1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator FRASER presented a petition from 118 members of the Church of England resident at Casterton and neighbourhood, in the State of Victoria, praying the Senate to reject the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
In Committee - (Consideration resumed” from 5th February, 1902, vide page 9680).
Clause 50 -
Any officer -
Upon which Senator Staniforth Smith had moved -
That after the word “ officer” the following words be inserted - “ [except officers of the Parliament] affected by any report or recommendation mode or action taken under this Act other than a report or recommendation made or action taken under sections 31, 46 to 49 inclusive, 64, 65, and 72 thereof, may appeal to a board consisting of an inspector, the chief officer of the department to which such officer belongs, or an officer nominated by such chief officer, and the representative of the division to which such officer belongs elected under the regulations by the officersof the division to which such officer belongs in the State in which such officer performshis duties. The board shall hear such appeal and transmit the evidence taken together with a recommendation thereon to the commissioner, who shall thereupon determine such appeal.”
Upon which Senator Drake had moved -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion after the word “ may,” line 6, of the words - “ in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed.”
. Just before we adjourned yesterday, Senator Symon indicated an amendment the proposed to move, which would come before the amendment I had moved. I think that either of the,, amendments would have somewhat the’ same effect. I have consulted with my colleagues and the Parliamentary Draftsman, and seen Senator Smith on the subject, and the opinion I have formed on advice is that my amendment will be sufficient for the purpose. It will leave the matter of the time and the manner of the appeal to no settled by regulation, and, no doubt, it will be settled in such a way that it will practically come to the some thing as the amendment of Senator Smith. I should like to know what his feeling is in the matter. I am perfectly prepared to give way and withdraw my amendment if - he is not satisfied with it.
– I am indebted to the PostmasterGeneral for the courteous way in which he has met the suggestion .1 have made with a view of facilitating the establishment, if there is to be such a body, of a board of appeal that will really have some functions to discharge and that will be not altogether inconsistent with the/ other provisions of the Bill. My own view is, on consideration since yesterday, that, in order to make the clause effective, it will be well to embody both amendments in the clause. I think that the amendment of Senator Drake, remitting the time and manner generally to regulation, is a good one, but it appears to mc that in the case of recommendations and reports by the commissioner to the Governor-General, which may have to be approved by His Excellency, there ought, either by an addition to the clause, or by exception in some way, to be a provision made that any appeal shall take place before the Governor-General either expresses or translates his approval into action through, of course, his responsible Ministers-. If it were not so, it would practically set up a tribunal of appeal to the commissioner in the long run from the Governor-General’s decision, and, it might be, having regard to the provisions of clause S, from the decision of Parliament. And as Senator Downer pointed out very fully last night it Would be introducing into the Bill an element of confusion, which is already burdensome enough, in some of its provisions.
– In re-drafting the amendment I have adopted the suggestion of the
Government by inserting the words - “may in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed,” but I do not think that alteration will meet the whole of the objections raised by Senator Symon and others, and therefore I propose to add the following words : -
Provided that in the cose of reports or recommendations made by the commissioner to the Governor-General all such appeals must be taken before the same is dealt with by the Governor’ General under the provisions of this Act.
Clause 8 relates to the classification of the civil servants and the commissioner makes certain recommendations to the GovernorGeneral in Council and their decision is final. If this clause were not put in it would .allow an appeal from the decision of the Governor-General in Council, or perhaps from the decision of Parliament itself, to the commissioner, whose decision would be final. That would put us in the extraordinary position of making the power of the commissioner superior to that of the Governor-General in Council. I propose to add this amendment which was suggested by Senators Symon and Dobson, and make it necessary for these appeals to be heard prior to the decision of the Governor-General in Council. I think that these two amendments, if mode, will meet all the objections raised lost night, and will make this appeal board one that will be useful to the civil servants, and will save a great deal of work on the part of the commissioner, and certainly increase the effectiveness of the service.
– The amendment as suggested, will be an exceedingly difficult one to administer. I suppose it will have some meaning, although it will take a Philadelphia lawyer to find it out, and probably will be satisfactory to some one or other - I do not know exactly whom at the present time. We had a perfectly straight-out contest oh the very simple question of whether there should be a board or some buffers under which the Government could hide themselves, or whether we should have direct Ministerial responsibility. I think we in form agreed to there being a general commissioner, and that he should only act tentatively and with the approval of the Government in every case. Although in detail and in substance the appointment of the commissioner may have been convenient, still, when it came to the real point of control, the Government, having to confirm the acts of the commissioner, became responsible. We had a fight in the committee between the advocates of that idea and those who thought the commissioner should not be responsible to any one ; and I thought that we agreed generally - although perhaps it was not put as clearly as it might have been - that we preferred Ministerial responsibility, which meant that everything should be done in the light of day, such responsibility on the part of the Government meaning responsibility to Parliament. We had a tremendous fight about the clause as introduced by the Government. We struck out the whole clause, with the exception of two words. The Government won hands down, and had it their own way.
– No, the Government were defeated.
– The G overnment lost in a sense ; but while the words they proposed were not carried, yet no other words to fill up the blank were agreed to. The committee never agreed as to what words were to be inserted, so that I say that in substance the Government won. We now have to consider a concrete proposal. What does the committee mean to do? I very strongly object to boards if they are irresponsible, and if they are responsible, I object to them still more strongly. I ask that the Government shall be responsible for the management of the public service right throughout.
– The honorable and learned senator should have voted against the clause for the appointment of the commissioner.
– I should have voted against the commissioner, except that I understood he was to be merely the head of a department - that every act which he did was to be subject to confirmation by the Executive, and that, therefore, he became simply an officer dependent upon the Executive. That is why I said nothing about the matter in the course of the debate. If the actions of the commissioner were not to be final; if the Government could reverse them, I did not object to the commissioner ; but if he was not to be responsible to the Government,I did object to him. There was no reason for not objecting to him so long as his actions were subject to confirmation by the Executive. But now the committee having discussed the matter as between Government responsibility and a board that could act without responsibility, and having practically thrown out the original clause, saying, in effect, that the Government should be responsible, an amendment has been moved the meaning of which I do not know. It will require a very intelligent person to understand it. Previously we had a very simple proposition before us which every one understood. It was simply a proposal in favour of straight-out Government responsibility, although it was proposed in a roundabout way. I understood that after the debate the committee left the matter, on the understanding that the Government were to be responsible, although they were to have officers to act for them, which was necessary in the management of a large concern like the public service of the Commonwealth. All my experience in politics goes to confirm my original impression that, let the Government appoint what board they like, it should still remain subject and responsible to the people through their representatives in Parliament.
– The honorable and learned senator should have made that speech upon clause 5 ; it is out of place now.
– I think it is in place, though probably not in the manner the honorable senator means. I mean to oppose any such amendment as that now suggested by Senator Smith. The amendments upon that amendment simply complicate the matter further. I hope that the Government will retire from the position they have taken up, stick to the clause as originally introduced, and not allow any intermediate commissioner to intervene between the people and the Government. What does this amendment provide, and what does it mean? It merely states the particular method in which the Government have to inform their minds. They have to take evidence, and when it is taken the commissioner has to consider it and decide. Would it not be better not to bolster up the commissioner by telling him that he is to do his work in this way or the other? Should we not rather leave the commissioner alone? We are treating him like a child. There are many ways and means by which the commissioner can evade responsibility. He can say - “ You told me to do this and that, and how can you complain about my having done it 1 “ - whereas we want him to do everything without being told - we want him to inform his mind properly. There are many ways other than those specified in this amendment by which- the commissioner ought to inform his mind. We should leave him the full responsibility of inquiring, and should assume that he will be an ordinarily sensible man. We do not require to put in a number of rough sentences like those in the amendment, which are meaningless, to my mind, and very insufficient, and which might enable him to say, when a time of trouble came - “ I did all you told me to do.” If this amendment, be passed we shall not be able to say to him-“ You should have done a good deal more.” I object to any tampering with the results the committee have come to. We have said that there shall be a commissioner and not a board, and that the commissioner shall be subject to the Government, and the Government subject to Parliament. On. that I stand.
– I wish to say a word as to the attitude of the Government upon this matter, because I conceive that there is some misapprehension concerning it. Senator Downer has made a speech1 in approval of the clause as it originally stood in the Bill. But we were defeated upon that clause ; and on a subsequent motion- to put in certain words to fill up a blank: we were defeated by eight votes to fifteen - that is, by a majority of seven. That is to say, the committee affirmed their desire that this appeal should be, not to the commissioner, but to a board of some kind. This is what I said in committee on the subject when asking’ Senator Smith to withdraw his amendment : -
I think that the wishes of the committee will be met if Senator Smith withdraws his amendment on the understanding that we will allow the clause to be passed as it stands with only two words in it, namely, “Any officer.” Senator Smith will thus have an opportunity to get his amendment properly drafted, and when the clause is reconsidered he can move whatever he pleases. In the meantime I will consult the parliamentary draftsman, and put into shape the ideas held by the Government as to the way in which the .clause should be dealt with. That will secure the passing of a properly-drafted clause.
That is exactly what has been done, and there is no opening for any animadversion upon the action of the Government. -
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - I was unable to gather from Senator Downer’s speech what was his precise objection to this clause, but that was possibly due to my obtuseness. The honorable and learned senator said that the Government would be responsible for every act under this measure. If we turn to clause 50, as it stood originally, and of. which- Senator Downer approved, we find, that it provided -
Any officer feeling dissatisfied with any report or recommendation made under this Act affecting such officer’s position in the service or his pay or any promotion or transfer, may appeal to the commissioner in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed.
That provided for an appeal to the commissioner. I proposed as an amendment that an appeal board should be created, and that the commissioner should finally decide the matter. The Government adhered to their original proposal, and were defeated by fifteen to eight. The committee showed clearly, therefore, that they were in favour of an appeal board. There are a great many civil servants in various parts of the Commonwealth who have not been treated well in the past,- and the object .of the appeal board is to enable them to have a full statement of their grievances considered. My original proposal was that a board should be appointed for each State, for the purpose of inquiring into grievances locally, and that it should consist of the chief officer, the1 inspector, and some one appointed by the civil servants themselves. I .proposed that the board should go thoroughly into every appeal, and submit the evidence taken by it, together with a recommendation to the commissioner, who would either adopt the recommendation, or read the evidence carefully and come to a decision himself. By that means celerity would be obtained. Instead of the commissioner receiving a letter, which,: judging by past- experience, he would throw into the waste-paper basket or merely file away, he would obtain a recommendation from a properly constituted board, together with the evidence taken by it, and he would .thus be in a position to decide every case. I think that such a board would be an improvement upon appeal direct to the commissioner, because it would enable an aggrieved officer to have his case heard locally. Senator Downer has said that this amendment is a conglomeration of words which, he is unable to understand. That is a reflection on the Government, because the clause was drafted by them.
– What is the character of the cases to which this clause would apply?
– It would deal with appeals by officers who believed they were entitled to transfers which had not been granted them, or appeals against any refusal of promotion.
– Or a case in which some one had been promoted over another man’s head.
– Yes, there may also be appeals by officers who consider that they are entitled to an increase of salary which has not been allowed. Great hardship has occurred in connexion with matters of this kind in the past, and. we want the commissioner to have before him in each case the full evidence taken by a local board. This clause has been drafted very carefully, and it has been found necessary to exempt certain clauses from its operation, as well as to make certain qualifications. The Government are now proposing its adoption, and if it be agreed to, I shall move an amendment providing that appeals must be heard prior to the decision of the Governor-General in Council. I do not wish to take up the time of the committee by entering into details in. regard to the necessity of an appeal board of this kind, because I have already dealt with the matter at length. The committee have intimated that they are in favour of such a board, and I sincerely hope that it will not be necessary to go over the whole matter again.
Amendment to amendment agreed to.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ provided that in the case of reports or recommendations made by the commissioner to the Governor-General, all such appeals must be taken before the same have been dealt with by the Governor-General, under the provisions of this Act.”
The object of this amendment is to provide that when recommendations in regard to classification are made by the commissioner, the Governor-General shall decide the matter. Without this amendment a civil servant would be able to appeal to the commissioner after the decision of the Governor-General had been given, with the result that the decision of the commissioner would be final, and he would practically override not only the Executive, but even Parliament itself. It is reasonable that such an amendment should be made in order to define when appeals shall be made.
– The great majority of these appeals will be caused by the act of the GovernorGeneral in Council, and the officers affected will know nothing about the recommendations until the Governor-General has approved of them. They will never see the recommendations of the commissioner and will know nothing about them until the whole thing has been settled by the Governor-General in Council.
– We shall provide for that by regulation.
– We must give the officers a fair opportunity of ascertaining what are the recommendations of the commissioner.
– The recommendations of the commissioner will be gazetted.
– That was the object of the last amendment which gives power to make regulations. I take it that in every case the commissioner will make his recommendation, and that it will be published in the Gazette for a certain number of days. The time willbe fixed so that any officer feeling aggrieved may have an opportunity of appealing Unless we have words of this kind in the clause there will be no limitation as to the time of appeal.It would be possible to bring an appeal at any time after the Governor-General had approved of the matter complained of. It would thus be necessary for the commissioner to make another recommendation if the board of appeal found in favour of the aggrieved officer.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - There is no doubt that the whole matter is a very complex one, and the result is what often happens to actions taken in the desire to do the most perfect justice. Unless we interpose the appeal between the recommendation of the commissioner and the approval of the Governor-General in Council we shall, in reality - at least as to cases under clause 8 - constitute the commissioner himself, in the final resort, a court of appeal against the decision of the Governor-General in Council, and, it may be, against the subsequent action of Parliament. When the commissioner furnishes a report or recommendation to the Governor-General in Council the latter will deal with it. He will either approve or disapprove of it. If he disapproves he will have to state his reasons for that disapproval, and they will be submitted to Parliament,” which becomes the final court of appeal. If he approves, then the whole matter is complete, and, I presume, will be gazetted in the ordinary way. It is obvious that it would be a very absurd thing to allow an appeal against the decision of the Governor-General back to the commissioner, or from Parliament back to the commissioner. Therefore the only way of making the appeal of any effect is to interpose it between the recommendation of the commissioner and the approval or disapproval of the Governor-General. What this provision may be worth is exceedingly mythical. In all probability it will not amount to anything, but it may be useful in giving an officer an opportunity to represent his case before the matter is finally dealt with by the Governor-General.
– I know that Senator Smith does not intend that this provision shall be brought into operation on almost every occasion. The object of amendments of this kind is to prevent any injustice being done either by commissioner, inspectors, or chief officers in respect of public servants who are entitled to promotion. It may be considered that this provision would be inoperative. The very existence of the provision in the Bill may render it unnecessary to put it into operation. By regulation, it would be quite possible to gazette the recommendations of the commissioner and give the public servants an opportunity of appealing against them before they are confirmed by the Governor-General.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - This amendment should go further, or we should not have it at all. We have settled the question of the appointment of a commissioner, and the question of Government responsibility, and we now have this hybrid proposal introduced, and so far as regards cases affecting, perhaps, a fourth of the matters with which the ‘commissioner and the Government will have to deal in respect to the civil service, it is proposed to provide some statutory means of inquiry. If we are to have a statutory inquiry provided for, let its scope be more general. We have here proposed a carefully devised and expensive scheme - which of course is intended to come to nothing, or else the Government would not agree to it - for the purpose of providing for an appeal in respect of matters that are unimportant ; while in respect to at least three-fourths of the matters connected with the service, the Government and the commissioner are not directed to adopt any similar method of informing their minds. At the same time, it must be remembered that we continue the responsibility of the commissioner to the Government, and of the Government to the Parliament.
– We desire to clip the commissioner’s wings a little.
– I think this will only strengthen his wings. Let us settle the principle. Do honorable senators desire Government responsibility, or do they not 1 If they do, let us leave them no loop-hole of escape.
– Then do not give them a commissioner.
– I remind my honorable friend that the commissioner can never do an act without the assent of the Government, who then become responsible to Parliament. There never was a system of more complete Ministerial responsibility devised than was provided for in this Bill as at first introduced. If we intend to relieve Ministers from responsibility, let us propose something better than this, and let us carry out the intention in a logical way. Let us, if we are to have a board, have one whose duty will cover the whole ambit of the civil service, and whose responsibility will extend to decision, so that the commissioner may not have an opportunity of overriding their views. I thought myhonorable friends opposite were great ‘ sticklers “ for Ministerial responsibility, and I am with them in that. Senator Higgs. - And yet the honorable and learned senator voted for the appointment of the commissioner.
– My honorable friends do not understand the Bill even now. Do they not understand that every decision of the commissioner must be assented to by the Government, and therefore the Bill as introduced made every possible act of the commissioner open to the review of Parliament, and that is what is meant by complete Ministerial responsibility t We still have Ministerial responsibility under this amendment, but in a certain limited number of cases . it provides for a lot of expense - for that is all it means. It provides for fancy trips and delightful little outings by a certain number of officials from, time to time in respect of little difficulties which arise here and there, with the object of providing the commissioner with information which he could get without them, and in the end the commissioner has to decide.
– And the Government have to approve.
– That is so ; the Government have to approve after all is done, and having approved or disapproved, the whole matter will be brought before Parliament, and Parliament will deal with it as it pleases. Do honorable senators think it wise to introduce a matter of this kind which has no principle in it ? When dealing with the question of- a Public Service Board or of the Government, we did have a principle to consider. It was then a question of whether we should have a board or the Government, which means Parliament, to finally decide. Now we are frittering the thing away by putting into our legislation a provision which must necessarily involve expense, and which will meet only a small number of the cases of difficulty which must occur in the service. At the same time, we are encumbering our statute-book with a provision which I venture to say is absolutely stupid and useless.
– Senator Downer has been a little wide of the mark in his observations with regard to this appeal board. The honorable and learned senator must know that no matter how clever a Minister may be, or how desirous he may be of discharging his duty absolutely to the full, it is impossible for him to review every case of hardship which may arise in connexion with the management of an immense number of civil servants scattered over such an area of country. It is impossible also for the commissioner to do it, though he will receive reports from inspectors in different parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable and learned senator must know that hardships will arise, and that injustice may be inflicted even unconsciously, and it is very desirable that those who suffer injustice should have somebody to whom they can appeal to rectify the injustice, and give them that which is their due, and no more. Nobody asks anything more. The question arises of which is the “best way to obtain that object. I entirely concur with the principle of Senator Smith’s amendment. I agree with the amendment in substance, except that this difficulty arises in my mind: How are civil servants in remote localities to get to know of the recommendations, even though certain reports may appear in the Gazette 1 The Gazette circulates in only a few centres.
– When they know that the recommendations are coming out they can always get the Gazette. They have a newspaper of their own.
– My honorable friend, who comes from a big State with a sparse population, must be aware, as I am, that in scores of places neither the Gazette cor a newspaper circulates, and the local officers must depend largely upon the information conveyed scores and scores of miles, perhaps not reaching their hands until a long time after the decisions were’ given.
– Their associations will see to that.
– That, of course, will be very useful. If isolation and lack of information should encourage the further development of associations and combinations amongst public officers I shall rejoice. It is very often in the remote parts where the public officers suffer the greatest injustice and experience the greatest difficulty in getting any redress of grievances. It is in their interests that I point out these matters so that the Postmaster-General, in framing the regulations’, may be in a position to devise some plan whereby every office in the Commonwealth shall receive an intimation in due course of every decision which is given. If every office in remote districts or in sparsely populated localities receives such an intimation, even in the form of a portion of the Gazette, or the Gazette itself, I can understand the practicability of working this provision. But unless that intimation is supplied in that or some other way, many injustices will be done to officers in remote districts. Official literature of various kinds must be sent to all remote places from time to time, and the transmission of official, literature conveying this information would not entail much expenditure on the department.
Amendment to the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 51 -
This part of this Act shall not apply to persons who at the time of the transfer, to the Commonwealth of a department of the public service of a State were officers of such department, or to any person in the public service of a State who is appointed an officer, or to any person temporarily employed.
