8th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea - Ordinances of 1922 -
No. 23. - Currency Coinage and Tokens.
No. 24 - Natives’ Contracts Protection.
Immigration. - Possibilities of settling immigrants on lands in Western Australia - Report by Senator P.J. Lynch and the Hon.H. Gregory, M.P.
Taxation - ThirdReport of Royal. Commission.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at Albury, New South Wales.
Lands Acqnisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes at Yungaburra, Queensland.
AmalgamationofCommonwealthand State Departments,Westernaustralia.
asked th Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1. (a) There has been a definite gain in additional income tax to the Commonwealth through the immediate discovery of defaulters who had lodged income returns with the State authority, but not with the Commonwealth authority. Six thousand and seventy additional return makers were immediately brought into the Commonwealth field. The additional tax collected from them is estimated to be £10,000. (5) The State Government effected an immediate saving in expenditure of £21,204. It also gained considerable additional revenue through the discovery upon amalgamation of persons who had lodged returns with the Commonwealth authority, but not with the State authority. Six thousand two hundred and twelve additionalreturn makers were immediately brought into the State field. The additional State tax collected from them is estimated to be £12,000.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will at an early date announce its attitude or policy on the question of substituting for the maternity bonus a system which will secure a reduction in maternal mortality and morbidity and infantile mortality, as recently suggested by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association?
– It is not the practice to announce matters of policy in answers to questions.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th August, vide page 1159) :
Clause 14 -
– When we wore discussing this clause onFriday last, Senator Gardiner suggested an amendment which I promised to have drafted in proper form. I am. sorry to say that I have not been able in the meantime to have the amendment drafted. I therefore move -
That the clause he postponed.
Question resolved in theaffirmative.
Clauses 15 to18 agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 18a. Section one hundred and thirty-five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words’ one hundred and twenty-one ‘ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words ‘ninety-one a, sub-section (4.) of section one hundred and fifteen, section one hundred and twenty-one and section one hundred and twenty-onea’.”
This is merely a consequential amendment of section 135 of the principal Act rendered necessary by amendments- we have made in clauses S, 4, and 16, in which provision is made for the issue of ballot-papers to persons whose names are marked on the roll as electors to whom postal papers have been issued, but who declare they have not applied for or received such ballot-papers, or to persons who have been refused ordinary ballotpapers owing to the answers to the prescribed questions being unsatisfactory. No principle is involved.
.- Will not the amendment just moved by the Minister (Senator Pearce) defeat the amendment to be moved by Senator Russell, on which I desire to move a further amendment. It will be seen that Senator Russell’s amendment repeals section 135, and if the Minister’s amendment is adopted we may be prevented from movingin the direction desired.
– I find that if Senator Russell’s amendment is carriedit will repeal section 135 of the principal Act.
– In view of that, I ask leave to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, temporarily withdrawn.
.- I move -
That after clause18 the following new clause be inserted: - “ 18a. Section one hundred and thirty-five of the Principal Actis repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: - 135. In a Senate election the scrutiny shall ….be conducted in the manner following : - (1.) Each Assistant Returning Officer shall, in the presence of an Assistant Presiding Officer or a Poll Clerk and of such authorized scrutineers as may attend -
open all ballot boxes received from polling places within or for that portion of the Division in which he exercises his powers;
reject all informal ballot-papers:
count the first preference- votesgiven for each candidate on all unrejected ballot-papers; (5.) The vacancies shall he filled in the following manner . . . .: -
The candidate who has received . . . a. majority of votes …. (8.) For the purposes of this section a first preference vote or a first preference shall be deemed to have been given for every candidate on a ballot-paper for whom the preference indicated on the ballot-paper is not. where there . are three vacancies to be filled, subsequent to the third preference, and so on according to the number of vacanciesto be filled. (11.) In this section ‘‘a majority of votes’ means a number greater than the whole number of votes divided by the number of candidates to be elected, plus one; and’the who le number of votes’ means a number equal to the number of unrejected ballot-papers, multiplied by the number of candidates to be elected. The casting vote of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, given in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, shall be included in reckoning a majority of votes.”
I do not intend to repeat the arguments adduced on a previous occasion, but I wish to emphasize the economy to be effected by regarding the first three as primary votes. At the last Senate election there were really three single elections, although there were only three vacancies to fill. On going’ down the alphabetical list of candidates it was found that some electors did not vote for the full number. Under our present electoral system presiding officers receive £3 3s. per day, and poll clerks 25s. per day, and on that basis the separate counting of Senator Guthrie’s votes cost the Commonwealth £10,000, and the counting of my votes as the third candidate another £10,000. That was a waste of money, because the three senators mentioned had actually been returned after the counting of the votes on the first day. I understand that the elections cost approximately £52,000, and if the Commonwealth could save half of that amount by regarding the first, second, and third as primary votes the change would be more than justified.
In an ordinary Senate election the first three votes, under my proposition, would be counted as primary votes. If there were four candidates the same principle would operate up to that number, and in the event of a double dissolution the first six preferences would be regarded as primary votes plus one, in order to insure an absolute majority. Most of the subclauses of my amendment are consequential upon the contemplated change in the system of counting, and therefore I need not weary honorable senators by referring to them in detail.
– The main principle in Senator Russell’s amendment is found in subclause8, which is as follows : -
For the purposesof this section a first preference vote or a first preference shall be deemed to havebeen given for every candidate on a ballot-paper for whom the preference indicated on the ballot-paper is not, where there are three vacancies to be filled, subsequent to the third preference, and so on according to the number of vacancies to be filled.
Senator Russell bases his argument for the adoption of the amendment largely On an expected saving in expenditure because of the shorter time that will be taken in counting the votes. I suggest that,in a matter like this, safety must be the first consideration. We want something more than an assurance that it will save money. We want to be quite sure thatit will bring about the same result as would be obtained by a. continuation of the count. It is, I confess, somewhat difficult to prove that it will not, but I should have thought that the obligation would have been on Senator Russell, and those who are supporting the amendment, to demonstrate its absolute accuracy in this respect. Personally, I am very doubtful if, in a closely contested election, the counting of preferences as primary votes will give the same result. It seems to me that the effect of the amendment will be to make the fourth preference actually a second preference. It is no use shutting our eyes to the fact that elections are conducted on the party system, and that in 95 per cent. of cases electors want to vote theparty ticket.
– I think that is rather a high average to take.
– I do not think it is. The honorable senatorhas only to scrutinize the results of recent elections to satisfy himself that candidates not associated with any party get no more than about 5 per cent. of the votes polled, whereas 95 per cent. of ballot-papers are marked according to a party ticket.
– But a party may only want one candidateelected.
– That is quite true, but I am taking the situation by. and large.
– That seems to be an argument in favour of tihe amendment.
– I do not think it is, although I admit if is rather difficult to disprove a case thathas not been proved. Under the present system electors are required to mark their ballotpapers in the order of choice down to the seventh preference, and in the count if a candidate has an absolute majority of No. 1 votes, he is declared elected. If no candidate is elected on the first count, the candidate with the fewest No. 1 votes is excluded and his second preference votes are taken into the count. When a candidate is elected to fill the first vacancy the Returning Officer examines ballot-papers and allocates his No. 2 preferences, and thereafter the next vacancy is filled in the same way as the first, and so on in respect of the remaining vacancies. It can easily be seen that as you approach the second andthird vacancies there is a greater probability of having to count No. 4 votes, and when that position is Teached you may be dealing with the vote of a mau who did not intend to vote for that party at all, but who only showed his order of choice because of the obliga tion imposed upon him by the Act to indicate seven preferences. Thus the amendment may have the effect of elevating a No. 4 vote into the position of a second preference. This, it appears to me, is one of the principal dangers that may follow the adoption of the amendment. Under the present system we know exactly what happens. It was demonstrated at the last election that the electors’ preferences were effective, and that candidates got the benefit of the exclusion of those nearest to them politically, but who were lower in the voters’ preferences. I warn the Senate, unless it can be established that the method in operation is faulty, to be very chary of taking up a new system the effect of which we cannot at present foresee. I frankly confess that it seems to me that the effect of the amendment would be to give an increased value to the No. 4 votes. There is, at least, a danger that that might happen.
– Cannot the Electoral Department provide this Chamber with a practical example of both methods of voting in actual operation ?
– I have asked the departmental officers for their view of the effect of the proposed1 change. I would have no objection to the amendment if it could be shown that it would be an improvement on the present system. Mr. Farrar, Acting Chief Electoral Officer, has furnished me with the following statement of his opinion of the effect of the proposal : -
The present system of election of senators in effect consists of three separate elections each returning one member under a preferential system (excepting that the voter performs his functions in one visit to the polling booth and by the marking of one ballot-paper). Under the scrutiny provisions, the candidates ore elected one by one. After one candidate is elected, all the ballot-papers are again examined and dealt with aB though the elected candidate’s name did not appear thereon, and the procedure is repeated until the required number is- elected. If, however, the higher preferences marked on a ballot-paper, to the number of candidates to Be elected, were counted as primary votes of equal value, the whole system would he so varied that a different result to that obtained under the existing system might, and probably would, ensue inasmuch as different preferences would operate to determine the election. If it be desired to adhere in principle to the present system, it would be unwise to vary the existing rules of , the scrutiny, the effect of which is known, and which is mathematically correct, operates in the same manner as the. system of election to the House of Representatives, and cannot err in the return of the candidate who has an absolute majority of votes.
It seems to me that we would be unwise to launch into this unknown sea. “ Unless I can hear good arguments to the contrary, I shall advise the Committee to stand by the provisions in the Act.
.- I wish that the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) would adopt the suggestion made by Senator Crawford. An election might be conducted, say, in the club room of the Senate, and the votes could be counted under the two systems in the presence of honorable senators, who would then be able to see for themselves the effectof the method now in operation and that which Senator Russell proposes to substitute for it. It would be a valuable object lesson. I have used very strong language in regard to the Act, and no one can say that my complaint is personal, because I. am here. It has. been said that there are three separate elections for the Senate, but,, as there are three vacancies, why not have one election ?
– There are three separate elections conducted simultaneously on one ballot-paper.
– Three separate elections conducted simultaneously on one ballot-paper is not the preferential system. Take, for example, my own personal experience. I was elected on No. 10 preferences. Is it fair that ex-Senators McDougall and Grant, whose No. 2 votes were not counted, should have their tenth preferences counted to help me or some one else? This system of counting is not properly understood. A candidate ought not to drop out of the count when there are three vacancies until three candidates have been elected. When a candidate drops out because he has not sufficient first preferences, the counting of his ballot-papers is continued to the tenth preferences, if necessary. It makes a very great difference to the result when two candidates out of three belonging to the same party do not have their second preferences counted. I am saying this in support of Senator Crawford’s suggestion that we should have a practical demonstration. It would not be infra dig. for this Senate to take, say, Thursday night off for this purpose, and if we were to do so I venture to say that we would be able to establish the fact that certain candidates are elected on tenth preferences, while other candidates never have their second preferences counted. The Act operated satisfactorily for the Nationalist party at the last election, but it may not do so next time. A combination of parties - such, for instance, as the Country and the Labour parties - could prevent the return of every Nationalist. I do not think we ought to pass a Bill which would ‘prevent the return of the candidates of any particular party. The number of people who desire to vote for any one candidate ought to have an opportunity of recording their votes for that candidate. I appeal to honorable senators to apply my argument to their own districts, with which they are familiar. I cannot give the exact figures for New South Wale3, but suppose the first preferences secured by the Nationalist party at the last election were about 250,000, by the Labour party 278,000, and by the Country party, which had only one candidate, about 100,000. Had the Labour party and the Country party combined with a view to getting their preferences ahead of the Nationalist party, not one Nationalist would have been returned for that State. The same result would have ensued from a similar combination in any other State. In any system of preferential voting it is not fair that one candidate should get his quota from No. 10 preferences taken from candidates whose No. 2 preferences have not been counted. I do not object to the system in a straight out fight where there is only one vacancy. Then it becomes a pure preferential system, but in appealing to the electors of this State in a Senate election, we have three vacancies, and we ask them to return three candidates. The votes of only one candidate in a party may be counted. I was the lucky member of my party. I had my votes counted with Senator Cox, who beat me; then with Senator Duncan, with the same result; and then with Senator Garling, when I got my position. Ex-Senators McDougall and Grant, however, never had their second preferences counted.
– But the honorable senator was 90,000 votes ahead.
– I was only a few .thousand ahead of them. When ex-Senator Grant dropped out, I was only 20,000. ahead. When an elector votes No. 1 for Pearce, No. 2 for Lynch, and No. 3 for Drake-Brockman, he believes that each pf these three votes has »an equal effect. I thought that originally, but now I know that it is only the No. 1 vote that is of value.
– What became of ex-Senator Grant’s second preferences?
– They were counted by me. The second preferences due to him and to ex- Senator McDougall were not counted at all. There were three vacancies to be filled,’ and surely the electors who give Grant their No. 2 votes should have those votes credited to that candidate.’ Where there are three vacancies to be filled, I claim that the first three votes should be counted. Even if an overwhelming majority of the electors of New South Wales had given their No. 2 preferences to Grant, not one of those votes would have been counted.
– He comes in in the second count, and again in the third count.
– The point I am endeavouring to make is that, when there are three vacancies, every elector who goes to the poll believes he oan vote equally for three men, but the present system does not give him the opportunity to do it. It worked very well on the last occasion for the party opposite, but I am hopeful that, if the present system is continued, we shall be able to drive a coach and four through it. Grant dropped out at 104,000 when I was 120,000. No matter how many No. 2 votes he had, he could not come into the count again while I was in front of him.
– The electors preferred you to Grant.
– Yes ; but it is nob a. question of preferring one man. It is a matter of there being three vacancies, and the electors being asked to prefer three men.
– They did prefer the three.
– Oh, no!
– The trouble was that you did not have enough votes to fill two seats. You only had enough to fill one.
– The difference between Grant’s vote, McDougall’s vote, and my own was not worth a snap of the finger.
– Do you mean the primary votes?
– The difference in the primary votes .was about 20,0.00. As soon as McDougall dropped out, I got all his second preferences, and as soon as Grant dropped out, I received all his No. 2 votes, but McDougall and Grant got no second preferences.
– There were more people who said, “We do not want Grant and McDougall.”
– Following out the honorable senator’s argument, every candidate should be elected.
– I say unquestionably that the candidates who should be elected are - first, the man with the most No. 1 votes; second, the candidate with the most No. 1 and No. 2 votes ; and third, the candidate with the most Nos. 1, 2 and 3 votes. I quite understand those who say that this is a preferential system. As Senator Russell has put it, there are really three single elections conducted separately. But why should that be? If we are to have three separate elections, why not call for three separate nominations, and give each candidate an opportunity of having the votes to which he is entitled counted? I believe the Minister (Senator Pearce) would be well advised if, before proceeding further with the Bill, he had a model election conducted in the presence! of members.
