I repeat that it was responsible for my return to the State Parliament in the first instance. It launched me on my political career, which may have been a boon or a bane to the people who returned me.
If honorable senators will bear with me for about five minutes I will say all that, I intend to say. I propose to deal briefly with the practical philosophy of electoral representation. Our system of the control of representation is based on the recognition of minority representation, although we do not make any provision for it.For instance, the Leader of the Opposition is provided with a secretary, and in some State Parliaments a financial allowance is made to him. In other words, it is recognised that it is absolutely necessary for minorities to be represented. Now, if a minority is to be represented, how should it be represented? Logically it should be represented in proportion to its numbers. That is the whole basic principle, of proportional representation. But there are people who argue that only a majority of the electors should be represented. Why, then, provide the Leader of the Opposition with a secretary? Why do some States provide him with a financial allowance?
– That does not touch this matter at all.
– It does. It is a tacit recognition throughout our parliamentary system of the need for minority representation. That being so, it is incumbent that the minority should be proportionately represented in any rational electoral system.
– The Leader of the Opposition may have polled more votes than any man in the Senate.
– The fact remains that he is the leader of a minority party.
– If he polls less votes he will still have the services of an official secretary.
– I maintain that in a parliamentary system such as ours it is tacitly recognised that minorities, if they are sectional, should be represented in proportion to their strength. With the man who says that the minority should have no. representation whatever I do not argue. I understand his position. He says that the representative rights of the minority should not be taken into consideration in any way.
– Do you think the minority should be represented in the Cabinet ?
-If it is any information to the honorable senator, I may tell him thatI was instrumental in introducing a Bill into the Tasmanian legislature providing for elective Ministries, as my colleague, Senator Earle, can testify.
– Was it a success?
– It has not been tried. With all sorts of questions springing up in the community,I feel sure that sectional interests will eventually have to be. recognised, and proportional representation provided for, with, as . the natural corollary, elective Ministries.
But sufficient for the day is the legislative provision supplied to us. I have said that the Prime Minister, probably with some of that confusion in his mind with regard to terms to which I have alluded, did in Tasmania, in an effort to eliminate what I might call the” surplusage of candidates at the election in which I was successful, make a public promise that some action would be taken in regard to the Senate to prevent the split vote, with the consequent danger of a minority securing a majority of the representation. Mr. Goodluck was the candidate who retired on the occasion mentioned. Perhaps Mr. Goodluck’s withdrawal contributed materially to my success and the success of those associated with me. 1 mention the fact that he honorably withdrew. He undoubtedly understood that the Government .presided oyer by the Prime Minister would take steps ut the earliest possible moment to make some provision to secure proportional representation in the Senate.. Of course, it may be said that the Prime Minister did not promise proportional representation, and that he meant, preferential voting. But - I believe there has been- some confusion owing to a lack of proper appreciation of the terms. What was undoubtedly promised was that some machinery would be applied to Senate elections to provide for the proper representation of the majority vote,- and “the proportional representation -of the minority vote. This has not been done, and I know that Mr. Goodluck is sore about the matter. He thinks, perhaps, that he is- the sufferer from a broken promise. I do not know that the promise has been broken. It may be redeemed later, but I say that undoubtedly it is incumbent on the National party to redeem that promise. If, after consideration, the Government do not. bring in a measure for proportional representation for the Senate, it will be my duty to set about the matter to ascertain, how many members of the National party are in favour of this course, make some arrangement with the Government, introduce a Bill before the next elections, and have a straightforward debate upon the subject.
I have no desire at this stage to make a long dissertation on proportional representation, and to attempt to secure against the desire of honorable senators the insertion in this _ measure of provision enabling proportional representation to be given effect to ; but I do assure honorable’ senators that it is incumbent upon the National party to do this before the next general elections. I do not think that there is much more to be said at this stage. I am a believer in preferential voting for single member constituencies, in order to secure an absolutely accurate expression of majority opinion. Members of the House of Representatives will then be elected on the accumulated preferences of a majority vote. I am in favour of proportional representation, * which is not included in this measure, and also in favour of the postal vote, which this Bill is designed to restore. It “ has been . suggested that certain abuses have been associated with the postal vote. I -have no doubt that, so long as human nature is what it is, somewhat imperfect, certain abuses will be disclosed in the operation of our electoral laws; but we have the postal vote in connexion with the parliamentary and municipal elections in Tasmania, and I have heard of very few abuses. I believe it is a convenience to a. large number of people, and I know that abuses in regard to its operation there have been reduced absolutely to a minimum. I make no apology for my support of the measure. I regret that proportional representation has not been, included, but I express the hope that the Ministerial assurance that it will be considered will materialize before “the next general election.
