7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Censorship of News - Situation at
Port Darwin - Agreements with Companies - Despatch of War Vessels and Troops.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence if he can inform the Senate whether the censorship is in operation as affecting the supply of news in detail concerning the situation at Port Darwin ?
-I shall make inquiries on the subject. So far as the Defence Department is concerned, I know nothing about it.
– Arising out of the answer to my question, I ask the Minister whether he will endeavour to inform the Senate on the matter at a later hour of the day?
– If Senator Ferricks will repeat his question on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I shall try in the meantime to secure an answer for him.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether his attention has been called to recent happenings at Port Darwin, and whether he is in a position now to. indicate what course the Government intend to adopt for the future government of that part of Australia ?
– My attention has been drawn to the report of the matter appearing in the press. There is a lack of official information confirming the press account, but I shall make a statement on the subject at the earliest possible moment.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether he will lay on the table of the Senate at an. early date any agreement or agreements between the Government and Vestey Brothers Limited, the Northern Territory Agency, or the North Australian Meat Company Limited, in relation to the government of theNorthern Territory?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Home and Territories, who has controlof affairs in the Northern Territory, with a view to securing favorable consideration of the honorable senator’s request.
– I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council how many ‘ warships, destroyers, and cruisers have been sent to Port Darwin, what troops are being mobilized, and . what troops are likely to be despatched there ?
– I think that I can answerthe honorable senator’s question by saying “ None.”
– I ask the Acting
Minister for Defence whether, in accordance with a qualified promise, be will afford an opportunity to enable a decision of the Senate to be made on Orders of the Day, private members’ business Nos. 2 and 3, referring to self-government for Ireland, and a proposed Commonwealth guarantee of the price for wheat:
– I. shall be glad to take into consideration the wishes of honorable senators having business on the notice-paper, and will see what can be done when public business is advanced at a later stage.
Leave to Members Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister if his attention has been called to a statement made by the Premier of Western Australia to the effect that all men in receipt’ of wages or salary, and temporarily or permanently in the Public Service of the State, who enlisted for the war, are to be paid for the holidays which accrued during their absence from Australia, whether they had been employed one week or more in the Public Service before their enlistment, and that in the case of men killed abroad, the amount due in lieu of leave is to be paid to their widows or dependants. Is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government to take similar action?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement referred to, but the honorable senator will recognise that it is necessary that we shall have it confirmed. I shall try to supply him with an answer at a later stage of the day.
Appointment of Chief Justice
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether he is in a position to say what steps, if any, the Government have taken to appoint a successor to the Chief Justice of the High Court, and to fill any consequent vacancy that may occur on the High Court Bench?
– The matter referred to by the honorable senator is under consideration. If he will repeat his question on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I shall try in the meantime to ascertain the position.
Electoral Bill - Proportional Representation in the Senate - Contributions to Party Funds - Preparation of Rolls.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence if his attention has been directed to a statement made by Mr. Glynn, the Minister for Home and Territories, with regard to the Electoral Bill now before the Senate, to the effect that the Bill had been agreed upon for the present, and there was no chance of amending it now? If that be so, will the Government pass the Bill without bothering about the pretence- of dealing with it?
– All that I can say is that the Electoral Bill, the second reading of which I propose to move today, is in conformity with the promise made by Mr. Watt, when Acting Prime Minister, that the method of voting for the Senate would be brought into conformity with that provided for the election of. members of the House of Representatives in a Bill passed some time ago by the Senate.
– I ask whether the Minister agrees with the statement of Mr. Glynn that the Electoral Bill is not to be amended?
Question not replied to.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether the Electoral Bill now before the Senate is in accordance with the promise given by the Government at the elections of 1917, to provide for proportional representation for the Senate?
– I have no official knowledge of any such promise having been made. The Bill is in conformity with the promise made on the floor of this Chamber, and with the promise made by Mr. Watt, when Acting Prime Minister, that Senate elections would be conducted on the same principle as elections for the House ofRepresentatives.
– Arising out of the Minister’s reply to the last question, I ask him whether it is a fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and Sir Joseph Cook, promised absolutely, when in Launceston, that a measure providing for proportional representation in the Senate would be brought forward?
– I have no knowledge of the matter. It has not been brought under my notice.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether he will include in the Electoral Bill, before we go any further with it, a clause to provide that an account of all moneys by whomsoever paid to party funds shall be published by the returning officer when the returns of the elections are being made up ?
– We have to consider the clauses of the Bill now before the Senate in Committee. I understand that there is a provision already in the Act. dealing with such a proposal.
– As it would appear that an election is to take place in the near future, I ask the Minister in charge of the Electoral Department the reason for the delay in the publication of the new electoral rolls, and whether he will give direction that the printing of the rolls shall be expedited as much as possible ?
– I am not aware of the official reason. If there be any delay, I assume that it arises from some difficulty in respect to the Printing Office. Electoral officials will come up to see me this afternoon, and I shall try to give the honorable senator an answer to his question at a later hour of the day.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister, whether he has seen the evidence given before the Wheat Inquiry which is in progress in New South Wales, to the effect that the Wheat Pool paid £6,000 in commission to Messrs. Lindley, Walker and Company upon the sale of wheat which that firm neither touched nor handled. Can he give any explanation of the matter?
– I know nothing of the incident to which the honorable senator refers, but I do know that no such payment was ever made by the Australian Wheat Board.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council when this Parliament will be dissolved?
– Is the honorable senator in a hurry ?
– Not in the slightest. In addition to giving me that information, will the Minister inform us whether this Parliament will be afforded an opportunity of redeeming the promise which was made to the electors by the present Government in 1917, by undertaking a revision of the Tariff?
– I am not in a position to say when this session will close. The date entirely depends upon the good graces of Senator Needham and his colleagues. My reply to the second portion of his question is, that at a favorable opportunity the Leader of the Government will announce the Ministerial policy in regard to the revision of the Tariff. /
Senator NEWLAND laid on the table of the Senate the report of the Joint Committee on Public Works; together with minutes of evidence and appendix, relating to the erection of the proposed Commonwealth Notes Printing Offices.
Offer of Land - Princess
– I ask the
Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the attention of the Government has been called to a statement in the press to the effect that the Prince of Wales is purchasing land in America? In view of that report will the Government offer His Royal Highness large tracts of land in the Northern Territory, and will they commission Senator Bakhap to provide him with an Australian princess for his wife?
Question not replied to.
The following papers were pre sented -
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905.: - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1919, No. 233.
Customs Act 1901-1916-.
Proclamation, dated 1st October, 1919, prohibiting exportation (except under certain conditions’) of Animal Fertilizers and Superphosphates,. &c.
Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1919; No. 238.
Defence Act 1903-1918. - Regulations amended. -(Statutory Rules 1919, No. 245.
Lands Acquisition Act 1.906-1916.-Land ac quired at. Ivanhoe and Carnegie, Victoria - For War Service Homes purposes.
Delay in Appointment of Officers - Results of 1918 Examinations.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Upon the assumption that the question refers to Victorian candidates, the answers are - .
Payments for Children
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Administration yet taken into consideration, as promised by SenatorMillen,. the suggestion made by Mr. Justice Powers, sitting in the Arbitration. Court, to the. effect that either the States or the Commonwealth should supplement the basic wage in the cases of families, of more than three children by a payment for each child above that number?:
– The matter is receiving consideration, but I am not yet in a position to make any statement as to the Government’s intentions in regard thereto.
Gratuity Leave to Pay Corps
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice-
– The answers are - 1, 2, 3, and 4 Members ofall Home Service units, including the Pay Corps, are entitled, upon demobilization, to fourteen days’ special demobilization leave or recreation leave, ifsuch isdue, but not both. The specialleave was granted for the purpose of allowing such members time to obtain other employment, but in the case of those members who have recreation leave due, the need for the special leave does mot exist.
If Home Servioe men were granted the fourteen days’ leave in addition to recreation leave, they would be placed in a better position than men demobilizedafter activeservice abroad, which is not desired.
It is not proposed to depart from the present practice.
Sentences for Breaches of Discipline
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister hopesto be able to make an an- nouncement in regard to this matter very shortly.
Suppliesfor Millaquin Refinery
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the abnormal shortage in this year’ssugar crop in the Bundaberg district, will the Government divert from North Queensland’s output of raw sugar supplies sufficient to enable the Millaquin refinery to continue operations to the commencement of next year’s sugar season?
– Arrangements have been made to supply the Millaquin Company with a quantity of raw sugar. The first consignment will be delivered shortly. It is hoped to be able to keep the refinery employed during the year.
SenatorFERRICKS asked theLeader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The information asked for is not at present available. It will be obtainedand furnished as soon as possible.
Separation Allowance to Men Married Abroad
asked the Acting Minister for Defence,upon notice -
Isthe Minister yet able to state whether it is the intention of the Government to pay the equivalent of separation allowance tothose membersof the Australian ImperialForce who were married abroad prior to 1st August, 1918, whose wives and (incases)families resided out of Australia?
– This matter is at presentunder consideration of the Government, and an early decision is hoped for.
Notice of ‘motion (by Senator O’Keefe) withdrawn.
Bill received from House of Represen tatives.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through ail its stages without delay.
.- I rise to offer a suggestion to the Minister in charge of the Senate. Instead of moving that the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended to enable any particular Bill to pass its remaining stages, would it not be better to suspend the whole of the Standing Orders for the remainder of the session?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Message received from the House of Representatives that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate’ in the Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in the Bill.
SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council and Acting Minister for Defence) [3.25]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The principles, or what might be called the big principles of the Bill, are limited to about four, as most of the other amendments to previous legislation of this kind are merely incidental thereto. The first and most important amendment is an alteration in the method of counting or calculating the resultsof elections. Previously, as honorable senators are aware, the candidates were elected in order of priority, irrespective of the fact that they had obtained a majority or a minority of the total number of votes cast. The object of the Bill is to introduce a system somewhat similar to that adopted in connexion with the elections for the House of Representatives. If this Bill is passed, the elections for the Senate will be conducted under a system of preferential voting, which is quite distinct from proportional representation, and the object of the measure is to require senators to be elected by an absolute majority of voters.. I do not think there is anything new in regard to the general principle. It is desired that’ a senator elected to this Chamber shall be returned by an absolute majority of the votes cast. Under the old system it was possible for senators to be elected by minorities, but under the proposed method minorities may be converted into majorities by exhausting the votes, and definitely ascertaining who has received a majority of the votes cast. Under this system there will practically be a series of elections, and in considering it it will be necessary for senators to keep in view ballot-papers rather than votes cast. There will really be distinct elections for each of the three vacancies in the representation of each State, with a counting and distribution of preferences until the third candidate has secured an absolute majority of the total votes polled. Under this system, preference will be shown in the ordinary numerical order of one,– two, and three, which is a simple method, and one’ easily understood by the people. Under this system it will not be compulsory for electors to vote for all the candidates whose names appear on the ballot-paper, as that is regarded as unnecessary by those who have studied the system.
– Yes. Under the circumstances I have mentioned, it will not be compulsory for an elector to vote for all the. candidates. The principle is quite sound. Where the elector is to commence and where he is to end is quite arbitrary, and voting is not based on a mathematical calculation. When it can be seen that two or three of the candidates due for elimination or exclusion cannot reach the fourth candidate it would be useless to go through the performance of calculating the votes, and such candidates will he excluded by one act. Whether the principle of preferential voting is sound or not, this Bill is to provide the necessary machinery for a candidate to be elected by an absolute majority.
– This Bill is to save the life of the Government.
– Some of us might prefer another system because this means that honorable senators will have to be returned by an absolute majority of the electors. As one who came into the Senate on a minority vote, I am glad the system was not in operation earlier. So long as we pretend to base our institutions upon majority rule, there should be adequate machinery for ascertaining the will of that majority.
– Then this is the block-vote system under a new name?
– That is so. It is a continuation of the oldsystem.
– The block vote shorn of all its simplicity.
– I do not say that. Hitherto many candidates for the Senate have been elected on a minority vote, and I believe that so long as majority rule is the basic principle of our institutions, we ought to bring our machinery up to date, so that we may ascertain accurately the majority vote. No other principle is involved in the Bill. It is simply an attempt, by a more scientific method, to ascertain the majority vote, and it will have the advantage of enabling rival candidates of the same party to face the electors without necessarily jeopardizing the interests of their party, as has been the case in the past, when owing to a split vote, opposing’ candidates have been elected on a minority vote. There is no reason why a minority of the voters, representing, perhaps, little more than one- thirdor one-fourth of the electors, should secure representation owing to some domestic quarrel among candidates representing a majority of the electors.
– But under this Bill it would ‘be possible for a candidate, representing not more than one-tenth of the people, to secure election.
– The honorable senator is quite in error. The Bill provides for majority rule. Each vacancy will.be filled practically as a single electorate. The Bill adopts really the majority exhaustive ballot, with which honorable senators in the Labour party have been familiar for a number of years. I was under this system in the Labour party over twenty years ago, and though I know it has been abused, I do not think it leads to as many abuses as are possible under ordinary majority’ rule. I know that in some pre-election ballots, when I have been one of twentythree or twenty-four candidates, I would not have secured the nomination but for the operation of the exhaustive system. The Bill represents a genuine attempt to provide the machinery to insure majority rule, and nothing else.
The second great amendment provides that electors shall be asked to mark their ballot-papers in the numerical order of preference up to twice the number of candidates required plus one. In the event of three vacancies, order of preference must be shown for seven candidates, but it will be optional with the elector to show his preference for any number of candidates above that number, because it has been found that when twenty or thirty candidates go to the poll, preference votes given for more than double the candidates required, plus one, are of little value, owing to the low position occupied by the candidates getting those votes.
– This is where your Bill is a misnomer. It is not preferential voting at all.
– It is preferential voting, but not proportional voting, of course. Another provision of the Bill permits the grouping of candidates on the ballotpapers. Perhaps I can better illustrate . what this means by stating that Senators Gardiner, McDougall, and Grant, representing the Opposition, might be grouped together on a ballot-paper as candidates of. the Labour party, quite regardless of the alphabetical order of their names. This grouping will facilitate the work of electors, because under the present system they are required to search right through the list of candidates to find those who are standing in the interest of any one party.
– Where the word “primary” vote is used, does that mean 1, 2, and 3?
– Then the Bill practically makes the party system eternal ?
– That is not so. I do not want to. be led into- a discussion about the party system becoming eternal, but I may remind the honorable senator that the British people have done very well under that system, and I am not too sure that they are desirous of a change. The grouping system has been incorporated in the Bill for the convenience of the voters, who are called upon to exercise the franchise, say, once every three years. It is believed that if the candidates of a particular party are grouped together, the work of the electors will be much facilitated, and the majority opinion more accurately ascertained. We may assume, for instance, that Senators Gardiner, Grant, and McDougall, as Labour party candidates for New South Wales, will be grouped together, and classed as “A “ on the ballot-paper, so that the electors, instead of having to search an alphabetical list for the names of the three Labour candidates, will find them classed as “ A,” and the time occupied at the ballot-box should, I think, be reduced by 50 per cent. I do not know whether honorable senators have had any experience of dealing with ballotpapers after an election under the present system, but if they have they will realize that it is very much a sort of “ chivy chase” to get at the final results. I have seen ballot-papers after they have been handled by. electors and returning officers, and I know what a great amount of work is involved. There will be no compulsion in the matter of grouping, but if for the sake of convenience Senators Gardiner, Grant, and McDougall desire to be grouped at an election, this may be done, and the electors will know at once that they represent a party interest. I feel sure that the system will prove effective, though I know there are many people who believe that political parties ought to be branded as well as grouped.
– Hear, hear!
– That is a principle that you and I advocated once.
– The Bill practically embodies the same principle. The three Labour candidates, or the three candidates supporting the Government, will be known as the three A’s or the three B’s, as the case may be. There can be no mistake liken in. the expression of the desires of the people. There is no compulsion about the grouping. Before any candidates can be grouped, each of them must consent to the grouping. Every candidate, no doubt, will desire to be included in. a group. The scheme has for its principal object the simplification of the voting system.
– What will happen if five candidates desire to be grouped together, on the ground that they are all members of one party ?’
– I am not prepared to answer that without reservation;I will endeavour to confirm my view later. I do not anticipate, however, that any five candidates will desire to be grouped. Although only three candidates can be elected, there is nothing to prevent five candidates of the one party being voted for; the only fact to be remembered, is that the fourth and fifth candidates in the group would naturally drop out. Let us suppose that there are three officially-selected Labour candidates, “and that two more Labour candidates desire to join with them. They cannot attach themselves to the Labour group without the consent of each of the officially selected three.
