7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T.” Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Holiday in Celebration of Armistice.
– I. ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister if any further consideration has been given to the question I asked on two occasions this week about the granting of another holiday to the Commonwealth public servants, on the same conditions as obtain on Good Friday and Christmas Bay, in order to celebrate the Armistice with Germany? »
– As I promised the honorable senator I would do, I forwarded his suggestion to the various Ministers, but I have not received, nor did I anticipate receiving, a reply up to this time.
Recall of Reinforcements
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact, as stated in the press, that the last reinforcements of Australian troops to leave Australia are to be landed in New Zealand prior to their return to the Commonwealth ?
– The facts are that the two outgoing troopships- carrying reinforcements are under the orders of the Admiralty. They have informed us that they have sent orders to these ships to make for New Zealand, the nearest place to their position, and disembark the troops with a view to loading up the ships with produce. We have sent a protest to the Admiralty against the landing of our troops in New Zealand, as we are advised that there is influenza there. We have asked that if the troops have not actually landed, the order to land them should be countermanded. We have also communicated -with the New Zealand authorities, asking that, if our troops have not been landed in New Zealand, they will not permit them to be landed there- We are further asking the Admiralty that if they require the troops to be disembarked the ships should be ordered to return to Australia and disembark them here.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the press reports are correct which intimate that it is the intention of the Government to extend the provisions of the War Precautions Act?
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate informed honorable senators yesterday, in reply to a similar question, that the whole matter is under the consideration of the Government.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether, in view of the statements in the press today and on previous days as to the great scarcity of foodstuffs in Europe, any energetic action is being taken in London by our representatives there- for the purpose of placing the large surplus of foodstuffs in Australia, and particularly of wheat, at the disposal of the people of Europe?
– The question of securing adequate shipping for removing from Australia the surplus products now accumulated here is one to which the Prime Minister in England has for some time past been giving attention. I am hoping that, as a result of his efforts, some relief will shortly be made manifest.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to take into consideration the abolition of paper control?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is “Yes.”
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers supplied by the Acting Minister for the Navy ‘ are as follow : -
In connexion with the case of J. M. Scott, an internee from South Australia, with regard to whom he promised an inquiry several weeks ago-
When will the inquiry be held?
Will it be a public inquiry?
– I shall endeavour to get an answer to this question during the day.
Examination of Luggage
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
When will the practice of examining the luggage of travellers by Inter-State steamers be discontinued ?
– Orders have already been issued for the discontinuance of the practice.
Profit ox Imported Bags.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answer is-
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
At whose request was the reduction, on 10th August, 1917, of id. per foot on imported films effected?
– The answer is -
On the representations of importers, picture theatre proprietors, and their employees.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the present war position, and the likelihood of more shipping being released, does the Government intend to revise in any way their shipbuilding scheme?
– I must ask the honorable senator to repeat this question next week. I may point out that where notice is given of questions on Thursday, it is almost impossible to -obtain answers to them on Friday. I suggest, therefore, that, in the circumstances, honorable senators should, in giving notice of questions on Thursday, give their notice for the first day of sitting of the following week.
– I shall observe that rule in future.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Patrol of Wharfs
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to continue the practice of patrolling the various wharfs of the Commonwealth by men from the Defence und Navy Departments, which prevents citizens from seeing off friends making sea voyages?
– The answer supplied by the Acting Minister for the Navy is - “Yes, it is not considered wise to discontinue the precautions at present.
Debate resumed from 14th November (vide page 7821), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When granted the adjournment of the debate last night I promised on resuming to be brief. I was dealing with the remarkable position that has occurred on several occasions as a res.ult of the block system of voting for the Senate. I showed that it lends itself to one political paTty securing almost all the seats at an election. Party lines are so keenly drawn that in each State the contest is. practically between only two parties, and the organizations of each have been so perfect that there has been almost a solid block vote Obtainable for three Labour, or three anti-Labour, senators, just as the political pendulum has swung to one side or the other. There may be a difference of opinion as to whether this is good for the country, but there can be no doubt that the system at present in existence lends itself to -violent changes in public policy. Many great political writers, who have given attention to the subject have, after examination of all systems of government, declared iu favour of the party system. So far the people of Australia have favored it, but the present system of block voting for the Senate is against the party system under which it is considered essential that there should be a strong Opposition.
One advantage of the proportional system for the.Senate would be that the States and Commonwealth could have a uniform electoral law, thereby saving great trouble and expense. _ Only one State out of the group has so far brought itself into line with the Commonwealth. That is Tasmania, which sends five members to the House of Representatives, and, for the purpose of its State elections, has divided the country into five groups, each returning six members to the House of Assembly, or thirty in all. There is no duplication of electoral laws, and the boundaries of the Federal electorates are the boundaries of the State electorates. That system has been working for some years. It has saved a great deal of money, and has been found very convenient. Many people think that the other States should adopt the same plan, which would certainly be advantageous to the people of Australia, because, after all, the electors for State and Commonwealth are the same people.
– The people would lose the local representation.
– That argument was put forward in Tasmania, but the system has not been found to work out in that way. The answer to that contention in our State was that it would do away with the parish-pump politician, the man whose one idea was to get £50 or £100 for a culvert, bridge, or road some where in his electorate. The history of State politics abounds in instances of the discreditable old system of log-rolling, which causes a great deal of unnecessary expenditure even in larger matters than local bridges or roads. It is common knowledge that often in State politics two or three members representing one part of the country vote for a railway in another part, although they do not believe it is necessary or justifiable at the time, in return for which they secure for their part of the country a railway which may be just as little necessary or justifiable.
– That is only in Tasmania.
– It has been much more apparent in the larger States by the very reason of their size. The honorable senator knows that his suggestion is not true. I admit that the group system would cause people to lost a certain amount of their local representation, but they would certainly lose also their parish-pump politicians, and that would be a compensating advantage. If five or six members represent an area in State politics, each of them is concerned in every little matter of interest to his electors in that area, and the electors have five or six members doing their best for them instead of one. That quite counterbalances Senator Guthrie’s argument, and the system has been found to work out in that way in Tasmania. If it were found practicable to apply the proportional system of voting to Senate elections, it would naturally follow that the States would adopt the plan I have just described, and there would be a great saving of the people’s money in both State and Federal elections in consequence.
– This Bill provides for co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth.
– But the system of co-operation is not set out in the Bill.
– Yes, the Bill gives power to make the State electorates fit in with the Federal.
– The Bill leaves the States free to come in. The States have always had that option ; but I believe the measure holds out stronger induce- ments to them than has previously been the case.
If, before the next election, this Parliament passes an amendment of the electoral law to apply proportional representation to the Senate, we shall be up against a number of difficulties; but all the difficulties should be faced now. I have not yet been able to satisfy myself that it will be practicable for the results of senatorial elections to be made known under that system within a reasonable time; but, after all, that- is a matter on which it is the duty of the Federal electoral officers, who have all the means of obtaining information at their hand, to satisfy whatever Government is in power when the alteration is made. I do not ‘know that it is possible for the system to be worked in any other way than by having the total votes cast in each State for the Senate counted at a central polling booth or the Central ‘Office in that State. If that is the only possible way to finalize the result of a Senate election, several weeks must elapse after the polling before even the ballot-boxes from the remoter parts of such large States as Queensland, New South “Wales, and Western Australia can be received at a central booth. After a close study of all the difficulties that are likely to surround the new .system, I have come to the conclusion that that is the greatest and probably the only real one. But if I can be satisfied by the electoral officers, after they have made the fullest investigation into all the circumstances, that they can evolve a scheme which will not make it necessary for too long a time to elapse between the day of election and the announcement of the result, I shall be in favour of the proportional system of voting for the Senate, because I believe that, within a few years, it “would result in the two sides of this Chamber being always very nearly equal in numbers. This Senate can render more valuable service to the country, and work better in unison with another branch of the Legislature, either as a corrective to it or in any other way, and will, so long as we retain the two-party system, be a better political institution generally for the electors, as a whole, if the parties in it are evenly or nearly evenly divided on big matters, than it has been on many occasions during its history.
– Oan the proportional system be equitably worked where only three senators are to be returned ?
– Yes, it can be worked more equitably than the present block system, under which one party or other returns “the whole three at ordinary elections, or the whole six after a double dissolution. At the last general ‘election following a double dissolution, one party secured all six seats in three of the States, four out of six in Tasmania, four out of six in New South Wales, and five out of six in South Australia, and would have gained the whole six in that State but for the lamentable death of the late Senator McGregor. .No honorable senator will say that that is .a good system, -because if the Senate is to become eventually a House of thirty-six members, all pledged to one opinion on the big matters before the ‘Country, .there will be no necessity for its existence.
– It requires -at least five to be returned to give the -system -a, fair show.
– Possibly five would be better than three in -an -ordinary election, but that would mean each State returning ten senators. Taking things as they are, if in the year after next we have a general election, as we probably will have, with three senators to be returned for each State, and with party divisions as keenly drawn as they are today, the party in the ascendant for the time being will, in all human probability, return three senators in each State. It is a mathematical certainty that, under the proportional system, that party would return only two in each State, and the other party would return one. Senator O’Loghlin will admit that that would be far better -than the result under the block system, although I admit that it would not be mathematically perfect.
– With the swing-over that would come at the following election, two would be returned in -each State on the opposite “side, and so we should have an equally balanced Senate. How could you work that?
– If the swing at the next election is towards our side, as I believe it will be, this will become a perfect Senate, because there will be eighteen senators on each side. With a Senate consisting of two parties of eighteen each, the following election would be a good time to institute proportional representation.
– It would mean an evenly-divided Senate.
– I see no objection to an equally-divided Senate. On the contrary, I think it would lead to better government of the country.
– Under the twoparty system?
