1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– No such proclamation has been made.
Resolved (on motion by Senator Ewing) -
That one month’s leave of absencebe granted to Senator Harney on the ground of urgent private business.
Debate resumed from 5th March(vide page 10.637) on motion by Senator O’Connor
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Sir Josiah Symon had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted : - “having regard to the advanced period of the session, and to the fact that Parliament has not yet dealt with the question of a uniform franchise in all the States, it is not expedient to proceed further with the consideration of this Bill.”
– I have to compliment those honorable senators who have spoken. In many respects they deserve to be complimented. They have endeavoured to make the position they occupy as clear as possible. Whether they have succeeded or not is not their fault. It may bo the fault of some of us who had not comprehension to grasp all the details into which they went. Our first duty is to consider whether an Electoral Bill ought to be passed as soon as possible.
It has been objected that this Bill should not have been introduced at this late stage of the session. That objection could be raised to any Bill which might be introduced now. It could be raised to the introduction of the Appropriation Bill or the Tariff Bill. How do honorable senators know that this is a late stage of the session? Parliament may continue to sit for six months, consequently any argument that, at this late stage of the session, we should not do this, that, or the other, falls to the ground. It has also been objected that we have no right to bring in an Electoral Bill until such time as we have definitely . settled a uniform franchise. I do not think there is anything in that argument, because a Franchise Bill has been before another placefor some considerable time, and it is only because other business has stood in its way that it has not been dealt with long ago. Then it is asked - Why not withdraw the Franchise Bill in the other House, and introduce it here ? At this late stage of the session, if we are not prepared to deal with the Bill we have, we should be less prepared to deal with two Bills; A question has been raised as to whether we have a right to deal with the method of election that obtains in any of the States. To my mind, the whole tenor of the Constitution is to make laws uniform all over Australia. I ask where the unconstitutionality comes in ? If honorable senators commence at section 7 of the Constitution, and go on to section 10, they will find that it deals, among a number of other things, with the. question of uniformity of electoral laws. It says that, until the Parliament otherwise provides, the laws regulating elections shall be those existing in the States. Seeing that we wish to secure uniformity, and that Parliament has the power to otherwise provide, the sooner we begin to do it the better. Whether we should deal with the Electoral Bill before the Franchise Bill is another question. With respect to the House of Representatives, section 29 deals with the method of election, and section 30 with the franchise. If we are to follow the order in the Constitution, we must bring the method of election into uniformity first, but seeing that the machinery clauses of this Bill are applicable to whatever franchise exists in the different States, I do not see any force in the objection that’ this is not the proper time to deal with the Bill, whether the Franchise Bill is before the Senate or another place. “We wish to have our electoral laws made as simple, as effective, and as easily understood as possible. Whether or not we alter the existing franchise for the next 30 years, we want our electoral law framed so that it can be easily understood, and every person who is entitled to a vote can get his name put on the roll and vote at an election for either House. Is that the condition of things at the present time 1 I ask the senators for Queensland - Has everything been done in that State to give every adult male an opportunity of getting his name put on the roll and exercising the franchise at an election?
– If he has property.
– This is not a question of property, or want of property. It is a question of an adult male having a vote, and if the laws of the State do not provide for every adult male getting his name put on the roll and exercising the franchise at an election, there is something wrong in that State, and the sooner it is rectified the better. Again, the senators for Western Australia will admit that even worse conditions exist there, or, if they do not exist now they did not very long ago. In New South Wales, through” the stupidity of the electoral machinery, a very large pro-, portion of the votes cast at the senatorial elections were informal. That shows that some alteration is needed in that State to make its electoral law intelligible. I do not say that Victoria is in a very much better position, and I am sure that even in the model State everything has not been done to enable an elector to exercise his legitimate right under the Constitution. The representatives of Tasmania have also their difficulties in connexion with the electors of that State. There is not a solitary senator who cannot find fault with the electoral conditions in his State. But when a Bill is introduced by the Government to do away with all these anomalies and to create uniform electoral machinery for the Commonwealth, we hear some honorable senators saying that it is too late in the session to proceed, that it is against the law of the Constitution, and that we should let things roll on in the clumsy way in which they have done. The sooner we pass a uniform electoral law for the Commonwealth the better. I am not going to say that the Bill does not afford opportunities to honorable senators to exercise their ingenuity to make it more important than it is ; but if they do what is recommended - that is, postpone its