Under the system set out in the Bill groups will have preference upon the ballot-paper according to their average alphabetical numerical order.
SenatorO’Keefe. - The electors will not easily understand that.
– That is not a point for the electors to decide or worry about.
– They liketo know what system they are voting under.
– This is not a matter of system, but of machinery. Groups will have priority of place on the ballot-paper, in their average alphabetical, order, and the names of ungrouped candidates will be placed upon the ballotpaper after the groups, and these separate, independent candidates will be alphabetically ordered. No candidate will be compelled to stand in any group. His name may be placed independently on the ballot-paper, and according to alphabetical order, but following upon the groups. There is no ‘ doubt that the average elector is a party man, and votes for party candidates, and, no doubt, he would prefer to vote for a group rather than be compelled to make his choice of candidates from one . end to the other of the ballot-paper.
– Then party organizations will make the groups ?
– If they so desire.
-And individual candidates cannot he groupedwith the groups of the party organizations.
– The parties will have nothing to do with it. Individuals can link themselves up with a party group only by consent of every individual in that group. Senator Pratten, when next he is called upon to seek reelection will be free to go before the people either as an individual, with an independent place upon the ballot-paper, or as a member of a , group.
– That is not quite the point. Suppose that there were five candidates belonging to one party interest. Would every man among those five have a right to claim that he should be grouped . ?
– If the five were each of them willing, and not otherwise. Where there are only three seats at issue, however, no party will foe likely to select more thanthreecandidates, or to permit more thanthree to be included in the party group. No -party would wish it.
– Nonsense ! We and the f armers will be running together.
– Then I wish you good luck as the farmers’ chickens.
There as one other mattertomention, the provision for the forfeiture of deposits. There have been, candidates for Senatecontests who have lost their deposits by failing to poll one-fifth of the total votes recorded in favourof the leading candidate. Under this new system the unsuccessful candidate would not lose his deposit if he polled one-fifth or more of the average of the successful candidates.Paragrapha of proposed new section 76 reads -
In the case of a Senate election, if the total number ofvotes polled in his favour as first preferences is more thanone-fifth of the average number of first preference votespolled bythe successful candidates in the election ;
– On a party ticket, onlyone candidate,I understand, will haveany first preferences at all.
SenatorRUSSELL. - For the purposes of deciding whether a candidate shall or shall not forfeit hisdeposit, the average of thethree successful candidates will be taken.
– That paragraph refers to the average of the first preferences.
– There is really only one vote cast for a group, although it is exercised in favour of three candidates. The average number of the first preference votes of the three successful candidates would be divided by three. Senator Gardiner, by reason of his popularity in New South Wales, . might be - according to actual first preferences - 20,000 votes ahead of his nearest team mate. It would not be fair to place the unsuccessful candidates’ figures against those of Senator Gardiner, because the honorable senator’s total would not represent the actual Labour vote. The point is that the elector actually votes three times.
– Only his first vote is a primary vote.
– Practically every vote cast for the successful candidates ‘becomes a primary vote. For instance, in the case of the Labour poll for theNew South Wales Senate candidates, the, total of No. 1 voteswould exactly represent the actual Labourvote. Therefore, it is only fair andright that the matter of forfeiture of -deposit should be based upon onefifth of the average first preferences of the three successful candidates. Let us say, for example, that the Labour vote at the New South Wales elections is 200,000; that Senator Gardiner received 100,000 No. 1 votes., and Senator Grant 50,000, and Senator McDougall 50,000. The averageof the votes, cast for those three candidates, if they were successful, would be the basis upon which to decide whether a candidate should lose his deposit ornot.
SenatorGrant. - A candidatereceiving no first preferences will lose his deposit.
– I am glad that the honorable senator has mentioned that point, because it indicates what is in his mind. If, for instance, Senator McDougall receivedall the number . 1 votes of his party, and Senators Grant and Gardiner second and third preferences, and Senator McDougall had an absolute majority, he would be selected, and his second votes wouldbe thefirstcounted, and would probably improvethe positions of SenatorsGrant and Gardiner.
– If Senator McDougall got all the first preference votes of the Labour party, and the other three candidates were elected, Senators Gardiner and Grant, having no primary votes, would lose their deposit.
– That could not occur, because if Senator McDougall got an absolute majority of first preferences he would be elected.
– Suppose that Senator McDougall did not get an absolute majority, and that Senator Grant and Senator Gardiner did not get any first preferences, they would lose their deposits.
– If the honorable senator will work the matter out, he will find that what he anticipates could not occur.
– If the Minister will read paragraph a of the proposed new section 76 he will find that what I suggest would occur.
– It is quite clear from that paragraph that the onefifth refers to the first preference votes of the three successful candidates.
– Suppose A, B, and C are candidates, and that A gets the whole of. the first preference votes of his party, would not B and C, receiving no first- preference votes, lose their deposits, even though when A’s secondary votes are distributed B and C are elected.
– Certainly not.
– If the honorable senator will look at the proposed new section 76, he will find that a candidate’s deposit is returned to him if he is elected.
– I shall look into the matter very carefully when the Bill is in Committee. I have explained the intention of the Bill in this regard.
– I think the Minister will find that the intention is not carried out.
– If so, I shall consider sympathetically an amendment to make it certain that the intention will be carried out. This is not a party measure. We are providing here the machinery for elections, and we can discuss these matters fully in Committee.
I do not think that I have omitted to deal with any principle involved in the measure. The remaining clauses are machinery clauses, and include (provisions giving officers in Commonwealth Territories the full powers of Returning
Officers. There is one important matter to which reference might be made, and that is the change in connexion with absent voting. Honorable senators are aware that it has been possible in previous elections for an elector to vote as an absent voter at any polling booth in Australia. Such votes were wired to the central office. But it would take many months in some cases to count such votes under this system; if, for instance, an elector voted at Geraldton, in Western Australia for the election of a member for Brisbane, or vice versa. Under the system here proposed the . ballot-papers must be returned to the centre for the preferential counting, and this would involve unreasonable delayif the old system of absent voting were adhered to. By the use of the postal vote, an elector at Albury can vote for the election of a member for Melbourne as effectively as he can now vote at Albury as an absent voter.
– Will he have to write in his full name?
– He will have to make his intention clear. He will not be compelled to write his full name and address. It has been found that it is impossible to have the two’ systems of preferential voting and absent voting operating over long distances from the centre at which the votes will be counted.
– In view of the time that will be required to count the ballot for the Senate, will the Minister be prepared to consider a proposal that one of the parties shall appoint the poll clerk and the other party the Returning Officer ?
– The poll clerks and Returning Officers will have enough work to do without having to act for either of the parties. Each party will be properly represented at the counting.
– Will the Government pay the scrutineers?
– This matter is not in my Department, but I am prepared to put the honorable senator’s suggestion before the Minister for Home and Territories.
I have before said that this should not be considered as a party measure, because I assume that we are all anxious to adopt the most effective system to record the opinion of the people.
– Under this Bill, the, vote will take months to count.
– Not at all. If there is one man who more than another may be said to be a grafter, he is an election scrutineer. He is at the same time one of the poorest paid of men, and. may generally be regarded as a martyr to his cause.
.- I have-not the slightest doubt that, in the opinion cif the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell), there is nothing wrong with this Bill. He believes that its effect will be exactly what he has told us it will be. I received the Bill some days ago, and, though I read it two or three times, I failed to understand it. I went to a well-informed man in this Parliament and asked if he could give me some information about it. He said, “ You go to Mr. Glynn. He is the only man in Australia who understands the Bill or ever will understand it.” Although Mr. Glynn has said that this Bill is not to be amended, I feel sure that honorable senators will not be willing to leave anything connected with it to chance. I wish to direct special attention to the provision dealing with the deposit. I believe that the intention expressed by the Minister will not be carried out by that provision. Honorable senators opposite may feel bound by Mr. Glynn’s statement that there is to’ be no amendment of the Bill; but I think that, if they read the proposed new section 76, they will find that it will be quite possible under this Bill for the candidate next to the third in popularity at an election to lose his deposit. The proposed new section 76 provides that -
The. deposit made by or on behalf of the candidate at a Senate election or at a House of Representatives election shall be retained pending the election, and after the election shall be returned to the candidate, or to some person authorized by him in writing to receive it if he is elected, or -
In the case of a Senate election, if the total number of votes polled in his favour as first preference is more than one-fifth of the average number of first preference ‘votes polled by the successful candidate in the election.
For the sake of argument, I will refer to what may happen in my own State. For no other reason than that my name comes alphabetically before the names of my colleagues, the Labour ticket for New South Wales will be “ Gardiner, Grant, and McDougall.” We know that every party man votes solidly for the party ticket, and if the electors vote on this ticket the first candidate on the ticket will receive the whole of the first preference votes.
– That has not been our experience in Tasmania.
– The experience in Tasmania has sometimes been that one candidate secures as many votes as the - whole of the other candidate? on his own side.
– I hope that honorable senators -will not interrupt ma when I am trying to make the position clear. I am quite satisfied that, under this Bill, it will be. possible for a candidate who is within a few thousand votes of winning a seat for the Senate, to lose his deposit, if the proposed new section 76 is allowed to remain as it is. The electors will vote 1, 2, 3 for their party men in the order in which they appear on the ballot-paper. If six candidates are running, and, say, the Nationalist party have a majority, the first candidate on their ticket will be elected. If that be so, according to the Minister, the second candidate of the party and “the third candidate of the party will also be sure to secure a majority of votes. Although the other three candidates may be within 1,000 votes of the number polled by the first three candidates, two of them, who may not secure first preference votes, will lose their deposit. If honorable senators will closely consider the proposed new section 76, they will find, that that is the result which will follow from its adoption. The successful candidates may owe their success to the fact that their votes outnumber their opponents’ by only a few thousand. At the last Federal election in New South Wales, I do not think there were 3,000 votes separating Sir Albert Gould, Senator Millen, and myself. When electors vote upon party tickets, to declare that a candidate shall lose his deposit if he does not secure a certain number of first preference votes, is to my mind ridiculous in the extreme. It is idle to urge that this system has been worked out, and that it is mathematically correct. The more I look at it, the more I am satisfied that the drafting of the Bill is faulty, and that it was intended to apply to a system of proportional representation. I do not think the Minister, after reading the measure, can argue seriously that it would be right to forfeit a candidate’s deposit merely because he had notsecured a certain number of primary votes. If a candidate fails to obtain a certain number of first, second, and third votes, by all means let him lose his deposit, but he certainly ought not to be subjected toany such penalty simply because he does not secure a certain number of primary votes. 1 trust that the Minister will give this phase of the matter serious consideration, and that he will ask the Minster for Homeand Territories (Mr. Glynn) to allow the Senate to amend the Bill.
Turning from the question of the loss of a candidate’s deposit, I come to ; the method of voting which is embodied in the measure. Here, again, I fail to clearly understand the system which it is desired to introduce. I know that there are quite a number of honorable senators who do understand it, because they have told me that it has been worked out thoroughly, and that it has been found to be mathematically correct.
– So far as I know; it has never been practically tried anywhere.
– When this Bill was first circulated, I discussed its provisions with quite a number of members of this Parliament, very few of whom claimed to understand the system of voting which is embodied in it. Take, for example, the following paragraphs of sub-section 5 of proposed new section 135 : -
What is meant by “ excluding “ the candidate who has received the fewest numberof first preference votes ? The paragraph continues - andeach ballot-paper counted to him shall becounted to the candidate next in’ the order of the voter’s preference, and the result communicated to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in the manner directed by that officer.
I desire to say a few words in respect to that phase of the matter. Let us suppose that the Labour candidates for the representation of Victoria in the Senate at the forthcoming elections are Barnes, Barker, and Findley, and that the candidates for the National party are Givens, Hume Cook, and Russell. Let us further assume that none of these candidates secures an absolute majority of first preference votes. I suppose that that position is possible.
– It would be possible if there were three additional candidates. Three groups might each obtain a third of the votes recorded.
– It is highly improbable that any candidate would secure a majority of the first preference votes. If the Labour candidates were leading, but were not sufficiently in the lead to insure their election, and if Senator Russell’s name appeared at the bottom of the ballot-paper, the Nationalist candidates’ supporters would probably give their first preference to Givens their second to Hume Cook, and their third ‘to the honorable senator. Senator Russell wouldthus be excluded from the second count. If our desirebe merely to insure that a candidate must receive a majority of the first, second, and third votes polled, why should any candidate “be excluded ? Why not count all the first preference votes, and then, if no candidate has a majority, why not count all the second preference votes ? If no candidate then has a majority, why not count all;the third preference votes, and so continue the process until a majority is obtained ? But, under the system proposed in this Bill, the candidate who is. lowest onthe party ticket by reason of its alphabetical arrangement will be placed at a disadvant- . age. I suppose that if he is once excluded from the count he will drop out altogether.
– Once excluded he is out.
– Then there is something in this proposed new section which will defeat the Bill. On the second count the candidate who has received the fewest numberof first preference votes willbe excluded, and having been excluded, according to the statement ofthe
Vice-President of the Executive Council, he will be finally out of the contest. Let me put the position once more, I do not know who” are to be the Nationalist candidates in. South Australia at the election which is impending, but I. suppose that, Senator Shannon’s name will appear low down on the party ticket owing to its alphabetical arrangement. If a party vote is registered in that State he will probably get the fewest number of first preference votes, and will thus be excluded from the second count. Consequently he will be out of the contest. Is that a fair thing?
– Suppose that Senator McDougall’s name were lowest on the party ticket and that Senator Gardiner’s name were highest, the latter’s votes would help to lift up Senator McDougall.
– I am assuming a position in which there are six candidates for three seats in the Senate. The Bill provides that the candidate who obtains the lowest number of primary votes shall be excluded.
– That cannot be the case if there are only six candidates, because the votes of the man who is on top will be counted first. One of the three candidates must get a majority.
– Not necessarily so.
– Yes, it is inevitable.
– Where there are a number of candidates, if one obtains all the votes recorded, it may be so. Suppose, for example, that 300,000 votes are cast at an election for each political party. Let us further suppose that 200,000 votes are polled by the leading Nationalist candidate, and 200,000 by the Labour candidate, who secures the greatest number of primary votes. There will thus remain 200,000 votes to be divided amongst the other four candidates. Obviously no candidate will have a majority upon the first count. What then will happen ? Under the provisions of this Bill the candidate with the lowest number of primary votes will be excluded from the second count, and according to the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council he would not come back.
– The moment a candidate is elected, his name will disappear from the contest, but the candidate at the other end will go up. The prefer ence papers of the successful candidates will come back.
– My point is that the candidate with the lowest number of first preference votes will be ex- . cluded from the second count, and will not come back.
– Under the provisions of sub-section 6 of proposed new section 135, it looks as if he will come
– I shall be pleased to read that sub-section. It says -
The second vacancy shall he filled in the following manner: -
The Divisional Returning Officers, acting under the directions of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, shall re-arrange all the ballot-papers under the names of the respective candidates in accordance with the first preference indicated thereon, except that each ballot-paperon which a first preference forthe elected candidate is indicated shall, if unexhausted, be placed in the parcel of the candidate next in order of the voter’s preference.
Senator Keating would he quite right if he said that the elected candidate’s first preference votes will come back, and that all the ballot-papers will be rearranged. But the provision to which I have previously directed attention declares that the candidate who has received the lowest number of first preference votes shall be excluded from the second count.
– For the second count only. The honorable senator forgets that there are really three elections.
– I quite realize that. I am satisfied that the draftsman of this Bill had in his mind a system of proportional representation. These things would work out properly if we were endeavouring to insure representation ofminorities. We are endeavouring to secure preferential voting, so that only those elected by majorities shall be returned. I have shown that, on the primary count, any one who has not obtained a majority on the first count shall be excluded. The language is quite clear.
– I do not read it in that way.
– Then I will go back and read it again. The Bill should not be drafted so vaguely.-.
-Hear, hear !
– I am not looking for trouble, but am endeavouring to read the provision as it appears to me to read.
– The Bill is bad enough, but not so bad as you represent it.
– I am glad to have that admission. Paragraph d of sub-section 5 of proposednew section 135 reads -
On the second count, the candidate who has received the fewest first preference votes shall be excluded, and each ballot-papercounted to him shall be counted to the candidate next in order of the voter’s preference.
If that does not mean that the candidate is not excluded from the second count, what does it mean?
– That is on the second count for the election of the first man. When the second vacancy is reached, there is another election.
-Each vacancy will, be filled separately.