– This is the first clause of Part 4, which relates to life assurance. If honorable senators will turn to clause 58 they will see that Part 4 expressly applies to transferred officers. It provides that where officers have had to contribute in their own State to a superannuation fund, they shall continueto make the payments, so that it is necessary to amend clause 51. I move -
That after the word “Act,”line 1, the words ‘ except the last section thereof “ be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– It will be remembered that some amendments were moved in this clause having for their object that the period of leave granted in case of illness should not count in reckoning leave of absence for recreation. We did not agree, if I remember rightly, to the terms of those amendments, and they were negatived, and sub-clause (4) was put in, with the understanding that it should be re-drafted. When it is omitted I have a new sub-clause to propose, which, I think, will give effect to the wishes of the committee. I move -
That sub-clause (4) be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Drake) agreed to-
That the following be inserted as sub-clause (4) : - “ Leave of absence in case of illness shall not be reckoned as, nor included in, leave of absence for recreation.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 71 -
Christmas Day, and the following day,
Good Friday, and the following Saturday and Monday,
The anniversary of the Birthday of the Sovereign, and
Any day proclaimed by the Governor-General, or required by any Act to be observed in lieu of any of the said days.
– When this clause was previously under consideration we had a long discussion with regard to the drafting of the second sub-clause, and it was altered; and as altered it appears to me, and my opinion is backed up by that of others, that it clearly expresses what was intended. I think we may admit that the committee perfectly understand, the meaning of the provision, but they object to the drafting. Senator Symon has suggested that after the word “days” in the first sub-clause we should insert the following words : - “ or any days prescribed under the law of any State to be observed in lien thereof in that State.”
I have no doubt that an amendment couched in those terms would exactly express the same tiling as the second sub-clause. I do not think that sub-clause (2) would be found defective in any way if it had to be interpreted, but I am quite willing to accept the amendment. I do not know whether the honorable and learned senator would like to move it himself.
– Let the Minister move it.
Amendments (by Senator Drake) agreed to.
That after the word “days,” line 1, the following words be inserted : - ‘ ‘ or any days prescribed under the law of any State to be observed in lieu thereof in that State. “
That sub-clause (2) be omitted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following be inserted as a new clause to stand as clause 52 : - “ Subject to the provisions of theAct, every officer on the confirmation of his appointment shall effect with the Government of the Commonwealth an assurance on his life, or until the establishment of Government life assurance, shall effect an assurance of his life with some life assurance company or society carrying on business in Australia, providing for such benefits as may be prescribed, and for increasing from time to time the amount assured. “
It will be fresh in the remembrance of honorable senators that some days ago I proposed an amendment providing that the Government should assure the lives of all civil servants. It was carried, but subsequently when the clause, as amended, was put to the committee, the voting was even, and the question passed in the negative, thus creating a blank. As I was beaten on the question of the civil servant being assured when he came into the service, I accepted the proposal of the Government that we should embody in’ this clause an assertion of the principle that the assurance of the lives of civil servants should be effected by the Government, not specifying any definite time when it should be done, but providing that it should be done upon the establishment of a Government life assurance system. I believe that the Government concur in the amendment which I now move, and which merely asserts the principle of the Commonwealth assuring the lives of public servants, but does not bring it into immediate operation.
– I hope that the proposed new clause will not be accepted in the form in which it is moved. There is no object whatever in embodying in the clause the words -
Every officer, on the confirmation of his appointment, shall effect with the Government of the Commonwealth an assurance of his life, because admittedly there is no system of life assurance by the Government in existence. It is trifling with legislation to seek to introduce what is nothing but a placard referring to something which does not exist.
– The tenth commandment says “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife,” but a man’s neighbour may not have a wife.
– That is beside the question. “We are declaring that every public servant shall assure in a Government system of assurance when there ‘is no such system. Every one must feel that a Government system of assurance ought not to be initiated by a proposal like this. It will depend upon its conditions, upon the amount of the premiums to be paid, upon its actuarial tables, and upon other elements. When we came to establish a system of Government assurance we might decide to exclude civil servants from its operation, or it might be proposed in such form that only a certain section of civil servants would be able to take advantage of it. The time to decide that will be when we have a system of Government life assurance put before us as a definite proposal.
– We should then have to amend the Public Service Act.
– Not at all. Why should the committee in thi? indirect fashion commit itself to the principle of Government assurance, when it all depends upon a number of conditions whether such a system would be accepted by the Parliament or not ? A system might be introduced which the Senate would not look at for an instant. But this clause commits us in an indirect way, and in a Bill which has nothing whatever to do with the subject. Are we legislating for the establishment of a system of Government assurance or for the public service 1 We are legislating for the public service, and we are providing that the officers of the Commonwealth shall assure their lives. As the Bill came up to the Senate, it contained no provision in favour of Government assurance. What was dealt with in another place simply was the question of excluding foreign offices.
– The House of Representatives also dealt with the question of State assurance, .and the proposal was only defeated by one vote.
– But the question was not embodied in the Bill by another place, and what is now proposed to be done is simply to introduce words which will have no earthly legislative effect. Are we a practical legislative body, and do we really mean to provide that Commonwealth public servants shall assure their lives 1 If that be so the clause should only provide that they shall assure in existing offices. But we are asked to tack on to that a commitment of the State to the principle of Government life assurance the conditions of which we know nothing about. I therefore move -
That all the words from the word “ shall,” line 2, down to the word “assurance,” line 6, inclusive, be omitted.
The clause will then read -
Subject to the provisions of the Act every officer on the confirmation of his appointment shall effect a.n assurance of his life with some life Assurance company carrying; on business in Australia, providing for such benefits as may be prescribed, and for increasing from time to time the amount assured.
– Of course I admit that the whole matter is open for consideration, and that Senator Symon is quite justified in proposing that the committee shall reconsider what has been done. When the matter was last before the committee, it was proposed that every officer should assure his life with the Government. After a long discussion an amendment to that effect was carried on a division, the numbers for the question as put being equal. The Government then proposed to add a provision to the effect that until a Government system of assurance was established the officer should assure his life with some office carrying on business in Australia. The proposal to insert the additional words was negatived in exactly the same manner - by equal numbers. Then again by equal numbers the ‘ clause was struck out. The Government say that having accepted the position we are justified in bringing down a clause to endeavour to carry out the views of the majority of the committee.
– Not of the majority, except on a theoretical rule.
– Our object is to send the Bill back to the other Chamber, amended in such a way as to express the views of the committee.
– If Government assurance had been proposed as a substantive motion, it would have been defeated.
– It was so proposed and carried. Then the Government proposition to add certain words to the effect that, if there was no system of Government assurance, the officer should assure with an existing office, was negatived ; and then the committee negatived the whole clause. The clause now proposed is exactly what the Government previously expressed themselves prepared to accept. No harm can be done by allowing the reference to Government assurance to remain in the clause. On the other hand, there is this good about itthat, when at some future time there is submitted to Parliament a scheme for the establishment of a system of Government assurance - if it is accepted by Parliament, this clause will at once become useful, and will provide that officers appointed after that time shall assure with the Government, instead of with a private company.
– Why did not the Government propose that before ?
– The proposal was made in such a form previously that it meant that the Government must at once enter upon a system of Government life assurance. That was the proposal to which the Government objected. But we are prepared to accept a clause that will compel officers to be assured with the Governnent as soon as a Government system is’ established.
– Why assent to the principle of Government assurance in this indirect way ?
– The position taken up is that if at some time a system of State life assurance is established - and undoubtedly we contemplate such a system - officers in the civil service should be required to assure their lives with the State.
– That can be dealt with when the system is established.
– Only by amending the Public Service Act.
– No ; it could be dealt with by the Bill establishing the system of State life assurance.
– That would be an amendment of the Public Service Act. We consider that there is no reason why we should not have this reference to State life assurance in the clause, if the mind of the committee is clear on the subject that it is desirable that officers should assure their lives with the State when that State system is established.
– It was proposed originally by some honorable senator that public servants should assure their lives with the State. The Postmaster - General, on behalf of the Government, opposed that proposal, in view of the fact that there was no system of State life assurance in force. He proposes now to meet the difficulty by providing that civil servants may assure their lives with’ any company they please until a system of State assurance is established. Surely the insertion of such a provision would be a means of obtaining without debate the assent of the committee to the principle of State life assurance.
– It has been debated fully.
– The answer which occurs to my mind is - “ Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” It is impossible to have at this stage the system of State assurance suggested, and therefore we should deal with the matter when the Government is in a position to establish State life assurance. Then we should be able to debate the question of whether such a system is desirable or not. I do not see that there would be any difficulty as suggested by the Postmaster-General, because we could provide in the Bill for the establishment of State life assurance that every civil servant should assure his life with the State, while at the same time we could insert a clause repealing this proposal.
– I intend to support Senator Symon’s amendment. I am very glad that the committee will have an opportunity now for the first time of voting on the direct issue of this question. I believe that many honorable senators desire to express their opinion freely upon the question of whether we should or should not recognise the principle of State assurance. If we were to adopt the amendment proposed by the Government, we should indirectly commit ourselves to that principle. I believe there are many honorable senators who do not approve of it. I listened attentively to the arguments adduced during the recent debate on this proposal, and I feel bound to say that I found nothing whatever in them to convince mc that State assurance was in any way desirable. An attempt was made to show that it was good in two ways, that it was good for the State, who were so to speak, the promoters of it, and that it was good for the civil servant to have his interests looked after by the State. The only example of the system in regard to which we can ascertain full particulars is that supplied by New Zealand. Certain other illustrations were given during the debate which are not relevant to this issue. They were derived from Germany, France, and other continentill countries, not one of which has aimed at a system of. State assurance. What they have aimed at is the establishment of a system which may be imitated by us some day if we want a system of old-age pensions. It is practically a superannuation fund, and it is in no sense a system of State assurance such as it is proposed shall be established by the Commonwealth Government. I admit that the proposition here is for the establishment of a system analogous to that in force in New Zealand, but a good many erroneous statements have been made in reference to it. It has been put forward as an insuperable argument that if we established State assurance here, there would be no large expenditure on its maintenance. If we care to investigate the condition of the New Zealand system we shall find that that allegation is contradicted by all experience there. The carrying on of State life assurance in New Zealand is expensive, and the capital invested is large. One of the arguments used during the recent debate in the Senate was that no expenditure on buildings would be necessary. I should like to inform honorable senators, however, that up to 1S86 - I have not more recent particulars - £84,779 had been invested in the purchase of land, and the erection of office buildings in connexion with the New Zealand scheme. It was said also that there would be no necessity for capital expenditure.
– The honorable and learned senator is misrepresenting what I .said ; I was referring to the system of State assurance of civil servants.
– The expenses of the department in New Zealand for the first five years of its existence amounted to £35,000. These are facts which we shall have to face if we resort to a system of State assurance.
– Then the assumption is that we shall be able to do better than New Zealand. The honorable senator who introduced this proposal was quite content that we should aim at reaching the perfection attained by New Zealand.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator see that his figures prove nothing ; that they are inconclusive 1
– They prove conclusively that the expenses of the system in New Zealand are very great.
– What about the receipts ?
– I shall come to that matter later on. We were told that the system would work almost automatically, that it was perfectly simple, and that, practically speaking, we should scarcely want to pass an Act to provide for carrying out the system, because by some device we could run it concurrently with the postal service.
– That statement was made in reference t’o a system of State assurance for civil servants.
– Some honorable senators may think it can be done without bringing in a Bill to provide for it ; there may be others who hold a different opinion. Judging by the example of New Zealand, the matter is beset with difficulties. The history of New Zealand legislation shows that not one Bill only was required, but half-a-dozen Bills.
– Yet we are asked to assent to the principle without passing, any Bill.
– The Government could not become underwriters, without a Bill being passed to enable them to do so.
– That is the argument we advance, but it has been said by the advocates of State assurance that the system is so simple that, conjoining State assurance with some other branch of our official service, we could run it without passing a special Act of Parliament. In New Zealand they have had six amending Bills, and they have had to make the following exemptions in respect of officers who wished to be excluded from the operation of the laws relating to State life assurance : -
Responsible Ministers of the Crown ; Judges of the Supreme Court ; the Speaker or Chairman of Committees of either House of the General Assembly ; the Agent-General of the colony in London ; officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the defence forces ; postmasters not permanently and exclusively employed in the civil service-
I am reading from the Act - railway servants not permanently employed as such; persons employed in the public service paid by fees or commission as their sole remuneration or in lieu of salary ; persons employed in manual labour, mechanics, artificers ; and persons permanently employed in the Government Printingoffice.
– If State life assurance is such a very good -thing it is ‘unjust to exclude any public officers from its operation.
– Yes. The list continues - “Women or girls employed in the telegraph or telephone service of the Government; persons holding any honorary office or employed for temporary service only.
That does not by any means include all the civil servants in New Zealand who fail to’ secure the magnificent benefits which it is said accrue from State assurance, and which we are asked to offer to the civil servants of the
Commonwealth. A further section in one of the New Zealand Acts provides -
The Government from time to time by order in Council may bring under this Act upon a requisition signed by two-thirds of the members of any such class or classes respectively, any or all classes of persons hereunder mentioned, and may prescribe regulations for the adaptation of this Act with such modifications or limitations thereof as may be required for such adaptations to the circumstances of each class of such persons, or to the respective ages of the persons in each class.
A section like that would not have been inserted in the Act unless it had been’ desired very strongly by somebody. The reason for the section is obvious. The experience of New Zealand is that amongst their own civil servants the Government of that colony have found great dissatisfaction with the system of State assurance. There has been a continual agitation on the part of civil - servants to obtain exemption from the operations of the system. They want freedom, and the whole history of New Zealand legislation on the subject points to that conclusion. The following are the officers for whose benefit the section I have just read was inserted in the New Zealand Act : -
All members of the police force ; all school teachers under the Education Act 1877.
– What is the date of that enactment ?
– I am quoting from an amendment of the Act which was made in 1893. It is known as 57 Victoria, No. 32-
All women and girls employed in the telegraph or telephone service of the Government; all persons permanently employed in the Government printingoffice; all housekeepers, messengers, and gardeners in the permanent employment of the Government ; all warders of prisons, lunatic asylums, or sanatorium attendants ; criers of court, bailiffs, post-office distributors, and telegraph messenger boys, light-house keepers, boatmen, labourers, and .other persons in the permanent employment of the Government ; all clerks, artisans, workmen, and other persons in the temporary employment of the Government ; officers, noncommissioned officers, and men in the defence force.
This is a fairly comprehensive list of civil servants in various classes and in various forms of employment in New Zealand who have agitated to be exempt from State life ‘ assurance. Without going further into these details, all of which are open to honorable senators, I would point out that the continual agitation against State assurance in New Zealand has had for its object the elimination of the system from Ministerial control, and the supplanting of such control by the control of independent persons chosen from the colony of New Zealand. They have had on more than one occasion to bring in independent actuaries to investigate their affairs, and independent managers to look after them, and up to the most recent time there has been a continued agitation for the appointment of a board of directors such as governs the operations of ordinary insurance societies. It is not necessary that I should amplify these arguments to show that the result of the establishment of State assurance in New Zealand has been to create unending dissatisfaction, and that the very persons for whose benefit the scheme was originated are the persons who chiefly object to the continuance of it. If I cared to go into figures I could prove further that the scheme is not a profitable one,, and I have no hesitation in informing the committee that the New Zealand State Assurance does not offer to an ordinary person desiring to assure inducements in any way equivalent to those offered to intending assurers by the best private offices, whether American, English, or Australian. I think I have already indicated sufficient reasons why the committee should not adopt this scheme. I should like to add, with respect to the amendments proposed by the Government and by Senator Symon, that there is only one fair way of facing the issue. We should decide by a majority whether we intend to indorse this principle of State assurance.. If the majority of the committee agree to indorse it, [ shall loyally adhere to the decision, and shall say nothing more about it; but I do object to an amendment introduced in this tortuous way. What it does is to nullify the desire of honorable senators who wish for State assurance, and it is a mere contemptible subterfuge. It holds out the hope to some senators that some day they will get State assurance, and to others it holds out the inducement that, for the present, at any rate - and it may be for an indefinite period - State assurance will not be established. For these reasons I oppose the amendment proposed by the Government, and I intend to support that proposed by Senator Symon.
– I entirely disagree with the attitude taken up by the last speaker. I think the honorable and learned senator is wrong in his premises. The proposition before us is not whether the Commonwealth should establish State assurance, but whether the Commonwealth, having come to a decision at some future time that State assurance is desirable, we should then compel our civil servants to assure with the State, and should not permit them to continue to assure with private companies.
– We must make some exceptions, and there must be a special Bill.
– All the exceptionswill no doubt be dealt with when theaffirmation or otherwise of the principle of State assurance is being considered. We are not to-day affirming the principle of. State assurance. All that the amendment says is that, when the Commonwealth decides to establish a system of State assurance, a certain course should be adopted.
– Is not that affirming the principle ?
– The honorable and learned senator must surely see that that is not an affirmation of the principle, and that at some future time we may or may not adopt that principle. If at some future time we decide to accept a proposition establishing State assurance, I have’ no hesitation in saying that it will be our duty then, as far as practicable, to see that the members of the civil service assure with the State, and not with private companies.
– Why not wait until that time. Why put into this Bill something which has nothing to do with it ?
– Because if we leave these words out at the present time, we shall be affirming that the members of the civil service shall assure with private companies. Under the clause proposed by the Government we are providing for the contingency of the establishment of State assurance.
– That is the height of Government audacity in the matter.
– We cannot settle things by phrases, however smart.
– Whether this is the. height of Government audacity or not, I think it a very reasonable proposition that we should provide for contingencies which we as reasonable men see ahead of us. If at some future time it is decided that it is desirable to establish a system of State assurance, we shall, if this amendment is carried, have provided in the Public Service Bill for its application to the public service. I would suggest to the Government that some provision must be made for the case of persons who are already assured in private offices when they join the public service. If the amendment is passed as printed, a person who joins the public service of the Commonwealth will be compelled upon joining it to assure with the Commonwealth, if a State assurance scheme has been adopted, though it may be that he has had a policy in existence for some considerable time. That is a case that ought to be provided for by the Government. It would be an injustice to say that a person who has already a policy with a private company, which in the opinion of the Government officials is adequate, should be compelled to allow that policy to lapse. If the Government are prepared to meet cases of that kind I shall vote for the amendment they have proposed. I think it is right that in this Bill we should provide for a contingency which may, and probably will, arise.
– The honorable and learned senator, in the concluding portion of his speech, has shown the difficulties to be met with in considering an amendment such as that proposed by the Government. He has pointed out that a man may be assured in some private office, and that it would be unfair to ask him to give up that assurance and accept a policy provided by the Government. That shows that we must make all sorts of conditions and provisions in this matter.
– The same argument would apply to the clause as it originally stood.
– I know it would, but it shows the difficulties which present themselves as soon as we begin talking about State life assurance. ‘ We allow a man to come into the service to-morrow to assure his life in a private office, and a man entering the service on the following day or in the following year, if a State life assurance office has been established, will have to assure in that office. After all, when the question of State life assurance is raised, it must not be forgotten that those assured will have tot pay premiums upon their policies in the ordinary way, and the Government will have to provide men who are thoroughly competent to deal with assurance business to control the office. There must be plenty of assurers or the Commonwealth will be placed in the position of having to find large sums of money year after year in order to meet the claims that will be made on the Government life assurance fund. Honorable senators know very well that no life assurance company can live unless it has a large number of persons assuring with it, or a large capital at its back to start with, and there must also be a constant influx of persons desiring to assure their lives. To establish a life assurance company solely for the members of the public service would be to invite disaster to the finances of the Commonwealth. If we are to bring in outsiders as well, in order that the Government assurance scheme may be a success, we must satisfy the public that there is some capital behind it, apart from the ordinary claims which will be made upon the consolidated revenue of the Commonwealth. I know there are all kinds of ideas prevalent amongst people at the present day. One is that we should have a State bank, and all that the State will have to do %vill be to have a printing press and paper, and we can make as rauch money as we like. This, in its present aspect, is much the same kind of fad. I admit at once that there may, be a strong argument urged in favour of establishing a State assurance fund, but we must see that it is based upon a firm foundation, and that there is a probability of. it being a financial success, instead of a constant drag upon the revenue of the country. Considering the large number of assurance offices carrying on business in Australia, there is surely ample opportunity for people to assure their lives under circumstances which will insure the due payment of their policies at maturity, and without placing the Government in any difficulty whatever. It is altogether a mistake to try to force the Government to interfere in every possible phase of life. That is one of the great mistakes which people are trying to make just now, but I hope the committee will not by a side wind, and in dealing with a matter altogether foreign to State assurance, set up the idea that the Government ought to start something of this kind at once. I remind honorable senators that this is a Bill for the regulation of the public service, and can we say that it is cognate to the regulation of the public service to insist that a man shall assure with the Commonwealth itself. If instead of going to the trouble of establishing a superannuation fund to which the Government and the civil servants must contribute, we say that the civil servant must assure his life, why not let him select any assurance office he may choose? We know that some offices give bigger bonuses than others, and why not let him, if he chooses, assure with the office which gives the biggest bonus combined with absolute stability ? 1 hope honorable senators will not consent to put this principle into the Bill at the present time, but will reserve the question of State life assurance for discussion upon its merits.