.- I suppose there are few legislative matters of. greater importance to the masses of the people than a measure of this nature, providing, as it does, for the right of certain members of the community to vote for their representation in the Legislature of the Commonwealth. Everybody ought to be deeply interested in this Bill. The two prominent features of the measure are the preferential vote for the House of Representatives and the restoration of the postal vote. With preferential voting, so far as it is designed to secure a complete representation of the will of the people, nobody can find much fault ; but it seems to me that the Government made promises to do, and not to. do, certain things. It is understood that the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that he would not remove one stone from another in the edifice of Labour, has been taken by various people in the community to mean that nothing shall be done, while our soldiers are away, to alter their privileges in regard to electoral matters. And yet, on the other hand, Mr. Goodluck, an estimable citizen of Launceston, who had nominated at the last general election, retired from the contest upon a definite promise from the Prime Minister that- the
Government would, before the next elections, introduce, a measure for proportional representation in the Senate. There can be no doubt about that promise, and, therefore, it seems to me that the Government are pledged to some extent to do certain things.
– Was that a public statement ?
– It was made in reply to a question definitely put to the Prime Minister, and itwas on that promise that Mr. Goodluck withdrew.
– There can be no doubt about the promise. It was made in a public hall, and Mr. Goodluck withdrew on that condition. Between then and now there has been a good deal of correspondence with the Federal authorities respecting that promise, and if the soldiers regard this pledge, as it is said they do, as meaning that nothing would be done to interfere with their liberties and privileges, they have some reason to complain about this measure.
– But their own organizations have adopted preferential voting.
– That makes but very little difference to those who are away. I have met a large number of returned soldiers who think they, have been deceived. They have said so over and over again. It appears that an effort is being made to rush this Bill through, but there has been any amount of time for the consideration of a measure of this kind. We could have considered a Bill of this character long ago. and it could have been in operation to-day. There appears to be some truth in the statement that it is being hurried through for the special purpose of providing for an election that is close at hand. Some honorable senators have been honest enough to admit this.
– I do not think there is any harm in doing that.
– The honorable senator has always been manly and fair, and says what he thinks. Our soldiers who are overseas feel, I believe, that some alteration is being made in our electoral laws that will lead to . confusion, as was the experience at the last election.
– That was their fault.
– it was not their fault. And I think the honorable senator knows well that they are under the impression that they are being deceived to some extent. If they take this view there is very good reason why we should allow things to remain as they are until they come back. That is one objection I have to the Bill. I have no objection at all to the principle of preference, but because of the promise made by the Prime Minister, I think we ought to withhold our hands, and for the present do nothing to interfere with the privileges of our soldiers overseas. I can see that this Bill will lead to confusion. When at the next election an elector goes into a polling booth he will be given two ballot-papers - one for the Senate and one for the House of Representatives - and if this Bill passes in its present form he will be required to mark his choice on one ballot-paper by. a cross, and on the other by numerals.
– That can only occur at a general election.
– Quite so.
– And we have . an educated people.
– I make bold to say that we shall find thousands of voters in Australia marking with a . cross the ballotpaper . which should be marked with a numeral, and vice versa. That is why some honorable members in another place sought to secure a uniform method of marking the ballot-papers for both Houses. It was not, as Senator Bakhap seems to have thought, their desire that there should be a preferential vote for the Senate, because they wished that the marking of the numerals1, 2, 3 on the Senate ballot-paper should be considered equal to putting three crosses.
– In Tasmania we have the Federal system of marking with crosses and our own system of marking with numerals, and yet the people recognise the difference and vote intelligently.