– On the assumption that Senator Keating is correct, we continue until one candidate is elected on the first count, and then enter upon the second count, including the papers of the candidate who was excluded.
– That is the way I read it.
– That is clear as mud. It may be quite clear when one understands it; but I must confess that I do not. Am I right in assuming, as Senator Keating does, that a candidate is excluded merely from the first count, and is included in the second count? If that is so, there is no. reference in the Bill to the votes of the second candidate being included in the second count.
– Sub-section 6, to which I drew attention, states that the second vacancy shall be filled by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer re-arranging all the ballot-papers.
– In an earlier part of the Bill, one candidate is excluded.
– The first vacancy shall be filled as provided for in subsection 5, and’ the second vacancy as provided in sub-section 6.
– Do I understand that if a candidate is excluded in the first count, he will still have a chance in the second count?
– I think so.
– It would be well if the Minister devised some means of placing such an important point beyond doubt. It should be beyond question that a candidate excluded from the first count shall have his votes included in the second count.
– He may be put up inthe second count.
– I would like to see the position made ‘ quite clear. This isnot the first complicated measure we have had to consider that can be read and re-read with varying results. We should adopt a form of drafting by which every one would be absolutely certain of the real intention. I would have liked to see the block-voting system adopted, but we cannot use the three crosses owing to the House of Representatives papers having to be considered. We should let the first, second, and third vote count as a primary vote.
– That is what virtually happens.
– We do not want to be told what virtually happens; we want the law to be clearly stated. I do not think honorable senators believe they are supporting a measure that will not work out correctly, but we need to make absolutely sure. If the measure pro- . vides, as Senator Keating suggests, that only those candidates who have secured an absolute majority shall be elected, and that those who are excluded on the first count shall have an opportunity of coming into the second, I am prepared to accept the Bill; but the Senate should put that beyond doubt. It is no use leaving it to some one to say that it will work out correctly. We should ascertain definitely at this stage whether it will.
I would like the Minister to inform the Senate whether any provision has been made for recording the votes of absent soldiers.
I also wish to ‘direct attention to the difficulty of counting the votes. I think honorable senators will realize that this is a reasonably heavy job, and I ask them to consider a suggestion I have to make, the’ adoption of which would result in the work being performed more expeditiously, and also in the saving of an immense sum of money. I suggest that every polling booth count the votes recorded in it instead of sending them to a central office for counting. Take a populous centre such as Waverley, in the Wentworth division, where, approximately, 40,000 votes are recorded. So soon as the booth closes, all the votes recorded are sent to one central office to be counted. . Honorable senators will realize that if ail the votes recorded at outside booths were counted at those booths instead of being counted elsewhere, time and expense would be saved. In some instances the saving of time would be so great that the results would be available by the next morning.
– That cannot be done under this system.
– Then we are not introducing a simpler method. Surely it will not be said that the officers of the Department are incapable of performing this work satisfactorily? Senator Senior has adopted his usual attitude of opposing any suggestions made on this side of the chamber. Under the present system it takes at least a fortnight or three weeks to count the votes. The Returning Officer in a central office is surrounded by his officers and scrutineers - who have all to be paid - and they count the votes at the rate of from 500 to 1,000 per night, and that goes on week after week. If the votes were counted as I have suggested, the saving in time and expense would be enormous.
– The system would break down.
– How would it work in outside districts, where only thirty or forty votes are recorded?
– It could not be done under such conditions.
– It is a peculiar ‘ system that will not apply to small as well as to large numbers, and it should be as easy to count ten votes as to count 10,000. Under the system I have suggested, the number of votes recorded at a particular booth for each candidate could be forwarded to the Returning Officer instead of the ballot-box. Under the present arrangement, a Returning Officer, assisted by half-a-dozen Government officials and a similar number of scrutineers, sits at a table day after day. I believe the old system of counting at the booths was discontinued because somebody was afraid of the in fluence of the squatter, for instance, being brought to bear upon his employee, who might be acting in an official capacity. In the light of information recently received from the Northern Territory, we can now see the employee intimidating the employer, and the old fear of the employer intimidating the employees has apparently gone. In all of the outside polling booths where the votes recorded vary from thirty to 1,000, there is not an official who is not competent to accurately count the votes. If he is not competent to count the secondary votes, he is not competent to count the primary ones. Each centre can work out its own quota, and decide whether the votes are formal or informal, before the numbers are finally totalled. There would then be no chance for designing people - I am not making any charges against the officials - to alter the results. I do not want there to be any opportunity for fraud, and I wish the officials to be free from suspicion and doubt. It would be quite possible for a biased Returning Officer, if he saw a paper with only two figures on it, recording votes for, say, Senator McDougall and Senator Grant, to merely add 3, 4; 5, 6, 7 to make the vote formal. If the votes were counted immediately after the polling had. been closed, we could have the result of the Senate election on the following Monday morning, instead of having to wait a very lengthy period.
Under this Bill, a divisional returning officer may order a recount of the votes in his division, and I am not quite sure that he cannot order a recount of votes in any part of it. If, as I suggest,’ counting is allowed at the polling- booths, the results will be known on the night of voting, thus saving the country thousands of pounds.
– Are “you referring to the primary votes or to the lot?
-I am referring to the lot. If the system is as simple as the Minister says it is, any ordinary poll clerk in charge of a booth should be able to count the whole of the votes.
– I did not say it was simple in regard to counting, but I said it would simplify the exercise of voting by electors.
– I realize, of course, that the elector has only to indicate his order of preference with numerals.
But. I am dealing with the counting, and I speak from personal knowledge when I say that the present system is risky. Let, me tell honorable senators that on one occasion, in the Waverley division, I saw a dozen ballot-boxes brought in by different men on the same tram, and without any supervision from the time they left the regulation polling booths until they reached the divisional centre. What was, there to prevent any one from substituting absolutely different ballotboxes, with votes all going one way, in place of one of the boxes? Much time could be saved if the votes polled at all polling centres were counted by the officials in charge and the results forwarded to the divisional returning officer.
– In some parts of
South Australia polling booths are five weeks distant from the divisional centre, so what you are suggesting could not be done.
– I know South Australia is a State of vast areas, but if polling booths are five weeks away, will word of the counting come any more slowly than the ballot-papers themselves?
– The question is, will it come any faster?
– Of course it will, because a message can be sent more rapidly than a ballot-box.
– But they have to come by post.
– Well, the results could be telegraphed from the nearest telegraph station, and that would be more expeditious than the present system. I am well aware, of course, that my honorable friend from South Australia is always about five weeks away from anywhere.
– That may be cheap, but it is not true.
– Well, that is my opinion, and if my judgment is in error the honorable senator must pardon me; but he is usually so vague that he is always about a month behind the times. He will see that I have reduced the time by a week. The point I am making is that, even if some polling booths are five weeks away, the results could be obtained more rapidly by a telegraph message from the nearest station.
– But the ballot-box would have to be opened again then.
– It would not have to be opened unless; the divisional returning officer so ordered. I know what the counting under the present system means, I have paid as much attention to it as anybody. Returned, at the head of the poll for the State, on one occasion I put in a protest because of some information that came to my ears. Not many men would have gone out. of their way to do that. I want the ballot-papers counted at the pollingbooths. This is a perfectly fair proposal, and I think it would lead to economy, give more expeditious results, and be perfectly fair to all. I do not believe in building up a big Electoral Department for the control of our elections. My idea is that elections should be con-5 trolled by the electors. No candidate could afford to keep scrutineers at a polling booth day after day and week after week until the count was completed under the proposed system.
There are one or two other points to which I desire to refer. One has relation to postal voting. I suppose it is of no use asking the Minister to wipe out the principle’ altogether. We know it is tainted, and that in the past it has led to corruption.. And here we have a Government coming back to it. I do not know why. Postal voting killed itself . I could, if I liked, quote the Minister himself in support of my view, but I have no desire at this stage to enter upon a discussion, though I may do so in Committee.
– If you quoted me at all you would have to record the fact that I voted for it against the whole of our party. I have condemned the administration several times.
– Well, I have a recollection of Senator McColl sitting where the Minister is now, and Senator Russell saying something with regard to postal voting.
– That was concerning the manipulation of polling-booths.
– I could discuss many other objectionable features of the measure, but I have no desire to prolong the debate. In view of the fact that we were not called together yesterday, and that time is limited, I have followed the Minister’s second-reading speech without asking for the adjournment, which ordinarily would have been granted. I ask honorable senators to give their close attention to the Bill, and to take nothing for granted, but to see that before it leaves the :Senate there can be no doubt as .bo how it will operate.
– As one who throughout has political lifetime has been an ardent supporter of proportional representation, I much regret that after much cogitation the Government has seen fit to bring down this sectional electoral reform, which cannot be described in any other way than as a clumsy, complicated attempt to perpetuate, block voting and the party system. I belong to the National party, but it must ~be remembered that in voicing a lifetime’s adhesion to the principle of proportional representation, I am only voicing what members of that party have voiced, and even promised, in the past. I admit that a change in the method of voting for the House of Representatives has required a change in the method of voting for the .Senate. It is .obvious that as numerals are itq be used by electors in recording their votes for candidates in the House of Representatives, it would complicate the .position too .much if electors were expected to continue the old system of marking crosses to indicate votes for Senate candidates. I agree with that part of the Bill which places the obligation on the elector .of indicating his choice in figures, in .the .same way as for the House of Representatives. It will be remembered that .last .session, when we had before us a Bill for electoral’ reform, we had .a very protracted discussion which spoilt the opportunity which some honorable members of this Chamber wanted to avail themselves of by -endeavouring to insert in that Bill amendments providing for the principle of proportional representation for the .Senate. No opportunity has presented itself until now, and before resuming my seat I. intend to move an amendment to that effect. The Minister responsible for the Bill–
– Order! I desire to point out to the honorable senator that it is usual to accept an honorable senator’s intimation that ‘he ant-ends to move an. amendment, .and on the strength of that, allow him to discuss a matter which otherwise he would not be permitted’ to debate on the second reading of the Bill. But recently we had an -experience in the Senate of another honorable senator who expressed the same intention, -but failed to carry out his. implied promise. I suggest, therefore, that the honorable senator move his amendment now. This will .give not only him, but also other honorable senators, an opportunity of ‘discussing the subject.
– I thank you, Mr. President, for your suggestion, which is well timed, and strictly in accordance with what I think is my duty. I therefore move -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the Bill is unsatisfactory to the Senate, inasmuch as it does not provide for proportional representation.”
I say quite frankly that, in moving this amendment, I am merely carrying out pledges I made to the electors when I was returned to the Senate. I do not intend to stultify my position here nor anywhere else. I am a life-long adherent of the principle of proportional representation, and I exceedingly regret the introduction of this .composite Bill, which .at best is a very weak compromise, and, in my opinion, because of its -complications, will break down after its .first trial. The electoral system consists of three .elements. First. there is the method of recording the votes; secondly, the method of determining the successful candidates; and, thirdly., the number of members returned by each constituency. In regard to two of those three elements, namely, the method of vote-recording, and of determining the ‘successful candidates, .this Bill will break down by its very inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Instead of that, which, after all, was the simple system of putting crosses opposite the names of the three candidates whom the elector desired to see returned, this Bill proposes something which will land the elector in. a veritable morass. Even .after tie Minister’s explanation I failed to understand the Bill. I asked Senator Russell whether four or five or six candidates who professed adherence to one party had the right to be grouped together. .The Minister admitted ‘ that the question was a poser, and that this Bill failed to make the point .clear. Then there is the complication with respect to numerals. In addition to voting one, two, .and three -.at .an ordinary election, this Bill provides that an elector must vote for twice the number of candidates to .be .returned, plus one. In the case of three candidates requiring to be elected, an elector must vote for not fewer than seven candidates; and, if there are six senatorial vacancies, -he will have to vote for not fewer than thirteen, always provided that there are seven or more, or thirteen or more, candidates respectively.
Then there is the still further complication regarding the method of counting. Apropos, I call attention to the remarks of Professor Nanson at a deputation to the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) on the subject of the system set out in this Bill, and of proportional representation. Professor Nanson remarked yesterday, with respect to the proposed new method, that a Senate election would become one huge gamble. .He continued that if there were ten candidates, this system would require twentyfour counts, ‘and that if there were eleven candidates there must be twenty-seven counts. If, with eleven candidates, in the case of an ordinary dissolution, there are to be twenty-seven counts, how many counts are there likely to be in an election after a double dissolution, when there might be twenty or more candidates, and when very close .voting might be witnessed? The Minister cannot- answer that question.
This is a clumsy, cumbersome, complicated Bill. I am greatly disappointed that the Government should have placed such a measure before the Senate at the fag-end of an extended session. Whatever party may be returned to power next year, this Bill will, I believe, operate for one election only, for the reason that it will create so much dissatisfaction and confusion: Some other system is bound to be adopted for the future, and I trust that that system will be proportional representation, which, to my mind, is the only complete electoral reform so far as this Chamber is concerned.
The constituency of this Senate is ideal for the adoption of proportional representation. The very reason for our existence as a Chamber of review is that the Senate at all times should be a’ reflex of the opinions of the community; that the majority should not have the whole of the representation’ and the minority none, but that the opinions of the electors should be reflected here, proportionately to the expression of those opinions at the ballot-box. Where is this majority- vote system likely to lead us? Where may it possibly . lead us ? At the last elections there were 3;500,000 odd votes recorded for Nationalist candidates, and about 2,750,000 -votes were cast for Labour candidates. About 55 per cent, of the total votes were cast for Nationalists, and 43 per cent, for Labour candidates. Yet, under our so-called democratic system - which will be perpetuated by this Bill - eighteen Nationalist members were returned to the Senate, while the 43 per cent, of Labour votes were given no representation at all. In the 1914 elections there was a similar anomaly, except that it was not . the Nationalist party which benefited.
– Also in 1910.
– In the election following upon the double dissolution in 1914 the total of the Labour votes polled was nearly 6,250,000, while the Liberal votes numbered . about 5,500,000. The proportion of Liberal to Labour votes was nearly 17 per cent, to 19.25 per cent. Yet thirty-one Labour candidates were elected to represent 6,250,000 votes, while only five Liberal candidates were returned as representative of the 5,500,000 votes cast for Liberal candidates. By adopting the principle of proportional representation we should once for all- do away with such anomalies as those. There is the possibility at the forthcoming election of Nationalists again sweeping the polls; as an outcome of which eighteen more Nationalist senators would be returned to this Chamber. In the next Parliament, therefore, the Senate might consist exclusively of Nationalists, while His Majesty’s Opposition might not be in existence. Various ideas have been expressed for the reform of the Senate. Honorable senators opposite say they desire the abolition of this Chamber. They hold that .it does not justify its existence, and that when they secure the constitutional power they will do away with it. I hold that the Senate exercises a very important function in the deliberations of the Federal Parliament; but it cannot and will not continue to play such a part if its constitution is to be jeopardized in the manner in which this proposed new system may work out. I have given some reasons why the Senate should adopt proportional representation. Further reasons are that this system has been for some years in operation in Tasmania, and has practically converted the people of that State, on both sides of politics, to its fairness and effectiveness, and to the- belief that it reflects with almost mathematical accuracy the opinions of the electors. The Parliament of New South. “Wales has adopted the principle of proportional representation, and has, by a new Electoral Act and a Distribution of Seats Act, divided the constituencies into three and five member districts. There is a movement in Victoria to adopt proportional representation. There is much talk and agitation also in South Australia in the same direction. Many public organizations have for years placed proportional representation in the forefront of their programmes. The late Liberal party - now the National party - subscribed to the principle some years ago in respect to the Senate.. Now is the appointed time for bringing into practice this muchneeded reform. If we deliberately perpetuate the block system, ‘and take the risk of the Senate becoming a oneparty Chamber, we shall be writing our own death warrant; and, what is more, we shall merit our decease. This Chamber should be constituted in such a way as to be, as f ar as possible, an absolutely mathematical reflex of the opinions of the whole of the people of Australia.
– Why not the House of Representatives also?
– The reason why the principle of proportional representation cannot at present be adopted for the election of members of another place is that it is inapplicable to single constituencies. The next best thing to proportional representation where single constituencies are provided for is preferential voting. We provided for that in a Bill which we passed some time ago, and which I supported. I do not believe that the Democracy of Australia will ever regret that electoral reform. The Democracy is waiting for a further reform from us, and that is proportional representation in the Senate. The constituencies are ready and waiting for the application of this principle in the election of members of the Senate now.
– Do not the advocates of proportional representation desire its application to both Houses of Parliament?