– Then why force them to go to a private company to assure their lives ?
– We ask them to assure their lives because we do not desire that their families should be thrown upon the State for charity. We think they ought to be encouraged to help themselves. Honorable senators who advocate Commonwealth life assurance will not imagine that these men’s lives will be assured for nothing by the State. They will have to pay their premiums.
– Then let them pay their premiums to sound companies which are in existence at the present time, or which may be in existence when it becomes necessary for them to assure their lives. Senator Clemons has pointed out that in New Zealand State life assurance has not been shown to be such an easy matter as some honorable senators seem to think. They have found that there must be a trained staff, and that the affairsof theState institution must be investigated from time to time by trained actuaries. We do not, at this early stage of the Commonwealth, desire the Government to obtrude themselves into a matter of this kind unless it can be shown to be absolutely necessary, whatever we may think they should do in the future.
– I was much struck with the concluding remarks of the last speaker. It seems to me that the argument of Senator Clemons, as to the position of New Zealand, has appealed to him with a deal of force which should not have characterized that appeal. We had this question debated at great length on a previous occasion. Senator Clemons said that he listened very attentively to the whole of that discussion.
– I said to the honorable senator who moved the amendment.
– All I can say is that if the honorable and learned senator listened attentively throughout the speech of the senator who moved the amendment - owing perhaps to the lapse of time - he has not quite done justice to that honorable senator when criticising his remarks as to the position of New Zealand. More than once it has been pointed out in this debate, that the position of New Zealand is not analogous to the position which Senator Smith wishes the Commonwealth to take up. It has been pointed out that the position of New Zealand is the position practically of a State carrying on the business of a private company. It has not laid itself out to assure the lives of civil servants only.
– But it did so originally, and that is the condition it is reduced to.
– I am glad of that reminder, and I shall deal with that matter in a moment. The position of New Zealand to-day, and the position on which my honorable and learned friend’s criticism is based, is that of a company carrying on general life assurance - not merely the assurance of the lives of its employes, but the assurance of the lives of persons who are resident in New Zealand and outside its employ, and the lives of persons who may be only temporarily living there. There are gentlemen in the United States of America whose fives are assured by the New Zealand Government.
– That would not influence anybody.
– It might not convince my honorable and learned friend that there is a difference between the proposition of Senator Smith and the position of the New Zealand Government, but it clearly indicates that difference nevertheless. The New Zealand Government carries on a general life assurance system. All we are asked to do by agreeing to this amendment is to enact that there may be a limited quantity of life assurance undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. We are not even committing the Commonwealth to the duty of assuring the lives of all its servants, but we are simply providing that all who hereafter may enter the service shall have their lives insured by the Commonwealth if the Commonwealth be disposed to insure such lives. My honorable and learned friend haspointed out, by illustrating the position of New Zealand, that the arguments previously used here as to the absence of any necessity for a large expenditure would not apply, because, as he has shown us, New Zealand has had to incur a great deal of expenditure in various ways. I again ask the committee what will be the cause of the great expense that we are led to believe by those who are opposed to this principle will have to be incurred by the Commonwealth 1 Shall we have to erect special buildings for the carrying out of. the assurance of the lives of those who may hereafter enter the public service ? Shall we have to indulge in the huge advertisements in the daily newspapers that the various companies do ? Shall we have to distribute all round the country placards beautifully illustrated and nicely got up, appealing to individuals and telling them that by the payment of about £2 18s. 4d. and sudden death their widows will get £500 each? Shall we have to employ an army of canvassers and agents and pay a number of sub-agents throughout the various portions of the Commonwealth 1
– They found they had to do it in New Zealand.
– Of course they had to do it in New Zealand because it deals with general life assurance. The object of this amendment is simply to provide that certain civil servants, limited in number, must assure their lives with the Commonwealth.
– And that will be a very paying concern ! Of course my honorable and learned friend knows better, because he is younger than I am.
– It may be a very paying concern. My honorable and learned friend is constantly re-echoing the case of New Zealand, but I think in all fairness the committee must consider that it is not fair to parallel New Zealand with the position under the circumstances. The question of State assurance generally on the lines followed by New Zealand can be debated at another time, which is more opportune than the present. The whole policy of this Bill is to make it obligatory on civil servants hereafter entering the Commonweath service to assure their lives. All that the amendment says is that they shall assure their lives with the Commonwealth, and that, until it has established a system of life assurance, they shall assure with some private company.
– It could not say anything else, because they have to assure.
– My honorable and learned friend wants to say that they do not propose to assure their lives with a private company. What is provided by the amendment! is that’ so soon as the Commonwealth Parliament shall affirm the desirableness of establishing a system of State life assurance, it shall have a monopoly of the business of assuring the lives of those who, after that date, enter into its service. I’ think the principle is a very fair one, and I shall support the amendment.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I shall not say that the observations of the last speaker are beside the mark, but it does appear to me that they were a little unnecessary, at any rate so far as they went to- show that a system of State assurance would be as beneficial to civil servants as a system of assurance with private companies. I understand that it is admitted by the advocates of State assurance that it would cost more for a civil servant to assure with the Commonwealth than with private offices.
– It is not.
– If it is not going to cost more, why do honorable senators want to force any officer to assure with the Commonwealth? Surely, if it is going to be cheaper they need not resort to compulsion. They can leave him free, and he will go to the cheaper office. Either the honorable senator must admit that State assurance is going to be dearer, or, if not, that there is no necessity to force public servants to take out their policies with the Commonwealth.
– All public servants are not as acute as the honorable senator.
– Public servants will be acute enough to know whether they can get more for their £1 in one office than another.
– Does the honorable senator think that a civil servant would be attracted by nothing else than the amount he would have to pay ?
– I take the civil servant to be constituted just like ourselves, and that, therefore, when he goes to look at the merits and demerits of offices he will consider not the mere premium he will have to pay, but the advantages he will get and the measure of safety. No one here ventures to impugn the safety of the big offices in the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator impugn the safety of the State ?
– Yes ; and I shall take the Civil Service Superannuation Fund in New South Wales as a case in point. It was established to all intents and purposes as a system of life assurance, but to-day it is practically insolvent.
– Because it was made use of for the purpose of retiring officers in order to bring about retrenchment.
-The rate of levy was not sufficient on an actuarial basis to keep the fund solvent.
– That was another reason.
– The Government, in order to give its public servants the same apparent benefits that private companies offered, fixed a rate, which, in the course of years, has brought the fund into a state of insolvency.
– Much greater benefits.
– If the State can offer much greater benefits than private companies, what need is there for honorable senators to put in this compulsory provision? Surely they can leave it to the common sense of public servants to accept the many advantages of a system of State assurance.
– Why do the New Zealand people assure their lives more largely with the Government than with private offices ?
– The answer is that they do not.
– Give the figures.
– Those are supplied by another society.
– The figures have been obtained from the public records, but I shall not anticipate the remarks of an honorable senator who has taken the trouble to work out the figures. The public business transacted by the New Zealand Government is smaller than that of the other offices, and it is a decreasing factor. I put down those two facts, and honorable senators can draw their own deductions from them now, as to some of the alleged arguments which have been put forward in support of this attempt to compel public servants to accept an inferior benefit when a superior one is available to them.
– And with a non-existent institution.
– I am thankful for the interjection. If state assurance is going to have all these benefits, if we see that they are absolute facts, and not mere efforts of the imagination, we shall have no difficulty in inducing our public servants to assure with the State. But as there is room for reasonable doubt - no doubt at all in my mind - as to whether the State will be able to offer for every £1 of premium as much advantage as the private companies, then in justice to civil servants, we ought to leave this matter until we know the terms and conditions on which State assurance is to be run. Something has been said about, the wisdom of inserting this provision, in order that we shall not require to amend the Public Service Act later on, should a system of State assurance be adopted. What does the amendment amount to? One would think that the task of framing the State Assurance Bill would bo a very formidable one. One single line in a Bill authorizing the State assurance of public officers would be all the amendment of the Public Service Act that would be necessary. Hardly a Bill is introduced that has any relation to other Bills which has not some qualifying or amending clause. What effort would be required to amend the Act ? It could be done by one clause so far as the Senate is concerned. In reply to Senator Gould, who was pointing out that an assurance company required a minimum of business before it could be properly carried on, Senator McGregor interjected that the State would have 11,000 members to start with.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator said that 11,000 members would be a. very good start.
– What I said was, that if they had 11,000 members they would make a very good start.
– What was the purpose of the interjection, unless it was to suggest that there would be 11,000 members ? I do not wish to split hairs or bandy words, but that interjection meant that or nothing. I have no sympathy with the frame of mind which leads an honorable senator to make an interjection to score a point one minute and to seek to retreat from it the next. The honorable senator’s statement was that 11,000 officers would give a very good start - in fact, that there would be 11,000 policies available, and that that in itself would constitute a sufficient minimum of business. But, in the first place, there would be a considerable number of those employes who would have to be exempt. That would seriously cut down the 11,000. Further than that, those in the lower grades of the service would only be required to take out a very small policy indeed. It would be a monstrous thing to ask those in receipt ofthe minimum salary of £110 per year to take out anything more than a nominal policy. If honorable senators make that second deduction, they will find that the figures upon which the Government would have to operate would be very small indeed as compared with the number of persons insured in a great office like the Australian Mutual Provident. Yet we know that, as the result of a close examination of the subject, those, responsible for the management of that great Australian office some time ago expressed the opinion that it was necessary to enlarge the borders of their operations in order to work the concern at the same percentage of expenditure as in the past. The Australian Mutual Provident Society, however, has 25,000 individuals assured in it, which is three times the number that the Government could rely upon. The policies of those persons total something over £7,000,000 - figures which the Government can never hope to approach, because it would mean altogether an overgrown civil service. If the Australian Mutual Provident, with 25,000 policy holders, many of them holding several policies- I am glad to say I have three or four myself - and with something like 100,000 policies, feels the necessity of looking to a larger field of operations, and of carrying its business to London, I venture to say that the comparatively small field in which the Government of the Commonwealth would be compelled to work, would result in the expenditure, as compared with premiums paid, being far greater than that prevailing in private offices; and consequently the resulting benefits would be correspondingly less. There is no magic in such financial operations. The profits that can accrue are simply the difference between the amount of the premiums paid and the amount of expenditure involved in running the concern. Are we to believe, when experience tells us the contrary, that the Government can run an institution of this kind more economically than private companies? The whole thing boils down to that. If it could be shown that the State can conduct a life assurance business more economically than private individuals, and with greater benefits to the assured, my opinions possibly would be changed ; but I ask any one to give me a single instance where an institution run by the Government has been able to produce results to be compared with the operations of private companies. We have had established in New South Wales efforts of the kind which can only be called grotesque failures. That being so, I come back to the argument that those who support this proposal must be prepared to admit that they are going to force the civil servants to take out a dearer policy than they can take out with a private company. The supporters of this proposal have to show two things - and they have not done either yet - first, that the Government can conduct a life assurance business more economically than private companies.
– That was shown when the subject was discussed before.
– I have not the slightest doubt that it was shown to the satisfaction of those who are prepared to support this clause.
– The honorable senator should not have walked out of the chamber, and he would have heard the arguments.
– What I am contending is that those who support this proposal are in this position : That they should show two things before they ask us to accept it. First, that the Government can conduct such a business more economically than private companies can do ; and if they can show that, they are in a position to affirm that the Government can offer policies to its civil servants at lower premium rates than private companies. If they can prove that the Government can offer lower premium rates and greater advantages than private companies there is no need to have a compulsory clause in this Bill, because the public servants, who are not altogether fools, and do not require all this molly-coddling legislation, would not need to be forced to adopt a system which was advantageous to them. They would, on the contrary, of their own volition, prefer to assure with the Government.
– Is that not an argument against compulsory assurance altogether ? Why compel them to assure if it is to their benefit to do so ?
– The choice is for their benefit.
– There is a great difference between choosing the office for the civil servant, and giving directions that he shall assure. Senator Gould has given a sufficient answer to that point. The reason we compel civil servants to assure is that unless we do so we know that when a public servant died claims would be made upon the Treasury for a donation towards the maintenance of his widow and children. Such claims have been made in the past, and it is recognised that that is the reason underlying compulsory assurance. We know that unless we can compel our officers to make some such provision for their wives and children, sooner or later they will become a charge upon the Treasury. In order to guard against that, it has been deemed advisable - and I quite concur in it - to require them to make some provision of the kind indicated in this Bill.
– And so encourage molly-coddling.
– It is hardly worth while wasting time if the honorable senator cannot see the difference between the provision made by this Bill compelling civil servants to assure, and compelling them to assure in a Government system.
-I hold in my hand theNew Zealand OfficialYear-Book for the year 1901, and I wish to give the committee the benefit of a few figures contained therein, showing the new assurance business for the last year recorded. The total number of new policies issued was 5,214 ; of these 1,002 were in the Government Assurance department, and 4,212 with private life assurance companies.
– Give us the names of the offices.
– They include the Australian Mutual Provident, the Australian Widows’ Fund, the Citizens’ Life Assurance Company, the Colonial Mutual, the Equitable of the United States, the Mutual Life of New York, and, in fact, the whole of the large offices doing business in Australia.
– The honorable senator has mentioned six offices, and the Government office is doing one-fourth of the whole business.
– Thenewassurance business amounted to £1,055,716, and of this £148,870 was with the Government and £906,840 was with private companies. So that the assurance with the private companies amounts to four times as much as regards number of policies, and six times as much as regards amount, as the assurance with the Government. All I have to say about these figures is this. If the public of New Zealand were satisfied that it was better to assure with the Government department, they would do so, and would not assure in such large numbers with the companies. The book is here, at the disposal of any honorable senator who chooses to look at it. I have quoted from pages 232 and 470. To my mind, the figures are quite conclusive as to the course of assurance business in New Zealand.
– Senator Pulsford appears to have wandered from the particular matter which we have to discuss. There is a great deal to be said, I admit, upon the question of whether Government life assurance, taking it’ generally, will, or will not, pay. The Government life assurance to which the honorable senator has referred embraces the whole area of life assurance, including the cost of looking for business, advertising, and competing with other companies in the ordinary way. It may, or may not, be that it would be advisable for the Government to establish life assurance business on that basis. But I take it that that is a separate question altogether; and, if it is raised, Parliament and the public will take good care that the Government does not waste the public money in some experiment unless it has a reasonable chance of success. Whether any such experiment would have a reasonable chance of success or not is entirely a matter of actuarial calculation, and I take it that no Government would enter upon such a proposal as that without having before it an actuarial calculation which showed some reasonable prospect of success. But we are not dealing with that. Senator Pulsford may be right or wrong as to the general question, but what we are dealing with is whether the proposed clause in its present form ought to be passed. The clause provides first of all that if there is a system of Government assurance the officers of the Commonwealth shall assure in it. In the first place, the system of Government assurance contemplated here is not anything like as extended as that honorable senators have been referring to. It is not a general business. It approaches more nearly to what my honorable friend Senator Walker is familiar with ; that is, a system by which some large business establishes a fund for the purpose of paying pensions to its officers or of insuring their lives.
– Then why use . a wrong term?
– I do not think we are doing so.
– We cannot call that assurance.
– I am not referring to the nomenclature of the particular business, but to the general principle ; and I say that what is referred to here more nearly approaches the kind of system which many large businesses adopt for the purpose of providing for the old age of their employes and of making provision for their widows and families in case of death. The Bank of New South Wales has a superannuation fund. The principle is precisely the same. The bank contributed a certain amount - I think £10,000 - to a fund, and exacted a contribution of2½ per cent, from the salaries of its officers. They found that on sound actuarial principles, which are a mere matter of calculation by skilled persons, it was possible to have a perfectly solvent fund working itself out in that way, with the original £10,000 endowment augmented by the contributions pi the officers. Such a system does not deal with any one outside the service, but is for the benefit of the officers within the service.
– Did the bank call that an assurance business ?
– I do not care what they called it. But it is not a superannuation fund ; it is a fund of a different description altogether.
– Is the honorable and learned senator supporting a system under which the Government would only assure the lives of its employes, or a general system such as exists in New Zealand ?
– If I have not made my meaning clear to the honorable senator I am afraid I shall not be able to do so. I have pointed out the mistake he has been making in supposing that this system necessarily refers to a general system of assurance.
– What is it then?
-Will the honorable senator say that if the system is limited to the assurance of the lives of Government officials he will vote for it ? If he will say that, there will be some pertinence in his question.
– Will the honorable and learned senator say that that is what he proposes ? If so we will consider it.
– I do not propose anything. The difference between us is this : Honorable senators opposite wish to compel every civil servant to assure his life with an outside office whether the Government are willing to establish State assurance or not.
– That is not correct.
– On the other hand our proposal is that if at any time the Government establishes a system of State assurance it shall be compulsory for civil servants to assure with the State. We leave it quite open to the Government to establish such a system or not to do so. What would be the value of a system of State assurance for Government officials unless we compelled every one of them to join it ?
– But the Government want to go beyond the civil service.
– We do not want to do anything of the kind. It is not necessary to do that. We are dealing only with the civil service. The object of this clause is to provide that if at any time a system of State assurance is established - it may be a general system, or it may be confined to civil servants - the Government’s own officers shall be among its customers. I rose more for the purpose of replying to an argument used by Senator Ewing who pointed out what seems to me to be a matter that requires looking into. The clause providing for compulsory life assurance does not apply to any officer transferred from the service ofthe States at the time of the establishment of the Commonwealth. Thus no hardship will be inflicted on the great body of men in the service already, because they will not be compelled to effect assurances on their lives either with the Government - in the event of the Government system being established - or with any life assurance society. The clause applies only to officers who are appointed under the provisions of this measure, that is to say, after this Bill comes into operation. There can be no hardship whatever in applying it to them except in one set of circumstances. I admit that if an officer is already adequately assured in some office it would be unfair to compel him to re-assure either with the State or with a private company. No doubt that would be unfair and unnecessary, because, after all, the object of this clause is only to insure that officers of the service shall make some provision for themselves and those dependent on them. Therefore, I would suggest to the PostmasterGeneral, who is in charge of the Bill, that in order to meet the case of an officer appointed by the commissioner after the passing of this measure, who has already affected an assurance on his life with some private company for an amount equal to the benefits prescribed under the Act, a proviso should be inserted setting forth that he should not be compelled to assure his life a second time. A proviso in these words at the end of the clause would meet the difficulty -
Provided that this section shall not apply to any officer who at the time of his appointment is already insured in such company or society for benefits equivalent to those prescribed as aforesaid.
The word “ appointment” is used advisedly. There is the appointment first of all by the commissioner, and then the confirmation of the appointment. It would not be right to enable an officer to assure his life in some outside office between the date of his original appointment and the date of the confirmation of his appointment. If his life is not assured when he is first appointed, he should come under the provisions of the measure, but if he is assured already, he should not come under the operation of this clause. If the amendment I have suggested were made, what possible injustice could be done to any public servant ? We are all agreed that the object of this clause is to compel public servants to make provision for those dependent upon them.
– It will not do that.
– It may or may not. If it will not have the desired object, I hope that Senator Zeal will point out some amendment by which the clause will be made effectual. If he does we shall be glad to adopt it. We are all agreed that unfortunately a provision of this kind is necessary. We propose, however, that it shall be applied only to those who enter the service after the passing of the Bill, and who are not assured already for benefits equivalent to those prescribed. There is no necessity to cover the wide field that has been traversed by Senator Pulsford and others. The simple question for us to decide is whether, when we do establish some system of State assurance, this provision shall be applicable. If we do not establish such a system the provisions of the rest of the clause will still apply.
Senator HARNEY (Western Australia). - It seems to me that the arguments used by the Vice-President of the” Executive Council afford really no answer to the case which has been put forward from this side of the committee. The simple question is whether we should eliminate from this clause the words “or until the establishment of Government life assurance.” As has been pointed out already, we should not be called upon to commit ourselves to a measure which we have never seen, the details of which we have never examined, and the policy of which is only being examined in the case of a contingency.