consideration, or Set the order for its second reading down for a distant date - they will not allow themselves an opportunity to make it more perfect than it is. Even Senator Charleston is going to vote for the amendment, simply because he wants to have an opportunity of improving the Bill. He resembles very much a scholar and a poet belonging to the model State itself, who was always in favour of something until there was an opportunity of voting for’ it, when he always voted the other way ! I hope that the honorable senator will not take up that ‘position, but, when the secondreading division takes place, will be found not only voting for an opportunity to improve the Bill, but for giving others the same chance. The measure has not been properly discussed yet. The issue has been clouded. Only one point has been debated. I have noticed that it is customary with a parliamentary Opposition - particularly with an Opposition which is largely represented by’ the legal profession - to endeavour to cloud the issue. They do not like to set forth the real objects of a Bill, but take up some principle contained in it, and obscure everything else by dealing exhaustively with that point. The first portion of the Bill that practically interests the Parliament is that regarding the division of the States into districts for the House of Representatives. I refer to Division 3. Provision is there made to divide the different States into single electorates. Whether I approve of single electorates or not, is not the question. With other honorable senators who believe in proportional representation, I should probably like to see the States divided in a different manner. But even to carry out our principles in the most practical manner it would be necessary to divide some of the States into districts. Senator Downer, in dealing with ‘ proportional representation, has said that to carry it out effectively there should be no division of the States, and that even if the Hare system were to be adopted it would be better for each State to return its six senators as one district. He referred to Great Britain as occupying the same position, though there are over 600 members in the House of Commons. Because the Hare system is most effectively carried out in large districts, Senator Downer comes to the conclusion that the larger the districts the better.
I do not hold any such opinion. In everything we do in this world there is a limit both ways. We can go too far in one direction, or too far in the opposite, direction. The most practical plan is to consider where the line ought to be drawn. Even with respect to proportional representation the line ought to be drawn at districts returning not less than three and not more than a dozen members. It does not matter which would be the most scientific plan ; what we want to get at is the most practical. I have no intention at this stage of my discourse to deal exhaustively with the principle of proportional voting. I wish just now to confine my attention to another point. In clause 18 we are given some slight idea of what is to guide the commissioners who are to be appointed to divide the districts. They are to be allowed a margin of one-fourth in regard to the size of the districts. That margin seems to me to be too great, and I will do all I possibly can to alter it. I want to show what it means. In the State of South Australia, where we have adult suffrage, the quota for each division would be from 20,000 to 22,000. In Victoria or New South Wales, for single divisions, the quota might be 11,000 or 12,000; but when we have a uniform franchise, there will be the same quota in all the States, and that will range up to about 22,000. What does a margin of one-fourth in connexion with 22,000 mean ?
– If we do not have that margin, about one-half of Queensland will have to be one electorate.
– Surely we are not going to have one portion of Queensland constituted a division with 5,000 electors, and another portion made a division with 50,000 electors, both returning the same number of representatives ? Suppose 22,000 were the quota. Four into that number would give 4,500. It would be possible with that margin to have one district containing 16,000 electors, and another with 27,000. Is not that too great a margin?
– I say again that if we do not have it one-half of Queensland may be one electorate.
– We are not legislating for Queensland only. In South Australia we have one district containing less than 20,000 people, which is bigger than all Queensland. This principle means counting acres instead of men, and I hope that the Postmaster-General does not intend to advocate anything of that kind. I am prepared to allow an ample margin, which, to my mind, should be one-eighth. That would give a difference in the size of the districts up to a maximum of 5,000 inhabitants. Clause 19 of the Bill gives the commissioners an opportunity of considering the boundaries of electorates in regard to natural features, territorial extent, and other considerations. But in no case would I allow the margin between the population of one district and another to exceed 5,000. If it was not the intention of the framers of the Bill to keep within a reasonable limit so far as diversity in numbers was concerned, why did they insert clause 22? That clause provides that when the commissioners have made their divisions, if any district is greater by 1,000 than any other district, or less by 1,000 than any other district, they are to assign some reasons for the difference. Does notthatshow that the idea in the minds of the framers of the Bill was that too great a disparity between the populations of the districts should not be permitted ?
– The idea of the Bill is to get as near to the quota as possible.
– Certainly; and if we have 300,000 or 400,000 square miles with only half-a-dozen people there, surely we are not going to give the kangaroos and emus the same rights and privileges as thousands of people in the more settled districts possess ?
– Let them all vote by post.