– They do; but - we are not now discussing the question of the redistribution” of constituencies for the House of Representatives. We are discussing the simple question of an electoral reform for this Chamber, for which the people have waited a long time, and no redistribution will be necessary in regard to Senate constituencies to bring that reform into operation.
I read with some, degree of pleasure the announcement made yesterday by the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), who is supposed to be responsible for this Bill, that it is regarded only as a tentative measure. I am pleased to hear that it is so regarded, because I do not think that the Government, the Nationalist party, or the Senate should attempt to place such a Bill on the statute-book. If we do this at the last moment, and because needs must, perhaps, when the devil drives, I shall be pleased to be able to regard it, in the words of the Minister for Home and Territories, as a tentative or temporary measure. Not only will it be tentative, and temporary in the “opinion of the Minister, but I am perfectly sure that, once tried, it will break down with the weight of its own complications.
For these -reasons, I have submitted my amendment. I am am ardent advocate of proportional representation, believing that it will revivify the constitution of this Chamber, and make of - it what it should be - a house of review possessing independence of thought and action; and I believe that that will be in accordance with the wishes of the electors of Australia. More and more, as the “days go on, they are becoming uneasy, and in some cases rebellious, because of the very strong shackles, ties, and limitations of the party system. Electoral reform, in my view, means that we should give them, as far as we possibly can, absolute freedom of choice of their political representatives, and proportional representation will do that. It will enable the majority to rule, and at the same time will enable minorities to be represented. But this Bill does nothing of the sort. It will enable majorities to secure all the representation, while minorities, however large, will be given none.’ The measure iscumbersome and complicated, and, in viewof the many counts that, on the evidence I have given, will be required, I believe that, in the case of a double dissolution, it will be found absolutely unworkable.
– I shall not detain the Senate very long in discussing the second reading of this Bill. I considered it very carefully, and came to the conclusion that I understood it. I listened attentively to the explanation of it by the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell) and to a widely different explanation by Senator Keating. If Senator Keating ‘s explanation is correct, the Bill is more satisfactory than I thought it was; but if ‘the Minister’s explanation is correct, it is even worse than I thought it was.
– If you are referring to the questionof exclusion, I corrected that.
– I am glad to hear it. As Senator Pratten has said, this Bill has been introduced because of an appeal’ from a section of the community for better representation in the Senate, and to satisfy the demand of outside bodies that have been agitating for proportional representation. It has been introduced, also, because of the demand by the newspapers that before there is another election for the Senate a system different from that now in force should be adopted, andone which will provide for the proper representation of thetwo great political parties in Australia. That, we are told, is the intention of the Bill; but, so far as I can make out, it will not alter the existing condition of things. My reading of the measure leads me to believe that under it one party may still secure the whole of the representation in the Senate to the entire exclusion of the other party. If the National party secure a majority at an election, although the Labour party may poll almost as large an effective vote, its candidates will be excluded altogether. This Bill is a mere sham. It is not the measure which has been requested by outside bodies agitating for a different system of representation in the Senate.
The grouping system provided for in. this measure is a sham, and, if given effect, will destroy the great principle of one-vote-one-value. If candidates are grouped together, as here proposed, an elector voting for a group will findthat one of his votes will have only one-third of the value of another. When anelector enters a polling booth, and votes for a partyticket, heusually marks the candidates “1,” “2,” “3,” in the orderin which their names appear alphabetically on the ballot-paper, but by doing so, under this Bill., one of his votes will have only one-third of its true value, and so the great principle of one-vote-one-value will be destroyed. The grouping of candidates was suggested by myself when we last had an Electoral Bill under consideration, and I would remind honorable senators of what is done in this connexion in otherparts of the world. In some of the States’ of America’ candidates are grouped, and the names of candidates of different parties are printed in different colours on the ballot-papers. If an elector could, under this Bill, as in America, vote for a group, that would be a satisfactory provision,but if he cannot vote for a group, this measure is simply an abortion, and should be returned to those who framed it. It will be quite valueless for the purpose of giving representation to minorities inthis country.
– What is to prevent an elector voting for a groupunder this Bill?
– According to the Minister’s explanation, under this Bill an elector cannot vote for agroup. I do not know whether Senator Reid claims to understand the Bill better than does the Minister. Senator Russell has clearly indicated that what I have stated is the position, and ‘I agree with him.
With reference to the deposit, I contend that under this Bill a candidate may lose his deposit and still be elected a member of the Senate.
– Then the Bill is a freak.
– In past elections in New South Wales Socialist candidates have polled an average of 20,000 votes, whilst Labour candidates have polled, I suppose,up to 350,000 votes. If supporters of Labour give their second preference votes to their nearest of kin, the Socialist candidates, one of them must be elected under this Bill; but he will not secure a sufficient number of first preferences to enable him to save his deposit. That is one of the anomalies possible under the Bill.
Senator Keating has explained one section of the measure ina very satisfac- tory manner; but, as Senator Pratten has. explained, under the system of counting provided for in this Bill, if political opinion is at. all evenly balanced, the ballot for the Senatewill not. be counted within twelve months. There was an election in Tasmania recently, and the counting of the ballot was not concluded in a month, although, only comparatively abus load of people went to the polls.
– Nonsense !
– I say that four weeks after the polling day the counting of the votes was not completed.
– It is not completed in that time for some Federal electorates even under the existing law.
– Under existing conditions’ it takes a couple of months to count the votes in some cases; but, under the system provided for in this Bill, I doubt whether they will be counted in time for the next Senate election. We may not be disturbed if we can remain here until the votes for the next election are counted under this system.
– The safest thing to do would be to have an election six months before senators were required to take their seats.
– That is what is about to happen now. I intend to vote against the Bill, because I am a thorough believer in the principle of one-vote-one-value, and that principle will be destroyed by this measure. The Bill does not provide in any way for remedying the injustice of a vote giving one party the whole of the representation. If, at the next election, under this measure, the party to which I belong succeed in securing the whole of the eighteen seats to be contested, I shall have no objection, because it will go to show the uselessness of the Senate constituted as it is to-day.
– That is just what the honorable senator wants.
– Of course it is. This Bill has already been severely criticised by the press of this country. Had it emanated from the Labour party, it would have been ridiculed from one end of Australia to the other. It is neither flesh, fowl,nor good red herring, and it is intended only to bamboozle the electors. Its effect will be to enlarge the great number of informal votes which are recorded at every election. In New South Wales alone, these votes usually aggregate 50,000. Under this Bill, they will number 150,000. It is foolish for us to enact legislation under which the system of voting will be made more complicated than it is to-day. Under this measure, the man who has to work hard for his living, and who has been denied the, benefit of a good education, together with the poor slave of a woman-, who is compelled to toil from daylight to maintain the children whom she has brought into the world, will have an additional responsibility thrown upon them. We shall make it more difficult for them to cast an intelligent vote at our parliamentary elections. We should allow them to put blue pencil crosses in the squares opposite the names of the candidates whom they desire to see elected. That is the simplest system to adopt, and the simpler the method of voting the better will be the character of the representation in this Chamber. I shall vote against the Bill, and also against the amendmentindicated by Senator Pratten, because on the eve of a general election the Government have no right to alter the method of voting for the return of members to either branch of the Legislature. If the existing system be a bad one, the electors should be given ample time to become’ acquainted with the revised system of representation which it is intended to adopt. If the people of this country desire proportional representation, by all means let them have it. But it certainly is not right to put before them a new method of voting at our Federal elections within a few weeks of polling day. This Bill is an electoral abortion, and the grouping system is something worse. The measure will not achieve the object which it is designed to achieve. Every alteration in the system of voting which has been introduced in connexion with our Federal elections has had in view only one object, namely, the retention in power of the dominant party. This measure aims at achieving precisely the same result. The Government fear that a great revulsion of public feeling may completely alter the representation of parties in this Chamber. They are afraid that eighteen Labour senators may again be returned to it. They hope that the Bill will so bamboozle the electors that they will be able to secure a majority in this Chamber. I do not care whether they have a majority or not. In New South Wales my name will appear at the bottom of the ballot-paper. The names of the Socialist candidates will precede my own, and thus I shall not be afforded the chance of securing election that I ought to have. Nor will the intelligent elector have the opportunity which he ought to have. For these reasons, I shall vote against the Bill, and also against the amendment.
– There are certain features of this Bill for the introduction of which I do not know who is responsible. But at the outset of my remarks, I intend to deal mainly with the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Pratten. There are in this Chamber some honorable senators who, whilst they may constitute a very small minority, are ardent advocates of the principle of proportional representation in regard to our parliamentary institutions, and more particularly in regard to the election of members for this Senate. I cannot altogether understand Senator McDougall when he talks about people being unable to cast an intelligent vote. In Australia the electors are certainly not disqualified from casting an intelligent vote because of general illiteracy. As a matter of fact, illiteracy is practically absent from the people of this country. In the latest census returns, only a fraction of 1 per cent, of our population is classed as illiterate. I suppose that Senator McDougall is very much in favour of the old method of voting, under which the elector was. required to cross out the names of the candidates whom he did not wish to see elected. But I recollect that under that system 20 or 25 per cent, of informal votes were cast in New SouthWales at the Senate elections for the first Commonwealth Parliament. Who is going to cure that sort of thing? That result was not brought about by a lack of intelligence on the part of the electors; it was directly due to their lack of interest in the affairs of this country. No system can be devised which will completely rid us of the unintelligent voter or the careless voter who marks his ballotpaper informally.
– Very often an educated man registers an informal vote.
– I have known educated men to ride 8 or 10 miles to a polling booth, and then drop into the ballot-box an unmarked ballot-paper. They were educated fools. But I desire to address myself more particularly to the principle of proportional representation. The proportional voting system and the preferential system are radically different. The principle of preferential voting is designed to insure the election of a member of Parliament by an absolute majority of the votes recorded. That is the intention of this Bill. It has nothing whatever to do with the proportional representation in this Chamber of the various sections of public opinion. Many of us have had experience of proportional representation. We think it a fair and equitable system which should be applied to our parliamentary institutions, and we desire, even at this late hour, to see it applied to the Senate elections. With the man who affirms that the minority should have no parliamentary representation I hold no argument. But I have a very grave quarrel with those who talk about His Majesty’s Opposition, and who affirm that public opinion should be represented, even if it be in a minority, whilst objecting to proportional representation.We talk about His Majesty’s Opposition. Our Constitution does’ not recognise it, yet we recognise it. Is there not an appropriation to cover the cost of the clerical services which are rendered to Mr. Tudor as Leader of the Opposition in another place? As a matter of fact, the Government provide both Mr. Tudor and Senator Gardiner with a secretary. Why ? If the principle of minority representation be not conceded, why should they be recognised in that way ? To be consistent, those gentlemen should have no official recognition whatever. But, although the party which they represent is in a minority, they receive official recognition from the Government. That being so, all I ask is that that official recognition shall be translated into our electoral system, and that the opinion of the minority outside shall be proportionally represented here. If it is to be represented at all, ought it not to be represented proportionally ?
– Why not apply the same system to the elections for the House of Representatives?
– I have no objection to the adoption of that course. In Tasmania we apply it to elections for the counterpart of the House of Representatives. I belong to a party which has experienced triumphs because of the crude Commonwealth electoral system, and which has also experienced unmerited and substantial defeat through its agency. The Liberal party, which always numbers a little ‘ more or less than one half of the people of Australia, was at one time practically unrepresented in this Chamber. The minority representation was undoubtedly formidable from the stand-point of its quality, but, numerically, it was of small account. It consisted of merely the survivors of a great party, because from one or two States a small Liberal delegation had been sent here. In 1910 the Labour party completely swept the country at the Senate elections, and in 1917 the Liberal party did the same thing. This is a very delicate subject for us to touch just now, because we want to win at the forthcoming elections. But in dealing with a question involving national representation we can, I hope, rise above party considerations for an hour or two and discuss it on the basis of plain electoral ethics. If the people of Australia find themselves face to face with a Chamber in which- only one political party is represented, something will undoubtedly break, and. break at a very early date. In the present ferment of public opinion, I cannot conceive of the people being content with a Senate in which perhaps one half of the electors are unrepresented. That will be the position if we sweep the polls at the next election, and it will necessitate evolving an Opposition. I think it would be very much better, and consonant withthe interests of the people, to take time by the forelock, and provide a system which would enable majority opinion to be expressed in accordance with the views of the majority, and minority opinion to be expressed proportionate to its strength.
– I thought you always said this was too much of a party House ?
– It may be too much of a “party House, because honorable senators desire to place party before State. If they place their State before their party, it will not be a party House. With due respect to the party I represent, I intend to put my State before my party. Tasmania, the State that, sent me here, can claim my loyalty before my party.
– What about your system in Tasmania?
– The system we have in Tasmania was responsible for my political birth, and that is something to its credit, although I say it jocularly. There are practically only two parties in that State, because the independent section has never been able to secure much representation. If there were eight or ten strong - parties, those eight or ten parties would be represented according to their quotas. ‘There are only two big parties in the Commonwealth, and it is only of late that the Socialist section, headed by ex-Senator Rae, has been able to make any headway at all. It is only recently that the farmers’ organization in some of the States has come into being as a separate political entity, and there are really only four parties in any of the States worthy of consideration.
– What about the teetotal party ?
– I do not consider that a separate political party, and I have found that the people belonging to temperance organizations, when it comes to voting, frequently record their votes irrespective of any opinion they may hold on the temperance question. Whilst an advocate of temperance, I am not a total abstainer, and T have secured substantial support from people who believe in total abstinence. Two parties are strongly represented in Australia solely because there are only two main sections of public opinion, and that is a reason why the advocates of the Hare system have not been able to refute the charges of those who say that it breeds parties. As a matter of fact, it is a machine that will not turn out more than is put into it. It confounds those who try to run it cunningly by supporting weak candidates, and leaving those who are considered strong without the primary vote, with the result that sometimes the strong candidate is defeated. Under a system of proportional representation, with a single transferable vote, there is only one vote, and, as Senator McDougall has said, it has only one value, and that is its .full value. When the people begin to understand the true meaning of proportional representation, with the single transferable vote, it will. -be more popular. It is one of the cleanest electoral devices ever conceived by the mind of man, because it has asits object the securing of representation for all shades of political opinion, although a great many consider it a complex system. As a matter of fact, the system of voting is notcomplex so long as it is remembered that there is a single transferable vote. The system of counting occupies time, because the surpluses and fractions which go to make up the different votes have to he transferred to give the vote its full value. If the system were applied in connexion with a big State, it might involve delay,but I have been informed by experts that the danger is more imaginary than real. That, however, is not a matter for the electors, and a voter may rest assured that under a system of proportional representation, with the single transferable vote, he is always given a fair deal. The whole electoral machinery is so designed as to give a vote its full and correct value. ‘
– The mechanism of a locomotive does not concern the passenger.
– Exactly. The man who drives the engine cannot make one. People who have studied this question have endeavoured to perfect the system in a spirit of unselfishness, and quite apart from all party influences.
– Is it not a fact that theexperts in the Department have said that there are no difficulties associated with the system?
– I believe that is so. We who favour proportional representation , are, in connexion with this amendment, only doingsomething to keep before the public thenecessity for the application of the principle to our legislative institutions. We know, with the present personnel of this Parliament, that there is very little hope of it being embodied in our statute-book, but it is our duty to hold up to the people something worthy of achievement. The electors of Tasmania, having experienced the benefits derived under proportional representation, would not return to the old system.
-There is room for a little improvement.
– That may be. I know the Tasmanian system does not reflect small majorities gained by one party. The Tasmanian system is de signed to reflect a majority of quotas rather than a majority of votes, hut that is a mechanical defect that can be remedied. I am sorry that the principle of proportional representation is not to be embodied in this Bill. I have some recollection of the fact that the leaders of the party to which I have the honour to belong promised, in effect, some years ago, to adopt the system of proportional representation in connexion with Senate elections. In the 1914 election Senator Keating and I were the only two Tasmanian Liberal candidates elected to the Senate, and I was nearly deprived of my seat owing to a split vote. I feel certain that I was representing the views of a majority of the Tasmanian people to the extent of nearly 1,000 votes. The people of Tasmania did not desire my defeat, but thatunhappy result - for me - was nearly accomplished as a result of a defective method ofvoting. I am certainly against a system that returns a majority of representatives of a minority. That did happen in Tasmania, and I do not wish to see it repeated. If we cannot have proportional representation embodied in this Bill, I am still going to support the passing of the measure, because it will secure the next best thing - the expression of the opinion of the majority; There is one feature of this measure which I seriously oppose, and that is the grouping of candidates.Under the present system the name of the candidate is all that is submitted to the elector. Why should political colouring be introduced into the ballot-paper by the grouping of candidates ? The ballot-paper is merely to set forth the name of a candidate, and the elector should use his discretion in making his choice. I would not think of supporting this innovation, and I did not know it was intended to include it in the measure. I would not dream of violating the secrecy of the ballot-box by recognising parties in such a way. I will strongly oppose such a provision.