– In the case you have referred to, two men were already elected, and it was necessary to count the subsequent preferences.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I have been trying to ascertain the reasons actuating Senator Russell in introducing his amendment, but so far I have failed to arrive at a decision as to what is really at the back of his mind. The present system necessitates that every candidate must, in order to be elected, receive an actual majority of the votes cast. Surely the honorable senator does not want to depart from that principle, and yet he proposes by his amendment a very wide departure from it. If honorable senators will turn to subclause 11 of the amendment they will find there an extraordinary definition of what constitutes a majority of votes. The real meaning of a majority is a larger number, yet the honorable senator defines a majority as one- third of the total votes polled. Having stated earlier in his proposed clause that a candidate, to be elected, must receive a majority of the total votes polled, he proceeds in sub-clause 11 to define “ a majority of votes “ in this way -
In this section “ a majority of votes “ means a number greater than the whole number of votes divided by the number of candidates to be elected plus one; and “the whole number of votes” means a number equal to- , the number of unrejected ballot-papers, multiplied by the number of candidates to be elected. . . .
Let us see how this will work out. Let us imagine that 100,011 electors vote. If that “number be divided by three, the number of vacancies to be filled, it will give 33,337. If we add 1 to that number we have. 33,338, and the honorable senator wishes us to believe that that will constitute a majority of the 100,011 votes polled. It is quite clear that it is not a majority, but a minority. The honorable senator is proposing to pull down the whole fabric that was erected when the last Electoral Act was passed.
– In the case of four vacancies to be filled, Senator Russell’s majority would be one-fourth of the total votes polled.
– That is so. I cannot support any amendment which will prevent an absolute majority being required for the election of any candidate.
– Can the honorable senator show us why, when there are three vacancies to be filled, the first, second, and third preferences should not be equally effective, as intended by the elector ?
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. I never have agreed that the first, second, and third preferences^ are of equal value. I have always advised electors to vote for candidates in the order of their individual preference ; to give their No. ‘ 1 vote to the candidate whom they believed to be the best in the list, their No. 2 vote to the second best, and so on. I have never agreed with the suggestion that the No. 3 vote is, equal to the No. 1 vote.
Senator Gardiner contends that every candidate should have the No. 2 preferences recorded for him counted, but that would reduce the thing to an absurdity. In the election to which he referred there were only three vacancies to be filled. Those three having been filled because each candidate returned secured an absolute majority of the votes polled according to the preferences shown by the electors, there was no need to- go any further. Four candidates could not be elected to fill three vacancies. The electors who gave their No. 2 votes for ex-Senator Grant preferred Senator Gardiner to him. If they had preferred ex-Senator Grant to Senator Gardiner, then ex-Senator Grant would have won the third seat.
– The honorable senator will admit that the system of voting for the Senate is not proportional.
– It is plain, on the face of it, that it is not proportional.
– Then is not the No. 4 vote the first really preferential vote where three vacancies nave to be filled, and are not the first three preferential votes really primaries?
– I have pointed out that Senator Russell’s amendment would abolish the principle under which a candidate to be elected must secure an absolute majority of the total votes polled.
– I am quite prepared to have what I desire made clear in my amendment. It was carefully revised by legal authorities and by experts of the Electoral Branch. I desire that each candidate should secure an absolute majority of the total votes polled.
– If the honorable senator can show me by any method of calculation that one-third of the total number of votes constitutes a majority I shall be prepared to listen to him.
.- I drew up three simple amendments which were referred to electoral officers in conference with one or two experts in drafting. I accepted the clause on their advice, but I never intended that 30 per cent, of the total votes polled should be considered an absolute majority.. I thought that a great reform might be carried out, and great savings might be made. Senator Pearce, has said that I did not deal with the question of savings, but if ihe will refer to Hansard he will find that I did so on the second reading of the Bill. If an error has crept into the drafting of my amendment it can be amended to make it clear, as
I intended; that a successful candidate must receive, not 33 per cent., or even 49 per cent., but not less than 51 per cent, of the total votes polled. Senator Pearce has said that the amendment would lead to trouble in counting, but I do not think it would, because the first, second, and third preferences are never transferred.
Senator Pearce. - Yes, they are. When I was elected my second preferences went to Senators Lynch and Drake-Brockman.
– That is so; but in the second count the second preference votes were practically of the same value as No. 1 votes, and on the third count No. 3 votes were of equal value with No. 1 votes.
– How would the honorable senator, mark the ballot-paper under the. system he proposes?
– I do not propose any alteration in the marking. The only alteration I propose is that where three vacancies have to be filled, the first, second, and third preferences should each be counted as though they were No. 1 votes.
– And if four vacancies had to be filled, the fourth preference votes would also be counted as if they were No. 1 votes.
–Yes. I never intended to suggest that any man should be elected to the Senate who polls less that an absolute majority of the votes.
– It is in the honorable senator’s amendment.
– If it is, I am against that myself. I accepted the judgment of those who drafted the amendment. There were one or two electoral officers assisting in the drafting of it, and they told me that, in the form in which I have presented it, it would give effect to my view. Apparently they have misled me in the matter. I repudiate any desire that a candidate should be elected by less than an absolute majority of the votes polled. It has been said that I propose to interfere with the scrutiny, but I have asked for no alteration m the scrutiny.
– The honorable senator proposes that, in the scrutiny, No. 3 votes shall count as No. 1 votes; that is an alteration.
– It is not. Every No. 3 vote I secured at the last election was counted as a No. 1 vote, to fill the third vacancy.
– And that might just as well have bean done at- the first count as a month, later.
– Yes. The waste of time and money involved in counting votes three and four times cannot be justified. I am prepared to amend my clause in the way I have suggested to prevent 30 per cent, of the votes polled being held to be a majority.
– I cannot understand why such a long amendment should be necessary to achieve Senator Russell’s desire. It seems to me that it might be achieved by a much shorter and simpler clause than the one he has proposed. What the honorable senator desires is that the first, second, and third preferences should be regarded as primary votes, which, undoubtedly they are, where three vacancies have to be filled. In such a case the first real preference vote is the No. 4 vote. The system of voting for the Senate is quite different from the proportional system in Tasmania. Under that system there is a real transfer of votes, but under the- present system of election for the Senate there is no actual transfer of votes. All the votes a candidate has counted for’ him are votes which were given to him by the electors, . no matter what the order of hia preference in the opinion of the electors. It seems to me, speaking as a layman, that if there were a simple declaration in the Bill that where three vacancies had to be filled, the first, second, and third preferences should be of equal value, and should be counted as primary votes, that would meet the case.
So far we have had no definite information, but merely opinions as to what would be the actual result of the proposed alteration. We should certainly have a test of it made by competent officials of the Electoral Branch: A mistake has been made by confusing the method of voting for the Senate with the method of voting where proportional representation is sought. The present method of voting for the Senate gives a very wrong impression of the estimation in which the several candidates are held by the electors. In Queensland, for in stance, at the last election, one candidate secured 140,000 or 150,000’ primary votes, whereas Senator Givens secured only some 3,000 primary votes-. Those figures do not truly reflect the opinion of the electors in relation to those two candidates. If the system proposed was in operation in Queensland at the last election a second’ counting of votes would not have been necessary,, as the successful candidate would have been elected on the first count; and not only would the result have been known earlier, but the expenditure incurred would have been considerably less. I am in favour of the principle, but I do not feel justified in supporting it in the proposed form.
– Is it not possible for the Minister (Senator Pearce) to give the Committee some definite information as to how this method, would work in actual practice, as it is very difficult for one to arrive at a correct decision based on the information submitted by honorable senators? Most people visit the polling booths to vote for three candidates, and do not have any particular preference for individuals. The last Senate election in Queensland was a glaring example of. the case in point, because the candidate at the head of the list secured a number of votes out of all proportion to the others, merely because most electors marked their ballot papers in the alphabetical order. I believe that’ the Committee is d’esirous of avoiding unnecessary expenditure, and of assisting the electors to record’ their votes in the; way that they desire. Electors merely wish to vote for the three candidates representing the party whose policy they favour, and not to show preference to individual candidates. Even if the first three candidates were marked with the figure 1,. or crosses, the preference for parties would be shown.
– There- would then be confusion,, because- the’ system, of voting would be different from, that employed in connexion with elections for the House of Representatives.
– I am anxious to see the system simplified, and the - Department should be in position to give us some advice through, the Minister. Generally one party has a striking preponderance of votes over the other, but the time may come when the difference mmay be small’, and that has to be1 provided foi”.
The Minister should bo able to say whether the system cannot be simplified, because, as I have said, there is’ no desire on the part of the average elector to show preference to individuals. I am in favour of Senator Russell’s amendment, but the mover appears to have been confused in consequence of alterations being made by his advisers. If the procedure were simplified the proposal would have my support.
– I always feel inclined to pay particular regard to appeals from Senator Reid, because I know he desires to get at the truth ; but I must draw the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that I have already done what he has suggested. I have asked the electoral officers to consider what the result of this proposal would be, and their opinion was clearly placed before the Committee by me. At the last elections an independent candidate, named Conroy, obtained 15,559 primary votes, and we have to consider the position -which would arise in the case of an elector who would regard Mr. Conroy as his first preference. We would be compelling an elector who preferred Mr. Conroy to give him one primary vote, and to record two other primary votes against him, because, under the proposed system, the second and third votes would have as much value as the No. 1 votes.
– So they ought.
– ‘Although Senator Reid thinks so, . the elector does not, as he wishes to record a vote which would give, in the case I have mentioned, Mr. Conroy preference before any one else. There are quite a number of electors who do not wish to vote the party ticket, and under this proposal we would be compelling them to give an independent candidate their first preference vote, and to record two primary votes against him.
– Not against him.
– The votes are ofequal value, and would be recorded in the same count.
– We would be weighting him.
– Yes. All the primary votes are counted in the first count, ana the objection I have mentioned apart from anything else is sufficient to condemn the proposal. Under the present system an elector is allowed to express his full preference.
– In the final result, where three are to be elected, does a No. 1 vote count more than a No. 3 vote?
– The No. 1 votes determine whether a candidate shall remain in the count.
– If a candidate had only one primary vote and a majority of second preferences, would he be elected ?
– Yes. The presumption would be that the candidates who had been bracketed with him would almost certainly have been elected, and with a majority of second preference votes he would be elected even if he did not secure a single primary vote. The position of an independent candidate exposes the weakness of the system.
. - I intend to oppose the amendment, because if it is adopted we shall be making confusion worse confounded. We ought to be guided- by the advice of the departmental officers, whose opinion has been given “by the Minister (Senator Pearce). Senator Payne has directed attention to sub-clause 11, under which a candidate could be elected in certain cases by a proportion of 33^ per cent. A careful perusal of this provision shows that it defines “ a majority of votes,” and “ the whole number of votes,” neither of which need any definition. It defines a majority of votes as a number greater than the whole number divided by the number of candidates, plus one, and the whole number of votes as the number of unrejected ballotpapers multiplied by the number of candidates to be elected. To me it appears to be a Chinese puzzle. If there were 1,000 voters, we would have to multiply that number by three, which would give us 3,000, and in order to ascertain a majority of the votes to secure the election of a candidate we would have to divide the 3,000 by four, which would give 750. Therefore, it seems, under the provision mentioned, a candidate would require 750 votes out of 1,000.
– Why divide by four?
– Because that is the number of candidates required, plus one.
– Is it one “ candidate” or one “vote”?
– The number’ of candidates, plus one, means that the number has to be divided by four, and in order to elect a senator on the basis mentioned he -would require 750 votes. I object to this proposal on those grounds. If we adopted the principle of regarding the first, second, and third as primary votes of equal value, danger would arise under sub-clause 8 when the fourth and succeeding votes were counted. I do not profess to be an expert in mental arithmetic, and the position appears to be very confusing. At the last Senate elections in .South Australia I was selected to represent the Liberal party. Senator Newland to represent the Nationalist party, and Senator Wilson the Fanners and Settler’s party. We contested the elections as a united party; but our votes were split in the most extraordinary way. On the first count I was credited with 58,000, Senator Newland with 27,000, and Senator Wilson with 8,000 first preference votes. I believe that was an expression of the electors’ opinions concerning the parties. It certainly was not a personal vote. The Liberal party happened to be the strongest, and the strength of the other parties was indicated by the votes cast for Senator Wilson and Senator Newland. Amongst my second preferences were 2,000 votes from Mr. J. V. O’Loghlin, who happened to be a member of the Labour party, and I believe Senator Newland also got several hundred second preferences from electors’ who voted the Labour party ticket. To me it seems not feasible to regard the first three votes as primary votes. I believe the adoption of the amendment will make confusion worse confounded, and therefore I intend to oppose it.
– I. am opposed to the amendment because its effect will be to restore the old block system of voting from which, we departed when last the Act was amended. That is to say, instead of placing three crosses opposite the names of candidates desired to be elected, the elector would be required merely to indicate his choice of three by 1, 2, and 3. The result would be a revival of block voting, al though I do not know that we overcame it very satisfactorily when we adopted the present method. Under the block system it was possible for three party candidates standing for three vacancies in the Senate to be returned, although they might represent a minority of the whole of the votes polled, if electors voting for the other candidates distributed their votes amongst more than three. The present system has an advantage » in that it insures that the candidates elected shall be representative of the majority of the electors voting at the election, but it (has its disadvantages, which I think would be overcome if we adopted the system of proportional representation. When the Bill providing for the present, system was before the Senate, a number of us endeavoured to insert the principle of proportional ‘representation, which has been advocated and supported in this Chamber since Federation. The system has drawn its adherents from different quarters at different times, according to the state of political affairs in the Commonwealth,’ but whenever it has been under consideration I, in common with other Tasmanian members who have had experience of its operation, have always cordially supported it. I hope that ultimately it will be adopted for Senate elections, for I believe that until it is incorporated in our electoral machinery the Senate will never regain the prestige it enjoyed in the early days of Federation.
The question of a majority is, as Senator Payne has pointed out, very complicated. The amendment is ambiguous on this point, because Senator Garling, by interjection, took a totally different view from what I take, and so did Senator Benny; while the Minister (Senator Pearce) is evidently in as much doubt as I am as to the meaning of sub-clause 11 -
In this section “ a majority of votes “ means a number greater than the’ whole number of> votes divided by the number of candidates to be elected, plus one . . .