– The honorable senator overlooks the fact that the electors have not to deal, on the same day, with ballot-papers requiring different marking.
– On the day of the last general election in Queensland the electors were called upon to vote upon four different methods.
– Were there four different systems of marking the ballotpapers required?
– To a certain extent.
– I think the honorable senator must be making some mistake. It is obvious that the adoption of different systems of marking ballot-papers at the same election must lead to confusion.
– In view of the possibilities of confusion how would it doto abolish elections altogether, and let things remain as they are?
– No doubt that would suit Senator Thomas and other honorable senators very well. I should be very glad to see a uniform system of voting adopted throughout Australia. It would give us a more complete representation of the views of the people. We should make the system as simple as possible, and afford the electors every possible opportunity to vote.
– Doesthe system in Tasmania give satisfaction?
– It does to some and not to others. There is a very considerable difference of opinion about it. There is in Tasmania a preferential vote for the Legislative Council, and if Senator Lynch refers to that I should say that it gives satisfaction only to the few who are able to secure privileges under it. I may inform the honorable senator that the Government responsible for that systein clearly stated that the purpose of the measure by which it was given effect was to prevent the growth of a certain political party. It did not succeed in its object. I could quote the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Tasmania as to the purpose of that measure. If the people who in Tasmania are so enamoured of the system of proportional representation believe it to be right, why do they not apply it to elections for the Legislative Council, as well as for the Legislative Assembly? Surely if it is fair for one it should be fair for the other.
– That is. the test of their sincerity.
– Exactly. In Tasmania we have only one Labour member in the Legislative Council, and there is mighty little hope of the adoption of proportional representation for that Chamber so long as those who control it can continue to hold their seats by the present preferential system of voting.
– The honorable senator should remember that there is but a very limited franchise for that Chamber.
– Even with the limited franchise, I believe that Labour could easily secure one-third of the seats”, in the Legislative Council of Tasmania if proportional representation were applied to it as well as to the Legislative Assembly.
Another prominent feature of the measure now under consideration is the provision made for the restoration of the postal vote. I remember, in 1913, reading with great interest the speeches of a number of honorable senators who strongly opposed the restoration of -postal voting. It was that proposal, in conjunction with the principle of preference to unionists, that brought about the double dissolution. I remember that at that time Senator Pearce said that it was impossible to safeguard the postal vote against corruption. He made what appears to have been a vehement speech on the subject, and referred to the proposal to restore postal voting as an effort to return to open voting. I had not the slightest doubt that those responsible in the first instance for the introduction ofthe postal vote desired honestly to protect the interests of those who cannot reach the polling booths upon election day. I remember reading statements made by Mr. Kidston, then Premier of Queensland, and by members of his Government, and various other politicians throughout Australia, testifying to the enormous corruption “that arises in connexion with the operation of the postal vote. Mr. Kidston said, in referring to the. matter, that the corruption they had seen so far in connexion with the postal vote was nothing to what it would be if the system were allowed to continue. In Victoria the postal vote was made use of . to a greater extent than in the other States. It was stated that in one little subdivision . of the division of Melbourne there were more postal votes recorded than twice the number recorded in the whole of Western Australia. In several divisions in Victoria there were more recorded than in the whole of Western Australia. In one subdivision of Melbourne there were three times as many postal votes recorded as in the whole of the State of Tasmania.
– Has not the honorable senator when travelling found it necessary on occasions to record a postal vote himself?
– No, I have never recorded a postal vote. I believe that the provision for absent voters meets the case of nearly all requiring special consideration but those who are sick. I have the most complete sympathy with any person who is genuinely unable to reach the pollling booth on election day, and if I could be satisfied that the provisions in this Bill for postal voting could be adequately safeguarded against corruption, they would have my support. But after what I have read and seen, I am really disposed to believe that Senator Pearce was right when he .said that it is absolutely impossible to safeguard the postal vote. I have had some experience of its operation my-: self. I have seen justices of the. peace engaged all day long for weeks going round the country securing postal votes. That was practical intimidation. I have known doctors to be rounded up by certain interested people, and told that they ought to see not only that their patients voted, but that they voted “right.” I remember that on the occasion of one State election in Queensland for Charters Towers, which was at the time a double constituency, two Labour candidates at the close of the poll were 1,100 in the lead, but when the postal votes .came to be counted their lead was reduced to 200. One would think that as many people would require the postal vote on one side as the other, but it seems that postal votes have been secured by rather unfair means, amounting in many cases to intimidation. I have heard of numbers of women being within -300 yards of a polling booth on election day after voting by post. I believe the Bill improves the old conditions, but what will happen if a person signs a declaration that he will not be within 10 miles of the polling booth on election day and votes by post, and then is within 500 yards of it?