– Thesedefectshave to be remedied. It is our duty when we recognise mistakes like this in a Bill to do all we can to get the measure into committee for the purpose of putting them right. I am prepared to allow a margin of oneeighth, and I hope that, when the proper time comes, honorable senators will support me in that direction. Such a margin would give a difference of about 5,000 people between two districts if it were necessary to do so ; and if it was not necessary clause 22 clearly indicates that the commissioners are to keep as near to the quota as possible. There are other provisions of the Bill that would be very advantageous to the electors of all the States. Provision is made for the preparation of new rolls. Some honorable senators may say that we should take the existing rolls of the different States until such time as we pass our Franchise Bill, and have a uniform law. Why can we not make a uniform law with respect to the rolls at present? Why should we not endeavour to get all the adult males of Queensland, New South Wales, and other parts of the Commonwealth on to the electoral roll ? Why should we not give them facilities under legislation of this description for exercising the rights they have obtained under the Commonwealth Constitution 1 This Bill by its machinery gives us an opportunity of doing these things. It is never too late to begin to do work of that description, and the sooner we set about it the more we shall be considering the interests of the people. There- are other provisions in the measure permitting electors who may reside at a distance from polling places to register their votes without difficulty. In that respect the Bill would effect a great improvement on any law that exists in any of the States. Although I am not in favour of voting by post as a general principle, there are circumstances in which it .might “be carried out with advantage. It is our duty to make it easy for those who reside at great distances from polling places to record their votes, so that no one in the Commonwealth shall be without an opportunity of obtaining representation in the Parliament. There are many other provisions in the Bill that I might enumerate, and which are to the advantage of the elector. If there ai-e provisions in any portion of the’ measure which can be amended, it is our duty to give serious consideration to them, and to make a perfect Bill as nearly as we can, >even though we do not agree with the propositions embodied in clauses 146 and 147. I do not think it is necessary for me to say more as to the advisableness of honorable senators voting for the second reading of the Bill in order that these machinery clauses may be passed into law, notwithstanding that some may not be in favour of effective voting, proportional representation, the contingent vote, or anything of the kind. If honorable senators do not agree with the two great principles in the Bill, they can be done away with by a simple alteration of one or two clauses. But because thev do not agree with those principles, some honorable senators propose to destroy the whole of the benefits which might be derived from the passing of the Bill into law. I desire now to come to the particular principles in the Bill which have been discussed so thoroughly. I have no desire to dwell upon them at great length, for I am sure that the Vice-President of the Executive “ Council in his reply will be able to clear away a good many of the misunderstandings which exist. I trust, however, that the Bill will reach the committee stage to-day. I, like Senator Charleston, would far rather see the principle of proportional representation extended to the House of Representatives as well as to the Senate. But when I find such opposition to the application of the principle to the Senate, how can I expect to have it applied to both Houses of the Legislature? A number of honorable senators of the Opposition are sensible men, and know that they could make very great improvements in the Bill. I am suspicious, therefore, that their opposition to it is simply due to a desire to strike a very heavy blow at the Government. I am not going to support them on that account. Even if I were not in favour of the Bill, I should oppose tactics of that kind. I believe in doing what we can to pass sound legislation, and I do not want to do unreasonable things merely for the sake of opposition. With respect to the division of the States into electorates for the House of Representatives, I believe it is the intention of the Government and the framers of this Bill to do everything possible to secure the representation of every section of the community. That can be obtained to some extent by the single electorate principle, for in the division of the States into electorates we are bound to have farming,” manufacturing, mining, and fruit growing districts, each distinct from the other. The result will be that all these interests will have representation in their proper place in Parliament. What I should prefer would be the division of the States into districts, each returning four or five representatives, and elected on some principle of effective voting. As I cannot attain that-
– Why not 1 The Hare-Clark system could be applied with ease to the House of Representatives.
– But the honorable and learned senator would not support such a proposal ; he has already condemned the system.
– I condemned its application to the Senate.