– Senator McDougall favours the printing of the names of party candidates in different coloured inks.
– Yes, a different colour for each party. Are the people, in Senator - McDougall’s opinion, so ignorant that they have to be handled like so many children?
– The party candidates may as well be shown in different coloured inks as by certain letters.
– It does not reflect much credit upon those who favour the. suggested system of marking the ballot-papers’, if they think there would be confusion! with candidates. In Tasmania, a very small proportion of the votes polled1 is informal.
-. - But uniformity is desirable’.
– I do not know that it is. We are not going to have uniformity of representation in thisChamber of the same character as that in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives is elected on a population basis, and the Senate on a State basis. I wish every one to clearly understand that proportional representation is quite different from preferential voting. I have noticed even members of Parliament confusing the two systems. Preferential voting, is one thing as applied to single member’ constituencies, and proportional representation is another. One merely secures the expression of majority opinion.
– That is all it can do.
– Yes; but in regard to proportional representation as applied to a State, we would have the proportional1 representation of varying shades of political opinion.
– Proportional representation would not give Tasmania representation at all.
– The honorable senator is completely in error. Proportional representation would give Tasmania a little over four representatives in the House of Representatives; but, being a sovereign State, we are constitutionally entitled to five-, and, I hope, always will. be. But in regard to the election for the representation of States to this Chamber, I think, in order to insure the Senate being a deliberative assembly, the principal sections of public opinion in the nation should have satisfactory representation. I have very much pleasure in seconding Senator Pratten’s amendment,, because I am sure its adoption will give full expression to the opinion of the people of Tasmania who sent me here, and because it will give what. I think is logically essential, once we grant that the minority is worthy of some representation, namely, representation in proportion to its numbers.
.- I am anxious to say a few words early in the debate, because, owing to my condition, it is necessary that I should not remain long in the chamber this afternoon.
– We are all glad to see you here again.
– I have read the Bill through very carefully, and I must say that there is a great deal of confusion in the public mind as to what it really means.. Thereis confusion also in the press of Tasmania. I read a leading article in one of the Tasmanian papers, in the course of which the enormity of the present system was referred to, and it was suggested that, the Bill will alter it. It is, however, clear to anybody who reads the Bill that it is simply going to continue block voting, with a provision for contingent voting to prevent voter splitting.
– Openly, that is what it means.
– The special provision to which I have referred will prevent, loss of votes to a party owing to a multiplicity of candidates. I do not agree with some- views expressed this afternoon . There was, for instance, the objection to the marking of ballot-papers with the numerals 1, 2, 3, and so on. Last year I opposed the amendment of the. Electoral Act, now in operation in regard to the House of Representatives, and I gave then what I thought was. a very good reason for my opposition. But, having adopted that system of marking ballot-papers for candidates for the House of Representatives’, it, is. imperative, that we should now do something to bring about uniformity in the system of voting for both Houses, otherwise there will be a great deal of confusion among the electors. It would be quite reasonable to expect that if electors were called upon to mark one ballot-paper with a cross and the other with numerals, in many cases the wrong paper would be marked with a cross and vice versa. Therefore, I. support this feature of the Bill, because it will prevent a big loss from informal votes. I. need not stress the point, because it has been done already, that the measure now before the
Senate does not provide for proportional representation. Its system has not the- smallest resemblance to proportional representation, and, therefore, it is not what was promised to the people. Over and over again during the past twelve months or two years, we have had announcements that a Bill had been prepared to provide for proportional representation for the Senate. I distinctly remember the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), at Launceston in 1917, making the promise that if Mr. Goodluck, of that city, retired from the contest, the Government would bring in a Bill to provide for proportional representation for the Senate. Upon that solemn undertaking, Mr, Goodluck withdrew his. candidature. Advocates of proportional representation throughout tie country have been led to believe that we were going to have a measure providing for this system. The Bill does not contain this principle, and, so far, the people have been deceived, and one more of the many promises made by the Prime Minister has not been kept. We have had numerous complaints about the bare majority in a State getting the whole of the representation. It has been urged that we should have representation, not only of majorities, but also of minorities, in proportion to their numbers. I have said before that we are not going, to get fair or accurate representation of the people in contests for which only three candidates are required, and that we would only get a representation of, say, two . to one. That is all that this Bill will effect. I have also mentioned in this chamber that a very simple method in operation in America, and known as the limited vote, would effect the same end. Under that system, an elector is limited to a two-thirds choice of the number of candidates to be elected, so that in an election for three senators from each State, every voter would have two votes. The majority would “then elect two candidates, and the minority one. That is all that can be expected of any system for the election of only three candidates. I have read largely the opinions of those who are supposed to lead in electoral reform schemes throughout the world, and I find that true representation under the proportional system cannot be insured with less than ten or twelve vacancies. That, of course, would be impossible for the Senate unless some arrangement could be made for all the senators to be returned at the same election. I notice that many of those who have given almost a lifetime’s study to this question do not regard the Bill as a satisfactory measure. Professor Nanson describes it as a gamble. Whether it is or not, I am not prepared to say; but it certainly does not satisfy those who have always been endeavouring to secure a more scientific system of voting. Every time that an Electoral Bill has been before this Chamber, I have endeavoured to point out what I think is a glaring inconsistency in our Electoral Act, which I think must, sooner or later, be removed. We provide that the number in any division must not exceed one-fifth, or be one-fifth less than the average quota. But between the one-fifth above the average, and the one-fifth below the average, is a difference of 50 per cent. That is to say, there will be 50 per cent, more electors in one division than in another. This means that if I, as an elector, live on the border-line of one division, I may have 50 per cent, more representation than if I lived on the other side of the street and in another division. This is not fair, and it ought to be altered.
Another matter to which I have frequently referred is the contingency of a candidate dying after nomination and before election. I have been told that this will not happen once in 1,000 years, but it is a contingency. It has happened, and it should be provided for. In ;th© case I refer to, if it had not been for the finest piece of organization I have ever known, the majority of the people in one State would not have been represented in this Chamber.
– You are referring to South Australia.
– Yes. There was an average leave of 22,000 votes for one side, owing to the death of a candidate, and the electors of his party, in order to register formal votes, had to vote for an “opponent. If it had not been for the organization concentrating that vote on one man, there would not have been in this Chamber one representative of the most numerous party in that State. That is a contingency which we should guard against. Another objection is that every elector under this system will be compelled to vote for candidates in whom he has no confidence. Many people will say that they cannot conscientiously vote for more than the three candidates of the party which they favour, and that, since they must vote for at least seven, they . prefer to vote for none at all. Why should we ask any elector to cast a vote for a person to whom he does not desire to give the benefit of his vote? We will merely be causing electors to render their ballot-papers informal.
– That argument is nonsensical; an elector, if he knows he must vote for seven candidates, will do so.
– I can mention instances in which electors have not exercised their franchise at all, since the system in vogue would involve their casting votes for candidates in whom they had no confidence. They have purposely made their ballot-papers informal. Under no system that I know of anywhere is the elector compelled to vote for twice as many candidates as can be elected. Confusion as well as dissatisfaction will be created by this new method.
The only feature of the Bill which I can ‘ support is that by which the voting is made uniform, thus preventing con-: fusion. The point raised by Senator Gardiner regarding provision for disqualification appears to require ‘ careful consideration. My reading of the Bill had been after the .manner of the reading given to it by the Minister (Senator Russell) ; but, having listened to Senator Gardiner, I think that when the measure is dealt with in Committee it should be made clear that a candidate who is excluded shall be excluded only for the time being. There should be no room for ambiguity in that regard.
As for proportional representation, while for a long time I was not altogether satisfied with its working in Tasmania, I am compelled now to say that it gives a clearer and more equitable representation than does the block vote. But there is still room for improvement; and, no doubt, with the experience gained by years of practice, the’ proportional system will be considerably improved. If the system could be applied to the election, at the one time, of the whole of the members of the Senate, I could raise no objection; but to apply proportional representation to the election of three candidates would be like using a steam hammer to crack a nut. It becomes dis’proportional representation when only three candidates are to be elected. There can be no perfect representation under the proportional system unless there are ten or twelve seats to be filled. I am inclined ‘ to vote for Senator Pratten’s amendment, because the system of proportional representation is preferable to that set out in this Bill. I cannot understand why the measure has been introduced. Over and over again we have been told that a Bill to apply proportional representation to elections for the Senate was being prepared. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) promised’ it; but now, at the last moment, something is placed before us which is neither one thing nor the other. I know of no State or country in the world .where such a system is in operation as this Bill would impose.
– Some portion of to-day’s debate has centred upon the merits and demerits of the proportional system as compared with the system involved in this Bill. Senator Guy has rightly said that this measure does not give effect to the principle of proportional representation for the Senate. It is not designed to do so. It is intended to make sure that the majority shall be represented, whether in the House of Representatives or the Senate. The method of election in vogue at present, so far as the Senate is concerned, does not achieve that.
The amendment of Senator Pratten places me in a somewhat embarrassing position. Since the introduction of the Hare system in Tasmania for the first time in any British Parliament, I have been one of its ardent supporters. I was among the first to take the trouble to study the system, and to be in a position to explain it, as I did to the electors practically from one end to the other of Tasmania. I support the system to-day. I would like to see the whole of the Federal Parliament reflecting in this, the inner circle, the whole of the opinions of the people of the outer circle. The only way in which that can be brought about is to apply the proportional system ; but we cannot make a decent attempt to constitute the Senate as representative of various sections of thought’ unless the whole of the six senators ‘ from each of the States are elected at the one time. Senator Pratten’s amendment intentionally involves the destruction of the Bill; and I have to consider the alternative. If I could destroy, the Bill, and secure proportional representation, there would he no hesitation in my attitude; I would be bound to stand by the principle of proportional representation. But the opportunity is not offered to me. It may appear to be offered, but actually it is not. The alternative with which I am faced is that the present system, from which I have personally suffered, will continue. Honorable senators oppositehave been able to secure, in their party, a discipline of conduct which enables them to restrain prospective candidates from offering their services to the public. Their party has made laws which are honestly observed among themselves, and one . of these is that intending candidates shall first submit themselves for acceptance to. a small coterie. They must undergo the humiliating experience of asking some one else whether or not they may offer themselves as candidates.
– Any man in Australia can stand as a Labour candidate…
– I am well aware of that; but what chance would such an individual have if not indorsed by the party ? By adopting the system of preferential voting we can give every man who desires to represent his fellowcitizens in Parliament - a quite honorable and proper ambition - an equal chance to have his name submitted to the electors, who should be the only arbiters.
– The honorable senator would not support the block-vote method by that argument.
– I am not supporting it, but it is here, with the machinery to give effect to it. If Senator Pratten had passed through my experience, he would understand how this matter comes home to me. I can give honorable senators a few figures connected with the election in 1914, which my colleagues from Tasmania can verify. In that election there were six Labour candidates, who secured a total of 234,000 votes. On the Liberal side there were eight candidates, who. secured a total of over 236,000 votes. They had a majority of about 2,250 votes but through the inadequacy of the existing machinery, and the lack of such a law as the Government now propose to pass, a minority of the electors secured four of the Tasmanian seats for the Senate, and the majority secured only two seats, in the election of Senators Bakhap and Keating . Their position on the poll was by no means high, and the result, as I have stated it, was owing to the fact that 9,900 votes had been diverted from the Liberal party because of the lack of any machinery to bring them into the count. This meant that 9,900 electors lost their right to representation in this Chamber. That is what happened in 1914, and it is not the first time that a similar result has followed an election. It has happened elsewhere in Australia, and it happened twice in Tasmania..
I have to admit that the drafting of the Bill is not so easily understood as I should like, but I have taken a great deal of care in my consideration of the measure, and have worked out its probable results by two or three different methods. I can vouch for the fact that as a means of bringing all votes to, the count, so as to secure that a majority of the electors shall elect the members of the Senate, the machinery provided by this Bill will be effective.
– On whose authority does the honorable senator make that statement ?
– On my own authority, because I have worked the matter out. I cannot do so here, but if Senator Pratten cares to give me an hour or so of his time, I can show him how I have worked it out. I was singularly fortunate in being able to use the results of an election in Tasmania in 1913. At that election 14,849 electors recorded valid votes. The parties were nearly . equally divided, there being a, majority of something over 500 for the. Liberals. As it happened, the. results of that election were completely analyzed by a number of experts-. The voting was thoroughly tested, and I was able to adapt the figures of that election, and by two different methods to demonstrate; that if six senators had to be returned under this method - because the method of voting, is precisely similar - the six candidates representing the Liberal party, having a majority of 500, would secure the whole of the seats. I do not. say that that would be right. I am quite frank about that. It would not, in my opinion, be fair if the Senate were to consist of thirty-six members representing one political party. That, would not be just to a, large minority of electors.
– We are risking that under this, Bill.
– Yes ; but when we come to advocate the Hare system, we find that our strongest opponents are honorable, senators oh the other side. There are so many opponents of the system because, I think, it is not properly understood.
– How many counts did it take to enable the honorable senator to arrive at the conclusion he has mentioned ?
– A good many counts ; but they do not really take all the time which Senator Pratten suggests. I was surprised ‘ to find the honorable senator, who is usually very clear-minded, pointing out as objectionable things which would happen under this Bill, every one of which happensunder the Hare system. Even if it took a week or a fortnight to complete the count, that would not matter. Honorable senators should remember that we are dealing with a vast continent, and that people will be voting from the Gulf of Carpentaria in the north to Recherche Bay, in ‘Tasmania, inthe south, and from east to west of theContinent at the same time, and all their votes have to be collected.. I agree with Senator Gardiner that much more might be done to. expedite the examination of votes at local centres than is now done. To secure a final pronouncement of the views of the electors over so vast an area as the Commonwealth must take a considerable amount of time. What does that matter ? What is it we. desire to do? We desire to secure a true representation of the people in this Parliament, and if it takes a fortnight or a month to count the votes of the electors in order to do so, that delay is, in my opinion, of no consequence at all. Sometimes we do no work in this Senate for a whole month at a time. I think that the method of counting proposed by this Bill might be simplified by the adoption ofthe suggestion made by Senator Gardiner this afternoon. It is useless to dogmatize on this subject, because the time at our disposal isso short, and it is possible that one may make a mistake in working out the probable results. I have heard Professor Nanson’s name mentioned several times this afternoon, and it has been said that he has given various opinions. He gave myself and a committee of which I was a member his written assurance that the method of counting votes provided for in this
Bill will secure the representation of the majority in the Senate, and will do away with the mischief of the split vote.
– In 1904 I was in an election, and on the day following that on which I was selected Professor Nanson came along with a system of voting that would have counted me out. I was third under one system, but under the system he suggested I would have been seventh.