– The penalty is £50, or one month.
– If he is caught.
– And how often will he be caught ? The penalty should be made more severe, so that people will not run the risk of abusing the privilege. On one occasion I was asked by the relatives of two sick persons in a hospital to get them postal-voting certificates, but I was not allowed to see them. The surgeonsuperintendent of the hospital politely refused to take the claim forms to the patients and witness their signatures. He said he would take them only if the patients asked him for them. He would not even tell them that I had brought the forms. I met one of the two on crutches on polling day, and he told me that the doctor, had never spoken to him on the subject. When he went into the polling booth the Presiding Officer refused to take his vote, and I went . upstairs and compelled ‘him to do so. If the abuses can be completely checked, I have no objection to the postal vote, but I agree with the statement of the Minister for Defence, in 1913, that it is impossible to safeguard it. There is nothing to prevent a doctor, when on his rounds, from quietly feeling the political pulse of his patients, and afterwards, when he is quite sure that they are on the right side, making sure of getting postal application forms for them.
I have- been of opinion since 1914 that provision ought to be made for the case of a candidate dying between nomination day and the day of election, but my impression is that the Bill contains no provision of the kind. It is the duty of the Legislature to provide for every possible contingency, but things that should have been included are left out of every Act of Parliament, and we learn as we go along. After our experience in 1914 we shall not be doing our duty if we pass this Bill without attempting to meet that contingency. If we neglect our duty in that direction, it is possible for the feeling of the citizens of a community to be totally misrepresented.
– It happened once, and may not happen again for a thousand years.
– That is no reason why we should neglect our duty by failing to make provision for a possible contingency however remote. On the occasion I speak of, in 1914, J totalled up the votes cast in South Australia, taking five candidates on each side. The average lead of the five on the Labour side over those on the other side was a little over 22,000. In those circumstances, would it have been right if not one of t1 e La.” mr candidates had been returned? Yet that was possible but for one of the finest pieces of organization I have ever seen in Australia. We shall be re- -ant to our duty if we do not make provision for a case of that kind, which may happen again, and possibly soon.
The Electoral Act has provided since 1902 for a permissible margin of one-fifth above or below the quota for a division. Now, if the number of electors in one division is one-fifth above the quota and that in another one-fifth below it, the one division will have 50 per .’cent, more representation than the other.’ If I live on one side of a street, my vote ought not to be worth 50 per cent, more’ than if I lived on the other. That is a provision which should be altered. Half of that margin is- sufficient. In a number of divisions the. margin is now very much more than a fifth, and the matter calls urgently for our attention.
I cordially indorse Senator Foil’s opinion that.no elector should.be compelled to vote for a person in whom he has no confidence. If I can vote conscientiously for only one of four candidates, why should I be compelled to give, a contingent vote to any of the others? If I cast my vote in accordance with my convictions, it should not be regarded as invalid just because I have not given a contingent vote to any other candidate. I do not think a provision to allow an elector to vote for as few candidates as he thinks fit would be availed of to any great extent, but it would meet the case of persons who had conscientious objections to voting for certain candidates. Most electors will still exercise their full choice, or mark their ballotpapers for three candidates, if not for the full number. That is another part of the Bill we ought to alter. I have known citizens to refuse to go to the poll because no candidates were nominated in whom they had confidence. I have known others to make their ballot-papers invalid on purpose. It is not a very sensiblething to do, but there are people who do that kind of thing because of conscientious objections.