– Yes, even with the present two-party system, because, while the Senate might be equally divided on the big questions, there would not be the same equal division of thought in regard to the smaller questions.
– But the Senate is not intended for the handling of small questions.
– That does not affect the strength of my argument.
– I think it absolutely destroys it,
– That is not the opinion of those who have made a more thorough investigation of the system than the honorable senator, who, of course, is entitled to his opinion, just as I am to mine.
The proposal to have two different systems for the marking of ballot-papers is a very serious blot on the Bill. Even under the present system there is an undue proportion of informal votes cast at every election, attributable, perhaps, to the fact that the older people in our community, not having had the same educational advantages as their children, are, to some extent, illiterate, and so make mistakes, which have the effect of rendering their ballot-papers informal.
– I think that more informal votes are cast amongst Nationalists than amongst supporters of the Labour party.
– My own experience, as a scrutineer, leads me to the belief that the honorable senator is abso lutely wrong. I know that large numbers of Labour supporters mark their ballotpapers in such a way as to destroy their value. “While I- believe in the system of majority rule, especially as applied to elections for single-member constituencies in the House of Representatives, I do not think it would be wise to change the present method, as proposed in the Bill, until some other system of marking ballotpapers for Senate elections has been devised by the Electoral Officers, so as to prevent any elector being confused on tha day of election by having placed in hia hands two ballot-papers, one for the House of Representatives and another for the Senate, each of which has to be marked differently. In the case of the Senate, for which, perhaps, there will be ten or a dozen candidates at a general election, .the elector will find at the foot of the ballot-paper an instruction in small print to the effect that he must mark the paper with a cross opposite the names of three candidates. At the same time, he will receive a ballot-paper for the House of Representatives, different in colour from the ballot-paper for the Senate, and at the foot there will be an instruction in small print to the effect that the paper must be marked with the order of preference, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. This, I believe, will lead to hopeless confusion, and I trust that some uniform method will be devised for the marking of both ballotpapers.
– Why not mark the Senate ballot-papers 1, 2, and 3, and regard each figure as being equal to 1?
– That would lead to further complications.
– As soon as this question of preferential voting has been decided, the Government intend to_ give consideration to the- adoption of a uniform system of marking ballot-papers.
– How do you propose to make this uniform unless you have the same system?
– I am referring to the question of the use of a cross or figures.
– I understand that certain amendments have been drafted, but I have not yet seen them, as, up till yesterday, no printed amendments were on my file.
– They should have been.
– I am not blaming anybody.
Owing to the hurried nature of the business, it has been almost impossible for any honorable senator to make himself fully acquainted with the purport of suggested amendments. I understand, however, that it is intended to make some alteration in the system applying to the voting of soldiers and sailors abroad. Is it possible to enable those Corangamite electors who may be overseas to vote at the forthcoming election?
– Electors have never had this opportunity at by-elections.
– I do not see why they should not. The Minister has not made it clear that it would be impossible to give these men the vote at this byelection.
– They could not be reached in time.
– That is all the more reason why the proposed alteration in the system of voting should not apply to the forthcoming by-election for Corangamite. These men were promised that there would be no alteration in any laws affecting them while they were absent, and I say that this is an important departure, because it affects the method of voting for parliamentary candidates.
– But it will make no difference to the men who are away.
– Of course it will; and I give notice that in Committee I shall endeavour to introduce an amendment enabling them to vote at the byelection. I do not anticipate, of course, the the Minister intends to complete the consideration of the Hill at this sitting, as I think we are entitled to a few days for the study of it, containing, as it does, over 200 clauses.
– I cannot say more than that I am an optimist.
– Does that mean that the Minister is optimistic enough to think the Bill will go through at this sitting?
– I am alwaYs hopeful.
– If that is what the . Minister’s optimism means, then I am an obstructionist. But I do not think the Minister really means to try and get the Bill through at this sitting, because it would not he fair to pass a measure of this nature until honorable senators have had ample opportunity for its consideration. If it is possible, we should insert some provision to enable our soldiers and sailors, who belong to the Division of Corangamite, to vote at the approaching by-election, for if electors who are at present living in that division deserve a vote, the soldiers and sailors of it are doubly entitled to this privilege. I am not at all satisfied that it would be impossible to give them this privilege. We could pass an amending clause in a few minutes to postpone the election, so as to get the necessary machinery into operation to enable these men to excercise the franchise.
Like other honorable senators who have spoken from this side of the chamber, I did not like the way in which the Government proposed to rush this Bill through the Senate. However, I hope that wiser counsels will prevail, and that we shall now be afforded a. reasonable opportunity of considering its provisions. I hope, too, that weshall not again see the “ gag “ applied in this Senate. I cannot support the Bill, and if a division he called for, I shall vote against it, because I do not think that the present is the proper time to bring it forward. Upon their own admission, the Government are not yet ready to adopt a uniform method of voting which shall be . applicable to both branches of the Legislature. In my opinion, it is not right to seek to amend in vital particulars our existing electoral system merely to meet the exigencies of a by-election.
Senator MCDOUGALL (New South Wales) [11.471. - In view of the long and wearying sitting to which senators have been subjected, I had almost decided not to avail myself of the opportunity to speak upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill. I cannot forget that officers of the Senate have undergone an extremely trying ordeal. Honorable senators themselves appear fresh enough, but when I look around 1 see Hansard reporters who are evidently tired as the result of their arduous labours, but who are yet ready to respond with alacrity to any demands which may be made upon their physical and mental energies. Even at this stage, however, I should like to enter my protest against the suspension of the Standing Orders to facilitate the passing of this Bill. I have never yet voted for the suspension of the Standing Orders, and I never shall do so. It is the duty of the Government to so arrange matters that ample time shall be allowed for- the consideration of all legislative proposals without the suspension of the Standing Orders.
Before I resume- my seat, I intend to move to amend the motion for the second reading of this Bill by omitting all the words after “ That,” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the- words “no alteration shall be made in the electoral laws of the Commonwealth until such time as all Australian soldiers, sailors, and workers have returned to Australia.” Reference has been made to the “ pathetic pleading” that has been indulged in by honorable senators upon this side of the chamber on behalf of our soldiers and sailors. Personally, I cannot be accused of having made any pathetic appeals for them. Nobody can urge that I have not always demanded that these men shall be accorded the full rights to which they are entitled. Their services to Australia merit consideration in every walk of life, and the dependants of those whose bones are to-day rotting on the ‘battlefields should be extended the most generoustreatment. We have no right to alter our electoral system whilst these men are absent from the country. In the trade union to which I belong, thirty-five members who voluntered for service overseas have made the supreme sacrifice, and no less than 200 others have been crippled. A solemn promise was given to the men of our fighting Forces abroad that no vital alteration would be made in the existing law during their absence, and
Senator McDougall. it is our bounden duty to respect that pledge. But we know, as a matter of fact, that their social conditions have been altered. The conditions relating to their families have been altered, and the Government have stood quietly by and acquiesced in that alteration. The economic conditions of the working classes, whose members form the majority of our Forces overseas, have been altered as the result of the insatiable greed on the part of men in this country whose only thought is to make as much as possible out of the war. It is true that wages have been in-creased during recent years, but they have not been increased sufficiently to enable the workers to cope with Hie enhanced cost of the necessaries of life. Upon that ground 1 shall oppose the Bill.
It has been stated that no honorable senator upon this side of the chamber has exhibited any opposition to the measure. Let ‘me say at once that I am absolutely opposed to it. I am opposed to preferential voting and to any alteration in our system of representation in this Senate. fU’ course, I may be styled a crusty old Conservative who can see nothing good in anything that is new. But this preferential voting system is not new at ?11. Ever since I have been in political life there has been a band of men who are crazy upon different systems of voting and different systems of representation. Their whole aim has been to enter political life themselves. But. having been denied selection by a political party, they have found everything wrong with the preelection ballot. Some of them have attached, themselves to political parties, and one or two amongst them have eventually entered the political arena. But the remainder have grown grey whilst vainly waiting to get there. I believe in the old system of voting - in putting the blue pencil through the name of the candidate for whom one does not wish to vote. That is what I call coming from the heart - out with him. But we- have been denied the right of stabbing candidates with the blue pencil. I say that people do not understand the crisscross system of voting at present in vogue, whereas everybody understands the system of striking out the names of the candidates for whom one does not wish to vote.
The preferential voting system will not insure majority rule at all. There is only one way in which majority representation can he secured, and that is by the exhaustive ballot system. I admit that it is a clumsy system, but, after all, it is the most effective. In my own State, when an alteration was being made in the State electoral law, it was recognised that an intelligent vote could not be obtained under the preferential system of voting. As a. matter of fact, I could not cast an intelligent vote under it. I remember one election at which there were seventeen candidates, only two of whom required to be elected. I voted for two of the candidates, and, as I did not know anything about the others, I recorded my preference votes in the order in which the names of the candidates appeared in the ballot-paper.
The provision under our electoral law requiring a candidate to lodge a preliminary deposit of £25 is, in my opinion, absurd, undemocratic, and cruel. Frequently it has the effect of preventing candidates coming forward, who, from the stand-point of ability, are head and shoulders above those who are elected. I know of one bright young man in the Old Country who, on the first occasion that he contested an election, obtained only four votes. On the second occasion he received 400 votes, on the third 4,000 votes, and finally he became Prime Minister of England. Why should men of that type be prohibited from offering their services to the electors by reason of their inability to find the deposit of which I have, spoken ?