In order to get that majority an arithmetical task must be undertaken. You must go through a process of addition and division, or division and addition. It all depends on which you do first. There is nothing to indicate clearly which step must be taken first. Suppose the whole number of electors voting is 90,000. If division is by three, the number of candidates to be elected, the quotient is 30,000, plus one, or 30,001. Therefore, if three men have to be elected, each must get 30,001 votes, and this would give a total of 90,003 votes, whereas only 90,000 electors actually voted. There is, I think, some confusion with the Droop quota for the proportional system. Under that system, you divide by the number to bc elected plus one, and add one to the quotient. Thus suppose there were 100,000 votes cast at an election, and three candidates to be elected, there would be division by three plus one, that is to say by four, and to the quotient, 25,000, would be added one, making the actual quota 25,001. The three candidates would each require 25,001 votes, or a total of 75,003. No other candidate could get 25,000. Evidently there has been an error in the drafting of the amendment, which should have provided for a division of the total number of votes by the number of candidates to be elected plus one, with one to bc added to the quotient. This would work out in the manner I have indicated. Even in single-member constituencies the elected candidate must receive one-half of the valid votes plus one, or, in other words, an absolute majority. In the circumstances, and because I believe the adoption of the amendment would mean reverting to the old system of block voting, which we endeavoured to remedy a few years ago, I am not prepared to support Senator Russell’s amendment. Although the present system does not wholly commend itself to me, it has certain advantages over the system it replaced. The amendment would, be a retrograde step.
– I would not have referred to the amendment but for the fact that in the”* course of the debate it was made clear that the method of counting preference votes numbers 1, 2 and 3 does not establish what the electors were led to believe at the last election, namely, that they were all of equal value. Great pains were taken throughout my State, and apparently under the imprimatur of the Electoral Office, to satisfy electors that if they voted Al, B2, C3, Al would not be in a preferential position over C3 in the counting, assuming that they spread their preferences evenly over these three. It has been made clear by the Minister (Senator Pearce) that under the present system votes cast in this way are not of equal value; that, in fact, they mark preference. Unless, therefore, all members ‘of a party vote solidly in the order of such preference for their candidates, I do not see how we can expect each’ vote to be of equal value, and if there is any departure from the grouping of the candidates, party candidates are likely to suffer. I have not been able to see that there was any occasion to alter the electoral law from the position that obtained prior to 1919, when electors had the right to vote for three men, and were not obliged to say, if they could not get these three men returned, that they wanted some one else. I do not see how Senator Russell’s proposal is going to improve the position, and therefore, of the two. evils, I prefer the present system.
– I am afraid that the amendment will not be any improvement on the present system, and in this view I am largely influenced by what the Minister (Senator Pearce) has said. He mentioned, that the purpose of the amendment was to regard the first, second, and third preferences as equal in value, and that the fourth preference would be the first effective preference to be taken into account. This is very undesirable, because after an elector has voted for the three candidates he wants to see returned, he becomes indifferent as to the fate of the others; and if he is compelled to indicate his order of preference, in the case of fifteen or twenty candidates, his preference is of no value at all. What I attach the most importance to is the essential difference between getting the first, or what I might term the more intense, preferences into the calculation, and the least intense preferences, which Senator Russell’s proposal would entail. I think we had better allow the elector the advantage of having his most intense preferences counted,’ instead of waiting until he becomes tired or indifferent at the end of the list, when he would probably prefer leaving the ballot-paper alone altogether. The proposed innovation will not mark .any beneficial departure from our present system. I understood Senator Gardiner to say that the second votes of ex-Senators Grant and McDougall were not counted.
– I was referring to the second votes coming to them.
– I misunderstood the honorable senator. The second preferences of those two candidates came into play at a very convenient time for Senator Gardiner, for they were the tens of thousands of votes which sent him hurtling away in the air in front of
Senator Garling. In the absence of better information as to how the proposed system will work, I do not think that we are entitled to adopt it.
– I cannot refrain from replying to the illustration used by the Minister (Senator Pearce) in regard to my own State. He mentioned the candidature of Mr. Conroy, an independent candidate, who did not lose his deposit, although Senator Garling lost his. The former got 15,000 votes. Let us imagine that all the electors who voted for the other candidates except Senators Cox and Duncan gave their No. 2 votes for Mr. Conroy. He had 15,000 No. 1 votes, and there was a possibility - I am drawing on my imagination for this -of his having 400,000 No. 2 votes.
– Then he must have been elected, because when Senator Cox dropped out his No. 2 votes would be counted.
– I am leaving Senators Cox and Duncan out of the illustration, Mr. Conroy would have got Falkiner’s 100,000 second preferences and McDougall’s. 84,000, but they would not have been of use to him because he dropped out on the first count.
– While he would drop out in that particular count, he would come in again for the next count.
– And in the next count would go through the same process. The electors imagine that they have three votes. They have been taught that at previous elections.
– They have one vote with a treble value.
– Previous elections have taught them that they have three votes of equal value. With a quota o’f 325,000, a candidate could have 400,000 second preference votes and yet not be elected. He would be out of the contest before those voltes could (be counted. Do honorable senators consider that there are three vacancies to be filled? Do they consider that each elector has a right to have his first, second, and third votes all counted? The present system does not permit of that. The public are deceived into the belief that they have three votes. In Queensland, and I think the same statement would be true of Western Australia, only members of the winning party had their three votes counted, and that would happen in any State, whichever party was winning.
– In Western Australia before any of the successful candidates’ votes were counted those at the bottom of the poll were excluded and their votes counted separately.
– A man might be at the bottom of the poll on the first preferences, but at the top on the third if they were counted. Senator Pearce: has said that Mr. Conroy dropped out with 15,000 votes. There were three vacancies, and eleven candidates1. Some of the electors may have voted the full ticket, and given a vote to each of the eleven candidates. No. 10 votes, that were never intended to be used agains! Mr. Conroy, may have been given to one of the other candidates to help to make up his quota. Perhaps if those No. 10 votes had not been distributed the quotas might not have been obtained! In my case, and . in the case of Senator Duncan and Senator Cox, it was the extreme votes at the end of the count that made up the quotas. While one man’s second preferences may not be counted, another may set his quota by .the counting of tenth preferences. That is not fair. Senator Russell’s amendment has been worded in .such a way that it has raised objections; but it is clear that he wants a. system in which the electors will actually have what they now merely think they have, that is, three votes. The adoption of the amendment would mean a huge saving of expenditure to this country, amounting to about £20,000 for every election. That is a great consideration. We went to the poll on the last occasion on the 13th December, an’d it was well into January before our votes were counted, and I think that New South Wales was among the first of the States to be counted. I realize that Senator Russell’s intention is to require an absolute majority. I object to a system by which the electors have been educated to believe that they can vote for three nien, but under which actually only one of their votes is counted. That was the case with the Labour party at the last elections in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. It may happen to the Nationalist party next time. Each elector has a right to give three votes, and those three votes ought to be counted.
– Does the honorable senator moan counted twice for the same man?
– I do not think that ‘Senator Lynch, even with his adroitness, can trap me into saying anything as foolish as that. Many electors in New South Wales’ gave No. 1 vote to Gardiner and No. 2 to Grant, believing that No. 2 was of equal value with No. 1. The Minister says that- there are actually three separate elections covered by the one ballot-paper. Then let us have three separate nominations, and let the candidates go to three separate constituencies. Each man would then, have a chance of a fair deal. If the amendment is not carried, I shall support proportional representation. It is most objectionable to me; but anything that will upset the present system, which is bad, would obtain .ray support. I again invite the Minister to give honorable senators a practical illustration in the club-room of the actual counting of votes. If that does not ° satisfy honorable senators, nothing will.
– 4Senator Gardiner is, I am sure, labouring under a delusion. In the first count the number of first choices is put opposite the name of each candidate, right to the bottom of the list. Every one gets some first preferences. In the New South Wales election there were 650,3’3S urn-ejected ballot-papers distributed amongst the different candidates. The sum total of the first-preference votes make that figure. It is quite clear, therefore, that every candidate had his proportionate share of the first preference votes. When it comes to the second-preference votes, we cannot take two votes for the same man from one paper; but the last man on the list is excluded, because his first-preference votes are not enough to elect him. His second-preference votes are distributed, because he has ceased to be a candidate for that particular first vacancy. Then we take the second lowest on the list, and treat him in exactly the same way by distributing his second-preference votes, and those only, amongst the remaining candidates. I find that (Senator Gardiner complains of all the preferences not being counted, while, he says,” the counting was continued in some instances to the tenth preferences before the first man was elected. The first man elected had 16,796 votes. The same principle is followed when. the second vacancy has to. be filled. ‘ Obviously the candidate who gets the smallest number of votes cannot be left in the count to receive any more. The second choices of the first candidates elected are distributed among the remaining candidates, and the same process of exclusion of the candidates with the lowest numbers proceeds until the second and third vacancies have been filled. When the poll in New South Wales concluded there was one Labour man who had received all the votes of his companions, as well as the votes transferred from, the Nationalist party, and there was one candidate whose No. 2 votes could not be counted, because it would have meant giving the electors. who voted for that man two votes instead of one.
– But there were three vacancies.
– When the third vacancy came tei be filled it was like a third count. Let me illustrate the position by taking the Senate election figures in South Australia in 1919. Craigie, an Independent, was the first excluded candidate. He received 8,230 first preference votes, while Benny had 50,985 No. 1 votes; Grealy, 31,259; Lundie, 13,979; Newland, 27,850; O’Loghlin, 17,708; and Wilson, 11,946; a total of 161,957. Craigie’s 8,230 votes were distributed as follows: - To Benny, 1,639; Grealy2,048; Lundie, 1,103; Newland, 1,890; O’Loghlin, 558; and Wilson, 992; thus every one of Craigie’s votes was distributed to somebody. Grealy obtained the distributed votes of his comrades Lundie and O’Loghlin. Obviously, Grealy’s second choices were not distributed, but electors exercised their vote in his favour in their first choice, and they could not give him two votes. The same process is followed in the filling of the second and third vacancies. Grealy remained in right up to the time that Wilson was elected, but he had not sufficient in the combined vote to make more than one.half of the total votes cast. It is erroneous to suggest that a particular candidate’s second votes are not counted.
– Did O’loghlin get any second votes counted ?
– Were any of Grealy’s second votes given to him? Remember that there were three vacancies.
-I know that. Grealy had the same chance as Newland for the second vacancy, and the same chance as Wilson for the’ third, but he was the fourth man. Had he been the third man in the third count he would have been elected, and Senator Wilson would have been left out.
– I am trying to prove that there are three vacancies, and that under the present system only one vacancy is filled.
– There ‘aire three elections upon the one ballot-paper. The votes are counted in the same way each time.
– To lay low the ghost Senator Gardiner has so often trotted out about ex-Senator Grant’s second preference votes, I would refer, shortly, to what happened in New South Wales. To fill the first vacancy Senator Gardiner added to his total at the eighth count, when exSenator McDougall was excluded, 72,349 votes. On the ninth count Grant was excluded, and 99,846 votes were again added to Gardiner’s total. That was insufficient still, even with his own votes, to give him a majority. In the second election at the seventh count 14,108 of. McDougall’s votes were added to Grant, and 72,434 to Gardiner, and in the eighth count 96,905 of Grant’s votes were added to Gardiner, but still the total was insufficient. In the third and final election, Gardiner’s progressive total was 129,441, but, when McDougall dropped out, 72,029 of McDougall’s votes were added to Gardiner’s total, and on the exclusion of Grant 96,137 passed to Gardiner. Thus Gardiner had the combined votes of McDougall, Grant, and himself, and still they were insufficient, and he was only elected bv the addition of 34,277 on Falkiner’s exclusion.
– I desire to remove a wrong impression in the minds of the Minister (Senator Pearce) and other honorable senators. What I have been trying to make clear is that neither Grant nor McDougall had any of the second preferences that should have gone from me to them. When electors receive their ballot-papers, I think 99 out of every 100 expect their third vote to be of as good value as their first, but my second and third preferences were not counted. As far as the big votes were concerned, the candidates only had their first preferences counted. How many of the second preferences might have gone to Grant and McDougall ?
– When Senator Elliott’s third preferences were being counted there were 5,000 ballot-papers missing. Where did they go?
– I suppose they had ceased to have a value, because they had been given to candidates who had already dropped out. I am satisfied that the Minister has got a majority in favour of the present system, but I would prefer the electors having an opportunity - as they did for many years - to get the candidates of their first, second, and third choices returned.
.- I move -
That the proposed new clause he amended by inserting after the figures “ 135,” Une 6, the following words: -
The members of the Senate shall at the next and subsequent Senate elections be elected in accordance with the principles of proportional representation.
Bv courtesy of the Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Pearce) I was pro- mised that the debate on my amendment would be on the principle only, and he, therefore, did not require me at this stage to introduce detailed provisions to give effect to it. That can be done at a subsequent stage if honorable senators intimate that they are in favour of the principle of proportional representation. The amendment I have proposed is taken literally from the New South Wales Act; and, if the vote of the .Committee is in favour of the principle, the necessary machinery clauses to give effect to it can also be taken from the New South Wales Act.
We are supposed to be governed in Australia by the representative system. I say “supposed,” because by. the development of the preferential vote in Senate elections we arrived at the last election at something that is not properly a representative system at all. It may happen that, if the electors vote strictly according to party tickets, the vote of a . single person may return the- whole of the senators at an election. As a consequence, a great party in a minority of one would be totally unrepresented. That is not fair, and it is calculated, if persisted in, to bring our parliamentary system into contempt. Great minorities having no representation in Parliament will be driven, as they are, in fact, being driven to-day, to form organizations outside, and to voice their complaints in that way, a course leading possibly to a revolution, peaceful or otherwise.
It was said by Abraham Lincoln that a nation needs at least once in a generation to get back to first principles. Out political system is known as- representative government, and to get back to the first principle of representative government we need to inquire into the social conditions which gave rise to it. Those conditions in the beginning are found in the Free Cities of the Middle Ages. They were, first of all, private business corporations constituted by the King, that they might manage their own private affairs and might trade on the King’s highway free from interference by the great feudal barons. Those corporations of merchants elected a president whom they called a mayor. After a time, the different trades of manual workers, weavers, armour makers, shoemakers, and so on, formed their own guilds, organized their corporations, and elected their presidents, whom they called aldermen. The aldermen met together as a kind of trade assembly or central labour union, or they might be described as a board of walking delegates. These finally demanded and secured a veto on the proposals of the mayor, who had previously the whole powers, of government of the city in his own hands. In this way the government of the Free Cities became a representative government in our sense of the term. The merchants were represented by their president, the mayor ; and the labour unions by their several presidents, the aldermen.
Each of these bodies exercised a veto on the other, and the consent of each was necessary to enable any ordinance or bylaw to be passed. We thus see in this early beginning of representative government something very like the round-table conferences of which we hear so much at the present time.