– But honorable senators will not commit themselves by agreeing to this proposal.
– Does not this clause provide that if a system of Government assurance is established at any time, public servants must there and then assure with the Government, and with no one else ?
– All those who join after that must do so.
– Two things should be considered before we are asked to do this. First, whether the system itself is a desirable one; and secondly, whether the system works out more advantageously to the civil servants as assurers than any other system. In establishing any such system we can only speculate as to how it will work. Senator O’Connor has said that the object of all this legislation is to compel civil servants to make provision for those dependent upon them. Compel them if you wish ; but do not compel them to make provision in your own assurance system if it is no better than any other. The position put by Senator Millen is unanswerable, for if the State system will afford greater advantages to the assurer than will any private company, there is no occasion to insert this clause compelling them to assure with the State. Senator Pearce’s interjection did not go to the point. He asked - “ Why then have compulsory assurance ? “ Let us have compulsory assurance, but leave to the assurer the option of determining how. best to secure for himself the advantages under the system. Therefore, I think there is a twofold fault in this proposal. First, it binds us to accept a Bill which we have never examined ; and, secondly, it binds civil servants to assure in an office that may not prove to be the most advantageous to them. If the system of State assurance proves to be the best, there is no need to force civil servants to assure with it. There is no need to compel a man to do that which is most to his own interests. I think that we shall do well in allowing the clause to stand without these words. If at any time, the conclusion should be arrived at that a system of State assurance is good, let a measure be introduced then, and let us examine it critically. If, after it’ has been in operation for several years it is found that, although State assurance is superior to all private institutions, civil servants will not have recourse to it, we can then use some compulsion.
– I think it is unwise for the Government to introduce in a Bill of this kind a clause which will seriously affect private enterprise. I have listened with interest to Senator O’Connor’s statement as to a certain provision which has been made by one of the largest banking institutions in the Commonwealth for the relief of its indigent and worn-out servants, namely, the Bank of New South Wales. I dare say that Senator Walker, if appealed to, would agree with me that the Bank of New South Wales has contributed not £10,000 but something like £100,000 to the fund, and that it is still insufficent for the needs of the bank’s servants.
– I do not think that Senator Walker will say so.
– I am connected with a bank which does infinitely less business than does the Bank of New South Wales, but it has given for the relief of its worn-out servants nearly four or five times the amount, which, according to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the Bank of New South Wales has devoted to a similar object. Every half-year it is adding to a fund designed to give support to its servants in their old age.
– It must be wearing them out very fast.
– Whether it is doing so or not, the bank is providing a fund which will prevent its employes from being burdens on the State when they are unable to work any longer. I am sure Senator McGregor will agree that that is a very good thing. Senator O’Connor said that the clause relating to compulsory life assurance was not intended to apply to civil servants who had already assured their lives ; and that they would not be required to increase the amount for which they were assured. Does he not know that it is one of the conditions of the civil service in Victoria that as an officer’s salary increases so must he increase the amount of his. assurance 1 Honorable senators appear to be oblivious of one great fact. It is not a very, charitable position for the Government to take up, that civil servants shall be coerced into assuring their lives in an institution before they know whether it is likely to be solvent or not. Do the Government propose to do what Senator O’Connor states has been done by one huge institution, and contribute from time to time £10,000 to a system of State assurance in order to keep it solvent ?
– The Government will do that.
– We have no proof that they will do it. I would ask the committee to remember that the mutual assurance offices as distinguished from the proprietary offices divide every shilling ‘of their profits amongst the assured. Are .the Government prepared to do the same ? This bald proposition merely provides that the civil servants shall assure with the State, when a system of State assurance is established. If it pays, well and good; if it does not, then so much the worse for the civil servants. Thousands of officers have already assured their lives with private companies-
One of the large companies in this State alone has undertaken £1,000,000 worth of new assurance this year. Have the Government any chance of undertaking that assurance, or any chance of giving those assured the benefits which are given by these companies in which the policy-holders are shareholders? I ask Senator O’Connor what chance he thinks he has of making this proposal pay, and of compelling persons to assure with the State? I see men around me who have been connected for years with life assurance companies, ‘ and have received inestimable benefits from them, because they have benefited when the societies have benefited. The Government do not propose anything of the kind. They merely propose to compel public servants to assure with the State institution because that system seems fair, and it carries with it some apparent benefits, which, if examined, Will be found to be entirely unfounded.
– They have not presented any conditions yet.
– Is it not an imperative condition to say that a member of the public service must assure with the State institution, whether he likes it or not?
– He has to assure under the Bill with a private company, whether he likes it or not.
– That is so, but he gets a benefit in common with other assurers, and he has a large field of choice which will be denied him if he is compelled to assure with the Government institution. I can tell Senator O’Connor that there are now thousands of men in the “ Railway department of Victoria who commenced their assurance with £100, and have increased their premiums as their salaries have been increased. Does the honorable and learned senator mean to tell me that the civil servants will obtain any advantage from being forced to assure with a State institution, in which none of these benefits and advantages can be obtained 1 If honorable senators desire to establish State assurance, let them before they commit the Government or the country to any definite scheme appoint a committee of inquiry. Let them take the testimony of the public servants, and I dare swear that the Victorian public servants will admit that every word I have said is founded upon fact, and that the benefits they derive from their existing assurance could not bc expected from any system of Government’ assurance.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).There can be no question that the amendment proposed by the Government implies the establishment of State assurance. I have listened carefully to the debate, and have failed to hear why State assurance should be suggested at all. Is it likely to pay, or is it likely to be of advantage to the assurer ? We have evidence that offices of this kind in a large way of business can work more cheaply than smaller offices. The Government State assurance society would be only a small office at the best, and doing smaller business extra expense would be involved. A large society with many branches is able to bring down itsexpenses to the lowest point. I find that the expense of conducting the New Zealand Government system of State assurance isactually 50 per cent, higher than that of an Australian company doing business in New Zealand.
– Where does thehonorable senator get that ?
– I have very . reliable information to that effect.
– What is the honorable- senator’s authority for such a wild assertion.
– It is therefore not likely that the Commonwealth Government will be able to compete with these private offices. Where is the advantage to the civil servants? Are the Government going to reduce their premiums by working the institution at a loss ? If so are the taxpayers to bear the loss ? If the taxpayer is not to bear the loss the Government must charge higher premiums than local private offices require to charge. There is therefore no advantage to the assured likely to arise in respect of the rate of premium. There is no question about the security of the large local private institutions. And why then do the Government step in and say this would be an advantage to the assurer 1 The whole matter is in a nutshell. Either it will pay or it will not, and if it will not pay the Commonwealth ought not to undertake it. My own experience is that a large’ business can be worked more cheaply than a small one, and if you have only a small business,it is better to pay- some one else to do it for you than to do it yourself. It will be found that State assurance will not pay the Commonwealth, and will only result in extra taxation being imposed upon the community for the benefit of a class. I shall certainly support the amendment, because it will leave the public officer a free agent.
– It appears to me that an honorable senator may vote for this amendment, and still vote against any Bill brought down by the Government.
– Then what is the use of putting this in the Bill ?
– I have my own views about the matter, and I think it should be there. I am going to vote for the amendment, because I think it a very sensible proposition. The last speaker and some other honorable senators went into a lot of detail, but we are not discussing a Bill to establish State assurance. I may vote for this amendment, and if a Bill were brought down by the Government tomorrow, I might oppose every clause in it and be perfectly consistent.
– Suppose it becomes an Act ? We do not know how it will work.
– If it becomes an Act it will only be because a majority in Parliament has agreed to it. It is true that we do not know how it will work, but the main point in my opinion is not that it will be cheaper or dearer to the assurer, but that it will give absolute security to every person who assures. What did we find here a few years ago when the financial crisis came upon us? Thousands of people took their money out of the private institutions and placed it in the Government Savings Bank. Why ? Not because they got more interest - they did not get as much - but because of the security, and because they believed that their money would be absolutely safe there. Some honorable senators assume that every civil servant, when he joins the Commonwealth service, will know all about assurance.
– We assume that he is not a baby.
– We may assume that there is not one in twenty who knows much about assurance. I happened to be a member of a commission that inquired into these matters some years ago, and I was surprised, not so much at the ignorance of the witnesses who came before us, as at my own ignorance on many matters. It requires a good deal of training to understand this subject, and I venture to say that there are very few honorable senators present who could take the balance-sheet of an assurance office and analyze it. As to what people would favour, we have only to look at the number of depositors in the Savings Banks and compare it with the number in private banking companies.
– The associated banks have ten times the number of depositors that the Savings Bank has.
– There are 375,000 depositors in the Savings Bank in Victoria, and if Senator Zeal is right, there must be 3,750,000 in the associated banks - all grown men and women.
– I deny the honorable senator’s premises.
– I refer the honorable senator to Coghlan, who says that there are 375,000 depositors, nearly 400,000, in Victoria alone. I have a very clear recollection” of what happened in the financial crisis.
– What have the banks to do with it?
– I desire to make it clear, if possible, even to the honorable and learned senator, that the bulk of the people with whom I have been brought up, and he has not, like security for their money. They do not understand much about business matters, but they like to know that they have security for their money. I desire to give the public servant the option of assuring with the Government if he likes, and I, therefore, would like to see this notification in the Bill.
– ‘This would compel him.
– I would compel him’ for his own sake. When I say I would give him the option I understand that Senator O’Connor has said that where men are already assured with private companies they will be permitted to remain with them. Even the advocates of private assurance companies have admitted that there are scores of these offices that are nothing more than “ wild cat “ assurance offices, and they would allow a man getting £2 or £3 a week to assure his life with them.
– Where are they 1
– I do not know. If the honorable senator had been present at the time he would have heard me express my astonishment that there should be any “ wild cat “ assurance offices at all, but Senator Neild told us that there are “ wild cat “ offices doing business here. In 1866 there was a financial crisis in Queensland, and I, with others, was verydoubtful about accepting the notes of the banks. Greenbacks were issued by the Government. I was working on the railway with thousands of men, and we were all delighted to get the greenbacks, turned out with a printing machine. We knew that behind the greenbacks we had the security of the colony. Senator Millen was doubtful about the number of officers who would assure, and he said that there might not be more than 8,000 lives assured. That I think would be a very fair start. Senator Zeal referred to the fact that the lives of the railway servants are assured ; quite right, too. I think there are very few honorable senators who do not realize that within the next few years the railways of the States will be taken over by the Commonwealth. When the 30,000 railway employes in the Commonwealth are added to the number of its civil servants, we need not be afraid that a State assurance system will not have plenty of clients.
– Is not this a case of “counting one’s chickens before they are hatched ? “
– It is fair to assume that the railways will be federated. The workmen have set the example. The Engine-drivers’ and Firemen’s Associations throughout the Commonwealth only recently federated. This proposal, no doubt, affects assurance companies throughout the Commonwealth, and under those circumstances I feel quite sure that those who have a direct pecuniary interest in them will not vote on this occasion.
Senator Sir WILLIAM ZEAL (Victoria). - I forgot to mention just now to Senator O’Connor that in all the policies which the Government of Victoria havecompelled civil servants to take out, a condition is inserted that if the assurer wishes to increase the amount of his policy he shall do so without further loading, whether he is in good health or whether he is in bad health. Suppose, for instance, that a servant in the Railway department has taken out a policy for £100, and that his salary is increased. If he increases the amount of his assurance to £200 he takes out the second policy on the same scale as the first.
– I do not intend to go into the question of State assurance as opposed to ordinary life assurance, because I do -not think this is the proper time to discuss that question. If some of the opponents of State assurance had not treated the question with such amusement or assumed amusement and scorn when it was introduced by Senator Smith on the last occasion, we might have been spared much of this debate. Certain honorable senators assumed an air of injured innocence, and walked out of the chamber when it was first brought forward, and now they wish the committee to enter into a serious discussion as to the merits of State assurance and private assurance. If they wish to know my views on the question, they can find them in the pages of Ilansard. I do not intend to go over the ground again. Senator Harney and Senator Millen asked - If the Government can offer better advantages than do private companies why compel civil servants to assure 1 We are all agreed, I take it, that it is advisable in the interest of the public servants, as well as in the interest of the Commonwealth, that they should be compelled to assure: It is merely for us to decide whether it is advisable to assure with private companies or with the Commonwealth. If we are the persons to decide that it is advisable for a civil servant to assure at all, surely we are also competent to say that he shall assure in a certain way. In the one place we refuse the public servant the right to say whether he shall assure or not. We know that there are plenty of men who do not believe in life assurance. We know that there are men who say - “I can put this sum of money to better advantage, and assure to myself in my old age a certain return.” But we do not allow these men to carry their argument into effect. We compel them, against their belief, to assure their lives, and we have just as much right to say to them - “ Although you may not think you are getting a proper quid pro quo by assuring with the State, still in its interest and in your own interest, we say that you shall.” It is the same argument applying to that principle just as to the other. The question of Government or private life assurance has been fully debated. Senator Zeal has pointed out that private companies give certain benefits which the person assuring first pays for, but the honorable senator will have the privilege, when a Bill to provide for public life assurance is submitted, of casting his vote in such a way that those who assure with the Government shall get the same benefits as they could get from private companies. Not a word has been uttered to show that they cannot do so. What do Senator Pulsford’s figures prove ? That in New Zealand the Government system is a most popular institution. He showed that in proportion it is doing a larger business than any private concern. Therefore, on his own showing, Government assurance is more popular than private assurance in New Zealand.
– I do not understand this argument that when a man assures his life there should be a perfect certainty of the result by a return to his descendants of his premiums. We are dealing with human things, and we have to act from the human point of view. You assure with the Government, and you say that it gives you absolute certainty. So then the Government is beyond humanity, andis bound to guarantee what humanity can never do? The tiling is absurd. If the Government becomes insolvent, it cannot pay.
– It cannot become insolvent.
– That is the absurdity of the argument. The very essence of assurance is that there is a risk. The very essence of every investment, of everything in which human concerns are involved, is that there is a risk. The question is to get the smallest possible risk. You have to risk, anyhow. You want to go and throw upon people who should not pay a risk which should not be cast upon them, and you could only get the increase of certainty by paying for it. With the exception of a few proprietary companies, all the assurance companies are mutual companies. They are all run just amongst the people themselves. I have never heard a more admirable speech on the subject than that of an honorable senator who does not often favour us, though I wish he did more frequently. Senator Zeal’s speech, was a plain, practical one. You are not going to enter on this affair for the purpose of forcing people into institutions which they do not want, into speculations which will be badly carried on, because all Government speculations are, but to handicap the very people who have got large vested interests in those mutual companies which have accrued through many years of contributions, and which have given them rights.
– And who are not the rich but the great body of the people.
– Exactly ; these people have been gradually contributing mutually amongst themselves to a concern, the expense of which is merely the cost of the offices, the benefits of which are all to themselves. You are going to interfere with this comfortable social problem, which is working itself out, by insisting on State assurance when the people are provided already with an assurance much more suitable, and which is working very equally and very well. You will force them to pay an extra premium to go into another assurance system which offers them no benefits, and which can get them no results. We did settle this question before ; but it seems to me we never settle any question here. We fought this precious question out and out.
– The honorable and learned senatorwill not give in when he is beaten.
– I wish to give in when I win. We beat honorable senators on the other side, but the Government are not satisfied, and they have to bring something else down - a provision which is neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring.
– The honorable and learned senator is getting very severe on the Government.
– I am very strongly with the Government, but I want them when they win to take the benefit of their victory, and not be always trying to do something else for the other side. I am going to oppose everything which relates to this proposal in every way I can. I firmly believe that if the Government undertake the same business as private offices, they will do it at greater expense and with less efficiency. I intend to oppose at every stage the bringing into the Government ambit of not merely this institution but every other institution which I think the people work well for their own advantage, and in this particular case work most excellently. I can see no reason for any State interference. I can only question the effect of it as being to introduce another means of bringing everything into the hands of the Government, or preventing any one having a right to live, except in the way which the majority of honorable senators sitting on the opposite benches choose to suggest from time to time - a general destruction of all private enterprise, and-
– Anarchy 1
– No, not anarchy ; on the contrary, exceedingly too much Government generally bringing everything from the control of private enterprise into the ambit of the Government. We have had it put in plain language that this is only a beginning. I think it is a great pity that we have had anything more to do with the subject. We fought the clause, and settled it before, and I regret that any qualification has been put upon it.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I think with Senator Downer that we certainly ought to put a stop to what, if I may use the term which he did not want to adopt - I only use it for the purpose of defining the situation - is nothing but a socialistic encroachment of a matter which we are not directly legislating upon into a Bill concerned with other matters. I was glad to hear Senator Downer express himself so strongly on the subject, and I hope, if it is not too late, that the PostmasterGeneral will see that it is unnecessary that the words proposed should be introduced into this clause. I have listened attentively to the whole of the debate, which has been a most instructive one, with a view of ascertaining what reason there is for introducing these words. I confess that I have heard things that will bear investigation. My honorable friend, Senator Styles, has said that he wishes to have these words inserted to do the officers of the public service good in spite of themselves. But we ought to allow some little liberty of choice in regard to the institutions in which these officers are to assure, and ought net to take upon ourselves to compel them, by a kind of prophetic legislation, to assure in a Government institution which -does not exist, of the terms of which we know nothing, and the working of which may be entirely inimical to the interests of the civil servants, who are to be compelled to invest a little of their salaries in order to effect an assurance. The object of the Bill is not to compel any man to assure in any particular office, whether guaranteed by the Government or not, but to compel him to assure his life, leaving him the choice of the office, There is no reason whatever for doing so In many respects I believe in what is generally known as socialism ; but to introduce this socialistic system of State assurance, by compelling civil servants to assure in a Government office, whether they like it or not, is not a fair position to place them in. Another reason given for the proposal, is that if we do not insert these words now, and if a proper system of State assurance is afterwards established, we shall have to put some words into our legislation giving effect to what is now proposed. Why should, we not? If that argument were to be effective, it would be a good reason for embodying in every piece of legislation passed by the Parliament all sorts of provisions contemplating other legislation in the far distant future. The thing is perfectly ludicrous. But those are the only reasons given as to why we should enact, in this clause, a policy compelling public officers to assure in a non-existent institution, the conditions of which they know nothing about. None of us will give a sort of hostage to legislative fortune by feeling compelled to vote for a system of State assurance, .because these words are inserted in the Public Service Act. Probably, however, the insertion of the words here mav be used as an argument in favour of Government assurance, were such a measure introduced. If the proposal is not intended for that purpose, why is it introduced 1 It is proposed either because it is the assertion of a principle, or as a mere placard. The Postmaster-General at first declined to add to this Bill any proposal with regard to Government assurance.
– It was a different proposition that we opposed.
– He opposed Government assurance. For my part I do not discuss the question of whether Government assurance would be a right or a profitable thing or not. I protest against our being called upon directly or indirectly to express an opinion upon Government assurance in connexion with this measure. If other arguments are wanted as to why the words proposed should be left out, they have been given with the utmost fullness and fairness by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. He tells us that the words do not mean what they say. What are we putting in ? We do not know. I was under the impression, until he spoke, that when the proposal used the words “ a system of Government assurance “ it referred to some kind of life assurance such as that provided by private companies. But Senator O’Connor says that it does not mean that at all, but means a system providing for old age or for superannuation, and not life assurance in the ordinary sense.
– I do not think that is what he said. He said he would not commit himself to any form.
– But what is the Senate going to commit itself to?
– To no particular form.
– Does the honorable and learned senator, sitting there representing the Government, seriously say that he is going to ask us to pass legislation compelling the civil servants of the Commonwealth to assure in a system which he says he would not commit himself to ?
– That is for Parliament to decide.
– What is Parliament to do with these words - “ Until a system of Government life assurance is established “ ?
– It can only be established by statute.
– What does the proposal mean ? Does it mean superannuation? Does it mean- old-age pensions, or anything of the kind ? What does Senator Drake mean by it ?
– I am prepared to leave that to the wisdom of future Parliaments.
– Surely it is for the Senate now to interpret those words.
– I think not.