– And in doing that the honorable and learned senator condemned it for everything else ; he tried to find every fault with it, for the purpose of defeating the principle contained in the Bill. Although I cannot obtain what I should desire in regard to the House of Representatives, I am willing that the majority of the people in the different States should have fair representation in Parliament. Therefore I am prepared even to accept the proposal for single electorates for the House of Representatives. I wish to see whether the best method for obtaining the representation of the majority in the House of Representatives has been adopted in this Bill. I think it has. There are some honorable senators from Queensland who differ from me in that respect. They say that the contingent vote in Queensland has proved a failure. I am well aware, however, that it was introduced into Queensland with a certain object, which to some extent it has effected. But the system in force in Queensland is not the fair method embodied in this Bill. In clause 147 every provision is made to secure for every district the return of the representative of the majority in that district. No one can be elected to the House of Representatives unless he represents an absolute majority in the division for which he is returned. Every one knows that it is impossible to obtain two absolute majorities in one division. If one candidate obtains an absolute majority he is bound to be the favoured representative of the people in his electorate. “While we have that provision I think that to some extent we ought to be satisfied. I agree to a much greater extent with the method of voting which is to be adopted for the Senate, although the number of the representatives to be elected is only three. Knowing as I -do that the principle will give majority representation, I am always prepared to accept it. I am perfectly satisfied that in all circumstances, if the method embodied in the Bill is adopted, we shall always have the rule of the majority. What is the objection raised by Senator Millen and Senator Clemons to the adoption of this principle? They say that as the result of it, every fad and clique in the community will be represented in the Senate. If they only look at the matter seriously, they will see that that will not be the effect. In South Australia for example, there are 150,000 or more electors, and that number divided by three - the number of representatives to be elected for the Senate - would give 50,000 as the quota. Honorable senators must recognise that any section of the community which can secure 50,000 votes is not a clique, nor can it be the advocate of any fad ; consequently it deserves representation.
– The system may be applied to the election of six as well as three senators.
– Even in the case of the election of six senators the quota would be 25,000 so far as South Australia is concerned, and any section that can command 25,000 cannot be called a clique. The idea that there is going to be representatives of the temperance section, representatives of the licensed victuallers, the free-traders, the protectionists, and all other bodies, is all moonshine. Nothing of the kind will occur to any greater extent than takes place under the existing system. - Another argument raised against the proposal is that it will destroy the principles of party government. I am not so much in love with party government that I desire to oppose everything that would have a tendency to destroy it ; but this proposal would have no such effect. It has been said that in all great countries there are only two great parties. I should like those who make that assertion to tell me in what country ‘ two parties only are to be found.
– In the United States of America.
– There are five or six parties there. There is the free-trade party and the protectionist party there just as in Australia. There is the Bimetallist party, the Republican party, and the Radical party, and others. Great Britain has also been pointed to as having only two parties ; but there they have the Conservatives, the Unionist Liberals, or the Imperialists, the Radicals, and even the poor Labour party, as well as the Irish party. Still things seem to go on.
– But there are only two great parties.
– There are only two great parties here when we come to decide a great issue. There are only two great parties in the Commonwealth Parliament at the present time - the Government and the Opposition. I do not know whether you would call the latter liberals or conservatives. Our honorable friends of the Opposition would very likely repudiate the term “ conservatives “ ; they would prefer to be called “ liberals,” and to give the Government some’ other designation. Even in the Opposition many sections are represented. There is an ex-labour man in their ranks. There are some protectionists and some free-traders, some nationalists, and even some republicans in the Opposition ; but when it comes to a question of turning the Government out, they all vote in one direction. If we take the Government side we will findexactly the same thing. They have protectionists supporting them, and even some free-traders. They have some members of the labour party, and they have some good old tories. So we see that there are practically only the two great parties after all, and the disasters predicted by those who have condemned this principle on the ground that it would destroy party government are all moonshine.
– We say it will accentuate the evil, and every great constitutional writer says the same.