With respect to the mode of election, it should be borne in mind that neither mayor nor alderman was elected by universal suffrage. Each was elected by the members of his own corporation or trade union, and each represented frankly and openly not all the people, as modern politicians claim to do, but the interests of his own organization. The mayor spoke for the merchants and the aldermen for their guilds. The system was really a representation of interests and not of individual voters. It was by means of this form of city constitution that the struggles which brought about the Anglo-Saxon parliamentary system were fought and won. Parliament was originally only a National Convention of mayors, aldermen, and head men, representing merchants and the several corporations or Labour guilds. The convention met at intervals, and passed resolutions or sent on petitions to the King and his Grand Council. The small farmers also had their meetings, and sent their representatives from the counties. Later, when, all these people, farmers, merchants, and members ‘of trade unions- and guilds, were feeling pressure from the King in the way of unjust taxation or unjust laws, they combined together and sent in joint petitions and joint resolutions* and thus the National Convention became the Parliament. The King was compelled to defer to them, and they gradually obtained a veto over his arbitrary acts. Their petitions then became Bills, with which, when passed, the King was forbidden to interfere. The National Convention thus became the Parliament as we now know it. The veto became established in the nation as it had already become established in the Free Cities, with the result that constitutional government was set up in the place of absolutism.
To-day history is repeating itself, and Parliament is becoming very much like what the King’s Grand Council was, and is not representative of minority interests at all.
– It is representative of a majority of the people.
– It may be representative of the majority of the people, but that is not government. The King may have been the representative of majority rule at one time. It may be that the people were in favour, if a vote could have been held, of that absolute form of government, but that does npt mean that having elected a party to power they are to disregard altogether minority interests, otherwise the minorities will be compelled to meet together for their own protection.
– How many hundreds of members would be needed to represent in this Parliament all the interests of minorities?
– It would be impossible to have every shade of opinion represented, but there could be representation of the great minorities. In. an election where three members only have to be elected, it is possible only to represent the interests of the great parties.
– If the three parties were represented equally in this Chamber, what would be the result?
– The people would be responsible whatever the result might be. If they were so equally divided that each of the three great parties returned the same number of members, their interests would.be fully represented.
Just as people in medieval days were driven to form themselves into corporations, guilds, and boards of aldermen to protect their interests, so minority interests, if unable to obtain an. effective voice in Parliament, are driven .to form outside organizations.
– They form a new organization in Victoria about once a week.
– History has a tendency to repeat itself, and the tendency will be for these outside organizations to draw to themselves political power to the derogation of Parliament unless we make proper provision here for the representation of their interests. The present position is really due to universal suffrage. So long as each corporation elected its own representatives at its own meetings, it returned representative men to look after its own interests. But when capitalists and Labourites, Catholics and Protestants, educated ‘ and ignorant, natives and foreigners, whites and blacks, are thrown into the one electorate, and compelled to elect one man to represent all, the tendency must be - particularly under the preferential system - to secure the election of a candidate who truly represents none of them, and cannot be expected to truly represent any one of them. That tendency will become more pronounced as outside bodies become more organized.
To get back to the first principle of representative government, historically as well as logically, diverse interests should be allowed to elect their own spokesmen. It will at once be seen that it is impossible in modern times to secure the representation of interests exactly parallel to that of medieval times., when men had no. political rights or status except as members of some corporation or guild. In the circumstances, the only possible way of giving the representation to diverse interests to which, they are entitled, and which must be provided for if our parliamentary institutions are to survive, is by the adoption of the system of proportional representation.
This is not an innovation. It has gradually been making headway in different countries of the world. I Have had a list supplied to me showing the various parts of the world in which it is in operation. In Great Britain the universities have adopted the system for the return of their members to the House of Commons;
– Is ifc a part of the electoral law of Great Britain that the universities may return men on a different basis from that adopted for the people generally?
– Yes; the universities have a special franchise. Again, the National Assembly of the Church of England recently adopted a new constitu-tion. This was adopted for the House of Laity in 1919, and for the House of Clergy, consisting of the Lower Houses of Convocation of Canterbury and York, it was adopted in 1921, both on the proportional representation system.
– I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that the time allowed him under the Standing Orders has expired.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Home and Territories) f5.20].- I do not propose to support Senator Elliott’s amendment, neither do I intend to enter into a long and involved exposition of the reasons to be urged against proportional representation per se. It seems to me that it is sufficient . for our purpose to ask whether it is desirable at this stage to introduce the system in connexion with the forthcoming Senate elections. Senator Elliott was proceeding to quote instances in which proportional representation has been adopted; but I submit that not any of them are analogous.
– Not in South Africa ?
– The Senate occupies a unique position amongst legislative bodies, and the only other Chamber that in any way approximates to it is the Senate of the United States of America. The honorable senator referred to the House of Commons; but there is no analogy between the House of Commons and this Senate, as they operate under entirely different Constitutions. The House of Representatives can be said to represent the people in a popular or population sense. That is the House where State boundaries are disregarded - although there is a variation in the case of Tasmania and Western Australia - and the Commonwealth practically divided up on a population basis. In the House of Representatives the people express their will as sections in a population or popular sense, and if proportional representation were to be adopted in the Federal sphere it should be in connexion with elections for that Chamber. The intention of our Constitution, as expressed not merely in the views of those who framed it, but in the Constitution itself, is that the Senate shall represent the States in the capacity of a corporate body. We. did not follow the American model then in existence, by which the State Legislature elected the senators; and the framers of our Constitution intended that the Senate should occupy under the Constitution a similar position as a legislative body to the Senate of the United States of America. The framers of our Constitution, however, departed from the American system, and followed the British model, by making the Senate an elective Chamber, and provided the same franchise as prevails in connexion with the House of Representatives. That is not inconsistent with the view that the Senate should be a Chamber representa tive of the States, because ours is a Federation of Sovereign States. It is ridiculous to refer to legislative bodies as analogous when they are not part of a Federation, and to say that, because proportional representation has been adopted in those cases, it should be employed in connexion with Senate elections. There are those who say that the Senate has never fulfilled its functions as a States House; but with that view I do not agree. Throughout its history, more particularly in recent years, the Senate has stood as a States House, and’ in our legislation and discussions honorable senators have expressed the views of the States rather than of localities in the States, and that will increase as time1 goes on. If we were to alter the basis of representation and adopt proportional representation, we would divide up the Senate into a series of sections representing varying political views.
– Does not the group system do that?
– No. Let _ us assume that there is a political view, which we shall designate “ blue,” which has sufficient support to command a quota. There would then be the anomaly of a political party in the Senate with six representatives, one from each State, who would not represent^ the State, because their primary function would be to represent the political views of the section designated “ blue.” On any question which might arise the six representatives would record a block vote, not in the interests of their particular State, but in the interests of that particular policy or set of opinions represented by any term one may name. That may be desirable, laudable, or justifiable in a House where an expression of the popular will is desired, and may be done with perfect consistency and propriety ; but it is an entire negation of the principle upon which this Chamber was established. Any one can be a believer in the system of proportional representation and yet consistently object to it being applied to this Chamber. No one can be a believer in this Senate representing the States as States and at the same time advocate the introduction of proportional representation in connexion with elections! to this Chamber, because to do so would be to destroy the principle upon which this Chamber was founded. It would fundamentally and entirely alter the principle which is the only justification for the existence of this Chamber at all. Under most Constitutions where the bicameral system is in force the Second Chamber has a distinct purpose. It is not ‘a lingering relic to protect the property or privileged class. Its purpose is to review the legislation of the Lower Chamber. There is no property or privileged class to be considered in the Senate, as under the Constitution the property vote is not recognised. There is no privileged class and there is therefore not the same justification for the existence df the Senate similarly constituted as there is where property is recognised under a State Constitution and where extra rights and legislative powers are expressed through Legislative Councils. The existence of this Chamber, as a House of review, is justified, because in the popular Chamber legislation may not receive that pertinent criticism which it receives in the House further removed from the scene of party conflict. But that was not the intention of the framers of the Constitution. If honorable senators will peruse the arguments used at the Federal Convention they will see that it was intended that the Senate should be a Chamber in which the six States would have equality of representation. Whether or not the Senate has fulfilled its functions, it is an undoubted fact that the smaller States would not have accepted, the Constitution unless they had had equal rights with those of the larger States. Proportional representation would destroy that, and it has been shown by Senator Elliott and those who support him, in the press and elsewhere, that they favour proportional representation, because, in their opinion, the Senate does not express the popular will. The honorable senator went so far as to say that if we continued to exclude special representation of the will of certain sections of the people we would be facing the danger of revolution. That is an extraordinary view, because full provision is made for the expression of the will of all sections in the Lower, or popular, Chamber.
– Would we not be representing the States if we represented all sections?
– It is not a question of representation, but the method of election ; and if we were elected so nhat the States, instead of voting as they do now and a majority of that State securing representation, and therefore speaking with the authority of the majority of the electors behind them,, the States’ representatives here would be divided, not by the interests of the States, but by factions as represented by quotas under which the States could be divided into sections representing different political opinions.
– A faction could still be representative of the State.
– Yes; but the tendency of proportional representation would be to destroy the identity of each State representation as it is secured under the present system. One of . the objections urged against the Act itself is that only majorities in a State can be heard. But this amendment provides for minorities to be heard. If that view were adopted Ave might easily have six different sets of political opinions from, six different States, and none of them representing a majority opinion. In such circumstances it would be a farce to talk of this Senate as being representative of the States. For these reasons I am strongly opposed to- Senator Elliott’s amendment.
-36].- The Minister (Senator Pearce) has very properly pointed out that the introduction of proportional representation would be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. This Chamber would then be on all fours with the House of Representatives, and there would be no reason for its continued existence, because it would be merely a replica of the other House. The Commonwealth occupies a unique position in respect of its Constitution. No other system of government is exactly on the same basis, and certainly there is no British precedent for the election of this Senate by proportional voting. The House of Lords is not an elective Chamber, except in so far as concerns the peers of Scotland, who constitute a very small minority in an otherwise hereditary Chamber. The only systems nearly approaching that of the Commonwealth are those in force for the election of Upper Houses in the various State Parliaments; but in the majority of the States the franchise is on a property qualification, and in one State the Council is a nominee Chamber. Senator Elliott mentioned that the South African Senate was elected under the proportional representation system, but that Chamber contains also certain nominee representatives, so it is not truly constituted on the basis of proportional representation. I cannot emphasise too strongly the fact that the moment we destroy the dominant vote of a party - whether National, Liberal, Labour, or any other party - in any of the States, that moment the Senate will cease to function as a States House, because under our Constitution only a. majority has a right to be heard in elections for this Chamber. During the second-reading debate I pointed to the possibilities that might follow the introduction of proportional representation for Senate elections. Suppose there were two dominant parties in the various States, and each secured its proportional share of representation, that is to say, each party returned to this Chamber eighteen members pledged to support either Free Trade or Protection. In such circumstances responsible government would be quite impossible. The same argument may be applied to any other great problem upon which a double dissolution might take place. Eveny sound argument is against the adoption of proportional representation for this Chamber.
.- Senator de Largie has stated that proportional representation has not been adopted by any of the Dominions of the British Empire. I remind him that it has been accepted for both Houses of the Irish Free State under the Government of Ireland Act of 1920.
– I think you are making a mistake so far as the Irish. Senate is concerned.
– It is partly nominated.
– I understand that proportional voting has been adopted in regard to the elective members of that Chamber, and that it has proved entirely satisfactory is indicated by the recent elections, which resulted in the total defeat of an attempt to “ rig “ the elections in favour of existing political parties.
– The honorable senator is losing sight of the fact that the Irish Free State is not a Federation.
– I do not think that affects the consideration of the problem in any way.
– Yes, it does. There would have been no Federation in
Australia if proportional representation had been adopted for the Senate.
– I fail to see how proportional representation will affect the position in any one State. In New South Wales, for instance, on the question of establishing the Federal Capital at Canberra, all members from that State speak with one united voice. And so it would be of any other interest in any State. The adoption of proportional representation will not, for example, make a Tasmanian representative less a Tasmanian on the larger issues that concern his State. The system has been working satisfactorily in Tasmania for some years. It may be that, at present, the position is somewhat difficult, but with a little more experience of the working of the system the people will solve their difficulties. According to my notes, proportional representation has been adopted for the South African Senate, but I accept correction to the extent that that Chamber is partly a nominee House. The principle has alsobeen adopted for the Legislative Council of New Zealand, and in Winnipeg. In 1920 proportional representation was accepted for a portion of the Senate, and for the whole of the House of Assembly in Malta, and the Upper House in the Parliament of Denmark is elected under the same system. The whole of the lower House of Parliament of Denmark, under the Constitution of 1915 ; the lower House of Parliament, or the National Council, as they term it, in Switzerland, under a Constitution adopted in 1895 ; and the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in Belgium, are elected on the system of proportional representation. The different interests outside Parliament should be represented here. Their energies are at present being forced into other channels, and that process may end in the abolition of parliamentary government.
– The honorable senator is talking of Continental countries ; but they have quite a different system from that which he is urging. They are, in the first place, elected on a test system. There are tests of the candidates, forwhom the electors vote enbloc. That is so in Belgium and Switzerland, which are two of the countries cited by Senator Elliott.
– The information that I am giving to the Senate I have received from the organization which is in favour of proportional representation. I have not had time to examine it closely, but I believe it is true that in all the countries I have named there is some form of proportional representation. The same system has also been adopted for the Chamber of Deputies in Roumania, under the Constitution of 1917; the Chamber of Deputies in Italy, under the Constitution of 1919; the Constituent Assembly in Germany, under the Constitution of 1918, and the Parliament of Germany in 1919 ; the National Assembly of Austria, under the Constitution of 1918; the National Constituent Assembly of Poland, under the Constitution of 1919 ; and the Constituent Assembly of Jugo slavia, under the Constitution of 1920. The system is not an innovation by any means, but has been tried in other countries, and, as far as one can learn, it has proved satisfactory. I do not consider that the arguments of the Minister (Senator Pearce) or ofSenator de Largie, that the framers of the Constitution never intended the system to be adopted, have any validity. If improvements on the ideas of the framers of the Constitution can be devised, there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent our adopting them.
– Except the spirit of the Constitution.
– I find nothing in the spirit of the Constitution that is opposed to the proposal. It is a just measure to make provision for the represents on of those strong parties which, under the present system, may be cut off from representation in the Senate.