– Surely we should put some interpretation on the language we are enacting. It is reducing the whole system of legislation to a farce. We are putting in words as to the meaning of which we ourselves are not certain, and we are to leave it to the wisdom of some future Parliament to interpret them. All I can say is that if we leave in these words no future Parliament will be able to construe them to mean superannuation or old-age pensions. No such construction is possible, and I am perfectly certain that if Senator Drake reflects he will admit that the only possible construction is that the system of life assurance referred to is one similar to that provided by the private companies, in which public servants are now obliged to assure. I appeal to the committee not to introduce words which are unnecessary, which according io all the arguments we have had may be misleading, and which if they do not mean the assertion of the principles of Government life assurance will be mischievous in the highest degree, and will be a precedent for introducing into a Bill on a totally different subject the thin end of the wedge of doctrines about which we may say at least that there is a strong divergence of opinion.
– Without going far into the principle or expediency of Government assurance, I think that most honorable senators will recognise why the supporters of the clause have every desire to affirm the principle in this Bill, and to affirm every principle which they hold sincerely at every opportunity. A great deal has been said about the expense to the Government involved in establishing an institution simply for the purpose of assuring civil servants, as compared with the cost of a general institution. If such a system merely applied to the civil servants I certainly affirm that it could be worked cheaper by the Government than by any private institution, because -private companies have to keep up large establishments, and to advertise considerably.
– So will the Govern- ment.
– Certainly not. If they only assure their own civil servants, no advertising or canvassing will be necessary. The fact of persons being in the service will be sufficient to justify the Government in assuring them in the institution. Senator Symon waxed very eloquent upon the injustice of compelling a man to do something which he does not wish to do. Will Senator Symon or any other honorable senator tell me how many life assurance institutions there are in any part of the world that do not compel their servants to assure their lives with them?
– They give them no choice.
SenatorMcGREGOR. - Not the slightest. When a man enters the service of one of these companies, he has to assure his life with it, notwithstanding the fact that he may be already assured with another society for a much larger amount than that required. “ Would it not be monstrous if any institution compelled men to assure under such conditions?” asked Senator Symon. But they do so, and he is advocating their cause now against the State which is not attempting to do anything half as bad.
– Then it is bad to adopt such a practice as that proposed in the clause.
– I hold that it is good. Honorable senators on the opposition side say it is bad, and I am only speaking relatively. I am going to prove that it is not half as bad as that which the institutions are now doing.
– We do not advocate the evils of these institutions.
-I believe that Senator Harney does not know what he advocates. We know that he has his express reasons and his unexpressed reasons, and which of them he is going to follow no one can tell. Even during the debate on this question I understood on one occasion that if he voted he would vote in favour of the Government proposal. On another occasion, if it did not suit him, he would leave the chamber. These are the shillyshallying, vacillating ways exhibited by some honorable senators in dealing with legislation. I am going to prove that the clause, without Senator Symon’s amendment, does not propose anything as bad as that which the assurance companies are now doing. The clause provides that if a man is transferred from the service of any State he can assure his life or decline to do so just as he pleases. According to the proviso that the Government wish to insert, those who join the Commonwealth service direct will not be asked to re-assure if they are assured already in any company which may reasonably be considered sound, provided that they are assured for an amount equivalent to the benefits prescribed. Is there any tiling unfair in that? Of course I do not blame the assurance societies. I am only pointing out thatthey do these things, and that the principle which we ask for should be allowed in connexion with the Government assurance system.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … … 14
Noes … … … … 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Drake) agreed to-
That the following words be added to the clause: - “provided that this section shall not apply to any officer who at the time of his appointment is already assured in such company or society for benefits equivalent to those pr escribed as aforesaid.”
New clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Debate resumed from 31st January (vide page 9543), on motion by Senator O’Connor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I confess that I feel a certain amount of hesitation in attempting at once to answer the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and further hesitation in being the first to reply on a Bill that is both lengthy and complicated. If I may ask for any indulgence it is upon a ground which is well known to honorable senators, that I happen to be one of those who represent Tasmania, the only State in this Commonwealth, and, practically speaking, the only place in the world where we have seen in active operation that kind of electoral machinery which is embodied in this Bill.
– And Denmark.
– I admit there are exceptions on the continent, but being on the continent they are not so completely within the purview of honorable senators or so easily subject to their criticism as the operation of this machinery has been in the State of Tasmania. Senator O’Connor, in introducing this measure, certainly anticipated, but in my opinion in no way disarmed, an obvious criticism which may be offered to it. He commenced by saying that an Electoral Bill was necessary because it was urgent. For reasons that will no doubt be advanced by many honorable senators who will follow me, it is probable that they will come to the conclusion that there is no foundation for the plea of urgency. Another criticism which might be offered, but which I do not intend to dwell upon at length, is that Senator O’Connor seemed to insist, as if there were no answer whatever to his contentions, that this measure is desirable, because there is a necessity for uniformity. On that question there may be grave doubts. The Constitution left it apparently an open question, but whether it is an open question or not, we all know that the first elections for this Federal Parliament were conducted under different methods, and in the way prescribed by the Constitution which left it to each State to adopt its own electoral machinery. On these grounds I feel that many honorable senators might hesitate in giving an instant approval to this Bill if they were asked merely to recognise the necessity for uniform machinery. If we come to analyze the question, especially as concerns the Senate, we might properly ask ourselves whether there should be uniformity of electoral machinery. The Constitution has made the Senate the States’ House, and it might therefore be fairly argued that each State should retain its own method of sending senators to this Parliament. I do not intend to dwell upon that point, because it may be amplified by honorable senators who will follow me. We are, I think, chiefly concerned in the consideration of what is to most of the States a new form of electoral machinery, known as a modification of the Hare system. I may say at the outset that as honorable senators are aware, we, in Tasmania, have adopted the Hare-Clark system, but the system contained in this Electoral Bill is the HareClarkDroopGregoryNanson system. I can vouch for it that Mr. Justice Clark and Messrs. Droop, Gregory, and Nanson have left their mark upon the measure we are now discussing. Seeing that a concomitant measure to this is the Franchise Bill, and that the Government in that Bill with a gallantry which we might have expected from them, have recognised that women should have votes, I regret to say that their gallantry has not extended to the inclusion in this Bill of any modification of the Hare system suggested by Miss Spence. I know something of the various adaptations of the Hare system of voting, but in no part of this Bill .can I find any recognition of the modification which has been suggested by Miss Spence. The Hare-Clark system which we have in Tasmania differs in some material respects from this Bill. While limiting myself as closely as possible to a discussion of the Bill, I shall indicate the differences that exist between the electoral law which has obtained for some time in Tasmania, and the form of the system presented to us in this Bill. Before I proceed to do that, I may- at once make one remark, in answer to a contradiction by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in introducing this measure, as to the position of the law in Tasmania at the present time. It would have been a very useful argument for honorable senators who approve of any modification of the Hare system to have been able to say that it has had a lengthy examination in Tasmania ; that it has been tried there, and that the Tasmanian State Parliament has been satisfied with it. But the facts are the other way. As a matter of fact, in the last session of the Tasmanian Parliament - and I wish to be perfectly’ accurate in what I say - the House of Assembly, at any rate, threw out the Hare-Clark system entirely. The purport of its decision, at all events, was that no longer in the elections to the more popular House in Tasmania, to use the words of the Constitution, will the Hare-Clark system be used. Possibly, when he contradicted that statement, the Vice-President of- the Executive Council may have had it in his mind that the Tasmanian Parliament has not abolished the use of the Hare-Clark system for federal elections.
– Yes, it has, in abolishing it for State elections.
– Not necessarily.
– I wish to point out that it is a necessary corollary. We know that the Constitution provided, with regard to the first federal elections, that each State could elect its representatives by that method of electoral machinery which was in use in the more popular House of the State. That being so, it would necessarily follow if a vacancy occurred in the Senate or House of Representatives to-morrow in the representation of Tasmania, and the Bill abolishing the Hare-Clark system had become law, that the election to fill that vacancy Could no longer take place under that system. Senator O’Connor was, therefore, not accurate so far as that minor detail is concerned. The very fact that Tasmania has abolished the Hare-Clark system of election for State elections carries with it the abolition of that form of electoral machinery for federal elections in that State.
– Has the Tasmanian Parliament actually passed the law abolishing the system t
– I know that the Bill passed the House of Assembly, but whether it has received the Royal assent I do not know.
– I think the position is that it has passed both Houses, and is awaiting the Royal assent.
– As I have said, I wish to be strictly accurate. I am not going to concern myself at length with many of the provisions of this Bill, but will deal at once with the method of election prescribed for the Senate, because that is the chief point upon which we feel some doubt. Senator O’Connor, in his introductory remarks, and as soon as he came to deal with the Hare-Clark system; gave us an illustration of a quota. That illustration was an excellent one, but, unfortunately, as I interjected at the time, what he left to be implied is not contained in the Bill. The honorable and learned senator used in his illustration what I term “ a true quota.” The Bill we are considering has adopted provisionally what I prefer to term “ a false quota.” The chief merit of the Hare system depends entirely upon the first postulate named by Hare when he devised his scheme. It was simply this, to give a concrete instance: Assuming that 6,000 votes are recorded, and there are six seats to be filled, if we find that 1,000 voters are unanimously in favour of one candidate being returned, it ‘is right and proper that he should be returned. That is Hare’s postulate, and the very basis and fabric of the’ whole of his system. I admit- that it possesses an attraction which it is difficult for any man at once to reject. Personally I think it contains in itself many fallacies, but I admit readily that there may be many honorable senators who will think that attraction irresistible, that if we can get that absolute quota we should get the representation it is worth. To repeat myself, with 6,000 voters and six places to be filled it is hard to deny that if 1,000 unanimously vote in favour of a candidate that candidate should be returned. That, I say, is the very basis of Hare’s system. I would offer first this criticism : The system presented to us in this Bill - and here we see Mr. Droop’s hand - adopts a quota which differs entirely from Hare’s quota. Hare’s quota, as honorable senators will see, has an obvious fascination which can hardly be resisted, but when we come to consider Droop’s quota - the quota in this Bill - honorable senators will find it difficult to give a distinct and precise reason why that quota should be adopted. I take multiples of six and seven in order to make a concrete instance more simple. In an electorate where there are 4,200 voters to record their votes, and six seats to be filled, it is a right and proper thing, Droop says - and his view is, indorsed by this Bill - not that if 700 are unanimously in favour of one candidate he should get in, but that if 601 are unanimously in favour of any one candidate he should be returned. I ask honorable senators at once if, with that proposition placed before them in that bald way, they can assent to it ? In other words, do not the fascination and attraction around Hare’s first postulate disappear when we are asked to indorse the opinion that if in an electorate of 4,200 voters 601 persons only are unanimously in favour of a candidate, he should be returned? A priori, there is no reason in the- world why he should. Many of us object to a certain extent to minority representation. I hope I may say that safely. If we do object to minority representation, surely by all the force in our power we should’ object to such a minority representation as contains no element which makes.it unassailable.
– I do not think we object to minority representation, but we object to minority rule.
– That is a wider question, -which I will not enter into at the present moment. We are dealing now purely with the machinery part of this measure, and I can find no reason whatever which is sound why such a quota should be represented. Of course, we can at once give as a reason why it is adopted that the calculation has been arrived at, not from any logical reasoning, but really by some smart electoral agent with a mathematical turu. Because this is what is seen, and this is what I do not deny, that if in the hypothetical electorate of 4,200 persons, 601 voted unanimously for one candidate, and the same number voted for the five others, you have got together out of your recorded valid votes 3,606, and if you subtract that number from the total votes which have been recorded you have a balance of 594. Then you are at once confronted with the argument that the remaining 594 is obviously not sufficient to enable one man to be preferred to any of the other men who have got 601 votes.
– And they go unrepresented.
– Of course the 594 votes, .as I think Senator Best interjected, is something that you can come and go upon, but why should 594 votes be lost? And though it is mathematically true, and this Bill and all the modifications of the Hare system are full of mathematical puzzles, with that residuum over, namely, 594, you put in six men who have got the greatest number of votes, or, in other words, any one of these six could not be ousted by the seventh. But there is no inherent reason why so small a quota should have a representation. I do not wish to dwell any longer on that. I think I have been able to show to honorable senators that there is a . clear distinction between these two quotas, that the one is arrived at for definite good reasons which I admit have fascinated me, and which I think must fascinate to a certain extent everybody when you adopt the true quota. But, as I have pointed out, all that fascination disappears entirely when you adopt this false quota. I do not think that is a position that can be denied.
– The question is, which is the true and which is the false quota? That is where we differ.
– Can the honorable and learned senator quote any system where such a small or limited number gives any representation ?
– I do not know that there is much reason why I should answer that question. It is obvious that any honorable senator may at once reply that there must be some reason why the Droop quota is adopted, and I put it without any doubt to honorable senators that if there were no other reason known we should all of us prefer what I venture to call the true quota. But I shall drop that, and point out the reason why the Droop quota has not only been adopted in the Bill, but was invented by its author. Hare’s postulate, to go back again, was that the - quota should have an elected candidate. In the practical working of Hare’s method, no matter under what modifications, so far as we have known them, it has been frequently found - and Tasmania will give aptillustrations of that - that a certain number of candidates have been declared elected although they had not obtained the quota. For instance, in the elections to the House of Representatives and the Senate that was the case. When the process of exhaustion had been completed it was found that some members had to be elected, although they had not obtained the quota. They were elected of course by the process of exhaustion, and because they had obtained more votes than every one else. With the adoption of the Droop quota which is a lower quota than Hare’s own original quota less risk would be run of finding candidates returned who had not obtained the quota. In other words it is easier to .get the smaller number of votes than that larger number of votes by your process of exhaustion. That is really the reason why Mr. Droop invented this quota ; it was that difficulty he was facing, and the fact that he to a certain extent overcame that difficulty has been the chief recommendation of his method. But, unfortunately, the authors of this Bill, while adopting the Droop quota - and no doubt for that very reason - have practically taken steps to destroy the whole value of it. Although it is incorporated in the Bill, yet by reason of other clauses it is certainly practical that many candidates to be elected will not receive the quota, and yet that is the sole object of the Droop quota. The reason for that is contained in clause 146, which, making the strongest possible contrast between compulsion and choice, says that -
In the elections for the Senate the voter shall mark his ballot-paper by placing the number in the square opposite the name of the candidate, for whom he votes in the first instance.
And then goes on to say that he may also indicate the order of his preference for as many candidates as he pleases, and the further choice is given - that if he likes he may strike out the names of any candidates for whom he does not care to vote. Honorable senators will follow me at once when I say that if many electors choose to avail themselves of the opportunity which is so prominently placed before them of recording a valid vote by simply plumping - because that is what it comes to - it will certainly be found in the practical working of the system that candidates would have to be elected in spite of the Droop quota.
– Can the honorable and learned senator apply the term plumping to this system at all ? To plump means to give all your votes to one candidate. A voter never has more than one vote for a candidate under the system. He cannot plump. There is no such thing as plumping.
– With all respect to Senator O’Connor I contend that if we eliminate from clause 146 paragraphs (b) and (c) we should certainly have compulsory plumping. It is a mere quibble to say that a man only plumps when he has more than one vote, and that it is not plumping when having one vote he gives it to one man only. The argument which is most frequently in the mouths of those who support the Hare system is that the Hare-Clark or any other modification of the Hare system is an effective form of voting which transfers votes in such a way as to secure to every elector that his vote ultimately finds some lodgment, and is used for the return of some candidate. But obviously if he were allowed to use his vote once only, and voted for one man, he would be in the fullest sense of the word plumping. At any rate, that is my contention.
– He would be stupid not to use his preference.
– The honorable senator has just as extensive an acquaintance with the elector as I have, probably a great deal more, and no doubt he is just as good a judge of human nature as I am. But I put it to him that if you, as emphatically as you do in this Bill, make a contrast between what is compulsory and what is optional so clear and so plain as to say to the elector - “You shall in order to make your vote valid vote for one man. If you like to go on using your pencil you may write two, three, four, opposite the names of other candidates” - andas a further reason why men should be induced to plump, the Bill incorporates an extraordinary thing from my point of view of the HareClark system - it incorporates into the registration of votes the right to scratch out names.
– The honorable and learned senator can strike that out when he comes to it.
– Under the Bill the striking out is purely surplusage. If you do not strike it out the result is just the same. Why encourage the elector to strike out things when it really produces no effect?
– I know all about that ; but the point is that the honorable senator can move to amend all these matters if he wants the Bill. I question whether he wants it.
– At present I am criticising the Bill as to its merits and demerits.
– The honorable and learned senator said that he was in favour of the Hare system.
– I have never said anything of the sort. There is no doubt, that concomitant with the adoption of the Droop system you have clause 146, which leaves it perfectly optional for the elector to do nothing more than write number one. You have already the means of nullifying the whole of the intended effect of that Droop quota. I am perfectly certain that, under the Bill as it stands, many candidates may be elected but will not get the quota.
– Of course, the honorable and learned senator will remember that the names that remain, although there is no preference put opposite to them, are voted as equal ?
– That would not alter the result if it were so, and even if it were so it is a most extraordinary deduction to make. I shall anticipate an objection which Senator Best might rightly have made. To add to our troubles, after we have finished with one election we have a supplementary form of election. That has exactly the same objection as the Droop quota. It is an endeavour to secure that every candidate is elected by the quota. But clause 146 absolutely nullifies the effect of the supplementary election, because, again, if the electors do not write their preference, the supplementary election is null and void. You cannot do anything because you have no papers, because the electors have not written 4, 5, 6, 7. The thing is an absolute waste.
– Surely the honorable and learned senator does not assume that no electors will write their 2, 3, 4.
– Of course I do riot make so absurd an assumption, and I am certain that Senator O’Connor, on his part, would not make the absurd assumption that every elector will exercise the full option that is given to him. But I do say that by making your contrast so strong, and by allowing the electors to plump, you have nullified the whole value, if it had any, of your Droop system.
– Whose system is this supplemental election ?
– Professor Nanson’s. In discussing the elections which have been conducted in Tasmania under the Hare-Clark system, I have more than once said that if any sane man were to. get up and propose as a form of electoral machinery that you should compel every elector, if six places were to be filled, to vote for only one candidate, and to declare to him that his vote would be informal if he attempted to do anything more, that proposition would be scouted as suggesting something utterly ridiculous and preposterous. I must confess that when I have used that argument I have always regarded it as perfectly unanswerable that no sane man would suggest such a system for a moment. Yet it remains for this Bill to introduce to us something which is as nearly that as possible. The Hare-Clark system has been worked six. times in Tasmania, but I do not think you can derive an entirely satisfactory conclusion from six enumerations of a single instance. In every election the final result that was obtained would have been exactly the same so far as the candidates returned were concerned, if you had resorted to compulsory plumping, and said that the six places were to be filled, that an elector had one vote, and had to give that vote to one1 man. The order, in one or two cases, I admit, would have been changed; but, as a matter of fact, in all the elec tions in Tasmania such was the result. In other words, to put it plainly, those candidates were returned at every election in Tasmania who obtained originally the greatest number of primary votes. To put it differently, the election was decided solely by the No. .1 votes, not in order, but in actual result. In no single case would the result have been altered if the law had said to every elector - “ You have a certain vote, and must give it to one candidate only.”
– That is to say each elector voted for one candidate only ?
– At present I am merely discussing the machinery and effects of the system, and am pointing out, if that case is accepted, not so much as an illustration, but as something in the way of proof, how it is that this Hare-Clark system, or even some modification of it, will produce the same result as compulsory voting for one candidate. There may be senators who like that. Personally I do not. I do not for a moment desire that such a system should be. adopted. Yet the system proposed by this Bill is’ nearer to it than the
System adopted in Tasmania. By way of explanation, I may say that in Tasmania the compulsion applying to each elector, the condition with which he had to comply to make his vote valid, was this : He had to vote for three persons out of six, three being one-half of six. It was made compulsory there that a voter should write his order of preference for one-half the number of places to be filled. But even so, many candidates have been elected in Tasmania who did not obtain the quota. Under this Bill ‘the compulsion is only with regard to the first vote, and the option remains with reference to the others.