If we are going to radically alter our existing method of representation, we should endeavour by every means in our power, to insure that every elector shall be in a position to cast an effective vote. In some elections that I can recall there have been no fewer than forty candidates. How would the preferential voting system operate there? Obviously, it would be an absurdity. I happen to have had experience as a returning officer for some years, and, from my own per sonal knowledge, I can say that the way in which mistakes occur in the marking of ballot-papers is truly wonderful. In connexion with the election of delegates to the Federal Convention, for which most of the States returned ten candidates each, numerous informal votes -were cast. I recollect one gentleman coming to me and saying, “ I have spoilt my ballot-paper, and I wish to be supplied with a fresh one.” He had spoilt his ballot-paper, notwithstanding that he had made only three marks upon it. I was not able to supply him with another, and he was obliged to leave the polling-booth without recording his vote.
I need scarcely remind honorable senators that some of the brightest intellects in this country are attached to the Labour movement. As a matter of fact, some of the greatest Socialists in the world to.-day are millionaires. The man who for many years was secretary of the Socialists’ organization in Germany, and who was head of the great Singer Sewing Machine Company, was a millionaire. Personally, I hope we shall get back to the old conditions, and throw owen the Labour movement as widely as possible, in order that it may benefit by the intellect of any man who may desire to enter it.
I repeat that the exhaustive ballot, clumsy though it be, is the only effective way of securing majority representation. Preferential voting will not insure it. This fact is well illustrated by what occurred in a recent election in one of the States - an election for which there was one Labour candidate a.nd six antiLabour candidates nominated. The anti-Labour parties adopted the same card upon which they marked only one figure, namely, No. 7, against the Labour candidate. They did not care how the electors voted in regard to the other candidates so long as they marked the Labour candidate No. 7. The result was that on the first count the Labour candidate secured a big majority, though it was an insufficient one to insure his return. When the second preference votes were counted he obtained none of these, and thus failed to improve his position. When the remaining preference votes were counted, it was found that he had been badly defeated. It would have been better for him to have represented a minority of intelligent voters in the first place, than a majority of voters whose only aim was to destroy the Labour candidate’s chances.
There are other provisions in this Bill which I intend to oppose. One of them relates to the postal vote. Personally, I believe in the postal vote so far as infirm electors are concerned. But the abuse of that system, particularly by men with money, induces a desire on my part to see it wiped out altogether. If, on the other hand, the exercise of the postal vote can be safeguarded in this Bill in such a way as to prevent a repetition of what occurred at a recent election in New South Wales, I shall not press, my opposition to that system. In. connexion with that, election, a Liberal organizer told me that he had 600 postal votes in before the day; and, sure enough, he had, while we had only 207. I do not infer anything specifically in that particular regard, but so long as there is money in the world there will be fraud. For coin there are men in this country who will do almost anything. If the Government will safeguard the postal-voting system in every proper direction, then I shall agree to its re-establishment, but not upon any other consideration.
Another matter which is not referred bo in the Bill, but which might well have been incorporated, is with respect to facilities for electors to vote the ticket. In some parts of the world the candidates representing the different political parties are bunched together upon the ballotpapers. Electors may put a cross against the party which they favour, or may exercise their individual choice, just as they please. If such a system were in vogue in Australia it would prevent much of the confusion which exists on election day. After the war, unfortunately, we shall have so many political parties that I am afraid that - the system of ticket voting being to distinguish by means of colours - there would not be sufficient colours available to make the necessary distinction between all the parties. There are already six branches of the returned soldiers ; there are the Labour and Liberal parties, the
S Senator mcDougall.
Farmers and Settlers party, a non-party association, and a non-political party. Probably there are still more. I would like to see all those parties receive representation;, but the trouble is that there are not enough parliamentary jobs’ in all the Australian Houses of Legislature to go round, that is, if all the political aspirants working for, and connected with, the various parties are to be returned. I do not care personally if all the parties receive representation, and if all their organizers and workers, who are ambitious for a parliamentary career, realize their desires. But, if we are to have representation of all the parties in the Senate, it will not be a matter of six senators from each State, but of something like sixteen. I think the Government might well consider the question of providing for electors to vote for the ticket or for individual candidates, just as they may choose, lt is a practice which could be easily brought about.
If this Bill is a good thing for one election, it is just as good for another. If there are certain clauses to become applicable to the Corangamite by-election, or to be employed only at the next general elections, why should not all the clauses be made applicable to all elections? I warn the Government that every time a political party has manufactured a weapon intended to advance its interests .as against those of its opponents, such weapon has returned with a boomerang effect. Perhaps, the boomerang will come back at the Corangamite by-election. Every time a political party has sought by a trick to gain additional power, that trick has gone back upon it. Why do not the Government say that they are forcing this Bill through to meet the circumstances of the Corangamite by-election ? We know that they are doing so, and good luck to them. I have no objection, but why should they not honestly admit that that is the game? Originally clause 2 of this measure was worded, “ This Act shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation.” When our unfortunate fellow-legislator representing Corangamite departed from this life, and was buried at sea, we all lamented the circumstance. But what did “ the Government do ? They altered clause 2 so that it should read to the effect that the several parts and. sections of the Act would commence on such dates as would be respectively fixed by proclamation. The Government reckon that they will get so much of the measure through as will make preferential voting available for the coming by-election. So far as the Labour party is concerned, the purity of its actions will always bear investigation. No matter what may have been the tricks employed by its opponents, it has always stood for clean dealing. The Government have said that it is not intended that the postal voting system, as re-established in the Bill, shall come at once into operation. Why not? I understand that there are over 500 shearers away from their homes in Corangamite.
– That is the reason why.
– At a small estimate there are 500 shearers alone, besides other nomadic workers, absent from their homes in the Corangamite district; and if they are not to be given the facilities of postal voting they will be debarred from exercising their franchise. If postal voting is good for the next general elections it is good for the coming by-election. If one section of the Act is to be applied to the Corangamite contest, and another section is not to be applied, the Government are bound to create in the minds of the public the impression that the Act is being used merely because the Government fear the loss of another seat which is included in their big majority.
I note that the Bill still retains a clause requiring a deposit of £25 to be paid by every person desiring to contest a seat. This is an undemocratic principle, and should be eliminated. No doubt, with the wiping out of the £25 deposit, .there would be a multiplicity of candidates. And quite right, too! For example, any man who has fought for his country should have the right to aspire to become a parliamentary representative of his country; but if the £25 deposit is to remain there will be more than one good man debarred. Every time, it is the man who can work the oracle who succeeds. That is the kind of man who gets the benefit of the £25 deposit provision. Why should we give the wirepullers in the various organizations an advantage and debar other bond fide individuals who cannot find the requisite £25 ?
The Bill provides for compulsory enrolment, but not for compulsory voting. If the one principle is to stand why should not the other be enforced? There are compulsory provisions working well to-day in some of the Australian States. If compulsory clauses were inserted in the Bill much of the fraud that goes on today would be wiped out, so far as moneyed men are concerned. Money can hire every available motor car in a district on election day, and Labour candidates who are not backed by the power of money can go begging for vehicles. If voting were made compulsory the man without the asset of money could laugh at the wealthy party or candidate, so far as that particular advantage was concerned. Why, in a country like Australia, should a man with money “ roll the log “ over the poor man? Let us establish compulsory voting, and wipe out such an unfair and often fraudulent advantage.
If pre-selection of candidates is done away with as the outcome of preferential voting, why should not the £25 deposit bc wiped out? But that system of voting will not mean the end of pre-selection of candidates. It will still go on - with all the many parties in existence. It will not be a matter of pre-selection with respect to Liberal candidates and Labour candidates, but it will apply in future to all the different parties and associationsthat are now aiming for representation in Parliament.
There is one other little matter which I shall endeavour .to remedy in Committee. . Since the war, especially, I have endeavoured to secure amendments to more than one important measure in the Senate. For example, there was the Repatriation Bill. I moved for the insertion of eight new clauses, and was ignominiously defeated. Even the soldiers in this Senate voted against them.
– Not all of them.
– The honorable senator voted against every one- of them. The Government would not agree to their inclusion ; but seven out of the eight of those same provisions have since been put into- practice either by regulation- or in amending Bills, although they have been clothed . in different language from that in which I originally presented them. So,, even, if the proposals of honorable senators on’ this side are generally flouted the fact remains that they axe often of such a character that the Government see fit to incorporate them in our Statutes sooner or later.
I understand from the Minister (Senator Russell) that there will be plenty of time next- week from Tuesday until Friday to consider the Bill in Committee, and, if necessary, there might be no objection to sitting a couple of nights next week for the purpose. I know that the Government intend to get the Bill through, and that they will do so. Of what use, then, is it for us to bother about it? If such a measure is good for one election it is good for another, and it might as well be passed in time for the coming by-election., and give them a run for it. I move -
That all the words after “ That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu- thereof the words, “no alteration’ be made in the Electoral La-w of the Commonwealth until such time as all the Australian soldiers, sailors, and workers have returned to Australia.”
– My remarks on the Bill will be very brief, but I shall have very great pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by Senator McDougall. It is strange that a Government, composed of elements that only recently were very much in conflict, and including some of the greatest Conservatives in the political life of the country, should press for the immediate passage of this Bill and give no opportunity to the men at the Front, who have done so much for Australia, to record their votes. The Government have a huge majority in both Houses of the Federal Parliament, and so one seat more or less on either side would not make any difference to the legislation likely to be passed by this Parliament. But it is probable that the moral effect of the result of a by-election may influence the result of future- elections. It is in consequence of this that the Government are desirous of the immediate passage- of this Bill, in the hope that what occurred in “Western Australia recently will not be repeated in Victoria at the Corangamite election.
Political organization in this country has resulted’ in the creation of two pronounced1 political parties, who have succeeded in bringing under one banner or the other practically the whole of the electors of Australia. We find1 that outside Parliament Labour is going along pretty much on the same lines as previously in the matter of. organization. But the Nationalist Government are so discredited that quite a number of their supporters have broken away from them, and are forming organizations of their own. This gives the National party very great concern. We have farmers’ organizations being established, and they are being told by press organs supporting the National party that they are wrong to expect direct representation in Parliament. They were all right while they were content to bark at the heels of the National party and the farmer was pre- pared to give his- vote and the use of his carts and horses, to that party at election time.