– I rise mainly to address myself to arguments that have been put forward by the Minister (Senator Pearce) and Senator de Largie. Senator Pearce, with a great deal of force, has emphasized the fact that the Senate is a States House, and was so intended to be by the framers of the Constitution. We can all agree upon that statement. He has also said that without the equality of representation which finds expression in the Senate there would be no Federation. I think he is right in that also, and I think we all share his opinions to that extent; but when he says that the framers of the Constitution, in providing for a Senate con stituted on the basis of equal representation of each State, irrespective of size or population, contemplated that only the dominant opinion upon some passing current matter of political interest should be represented, I entirely diverge from him in his conclusion. Why, if equality of representation was all that was sought, if a State should speak with one voice and one voice only, and that the voice of the temporary majority, why was it provided that each State should be represented by six senators instead of one? If each State were represented by one senator, the ideal conditions which Senator Pearce imagines were in the minds of the framers of the Constitution would be achieved with the greatest of certainty.
– “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety” - or wisdom.
– How is that so if the six senators come out of the same mould? In that case their wisdom is not greater than the wisdom of one.
– Would the honorable senator have a Senate composed of only six members?
– Why not, if equality of representation is the first principle, and if each State should speak with one voice with certainty, and that the voice of the temporary majority? If this be the ideal, it is only necessary that each State should have one senator. A Senate constituted like that would have been very much simpler, more effective, and more certain to achieve what Senator Pearce says was the object of the framers of the Constitution than is the present Senate. Each State is represented in this Senate, according to the provision of the Constitution, by six representatives. Why? Because the framers of the Constitution, and the people in accepting the draft of that Constitution, contemplated that every coherent mass of pulblic opinion in each State would, when there were six representatives of the State, if it bulked at all in size and importance, receive something like representation in this Chamber.
I said just now that it was never in the minds of the framers of the Constitution that this Chamber should be based upon the principle that each State should be represented by only that particular voice which, at the time of the election made itself heard above all others. In the beginning of the history of the Commonwealth, the main line of division between parties in the Federal Parliament wa3 the fiscal line. We were then Free Traders and Protectionists. It is true that the Labour party was returned in fair strength, but not in sufficient numbers to be able to turn out a Government on the fiscal issue. Fiscalism was the issue that divided all the electors. Since then other questions have arisen, such as Socialism versus antiSocialism, but every one of the questions that divided communities into political parties before the advent of the Labour party were fluid, impermanent, and ephemeral, and it was never intended that this Chamber, representative of the whole of the States, should be divided by a line which placed upon one side those who represented the passing public opinion of the day upon subjects of ephemeral importance. It was considered that, having to appeal to the whole of a State as an electorate, a candidate for the Senate would have some views other than those which were being discussed, in some instances, in a parrot-like fashion or a clap-trap way. It was considered that men would come forward to represent the people in the Senate who had views beyond, or in addition to, the passing current political opinions of the moment - views that are entertained, asserted, and reasserted at election after election. Take such a question, for instance, as temperance and prohibition. Those have never been issues in the Federal elections, but there may be growing up in some one State a strong body of public opinion in favour of prohibition. It may take many years for it to grow dominant. But those who support it may desire representation in the Senate, and proportionate to their advocacy and propaganda they may enlist the sympathy of people in. the other States. Those are big questions which are at all times agitating public opinion, but they are not the immediate issues that are set before the electors when a general election takes place. It is upon matters like this, which are more permanent, more enduring, and not so ephemeral, that the States want representation in a States’ House.
The electors are largely influenced at the time of an election by the views of candidates upon the dominant political issues of the moment. But they would also be influenced largely, if this House were a States’ House in fact and in reality, as well as in name, not only by the candidate’s views upon the passing questions of the moment, but by his general views and general knowledge upon subjects in respect of which his attitude must colour his votes in regard to immediate and prospective legislation. It was never for one moment considered by the framers of the Constitution, or contemplated by the people when they adopted it, that each State would be simply represented in this Chamber by the momentarily dominant majority on the momentary questions of the day. I take a totally different view of the Senate. .Senator Pearce has said that the Senate cannot be placed in an analogous position to many of the bodies that Senator Elliott referred to as ‘being elected on a proportional representation system. That may be true, but I think that for that very reason the case for proportional representation as the basis of elections for this Chamber is all the stronger. When the framers of the Constitution decided that each State should be represented by six senators - not, as in the case of the original thirteen United States of America, by only two - they had in mind that there were more subjects requiring political consideration by a Chamber of this kind than those which would be immediately presented to the people at each succeeding Federal election. I favour proportional representation. With the limited time at my disposal under our Standing Orders, in Committee, I cannot go fully into the details of the system ; but we have had argument after argument on the subject. It was included in the first Bill dealing with electoral matters in the Commonwealth. That Bill was introduced in the Senate, and the Government of the day - the BartonDeakinO’Connor Government - made elaborate provision for the election of the Senate by proportional representation. We had a stand-up debate that lasted for several weeks, for there was no time limit on speeches in those days. Many who opposed it then have voted for it afterwards, and against it since. There has been much voting one way and then the other at different times. It was introduced, in the first instance, as a purely non-party provision in a Bill which was practically a machinery measure. Eventually, the provision proposed by the Government was not agreed to. Several times since then the matter of proportional representation has been, raised, and, as on previous occasions, I shall vote in favour of it now. The time allowed under the Standing Orders for debate in Committee is far too limited to admit of an exposition of the system.
– Give us an instance.
-Can the Minister give an instance of any second Chamber that is like the Senate ? No ! And for that reason there is no Chamber to which the system is more applicable than it is to the Senate.
– Could we put proportional representation into operation, seeing that we have accepted the group system?
– I suppose we could, but it might tend to confuse the electors. I have advocated it both inside and outside this Chamber, and at every opportunity, so I propose to support it on the present occasion.
– It is not so much a matter of whether we are to have proportional representation as of whether this Chamber should be abolished. That may appear to be a rather startling proposition, but such a proposal is to be found in the Labour party’s platform.
– I cannot permit the honorable senator to make more than a passing allusion to that.
– Are you going to move in that direction?
– I am not proposing it, and I do not think Senator Keating is serious in his question; but eventually members will have to choose between the abolition of the Senate and the amendment of the law relating to representation in the Senate. The representation of the Labour party in this Chamber is altogether out of proportion to the number of. Labour electors in the Commonwealth. If the Country party had a distinct programme it also should be represented here in accordance with the number of votes it could poll, and I emphasize that position in regard to all large parties. At the last Senate election, there was only one Labour senator elected along with the thirty-five others, who, more or less, carried the imprimatur of the Nationalist party. The Senate, as at present constituted, cannot be truly regarded as a House of review. I have heard from one honorable senator, that there have been some warm fights in this Chamber in the last few years. An atmosphere of complete calm can hardly be expected in a House of thirty-six members, but if there were a dozen Labour senators, or even a smaller number from the Country party, many of the measures brought down would be passed in a very different form. The Opposition then would certainly force the Government to frame their measures more in accordance with the political mind of Australia.
– This Chamber should not be a party House.
– It has been a party House in the past, and while there are parties in existence we cannot prevent it. Its first function is that of a States House, and I dissent strongly from the statement of the Minister (Senator Pearce) that no matter what decision is arrived at with respect to proportional representation, it cannot interfere with the Senate’s position as a States House, because I hold that besides being a States House, it is a House for the proper expression of party views. If Senator Crawford were the crustiest Tory imaginable, and I were regarded as the greatest Anarchist, yet, on the question of the sugar industry we would be found pulling pretty closely together as representatives from Queensland. During Senator Crawford’s illuminating speech of over two hours the other day on that matter, I indicated where I differed from him although all my interjections were not recorded in Hansard.
– You ought to be very thankful for that.
– I would be very pleased if some of Senator Wilson’s interjections were left out, and, no doubt, he would be equally pleased. At the time when the late Lord Forrest was urging the construction of the East- West transcontinental railway, every senator from Western Australia was in favour of the line. At the same time it is impossible to prevent matters from assuming a party aspect; there will always be this state of affairs.
– -For the last two years that tone has been noticeably absent, but the honorable senator is now introducing it.
– It is quite time that a new tone was introduced in this Chamber. If there were a stronger representation of the Labour party, there would, no doubt, be a fiercer and healthier tone here. The opposition to proportional representation probably comes from those senators who expect that they would be about third on the poll, and would run the risk of losing their seats.
– Would it not improve your chance in Queensland ?
– I do not know that it would. My name, like .the honorable senator’s, is very low down on the alphabetical list, though I contend strongly that the alphabetical method is not the proper one. In supporting the proposal I am under two disabilities. Not only does my party platform presage the extinction of this- honorable Chamber, but I do not know whether I would have a chance of figuring in the next House or not. The result of the next election might not be so happy for the Nationalist party as the Government hope it would be under the present system. It is possible that a passing wave of opinion, such as has been referred to by Senator Keating, may sweep the country. Then we would have a majority of Labour senators, whereby a double dissolution might be caused . The Senate is, undoubtedly, a States’ House, but it is also a> party House, and, therefore, it is only fair to have proper representation of the several leading groups of public opinion. . Owing to* the absence of that representation in the past the quality of this Chamber as a House of review has greatly deteriorated.
– I have been surprised to find my views on this subject somewhat in accord with those of the last speaker.
– Then, I think the honorable senator had better consider his position.
– In my opinion many honorable senators, require to seriously consider their position in proposing to vote for* the insertion of provisions for proportional representation in a
Bill in which we have already provided for. the grouping system. The two systems are diametrically opposed. To issue a ballot-paper which will be an incentive to a block vote under a measure providing for proportional representation is an absurdity. I have always considered the Senate the States’ House, and, as such, it is the most suitable House for which to adopt the system of proportional reorientation. We have been told that this is a party House, and I seriously regret that it should be a party House even to the extent that it is. The party aspect of the Senate is due to the party of which Senator MacDonald is a member, and if it is to continue to grow as it has done in recent years, the result will probably be to wipe the Senate out of existence altogether, unless honorable senators take a stand to defend the position of this Chamber as the States’ House. It will be absolutely impossible for the Senate to continue as the States’ House if thirty members of the House of Representatives and six members of the Senate from New South Wales, and seven members of the House of Representatives and six members of the Senate for South Australia are to meet in the same party meet- - ing. The people must realize that that is not what the Senate was intended for. I believe that the system of proportional representation could be more effectively applied to the Senate than to any other legislative body in Australia. The greatest difficulty has been found in the election of members to fill casual vacancies. But, to-da,y, we have full machinery in operation for the filling of casual vacancies in the Senate.
– How was my honorable friend elected, and how was Senator MacDonald elected for Queensland? In my opinion, it is not in the best interests of the country that members of the Senate should be elected by a block vote. There are three strong parties in the Commonwealth, and it is not in the best interests of the country that there should be thirty-four’ senators representing one party and only two representing another. It is very generally admitted that the next best thing to a. good Government is a good Opposition. A strong Opposition is very essential in the public interest. Important sections and interests in the community, are entitled to reasonable representation in this Chamber. As hon- orable senators are aware, I opposed the grouping system.
– But the honorable senator fell in with it at the last election.
– No such thing. 1 may explain to the honorable senator that there was an understanding between parties.
– The honorable senator fell in with the winning horse.
– Does Senator Cox not admire my judgment?
– I%do, but the honorable senator ought to own up to it.
– Then why make a fuss about it? Senator Cox is like myself. If it were not for the big parties behind him he would not be here.
– I admit that, but the honorable senator will not do so.
– I do admit it, and I have never denied it. I made the statement here only the other day that I came into the Senate representing three parties. If the number of parties behind an honorable senator is to decide his status in this Chamber, I am two ahead of Senator Cox. I wish it to be understood that I do not agree in any way with the grouping system, and I cannot approve of proportional representation being provided for. in a Bill which gives legal authority to the grouping system. I understand that ‘the Government have the numbers to defeat the amendment and I do not intend to waste time in discussing it. All parties in Australia have a right to representation in this Chamber, and in my opinion the Government have no right to persist with a system under which sitting members of this Parliament may be returned without difficulty, merely because its adoption secured their return at the last election. I hope that the proportional system of representation will, in the public interest, be agreed to for the Senate.
Senator GARLING (New South Wales) r6.27].- I oppose Senator Elliott’s amendment, not because I cannot theoretically see some value in the system of proportional representation, but because of the experience of those States which have introduced the proportional system into .their elections’. Before we make a wild dive into this unknown sea, as Senator Elliott asks us to do, it would pay us to consider what has been the effect of this system in British communities which have adopted it. It is not a brand new system in the Mother Country. I find that as far back as 1867 it was actually engrafted upon the British Constitution in connexion with what was called minority representation for certain large cities. As a matter of fact, it continued to be a part of the British electoral machinery until 1885, when, after it had been given a full trial by the “ Mother of Parliaments,” it was ignominiously cast out, and all attempts since made to re-introduce it have failed.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– It has already been shown that proportional representtation has been tried in Great Britain, and that at the first opportunity it was dispensed with, as only thirty-one members in a full House voted in favour of it. In the first three Tasmanian elections up to 1913 the- results brought about an absolute dead-lock on- each occasion, as there were fifteen Liberal, fourteen Labour, and one Independent candidate returned, and when a Liberal was taken from the floor of the House to fill the Speakership, there was a dead-lock. There have been dead-locks and unusual situations ever since, and although the advocates of the system in principle may be satisfied with perpetually recurring deadlocks, the people of Australia do not regard the results in practice as anything approaching what the advocates of the system in principle have laid down. , It has been urged that one of the benefits that would follow the introduction of the system would be the bursting up of the big party machines. In relating the experience in New South Wales in 1920, I do not think I can do better than quote from, a pamphlet prepared by a gentleman thoroughly conversant with the system, who sets out clearly what happened. I said that one of the arguments used by the advocates of the system was that it would be the means of breaking up the party machines. This is what the writer of the pamphlet says on that point -
The chief argument advanced by the advocates of’ proportional representation was that the power of the machine, as they insist on calling the National organization, would be broken, and that a state of perfectly blissful independence and mathematically exact representation would ensue. . . The attacks on the National organization on this matter, ludicrous as it may appear, actually extended to advocacy that the smaller the sections into which the National party could be divided - the more the solidarity of the party could be broken up by the return of candidates whose views and temperaments could not be assimilated into anything of a homogeneous nature - the more successful would be the proportional representation,and the better it would be far the National party.