– This proposal is no more difficult to understand than is the method of conducting an election for another place which has already been provided for.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Many of the objections which have been urged during this debate regarding the complexity of the system of preferential voting are ill-founded. A simple explanation of the method that is adopted in counting the votes recorded under that system for the House of Representatives will serve to make the position per-‘ fectly clear. Let us imagine that a large number of candidates are contesting a seat in the other branch of the Legislature. The law is that each elector must indicate on his ballot-paper the order of his preference for the various candidates. He is required to mark as number one the candidate whom he likes best, and to give his second and third pref erence to the two other candidates who most appeal to him, and so on through all his preferences. What then happens? Unless one candidate, at the first count, secures an absolute majority of primary votes he cannot be declared elected. If there are 10,000 votes recorded and a candidate receives 4,000 or 4,500 of them, not only can he not be declared elected, but it is quite possible that he may not improve his position, and that other candidates by means of the supplementary votes may defeat him. The primary preferences of the electors having been ascertained by the Returning Officer, and those preferences not having given any candidate a majority, that officer is required to eliminate the candidate with the lowest number of primary votes, and to ascertain what the electors desire to be done with their votes in that contingency. The candidate with the lowest number of primary votes having been eliminated, if there be not then a majority of electors in favour of one candidate, the next candidate with the lowest number of first preference votes is eliminated, and this process is repeated until one of the candidates obtains an absolute majority of the votes cast. That is the whole intention of our electoral system. Whenever a candidate obtains more than one-half of the votes polled, he must be elected. That is precisely the system which is now proposed in connexion with our Senate elections, except that the process is repeated with three candidates. It is the system which obtainsin connexion with elections for the other branch of the Legislature. I have already said that the Bill is one which can best be dealt with in Committee. Very often in discussing measures affecting principles we are apt to baulk at very small considerations. We had an illustration of that thisafternoon when considerable time was spent in discussing one of the minor details of the Bill, namely, the conditions under which a candidate should lose his deposit. That is a matter which can be determined in Committee, and which certainly does not affect the main principle of this measure. If I voted for the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Pratten I should be voting in favour of leaving things as they are, which seems to me a very much worse alternative than that of apparently opposing the Hare system of voting. I admit that to-day we are forging a weapon which may be turned against us at any election, and I am glad that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has stated that this Bill is not intended to become a permanent Statute. I am sure that its passing will result in securing the representation of a majority of the electors in this Chamber. But later on I would like to see a better system adopted - a system under which representation in the Senate will not become the monopoly either of the Labour party or of the Liberal party. I wish to see fair representation in the political arena. It would be a calamity if the great and important Labour party - strongly as I differ from many of its principles - were left with any smaller representation in the Senate than it has at the present time. I would not support the Bill but for my recognition of the fact that it will give the Labour party fair play on the lines of its own principle of mere majority representation. . If that party believes in majority rule, it will secure the seats if it holds a majority; but if it does not, it will not obtain the representation to which I think it is entitled, and which it would secure under a system of proportional voting.
– The Labour party is not alarmed about that.. It can look after itself very well.
SenatorMULCAHY. - I was merely explaining what might appear to be a somewhat inconsistent attitude on the part of one who claims to be a strong supporter of the Hare system of voting.
– I do not know whether I can construe the concluding remarks of Senator Mulcahy as an attempt to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. But I intend to make my position perfectly clear. I shall vote against the second reading of this Bill. I realize the necessity for altering our electoral law, so far as elections for the Senate are concerned. I have recognised for many years that the system under which honorable senators have been elected has resulted in the undue representation of one political party. But I cannot see how that defect will be remedied by this Bill. Had the measure provided for a real preferential system of voting I would have supported it. But it does not provide for preferential voting as I understand it. In the first place, it calls upon the electors to vote for not fewer than seven candidates. The Bill, therefore, makes it compulsory for electors to vote for seven candidates. Then . why not extend that compulsion to exhausting their preferences? I can imagine nine candidates being in the field for the representation of a State in this Chamber, consisting of three Ministerial nominees, three Labour candidates, and. three nominees of the Farmers Union. There might also be candidates representingthe returned soldiers, as well as independent candidates. Why should not an elector have the right to exhaust all his preferences?
– He has that right under this Bill.
– But the Bill provides that he shall exercise his preferences in respect of seven candidates only.
– No. In respect of not less than seven candidates.
– Then the measure should set out explicitly that an elector must exhaust the whole of his preferences.
– The honorable senator’s colleague objected to that.
– I Tim merely expressing’ my own opinion. The Bill provides for the block vote in an. accentuated form, and will merely result in a continuance of the defective system under which we have hitherto been elected.
– There is nothing wrong with that system.
– There is a lot wrong with it. I am prepared to vote for any measure which will secure the elimination of the defects associated with our present system of voting. But if Ministers have, nothing better to put before us than is contained in this Bill, they might as well have ‘left the old system of the block vote untouched. This is the block system aggravated. In connexion with the grouping’ system the Government might have gone further and designated the party which each candidate represents.. I have a report of a Select Committee of the Senate, which was appointed to inquire into the conduct of the general elections of 1913,. of which Senator Gardiner was Chairman, and the present Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator Russell) a member. Senator Russell put some very pertinent questions to the Commonwealth Chief Electoral Officer (Mr.. Oldham) in connexion with -the designation of party groups. At that time Mr. Oldham did not think it right, but instead of the present A, Bi, C system we might as well have “ gone the whole hog “ and designated the parties which the different candidates represent. The Minister has admitted that the electors will know which parties the candidates represent, and it would have been better to have shown clearly on the ballot-paper who were the representatives of the different-parties, as it is quite possible that there will be representatives of the Labour party, Liberal party, the Farmers Union, the Returned Soldiers, and Independents.
– Who is going to define the parties?
– The electors.
– Supposing, two groups call themselves Labour representatives ?
– Are you a Labour, man?
– I have always been, and am still, a Labour man. If Senator de Largie were a candidate it would be interesting to know with which party he would be grouped.
– National Labour.
– I would be a representative of the Australian Labour party.
– Supposing another three candidates said they were the representatives of the Australian Labour party?
– Candidates should be grouped so that an’ elector would know exactly t-o which party they belonged. No candidate is afraid of the party he supports, and the grouping system should be improved in the manner I have- suggested.
– Should the Socialists be shown separately?
– I am not bothering about that, and am considering, the- interests’ of .the party to which I have the honour to belong; though I am not pledged to proportional representation I intend1 to support the amendment moved] by Senator Pratten.
– And kill the Bill.
– I intend to vote against the second reading, because the Bill is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good, red herring.
– If I wished to- kill’ the Bill I would support Senator Pratten’ si amendment.
– Do you prefer the present system to- that proposed?’
– If we cannot have a better system- than- the present X am prepared to allow’ the present method to remain. I am not altogether in favour of the present system, but I cannot see how this Bill is going to remove the difficulties that at present exist. I believe that instead of removing those difficulties it will accentuate them,, and in view o£. this I intend voting for the lesser of two. evils.. Honorable senators behind the present Government indicated that proportional, representation would be a plank of their policy. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated that such would be the case, and that ‘has been verified by Senator Guy, who stated thai the. Prime Minister announced in Tasmania that if Mr. Goodluck would retire, his Government would bring in a measure to provide proportional representation for the Senate. The public of Australia has been under the impression for some time that proportional representation was to be the method adopted at the next election. It has been stated in the press - I do not know whether that source of information is reliable or not - that the gentlemen in the Caucus meetings of the party supporting the Government debated the matter as to whether or not proportional representation should be introduced in connexion with Senate elections, and I believe that certain honorable senators were opposed to it. I presume that as a result of that opposition this hybrid bill - which I referred to on a previous occasion as a bastard measure - has been introduced. Let us be honest to the electors and to ourselves. The Government have already announced that it was their intention to adopt proportional representation, and as Senator Pratten has been honest enough to submit an amendment embodying the principle, itis my intention to support him. I realize that the Bill is of a machinery character, and that as more good work can ‘be done in Committee than during the secondreading stage, I content myself now by opposing the second reading, and reserving any further comment until the measure is in Committee.
– The measure now under consideration is a most disappointing presentment. As the last speaker has stated, there has been a feeling abroad in the community, since the last Federal election, that before another Senate election was held there would be an alteration in the system of election. It is correct, I understand, that before the last election, Mr.’ Hughes, as Prime Minister, in Launceston, in answer to a question explicitly put to him - which, I believe, was submitted in writing - specifically stated that if returned to power he would introduce into Parliament a Bill to apply the system of proportional representation to future elections for the Senate. I do not say that Mr. Hughes, as Prime Minister, said that such a system would be established, nor do I go so far as to say that the Cabinet as a whole had announced their adherence to that particular system.
– The Prime Minister’s policy speech at Bendigo distinctly referred to preferential voting.
– I am not concerned just now with what was said at Bendigo, because I do not remember what references were made to the matter at that time.
– I am not prepared to deny your statement, but I believe that such an announcement was made at Bendigo.
– I do not know if the Prime Minister there promised to introduce such a system, or if he announced it as a plank in the Government policy, but it was reported in all the papers in Tasmania, that in answer to a question in Launceston he gave the answer I have quoted.
What has surprised me, or rather has not surprised me, in connexion with the consideration of “this measure is that, a-part from the Minister, there has not been one supporter or defender of the Bill to raise his voice in its favour. Every honorable senator who has addressed himself to the motion for the second reading of the Bill has criticised its provisions more or less adversely.
– The discussion has not yet been concluded.
– Of course it has not, but we have waited’ a long time for any one to come forward and point out the merits of the Bill. I listened to the Minister, and. he did not convey to my mind the impression that he was strongly in favour of the Bill. Those of us who have been waiting since to hear of the -merits of the Bill have waited in vain. As Senator de Largie has pointed .out, the debate has not been concluded, but we know that it will not be long before the Bill passes the Senate, as the Minister has already submitted a motion, which has been carried, to suspend the Standing and Sessional Orders to enable it to pass without delay. The time this Parliament has to sit is limited, and one would .have thought that by now there would have been in this debate some support for the Bill.
There are what might be termed three alternatives in regard to the representation of individual States in the Senate. There is majority .representation, or representation in the Senate of a State as an entity solely by an absolute majority, no matter how small or how large.
– That is the purpose of the present system.
– Exactly. Another alternative is the representation of what might be named the composite opinion of a State. It is the representation in the Senate of the composite political opinion of each individual State which would be obtained by a system of proportional representation. There is also another method of representation, which is not always deliberately designed very far in advance, and that is the representation in this Chamber of a State, not of composite or majority opinion, but by the representation solely of a minority, and that is quite possible. As honorable senators have observed in the working of the Constitution, and in connexion with the elections for the Senate, it is quite possible under the present system- and it is even probable - that an individual State may be represented only by those who are in accord with the views of a minority in the State. If a majority of the electors are agreed on general principles of policy, but in regard to some details, whether of policy, or of their own internal administration or organization, are divided, it is probable that a minority may defeat the divided majority. That is what has happened in some past elections. Senator Bakhap, speaking earlier, referred to one election in Tasmania in which the majority of voters were divided by reason of the fact that more candidates representing one party presented themselves than were required to fill the vacancies, with the result that the vote was split and an actual minority of the electors secured four out of six seats. That is a worse evil than that of simple majority representation. Majority representation, to my idea, errs in that it takes no account of the minority, be the minority however close in point of numbers. If 53 per cent, of the electors vote solidly and en bloc for a certain number of candidates, they can get the whole of the seats, while 47 per cent, of the electors, also voting solidly and en bloc, get no representation. That is the evil of the present system, which the Bill will perpetuate so long as it operates. But it is a far greater evil when 53 per cent, of the voters, through being divided amongstthemselves, are defeated by 47 per cent., and the 47 per cent, get the whole of the seats. That is an evil which this Bill is designed to remedy. That is the only merit I can see in it.
– That is all it. is intended to do.
– I am glad to have that admission from the Minister and those whole heartedly supporting the measure. It is a recognition and acceptance of the block system of voting for the Senate, and is an attempt to preserve it - to fortify it, in fact - by provisions designed to prevent any excess of candidates causing a split in the votes of the major portion of the electors, enabling a minority to get the whole representation, or, indeed, any representation at all. We all know that an effective policy, both in war and in the arts of peace, when contests occur, is for the smaller party to divide the larger opposed party, if possible, so that at a critical moment cohesion may be destroyed, and the larger party, being defeated in parts, may eventually be defeated as a whole. The object of the measure is to prevent a minority of electors being able to do this in connexion with elections for the Senate.
My attitude has always been one of recognition of the merits of the system of proportional representation. We have had practical experience of it for the Assembly elections in Tasmania, and I venture to repeat what has been said already, that as far as Tasmania is concerned, with an experience of proportional representation for the Assembly elections, and of the block system of voting for Senate elections, there is no indication of a desire on the part of any organized body to revert to the older system for the State. We recognise that under a democratic method of election, Parliament should be a reflex of the political thought and aspirations of the community, and we feel that in ‘ Tasmania we have advanced in our voting system, and that it would be a retrograde step to revert to anything like the block system. Whenever, in. recent years, new institutions of a parliamentary character have been created, the system of proportional representation finds the greatest favour. In various States of the United States of America, and in provinces of Canada, this system has made great headway, not only in connexion with the provincial or State parliamentary elections, but with local self-governing bodies, corresponding with our municipal councils. I may add that the same principle is observed in the Government of Ireland Billthe Home Rule B;ll which stands on the statute-book of Great Britain. All this goes to show that the system is highly esteemed wherever it is proposed to create new parliamentary institutions. I attribute this largely to the fact that those associated in the work are riot influenced by any of that party feeling which may be generated in the actual life of a Parliament. ‘ They are dealing with a parliamentary body that is to come into being, and have not yet entered into the atmo- sphere of party politics, so they are able to discuss this question on its merits, and invariably they recognise that the proper system is that which will make Parlia-. ment a reflex, or mirror, of the political thought and aspirations of the outside community. For this reason I intend to support, the amendment moved by Senator Pratten. The Minister said just now, when I referred to a body elected upon the proportional representation system as expressing what might bc called the composite mind of the community, that he thought it would represent rather the heterogeneous mind. I say it would re-, present the composite mind, because, in the case of the Senate, there are not many candidates to be elected, so that every particular .body of thought in the community cannot be absolutely and separately reflected.
– “Would it not be better to apply this system to the House of Representatives?
– That might be desirable, but .already each .State returns six senators, and multiple electorates are the sine qua non for proportional representation. In the case of the House of Representatives it would be necessary to have larger constituencies returning each a number of candidates.
I have said that I thought the proportional system would act as a reflex or a mirror of the thought and aspirations of the community. A mirror, as honorable senators know, does not reflect absolutely minutely every detail of an object. It reflects mainly the outstanding features. And so Parliament, as a mirror of political thought, would, as under this system, reflect the outstanding bodies of political thought, that is to say, those that were sufficiently outstanding to be regarded as considerable and dominating. It could not possibly represent, directly and in detail,’ small bodies of public opinion outside supported by only a very inconsiderable section of the people. If, however, each State returned twenty-one members to the Senate, it would be possible then for some to be returned as representatives of those electors who, for example, regard teetotalism and prohibition as the all-dominating consideration. But when only three senators are required, the electors who look upon particular reforms as the greatest and most important must join forces with other electors to whom other matters to be dealt with by Parliament are regarded as of more importance, but with whom, perhaps, they share most other political ideas in common.
It is needless for me to enter into a lengthy, discussion of the merits of proportional representation and the disadvantages of the present system. I should like to have seen the Government introduce the proportional system for the forthcoming elections. It is not new, and it would not have been sprung upon the people. It was dealt with in the first Senate of the Commonwealth, and it was proposed to be incorporated in the first Electoral Bill by the first Government - the BartonDeakinO’ConnorKingston Ministry. If was debated here at great length, and was only narrowly defeated. It is a system that has been advocated for many years, and has been tried with success elsewhere.
– It would not be an experiment.
– That is so. The particular system included in the Bill now under consideration is an experiment. I know that the Government have decided to stick to the measure, but I have always here, .and on the public platform of Tasmania, defended the system of proportional representation, so I am going to vote for this amendment. If it is defeated, I shall be in this position: The block system of voting and majority representation will remain, and I think the provisions of this measure should be applied to it, so that it may be perfected, and we may be assured against the possibility of a minority defeating a majority and securing the whole of the representation. This would be a very much worse state of affairs than any result that might ensue from the adoption of the provisions of this Bill.
– The old method of voting was to strike out the names of candidates whom the elector did nob wish to see returned, and to leave upon the ballotpaper Only the name of the candidate or candidates whom he desired to vote for. With all its faults, I doubt if we have very much improved upon that method. This Bill reminds me of the intricate calculations, which can be followed only by a highly trained mathematician, in connexion with the formula set out in our income and land taxation systems. The old method of voting, after a time, was regarded as unsatisfactory, and the system of placing a cross before or after the name of the favoured candidate was inaugurated. That may have been an improvement, but I doubt if it was worth the trouble. The marking with, a cross, certainly involved less work on the part of an elector, particularly when there were many candidates offering themselves ; but the cross system did not afford the elector that pleasure which he had been able to derive by striking out the names of candidates whom he opposed. .Under those systems the candidate, or candidates, eventually elected were not in all cases the favoured of a majority of voters. Consequently, another method, known as preferential voting, was tried. That i6, in effect, a record upon paper of what is termed the exhaustive system of voting. When applied to an election where there can be only one successful candidate, it secures with complete accuracy the election of that individual who represents the views of the .majority of the electors.