Senator Bakhap dealt with the question of uniform rolls, boundaries, and systems of voting. If uniformity is. good in Tasmania, it should be adopted in every State where we can get the local Legislature to come into line with the Commonwealth, lt would lessen the expense of elections and make, the compilation of the rolls much easier. On the whole, we should get a much more complete roll. I have nothing to complain of about the Bill in that regard, because the provision is there, and can be brought into force as the various States see fit to make use of it.
I wish now to say a word or two in regard to proportional representation. Earlier in the day I remarked, by way of interjection, that at the last State elections in Tasmania the political party whose candidates obtained the higher number of votes secured the lesser number of representatives. Thereupon Senator Keating replied that my statement was not correct. I immediately left the Chamber, and in the Parliamentary Library obtained the official record of Tasmania,- in which the figures in question are clearly set out. Incidentally I may mention that Senator Pratten obtained similar figures from another source. These figures show that for the Division of Bass the Labour candidates polled 8,383 votes, and the Liberal 7,134 votes; in Darwin, Labour polled 6,842 votes, and Liberal 5,222*; in Denison, Labour polled 8,434 votes, and Liberal 8,565; in Franklin, Labour polled 7,397 votes, and Liberal 7,938; and in Wilmot, Labour polled 5,066 votes, and Liberal 7,080- In other words, there were 36,122 votes cast for Labour candidates as against 35,939 votes recorded for Liberal candidates. Clearly there was a majority of votes registered in favour of Labour, notwithstanding Senator Keating’s assertion that my statement was wrong.
– Take the total number of votes- cast in each division, and see how the figures stand.
– I have “given the total votes cast in each division. I have no desire to unduly occupy the time of honorable senators in making comparisons-
– If the honorable senator, will quote the figures regarding the votes recorded in each division he will find’ that they do not support, his case.
– I have already given the totals.
– Give us the number of candidates as well.
– I propose to do. that now. On the Labour side there were the following candidates: - Messrs. Howroyd, Becker, Guy, Belton, Ogden, Watkins, Woods, Cleary, Sheridan, Earle, Shoo.bridge, Dicker, Lyons, and O’Keefe. On the other side there were Messrs, Marshall, Hayes, Sadler, Hobbs, Payne, Lewis, Fullerton, Burgess, ‘ Hean, Evans, Burbury,- Lee, Hays, Mulcahy, and Blythe.
– Why not give the votes cast for each candidate in each division? The figures would knock the honorable senator’s case sky high.
– Senator Guy must remember that there was an independent candidate in the person of Mr. Whitsitt.
– My point is that there were more votes -cast in favour of Labour candidates, than were recorded in favour of Liberal candidates, and yet more Liberal representatives were elected.
We have heard a good deal during this discussion about proportional representation. Now, there are quite a number of systems of proportional representation. If honorable senators will read up the works upon” that subject, they will find that there are a score or two systems of proportional representation operating .in’ various parts of the world. Of course, it is claimed that the system adopted in
Tasmania is the most effective and most scientific system in that it eliminates all element of chance.
– It does not.
– There is, I admit, a certain amount of room for improvement within an electoral division, and I think that that improvement is to be found in a uniform quota. If we had a uniform quota we could not get fifteen candidates with a minority of votes elected on one side, and fourteen candidates on the other with a majority vote A uniform quota would utilize the surplus votes recorded in any one division to help the candidates in another division. It seems to me that it is quite hopeless to attempt to elect, say, three representatives on a system of proportional representation like the Hare-Clark system. With a majority of one or two, one party would obtain twice the representation of the other side. Instead of regarding that result as ‘ proportional representation, I view it as very disproportional representation. Now there is in America a system in operation which is known as the limited vote system. Under that simple system, we could secure, without any trouble or confusion, the same end that proportional representation is intended to achieve in the case where only three are elected. Every voter would have votes to the extent of two-thirds of the number of candidates to be elected. In other words. if there were three candidates at an election, every elector would have two votes. Bv that * means the same end would be secured as will be obtained under the cumbersome system of proportional voting. If we can- obtain fair representation in this chamber, or in any other Legislature, by reasonable means, I have no very serious objection to it.