– Does the honorable and learned senator say that the same result would take place under the block system 1
– Under the block system, if the elector is denied the right to plump no doubt he will vote for the full number of candidates to be elected, because every elector must vote for the number of places to be filled. Leaving that point for the present, I wish to point out that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, very properly laid considerable stress upon this fact - I do not know that it needed the emphasis to be laid upon it, but still it got it - that what is wanted under this or any other electoral system is simplicity, and that the system here proposed is beautifully simple. That is true - with a limitation. To use an illustration, it is extremely easy for any ordinary citizen to put a penny in the slot, but it is extremely difficult for that ordinaiy citizen to follow the intricate workings of the machine, and to know why sometimes he gets chocolate for his penny and sometimes a coloured photograph. It is perfectly easy to register your vote ; nothing is easier, especially as the Government have made it necessary only to write the figure 1 in one square. This system has, in fact, compressed simplicity into a single square, so far as the registration of the vote is concerned. But something else should be made simple. It ought to be made as simple as possible for the elector to know what is going to happen to his vote. I hope honorable senators have fully grasped the meaning of this Bill, and that they will recognise that if the elector - whose case we are considering now - is to have a simple method of election, which includes a simple understanding of what is before him, he also has to understand this Bill.
– In the case of the block vote, can any elector possibly say what is going to become of the candidate for whom he votes?
– That is by no means the same question. The elector under the block system knows where his votes are going without the slightest doubt. Under this system he does not know. Not only does he not know where they are going, but he does not know whom they are going to help to elect. He cannot follow the intricate workings of the electoral machine unless he thoroughly understands not only this Bill itself, but the schedules and illustrations which are attached to it. I recognise that in discussing a matter of this kind in the Senate, the speaker, whoever he may be, is frequently assisted by interruptions. But I ask honorable senators what sort of assistance they can expect to get when they undertake the very difficult task -and they will have to attempt it - of explaining this system to the electors. I know-and of course other senators from Tasmania will bear me out in the statement - that one of our recommendations - I am sorry to say it, but truth compels me - to a seat in this Chamber was our ability, in a greater or lesser degree, to explain the working of the Hare-Clark system to the electors. I feel perfectly clear about this - that every future candidate for the Federal Parliament, no matter what side he represents, will be put through a catechism with regard to this system, and will certainly be asked to explain it to the electors. I say further that a good deal of the success of his candidature will depend upon his ability to explain the system. I do not say that as a particular reason why we should not favour this Bill, but only incidentally, because it enters into the question of the fair right of an elector to understand what is going to happen to his vote, not merely after the fashion of putting the penny in the slot, not merely in regard to the simple registration of it, but, so far as a fairly reasonable man can get to know, what is going to happen to his vote under the electoral machinerywhich we are adopting. The elector, I hold, has a perfect right to make that demand.
– Was that demand made in Tasmania at the Senatorial elections ?
– Undoubtedly. I can speak for myself, and I believe for every other senator from Tasmania, because we were all put through an examination as to the working of the Hare-Clark system.
– It is not as bad as being called upon to explain the difference between free-trade and protection.
– I want to point out another failing in the Hare-Clark system or any modification of the Hare system ; and this, I contend, is a strong point with regard to any modification of that system whatever. As I have said, the postulate under Hare’s system is that a quota secures the election of a candidate. It is a necessary corollary of that postulate that two quotas should elect two candidates, and three quotas should elect three candidates. To use the illustration I have given before, if 1,000 persons deserve to have one candidate elected, 2,000 deserve to elect two candidates, and 3,000 deserve to elect three. It is because of that corollary that in determining who is elected - in ascertaining how the machinery works - under the Hare-Clark system or any modification of the Hare system, the returning officer has to allot all the surplus votes. I remember that Senator Styles interjected, while the VicePresident of the Executive Council was speaking, as to what was the method of alloting those surplus preference votes. It is not because I happen to be a senator from Tasmania, but because I entirely approve of that modification of the Hare system which owes its name to Mr. Justice Clark that I want just briefly to relate how he proposes to dispose of the surplus votes. Mr. Justice Clark started with Hare’s postulate that the quota should elect a candidate ; he then said - and the proposal and the working of it are perfectly simple in this respect - that in allotting -what are properly called the surplus preference votes you take, for instance, A’s papers, from which you find that A has secured 2,000 No. 1 votes. You then say that as A had only to get 1,000 votes to be elected, he has got 1,000 more than he wants, and you proceed at once to [distribute his surplus votes among the other candidates. You go through the whole of A’s papers, and ascertain which of the candidates have had allotted to them the No. 2 votes upon those 2,000 papers. To take a simple instance, .supposing the electors allotted 2,000 No. 1 votes to A, and that those papers allotted 2,000 No. 2 votes to B, B is promptly elected, for the reason that his proportional share of the 1,000 surplus votes is the whole of them. He has, in other words, 2,000-2,000ths of the whole.
– Quite right.
– Quite right if we assume that the postulate of the Hare system is right. It properly carries out what Hare intended. And it produces this result : that if you get in any election 2,000 people who are in favour of A and B being elected - it does not matter how the electors wrote their votes - if the 2,000 are unanimously in favour of both A and B being elected, they get in. There may be 500 No. 1 votes given to A, and 1,500 given to B, or vice versa; or there may be 2,000 No. 1 votes given to A, and those 2,000 electors may give their second choice to B, and B may not receive a single No. 1 preference vote, and yet be promptly elected. That is carrying out Hare’s postulate ; and the machinery works excellently so far as that is concerned. But, of course, if the surplus preference votes of the candidates who are declared elected do not make up another quota, they arc allotted for what they are worth o the other candidates, according to their order on the paper. For instance, supposing 1,500 electors voted No. 1 for A, and that on those 1,500 papers B’s name occurs 500 times as No. 2, C’s name 500 times as No. 2, and D’s name 500 times as No. 2, then B, C, and D take 500-1, 500ths, or one-third of the surplus votes A has got, he having had 500 surplus votes. Those votes are added on to the number of No. 1 votes polled for the other candidates, and those who so get the quota are elected. If they do not get the quota they have to wait until the full process of exhaustion has been gone through.
– The honorable and learned senator has not yet quite put into words what Mr. Justice Clark’s modification of Hare’s system is.
– It is the proportional apportionment of the surplus preference votes.
– It means the elimination of the chance system.
– You eliminate all chance, and it becomes a matter of simple proportion. You do not investigate the individual papers, but deal with them as a whole proportionately. So far as the HareClark machinery has worked, I do not thin’k any one can find any flaw in it. But when you have done allotting surplus preference votes you are confronted with the greatest possible difficulties under the Hare-Clark system, or any modification of it ; and all the mathematical genius of Professor Nanson has been unable to get over these difficulties, nor has Mr. Gregory, nor Mr. Droop given the slightest assistance. I may add, without wishing to be hypercritical, that this difficulty has not been overcome even by the system proposed in the Bill. After you have done allotting the preference votes, you have to keep the machinery going to- find out who is elected. I should like to read what Mr. Hare himself said with regard to the method adopted in this Bill, and which has been adopted in every modification of his system ever since he invented it. Yet this is the way in which he first criticised it. I quote from page 144 of an excellent little book on Proportional Representation by T. B. and H. P. C. Ashworth. I have verified the quotation from one of the editions of Hare, and I know that it is correct -
The reduction of the number of candidates remaining at this stage of the election may be effected by taking out the names of all those who have the smallest number of actual votes, - “This stage “ refers to the stage when the returning officer has exhausted the preference surplus votes - that is, who are named at the head - “ Head “ is a poor word in my opinion - of the smallest number of voting papers, and appropriating each vote to the candidate standing next in order on each paper. This process would be so arbitrary and inequitable in its operation as to be intolerable.
Yet I assure the Senate that this is the process adopted in the Bill. It is the process that is to be adopted always, because no one has found any other solution in any modification of the Hare-Clark system.
– Does Hare point out why it is intolerable?
– I shall point out why it is intolerable.
– Tell us what Hare has to say.
– Seeing that the honorable senator has had a notice of motion on the paper for the last ten months, with regard to the Hare-Spence system, I thought it would be presumptuous for me to attempt to instruct him. Hare goes on to say that -
It might have the effect of cancelling step by step more votes given to one candidate than would be sufficient to return another …. . Such a process disregards the legitimate rights both of electors and candidates.
That is Hare’s criticism of the very method that we are compelled to adopt under this Bill.
SenatorDobson. - Has that ever happened in actual elections?
– It has happened in every election, and Senator Dobson ought to know that much of the system under which he was elected to the Senate.
– But has Hare’s criticism ever been carried out? Has it ever proved true in practice ?
– Notwithstanding this criticism the system has gone on working.
– If that is the answer which Senator Dobson desires, I am obliged to Senator O’Connor for having supplied it. I thought he was aware of the fact. Hare was referring to the fact that, when you have finished the allotting of the surplus votes, you have to continue your machinery in order to ascertain who is elected, and you proceed in this way : You find out that candidate on the list who has obtained the least number of No. 1 votes. That is all you know at that stage, but you say arbitrarily of that candidate - “ He cannot be elected, he has to go out,” and out he goes. That is the method of exhaustion which Hare has stigmatized in these terms. It must be obvious that no satisfactory reason can be given for peremptorily rejecting such a candidate.
– Saving that that takes place in a wholesale fashion under the existing system.
– That is simply arguing that a thing is right because it is right.
– It is a matter of degree.
– To say that a thing is right because it is right is a reason that does not always satisfy me. No real reason which is logical or based on any inherent merit of this system can justify that arbitrary rejection. The rejection takes place simply because something has to be done, and there was nothing else which Hare could think of, or that any one else could think of, to enable the machinery to work. It is, of course, a purely arbitrary measure, adopted because there is nothing else to do. Some honorable senators may think that arbitrary, although it may be, it is satisfactory, but I submit that it is certainly both arbitrary and unsatisfactory. Without straining probabilities to any undue extent, I may point out to the Senate that, in any election under this system, or any modification of it, we may find that the first candidate to be rejected has obtained by far the largest number of No. 2 votes in all the papers recorded.
– That occurs under the existing electoral law.
– I am not concerned with the criticism of any other system at the present time. I am endeavouring to point out the demerits of this system ; that a candidate who has obtained by far the largest number of No. 2 votes may be the first to be rejected. The fact that he receives that number of votes means that, in the opinion of all the electors, he is preferable, not to every one of the other candidates, but to every, one with one exception.
– Not with one exception.
– With the exception of the candidate first on the list.
– No; it means that he was preferred only after every one of the other candidates,
– I will put it that way if the honorable and learned senator desires it. I can see that he quite agrees with me. Such a candidate would be rejected ; he would be the first man to go out. That is the inherent defect of this system, which nothing can cure. It is a defect which this Bill continues. I have always regarded it as a vital defect in the Hare-Clark system. It destroys absolutely the proper sense of representation, inasmuch as it says to such a man - “ Although you are preferred to every other candidate save one, in an election to fill six seats, you cannot be returned.” That is the failing of the Hare-Clark system, and the HareClarkDroopNansonGregory system, edited by the Commonwealth Government, has nothing better. I do not know that I need offer any further criticism upon the working of this machinery. I admit that the subject is a difficult one on which to speak or to listen. But if honorable senators desire something by way of illustration of the relative difficulties of the HareClark system, which we had in operation in Tasmania, and the system proposed in this Bill, I would say that it is something like the understanding of simple arithmetic on the one hand and the mastery of differential calculus on the other. Difficult to ordinary electors though the Hare-Clark system may be, it is simplicity itself compared with the system proposed in this Bill. The difficulties of the Hare-Clark system are multiplied a hundredfold. To those who have seen the Hare-Clark system working it seems that we have in this Bill some extraordinary innovations. I should like to read to the Senate, with due regard to punctuation, clause 8 of the 2nd schedule. Whilst this Bill contains 206 clauses, which should constitute fair food for discussion for about six months, we find when we get to the end of those clauses that we have not come to the end of the Bill. A great many difficulties are presented in the schedules, and we are expected to master them. Probably we are also expected to master the notes and illustrations. Paragraph (a) of clause 8 of the 2nd schedule reads as follows : -
Where on any transfer of ballot-papers it is found that any ballot-paper has or is deemed to have two or more candidates indicated thereon as being equal inter se in the order of the voter’s preference and as being of prior preference to any other unelected candidate, all such ballot-papers shall be formed into a sub-parcel or packet, as the case may be, and transferred into one parcel called the “ bracket parcel.”
I have endeavoured to read that passage intelligently, but I submit that very few honorable senators understand what it means. Yet they have to master it for their own sakes, and they have to master it as teachers, because practically it will be their duty to instruct the electors in regard to this system.
– I hope the honorable senator means by that interjection that he will never be called upon to make the attempt because the Bill will not become law.
– The honorable senator does not intend to set himself up for examination as senior wrangler.
– If this Bill becomes law, it will be one of the duties of the honorable senator to attempt to explain it to the electors at the next election. I do not envy him the task, for I know the difficulties that we experienced under our comparatively simple system in Tasmania, and I can well imagine what will be the difficulties of this. By way of further illustration, I will read paragraph (c) of the same clause -
Every such ballot-paper shall remain in the bracket parcel until it has become definite by all but one of the candidates indicated thereon as equal in the order of the voter’s preference and of prior preference to any other unelected candidate having been elected or excluded when the names of such elected and excluded candidates shall be deemed to be cancelled on such ballot-paper.
Does that seem to be common sense ? To me it seems to be utter nonsense, and yet it forms part of this Bill.
– Does it represent Tasmanian English?
– It is the English of the Commonwealth Parliament.
SenatorO’Connor. - As read by the honorable and learned senator.
– I admit that there is a difficulty in reading it, because there are no stops in it.
– If the honorable and learned senator will put in a stop now the Senate will be satisfied.
– I do not intend to stop until I have completed my criticism of the Bill. I have dealt with the machinery of this measure, and I hope I have succeeded in persuading honorable senators that it represents something like a mathematical maze ; that it will be extremely difficult for any one, however burning with mathematical ardour he may be, to see his way through it. There are other important objections to the Bill which I can offer at this stage. I have no doubt whatever that those honorable senators who do not like any modification of the Hare-Clark system will not like this Bill ; while those honorable senators who have become enamoured of this system of Hare-Clark representation must inevitably find themselves forced to oppose this Bill in its application to the Senate. Obviously those who do like it will not vote for it. Those who are full of admiration for the Hare-Clark system, those who thoroughly understand and fully appreciate it, will find themselves compelled irresistibly to vote against the adoption of such a measure as this as applied to the Senate. The reasons are fairly apparent. The spirit of our Constitution is that the Senate represents the States. It is the States’ House. A clear distinction has been drawn between the place which the Senate takes in legislation and that occupied by the other House. The House of Representatives is intended to be a representation of all the individuals in the Commonwealth, no matter where they may live. On the other hand, the Senate is intended very properly to be a representation of the States as separate entities. We are frequently tempted to refer to the Senate as the States’ House, and rightly so. I submit that the HareClark system, whatever else it may do, produces a representation of minorities. If honorable senator’s prefer to call it by another name, I will admit that the system produces something like proportional representation. It may possibly reproduce in the Parliament the various sections of the community outside, and may make Parliament an absolute reflex of public opinion outside.
– But only in a limited way ; by the number of quotas.
– That is its tendency. Just in proportion as that aim is realized, should the Hare-Clark system be opposed as a system of election for the Senate. What we want is not the representation of minorities in each State. I say at once that this Senate is not the place where all these various shades of opinion should find representation ; that such a representation is absolutely contrary to the spirit of our Constitution, and would absolutely and at once nullify the whole worth and value of the Senate as a States’ House.
– The honorable and learned senator thinks that an opinion which is strong enough to represent a quota should not have representation here ?
– Yes. I say without the slightest hesitation that such a representation is. contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.
– The honorable and learned senator desires only majority representation?
– I frankly admit that I do desire only majority representation in the Senate.
– That is a true and real majority?
– When Senator Harney makes that interjection he puts a different meaning on the word “ majority.” The Hare-Clark system if carried out may result in the return to this Senate of six individuals who will represent - I do not desire to use the word offensively - six fads, six sections of thought, political or otherwise, which may be, and frequently are, mutually antagonistic and destructive.
– The other system may send to Parliament six men who may represent one big fad.
– That is exactly what I think the representation in this Senate ought to be.
– By the same process of reasoning the whole of the six senators from each State should vote en bloc upon every resolution.
– I can quite conceive that upon many matters in representing their State they should. I submit to Senator Best that the Senate represents the States, and that the States are separate entities. The great distinction between the Senate and the House of Representatives is that in the Senate particularly we regard the States as separate entities, occasionally mutually opposed, while the House of Representatives represents the opinions of individuals who may be scattered indiscriminately all over the Commonwealth. Senator Best cannot differ from that view, and holding it the honorable and learned senator is forced to hold the view that the majority in a State should send a representation into the Senate. I can conceive of no other position as being sound or tenable. I am dealing with the representation not in the House of Representatives, but in theSenate, and with the full recognition of the clear distinction drawn in the Constitution, and therefore I say majority representation is desirable here. Some honorable senators who have interjected seem to be attracted by the term “ reflex,” or some similar word ; but what they are likely to get is not so much an absolute reflection as something which, sooner or later - and this has come within our own experience more than once in this Senate - may be more correctly and aptly termed a kaleidoscope. If we get these separate factions represented in this Senate, we know what will happen. It will certainly destroy all representative government in the Senate. It will destroy that proper party representation which, I believe, we all wish for, and it will give us six separate factions prepared to sink themselves absolutely, practically speaking, upon every subject except their own, if they can secure their ends.
– That is done always.
– It may be done always, but we are dealing now with what is not merely a matter of machinery.
– Will the honorable and learned senator say what is the difference between a State and the people of a State - will he draw the distinction?
– If the honorable senator is referring me to the different Houses of Parliament I can draw a distinction. I say that the representation in the other House has reference to individuals, no matter where they may be. Except for the purposes of election, with regard to his political views, and the work to be done in the House after the candidates get there, it does not matter where a man lives.
– If there is no difference in the people of a State as a whole, there is no need for this Chamber.
– The States, on the other hand, are separate entities.
– Composed of the people of the States.
– Undoubtedly we have the same franchise, but Senator Pearce is confusing “ franchise “ with “representation,” and they are not the same. I admit that the franchise is the same and ought to be the same, but it is going to be used in the case of one House for one purpose, and in the case of the other for a distinctly different purpose. I say that the States ought to have a representation in this Senate which is quite different from the representation which the people of any State may send to the other House. The Constitution was so framed . as to secure that object. I believe that honorable senators agree with me in that, and if they do I ask them to agree with me in this further proposition, that the HareClark system is specially inapplicable to the Senate. I do not intend to enlarge upon the subject, but I think there is very strong reason why, even if we agree as to the merits of the Bill and the HareClark system, it should not be applied to elections for the Senate. I go further and say that if, in spite of the defects I have indicated, the system is to be used, it might be used for the House of Representatives. I know the difficulty in the way - that the Hare-Clark system or any modification of it is only applicable to large electorates.
– But we might have electorates so large that we could not apply it. We could not apply it to an electorate with 25 members.
– I am not suggesting that, but we might divide New South Wales into five electorates, and we could apply the system then. So far as it is appreciated, it is adapted for the election of any number from three to twelve. If it were necessary, the various States could be subdivided to meet these requirements.
– Even that limitation shows the defects of the system.
– Undoubtedly it is a flaw in the Hare-Clark system, for which no one has yet attempted to find a remedy, that its use is limited. I speak subject to correction, but I think it is not desirable to apply it where there are less than three candidates to be elected, or more than twelve. Turning for a moment to another part of the Bill, I recognise that the method of election here suggested for another place is perhaps a form of machinery which more closely approximates to the working of the Hare-Clark machinery than anything else we could get for single electorates. I know that the contingent vote carries with it one of the elements of that system, and the criticisms I have been offering have been practically limited to a consideration of the form suggested with regard to the elections to the Senate. I could criticise many of the remarks made by Senator O’Connor in introducing the measure. I am, however, desirous of offering criticism upon the Bill itself, without attempting any destructive criticism on the remarks of the honorable and learned senator. I do not think it desirable that I should continue wrestling with the mathematical puzzles offered so freely in this Bill.
– Is there any system which the honorable and learned senator could suggest?
– I quite expected that some honorable and learned senator would ask me whether there is any system which I could suggest. I can only say, in answer, that I am quite prepared to criticise any other system which the PostmasterGeneral or the Ministry can suggest, but I am not here to offer a system for consideration. The interjection made by the Postmaster-General suggests to me that this offers a hope of escape to many honorable senators from systems in existence in their own States which they do not like.
– No, no.
– I believe that remark is true, and I am sure Senator O’Connor will admit the truth of it.
– I certainly do not.
– Am I to understand that the honorable and learned senator is perfectly satisfied with the system in force in New South Wales ?