One would have thought that, in any system of electoral reform, the Government would not have sought to foist upon this Chamber a method which is entirely different in one important respect from that operating in relation to the House of Representatives. It is quite true that the objects aimed at are identical with respect to each Chamber ; but, if this Bill reaches the Committee stage, I . hope it will not be passed until honorable senators have made the method of voting exactly the same in regard to both Chambers. In New South Wales, a system of preferential voting has been adopted for the election of members to the Legislative Assemby. There, it is laid down, in mandatory fashion that all candidates shall be .numbered; otherwise ballotpapers will be informal. That system has been adopted by the Federal Government. At short notice, a measure was forced through Parliament, which em- i bodied, preferential voting for the election of members of the House of Representatives. In dealing with the Senate why have the Government stopped at requiring electors to display their preference for seven candidates? Is it in order to insure that there will be a considerable number of informal ballotpapers ? Many informal papers will certainly be oast in connexion with the election of candidates’ for the House of Representatives, and very many more with respect to the election of senators.
The method of grouping candidates is, perhaps, not the best that could have been devised ; but, as the Government have determined at all elections to represent the Australian Labour party by other than its real name, it is only appropriate here that they should seek to place a letter of the alphabet in front of each party group. It is advantageous to have the various groups of candidates placed in order, as indicated in the Bill. Electors will have a. better opportunity of recording their votes in the way they desire. The portion of the measure dealing with that feature will have my approval.
I disagree entirely with the proposal that a candidate’s deposit should be forfeited unless he secures the proportion of votes specified in the Bill. In. Commit* tee, I shall seek to amend that provision by the elimination of the reference to one-fifth of the votes cast, and by inserting instead, “ one- tenth “.
Trouble would . have been saved, and the elector would have been given a degree of confidence, if the Government had frankly acknowledged in the Bill that the numerals 1, 2, and 3 are of equal value when it comes to counting the votes. Many people do not take politics very seriously. They seldom think about the subject, except round about election time. When it is impressed upon, the public that the first preference vote is the vital vote - the vote which most effectively counts - it will be a matter of some trouble to disabuse their minds when they are called upon to vote for senatorial candidates.
I have endeavoured to arrive at an understanding of the method of procedure to be followed in counting ballotpapers. I do not know how much time is required to count a ballot in Tasmania.
No doubt it takes a week or two. When we consider the immense number of ballot-papers to be counted in connexion with Senate elections, it becomes problematical whether the counting will spread over weeks or months. I think it will be a matter of a considerable number of months. That being so, the Government should make, provision in this measure whereby all parties shall have representatives, paid for by the Government, to see that a fair deal is given all round. I do not wish to cast aspersions upon any one connected with an election, but scrutiny is always wise, if not necessary. It will be impossible for certain of the parties. and candidates to sustain the cost of maintaining scrutineers day after day through a drawn-out count. An examination of the Bill will show that the divisional returning officers are to be wired the results of the first counts. That may take some days; and scrutineers, in the meantime, will be hanging about. A further return must be sent to the Chief Returning Officer; and the scrutineers will still be hanging around. The Government should be prepared to defray the expenses of scrutineers. It would be an altogether prohibitive matter to candidates if the count were conducted at the various polling places by assistant returning officers. The cost will be heavy enough if scrutineers are to be maintained to oversee the counting of divisional returning officers.
There is nothing in the Bill, unfortunately, having to do with compulsory voting. Th6 Government should have insisted upon all electors recording their votes.
There is one phase of the measure to which honorable senators should show the strongest opposition, that is with respect to the re-introduction- of postal voting; I do not care what the election is, or who may be conducting it. Once a ballot-paper has been allowed to leave a polling booth, it is open to all kinds of manipulation. Even within the polling booth a paper may be operated on; but once it has entered the post, and is subject to handling by more than one person, I, personally, have lost faith in its innocence. In view of our experience of postal voting, it should not be reintroduced in a measure of this kind. 1 say that, knowing well that (without that system some estimable people will not have an opportunity of voting. That, however, is a disadvantage which affects all candidates and parties alike, and, in the interests of the purity of the ballot, we should not reintroduce any system of postal voting. It has been a failure in the past, and where tried has led to unpleasant results.
If -the amendment moved by Senator Pratten is carried I do not know whether the Government will drop the measure and immediately introduce a Bill providing for proportional representation for the Senate. I would not, at the present time, support a proposal for proportional representation for this Chamber. -Why should we seek to impose upon the electors of the Commonwealth a method for the election of senators different from that adopted for the election of members of the House of Representatives 1 If proportional representation is all that its advocates claim for it one would have thought that things in Tasmania “would have been very much better than they are. But there is. nothing specially progressive about Tasmania. There are some features of government in that State - such as the taxing of Australians who go over there 2s. per head to enter Tasmania, and 2s. more per head to leave the State - that are not greatly to the credit of the people there. If that be one of the results of proportional representation I do not think very much of it. If that is a sample of the heights to which a community may attain under the system of proportional representation, there is no reason why that system should be adopted by this Parliament. We have no proposal to apply the system of proportional representation to -elections for the House of Representatives, although if it be a good thing for the Senate it should be an equally good thing for another place. All that would be required to bring it into operation for the House of Representatives would be to group three of the existing electoral divisions for that House and intimate to the candidates that proportional representation for that House was to be adopted. That is not proposed by the Government, and Senator Pratten, by his amendment, proposes that proportional representation shall be confined exclusively to the Senate. On this account I cannot support the amendment.
This Bill is badly drafted and very obscure; but. if I apprehend its objective correctly, it is to secure that those elected under it shall have behind them a majority of the electors of their respective States. That would be a result to. which I could not take much exception; but 1 say it is not wise at the present time to interfere with the Electoral Act. We are promised a Constitution Convention in the near future to deal with various important matters, and this question could then be taken into consideration, lt is absurd to expect that the Senate will be permitted to exist year after year with its present system of representation, under which each State is represented by six senators, irrespective of the number of its population.
– The honorable senator does not propose to alter that?
– I promise Senator Earle that when the Constitution” is placed in the melting pot, as it will be one of these days, Tasmania will not be allowed to have, proportionately to its population, the overwhelming representation it has in the Commonwealth Parliament to-day. The honorable senator will find that the people of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria will not continue to allow Tasmania to have representation in this Parliament so entirely out of proportion to its population. I find that at the general election in 1917 New South Wales had 1,094,834 electors, Victoria 819,707, Queensland 378,296, South Australia 265,779, Western Australia 16S,030, and Tasmania 108,681, or a total in the Commonwealth of 2,835,237 electors. When the representation of the people in this Chamber is under consideration the population of each of the States should be taken into account. Until the Constitution Convention is held, and the Government are prepared to submit the same proposal for the representation of the people in the House of Representatives as for their representation in the Senate, I shall not be able to regard the proposal of this Bill with any degree, of favour. For the reasons I have given I intend to vote against the mea sure. The discussion of it may hasten the adoption of a better method of representation. I do not claim that any particular method is perfect, or that it is possible to propose an absolutely perfect method, but this proposal should not be countenanced until an exactly similar method of representation is proposed for the House of Representatives.
.- I hope that my remarks on the Bill will be as brief as those of several other honorable senators who have addressed themselves to it. I shall say, right away, that I am opposed to the measure for many reasons. It is complex and uncertain in its operation. Speakers and writers upon electoral reform have frequently said that the block system which has existed until the present time for the election of senators has many disadvantages. I have always admitted that; yet this measure will not correct those disadvantages, but will intensify them. If it is a disadvantage that 1,000,000 electors in one State should return the whole of the three, or six, senators, as the case may be, to be returned at a particular election, and that 999,000 electors should return none, this measure is not designed to correct that disadvantage, but rather to intensify it. The only justification for a departure from the simple method of the block system would be to correct the acknowledged disadvantages of that system. Those who believe that nearly one-half of the electors in one State are- entitled to some voice in the election of members of the Senate, have been able to put forward a very fair claim. We have heard a number of speeches in which that claim has been advanced in many different ways. As one who believes that elections for the Senate offer a splendid opportunity for displaying the value of a true proportional system of voting, I have always been in favour of the application of that principle to the Senate.’ This may not be admitted if the matter is looked at from a purely party point of view. There can be no doubt this measure would not be before us were it not for party considerations. Were it not for the fact that one section of the supporters- of the Government in the country, and in another place, which in the last few months has brought into existence wha’t is known as the Farmers’ Union, has shown its teeth and told the Government, in plain terms by the results of a few byelections, and in speeches made by farmers’ representatives, that it does not trust them, we would not be discussing this measure to-day. Although the Government are aware- that country constituencies do not trust them, they still fondly hope and believe that the farmers trust the Labour party still less. They may be wrong, and it may be that the ensuing general election will show that the recalcitrant section now supporting the Nationalist Government will see the light, and believe that it has nothing to fear from the Labour party, and may trust that party more than it can trust the Nationalist party. It is only because the supporters of the Government have been split into two sections in the House of Representatives, if not here, and also in the country, and that the Government believe that the Farmers Union will accept them in preference to a Labour Government, that this measure has been introduced.
There has been a big demand from one end of Australia to the other for the adoption of some new system for the election of senators. That demand is based upon substantial reasons. I shall not occupy the time of honorable senators by repeating figures which have been used so frequently to show the anomaly that existed for some time in this Senate, and which it is possible may exist in the next Senate. It has been pointed out that, after the 30th June next, this Chamber may consist of thirty-six members of one political. j> arty. That is the object which the Government have in view. This Bill aims only at preventing the opponents of the Ministry obtaining even one seat in this ‘Chamber. If the electors in each State support the Government, we shall have a ‘Senate composed of thirty-six members - divided it may be into sectionsnot one of whom it will be possible to class as an Oppositionist. In that case, party government must go by the board. One effect of this measure will be to make the electors of this country realize the absurdity of what the Government- are attempting. This will result in a swinging back of the pendulum, so that there will be a strong probability of the return to this Chamber of eighteen Labour representatives.
– The honorable senator does not give the farmers a chance ?
– I do not ; because I believe that the farmers will not be as strong a body of electors in the country as are those who support the Labour party. Thousands of ‘farmers and their friends throughout Australia will support the Labour party in preference to the Nationalists. One would imagine that this possibility had not occurred to the Government. They pretend to believe that all sections of political thought outside the Labour party are. opposed to that party. Many prominent journals, particularly the Age - which is still sticking to its guns in regard to proportional representation, although it is supporting the
Government which has killed that system of representation - are condemning Ministers for having departed from their solemn pledges to substitute for the block method of voting the. system of proportional representation. This measure provides for a continuance of the block system of voting in an accentuated form. The old method of marking the ballot-papers was readily understood by the electors, and under any system of voting they are entitled to understand what they are doing. I have said that the ideal system is that of proportional representation, with the single transferable vote, because it insures a true reflex of the opinions of the electors. But the ideal time to effect such a change is prior to a double dissolution.
– Why not here, and now?
– It may be many years before we have another double dissolution, and as we have to make a start at some time, advocates of the proportional system of voting regard the presenttime as an opportune one.. The system of voting proposed in this Bill is neither more nor less than a hotch potch. I do not believe that any member of this Chamber, in spite of having devoted weeks to the study of the measure, could answer off-hand dozens of questions which could be put to him by Professor Nanson, or anybody else who has made a lifelong study of electoral matters. When the Vice-President of the Executive. Council was asked a question by Senator Pratten this afternoon, he had to admit that it was “ a poser.”
– Hewouldbe a pretty smart Minister who could answer every question that was put to him.
– But if we cannot understand all the details ofthis Bill, what position does the outside elector occupy ?
– He has only to vote.
– Then has he no right to understand the system under which he is asked to return members to this Parliament?
– I did not say that. The Bill provides a system which will make voting simple for him.
– If the Government desired to adopt a uniform method of election for the Senate and the other branch of the Legislature, it should have brought forward a system of proportional representation. The ballot-papers in connexion with elections for each Chamber would then have had to be marked in the same way. There are many objections which can be urged to this Bill. Subsection 11 of proposed new section 135 of the principal Act provides -
If on any count two or more candidates have an equal number of votes, and one of them has to be excluded, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall decide which shall be excluded.
Why should the fate of any candidate be in the hands of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer?
– Somebody must decide.
– Then let us provide in the Bill that in such’ circumstances lots shall be drawn.
– Would the honorable senator apply the same system where there is a tie between candidates for the final count? .
– Yes. It is not fair to place this responsibility upon the Commonwealth Electoral Officer.
– He is generally a resident of thedistrict, who has not voted.
– But it is impossible to kill human nature in any man. Unconscious bias may prompt a Returning Officer to exclude the better candidate of the two.
– If he had voted as an ordinary citizen there would not be a ballot.
– That is merely a side issue. The fact is that the Return ing Officer does not exercise the franchise because he is paid to discharge the duties of his office. But at any stage of an election there may be two candidates with an equal number of votes, in which case it will be his duty to exclude one of them. In order to free him from even the suspicion of bias, we should provide in the Bill that in such circumstances lots shall be drawn. .
– He may decide the matter in that way himself. There is nothing to prevent him doing so.
– But the Bill does’ not say that he shall do so.
– In any case, such a contingency will’ rarely arise.
– The Returning Officer may have to take the responsibility of deciding matters several times during the course of an election.
– I have never known a case of the kind.
– I know of one case - it was not a Parliamentary election - in which seven candidates were to he elected. Six were elected, and a tie occurred between two candidates for the seventh position. The Returning Officer rejected one of those candidates by giving his casting vote in favour of the other. Yet the majority of those who voted at that election were in favour of the . candidate who was rejected by that officer. I am satisfied that our Returning Officers are a fair set of men who would much prefer to be relieved of the responsibility which will be cast upon them under the provision which I have quoted.
– It must be remembered that, under certain circumstances, that is likely to occur in connexion with scores of counts.
– Yes; with quite a number. The grouping system in the Bill appears to be tremendously cumbersome, and I cannot see why the system of drawing lots in connexion with the groups should not be adopted. I do not know if it is an advantage to one candidate or a group of candidates to be at the top of the paper, but I have heard it so stated.
– It is.
– I would . like my name to he Aaronson for the purposes of an election.
– Yes; instead of Pratten.
– I once saw Barnes, Blakey,” and Barker associated against all sorts of opponents.
– I would prefer my name at election time to be Allen instead of O’Keefe. I have always contended that a system by which candidates are placed on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order of the initial letter of the surname is wrong. All the candidates should have an equal chance in that regard. Speaking from memory, I believe, when we were discussing the original Electoral Act, and when the late lamented Richard O’Connor was Leader in the Senate, I moved an amendment to that effect. I cannot understand why there should be any objection to lots being drawn for the positions candidates’ names should occupy on the ballot-paper, as that would enable those whose names commence with X, Y, or Z, or other letters at the end of the alphabet, to have an equal chance with those whose names commence with A, B, or C.
– Would the honorable member disregard the alphabetical system altogether ?
– Yes; and if Senator Lynch can give any valid reason why the method I have suggested should not be adopted, I am open to conviction. Why should a man whose name commences with A or B have a better chance than one whose name commences with a letter at the end’ of the alphabet ?
– He certainly has a, better chance.
– Of course he has. I do not consider that because a man’s name commences with A he is likely to be a better representative than one whose name commences with Z; but he has an advantage. When the Bill is in Committee it is my intention to move an amendment to provide that, when the votes of two candidates are equal, lots shall be drawn to see who shall be excluded, and that a similar method shall be adopted in arranging the order in which the candidates’ names shall appear on the ballot-paper. It is a fair proposition, and if there is any valid reason why it should not be adopted, I should like it to be given.
– Would you draw lots forthe groups?
– Certainly. Whether it is a question of groups or individuals, the ballot system should be used. Will the Minister give reasons why such a system should not be adopted ? In connexion with the proposal for grouping, the Bill reads, in sub-paragraph i of paragraph c . of proposed new section 105a-
A number shall be placed against the name of each candidate in each group corresponding with the numerical order in which the initial letter of the surname of the candidate occurs in the alphabet.
In the State I represent, the selected Labour candidates’ names are Guy, O’Keefe, and Woods, and the initial letters of the surnames of those representatives bring them, on the average, towards the end of the alphabet The name of Senator Guy will correspond to the figure 7, mine to the figure 15, and Mr. Woods to the figure 23. The average of 45 is 15, and because our group average will be fifteen it is a certainty that we shall not have a chance of being grouped first on a ballotpaper. Why should we not have an equal chance of first place with any other group ?
– My name will be lower than that of the honorable senator.
– That does not affect the argument. I do not want the Minister’s name to be lower on the ballot-paper than mine. As an element of chance is involved, we should see that every candidate, or every group of candidates, has an . equal chance. I am opposed to the Bill because I favour a proper system of proportional representation for electing the Senate. It is my intention to support Senator Pratten’s amendment, and if he had not moved it I would have done so. I also intend to oppose the second reading of the Bill, as it does not cure the evils of the block system which have been outlined in many quarters for years past. It intensifies them. The Minister has practically told the supporters of the Government that they must vote for the Bill, although, according to the speeches, some of them are not likely to do so. The Minister informed a deputation, which introduced some splendid arguments, that the Government were going to have this Bill or nothing at all. The Minister said -that they would not accept any amendment.