– The farmer was then the backbone of the country.
– Yes, he was then told that he was the backbone of the country. But as ‘ soon as the farmers, finding that the National party are not legislating on lines to suit them, begin to form organizations and run their own candidates, they are told that they are practically traitors to the country. As soon as the farmer aspires to some voice in the affairs of the country and the direct representation of his interests, the National party tell him that they have no time for him at all. -The Labour party have selected a man to contest the Corangamite election, and a very good man, too, who can win the seat easily whatever system of voting is in operation. We have returned soldiers organizing and looking for representation of their interests in Parliament. Most of the men who have done the fighting for this country belong to Labour organizations. There are over 30,000, or a Division and a half of members of the Australian Workers Union fighting for Australia at the Front. They were politically in the ranks of Labour before they went to the Front, and when they return they will have to continue in the ranks of Labour..
– They will have to do so ?
– Yes ; for the reason that the economic situation which drove them into the ranks of Labour before they went away will do the same after they return. If. the returned Australian soldier is going to be treated differently from the returned soldier of any other country, it will be only by the progressive party in this country, and that is the- Labour party.
– No; it will be by his own organizations.
– He will be treated in that way, not because he is a soldier, but because the Labour party in this country, as in every other country, stands for helping the under-dog all the time. The returned soldier will be helped by the Labour party, not because he is a soldier, but because he is a man, and his politics will be our politics in the future as they have been in the past. The other political elements of this country will have no more compunction in exploiting the crippled returned soldier than they had in exploiting him as a healthy man before he became a soldier. It is because of this I say that the returned; soldier will have to return to the ranks of Labour to which he belonged before he left Australia.
– So far as politicians are concerned, the party on this side have sent more members of the Federal Parliament to the Front than have the party opposite.
– The honorable senator should be careful in making such statements in view cf what the members of the Ministry have done.
– The party on this side have sent two Western Australian representatives out of eleven.
– So far as I am personally concerned, I wish the membersof the party opposite who have gone to the Front very good luck. I should like to see them all back safe and well, even if they are my political opponents.
We know that the preferential system of voting proposed in this Bill will be carried because of the majority commanded by the Government. I do not fear any adverse result to Labour from its operation. I believe that the system may give fairly satisfactory results, because the people of Australia are wise enough to organize for political purposes, and the people who take enough interest in the political affairs of the country to organize are the people who will win, under any system of voting. No doubt small factions- and faddists will, under the preferential system, run candidates of their own, but I do not think they will get any more representation under it in this Parliament than they have obtained before. I do not object to the preferential vote. It seems to me that, scientifically, there is no argument against it, but there is something to be said against the Government bringing along the proposal at this stage when so many of the electors of the country are absent and have no opportunity to exert their influence in- assisting or opposing legislation of this character. The ordinary general election being so far off, and the end of the war well in sight, as we hope, the Government might, at least, have waited until most of our soldiers returned before passing this legislation.
– That is an argument that there should be no election at all until all the men return.
– I do not think that it is. In my opinion, Senator McDougall raised a very important point when he mentioned that a number of the electors of Corangamite will be absent from the constituency when the by-election there takes place. I suppose that the same thing applies at the present time to every, other electoral division in- Australia. The Government tell us that they will not give these men a vote because there is no time to enable them to do so, but that would not apply to a general election. In the case of a State election in Victoria, the soldiers are not given an opportunity to vote, and this shows that the elements behind the agitation for this reform in the matter of elections are not genuine.. I know that some of the daily organs of Melbourne that are now agitating for the passage of this legislation are not sincere about it. Some of the elements of the political life of the country axe not sincere in the matter, as otherwise they would be agitating for an alteration of the electoral law in this State, where we have the preferential system of voting in operation, but where the system is so gerrymandered that the people controlling it will be able to hold on for all time, and until the second coming of the Saviour keep Labour out of power in Victoria. The only way in which they oan expect to do so is by gerrymandering the electorates, but we hear nothing from the Argus about that. There is no agitation in the columns of that newspaper that the State Parliament of Victoria should reform its electoral legislation in such a way as to give full effect to the preferential system. There is so much hypocrisy about this kind of thing that one is well advised to doubt the honesty of the expressed intention of these people on this occasion.
With regard to the general provisions of the Bill, there are one or two on which I should like to say a word. In my opinion, the advantage of the postal vote is very arguable. It is very hard, indeed, that if persons happen to be sick they should on that account be deprived of their vote3. It is doubtless very unjust that they should be deprived once in three years of the opportunity to say what the political history of their country shall be. But we have to consider what are the possibilities of abuse of the postal vote. We have had illustrations of its operation here in the past. Some of the biggest fights that have ever taken place in this Parliament have arisen in connexion with the postal vote. We know that some of those who are supports ing the restoration of postal voting under this Bill were previously the strongest opponents of anything of the kind. In my view, they were right in their oppo- sition to the postal vote, because the evidence was conclusive that there had been a great deal of trickery and political dishonesty due to its operation at elections. In two electorates in Victoria alone there were more postal votes cast than were cast in the whole of New South Wales. I am against any system of postal voting, because I believe that it cannot be safeguarded from corruption. What the people desire is that they should be able to feel that, whatever may be the result of an election, it has at least been carried out honestly and above suspicion; but under the system of postal voting that would appear to be impossible. Although the Government are” reintroducing the postal-voting system, they have not attempted to give fair effect to it. The other side have all the justices of the peace of the country with them, because they are mostly appointed by the Tory politicians, to whom they are useful. In Ballarat, where I live, you cannot find a justice of the peace who has any sympathy whatever with Labour, and that is one of the . biggest towns in Victoria.
– Are you not one yourself ?
– No, and we cannot get a Labour man appointed there. We have made various attempts, but they always fail.
– That is our experience.
– What happens during a campaign is that the Tory can always get a justice of the peace to go anywhere to witness a postal vote at any hour of the day or night. In fact, justices of the peace are appointed organizers to do that work for the other side. The Labour party cannot do that, and no person is mentioned in the Bill who will be at the disposal of Labour in the same way as these others are at the disposal of the other party. Provision should he made to include trade union secretaries among .hose authorized to witness postal votes.
– What have the Labour Governments that have been in power in almost every State been doing that they have not appointed Labour men as justices of the peace?
– I do not know what they have been doing. The Labour
Government did not have the opportunity to do much during the short time it was in power in Victoria.
– The Labour Government in Tasmania made appointments.
– The Labour Government had a very brief reign in the Federal Parliament. While it was in power it passed the most important and. effective legislation that has been passed sinceFederation, but it was so occupied with that big work that possibly smaller things were overlooked.
– I am in sympathy with what you say, but the difficulty about secretaries of trade unions is that they are generally secretaries of some of the candidates at elections.
– That can be got over by providing for the appointment of somebody nominated by the dulyconstituted organizations.
– I am willing to consider that.
– I am very glad of that promise from the Minister.
The point mentioned by Senator McDougall is important, and should be stressed - that if the postal vote is to be included in this Bill there is no reason why it should not be applied to the byelection for Corangamite. I speak feelingly, because I belong to that organization which, as I previously mentioned, has sent a Division and a half of men to the Front. Many of our members are now following their occupation of recovering the wool-clip of Australia. They are scattered all over the continent, and I am quite safe in saying that at least 500 of our men from the district of Corangamite are away. As the Government are determined to re-introduce the postal vote for the whole of Australia, I see no reason why it cannot be made effective for the by-election. It will be criminal on the part of the Government if they make it impossible for those 500 electors of Corangamite to record their votes on this occasion. That is a sufficient number to swing the result one way or the other. I am confident that the man selected by the Labour party to run for the seat will win it under fair conditions, but it is impossible for any one to win it under handicaps of that character. If the Government deliberately deprive those elec tors of their right to vote, they will deserve, and in all probability will suffer, retribution, because the other electors, although they may be political opponents of ours, do not stand for that kind of thing. I should be sorry to believe that the vast majority of people in this country, even though they differ politically from me, would descend to tactics of that kind just for the sake of winning one seat in a vast electoral system such as we have in Australia. I should be glad of a promise from the Minister on that point.
– Have you any Government declaration that the postal vote will not be in operation for that election?
– I understood that that was so.
– From whom?
– It was said in the other Chamber that it could not be given effect to in time.
-I have been told the same thing by others, and shall be glad to know that it is not so. If it is so,. I shall welcome a promise from the Minister that the point will receive further consideration.
– I have no intimation to that effect, but I am making inquiries now.
– The measure has been fairly debated, and some things that are not in it have been debated; but, unfortunately, the discussion has turned not so much on whether the Bill is just or right, as on the effect of its application at this juncture. If it is right for future elections, it cannot be wrong for the one now pending. Honorable senators opposite cannot have any ground for objecting to its introduction, because it is mainly a Bill for consideration in Committee. Only on two main points - preferential voting and the postal vote - does it vitally alter the existing law.