As a result of the advocacy of proportional representation the result of the election was that it absolutely strengthened the forces of the biggest machine - the Labour party - amongst the parties already established instead of breaking up, as it was supposed to do, the party machine. There was not any representation in the Parliament of what might bo termed “ Independents,” or persons outside the big parties who represented a considerable majority of the people, but, on the contrary, the contest resolved itself into a battle between two of the strongest party machines. Another argument advanced is that the introduction of the system would result in a better type of candidates being returned to Parliament. This is what is said on that point -
One of the principal virtues of proportionalrepresentation as advocated in the campaign for its adoption was that it would bring out new men that the other systems prevented from offering their services. It has not done this. The new men, with possibly one or two exceptions, who have been returned are political neophytes whose abilities, if any, are unknown, and who owe their return as much to chance as to intention. They owe their election to the late preferences, many of which were marked mechanically and without regard to any preference based in merit or ability.
– By whom was that written?
– It was prepared after the 1920 elections by Mr. Archdale Parkhill, a man whose knowledge of the party machine is extensive.
– He would be in favour of keeping up the party system.
– I am merely showing what happened during the 1920 elections, and am quoting this opinion, not because it is that of Mr. Parkhill, but because it briefly expresses my own views. I shall give the results of three elections, to show what extraordinary happenings there were in the disposal of the preference votes. Mr. Parkhill goes on to say-
Take the Balmain electorate, for instance. In this electorate two National candidates stood for election out of nineteen candidates who nominated. When the fourteenth count had taken place, there was only, one candidate’ elected ( Storey), and the votes of Carmichael tvere distributed. The position then was -
Keegan’s votes were then distributed, with the result that Doyle, Quirk, and StuartRobertson were elected - Doyle with a surplus of 570, Quirk with a surplus of 308, and Stuart-Robertson with 30. The distribution of Doyle’s surplus then made Stopforth 5,018 and Smith 4.832, Stopford leading by 186 votes. The further distribution of Quirk’s surplus made the position as follows:-Smith 5192, Stopford 5,054 - Smith getting 360 votes and Stopford 36 from Quirk. The final result is quite satisfactory from the National point of view in the election of a splendid type of soldier member. The point, however, is this: that obviously at the stage when all the antiLabour preferences were distributed, which was at the fourteenth count, when Captain Carmichael’s votes were distributed, National supporters evidently preferred Dr. Stopford, but the sixteenth and seventeenth Labour preferences altered this result, as Mr. Smith was then elected. The peculiarity of the proceeding is more marked when it is known that these votes were not preference votes in any sense, but merely throw-away votes, because the Labour party adopted the method of leaving blanks opposite the names of their five candidates, and then marked the other candidates from the top, starting with6 and following them down in numerical and alphabetical order. By the mere chance that Smith is alphabetically in front of Stopford he is elected to Parliament. A similar instance can he shown in the North Shore electorate. Here, when the distribution of the votes of O’Donoghue, the Democratic or Catholic Federation candidate, took place, there only remained in the contest Messrs. Reid and Walker. O’Donoghue’s supporters adopted the same method of allotting their preferences, in the way just described, as that of the Labour supporters in Balmain. The result was that, through Reid being alphabetically in front of Walker, and consequently getting O’Donoghue’s late preference votes, he was elected. This instance is of peculiar interest when it is known that Mr. Reid was, if not the nominee of the Orange body, at least strongly supported by them, and is apparently elected by the votes of the nominee of the Catholic Federation.
That does not suggest the exercise of an intelligent vote, because votes were recorded at the direction of party organizations.
– They remedied that at the last election.
– I thought they did, as far as Mr. Redd was concerned.
– The pamphlet continues -
Again, in the Western Suburbs electorate, because of the marking of other candidates than their own in numerical order by Labour supporters, Mr. Doull (Nationalist), whose name is naturally near the top of the ‘ballotpaper by reason of its position alphabetically, received 1,800 preference votes in one count, just missing election. Several similar instances on both the National and Labour sides could be indicated.
This shows that the votes were not recorded in an intelligent manner, or, as Mr. Huie terms it, “ in an honest fashion,” but according to the dictates of the parties which the elector supported, and without any consideration being shown to the merits of the candidates. I do not think Senator Elliott goes to. the extent of providing a definite system of voting, but suggests that we should indorse proportional representation as a principle. While I am in favour of the principle of the system in many respects, and believe that, theoretically, it is something to be aimed at, its practical use is far distant. Up to the present I have not seen anything which would lead me to say that it would give the results which theorists claim. The intensity of the conflict not only between rival parties and factions, but between candidates for the first-preference votes, has also to be considered. On this point Mr. Parkhill says -
The system breeds the greatest discontent amongst candidates. Men who went out the best of friends were forced in many instances to pursue a policy of vigorous opposition in their pursuit of No. 1 votes. It is hard in many cases to get a basis of agreement upon which all the selected candidates in the electorate should stand-, and in nearly every electorate complaints are current from supporters and candidates as to the conduct of the election on their own side. The greatest- difficulty was experienced in conciliating the various candidates and preventing open ruptures. The record of tactics employed by others in regard to the “ how-to-vote “ cards is amazing. . . . Thu effect of proportional representation on party organization was to simply make the position difficult without any corresponding advantage. No candidate of any standing attempted to go to the poll without an organization behind him. Many nondescripts and independent candidates did do this, but with the result that they polled an insignificant number of votes.
The advocates of the scheme claim that wo would be able to bring into the public life of this country men who, in the past, have been unable to push themselves forward ; but experience has shown that such candidates do not succeed. The pamphlet continues - ‘
Other candidates contemplated running on their own, but they speedily got under the wing of one of the existing organizations, either National, Labour, or Progressive, or proceeded to build up an organization of their own. This accounts in some measure for .the number of candidates secured by the Progressive party, as in many instances candidates unable to secure selection or dissatisfied with the National party, and who under ordinary circumstances would have stood as independent Nationalist candidates, promptly went over in order to secure the benefit of the Progressive organization. It put organizations in this position: That previously they would be running the one candidate for each electorate; under this system they would be compelled to run a number. It meant greater centralization and greater expense, so far as the principal party machines were concerned.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- In regard to Senator Elliott’s amendment one has to approach the question not from the point of view of how the proposed system would affect the candidates, but from that of what is due to the electors. I would almost prefer to take up the attitude that our first consideration, should be to give the electors a fair deal, and an opportunity of exercising an intelligent vote in the easiest possible manner. Reference has been made to the fact that an illiterate elector may have no knowledge concerning the merits of the candidates, aud may simply mark the ballot-paper in the order in which the names appear thereon. We have heard also of others who are guided by the advice of certain organizations, political and otherwise, as to the candidates who should receive their first preference votes. The duty of public men in Australia is to keep on trying to educate the voter, and to show to him the responsibility that rests upon his individual shoulders in regard to the election of representatives of his State. I am anxious to see the voters truly represented, as far as possible, in this Chamber. The question we have to decide today, in view of the amendment, is whether a majority vote shall be the method by which candidates shall be elected to the Senate, or whether each quota of electors in a State shall have the right to a direct representative. Let me show how the majority vote would affect the position in New South Wales. In that State, 650,000 electors cast valid votes at the last election. Under the amendment, they would return three senators on a,, quota of 162,501 votes. The three candidates would secure at the time of their election 487,503 votes. That means that 487,503 voters would he represented by the three senators elected, leaving a minority of electors unrepresented to the number of 162,497. Under the present system, 325,001 electors could secure the election of the three men, leaving a minority of 324,999 without any representation. I contend that it is my duty to look at this matter from the point of view of the electors, and I consider that the least evil ought to be the. one that we should accept. We cannot have representation of every elector in our Houses of Parliament, but we ought ia insure that the minority which is unrepresented’ is as small as possible. For those reasons, I am compelled to vote for the amendment moved by Senator Elliott, because, if it is carried, and proportional representation- becomes the law of the land, the minority which is unrepresented in Parliament will be much, smaller than, it can possibly be under our present system.
– In any event, there would be a minority unrepresented.
– Yes. in any event. Everybody cannot be represented, but surely we should make the minority which is unrepresented as small as we can. I do not think that we ought to approach this matter from a party viewpoint. We profess to represent the States ; our primary representation is that of a State, and I take it that “ a State” means, at all events, a majority of the people of that State, and if we can, by any alteration of our methods, secure the representation of a larger majority, we ought to do it. The system has been tried in Tasmania, where it has been in operation since 1909 for the House of Assembly.
– That is the lower House in Tasmania, and that fact makes all the difference to the argument.
– I have had no control with regard to the franchise1 as applied to this Chamber. Although I listened with very much interest to the address delivered by Senator Pearce, I do not agree with him that proportional representation cannot, in all its forms, be applied to this Chamber.
– The Minister said that it would not be in accord with the Constitution.
– I cannot see that it is contrary to the Constitution, or to the ideas of those who framed the Constitution. I have always felt that proportional representation would give the people a, fairer deal by insuring that a majority of them would be represented in the Senate. I have not heard anything to make me deviate from that attitude.
– Under proportional representation a greater minority would be unrepresented in New South Wales than the majority that is represented in Tasmania. ‘ -
– The Minister is now introducing quite a -different aspect of the matter. Proportional representation for the people of a particular State is not related in any way to proportional representation of the various States.
– Why should a certain quota of electors _ in New South Wales be unrepresented when there is a quota as big in Tasmania returning six senators ?
– Why should every State have the same representation?
– That is because we are not representing the people individually, but the sovereign States.
– And the sovereign States consist of the people, and .the larger the majorities behind us the more representative we must be of the people of that State. I intend to support the amendment.
– I desire to quote the following words of wisdom which seem to me to sum up the whole situation : -
So far as the experience of it in the New South Wales elections is concerned, it has not only failed to lessen the power of the machines, but, on the contrary, has strengthened them. No new men have been induced to come forward, as was claimed would be the case, and it lias failed to remove the undesirable elements that would not have been returned under other systems. The electors are either opposed or indifferent to the system, and will not help in successfully operating it. Consequently it results in a reduced Doll and a largely increased informal vote. An electoral method that in its operation brings about the extraordinary result that many men are elected more by chance than by intention is obviously a wrong one. The value of the preferences are clearly unfair, in that the later preferences have an equal value with the first, whilst the second preferences have, in many cases, no value at all. That a candidate whose name, begins with a letter near the beginning of the alphabet should have a substantial advantage over the candidate whose name starts with a letter situated in a later position is an electoral absurdity that must condemn a system which undoubtedly allows of it. Proportional representation foments bitter rivalry and internecine fighting amongst candidates on the same side, with consequent loss of seats to the party. It has not insured the representation of minorities, as no actual new set of principles are to-day represented in the New South Wales Parliament that were not represented before the election.
That seems to state very effectively the situation in New South Wales, and. the last election, to my mind, in no way improved it.
– Dr. Fallon was returned.
– He was returned as virtually representing one of the dominant parties in the State - the Labour party - and he got in because of the large number of preference votes transferred to him from that party’s nominees. , The only clearly independent man who was returned was Mr. Scott Fell, for North Sydney. He was successful, largely because he had been associated with the National party, amd, although he ran as an independent National, he was able to have around him, by reason of being a wealthy man, an organization that a poorer man could not have secured. The late Mr. John Storey, when he was waited upon by the Proportional Representation Society in England, was asked to address them on the subject, and on the effect that proportional representation had had upon the fortunes of his party. He expressed the greatest gratification. He said he was grateful to Mr. Humphries, and others, “because I was able to take sixteen or seventeen seats away from my opponents in one election.” Later he said, “ Yes, but under this tricky system no one knows what may happen.” That is the summation of Mr. Storey. Let us look at what Mr. Huie, who is an outright supporter of the proportional representation system, has to say. He, like all others who favour the system, assumes that every elector will oast his vote, as Mr.
Huie puts it, “honestly.” By that he means intelligently, and with a full knowledge of the parties, policies and the principles before the electors.* If the electors would all do that, and if the millennium would come, I would be prepared to say that it was time to have proportional representation. Mr. Huie, however, offers a very serious warning to every one. He says, “ You cannot throw away any votes. The elector cannot afford to trifle with this system-. It will hit the elector if he tries; therefore, he must vote honestly.” Elsewhere he defines “honest” by a definition which presupposes that, the system is one which demands more from the average elector than the average elector knows of the politics of the day. At the last election in New South Wales, leaving out the question of independents, the dominant party did not obtain that proportional representation in Parliament to which it was entitled on the strength of the very large majority of votes that it got. That the position resulted as it did was in no sense due to proportional representation, for without it the party that won would have secured a tremendously, bigger victory. The result was largely due to two influences that swayed the electors, and that brought them out to vote, in spite of proportional representation. One was the sectarian question, which- was largely made an issue, but possibly the biggest issue of all was the fact that the Labour Treasurer had left the finances of New South Wales in such a state that at the end of February there was an accumulated deficit of over £5,250,000. Mr. McGirr, who was at that time moving heaven and earth within the party, was threatening a tremendous increase in taxation’ in New South Wales in order to meet the deficit. The increased vote was not due to increased intelligence on the part of the electors in handling the vote, but to the two causes I have mentioned. That the people did not cast their votes more intelligently, and more according to the merits of the candidates, was evidenced again by the system adopted by the Labour party in advising their supporters how to vote. This method in some of the larger electorates caused electors to vote for the Labour five, and then number the other candidates regardless of the party to which, they belonged. They were content to give a block vote for their own party, and to vote for the other candidates anyhow. My attitude is that the system has’ been tried, and, I venture to* say, has been found wanting in Tasmania, and, if we can judge by results, certainly also in New South Wales. The principle of proportional representation is one that I do not, having regard to actual results achieved, intend to vote for in connexion with our electoral machinery.
.- I could reply at length to Senator Garling’s reference to the New South Wales election, but I shall confine myself to one point. Although I am no advocate of proportional representation, I am prepared to accept it as the lesser of two evils, because the present system cheats the electors out of having three votes when three vacancies have to be filled. To show the influence that can be exercised by one man in Parliament, I would refer to the return of Dr. Fallon, who entered the New South Wales Legislature as a democratic candidate. He represents .practically the Roman Catholic section of the community, who think they are unfairly treated because they have to educate their own children in their own schools and also contribute a share towards educating the children of other members of the community. Already that representative - has converted the Nationalist party on one matter, because in the high schools of New South Wales the Nationalist Government are going to break down the old system of free education. I can attribute it to nothing but the power of this one man.
– The matter has not been discussed in Parliament yet.
– The honorable senator cannot have read Dr. Fallon’s able speech on the Address-in-Reply. The influence exerted by that representative shows the importance of minorities being represented. There is no Chamber where proportional representation can be so effectively used as in the Senate. In a State Parliament or in the House of Representatives, when a member loses his seat the vacancy is filled by a by-election, which is a useful institution to keep Parliament in touch with the constituencies, but in the case of a casual vacancy in the Senate there is no election. The speech of the Minister (Senator Pearce) this afternoon was an extraordinary one. His contention was that State representation would be in danger under proportional representation, but I venture to say that in New South Wales, at the last election, Under proportional representation, there would have been one man returned from each party - one Nationalist, one Country party candidate, and one Labour man. Would New South Wales, as a State, -be less effectively represented ,iu that way than it is under the present system? I think not. The opinions of individual members have no bearing on the representation, ‘because where State interests were concerned the members from a particular State would be as one party.