– Although he does not believe in the Bill himself.
– Exactly. He openly admitted that it is only a temporary measure. Surely the members of this National Parliament are not to be asked to legislate in this manner? We have built up an expensive system of government, and are being asked to legislate for periods of six or twelve months. This is the second occasion during the last few days that we have been asked to pass Bills of a temporary character. When the Bills to amend the Constitution in certain vital directions were introduced, we were informed that they were to operate for only a limited time. Similar action is being taken in connexion with this measure, and we are given to understand that it is really not a serious business, but a Bill to be used merely as a stop-gap. Why is it necessary on the eve of an election to bring forward a temporary measure for altering the system for electing the Senate? We know that the Government and their supporters will do as they like, with the result that after the 30th June the Government may have the control of the country absolutely in their own hands, and will be in a position to disregard the views of others. Such a position is possible, but I do not think it is probable, because the electors of Australia will not tolerate such a position. There will be eighteen senators representing one party remaining as members of this Chamber, and the people will be asked to return another eighteen representing the same party. After the 30th June next, if the Government have their way, there will not be a solitary senator in this Chamber to voice the opinions of the Opposition. Even if the Government secure a majority in the other Chamber, I feel sure they will have to face a much stronger Opposition, and one of practically their own strength. If the Nationalists combine with the’ representatives of the Farmers Union, and succeed in getting a majority against Labour, they will not succeed in wiping the Labour party out of the House of Representatives. I believe that the Labour party will be much more strongly represented in the other Chamber after the election than it is to-day.
– And it seems certain that we are on the eve of years of political turmoil.
– That may be so. No one supporting the Government will deny that there is likely to be a strong . Opposition in the House of Representatives after the next election. What an anomaly it would be to have a strong Opposition in one branch of the Legislature and no Opposition at all in the other ! When important measures have passed the House of Representatives, and come to this Chamber for consideration, if the Government had their way, there will be no one here to voice the other side of the question.
– The honorable senator is arguing that a double dissolution is not far off.
– No. If the Government had a majority in the other House and thirty-six senators on one side here, there would not be a double dissolution. I can imagine, however, how difficult it would be in those circumstances to keep a quorum, because at present, with two parties represented in this Chamber, a certain number of honorable senators have business elsewhere, while some are absent through causes over which they have no control. With thirty-six senators on one side there would be a splendid argument for the abolition of this Chamber; and I may add that quite a numher of people in the smaller States do not believe that that would be a good thing. I have always recognised the danger of having a Senate representing only one side in politics. As a matter of fact, on the eve of the double dissolution in 1914, I pointed out to a number of members of my party the danger of the block system of voting returning thirty-six senators on one side, and urged that the time was opportune for the introduction of a system which would make this Senate, with eighteen members on each side, an ideal Chamber, occupying a really useful place in the counsels of this country.
– And bring about a dead-lock.
– There would be no dead-lock, because the party in power in another place would win every time.
– Then the Senate would fail to be a States House.
– I have never attached too much notice to the cry of the Senate being a States House, because I believe that so long as we have adult suffrage and the party system of government in another place, it will be impossible to prevent the party spirit from creeping in here. But there is one way of correcting the evils brought about by the block system of voting, and that is the adoption of proportional representation. If Ave cannot get that, I favour dividing each State into three electorates. This would enable both sides to secure some representation.
– Would you apply the preferential voting in that case?
– Certainly, in the same manner, as it is applied to elections for the House of Representatives, because there would then be single electorates, except in the case of adouble dissolution, when the three State electorates would be called upon to return two senators each.
– How would it be to have the Senate elected by the whole of Australia on a population basis?
– I am not going to start an argument with Senator -Grant upon that question here, but I may point out that we are working under a Federal Constitution, which gives every State equal representation in the Senate. While weare making alterations of such a vital nature to ourConstitution, as are now proposed, we ought to introduce the proportion al system of voting; or, failing that, each State should be divided into three electorates, and voting should be conducted on the same principle as is now applied to the House of Representatives elections.
– In that case no senator could speak for a ‘State.
– If ever State interests were jeopardized I am absolutely certain that all the senators in that State, whatever their political differences might be, would immediately close up their ranks and vote solidly. During my sixteen years’ experience I can remember numerous instances of senators from one State, though bitterly divided on general political lines, voting solidly for the interests of their own State.
– Tasmania is a bright and shining example.
– It always has been. We voted solidly enough on the question of subsidy. The Western Australian senators were just as solid.
– How would New South Wales members vote on the Can- berra site ?
– Solidly, of course. Can any honorable senator imagine the New South Wales representatives being divided on that question? I venture to say, also, that if, before the close of the present session, the sugar question came up, the Queensland representatives would be just as united. I can hardly voice my disgust at the puerility of tie measure we are asked to discuss. It corrects none of the ills which have been made manifest in recent years. On the contrary, it intensifies them. This is a splendid opportunity to bring about a desirable reform, so as to strengthen the position of the Senate in the. eyes of the people. I shall vote against the second reading, and if we come to a vote on Senator Pratten’s amendment I shall support it, as well as a number of other amendments, in Committee.
.. - The debate has been very interes ting. I made it quite clear, when introducing the measure, that it does not pretend to deal with proportional representation. The Government are responsible for introducing this Bill for the conduct of the next elections. One might desire to open out on the subject of proportional representation, or on the question of dividingup the States into single electorates. My ‘own view is that the constitution of the Senate intends that the States should speak with one voice upon State questions. Human nature is not so built that all the representatives of any one State, no matter what their political views, can be expected to vote solidly together upon a State matter. Those holding strong political opinions are always inclined to give supremacy to the party point of view.
With regard to the proposals contained in the Bill itself, much difference of opinion has arisen,. Mr. Watt, onbehalf of the Government, gave the distinct promise that prior to the next Senate election a system of voting would be introduced, whereby uniformity would be insured, and confusion in the minds of electors would be reduced to a minimum. The Government have not pretended to alter the present system of voting, namely, the block method-
– Was not Mr. Watt bound by what the Prime Minister said?
– All I have heard, so far as the words of the Prime Minister are concerned, is that there was something in the papers about a promise having been given in Tasmania.
– Do you doubt the word of Tasmanian senators who heard the Prime Minister distinctly promise that proportional representation would be introduced ?
– No. I merely heard Senator Keating refer to newspaper reports. I heard no honorable senator say he had personally heard such a promise made. When Mr. Hughes laid down the Government policyat Bendigo, he distinctly pledged his Government to preferential voting. He is not likely to have been confused in regard to the two systems.
Honorable senators have asked for further information respecting one or two points. With respect to the recount of votes cast, I point out that all the votes polled by the elected candidates are counted to the candidate for whom the next preference is indicated. That is to say, for the purpose of this second count, they are treated as first preference votes.. In regard to the matter of the loss of deposit by a candidate, I a.m inclined to think that the provision concerning onefifth of the average of the votes cast for the successful candidate is somewhat extreme. I will submit an amendment, later, whereby the question of forfeiture of deposit shall be governed by whether or not a candidate has polled one-fifth of the number of votes received by the last elected candidate.
I ask honorable senators not toendeavour to alter the form of the Bill. The measure has not been introduced for the purpose of introducing proportional representation. To defeat the Bill in order to endeavour to secure proportional representation would be hopeless. If honorable senators do not accept the Bill, it is possible that the Government will allow the ordinary block system to continue. Honorable senators should not deceive themselves in this regard.
– Will you deny that the Minister responsible for this measure has a draft Bill ready having to do with proportional representation?
– I am not prepared to state what may or may not be in the hands of another Minister.
– Standing Orders could be suspended, and an all-night sitting arranged’, and a Bill for proportional representation could’ be forced through.
– Not this side of Christmas, while I am here to oppose it.
– I take the responsibility for any measures which are given into my control on behalf of the Government. Members of the Ministry may have lots of fine schemes in their desks ; but that has nothing to do with me. The purpose of this Bill is to bring about as great a measure of uniformity in regard to Federal elections: as can be devised, thus to prevent confusion in the minds of the people.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out he left out (Senator Pratten’s amendment) - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . … 13
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time- put. The Senate divided.
Majority .. ..13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Grouping of Candidates).
.- This is a very important clause. It incorporates one of the vital provisions mentioned repeatedly in the debate on the second reading. It provides for the grouping of candidates, and, inter alia, touches upon a question I asked the Minister, as to how groups will ultimately be formed. The schedule to the Bill shows’ groups of only three, alphabetically designated. I can suppose an instance of more than three Official Labour candidates appealing to the electors in the hope of being returned to the Senate. It is clear that if there be only three candidates from one party, there will be no difficulty about the grouping; but if there be more than three candidates for one party, I should like to know how the grouping will be arranged. Apparently the clause provides that there shall be no grouping except by mutual arrangement. If there are three candidates selected by the party machines of the Soldiers party, the Farmers party, the Official Labour party, and the National party, no other candidate desiring to appeal to the electors on behalf of either of these parties will have a hope of being included in any of the party groups. So that this clause will absolutely perpetuate, strengthen, and protect the party machine.
– A very good tiling, too.
– I am not saying at present whether that is a very bad or a very good thing. We are entitled to debate this Bill, particularly as it concerns us only, and not any other branch of the Legislature. I say that this clause will actually strengthen and protect party nominees, and will prevent any outsider from havinga chance tobe elected to the Senate, because he cannot be included in any party group.
– In actual practice’ there has been no candidate elected to the
Senate who was independent of a party group.
– I shall deal with that point in a moment or two. There may be four very estimable gentlemen who will desire to appeal to the electors in the Nationalist interest, but this clause inferentially provides that no more than three candidates can be grouped, because no more than three will mutually agree to be grouped. That is why I say the clause will strengthen and protect party nomination, because it will be impossible for any man not nominated by a party to get into a group. However high on the ballot-paper his name should appear in alphabetical order, it will, under this provision, appear below the names of candidates who are grouped. How is the outsider to he designated? Is he to be described as a “ nondescript,” or an “ independent,” or will he be allowed to designate himself? If he were allowed to designate himself, that might overcome the difficulty to some extent; but if he is not to be- allowed to do that we shall be practically providing that any man of independent views and thoughts who desires to stand for the Senate must be considered a nondescript, and his name must appear at the bottom of the ballot-paper. This is a matter which should be discussed and understood, and I say frankly that I will not stand here and place any impediment in the way of any man appealing to the electors irrespective . of groups or parties. I ask the Minister to define the position which, under this clause, would be occupied on the ballotpaper by the name of an independent Nationalist, Labour, or Socialist candidate.
– Personally, I am not in favour of what is proposed in this clause, but I should like the proposal to be given fair play. First of” all, the principles of grouping candidates are misunderstood. This clause would enable two, three, four, or more candidates, if they chose, to associate themselves in one group. They need not call’ themselves Nationalists or Labour, nor would they be so designated on the ballot-paper. They would, under this clause, be grouped as “A,” “ B,” “ C,” and so. on. But a man who is not included in a group, because a party does not desire to have more than three candidates in a group, is very likely to suffer injustice. To that extent I agree with Senator Pratten. We are not pay- ing a very high tribute to the intelligence of the electors when we say that unless we assist them in this mechanical way they will be unable to select from the candidates those who are associated with their party.
– The next thing will be to have the name of the party on the ballot-paper.
– That should not be done. Though the practice now is to print the names of candidates on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order, there has always been, and probably always will be, an association of candidates. At present, judging by the outlook, we are likely to have several groups of candi dates at the ensuing election. There may be a Military party, a Farmers party, and a National party, and there will certainly be a Labour party. There may be candidates, also, who will not associate themselves with any party interest. I do not know why we should depart from the old plan of printing the names of candidates on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order. I regard the introduction of this idea into our electoral law, especially when we are told that this is to be only a temporary measure, as unwise. I shall feel bound to’ vote against the clause, because I think it will not effect any good purpose.
– I can hardly contain myself when addressing myself to a proposal like this. I had at one time conceived the idea that in a National Legislature we could give legislative expression to principles which are the pith and marrow of any sane and
Bound Democracy. But I must say that much of the legislation projected here, and, indeed, many of the opinions entertained here, are, to my mind, of a most retrograde character. Legislation is retrograde, and opinions entertained by honorable senators are retrograde, as they would know if only they understood a little more of the history of the world than some of them seem to do. If its justification were possible, one might as easily justify a proposal for open voting as a proposal such as that embodied in this clause. A man might say, “Why should any one be ashamed of any person knowing how he voted ? Why should a citizen of a Democracy be ashamed to hold up his hand at open hustings, and proclaim the individual for whom he intends to vote?” The secret ballot was introduced for the protection of the individual elector in the expression of his or her opinion.
But as I understand that the Minister desires at this stage to report progress, I shall continue my remarks on the clause when the Bill is again in Committee.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives; and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In regard to the information which I promised to obtain for Senator Keating, I desire to say thatI have made inquiries into the matter, but am not in a position to make any announcement to-night.
– I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, in accordance with his promise to me this afternoon, he has obtained particulars in regard to the subject of accrued holidays to soldiers who have been on active service ?
– I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Acting. Minister for Defence a case of extreme hardship. It is that of Mr. C. J. Fraser, of Cowper-street, Granville, who was employed by the Postal Department for about ten years as postal assistant at Penrith. In 1914 he offered his services to the Australian Imperial Force, but was rejected. He endeavoured to enlist several times up to 30th October, 1917. He was once accepted, but was later re- . jected. Finding that he could not get into the Australian Imperial Force, and being anxious to serve abroad, at his own expense he studied wireless telegraphy and obtained a certificate of competency early in 1918. He then joined the Royal Australian Naval Radio Service, and sailed from Australia as a member of that unit. After the armistice was signed, he returned to Australia, and was discharged. On the 5th December, 1918, he wrote to the Posmaster-General as follows : -
On 5th March,1918, I tendered my resignation as Postal Assistant at Penrith, New South Wales, to enable me to go abroad as a wireless operator in the H.M.A. Naval Radio Transport Service, being at that time under a misapprehension that leave of absence would not be granted to any officer possessing telegraphic ability.
A few days after leaving the Postal Service, I was informed by an officer of the Sydney Head Office that leave would be granted to officers going on naval transport service. I immediately made application to be allowed to withdraw my resignation, and asked to be granted leave of absence instead. … A reply stated that my resignation had been accepted prior to application of withdrawal having been received.
The Postal authorities admit that leave would have been granted him had he applied for it instead of resigning. The Public Service Commissioner, to whom the matter was referred, stated -
In the circumstances of the case, I do not consider warrant exists for your (Fraser’s) reappointment’ to the Service.
Having been anxious to serve in the war, Mr. Fraser resigned instead of applying for leave of absence, and the authorities refused to allow him to withdraw his resignation, although such request was sent in only a few days after his resignation had been received. He applied to the Repatriation Department for vocational training as an electrical mechanic, but was refused because he was not physically incapacitated. The employment section of the Repatriation Department’ then wrote to , the Postal Department asking that he be reinstated in his old position, and that his period of absence abroad he counted as leave of absence, &c, but the same reply was received. The vocational section then wrote to the Postal Department, and after waiting for four months, communicated with Mr. Fraser as follows:
After repeated efforts we cannot get even a satisfactory answer.
Mr. Fraser would prefer to study as an electrical mechanic, but, failing that, he asks that he be reinstated in his old posi tion, and that his resignation, which was written out under a misapprehension, be annulled, so that he may lose nothing in’ the way of increments,&c, on account of his having gone to the war. I simply put the facts before the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I claim that this young man has been unjustly and shabbily treated by the Government, and I hope that the Minister will have inquiries made with a view to seeing that he receives fair play.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of the Executive Council and Acting Minister for Defence) [10.36]. - I understand that Senator Needham ‘s remarks have reference to a statement which is alleged to have been made by Mr. Mitchell, the Premier of Western Australia. We only got the question straightened out this morning, and we cannot accept as authentic a mere newspaper statement. However, I promise to see the Minister for Home and Territories the first thing in the morning in reference to it. Concerning the complaint of Senator McDougall, I hope that the facts are not quite as he has represented them tobe. However, I will ask the Postal Department to make a full inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Fraser’s case. We are particularly anxious to see that those who have been to the Front have full justice done to them upon their return to this country.
Question resolved in’ the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19191015_senate_7_90/>.