A good deal has been said about proportional representation, but that is not before the Senate now. If it was, I should feel it incumbent on me to state my views on it. One honorable senator said I did not know much about it, and, possibly, be can see into my mind. So far as I have made myself acquainted with the question, I think the voting part of it is all right, but the counting of the votes will be a puzzle. If an effective voting system is applied to an election for the Senate, 1 doubt whether’ the experts will agree on what senators are returned under it before the crack of doom. I was present, at the Trades Hall, Adelaide, at a conference of about 200 persons, including a number of experts on effective voting. There was a good deal of agitation at that time for the introduction of proportional representation into the platform of the party, and in order to give an object lesson- of its usefulness, and the ease and comfort with which it could be applied., it was moved and carried that the officers should be returned under that system. Four men, who had posed as experts, were appointed scrutineers, and the ballot-papers were distributed for the election of president. They were marked in the orthodox way in the order of preference of the voters, and the experts retired to count them. After spending three solid hours of the evening over them, they could not declare who had been elected president. They disagreed so completely as to the allotment, of the votes, and where the exhaust votes should go, and where the transferred votes should be put, ‘ that the whole thing was completely muddled, and one very enthusiastic supporter of effective voting said the experiment had thrown it back for five years in South Australia. If it was applied to one Senate election for the State of New South Wales it would postpone its application for all time so far as Australia is concerned.
The advocates of proportional voting argue that it will give representation to minorities. It might be as well to remind the public that the .British Parliament was created in the first place to protect the people against the demands of the monarch. A relic of those times still lingers in our standing . order which provides that before Supply is granted to His Majesty grievances may be ventilated. In olden days, before Supply was granted to the King, all the complaints of the Commons had to be satisfied. The Cabinet system has since been added, and to-day the King is the head of the Government. In parliamentary discussions it was early recognised as necessary to have the pros and .cons of important subjects voiced by
Senator Senior. different parties, and the people of England were divided into Whigs and Tories. In this Parliament one side is Labour, and those on this side are called by Labour the Conservatives. If we introduce a method of election which will overturn that system, we .shall have to find a new system of parliamentary government. Suppose that under proportional representation six different groups of people each return one senator. One man will be returned because he is a Labour, man; another because he is opposed to Labour; a third might be returned because he was a Protectionist, a fourth because he was a Prohibitionist, a fifth because he was a Single-taxer, a sixth because he was a Religionist, and so on. How would it be possible in this way to get a safe working majority on important questions? Take, for instance, the question of prohibition. What would be the position of members elected under this system?
– The Prohibitionist, of course, would be in favour of it, and perhaps the other five would be against it.
– Would Labour be for it?
– I do not know. It is not on the platform.
– Would a Singletaxer or any of the other members elected under this system be in favour of it? It would be practically impossible to get a decided majority on any big and important question, and, in effect, this principle of securing representation for minorities would destroy the principle of representation of majorities.
Sena.tor Guthrie. - And prevent progress.
-It would give to a minority power equal to that of a majority. In other words, to use a mathematical term, it would make the segment as great as the circle. Major questions would be subverted and minor problems elevated. That is how the system would work out, and, as Senator Guthrie has remarked, it would not make for progress. I am surprised that so much time has ‘been spent in debating the subject. I have given a good deal of study to the system, and at various times have been in close association with its most- expert exponents, including, the late Miss Spence, who for many years was an ardent advocate of it.
– Most South Australian men have taken a keen interest in the subject for many years.
- Senator Guthrie has referred to trial elections held in South Australia under the direction of Miss Spence, who afterwards visited London in connexion with the matter. Those trial elections returned one Labour candidate, one Conservative, one Prohibitionist, one Protectionist, one Landtaxer, and so on, making quite apparent the fact that it will be impossible to secure cohesion by the operation of this principle, because it lacks the common underlying principle that at present binds parties together, lt has been said though that it would be better than the present system; but, as a matter of fact, members elected under it would become mere wire-pullers and log-rollers. Senator O’Keefe, in the course of his remarks, demonstrated that at a Senate election under this system to fill three vacancies two candidates would probably be elected by one party, say, the Nationalists, and one by Labour. And, in connexion with this illustration, I point out to him that at the subsequent election, with the swing of the pendulum the other way, the election would result in an equal division of the parties in the Senate, and, as was the case in Tasmania for a long time, one man might be able to sway Parliament to his will.
– Any system might produce that result.
– But Senator O’Keefe admits that proportional representation will produce that result.
– I said that it is better than the block system. And, as a matter of fact, for many months under the present system one member of the House of Representatives held the Ministry in the hollow of hi3 hands.
– But I am dealing with the honorable senator’s argument as applied to Senate elections, and I am showing its weakness. According to his own -deductions, it would have the effect of making the parties in the Senate absolutely equal.
– Would that matter?
– The honorable senator claims that it would be better than the present system; but the present method has been good enough for more than 200 years for the mother of Parliaments, and this new principle, -as it is termed, has been before the Imperial Parliament, and been rejected. We must bear in mind also that it had stalwart advocates in England, including Mr. Hare and John Stuart Mill, although the latter proposed its application for the H-ou.se of Lords, not by universal suffrage, but through bureaux and different schools of training. He laid it down, for instance, that the universities and higher schools of England should have the right to elect a representative. His idea was to divide Great- Britain into political, instead of geographical, districts for electoral purposes. We. are not proposing to do that here in Australia. According to its own advocates, the adoption of the principle would result in a deadlock, but still they say it would be better than the present system.
One of the arguments against the Bill, so far as it concerns preferential voting, is that so many men are away at the present time. But that objection can hardly hold good, because it might be applied to any time. There will always be a large number of men away from Australia; and, while we regret that at present so many of our men are overseas, we should be more concerned about providing the best electoral facilities for those who are here, so that in any election that is held we may undoubtedly get the opinion of the voters. Every elector also should have a reasonable opportunity to exercise the franchise, and in my opinion no sound argument can be advanced against the reintroduction of postal voting, so long as it is properly safeguarded.
When the Bill is in Committee, I shall take advantage of the opportunity to submit what I regard as improvements to the measure. It has been urged that compulsory voting is the natural corollary to universal suffrage and compulsory enrolment. I fail to see how it is.
– Not absolutely, but that is the logical conclusion.
– It is only reasonable that people should demand universal suffrage, but they, and they only, should determine whether it should be exercised or hot.
– A country ought to be governed by those who take a sufficient interest in it to vote at election time.
– Yes; and a country is always so governed. No value is attached to the opinion of any person who does not take sufficient interest in the affairs of his day to exercise the franchise. Those who advocate compulsory voting cannot guarantee that a person will use the franchise intelligently. All they can do is” to compel an elector ;o go to the polling booth and mark a ballot-paper.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was dealing with the arguments in favour of, and against, compulsory voting. It may safely be said that any attempt to enforce compulsory voting will merely have the effect of stultifying the desire to vote. We may compel an elector to mark a ballot-paper, but we cannot compel him to mark it in,telligently if he has no desire to do so. Nothing, therefore, can be achieved by the adoption of compulsory voting. Today we recognise the very great interest which is taken in politics by the people, and the more enthusiasm that -can be worked up in the community by political organizations, the greater will be the desire of our citizens to exercise the franchise. Omitting from our calculation for the moment, those persons who cannot reach a polling booth on election day, we may reasonably assume that the electors who abstain from voting, do so because they are not interested in what is taking place. Obviously the only cure for such a state of affairs is to create amongst them a personal interest in politics.
Coming to the Bill itself, I wish first to refer to the question of postal voting. Everybody recognises the need for providing a means by which persons who cannot attend a polling-booth on election day may exercise their franchise. The postal vote offers one method by which this result may be achieved. But we need to safeguard the elector against the possibility that he may be induced, by means of undue influence, to vote in a different way from that in which he would have voted if his choice were untrammelled.
– There ought to be some provision in the Bill compelling electors to vote Labour.
– The moment my honorable friend attempted to secure that result, his opponents in politics would have precisely the same cause for complaint against the postal voting system, which he himself has repeatedly voiced. I hold that, every elector should be absolutely free to vote according to the dictates of his own conscience. The Bill provides that an elector who wishes to vote by post must, in the first place, make application for a postal ballot-paper. That application must be witnessed by certain individuals. Senator Barnes has suggested that certain other individuals should also be recognised as authorized witnesses. But I .should like him to view this matter from an opposite standpoint. When I was working side by side with him in the Labour movement, the objection which was always urged to postal voting was that the paid agents of the rival political party were usually the individuals who were responsible for unduly influencing a large number of electors.
– My complaint is that the opposing party in politics possesses all the opportunities for unduly influencing votes. The Labour party has no such opportunities.
– Ought we to provide an opportunity for doing that which we have condemned as wrong? I say that persons who are ill, or who will be more than 10 miles distant from a pollingbooth on election day, ought to be afforded an opportunity of recording their votes. Every elector has the right to vote, and if circumstances prevent him from attending a polling-booth why should he be deprived of that right?
– Bring the pollingbooth to him.
– I wish to look at this matter squarely and honestly. We cannot ‘deny an elector the right to exercise his vote. I repeat that an application by an elector for a postal ballot-paper must be witnessed by an authorized witness, under the signature of the applicant. I would like to see embodied in this Bill a clause providing that when the postal ballot-paper is returned -to thu elector, the latter shall be required to send back a receipt for it. By that means we should know that it had absolutely reached his hands. If it be necessary for a person to give a receipt for a registered letter or for a parcel which is received from a railway station, surely it ought to be necessary for him to acknowledge the receipt of a postal ballot-paper. If that were done a great many of the possibilities of fraud in connexion with postal voting would be eliminated, because we know -
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds Makes ill deeds done !
No objection can be urged against the postal voting system if it be surrounded with proper safeguards. But I know that in the past postal ballotpapers have been applied for, and have been received in bulk by a single individual. Upon one occasion that I can recall we had reason to fear that those ballot-papers were not distributed amongst the electors, although they were used at the election. I repeat that, with the safeguard which I have indicated, the danger of any abuse of postal voting would be practically eliminated.
Coming to the question of preferential voting there is one exception which I take to it. It is that in the event of their being more than two nominations for a vacancy, the elector will be compelled to mark on his ballot-paper the whole of his preferences. That means that he will be compelled to record a preference for a candidate which may be absolutely contrary to his inclination.