– But one party would negative the vote of another.
– The Senate is not a party House.
– It would be under proportional representation.
– On a question “ relating to Canberra I think I would be found voting with Senators E. D. Millen and Garling, and on the matter of the sugar industry I would expect to eoe Senator Crawford on the same side as Senator MacDonald. State interests will find State support, irrespective of the political opinions of the particular representatives. I contend that the electors are not satisfied with the present electoral system. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has sat here with a party of five. Is it not altogether wrong for this House to have only five representatives from the great party to which the honorable senator belongs? .If we do not give the people the means in the electoral law to redress any inequality of representation, their common sense will lead them to take action. Fair-minded men will not accept a one-sided system. It is advantageous to have a good Opposition in any House. Leaving out the Country party at the last election, the Nationalist and Labour parties were about equally divided, and yet we have no representation in the Senate of the Country party. I. do not like voting for principles to which I am opposed, but the present system is the most unfortunate that has ever been introduced in Australia. It is most inequitable that when there are three vacancies to be filled the electors have only one vote. Any proposal to improve that position will receive my support.
. - Even at the risk of travelling over ground already covered, I would like to refer for a moment to what would be the effect of proportional representation as applied to this House. Whatever may be said of the merits of the system as applied to certain representative institutions, I do not propose to deal with it from that aspect, -but solely as it would affect the Senate. We have in Tasmania, as one honorable senator has said, a certain number of people connected with, the Labour party who are not represented here. “I remind honorable senators that this House does not base its right to exist on the number of electors it represents. We passed from that position altogether when we conceded equal representation to the six sovereign States, and therefore each State was allowed six representatives. This House is really like a conference of sovereign Powers. When Mr. Lloyd George goes to a Conference with other Powers as the representative of Great Britain, he is not accompanied by a member of the Opposition. The National representatives are equal around the conference table, and the only voice that speaks there on behalf of Great Britain is that of the majority of the people. When a State sends its representatives hero, its majority has spoken. A State can elect whom it likes. There is only one spokesman for a sovereign country, and he represents the dominant party for the time being. Have the Premiers ever considered it necessary to bring to Inter-State conferences the representatives of minorities? No. There is only one way that a State can speak, and that is through its majority. I warn the advocates of proportional representation that if they destroy that principle they will be doing the best they possibly could do to undermine the policy of equal representation of the States in this Chamber. I deny the justice of the contention that, because a man is a Nationalist in Tasmania, he must have nine times the voting power of a Nationalist in New South Wales. If it is said, however, that as a sovereign State Tasmania has the right to come here’ on an equality with the biggest sovereign State in the Commonwealth, I shall concede the proposition. If this House should decide to adopt proportional representation, it would be lay ing the axe to the very basis on which this Chamber exists, namely, equal representation of the States. I am not expressing this view to-day for the first time. Even when I was here with a majority of five, charged with the responsibility of getting legislation through, I never once opened my lips in protest against the present system.
– Your five members were not elected on the same system as our two.
– It was the same principle. -
– At the last election the people only voted for one candidate.
– Then I should like to ask the honorable senator how three candidates got into the Senate. How did they evade the provisions of the Constitution and the rules of this Chamber to force an entrance here?
– If the first, second, and third preferences had been counted of equal value, there might have been more of the party to which I belong returned.
– If the honorable senator wishes to take exception to all these flirtations with new systems, I agree with him. I stand on the system of majority rule, and the more we get away from that the more we shall obscure the real point at issue, the more we shall befog the electors, and the greater the extent to which we shall lessen their interest in’ elections. We are dealing now with the proposal for the introduction of the proportional system of representation, and I rose to remind the Committee that the attitude I take up now is the attitude which I took up when I was leading the Government in this Chamber’ with only five honorable senators behind me. I never then opened my mouth in protest against the system of giving representation to the majority in this Chamber. Until I am convinced by argument that it is right to apply the principle of proportional representation to a Chamber which represents not people but States, my opposition to this principle will be as solid and as sincere as it is to-=night.
– We have listened with a great deal of ‘satisfaction to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D.. Millen). If there is one thing more than another upon which the honorable senator has been consistent, it is the question on which he has just addressed us. I am disposed to bewail my fortune that we had not the advantage of the honorable senator’s eloquence to assist us in our opposition to the imposition of the group system, which, unfortunately, the Government of which he is a member have introduced in this Bill. The honorable senator has said rightly, and in terms which it is impossible to improve upon, that the Senate is, first and foremost, a States House. That is really so plain that it should be unnecessary to state it. But still it evidently is necessary to continue to state it, because we have before us now a proposal to enable the representatives of sec- tions of the people in the different States to find an easy entrance into this Chamber by means of proportional representation. Senator Gardiner appears to be floating in mid-air like Mahomet’s coffin, and does not know whether he should vote for this amendment or against it. He is coquetting with rival policies. I am personally sorry to part company on this amendment with Senator Elliott, in view of the stand which that honorable senator took in resisting the Government proposal for the grouping of candidates.
Getting back to the statement that the Senate is a States House, let me cite a few illustrations to show how well-founded that claim is. Senator MacDonald is as valiant and well-tried a party advocate as possibly could be found in any part of the Commonwealth; but suppose that, as a representative of Queensland, in dealing with the sugar industry, he was disposed to look all round and consider the interests of the taxpayer and. sugar consumer in particular, and that in doing so he decided that it was time he should review his position-
– Beyond a mere passing allusion, I ask the honorable senator not to discuss the sugar question.
– The passing allusion ,1 wish to ‘make is that, suppose Senator MacDonald, on the eve of an election, said it was time to review his attitude towards the sugar question, what would be the honorable senator’s position on the poll ? He might’ hold up his hand and say, “But I am a member of the Labour party.” And the people of Queensland would say, “Never mind about your being a member of the Labour party or any other blamed party - what is this you are saying about the sugar industry?” The hot breezes from the north would shrivel him up and he would be like a worm in a blast furnace. He would find that it was necessary to be the advocate of Queensland’s interests, first, last, and all the time, and his membership of the Labour party would count for nothing. I take now the State of New South Wales. Suppose that valiant champion of party rights and interests, Senator Gardiner, said, “Well, about this Federal Capital, I am not so sure. I have very great searchings of conscience on the subject. I do not know how I should vote; but I am inclined to vote against the estimates that are being brought down for the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra.” If the honorable senator said that, what would happen’ to him? He would not be seen on the political landscape at the next election. He might hold up his hand and say, “ I am a member of the Labour party “ ; but the fury of the electors of New South Wales would be such that there would not be asbestos enough in the State to make a cloak to shield his shivering tones from the flames that would beset him. He would find that he must be first, last, and all the . time, an advocate of the interests of New South Wales. I take South Australia now, and imagine Senator Vardon shedding .his parochial cloak for the first time, and saying, “ Well, about this north-south railway, I think the time has arrived when we should be very careful how we spend money in this country. There has been a lot of talk about the. north-south railway; but I want to view it from a broad national stand-point. I really do not know how I feel about it.” Suppose the honorable senator mustered courage enough to say, “I have qualms of conscience about the north-south railway.” That would be enough to settle him at the next election. He might hold up has h’and and say, “ I am a member of the National party,” and the electors would say, “The National party be hanged. Where were YOU when we wanted you as the champion of our interests on this vital question? Who are you to talk about qualms of conscience and your membership of the National party? Out you go.” And out he would go.
– Could the honorable senator not give us an illustration from “Western Australia?
– I am reminded of Western Australia, and I believe that the people of that State are the only people who take a broad national view of public affairs, so much so that no matter what its mouthpieces say here in that State’s interest, they would feel that the right thing was said. There is some particular subject touching the interests of each of the States; and the most valiant amongst us cannot even breathe a suspicion that he is not as firm on that subject as the electors of his State would wish him to be.
The vote of the majority is the only means by which a State can determine who shall be its mouthpieces. Majority rule, for what it is worth, is the only thing before which we must all bow down and burn incense. That may be a wrong thing to do, because on occasion the majority i3 the most blockheaded sample of human intelligence that it is possible to imagine. All reforms, we know, spring from individuals, and must at first be advocated by a minority. We must bow to the majority, because if we do not they have the power and the organization to make us do so. In the social state in which we live at present every minority, until it has educated the majority sufficiently, must bow lowly to that majority and humbly say, “ We submit to your rule.” There is no means of carrying on social order ‘ under the conditions in which we live unless the majority is top dog. While I say that, I have a great deal of sympathy with the bottom dog, who’ gets the worst of the deal in every fight.
Getting down to . analytical discussion of this proposition, I question whether it is right to give proportions more than their proportionate share of representation. According to the most illuminating figures given by Senator Garling as to the experience of the proportional system of representation in New South Wales, it is clear that there is, first of all, a wrangle amongst the members of a party, then there is wrangling on the hustings, and a third and everlasting wrangle when the representatives of the rival parties arrive in the chamber of action. Goodness knows, we have wrangles enough likely to arise in the Senate as a result of the clashing of State interests, without superimposing upon them the wrangling of the representatives of rival sections in the different States. If we provide for proportional representation we have no guarantee that a minority proportion, well organized and well drilled, will not secure greater representation than it is entitled to, and that a majority proportion will not be given less representation in proportion to its numbers than will be secured by the well-drilled minority. It would be very wrong if the overwhelming bulk of the people were dominated by the smaller but better drilled section of the voters. I am forced to the conclusion that it is our. first duty to preserve the purpose for which this Chamber was created. We cannot dodge that duty. We cannot pass on the responsibility to somebody else. We are here as the custodians of the purpose for winch the framers of the Constitution stood. If we allow a representative of one proportion in a State to enter the Senate we cannot shut the gate against the representatives of the other proportions. The only means by which a State can send its mouthpieces to this Chamber, is by the exercise of a mass vote of electors holding essentially the same views. If members are to be sent to this Chamber by proportions the Senate will not be a State House but a House of proportions, and, as I said on another occasion, a House of brawling political factions.
I say again that I am sorry that Senator Elliott and I must part company on this amendment, but each must discharge his duty according to his lights. I only wish the Minister for Repatriation had made the speech which we have just heard with so much interest, in support of our resistance to the proposals of his colleague for the grouping of candidates. We should have been glad of the glowing sentences in which he expressed his resistance to party encroachment in the Senate. ‘ Under this Bill a ballot-paper is to be put .before us and, wonder of wonders, by the Government of which Senator E. D. Millen is so brilliant a member ! On this paper provision is made for the grouping system.
– Order ! I do not think that the honorable senator is in order. Is he anticipating anything ?
– I am anticipating only the destruction of this Bill. I am endeavouring to induce the Minister for Repatriation to repeat his speech on the third reading of the Bill, while honorable senators’ minds are still plastic, and while there is a faint hope of them changing their opinions. If the Minister will do that there is no doubt as to the fate of the Bill. In the meantime, I shall oppose the amendment.
– While it must be admitted that the States have sovereign powers we cannot deny the political spirit, which is from time to time displayed in the Senate. I am here as a representative of a party in Queensland, although there are some who claim that that party is not dominant in that State. It is, however, the party in power, and that is why I am here. Senator Garling is not representing the Labour party or the Country party.
– I was selected by the New South Wales Parliament to represent the State.
- Senator Garling would not be here if several members of the Legislative Council in New South Wales, who belong to the Labour party, had done their duty, and he represents the National party.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss Senator Garling’s selection by the State Parliament of New South Wales, because such discussion is quite irrelevant.
– I intend to support the amendment, although there are certain difficulties confronting me in view of the state of our party platform at the present time. However, unless I subscribe to the policy of “ the law of increasing misery,” I must help to improve the value of this House in the best interests of the country, and proportional representation is the way to do this.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted in the proposed new clause be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the proposed now clause negatived.
Amendment (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the letter “ a” before the word “ majority “ in sub-clause (5), paragraph (b), of proposed new clause, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ an absolute “.
– I am afraid Senator Russell in endeavouring to get out of one difficulty is confronted with one which is as bad, if not worse. I invite honorable senators’ attention to the fact that in this proposed sub-clause an absolute majority of votes means a greater number than one-half of the whole number of ballot-papers - not of votes - other than informal ballot-papers. The honorable senator is endeavouring to provide that the first, second, and third votes shall be primary votes, and, remembering that there are three separate counts, the result would be this-
– There would be only one count under his system.
– There may be even more than three. There are three vacancies, and let us assume thereare 90,000 effective ballot-papers. There are three primary votes on each ballot-paper, together representing 270,000 votes, and Senator Russell’s amendment provides that an absolute majority of votes shall mean a greater number than onehalf of the whole number of ballot-papers, which is 45,001, and therefore the candidate who first receives 45,001 out of the 270,000 is elected.
– No. Of all the ascertained formal votes.
– The honorable senator has not read his amendment, because he will see that the candidate who has received the largest number of firstpreference votes shall, if that number constitutes an absolute majority of votes, be elected. The amended sub-clause sets out that an absolute majority means a greater number than one-half of the whole number of ballot-papers other than informal ballot-papers, and with 90,000 as a basis it is clear that the majority is 45,001 !
– Where does the Minister get the 90,000 from?
– That is merely an imaginary basis, and it does not matter what number is taken. Of the 90,000 ballot-papers, 45,001 would be an absolute majority as defined in the amendment. As there are 270,000 votes, there would be five complete quotas of 45,001 each, and the remainder would be 44,000 odd. Although only three candidates are to be elected, five could be returned under the proposed system.
– If there are 90,000 papers, and 45,001 votes are necessary to elect a candidate, how could five be returned ?
– The honorable senator has not read the amendment. The result of the amendment will be that if a candidate receives votes to the number of an. absolute majority of the ballot-papers he will be elected; but the three primary votes will be counted as first . preferences. There ‘will be 270,000 votes recorded on 90,000 ballotpapers. Senator Russell seeks to provide that the first, second, and third votes shall count as primary votes. According to the amendment, 45,001 would be a majority, but it would be purely a matter of chance which candidate would get that number first. As soon as one of the candidates had got it, he would be elected, yet it might be possible, if all the votes were counted, for five candidates to get the number, while still leaving 44,000 votes remaining. One has only to look at the proposal to see that it causes worse confusion than the previous one. The present system was established because the electoral officers recognised that the proposal put forward in the amendment would not be satisfactory. It was the Droop quota that was embodied in Senator Russell’s first amend ment, and it is the only possible quota if the three votes are given an equal value. Senator Russell has now getaway from that idea. The Droop quota is well recognised by electoral experts. He is proposing a system- under which it would be possible for five men to get the number of votes that would qualify them for election, and it would be a toss-up which of them would get the number first.