– Certainly not, but I do not look upon this as an escape from it, but as an improvement upon it.
– I am much obliged to the honorable and learned senator, but I will not quibble over words with him.
– The whole point is in the word the honorable senator uses. This is a reform.
– Then I will say that many honorable senators are looking to this Bill to give them some improvement upon the methods of election they have had to submit to in their own States.
– And the honorable senator’s argument is that because it is not perfect we should not have it at all.
– My argument goes a little further. I am afraid that we shall not be unanimous upon the subject, but I ask honorable senators to consider the case of the senators representing Tasmania. I remind the Senate that in Tasmania we are also endeavouring to effect that happy escape; if Senator O’Connor prefers it, I will say that we also are anxious to get an improvement upon the existing electoral system, but the difficulty is that what we are endeavouring to escape from there is the very scheme suggested in this Bill. I am afraid there is a certain glamour thrown over this measure because of the hope of honorable senators that some improvement will be derived from it.
– Because it has elected good men.
– So far as I am concerned the personal equation does not enter into the question. I was elected under the Hare-Clark system, and I frankly admit to a higher place than I ever hoped to reach. My quarrel is not with the system, and I am not endeavouring to remove it from the Commonwealth electoral law because I have suffered under it. As a matter of fact, it has treated me very well, and therefore any criticisms I offer cannot be attributed to any personal feeling in the matter. I do not propose to pursue the question any further. I am obliged to the Senate for having listened to me for so long upon a matter which, I admit, it is difficult to make interesting, and which is so full of arithmetical subtleties. I hope that my remarks will not be regarded merely in the nature of criticism, but that I shall be considered rather as having discharged the humble duty of a whetstone, and that the remarks I have made may perhaps enable other senators to offer a more scathing criticism of the measure than I have ventured upon.
– I do not propose to speak at any great length upon the Bill, but before going into what seems to me to be the chief principle underlying it, I would like to draw the attention of honorable senators to section 29 of the Constitution regarding the division of districts for the House of Representatives. It seems to me that we are handing over to the House of Representatives a power which belongs to Parliament - in other words, that we are endeavouring to do what is, in my opinion, an absolutely unconstitutional act. Section 29 of the Constitution Act says that -
Until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides, the Parliament of the State may make laws determining the divisions in each State for which members of the House of Representatives may be chosen, and the number of members to be chosen for each division.
I take it that it is our duty, under the definition of Parliament, meaning both Houses, to see to the division of the various districts for the House of Representatives. And might I suggest the danger to the small States, even if we could hand over this power absolutely to the other House ? One of the most important factors in the return of members to that House no doubt is the division of the electorates. The electorates may be so divided by a majority in that House adverse to the small States as to control the representation to a large extent of the districts in that State. For instance, taking,Western Australia, the divisions could be made by the House of Representatives so as to return for the State one protectionist and four free-traders. >
– The House of Representatives cannot make the divisions.
– True, but in its hands the Bill proposes ultimately to let the decision lie. No doubt the suggestion of lines of demarcation for the various electorates lies in the hands of a commissioner, but it is with the House of Representatives according to the Bill that the ultimate approval of those lines lies. In that House the members for Western Australia would have comparatively little .power, and it could so divide the State as to place its representation in the hands of a section of the people, and I suppose it could do it more or less in the case of other States. It is part of the duty of the representatives of the States to see that nothing unfair or unreasonable is done to those States in the most important factor, namely, in the districts from which their representatives shall come. It seems to me first that it is unconstitutional to part with this power, and secondly that even if we could delegate .to the other House the sole demarcation of the various districts, it -would be highly undesirable, certainly from the stand-point of the small States, that -wre should do so. With regard to Senator Clemons’ remarks on the system of voting that we are asked to adopt, I would suggest that he starts absolutely on wrong premises when considering the position that the Senate occupies. He tells us that the Senate is the States’ House, that we are to take purely a State view, and that the national view is never to come under our consideration. If we . were to carry that argument to its logical conclusion whenever a Bill comes here, I should take it up and ask how much Western Australia was to get out of it. And the New South Welshmen would say - “ How much is New South Wales’ to get out of it ?” and so on. That, I think, is absolutely denied by the Constitution. The Senate is given equal powers in most matters with the House of Representatives. It is elected by the people of the various States though differently grouped. Except as to Money Bills it has all the powers that the other House has, and nowhere can we find that it is, in the narrow sense that Senator Clemons sought to point out, a States’ House.
– - But the Constitution makes it the States’ House ; that is what the honorable and learned senator means t
– The Constitution does not make it a States’ House in that narrow sense. True, we have equal representation of all the States here so as to safeguard their interests in the event of the representatives of the more powerful States in the other House endeavouring to do injustice.
– But nowhere are we called upon in our legislation to take a parochial view.
– Senator Clemons did not say that.
– Senator Clemons said distinctly that the members for a State should represent the majority of the people considered as a State, and that they should, as Senator Best interjected, vote en bloc. If we are to carry out the suggestion of Senator Clemons there should be no representation of the minority of the people or of classes in the Senate, there should be no man here to represent free-traders or protectionists ; labour men, socialists, or any one else should not be found in the Senate ; but a bunch of representatives - not to fight for the good of certain classes in the whole community of Australia, not to fight for the good of the whole Commonwealth as one - should come here as six automatic instruments for the furtherance of the interests of a particular State. That is the proposition which Senator Clemons puts.
– No; that is the opposite of what I said.
– My view of the duty of a senator is entirely different. I believe there are in this country classes who are entitled to representation, and very often ideas are the outcome of a man’s position in society. Consequently we find men calling themselves labour members representing, and rightly representing, the interests of labour, and making their primary object in legislation the betterment of their class. If the protectionists of New South Wales, who are almost equal in number to the free-traders, are to have no representation here, how is that State going to be represented in the Senate ? There might be in one arge electorate 99,000 free-traders and 98,000 protectionists, and yet Senator Clemons would call a free-trade bunch representation of that State. It cannot be representation of that State, and the block system properly organized and properly worked must always inevitably result in class domination.
– It has not resulted in that in the Senate, at all events.
– It was not properly organized.
– There are only two States in which the main issue was freetrade or protection. Senator O’Connor, though a protectionist, is not here as a protectionist, I undertake to say.
– According to the argument, he has no right to be here 1
– True. Victoria has six representatives in the Senate, and every one of them is more or less a protectionist.
– That is not true. Wait until the Tariff comes in !
– I am only using Victorians and New South Welshmen as the most familiar instance of the result of a system which I believe to be bad.
– The honorable senator’s statement of facts is challenged, that is all.
– Of Victoria’s representatives four are protectionists, and the other two are qualified free-traders.
– Yet in Victoria one gentleman polled a very substantial freetrade vote. In New South Wales there is a very large protectionist vote, and yet this great mass of the people in those two States of Australia are practically unrepresented.
– They are heard through the representatives of their single electorates in the other House.
– In New South Wales - there is a very large section of the community under the control of the labour organizations, who believe in labour representation, pure and simple. Where is the labour representation for New South Wales? Is that representation of a State ? I cannot understand a man estimating a State merely by its geographical lines. I do not call that a State in politics. The opinion of a State is the opinion of its people, and not the opinion of, perhaps, one man who constitutes the majority of the bunch returned to Parliament The defects of a principle are best manifested by reducing it to an absurdity. If there are 2,001 votes cast in an election for the Senate for the return of six members, and 1,000 votes are cast for protectionists and 1,000 votes for free-traders, then one man has secured the total representation of the whole of that State, and the others are absolutely disfranchised. I heard Senator Symon interject, when certain figures were used in regard to this proportional voting, that the seventh man who had not enough votes to reach the quota was not elected, and, consequently, his friends were disfranchised. The object of an election is to ascertain the choice of a majority.
– Under this Bill you ascertain the choice of quotas which are not majorities, but sections.
– We ascertain what sections of the community are the greatest numerically.
– You make Parliament a kaleidoscope, not a representation of the majority.
– We make Parliament exactly a reflex of the opinion of the people, and of the various sections of the community.
– How many opinions are there in Western Australia - six or sixty ?
– We have, perhaps, many opinions in Western Australia.
– The question is, what are the dominating opinions ?
– Exactly ; majority rule.
– Does Senator Symon mean to say that we are to give representation to every minority ?
– Certainly not; but that is what the HareSpenceGregoryNanson people say.
– We are to give to those persons who hold the greatest number of votes in their hand representation in the Parliament. That is the principle of representation.
– That is exactly the block-vote principle. The biggest body of opinion gets the representation and governs the country.
– There are two methods, no doubt, of ascertaining public opinion. One is to take the various people in the electorates as closely allied as possible, commercially and socially, and ascertain the men they desire. The other is, to allow the people to group themselves under a system of this kind. We allow them all to go to the poll, and we let each man state the section of the community to which he politically belongs, and to vote for the individual who best represents that section. That is ascertaining in the fullest sense the opinion of the community, and the man who stands in Pailiament and says the Senate or any other representative body should not be a reflex of public opinion, seems to me to lay down an opinion that is absolutely opposed to the trend of all late legislation. We believe in representation. We do not believe in domination. I do not suppose there is any man in this country who says that because there is one more of a particular class that majority of one should, if it can be avoided, rule. If we can devise no better system, true we have to resort to that ; and ultimately, to a limited extent, wemust always resort to it. But where we can minimize the evil and reduce it to the narrowest limits, and leave instead of half of the community only 500 unrepresented, we are doing what seems to me to be the best and fairest thing that can be done under the circumstances. I can see one objection to this system, and it is the only objection I really can ascertain. I believe it gives fair representation in proportion to the influence of various sections of the community, and consequently we should by its means find the Parliament to be in the truest sense a reflex of public opinion. But I apprehend that there is a danger under the system, which, although I must admit that it is a danger, yet, in my opinion, is nothing like as great a danger as the bunch system. Under this system if two men obtain the quota and a third does not - and the third consequently does not secure a seat - the man at the bottom of the poll retires. I admit, while pointing out the difficulty, that I can see no solution of it, and I think that in its practical effect it will be much less harmful than the present system. We will say for the sake, of argument that A, B, C, D, E and G have contested an election in which three men are to be returned. A and B secure 1,001 votes each. C, whom we will say for the sake of argument is a freetrader, gets only 950. D, a protectionist, receives 930 votes, being 20 votes behind C, who has 51 votes short of the quota. We will say that E, who is a free-trader, gets 100 votes, and G, who is a protectionist, gets 100 votes. G being the lowest on the poll drops out, and his votes are distributed. Being a protectionist, his second preferences will go to a protectionist ; that is to say if G has been voted for consistently upon his ticket. Consequently, although C, who is a free-trader, has 20 votes more than D, the mere chance of G being lowest on the poll, and his votes having to be divided and going to a protectionist, will probably have the effect of putting D over C’s head, whereas if E, the other unsuccessful candidate, had been taken the opposite result would have occurred..
– That is the thing condemned by Hare in the passage read by Senator Clemons.
– What Senator Ewing has described is impossible, because if the free-trader E could give to the other free-trader the quota, the protectionist D could not get it with G’s votes.
– I shall be very glad if any one can satisfy me upon this point.
– The answer is that there could not be two quotas remaining.
– Senator Ewing is supposing that there is a possibility of there being two quotas, but there could not be.
– I shall be very glad to hear any honorable senator clear away the difficulty that suggests itself tome. It seems to me to be a substantial difficulty, but much less of a difficulty than is created by the old system. I do not intend to touch upon the detailsofthe Bill, because after all the method of voting by post and similar matters will be more effectively dealt with in committee. But I would suggest to the Senate that they should not be lured by Senator Clemons or any one else into attacking the national view of the Senate. The Senate is just as much a national House as the House of Representatives. It should just as much represent public opinion, and represent it just as effectively, as the House of Representatives does. Our object is to see that public opinion in the various States is represented in the Senate as effectively as possible. Honorable senators are not sent here merely to look after the interests of Western Australia, or New South Wales, or Tasmania, but after the whole policy of the Commonwealth. The Senate is a national House, and no provincial Legislature such as has been pictured by Senator Clemons. It is true that we have a duty to our States, to see that no injustice is done ; but we should act on broad national lines, and for the national good. If it> is for the general good that State interests should be sunk, it is clearly our duty to sink the interests of the States individually. To say that we are here to look at things from the Western Australian point of view, or the Tasmanian point of view alone, is a gross misconception of our duty. What has Senator Clemons been doing ever since he took his seat here? He has been trying to put his individual political opinions upon the statutes of the Commonwealth, and to force his own views upon the Senate. If he comes here merely as a delegate from the State of Tasmania, he should simply have taken each of the Bills coming before us, and should have said - “ I have nothing whatever to do with the national aspect of this question ; I have nothing whatever to do with the classes of the community who are concerned in it ; I have nothing to do with different sections of the people ; I have to look after only the State of Tasmania.” Senator Clemons’ premises are absolutely wrong. He has misconceived the position in my opinion - only for the purpose of this argument of course, because in his actions he has shown that he does not believe what he has said about the Senate - and has failed to realize that on every occasion the community has a right to be represented here, and that individual political opinions have just as much right to be expressed in the Senate as in the House of Representatives.
During the whole time he has occupied a seat in this Chamber he has given the lie to the arguments he has used to-night. I feel confident that he has a better opinion of the Australian Senate than to think we are merely here as delegates from the particular States.
– He never argued like that at all.
– I am glad that Senator Clemons’ brother-Tasmanians are in no danger of being led astray, and that the remarks made by Senator Clemons are so repugnant to them that they do not remain even in their memory.
– They deny that I uttered them.
– The. honorable and learned senator is exaggerating what he said.
– I say that Senator Clemons told the Senate distinctly that he was not a representative of the classes of the community, but that the States should be represented as States aDd nothing more.
– I never said “ and nothing more.” I said there should be a differentiation.
– Of course, if Senator Clemons now says that the Senate is a representative House in the true sense of the word–
– I do not want to be misrepresented.
– Then I am to take it that he did not say that the Senate is a States House 1
– But I did.
– Then Senator Clemons did not say that the Senate should represent the States as States, and did not say that it should be representative of the people ! What, on earth, then, did Senator Clemons say ? The position of the Senate is that it should be, as nearly as we can make it, a reflex of the public opinion of the various States. Public opinion is best ascertained - best focussed - by bringing into our legislative halls persons representing the opinions of the various sections of the community in the States from which they come, which sections are able, by reason of their numbers, to send the representatives here to voice their opinions.
– I feel that a good number of the arguments which have been advanced by Senator Clemons on this question are so purely of a theoretical nature that they really do not attach to the particular line of policy concerned. With the general idea of this measure I am in entire accord ; and when the vote upon the second reading is taken, my vote will, with the utmost cordiality, be given with those who follow the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I knew very little of the Hare-Clark, or the HareSpence, or any other similar system of voting until my honorable and learned friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, introduced the Bill, and it is a tribute to his perspicuity to say that I am now an ardent admirer of this system.
– Easily “diddled”!
– Perhaps so ; sometimes we are “ diddled “ into very agreeable situations and very advantageous positions. This is one of them. The main and pervading principle of this Bill is the creation of proportionate representation. By proportionate representation I understand that electoral system which will place within the walls of a Legislative Chamber every phase of political opinion in its varying strength and charater that is to be found in the country. It is a system, so to speak, which will make our Parliament a political picture of the people, and if we have red, white, and blue in the community it will enable us to get the same colours in Parliament - and not only so, but also the same relations of those colours one to the other.
– No ; white may become blue when it gets here !
– My honorable friend says it might become white within. Senator Clemons compared the system to a kaleidoscope. I understand a kaleidoscope to be a contrivance whereby a number of coloured things when moved rapidly together become of no colour at all. They become of no colour because of the want of discrimination in the human eye, and if all these become white inside, they become white only to those who do not thoroughly realize this system. There have been two objections urged against this system by Senator Clemons. The first is what we may term a scientific or mathematical objection, and the second is a political one. He has attempted to show that whether proportional representation be good or bad, this particular measure will not affect it. Ibr my part, I should have been content to recognise that the Government have not been the inventors of this system ; that it represents the skill of political thinkers and mathematicians.
– Not a bit of it.
– Then are we to assume straight away that the long list of names, from Hare down to Nanson, have a reputation attaching to them due only to the foolishness of the public 1
– The honorable and learned senator thought so until he heard the Minister’s speech.
– I am sufficiently humble to accept that which these eminent men say follows mathematically-
– What about Miss Spence s
– If, in my attempt to differentiate between political and mathematical arguments, lam asked to differentiate at the same time between sexes, I can only say that such a task is beyond me. Since we are in such a sceptical age, perhaps I may attempt to explain to the extent of my ordinary, common-sense, unmathematical ability, why this so-called complex system is not really ‘so difficult of apprehension to the ordinary intelligence. Before doing so, I should like to make some remarks in reply to Senator Clemons, and also in one sense to reply to Senator Ewing, with reference to the status of the two Houses of the Parliament. The first point that strikes one on reading this Bill is the difference between the treatment of the Senate and the House of Representatives, I certainly think that the authors of the Bill could not have done other than what they have done in that respect. In my opinion the principle of single electorates is the only appropriate and the only right one fer the House of Representatives, while the system of multiple or State electorates is equally appropriate for the Senate. I entirely agree with Senator Clemons that the primary function of the Senate is to look after State interests. No doubt we have all the other political matters to attend to, but State interests should occupy a more prominent place in our minds than they do in the minds of honorable members of the other House. I agree also with Senator Clemons, that, although there are 36 members of the Senate, we represent in one sense six batches, each batch having a particular regard for the interests of the State from which it comes. I further agree with Senator Clemons that it is by the operation of both these forces- that of disintegration in this House, and that of cementing in the other House, the one leaning against and giving support to the other - that the whole stability of the federal structure is maintained. But when I have acknowledged all that to be the case, I cannot go so far as Senator Clemons has gone in the inference which he draws from it, because what he said is this - “ Since the Clark system is a means whereby minorities find their representatives in a House, how ill-fitting it is ‘to a Constitution which should place in the Senate representatives from the whole State.” The answer is that, although the primary concern of honorable senators is to consider the States from which they come, that primary concern has to be affected by the particular faction - if I may use that term - which returns representatives, just as it is in the other House. Take an illustration : A labour member in the other House thinks first of the class he represents - labour - and, secondly, of what is good for all Australia. A labour member of the Senate thinks first of labour, and, secondly, not of all Australia, but of the particular State from which he comes. Therefore there is nothing more unfitting in having that class of representation in the Senate than there is in having it for the House of Representatives.
– What does the lawyer think of it?
– I must tell my honorable friend, to whom the lawyers are a bete noir, that I hope, for his peace of mind, the day will never come when lawyers will be so numerous that they will be able to constitute a quota.
– Give them one representative to themselves.
– I am somewhat at a disadvantage in speaking amid these interruptions, for, although usually I do not mind them, I am this evening in the unfortunate position of having to speak without having had an opportunity of classifying the heads of my remarks. I was endeavouring when interrupted to answer Senator Clemons’ argument that under the Constitution there was such a difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives that proportionate representation could not properly be applied to both. The answer I have endeavoured to give to that argument is that although we stand here primarily to represent the States, the same special regard for minorities which would operate upon members of the other place when looking to matters of Australian concern, would operate equally with senators when dealing with State concerns. With reference to the system itself Senator Clemons has endeavoured to show that it is exceedingly* complicated. I shall do my best to make it clear. As to the House of Representatives, we have single electorates and the contingent vote. Of the principle of single electorates, I need only say that since it implies a maximum number of seats it must therefore imply the smallest division, and afford the greatest chance of every portion of the community finding a representative. When we add to that the contingent vote, there is no chance of that occurring which is not only probable, but which is frequent to-day, namely, the return of a person who, if the ballot were taken again, would be displeasing to the majority of those who joined in the poll. Take an illustration : If a protectionist, . free-trader, and a revenue-tariffist contest an election under the present system, with the result that the protectionist receives 1,000 votes, the free-trader 700 votes, and the revenue-tariffist 500 votes, the protectionist is returned, but there are 1,200 electors displeased with his return. The revenuetariffist would prefer to be represented by a free-trader rather than by a protectionist.
– Would he ?
– The honorable senator must assume that he would. If he cannot depart from what seems to him to be the falseness of the illustration, if he can not conceive that such would be the case, let him alter the classes I have mentioned in a way that would suit him. The illustration shows how, under the present system, 1,000 men may return a representative who is displeasing to 1,200. That cannot happen under the contingent vote system, because, under the. latter method,where the number of votes obtained by- the candidate is such that the returning officer cannot say that any one of the candidates has obtained an absolute majority, he” directs that the election be held over again.