Suppose that there are three or four candidates for the division of Corangamite, why should Senator Barnes be obliged to record a preference for one of them, whom he does not wish to see in Parliament at all?
– That is the strong objection to the system. It ought to be an optional preference.
– I do not think that any elector should be obliged to record a preference for any candidate whom he does not desire to see in Parliament.
– Suppose that there are only two candidates for a single member constituency, what is the position under the present system?
– I am assuming that there are more than two candidates. Under this Bill the elector will . be required to vote for only two of those candidates.
– Suppose that he does not wish to vote for either one of the two?
– If he does not desire to vote for either one of the two candidates, why compel him to exercise a preference which he does not wish to exercise ?
– Suppose that two candidates are nominated for a seat under the existing system. As an elector, if I wish to avoid being disfranchised I am obliged to vote for one of those candidates, although I may not desire to see either of them returned to Parliament.
– An elector who did not desire to see either candidate elected would not record his vote at all.
– That would be disfranchising himself.
– He would be equally disfranchising himself if he recorded a preference for a man whom he did not desire to see in Parliament. The matter of voting on the principle of preference, then, is open to objection. But I do not see an immediate remedy. Parliament should not compel electors to record a vote for a candidate whom they do1 not wish to have in Parliament. The very fact that the Government provided in the Bill that, if only two candidates were nominated, an elector need record his vote in favour of only one, shows that the Government had some such thought in mind. What was in the mind of the Government was that the desire of the elector should be recorded upon the ballotpaper. Naturally, it would be contrary to an elector’s wish that he should be compelled to mark a preference for a candidate for whom he had no preference.
Among the various amendments foreshadowed, it is proposed to excise clause 113. I presume that that will be on the ground that clause 85 covers the whole position. The latter explicitly deals with voting by post, but clause 113 makes provision for the recording of votes before an Electoral Registrar, in the case of electors who will not on3 polling day be within 10 miles of any polling booth. This facility has been made use of very largely by sailors. I should be sorry to see anything done which would render our1 electoral machinery more inadequate than it is at present, so far as the recording of votes is concerned. It may be argued that postal voting will meet the case. I do not know that it will.
Honorable senators who objected that no alteration of. the present law should be made while our soldiers are still away, apparently fail to realize that if this Bill becomes law next week the soldier will not be any the worse off. The passage of this measure will not take away from a soldier any privilege that he holds today. It will not prevent him from voting, if he could have voted under the law as it at present stands.
– It gives the soldier no facilities for voting.
– It takes none away from him. But, as to that, honorable senators opposite have been urging reasons why the Bill should not be passed at all. I repeat that it takes no opportunity from the soldier which he at present possesses.
– But why not give opportunities ?
– Whenever such a vacancy as. this occurs, if a Bill were projected it would always be open to the same objections as have now been raised. The Government of the day would be charged with attempting to bludgeon the Bill through Parliament. It is all so much camouflage. The Bill is necessary, and the sooner it is passed the sooner will its provisions become law.
With respect to postal voting, I intend to hold myself free to seek to secure its safety. If I find that the system is still not safe, then I hope I shall not be charged with inconsistency if I endeavour at some later date to have it repealed.
-Colonel Bolton. - Would the honorable senator favour giving returned soldiers two votes?
– No. There are other things that can be given to them that will be more valuable than a second vote.
– The old Tories who have three votes to-day would take care not to give the soldiers a second vote.
– The poorest elector in the Commonwealth has equal power with the richest mam in the choice of hia representatives in the Federal Parliament. There can be no danger in bringing this Bill into operation. It is not panic legislation. In Committee I shall do my best to assist in rendering the measure as useful as possible.
– I welcome this measure. I do not say that it will effect any very necessary or radical reform; but from our experience of the working of the electoral law, there are some slight and certain serious defects requiring to be remedied. This measure is intended to attain that object. It was set out clearly in the Ministerial statement of policy that the present electoral law would be revised. Therefore, when the Government attempt to give effect to that pronouncement, I do not see why fault should be taken with such action.
I have heard it remarked that as an outcome of the death of some Federal member this Bill has been in*troduced by way of a hurried effort to remedy the law. Even if it is true that the- death of. an honorable member of this Parliament now warrants an amendment of the electoral law,, honorable senators may recall the death of another highly valued and revered parliamentarian - a member of the party which is- now complaining.. That death caused it to be recognised that some action should be taken in regard to this very law. I refer to- the decease of Senator McGregor: When he died it was clearly realized that an amendment of our electoral legislation was required ; that it was a situation which did not reflect credit on our intelligence that a certain party should have to concentrate it3 voting power upon the- election of a gentleman whom it did not want to see in this Parliament. That was before the war broke out. When the late Senator McGregor died, the supporters of the Labour party of the day in South Australia had no option but to vote for Senator Shannon. The party of that day- lie party to which I belonged then, and to which I belong still, So far as inviolable attachment to- its essential principles is concerned - recognised that it was entirely wrong that the electors should be called upon to vote for a man whom they did not- wish to have returned to this Parliament, merely because the law as it stood at the time wa.s defective. The law is defective in that respect still, and the proposal in this Bill to remedy that defect has my full sympathy and support. When the death of a member of one political party establishes the necessity for remedying a defect of the law, honorable senators opposite are agreed that it is right that the remedy should be applied; but when the death of a member of another political party establishes unmistakably the necessity to remedy a defect in the law, it is wrong to provide that remedy, and the opportunity, if provided, should not be taken advantage of. In the case of the Swan electorate, the death of the late Lord Forrest and the election of his successor has clearly shown the necessity for providing a remedy for a defect in our electoral law. The result of the Swan election does not reflect any credit upon the electoral law of this country. Some 19,000 votes were recorded at that election, and yet Mr.. Corboy, the successful candidate, secured only some 6,000 votes. As a result, 13,000 electors of Swan have no voice whatever in this Parliament, whilst 6,000 electors of that constituency have the whole voice for the electorate.
– How many electors are there in the Swan division?
-There are about 28,000. When the death of a member of one party points to the necessity for an amendment of the electoral law, which, I hope, will take place under this Bill, nothing is wrong- with its amendment; but when the death of a member of another party just as loudly calk attention to the glaring defect in the law, everything is wrong with an attempt to remedy that defect. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. What was sauce for the Labour party when the death of Senator McGregor pointed to the necessity for the alteration of the electoral ‘law, should be sauce for the party on this side when the death of a member of this party directs attention to the same necessity.
Unfortunately, death has recently removed a couple of members of this party. The good always die young, and the good are on this side. The trouble is that honorable senators, opposite have the stupid habit of living too long. They do not give the opportunities they might give if they left this vale of tears, and made room for better men. Men on our side are given to the habit of dying in the natural’ order. The death of one member of the party on this side showed that 13,000 electors, who went to the trouble to record their votes to replace him, have no voice, whilst 6,000 in the same electorate have been given all the voice. Senator Gardiner and the party opposite say that that is right, and could not be more right.
The policy of the preferential vote is the policy pursued on all occasions by the party opposite. Honorable senators” seeking entry into this chamber by Official Labour’s road must follow the system which the Government are endeavouring to introduce by this Bill.
They can get in here only by the preferential vote, which is embodied in the clauses of this measure.
– That is quite wrong.
– I am speaking of things that have happened. I am not indulging in speculation. If Senator Grant says that I am quite wrong, then I am compelled to say, in the words of Sydney Smith, that he is “ making an indecent exposure of his intellect.” Honorable senators opposite have found their way into this chamber only by the exercise of the preferential system of voting provided for in this Bill; but they object to a measure intended to give the advantage of the system by which they have themselves benefited to the whole of the people of Australia.
– The honorable senator’s statement is quite incorrect.
– Senator Grant had better keep quiet. He knew nothing whatever about Australia until he reached this Parliament. His only knowledge of Australia previously was confined to the kerbstones of George-street, Sydney. I understand that a member of a parliamentary party, which included Senator Grant, recently asked, “Where is Albury?” He did not know whether Albury was in South Australia or Tasmania.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong.
– If the honorable senator keeps quiet, he may learn something.
– The honorable senator is wrong when he says that New South Wales Labour members are selected by the preferential vote.
– There we are - New South Wales is, always was, and always will be Australia, in the mind of the honorable senator. This shows how necessary it is for men to take a broad view of the world, and things in the world, and learn that there are others besides themselves. Any man who wishes to make progress in this life must compare note3 with others, and learn what occurs beyond his own limited range of vision. The result of the Swan election, giving 6,000 voters all the voice, and 13,000 no voice in this Parliament, has shown the necessity for amending the law. Any party that would defend the system under which such an anomaly can occur is ripe for destruction, because, whatever its members profess, they are not seeking government of the people by a majority of the people.
Some honorable senators on this side have been charged with favouring the postal vote at one time, and with being against it at another time. I may be included amongst them, but whether I am or not, let me say that the beliefs and opinions of the Labour party are not like the immovable laws of the Medes and Persians. The members of that party are accustomed to profit by experience, and the happenings that are going on around them. I can remember when the plumping system was stoutly advocated by members of the Labour party in this Parliament, and I can also remember when the same party in the country,- as well as here, just as strongly opposed it because the conditions of the time induced them to change their opinions. Honorable senators opposite would find no fault with that. We should allow a man to change his opinion at any time, provided he has an honest motive for the change. As I have before said, there is no verity so well established as the unchangeability of change. When honorable senators opposite find fault with members of the party on this side because at one time they favoured postal voting, and at another were opposed to it, I ask them to recall the attitude adopted by the Labour party at different times on the question of plumping.
What is the attitude of the party whose members do not wish that this Bill should be passed? This Bill is introduced for. what purpose, amongst others?
– To enable the National party to win the Corangamite seat.