– The honorable senator must know that there will be no accentuation of the evil, in the case of the election of three representatives with a quota of 50,000 electors each, in a State in which adult suffrage exists. Some honorable senators opposethe proposal because they consider the quota too large, and they imagine they would never get it. But the party that cannot obtain the Droop quota in an’ election has very little show of being represented in Parliament. I desire to deal with some of the figures presented to us yesterday in the admirable speech delivered by Senator Millen. He submitted a position to which he must have given some thought, because it was a most difficult position, and one that could scarcely arise. If it does arise under this principle of proportional voting, I have only to say that it is much more likely to arise under any other system ; and further, the difficulty which the honorable and learned senator pointed out is not so great after all. He took the illustration of an electorate of 140,000 voters, for which six members were to be returned. The Droop quota in that case would be 20,001. The honorable and learned senator divided the 140,000 electors into two parties, one consisting of 80,000 and the other of 60,000, and he told us it was quite possible for the 60,000 to return three representatives, and the 80,000 only three representatives. Would there be any great calamity in that? I acknowledge that it would not be exactly fair, and would not be the mathematical proportion we ought to have, but neither the honorable and learned senator nor anybody else can invent a system which would be absolutely fair with the same number of representatives. What is the result with respect to his quota? With a quota of 20,001 he would really have the largest number belonging to the 80,000 returning three representatives, because if he took three times 20,001 that would give 60,003, and if he took three quotas from the 80,000 it would only leave 19,997. If he took two quotas from the 60,000 votes that would leave 19,998, and consequently it would be by one vote that he would gain the three representatives for the 60,000, whereas if the 80,000 were increased to 80,006, 80,003, or 80,002, and the 60,000 were reduced to 59,998, the80,000 would have four representatives and the 60,000 approximately only three. From this it will be seen how fine the honorable and learned senator cut the position in order to suit his own little argument. I desire to show now what might occur under existing circumstances. Under existing circumstances it would be quite possible for the 80,000 to secure the whole of the six representatives. Would that not be a greater injustice than that the80, 000 should get three, and the 60,000 three? But there is another way of looking at it which increases the injustice. If there happened to be ten candidates for the six seats on each side it might be quite possible for the 60,000 to get all the representation and the 80,000 to get none, because if we have six candidates for 60,000 votes they will only need to get 6,000 each to get in, and if we have ten, or twelve, or fourteen candidates for 80,000 votes none of them may get in. So that the system the honorable and learned senator desires to maintain has greater anomalies, and is capable of much more mischievous results than the one which he condemns. It is not because I consider the system advocated in the Bill a perfect system, or that I do not think it could be improved, and will be improved in time, but because it is much less objectionable than the system which exists at the present time, that I am prepared to advocate and support it. There are a number of people who are afraid that under this system votes may be transferred in a wrong direction. I wish to show that that is almost impossible where a community is divided into parties as Australia is. We have in Australia a conservative and a liberal party, and this third party to which so many people object, and which so many would be glad to see out of existence - the labour party. But it is here, and it intends to remain here, and it has to be reckoned with. The electors mean that it shall remain here because they find it to their advantage. A question was raised, as to the stability of a Government under a multiplication of parties, and it was said that if we had only two parties Governments would be more stable than they are likely to be with the existence of a third party. I deny that, and I can prove it to be incorrect by the experience of Australia and New Zealand. Before this third party, the labour party, came into existence in South Australia we had a new Government about every twelve months. Since the advent of the labour party things have changed, and almost the same Government has continued in power for eleven years. One Government under one head lasted for seven or eight years, and that Government has never been turned out yet.
– The labour party tried to turn it out though.
– That does not matter. I am only speaking of the influence of the existence of the third party. Itmakes the other two parties much more guarded in what they do, and it makes them come together sometimes when otherwise they would not come together, and the result has been that Governments have been more stable. The same thing has occurred in New South Wales, in Queensland, and in New Zealand, and this proves that the existence of more than these two important parties has made the position of Governments much more stable than before.
– Then the labour party exists in order to bring the other two parties together. If that is so I hope they will remain.
– Their existence has had that effect in many instances, and I have not the least doubt that if we live long enough we will see the same thing occur in the history of this Commonwealth. The labour party is too independent not to compel other parties who have not such fixed principles to come together sometimes in self-defence. I was proposing to show that there is no danger of votes going astray to any great extent. We will take the two great parties of 80,000 and 60,0 00 to which Senator Millen refers. Suppose that 80,000 are protectionists and the 60,000 are free-traders, and there is to be an election of six representatives or senators. If the 80,000 do their duty they will put up as many candidates as there are seats to be filled, and the 60,000 will do the same. How are the votes going to be transferred ? Suppose that number one candidate amongst the protectionists got all the primary votes of his party, the result would, not be different from what it would be if those votes were distributed amongst the other five candidates because he would have so many surpluses, and these would only go to people who had appeared on the same ballot-papers as himself. In the same way the 60,000 would run the number of candidates required, and you could not transfer any of their votes to give a quota to any representative of the protectionists. They would take very good care not to vote for a protectionist ; consequently the votes would only go to the representatives of the party to which they belong.
– Could not the 80,000 return the whole three?
– They could elect the whole six if they liked, but that would not make any difference.
– They could plump for three men, and secure the whole representation.
-The honorable senator does not understand that it makes no difference in the party vote whether you give all your first preferences to one man or divide them among three men. The man getting No. 1 votes had 80,000 of them, and as he would require only 20,000 the other 60,000 would be distributed to those who appeared on his ballot-paper 1, 2, and 3, and would be just as effective for 1, 2, or 3 as they were for No. 1. They would have the same value when they got there.