This “afternoon, Senator Pratten quoted the percentages relating to the Tasmanian elections from 1909,’ when the system of proportional-representation was used for the first time throughout that State, until 1916. But he omitted the figures in regard to the elections during the last mentioned year. I think it was an’ oversight on his part. He appeared to have lost the slip of paper from which he’ intended to quote. But had he cited the figures relating to 1916, he would have discovered that, on the occasion in question, the highest number of votes secured the lowest number of representatives. In reading authorities on proportional representation, I find that a good many of them conclude that that system cannot be given a fair trial where there are less than ten or- twelve candidates to be elected. To elect three candidates under the Hare-Clark system would introduce a strong probability of a very disproportional representation being obtained. 1 have heard Senator Bakhap before to-day voice the sentiments to which he has given utterance this evening. He has argued that the natural corollary to proportional representation is non-party government and elective Ministries. The Hare-Clark system, or the real proportional system, makes provision for the representation of every section which can secure the support of a quota of the electors. lt has always appeared to- me to be an anomaly that while we may provide for the representation of every section of the community, immediately our representatives get into Parliament, they are absorbed either by one party or the other. Another difficulty is to be found in the fact that, in very populous centres, grave doubt exists as to. how we ought to deal with the large number of votes cast. In the Division of Denison, in 1912, there were 140 counts before finality was reached. If, with some 15,000 or 17,000 votes, 140 counts were required in the case of a few candidates, how many thousand counts would be necessary to deal with, say, 700,000 votes in New South Wales? I recollect, on one occasion, asking the Returning Officer for a division whether he thought that if that system were applied to some of the big centres of Great Britain, the result of the election would be known before the next election came round. His reply was that he did not know whether it would. That’ is one of the difficulties of proportional representation. If I had -time, I might touch upon the difficulty of dealing with the transferred votes from the surplus downwards.. That is where the trouble comes in. Transferring the votes of candidates at the bottom of the poll to other candidates is all right, but when we have to deal with a surplus, every vote has to be counted in order to obtain its fractional value for transfer purposes. Then, after this surplus has been transferred to a candidate, he may, a little later, be eliminated from the contest, and then further counts followed to discover to whom these transferred votes ate to be given. That makes the result very complicated indeed. But for that, I should have less objection to the adoption of the system in the case of Senate elections. It is clear, however, that we cannot obtain a fair test of proportional representation when only three candidates have to be elected.
We must also recollect that the Prime Minister has promised our soldiers who are absent overseas, that, . during their absence, he will not disturb existing legislation. I think that we ought to honour his pledges. . It will not be long before our men return. By the time the next general elections fall due we shall have had ample time to bring in a provision of -this kind.
– I do not think that there will be any breach of the promise referred to by Senator Guy if we pass this Bill, because we do not propose to take away any of the soldiers’ privileges. We only intend to ask them to exercise the franchise in a different way. There are one or two matters to which I desire to draw the attention of the Minister. Part XII. deals with voting by post, and in clause 85 it is ‘proposed to reduce the permitted distance from a polling-place from 15 miles to 10. Clause 113, under which hitherto sailors have voted, is proposed to be struck out, and I fear that- the effect will be to disfranchise the whole of the seamen employed in our coastal trade. I hope this will be rectified in Committee. I intend to support the principle of preferential voting, but I am glad that proportional representation finds no place in the Bill, as that principle will have my strongest opposition at any time. I have given as much attention to this” system as any other honorable senator, because, for a number of years I was a colleague on a board with Miss Spence, the greatest authority of her time on this system of voting. She devoted her whole life to the advocacy of this principle, and was very anxious that I should become what she termed an effective voter, so I read up everything I could find on the subject, and I was much impressed by the remark made by John Stuart Mill that the system was going to be a check upon Democracy.
– But he was like those people “ down in Judee “ - he didn’t know every tiling.
– The principle in operation would secure representation for every party that could raise a quota. Senator Guy has just said that it would be absolutely useless for a Senate election’ unless there were ten or twelve candidates in the field. He is quite right. I remember some experiments that were made with this system when candidates were offering themselves for the Federal Convention. A number of votes were recorded throughout the country under the Hare-Spence system, and I obtained possession of one set of the “cards. I spent several weeks counting them, and got three different results for the tenth man. Not being sure of my ow.n counting, I handed the cards over to one of the cleverest mathematicians in South Australia, and he obtained exactly the’ same results. For the tenth man we could have chosen Sir John Downer,. John Abel McPherson, or Sir Frederick Holder.