– Yes; and we are going to win it, too. The attitude of the party opposite on this issue is inexplicable. The Government in this measure seek to put into actual operation under the law of the land the very practice which honorable senators opposite have followed for so long, and yet they object.
They held the Corangamite seat previously, and lost it, and they have as good a chance of winning it again. They can only win it by means of the provision made in this Bill for majority rule. What then have they to object to? Have they a leg to stand on in opposing the policy which they adopt themselves, and which is the only means to secure that there shall be government of the people by a majority, and hot by a minority of the people? In Heaven’s name what do they want if they will not accept this Bill for the Corangamite election ? If they were honest enough to say that what they desire is government by a minority of the people, I could understand them. If they desire that the Swan episode shall be repeated in Corangamite, and that one-third of the electors shall rule the whole, let them say so. They will not say so. They have not the courage, manliness, or the honesty to say that what they want is minority rule. But that is what they are putting up this wordy stand for, all the same. They say that they want majority rule, and they oppose the provisions of this measure, which would secure it. If they want majority rule, what manner of men are they when, getting what they want, and the adoption of the policy responsible for their appearance in this chamber, they object to it? It puzzles the average man to understand what they want.
Now, with respect to the soldiers’ votes. They do not want this Bill; they will not touch the wicked thing, as it has been called by Senator Gardiner, and yet this Bill proposes to give votes to the soldiers, about whom they profess to be so solicitous. Why do they not accept it? Their hearts throb with desire for the soldiers’ welfare,- yet on the first chance they are given to secure votes for the soldiers of the Corangamite electorate, they reject it with contumely. These are the alleged champions of the soldiers’ interests. In this Bill there is provided what the soldiers want, and honorable senators opposite say that they will not have it, and reject it with emphasis and affected pride. Again I ask what manner of men are they? It is about time we got down to plain speech and honest work, to fair and above-board endeavour. There should be no more posturing, shuffling, and hypocrisy. Here is a Bill to give the soldiers a vote. Honorable senators opposite say their hearts are aching with deep anxiety for the soldiers’ welfare. They dream at night of their welfare. This Bill safeguards the electoral interests of the soldiers, and they say they will not have it. They will not give the soldiers the benefit of the electoral machinery of their own party. They are taking a vote within their party now, but we cannot learn very much about it. It is like the Perth Labour Conference, in its resemblance to a spiritualistic seance. I do not know .who the medium was there, but I never heard, in my long experience,- of a Conference that was so much like a spiritualistic seance.
– Order! That matter has nothing to do with the Bill.
– I was leading up to the point where the soldiers’ interests come in. According to Senator McDougall, the Opposition want no Bill brought down to deal with electoral matters until all the soldiers return. That may be fully two years from now. This Bill provides in advance for what the soldiers will want, yet Senator McDougall will not accept it. When the Official Labour party, who are so solicitous about the welfare of the soldiers, had a chance to do something on their own account for the same soldiers, they set forth a number of resolutions on recruiting, to one of which I have already referred. That party finds fault with the Bill, first, on the ground that it makes no provision for the soldiers, and, secondly, on the ground that it makes too much provision for them; but when they had a chance of helping the soldier they did not give him a vote. In their secret ballot, no one outside of the charmed circle was given a chance to say whether additional help should be sent to the soldiers in the trenches or not. When I belonged to that party it threw the gates wide open to every elector to vote on all questions of importance to the citizens. But the Official Labour party, the party who have gone so badly to seed, when they had a chance of being as good as their word gave no soldier a vote unless he bad a union ticket. Charity should begin at home, and their example should have begun at home by giving the soldiers in this country the chance of saying whether or not additional support should have been sent to the men in the trenches. So much for the blatant hypocrisy pf that party, which parades this ‘Country saying it wants the soldiers to be given proper representation. When the soldiers were rotting and dying in the trenches, what help did it give them? We shall see that the hills and valleys of Corangamite ring with the hypocrisy of this crowd, who have fallen from the high altitude they once occupied for want of icing men of their word, as we were in the early days of the Labour movement in this country.
On a previous occasion’ I opposed postal voting, and mine was one of the votes that helped to sound its deathknell. All postal voting is arguable, as Senator Barnes said, and there have been circumstances identified with the system, in this country that reflect no praise on that system, or on the agencies called into being for the purpose of giving persons who could not attend a polling booth a chance of voting ; but the postal vote “as outlined in this Bill is vastly different. So far a3 I can see, it has been shorn of all the unsavory features or possibilities that characterized the old method. Yet we are already being accused in the papers of the Official Labour party, published far and wide, of bringing in that bad old system again. What is wrong with postal voting as provided for in this Bill, with all the safeguards that the minds of those on this side can apply, added to whatever helpful assistance comes from the other side? Do not the party opposite want sick persons to vote? Do they not want all men engaged in pioneering industries to vote? As the postal vote is. to be stripped of all those surroundings which justifiably brought it into disrepute at previous elections, what objection can be raised to it now? We are bringing it in, profiting by experience. It is unfair for seamen, for instance, to be deprived of the right to vote. As one of them, I say it is a monstrous injustice to those who earn their livelihood on the sea not to permit them to vote. This attempt to restore the postal vote, with safeguards, reflects no discredit on the Government or the supporters of the measure as it stands. I welcome it in its present form, because, it is entirely, unlike the postal voting system of the past, freed as it is of all temptations to men of unworthy intentions to give effect to their partisan designs.
I am disappointed that the Senate has not come in for some consideration in this Bill. It should be placed on- precisely the same footing as the House of Representatives by the application of the system of preferential voting to its elections. We should attempt to teach the people of this country how to vote intelligently. Seeing that the Labour party introduced preferential voting into its own organizations as the wisest and most prudent method, then from their stand-point it should be good enough for the nation, and, as it is to be applied to the House of Representatives, we should apply italso to the Senate. There is no difficulty in the way. All that is required of an elector when he takes up his ballot-paper for the House pf Representatives is to bear in mind the candidate who is his first choice. ‘ If he cannot get that man into Parliament, he picks out the next best, and so on. When the same elector picks up his Senate ballot-paper, he must say to himself, “ I want to keep three men in my mind instead of one.” He then marks each of those three men with the figure “ 1.” After that, he picks the next best three, and so on. That is the only fair way to get majority rule in the election of members of the Senate as well as members of another place.
Proportional representation has been advocated, but ever since the bad old days of open voting, when the tenants had to record their votes in front of the landlord’s agent, almost as many systems of voting have been invented as there are brands of tea or whisky, and they nearly all get back in the last analysis to the same results, broadly speaking, as were given by simple majority rule. The only proper way to make the voice of the electors heard effectively is to adopt the preferential system. It is far from perfect, but any man who expects to make an Act of Parliament perfect does not know how Acts of Parliament work out. We must always take into account the imperfections of human nature itself. There are men who, voting under a preferential system, will mark 1 against the candidate who is their heart’s delight, and put no other mark . on their ballot-paper, and so make their votes informal. If an elector of that kind will not give effect to the intentions of an Act of Parliament, preferential voting, so far as he is concerned, is not worth a snap of the fingers. It is also well known (hat some electors will bracket with the man of their choice the man who has the least chance of winning. That is not preferential voting, but quite a number practise it. To my certain knowledge it has been done in Western Australia. The result of a recent State election there was a gross abuse of the preferential system, as a candidate was returned to Parliament who, as was well known, should not have been so returned. A man who had no chance was kept on the ballot-paper, and the Official Labour party gave him all their first votes. The result was that he was ‘ returned, thus getting the second votes of the Official Labour party as well, and is now in Parliament. We cannot get an ideal system of voting, and all we can do is to select the best means to deal with imperfect human nature as’ we find.it.
We can put proportional representation out of the argument. It merely gives a chance to cliques and coteries to find their way into Parliament. This Parliament is no place for them. It should be a place for men of broad outlook and sympathies, and deep, keen discernment, men who are able to put the nation’s interests above the interests of their party if need be, and to put altogether out of consideration the interests of any clique or small combination. This Parliament is not a nursery or a debating society. It is, or ought to be, a model for all debating institutions in the country, and in order to preserve its character and dignity it should see to it that the machinery it devises for the purpose of enabling citizens to get here, will result as far as possible in the return of citizens of the right stamp, fitted for their important duties, and no others. It wants men of class, of superior wisdom and broad outlook, good, sound democrats,, who are not blinded or distorted in their vision by looking through party spectacles only. I admit that in my younger days I perhaps did do so; but my constant efforts were to get the party to live up to their duties and responsibilities.
– Do not apologize for the past; you are worse now than ever.
– I am not troubled about votes. I have told the people from a hundred platforms, “ I do not want your votes, if you do not regard what I stand for as’ being superior to what the other candidates stand for.” The ticket system, as worked in the United States, cannot be, and I hope will not be, applied in this country, but certainly the ordinary simple system of preferential voting should be applied to Senate elections. If it is not,’ I fear that in the future we shall have the spectacle reproduced here of a minority party gaining control of the Chamber. No party that wishes to win the respect and esteem of the citizens, and to claim that it has the majority of the people behind it, wants that sort of thing. I welcome the Bill, and will support it, believing that it is a well-timed measure intended to remedy many of the defects in the existing law.
.- I hardly know that I should have spoken but for Senator Lynch’s impassioned address, his ridiculous references to colleagues of mine who have been in the Senate, and his almost insulting quotation from Sydney Smith, about the “ indecent exposure of his intellect,” as applied to one of my present colleagues. Senator Lynch’s speeches are rapidly degenerating into indecent assaults upon the intelligence of the Senate. As a member of the party which has had to defend itself for advocating peace by negotiation,. I should like to meet Senator Lynch and his friends to see if during our brief period in the Senate we cannot arrange a basis of peace now that peace is coming all round. I am quite prepared to do that. These violent attacks of a party nature I cannot allow to pass unquestioned. Senator Lynch made an unfortunate reference to a colleague of mine as not knowing” where Albury is. That is some silly story that he has picked up somewhere.