– Under my proposal, it is impossible for a candidate who gets merely a quota; to be elected. As a result of the statement that went around this Chamber that it would be possible for a candidate to get in on a minority vote, I had the following sub-clause drafted: -
An absolute majority of votes means a greater number than one-half of the whole number of ballot-papers other than informal ballot-papers. The casting vote of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, given in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, shall be included in reckoning an absolute majority of votes.
T have not at any time advocated election by a quota. I have always stood for election by a majority. No man has a right to come into this Chamber except by the vote of a majority of the electors. In anaverage poll in Victoria there would be about 500,000 votes. .
– The honorable senator means 500,000 ballot-papers, or 1,500,000 votes.
– That is so; but as there are three candidates, the number of votes would be divided by three.
– No; multiplied by three.
– There would probably be 500,000 ballot-papers, with three candidates to be elected. If a candidate received 251,000 votes, that would be an absolute majority of the number of ballot-papers. The alternative to this proposal would be to have three separate elections. I have never seen a one, two, three vote transferred yet. The present system is costing over £50,000 for an election for the Senate when it could be done for very much less with exactly the same result. I have given the Government good support on the general principles of the Bill. It cost over £10,000 to hold up Senator Guthrie for over nine weeks, and over £10,000 forme. There are expenses for halls, returning officers, and poll clerks. Senator Guthrie won on the first day, but it took nine weeks to count his votes. My election went on also for nine weeks.
– The officers’ salaries would have to be paid if there were no counting.
– That is not so. Most of them are appointed at £3 3s. a week, and in some of the smaller towns they receive £2 5s. The poll clerks are paid £1 5s. Under the system which I propose, the first, second, and third votes would not be transferable. I compromised by agreeing not to alter the system of voting. I think that, from the point of view of economy alone, the amendment should be carried. Personally, I do not care what action the Committee decides to take. I am not going to the poll at the next election, and it is impossible to say what may happen in four years’ time. I have been in five contests, and have won every time. I am prepared to accept the vote of honorable senators, who know how long they were kept waiting for the result of the last election, and at what expense.
– I should not have risen to speak on the present occasion but for the extraordinary utterance of Senator Pearce. The proposal put forward by Senator Russell would simplify the method of voting. He stipulates that no candidate shall be elected unless he receives one-half and one over of the votes.
– Of the ballot-papers.
– The votes cannot be polled except on ballot-papers, and on no single ballot-paper can a candidate get more than one vote. No one man can get more votes than there are ballot-papers. What Senator Russell is aiming at, and he has made it clear to me, is to get back to the old system of counting, in which the first, second, and third votes all have the same value. Under the old system the crosses were counted. On the ballot-paper there are certainly three candidates to be voted for, but it would not be possible for any one of them to get more than one of the votes on each paper. Senator Pearce is a trifle confused about that. On the 90,000 ballot-papers on which Senator Pearce based his figures there would be three candidates, with the figures 1, 2, and 3 alongside their names. Each might get a majority, but it would not be possible, if they got it, for any one else to get it. With 90,000 ballot-papers 45,001 votes would give each man his majority. It would be possible ‘for three men to be returned, each with 45,001 votes. I venture to say that with such a system of counting, two or three days would suffice to end up an election. Senator Russell has had experience in the Electoral Office, and he has made a statement that thousands of pounds - I do not mind whether it is £5,000, £10,000, or £25,000- could be saved. From my own knowledge of the counting in New South Wales, his figures of the cost must be very near the truth. We were elected on the 13th December, and it was well into January before the result was made known. Candidates, also, are put to unnecessary expense in financing their scrutineers. The heavy expense to the country is not due to any going slow by the Electoral Office, but to the complex system of having three separate elections. When the figures for one election have been counted, it is the practice to begin counting all over again. Under Senator Russell’s proposal, the first night’s count would break the back of the task. It would then be possible to know practically who was elected, and in a few days the whole business could be cleared up at an estimated saving of £20,000 to the people of this country, and with as much accuracy as at present.
– We might as well toss up to see who is elected.
– Did we toss up from 1901 until the last election? The only difference in the method was that previous to the 1917 election crosses were placed alongside the candidates’ names instead of numbers. Then the present system came in, with a most complicated method of counting. A waste of £20,000 on the election is of no consequence to the Government, who have been squandering money for many years, and will continue to squander it for many more years.
– We want a system that is accurate.
– Surely a system that was tested from 1901 to 1917 without giving cause for complaint can be considered to be accurate enough for any reasonable person. I want a simple method that the electors will understand. A possible saving of £20,000 at each election is worth considering.
.- The Minister (Senator Pearce) made a statement that five men could be elected under my scheme. ,
– I said there were five quotas. An absolute majority would be 45,001, assuming there were 90,000 votes cast.
– It is absurd to say that there is a possibility of five men being elected under the system I have proposed.
– I am surprised that. my honorable friends Senators Gardiner and Russell cannot see what to me is so obvious. They are led away because they want to retain the first, second, and third votes, but they announce that the No. 1, 2, and 3 votes are all the equivalent of one. It would be the same as putting three crosses on the ballot-paper and saying they were the primary votes when the ballot-papers were marked by crosses. Every person who exercised a valid vote put three crosses on one ballot-paper. That is surely casting three votes, because, when that ballot-paper was ‘counted, it was not taken as one vote.
– It counts as one vote for each man..
– Yes. Suppose i put crosses opposite the names of Brown, Jones, and Robinson. In the scrutiny my Vote goes down as a vote to each of those three men, and there are three valid votes recorded in the count. If you repeat that process 500,000 times you have 1,500.000 votes in the count. Senator Russell’s amendment makes the quotas in such a case 250,001. That number divided into the number of votes cast will go five- times, and leave nearly 250,000 over, 249,995 to be accurate. If there are 100 voters they record 300 votes. Fifty-one is contained in 300 five times. If Senator Russell’s amendment is accepted it will make the Bill an absolute farce.
.- If there were only 100 ballot-papers and three men each get fifty-one votes, there would be only a possibility of forty-nine votes for any other candidate. I suggest that the matter be adjourned until to-morrow, so that we may consider it at leisure.
– I support the Minister (Senator Pearce), but unfortunately I have to do so by contradicting what he has said. He gives us a hypothetical case of 50,000 odd ballot-papers, and multiplies the number by three when the purpose is to elect three members to this Chamber. From an official return I find that for the State of Western Australia there were at the last Senate election 103,000 ballot-papers issued. A number of them were rejected as informal, and the number of unrejected papers was 93,920. An absolute majority of those unrejected ballot-papers was all a candidate needed to get to be elected, and an absolute majority in this case was 46,960. There were three National, three Labour, and two Country party candidates, and the unrejected ballot-papers were distributed in such a way that they were all accounted for. Senator Pearce got 49,334 votes, and was elected. He only needed to get what he did get - a majority of the unrejected ballot-papers. As a matter of fact, the Minister is both right and wrong in his contention, but he is more wrong than right. All that the Minister wanted was a majority of the unrejected ballot-papers, and when he got that he was elected.
.- I quite agree that the Minister (Senator Pearce) is under a misapprehension on this matter. Instead of puzzling: our brains with thousands, let us take simple figures. If there was twenty votes under Senator Russell’s scheme, eleven votes would comprise the majority necessary to return the candidate, and there would be nine over. Suppose there were three candidates from each of two parties and every one voted strictly according to the ticket, then the eleven voters who ‘ voted for the three candidates of one party would secure the return of all three, and by no manipulation of the extra nine could any other result be arrived at.
.- I am afraid that the whole of the trouble has been brought about by the honorable senator who introduced the proposed new clause being desirous of laying it down that each elector shall be able to record three distinct votes, and that the first, second, and third preferences shall be of equal value. Every valid ballot-paper will have une figures 1, 2, and 3 against the names of three candidates. Those three figures will represent three distinct votes. If Senator Russell admits that, let us see what would follow adopting his own figures. I suppose that there are 500,000 valid ballotpapers. In his amendment Mie honorable senator provides that the majority of votes shall be a majority of the ballot-papers
– And of votes also. ‘
– According to the honorable senator’s own contention, if 500,000 valid ballot-papers are put into the ballot-bos, that must mean that 1,500,000 votes will be recorded. If that be so, how can 25,001 votes be an absolute majority?
– Because the 1,500,000 votes polled will be polled for three men, and will really represent three primary votes.
– I can understand the honorable senator’s intention, but I think he would have been well advised if he had proposed that we should go back to the old system of putting three crosses before the names of candidates whom the elector desires to vote for, and let it drop at that.
– I have no objection to that.
– The honorable senator’s amendment will lead to all kinds of complications, and in view of the wording of its various paragraphs, it is impossible to reconcile what the honorable senator calls a majority of votes wilh a majority of the ballot-papers. I say that, in the circumstances, it would have been better if the honorable senator had proposed that we should go back to; the old system of using crosses to indicate the preference of the elector.
– I have said that I have no objection to that.
– The Minister (Senator Pearce) was justified in drawing attention to the extraordinary anomalies which might arise from the adoption of this amendment.
– Those anomalies come principally from Tasmania.
– Tasmanian representatives would not be guilty of such a proposal as that now under consideration.
– Tasmania shows a lower percentage of informal votes than any other State in the Commonwealth.
– That is accounted for by the intelligence of the Tasmanian electors.
– I invite honorable senators to consider the following example which has been, worked out for me as illustrating what I have been trying to explain. I assume that there are 1,000 voters, three seats to be filled, and four candidates, and that the election is operated under Senator Russell’s proposal. I assume that the candidates are A, B, C, and D. Two hundred and fifty of the voters give their No. 1 vote to A, No. 2 to S, No. 3 to C, and No. 4 to D. Two hundred and fifty give B their No. 1 vote, C No. 2, D No. 3, and A No. 4. Two hundred and fifty give C their No. 1 vote, D No. 2, A No. 3, and B No. 4. And 250 give D their No. 1 vote, A No. 2, B No. 3, and C No. 4. These figures account for the whole of the 1,000 ballot-papers, and for the electors voting their full preferences, and, as a result, A would get 750 votes, B 750 votes, C 750 votes, and D 750 votes. Only three require to be elected - 501 is the quota, and yet each of the four candidates get 750 votes apiece.
– That is impossible. I got figures like that, and the only figures I received from the Department were of no use to me.
– As only three of the candidates could be elected, it would seem that they would be the three fortunate enough to get in first.
– I have contended all along against the cost of the existing system. I say that the cost of counting the votes in Victoria amounted to £20,000.
– How does the honorable senator make that out?
- Senator Guthrie was kept waiting for his count for nine weeks, and I had to wait another nine weeks. Halls had to be hired, and persons had to be engaged to make the count. It took over £10,000 to count the votes for
Senator Guthrie, and it took as much to count my votes, and yet they never transferred one of the preferential votes.
– The honorable senator has only to look at the returns distributed to show that in New South Wales Senator Gardiner had transferred to him the second and third preferences of those who voted for ex-Senators McDougall and Grant.
– I had a very small vote until the third count was reached, and I won on the third count.
– That shows that tho honorable senator needed the transfer of the preferential votes of those who voted for the other Nationalist candidates, and that he received them.
– I did; but what is the use of counting votes in halfadozen different ways, and in having thousands of men counting them all over Australia when they might all be counted at the first count, reckoning the first, second, and third preferences as primary votes? It is not suggested that there is something inferior in being third man when that may be due to a candidate’s position on the ballot-paper. I wish again to refer to the fast that when the last count was reached in the Victorian election, although all were valid votes, or they would not have been counted in the first count, there were 5,000 fewer votes than were counted in the first count. I ask tho Minister (Senator Pearce) to make some inquiries to discover what became of those 5,000 votes.
– I ask the Minister whether he can learn from the Electoral Branch of his Department if there is any foundation for the statement made, that the existing system of counting cost the country an additional £20,000 in Victoria, as explained by Senator Russell.
– I have inquired into that statement, and I am informed that it is altogether inaccurate. I am informed that the officers who count the votes are the usual departmental officers, whose salaries would have to be paid in any case. That the estimate given is altogether inaccurate is shown by the fact that the last elections cost only £90,000 throughout the Commonwealth, and that amount was within £5,000 or £6,000 of the ordinary cost of elections before the preferential system was introduced.
– I hope that the Minister, in answering questions without notice, will not misrepresent the position. If he thinks that by making a statement of that kind honorable senators will shut their eyes to what occurred in the polling booths, I, forone, will not do so.
-i was not talking of the polling booths; I was talking of the count.
– The Minister must know that the counts took place in the divisions, and wore not made by the Chief Returning Officers. There are not a sufficient number of permanent officers in New South Wales to make a count. For a month, I was deeply interested in the last election, and paid many visits to polling booths in which the count was taking place, and it was being carried out by a number of temporarily employed officers. I could, if necessary, give the names of many of them. I object to the statement that only permanent officials did the counting. What number of permanent officials are there in the. different divisions? I take the Wentworth division, for instance, and I will say that there are not more than three or four permanent officers in that division. The same may be said with respect to each of the twenty-seven divisions in New South Wales. We have a Divisional Returning Officer, and possibly an assistant. I doubt whether there are more than two assistants in any of the divisional offices. When the count was being made I assert that temporary officers were employed in the counting of the ballot-papers. If the Minister challenges my statement I am prepared to put a question on the subject to him to-morrow, asking for the number of persons employed in the count in any New South Wales division, over and above the permanent officers.
– I suggest that the division to be taken now should be regarded as a test vote deciding the fate of. Senator Russell’s whole amendment.
– Very well.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out of the proposed new clause be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . .7.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the proposed new clause negatived.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the following new clauses be inserted: - “ 18a. Section 135 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘ one hundred and twenty-one’ (wherever occurring), and inserting in their stead the words ‘ ninetyone a, sub-section (4) ofsection one hundred and fifteen, section one hundred and twentyone, and section one hundred and twentyone a ‘.” “ 18b. Section 136 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘one hundred and twenty-one ‘ (wherever occurring) , and inserting in their stead the words ‘ninety-one a, sub-section (4) of section one hundred and fifteen, section one hundred and twenty-one, and section one hundred and twenty-onea ‘.” “ 18c. Section 138a of the principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (1), the following paragraph: - “ or (c) on any ballot-papers ueed for voting in pursuance of section, ninetyone a, subsection (4) of section one hundred and fifteen or section . one hundred and twenty-one a, and in relation to which the scrutiny by the Divisional Returning Officer bes not been completed.’.”
Senate adjourned at 10.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 August 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1922/19220809_senate_8_99/>.