– I should say that that would be a convenient system if a candidate could do his own counting.
– Yes, but unfortunately we would not get the chance. As I have already pointed out, under this system every party that could raise a quota could secure representation, so we might have the returned soldiers, Orangemen, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, publicans, and teetotallers all represented in this Parliament. Fancy a Parliament constituted in that way - men whose only pledge was to their own particular party being called upon to do the legislative work of the country ! Similar results have accrued in Scotland under the cumulative vote in connexion with the elections to School Boards. In Glasgow at one election-there were fifteen candidates, arid every ratepayer was entitled to fifteen” votes. He could “divide the votes any way he chose. He could give one vote to each of the fifteen candidates, or fifteen to one ; he could divide them into sevens and eights, or threes and fives, and so on. At the first election forty-five years ago the question of Bible reading in State schools was paramount, and they have not settled it yet, because the religious denominations found out how many votes they could poll in the different districts, and so they returned their respective strengths to the School Boards with the result I have mentioned.
From a perusal of the measure I think a certain number of amendments will be necessary, including one to which I have already referred, as it would be an absolute disgrace if Parliament disfranchised the seamen, who have done so much. for us in this, war. I can claim some credit in. connexion with this matter. . Before I entered politics I drafted a Bill, the first measure of its kind in the world, giving the seamen the right to vote. Unfortunately, it was rejected in the ‘South Australian Parliament, because they wanted to include commercial travellers and others who might be travelling. When I entered Parliament in 1’891, I was instrumental in securing the passage of an Absent Voters Bill, and I am satisfied that, with proper safeguards, no danger need be apprehended from the operation of the postal vote. Certain abuses were reported in Melbourne and other places some years ago ; but, so far as I can see, the principle, with proper safeguards, might properly be adopted. The people in the back country, many miles distant from a polling-booth, and women who are ill, are entitled to be able to exercise the franchise by means of the postal vote.
– Following the example of other honorable senators, I shall confine my remarks on the second reading of the Bill to one or two clauses. This is a consolidating as well as an amending Bill. ‘ I was rather surprised to hear the
Minister (Senator Russell) say that it was not an important measure, and, consequently, did not require from him a comprehensive explanatory secondreading speech, because no new principles were involved. He certainly did qualify that statement by saying that there were ho principles new to honorable senators. I point out, however, that it contains some very vital changes, including preferential voting for the House of Representatives. As one coming from a State in which both the preferential vote and the proportional system have been in operation for a number of years in connexion with State elections, I am interested in the attempt under this Bill to introduce those features intothe Commonwealth electoral law. In Tasmania, for a number of years, the State Parliament adopted what is known as the Hare-Clark system. For a little time they went back to the single electorate system, . and after giving that a trial for a few years, reverted to the HareClark system, which is known as the proportional system of representation. Those; who were members of the Senate when the first Commonwealth Electoral Bill was introduced by Senator, afterwards Mr. Justice O’Connor, will remember that an important feature of that measure was the provision it included for proportional representation in the Senate. The Bill was introduced in the Senate, and there were many long and interesting debates upon it. Among the members of the Senate at that time, there . were some who had experience of the working of the system in South Australia, where it was known as the Hare-Spence system.
– It was never in operation in South Australia.