– I got it from one of your colleagues.
– I believe Senator Lynch will never forget Albury. Shall I tell the story?
– Tell anything you like.
– When the honorable senator was in our party, he had perfect freedom to speak for conscription. He addressed a meeting at Albury, and on the platform with him was a prominent lady organizer of the Liberal party. Next morning he was challenged by an earnest Labour man with the question, “If you are still a Labour man, what were you doing last night on the same platform with a Liberal lady organizer?” The honorable senator replied, “ This is not a political, but a national question. All I can say is that politics, like poverty, make one acquainted with strange bedfellows.”
– That story was credited to Ballarat in one instance, and to Bendigo in another. As a matter of fact, it could not be attributed to me.
– In my comments upon the Bill I want to say. in the first place, that I am not taking very much exception to Senator Lynch’s position.
It has been asserted that we want to prevent the principle of the preferential vote being applied to the Corangamite election, and I make this offer to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Millen) : If the Governmnet want preferential voting to be applied to Corangamite, let them . bring in a Bill for that purpose next week, accompanied by a provision giving the vote to the soldiers, and if necessary they can suspend the Standing Orders, and I will help to pass the Bill. We are not afraid of the majority vote.
– I thought I had brought you to your bearings.
– Give the soldiers the vote for Corangamite, and you can have preferential voting if you like.
– And if this Bill does not get through, the soldiers will not get the vote?
– That will be your fault, not’ ours.
– You have committed yourself too deeply.
– Not at all. We have been accused of “ stone-walling “ this measure, but I told the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) last week ..that the Government could not get it through by the methods proposed. When the Minister moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders to deal with this Bill, I rose to speak, and immediately I sat down the “ gag “ was applied. Not one of my colleagues had a chance to speak.
– We were all shut out.
– If this is an indication how the Government intend to carry on the business with regard to this Bill, all I can say is, that while we may be in a minority on this side, we shall assert the rights of minorities. But if the Government will meet in the regular way to transact business without undue haste, I can promise them that while I shall exercise my right to criticise the measure, I shall exercise it with a certain amount of restraint. If they try to force the Bill through, I can promise them” that just as they apply brute force to members on this side of the Senate, so in proportion shall I resist.
– Hear, hear ! You are a fine leader.
– The honorable senator intimates his intention to take advantage of the forms of the Senate to resist the business ? ?
– I do nothing of the kind. I say I will exercise my right to criticise.
– If the honorable senator does’ take advantage of the forms of the Senate, he cannot object if the Go- vernment also do so in order to get ahead with business.
– I shall only take exception to the action of the Government if they adopt an unreasonable attitude.
– That, of course, applies both ways.
– Yes, but what I said is not a threat. I do not think it can be contended that since the Bill was introduced, any honorable senator on this side has spoken at unnecessary length. So far as I am concerned I shall conclude within ten minutes. This is the first opportunity I have had of speaking on the Bill, and I intend to be brief, because there are half-a-dozen or more clauses upon which I shall speak at length in Committee, instead of occupying too much time on the second reading of the measure.
– You forget all the time you occupied the other night.
– Had it not been for the motion to suspend the Standing Orders, there would have been no long speech from me. Whenever an attempt is made to suspend our Standing Orders to deal with ordinary legislation like this, I shall resist to the utmost of my ability. But this is a Bill upon which we might well have a party truce.
I do not think, any of my colleagues have expressed opposition to the general principles of the Bill, involving, as it does, majority rule. What we do object to is the attempt to apply it to the Corangamite by-election. This is one of the most dangerous precedents that could have been adopted by any Parliament.
– It is your own policy.
– Did our party ever do that?
– It is your policy always.
– Order! I must ask Senator Lynch not to interject.
– The only objection I have to offer is against the action of the Government in attempting to press the Bill through in view of the Corangamite election, under the pretence that they want to secure for the people the principle of majority rule. I repeat that if they want majority rule, and wish ta apply it to the Corangamite by-election/ let them introduce a Bill of one, two, or three clauses, and include in it a provision giving soldiers the right to vote, and I shall help them to pass it. That is a fair proposition. Senator Lynch has been through the Swan electorate, but .not for . the purpose of securing votes for a returned soldier. On the contrary, he went through that division to help to get 13,000 other people to vote against a returned soldier.
– Don’t you say anything about that.
– I am drawing attention to it.
– Your party did more than that. They put up a man against a soldier who was actually fighting at the Front.
– Here is a good sporting description of the Swan byelection results -
The Trades Hall colt Corboy, by Unionist -Fighting Front, 8 st. (A. McCallum) . . 1
Hie Primary Producers’ horse Basil M., by Co-operation - Wheat Pool, 9 st. (Vic. Riseley) . . . . . . 2
Tim National’s horse Noah’s Ark, by CapitalistWintheWar, 10 st. 5 lb. (Paddy Lynch) ……. .-.3
Bill Wowser’s horse What’s On, by Prohibition - Butter Fat. weight, a penny stamp (Mather) . . . . . . 4
These were the starters, and that is how they finished, a Labour man in the lead. In the premier Nationalist constituency of Western Australia, out of 19,000 votes polled, 13,000 votes were cast against the Government nominee, and 6,000 were given to the Labour man.
An attempt is being made to use returned soldiers for party purposes, but I am satisfied that this Nationalist party, controlled and owned by the powerholding and wealth-owning section of the community, are not likely to reward returned soldiers by turning any men out of positions to make places for them.
– The returned soldiers do not ask for that. They are ready to fight for their places.
– All this sympathy for returned soldiers on the part of the organizations supporting honorable senators opposite, is so much pretence. Perhaps a returnedsoldier has as much rightin this Senate as I have, hut the qualifications for thisChamberare his fitness forthe position, not his soldiering.
– That is the qualification for any position.
– Exactly. Re turnedsoldiers have a right to expect appropriatereward at the hands of their country, but I venture to say that not one honorablesenator opposite is prepared to get out of his seat and give it to a returned soldier.
– The same remark will apply to honorable senators opposite.
– Yes. But there is this difference: While we are termed disloyal because we do not prate about what we are going to do for returned soldiers, there is some honesty in our pledges. The political attitude, in my judgment, is not the wisest one for soldiers to adopt, and I think they will learn this. All people in Australia join in a general desire to do justice to our returned soldiers, and the time has gone by when the charge of disloyalty can be levelled at any party. These charges will frighten no one when we have become accustomed to tranquillity after four years of awful war. Honorable senators can see that I am out for peace by negotiation.
There are some matters in the Bill to which I shall direct attention in Committee. I am strongly opposed to the retention of the £25 deposit, because it is a property qualification. At present a man cannotcontest an election unless he can furnish the Returning Officer with a deposit of £25.
– He wants a good deal more than that. That has been my experience.
– What happened in the Swan by-election? A prohibitionist candidate, representing, perhaps, the highest moral influence of the day, could only poll800 votes out of 19,000 cast. Because a sufficient number of electors’ were not educated up to his moral standard, he had to pay £25. This also has been the experience of Socialist candidates at election after election. At every general electionfor the Senate the Socialist party as a rulerun three candidates, and because enough of the people are not educated up to their standard, they have to pay . £25 ineach case. That is wrong, and the Senate ought toacknowledge that it is wrong.What may be the opinion of a Socialist to-day may be the opinion of the majority of the people ten years hence, and I shall do my best in Committee to have the clause dealing with the deposit eliminated, and certain other provisions improved.
Question - That thewords proposed to beleft out be left out (Senator McDougall’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I am sure that at this stage honorable senators will forgive me for not replying at length to the criticisms which have been launched against the Bill. I have, however, takena careful note of the suggestions which have been made, and these I shall deal with in Committee. I have already given them some consideration, and I intend to give fur- ther consideration to them before we meet again.
Question - That the “Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Senator MILLER (New South Wales-
Minister for Repatriation) [3.57]. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday next.
I regret having to submit this motion, but the business which is now before us, together with the business that we may reasonably anticipate will reach this Chamber during the next few days, renders the adoption of this course unavoidable.
– I am not aware of any great volume of business that is awaiting our consideration, and I think that the Senate may well adhere to its ordinary days of meeting. The consideration of the Electoral Bill ought not to be completed in less than three or four weeks. A measure containing more than 200 clauses ought not to be rushed through the Sen ate with indecent haste. I shall oppose the motion . for an adjournment until Tuesday next.
: - Instead of meeting here on Tuesday next, why should we not meet on Wednesday, as usual, and, if necessary, sit all Wednesday night?
– I will consider that suggestion when the time arrives.
– Why not agree to it now? I am assured by those honorable senators who sat here throughout Wednesday night that they slept much sounder afterwards, and that they have since been in very much better form than they have been for a long time. I think that we might very well agree to sit later on Wednesday, and Thursday evenings next, rather than re-assemble here on Tuesday. ,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Case of Mb. j. M. Scott.
Motion (by Senator Millen) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorPEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) [4.1]. - Senator O’Laghlin asked, in connexion with the case of J. M. Scott, an internee from South Australia, with regard to whom an inquiry was promised several weeks ago, first, when would the inquiry he held; and, second, would it be a public inquiry. Thereply to those questions is that it is anticipated thatthe inquiry willbe held during the current month. The Military Commandant, Adelaide, has been communicated with by telegraph, asking for the present position of the matter. These inquiries are not usually public, and no reason for departing from the usual practice is known to exist in this case.
– Order! There oan he no further debate, because, under the Sessional Orders, the -hour being 4 o’clock, I must put the question before the Chair without further discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181115_senate_7_86/>.