– That is not the system of the contingent vote.
– That is the effect of it.
– I maintain, with all respect, that my statement is correct.
– It is not.
– Where one candidate does not obtain an absolute majority
– There is a recount.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to interject. Senator Harney has already requested honorable senators not to interrupt.
– Where the candidate who obtains the highest number of votes has not an absolute majority, what under the present system is equivalent to a second ballot takes place. Every voter marks his paper with this idea in his mind, “ If at the first election the man I like best gets in, well and good ; but lest he should not do so I will indicate what I would do in the event of a second election.” Then, in countingup the ballot-papers, effect is given by the one process to that which is in reality equivalent to two physical elections. If that proposition is not intelligible it is entirely useless for me to argue further.
– The honorable and learned senator is entirely wrong.
– If my honorable friend who interrupts me has ever read Pope’s Moral Essays, he will know the lines -
The difference is as great between
The optics seeing as the object seen, and if I seem wrong, possibly the error lies in my friend’s understanding. So much, then, for the lower House. When we come to the position of the Senate, maintain that we have only the application of the same simple principle applied to the more complex circumstances of multiple electorates. I will undertake to show any honorable senator who will have the graciousness to listen to me that the HareClarkSpenceNanson system - they are all qualifications of the Hare system - -
– Miss Spence objects to the system.
– I do not care how many names be given ; Mr. Hare has had so many intellectual pursuers that, like his namesake of the hillside, his course is somewhat devious. The system embodied in this Bill, as pointed out by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, is for the Senate no more than an application of the simple principle I have enunciated, which undoubtedly prevails in the House of Representatives. It is a reduction of a series of successive elections to one process. To me that it is so is quite clear. The system can be very simply expressed in this way : We first find a quota, and then, if nobody has obtained that number, we reject the lowest candidate and distribute his votes amongst the other candidates.
– Is there any reason why we should do that?
– It might mean that no one would be elected.
– Will Senator Dawson be good enough to be quiet for a moment? If, on the other hand, the first candidate has more than the quota, then the surplus is distributed in each case, regard being paid to what is termed the vote value. I will endeavour to show that this is a process which is nothing but a series of successive elections. First of all, what is a quota ? My honorable and learned friend Senator Clemons is, I understand, a mathematician, and though I must say he is usually very clear, he seems to have had a most unfortunate lapse of intellect this evening. The honorable and learned senator will tell me if I am right in putting his proposition in this way : He said that the great beauty of the Hare system is that, suppose we had 6,000 voters and six candidates–
– And a quota.
– I ask the honorable senator not to interrupt. I have asked him several times not to interrupt. I must keep order, and if he continues to offend, I shall have to take action.
– When interruption’s become disjointed and incoherent, they serve no purpose. Senator Clemons told us that the beauty of this vaunted Hare-Clark system was this, that, suppose we have 6,000 voters and six seats, each 1,000 voters return one candidate. He says that is a very pleasing proposition, and so it is. It seems very fair, but he says that the Bill does not by any means give effect to that proposition. I think it gives absolute effect to it, because, although the quota provided for is not 1,000, still it is such that effect will be given to that proposition. If we have 6,000 voters and six seats, and the quota were to be, as my honorable and learned friend has suggested it should be, 1,000 - then if we have 3,000 voters and three seats the quota would be 1,000, and if we have 1,000 voters and one seat, the quota would equally be 1,000 ; but in fact it is not- it is 501. There is the answer to the honorable and learned senator’s proposition. The answer is that the quota is only another word for an absolute majority. Where we have one seat to be filled, what is an absolute majority ? It is that number which will render it impossible for another man to get in. If we have an electorate of 1,000 voters, the quota is half 1,000 plus one. Why the one ? Because it is just that one that will prevent another man getting in. If, where there is but one seat to be filled, the quota or absolute majority is a half plus one, surely it does not require a mathematician to understand that where there are two seats the quota is a third plus one, where there are three seats it is a fourth plus one, and where there are five seats it is a sixth plus one. Whatever the number of seats and the number of voters, the quota is such a number as will enable the man who gets it to say, “ I am safe.” To my simple comprehension a man is entitled to obtain a seat in a case of a single electorate when the votes he obtains do not leave enough to enable another person to get in, and surely a person is entitled to obtain a seat in an electorate returning three members where he does not leave enough to put another three members in? Where is the difference ? Let us bring it down to a physical election, as Senator O’Connor did when he converted me into so ardent an admirer of this system. Perhaps I should not say he converted me, as I was previously a believer in it. Perhaps also the reason I believe so much in the system is because I think I understand it, and my belief is a sort of patting of my intelligence on the back the whole time. I take this illustration. A thousand individuals walk up to the polling booth. There is one man to be elected. Five hundred and one voters go into the booth and say, We want this man. Is there any rule of reason or of sense why he should require a vote more ? Will any one say he should ? The reason is because the 499 who stand outside could not put in another. Senator Clemons says the quota provided for here is not a true quota. Let us take the same 1,000 men up to the same booth, and suppose there are two seats to be filled. The moment a third of the voters and one - 334 voters - walk inand say, We want this man, why should he not be elected any more than the other ? He must be elected. Let us take the physical process.
– The honorable and learned senator is quite astray.
– He has got 334 votes. That leaves 665 votes, and will my honorable and learned friend, who says I am quite astray, tell me that those 665 votes can put two men in ?
– I will tell the honorable senator by-and-by.
– So much for the quota. Senator Clemons, for whom I have the greatest respect, will know that I am speaking in this way only in the ardour of debate stimulated somewhat by interjections.
– I wanted the honor and learned senator to be clear.
– The honorable senator did, and he did his best to make me cloudy.
– And I succeeded.
– Perhaps in the honorable senator’s own imagination. I think I have shown that to return a man by a quota is as simple tounderstand as returning a man by an absolute majority. Now we come to another proposition. Suppose that under this Hare-Clark system no one gets a quota. The last man is rubbed out, is he not ? This is the point about which we all fight, and which we are told the mathematicians cannot explain. The last man is rubbed out, and his votes, are distributed amongst the others.Why I will tell honorable senators why. Suppose all the electors come and physically cast their votes, and suppose the returning officer comes to the door of the polling booth, and says : - “ Gentlemen, not one of the candidates has got an absolute majority. We must hold the election over again.” What would happen ? Would not the persons who had voted for the last man on the poll say - “Well, poor Geordie is at the bottom of the poll, and he has not the ghost of a chance of getting in. We will give our votes this time to the other candidates, according to our preference.” Is not that what would happen? It certainly is, and what is the use, therefore, in going into abstruse puzzles about the primary and the secondary vote, and suggesting positions which may be mathematically indefensible, but which practically do not arise. The reason, then, for the distribution of these votes in the way proposed, is that it is simply putting upon paper in one process what would be accomplished by a series of physical elections. I think I have now dealt with the quota and the distribution of the lowest candidates’ votes. We come now to a matter which is perhaps a little more difficult to comprehend. Where the first candidate gets more than the quota the votes are distributed according to the vote value. Why is that ? Again I say that this is equivalent to the holding of a second election, and in this way : - Suppose the quota was 1,000 votes, and suppose the first candidate got 1,600 votes. The returning officer says - “ Gentlemen, the first candidate is elected, you have now out of the balance to elect a second candidate.” The .1,600 men who voted for A do not lose their votes. They come back again, and vote for the next man. We will say that qf the 1,600 who voted for A, there are 800 who the next time would vote for B, and 400 who would vote for C. Under these circumstances what would be the actual consequence of holding a second election. It would be this : A is in. Those who voted for B and C the first time would naturally vote for them again. The 800 who have voted for A, and would have voted for B if A were set aside will now come up, and cast their votes for B, and the 400 will cast their votes for C. To give perfect effect to that process on paper what would have to be done would be this : 1,000 is the quota. A gets 1,600 votes, SOO of which would go to B, and 400 to C, and the proper thing to do after A gets in is to distribute the whole 1,600 votes, giving 400 to C, and 800 to B. If that was done no one would have any objection. But what is done in point of fact ? The 1,600 are not distributed because that would lead to great difficulties, but the surplus of 600 is distributed. But how is it distributed 1 It is distributed in the proportion that runs through the 1,600, and it is exactly the same to B. and C, whether thev get 800 and 400 “respectively, or 800 sixteen hundredths of 600, and 400 sixteen hundredths of 600, that is to say a half, or a fourth. It is, I contend, the same, and is precisely what is effected by the vote given to the surplus. I do not think that there are any other remarks by Senator Clemons on the system that I feel obliged to answer. But I think’ I have said enough to satisfy any listener that there is not in this measure that mathematical complexity which, if I politically it is good, ought to deter us from adopting it. When I heard this measure explained by Senator O’Connor, I, with some intellectual ease followed his remarks, and I understood the system to be, as I have now expressed it, nothing more than a reduction to a single process on paper of that, which, if physically carried out, would be called the exhaustive ballot. As for this mathematical web or this arithmetical mystification which is thrown round it, all I have to say is that it is possible for an ingenious mind to enshroud almost any problem, where figures are concerned, in the same haze and mystery. There may be in the system loop-holes ; no doubt there are. It may fall short of the ideal ; perhaps- it does. It may be liable to abuse in its administration ; perhaps so. But these are all incidental to human contrivances. We have to make all laws with reference to these limitations. But subject to them I maintain without any hesitation that the general scope and tendency is to give to us proportionate representation. If I have not detained the Senate too long, I should like to say a few words upon the other aspect of the case - the political aspect - that was dealt with by Senator Clemons and Senator Ewing. It was said by Senator Clemons, and Senator Symon pointed it by an interjection, that it does not give us the feeling of the great majority in the country. My answer is that if it is as it has been described, a photograph of political opinion abroad, effect must be given within the House to the same majority as exists outside. If this is nothing more than a narrowing down of the factions that exist abroad into a compass that they can fit on the floor of the House, then must not the relative size of those factions exist just the same as outside, and must not a majority outside be a majority here? What was running through the mind of Senator Symon - and it is a fallacy - was that it will not give us the same return as a block vote would as the majority ? Why ? Not because a. block vote is right, but because it represents the resultant of popular choice acting in the dark. It represents what popular choice does when it does not know all the circumstances. Why ? A gets in under popular choice because B’s friends do not - know that they are wasting their strength on C and D, but if B’s friends could look after the event and see the return of the poll A might not get in at all, and the person would get in who really represented the majority in the country. Any one will see the force of that at once. Take the illustration I gave before of 1,000 protectionists, 700 free-traders, and 500 revenue tariffists. Why does the protectionist get in with his thousand votes? Because the free-traders do not know and” the revenue tariffists do not know that between the two of them they are breaking up the free-trade strength, but if they could know that, the person returned would be the free-trader or the revenue, tariffist who represented the stronger opinion in the country. A more forcible point made by Senator Clemons was that the effect of this system would be the rule by an aggregation of minorities and not by a majority. He says that we shall have every class of faddists in the country with its direct representative here, and that these classes will combine for their mutual benefit, irrespective of the big issue before the country. That is, at all events, an apprehensible proposition, and 1 must say that I see a slight danger in it. But I think an answer may be found. No doubt under the proportional representation system each member might be more conscious of the faction that sent him in ; the labour man might be more conscious that labour sent him in, and the lawyer that the lawyers sent him in to get out of the way. But would the mere fact of these, individuals being more conscious while on the floor of the Senate of the strength behind their backs make them more inclined to combine irrespective of broad party issues than they are at present? Would the fact that I know that I have a certain class upon whom I may depend make me more inclined to combine with certain other representatives of faction than at the present moment, when undoubtedly the same class stands behind me to the extent of its power, although I do not know its power so accurately? Perhaps it would when looked at in the abstract, but, for practical purposes, only to an appreciable extent. Anyhow, that is only a pretty far-fetched situation. I have spoken, perhaps, longer than I should have done. On the whole I think we may claim for this system that it will effect several useful results. Every voter will be able to give thorough effect to his desires. Not only can he have a say in the return of every candidate, but he can speak as to the order of his return, and if he cares not, after one has been put in, to worry himself about the others, he need not do so. Another effect will be that no vote will be lost. At the present time many and many a party in the State that ought to be, and is, capable of being represented in the House has no one to give expression to its sentiments. Why? Because the greed of persons to represent that class was too great, and they split the vote between them.
– Name one.
– It is rather, name one to the contrary. Tell me of an election where there were not two or three persons who came forward and split the votes between them. If there are three labour candidates, and the labour strength is able to return only one, they cannot destroy that return, because their votes will total up in favour of the strongest. Again, we have now many cases where there is a superfluity of votes- where they accumulate unnecessarily to put in one candidate; where, if they were split, they could put in two. That would be brought about. That extraordinary anomaly would be done away with which now renders it not only possible but of frequent occurrence that 51 per cent, of the electors send in all the representatives, leaving 49 per cent, of them entirely unrepresented. Another effect will be that this scheming, which Senator Millen, by interjection to Senator O’Connor, said was the curse of the Senate elections in New South Wales, would be very much less likely to take place. While at present political schemers and organizers can perhaps tell to a certain extent the result, and, therefore, lay their plans, it will be impossible for them to do so under a system so very complex in its operation as this is. It will also bring about a spirit of independence among the candidates. There is now a tendency among every person seeking a seat to truckle for the votes of what he conceives to be the strongest party, because it has all the power. Under this system every one will find it more to his advantage to express his genuine convictions, because he is more likely to getaquota amongst those friends who understand him and his real political views than when he is playing second or third fiddle in a party where he will be constantly outdistanced by those who are marked by heartfelt enthusiasm in the cause. These are my views upon this measure. It will, in my opinion, give a political picture in the Parliament of what exists in the country. It will give us fair and full representation, carrying with it all those attendant advantages I have endeavoured to enumerate, of true representation of majorities, of encouragement to minorities, at the same time begetting in every member of the community - candidate and elector alike - a spirit of openness and a greater and more outspoken fearlessness in his utterances. That is what we desire. I certainly do appeal to all those who would see the spirit of democracy carried to its logical conclusion to vote for such a measure as this. Democracy is an attempt, I think, to make Parliament a referendum in miniature. This system does that. It turns a telescope, so to speak, upon the political landscape, gives everything that exists there, but gives it in a smaller compass. More than that I think human ingenuity cannot devise, and less than that a consistent democracy should not accept. I thank the Senate for having listened to me. It was a somewhat difficult subject to explain, but nob so complex as many may have thought from the abstruse statement of Senator Clemons. I sincerely hope that the second reading of the Bill will be carried.
– I listened with great pleasure to Senator Harney. We do not often hear him, and it increases our delight when we do. At the same time I prefer, on the whole, the calmer, well-considered Opinions that he obtains in his chambers when he comes to think about the matter, to the opinions which he expresses under the inspiration of the leader of the Government in the Senate. The honorable senator told us with charming ingenuousness that until he heard Senator O’Connor, who really did not deal with the question in the slightest degree, but smoothed it over with a reference to a subject-matter which was comparatively of minor importance, his view was in entirely the opposite direction.
– No ; I said I had not really considered the question until he explained it.
– The impression which the honorable and learned senator conveyed to me was that his view was entirely in the opposite direction until the ingenuous and charming speech of Senator O’Connor satisfied him on the whole question. I do not think there is any Bill I have ever disagreed with more than I do with this Bill. I look on the system of proportional voting, be it the Hare-Spence, or any other system you like to talk about, as the smallest part of the whole thing. That is introduced as a glamour, but there are questions much larger than any matter referring to the vote which have first to be considered. Let us consider the constitutional position first of all. Constitutionally we ought to have a voice in settling how the electors are to act in sending members to the Senate. Those of us who have had any concern in framing the Constitution know what a fight there was to preserve the right of both Houses, and prevent one from encroaching too much upon the other. Yet Ave begin in this Bill by ignoring our own rights. However, as the usual time for adjournment has passed, I hope I may have leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Resolved on motion (by Senator O’Connor) -
That Senator Sir Johu Downer have leave to continue the debate on its resumption tomorrow.
Motion (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That the debate be adjourned.
– On that motion, I should like to ask whether it is worth while fixing the continuance of the debate for to-morrow? I suggest that it should be fixed for a month hence. I am not suggesting this in any hostility to the merits of the Bill, but because it is hardly worth our while to go on with the second-reading debate when there is not the least probability of the measure being passed this session.
– There is every likelihood of it.
– We have nothing before us except this Bill, and we ought to pass it.
– I do not think the Bill is going to be passed into law this session. We are only waiting for the Tariff, and are marking time until we get it. The Bill deals with machinery, which is entirely dependent upon another measure which is now before another branch of the Legislature, and has been before it since the month of June, when the Franchise Bill, to which I refer, was read a first time.
– That makes no difference.
– It makes all the difference in the world. “What is the use of passing a machinery Bill in relation to a system of election and franchise which is not in existence ?
– It will apply to the existing franchise.
– What about the Customs Bill, which was introduced before the Tariff?
– That applies to existing Tariffs.
– And to future Tariffs.
– This Bill applies to the existing franchise.
– The machinery of this Bill will not apply unless we have uniform adult suffrage. The VicePresident of the Executive Council said as much in his speech.
– I never said anything of the sort. I said that the franchise was part of the Government policy.
-I am suggesting whether it is desirable that this second-reading debate should be continued to-morrow, or whether it would not be better to adjourn it until, say, the 4th or 5th of March,
– I regret that I cannot accede to the request of Senator Symon, who does not seem to realize the importance of carrying this measure into law this session, nor the earnest desire which the Government has to do that. In the first instance, I wish to correct a misapprehension. This is a machinery Bill which will apply to any franchise that happens to exist in the States. Before there is uniform franchise it will apply to the franchises as they are. If the honorable senator looks at the Bill carefully he will find that there is not a line of it that would, not bo equally applicable to the existing franchise as it is to that which is contemplated by the measure now before the other House. I make that statement without the slightest hesitation, having looked at the matter very carefully. There is another matter arising out of that to which I desire to refer. The Franchise Bill itself is a short measure containing no debatable matter, or only matter, which, if debatable, has. been practically settled already all over Australia. Therefore the discussion upon it cannot occupy much time. The main reason for passing this measure into law is that, so far as the Senate itself is concerned, there must be an election at the end of next year at the very latest. In order to get the rolls ready, to have the divisions made, and to carry out all the preparations necessary under this Bill, the Government must begin to take action very early, and unless that is done in relation to all the machinery of the Bill, it will be impossible for it to become law in time for the ordinary elections which must take place. That is the reason for the urgency of this Bill, to say nothing of the desirability of having such a law in the event of it being necessary to obtain the opinion of the people on any issue that may arise. These few facts emphasize the importance of carrying this measure into law as early as possible. Now we corns to the question of the possibility of carrying this measure into law this session. The honorable and learned senator seems to hold the mistaken view that the Senate has only to wait for the Tariff. If there is a measure of this kind, of infinite importance and urgency, with which we can deal, surely we are bound, in the interests of the people who sent us here, to proceed with its consideration. I should be very sorry to take any action which would interfere with the passing of this Bill into law at the earliest possible moment. I have no doubt that we shall be able to pass it before the Tariff comes to us from the other House, and that the House of Representatives will be able to deal with it after the Tariff leaves that Chamber. Thus there is every reason to hope that the Bill will become law this session. ‘ Why should we lose to-morrow? I am sure that many honorable senators are ready to speak on the second reading. Is there any reason why we should lose a whole day when this important work lies ready to our hands? I should be very glad if I could fall in with Senator Downer’s suggestion, and I appreciate the spirit in which it is made, but it is impossible for me to assent to any such proposal.
– The PostmasterGeneral said we would decide that to-morrow.
– Of course, the Postmaster-General is right in saying that the matter is open to be decided to-morrow.
So far as the intention of the Government is concerned, however, I state now, so that it may be plainly understood, that we intend to go on with the consideration of this measure to-morrow.
– And next week ?
– That is another matter, because I am going to ask the Senate to allow me to give notice of a motion which may make it impossible to go on with this Bill next week. But, while we are able to do so, we should certainly proceed with its consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I beg to give notice that to-morrow I shall move -
That, to enable the members of the Senate to visit, proposed sites of the federal capital, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, the 23th inst. , at half -past two o’clock.
Senate adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 February 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020206_senate_1_7/>.