– I was under the impression that it was in actual operation ; but I know that it was widely discussed there, and it was those interested in the system in. that State who brought it prominently before the people of Australia, because Miss Spence, who was a resident of Adelaide, was one of the authors of the system proposed for adoption in that State. The first representation of South Australia in the Senate included some of the leading politicians of that State at . the time, and as they had given careful con sideration to the proportional system, their speeches on the subject in discussing the Commonwealth Electoral Bill were specially interesting. During the consideration of the measure the system proposed was rejected by a narrow margin, and only because one or two honorable senators, whom it is not necessary to name, after declaring themselves in favour of it, changed their minds arid voted against it. It narrowly escaped inclusion in the first Commonwealth Electoral Act, and had it been adopted, I am satisfied that it would not have been repealed to this date, unless it had been found impracticable of satisfactory operation in the larger States, because of the enormous distances over which some of the ballot-boxes would have had to be carried, due to the necessity of making the final count at one centre in each State. As . one who had been elected along with Senators Keating, Clemons, Dobson, MacFarlane, and Cameron under the proportional system, after listening to the debate on the Bill in -the Senate I preferred that system to the block system, and voted for it. If I remember rightly. Senators Keating and Cameron also voted for it, but the other honorable senators from Tasmania did not like it, and voted against it. The Bill to which I refer was not continuously debated, but was taken up periodically as a stop-gap measure, and the fate of the system was trembling in the balance for. a long time until it was finally rejected. Later a proposal, was submitted to divide each State into three or six divisions for the Senate, and that also was eventually defeated, and the Bill as it finally became law contained provisions for voting for the three senators under the block system in each State at an ordinary election, and for six when there was a double dissolution.
I have always contended that ‘the proportional system of representation for the Senate if practicable, and of that I am rather in doubt, would be a fairer system for the electors, who are the people concerned, and to be studied, than is the present block system. I make this reservation, however, that there can be only one time when it would be absolutely fair to the electors to introduce the system as applying to the Senate, and that is before a first election for the Senate, or an election following upon a double dissolution. At the last general election there were three senators to be returned in each State. The political pendulum had swung towards the National party, who secured the return of the three senators in each State. Three years before that there was a double dissolution, and one party, secured very nearly the whole of the representation in the Senate under the block system - thirty-one of the thirty-six. Three yeaTS before that again one party secured the whole of the eighteen senators to be elected’. At the election previous to that, the other party secured the whole of the eighteen senators to be elected.. It would appear that the pendulum has swung from side to side during . each triennial period, and that these violent changes in our political life are likely to continue to occur every three years. That may bo. a good thing. But, seeing that at the last Federal election three senators for each State’ were returned to represent one party, when practically there were only two parties . contesting tho election, it does not seem to me that it would be strictly fair to apply the proportional system of representation to the Sena-te at the next election, when again there will be only three senators to be returned for each State. If it were possible to have a double dissolution for the Senate-
– No, no.
– The honorable senator’s references to that are as unpopular to other honorable senators as they are to myself.
– I am aware that this is not a popular proposal to submit to honorable senators, but if we were facing a double dissolution, that would be the best time at which to bring into operation this vital alteration of our .representative system. I have backed up that view in many conversations with the late leader of the Labour party, Mr. Andrew Fisher, and other members of the party. I suggested when our party was in office that we should alter the electoral law to provide that on the first oc casion of a double dissolution the proportional system of representation should be applied to the Senate. The Liberal or National party obtained the whole of the eighteen seats at the last Senate election under the existing system, and if the pendulum swings as it has done in the past the Labour party- may at the next Senate election secure the eighteen seats then vacant. ‘ Then this would be a perfect Senate, with eighteen on one side and eighteen on the other. But if the proportional system of representation for the Senate were applied to the next election, it is a mathematical certainty that, no matter how strongly the pendulum may have swung towards Labour in the interval, the National party would secure the return of one out of every three senators elected in each State. That would leave, them- still with a strong working majority in the Senate, because they would have eighteen senators who would not have gone to the country, and six of the eighteen newly elected senators, making twenty-four as against twelve representing the Labour party.- If the swing of the pendulum enabled Labour to secure twelve out of eighteen Senate seats at the .next election, it would certainly give Labour a strong majority in the House of Representatives. We should then be faced with the position that a few months after the next election there would be’ a strong majority for Labour in the House of Representatives, and a minority for Labour in the Senate. The only way out of that difficulty, if party lines continue, to he drawn. as sharp as they are now, would be to have a double dissolution.
– But suppose at the next election there was another Labour debacle f
– Horrors I The honorable senator should not mention that. That would make the position worse still. ‘ What sort of a. Senate would this be with thirty-six anti-Labour senators in it. I ask. leave to continue my speech, and if it is granted I shall not occupy very much time to-morrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181114_senate_7_86/>.