– If they appeared.
– They are bound to appear there where you have an intelligent electorate.
– You allow them to vote for one man.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator know that under the ‘principle of effective voting it would be only a fool who would vote for one man.
– Why not make it compulsory to vote for the lot %
– I am quite prepared to do that, but it will not make any difference, because a man who votes for only one does not put the candidate a single one ahead, and if he voted for half-a-dozen, one, two, three, four, five, six, it would not bring others above him. Under the proper Hare-Spence system it is not so easy to get the full number of quotas, on account of some persons being silly enough to vote one and two and leave the rest out, or to mix their votes in some way. With the Droop quota you can get your full quota much more easily, and that does not mean that you have more quotas. You cannot have more than six quotas out of 140,000 under either the Hare-Spence system or the Droop system, but you can have a few more at the end who may have been mentioned on other ballot-papers who should have been counted. It would not make a bit of difference to them. The Droop quota gives a greater opportunity of returning every representative with the full number. Of course there are circumstances where a man would not get the full number, but still he would be the nearest to the quota, and that would arise from some persons being silly enough to plump, and the person who got these plump votes not being able to distribute the surplus he might have had, or his votes being distributed if he was lowest on the poll. These are the things which really would occur, and that is the reason why I consider the Droop quota, under existing circumstances, even more effective than the ordinary Hare quota, although when the people are fully educated, the Hare quota, to mv mind, will be adopted and found to work best. I am prepared to admit that in clause 146 some alteration will be necessary so as to make it absolutely simple for the elector. As it is now, it says that you can mark your first preference by putting the one in the square opposite the candidate you favour. You can mark the others with the figures 2, 3, and 4 and no forth, and also that you can strike out the names that you do not want. It is also explained in the schedule that if a person does not strike out any names those are also to be counted as if they were bracketed. I do not believe in complicating the issue to the elector, although that is capable of explanation and would not make a bit of difference so far as fair representation is concerned. But so that the elector might have no difficulty in voting for 1, 2, 3, 4, or as many as he liked, I would alter that clause in that direction. Those who object to the principle have only to vote for the second reading of the Bill, and alter the clause to bring about exactly the same system as now exists in the States % That again proves their foolishness in endeavouring to defeat the Bill at this stage. I wish to give another example to show that with one member the effective vote is just as good as with twenty members. Take the number twelve, and suppose that one representative is to be elected out of three candidates. A has six first votes and six third votes ; B has four first votes and two second votes and six third votes; while C has two first votes and ten third votes. There is no difficulty in distributing these votes to the man who is entitled to get the majority ; that can easily be done by striking out the lowest man. That is the way provided in the Bill, but that is not the way in which it will be carried out ultimately. Under the Bill a returning officer will strike out the lowest man. You could not transfer his two votes to anybody except the man who had got the two second votes on his paper. That would leave the first man, A, with six first votes and six third votes. Then, after that redistribution, it would leave the second man with six first votes and six third votes. Neither of these has got an absolute majority, and that is where I consider that the operation of the system fails, and that it can be improved upon. Seeing that you can only transfer two to B, and give another an absolute majority, and seeing that you can transfer the six that A had to C, because he is second on the other papers, that would give him eight, and that would be an absolute majority, and C is the man who should be elected - that is, by carrying out the principle to its legitimate issue. Or, to take another example, supposing that A has seven first votes and five third votes, that B has three first votes two second votes and seven third votes, and that C has two first votes, and, as before, ten second votes. According to the Hare-Spence system, C would be the man who was elected, because you could only transfer the votes to him if the system were perfectly administered, but as it is under the Droop quota, A has got an absolute majority, and, consequently, he is elected. And the question arises here whether the man with seven first preferences is not a greater favorite with the people, than the man with only two first preferences, and the rest second preferences. To my mind the man who gets an absolute majority of first preferences should be the first man elected, and for that reason I am prepared to support the system that is adopted in the Bill. Many other illustrations could be given to show where difficulties arise, but all those difficulties can be got over, and got over fairly, so far as the electors are concerned. I am sure that the electors have nothing to fear in adopting this system. Some persons say that they do not understand it. A man who rides in a cable car does not know how the engine is worked, and a man who rides in an electric car does not understand all about electricity ; but they ride quite safely, and are perfectly sure that they will be brought to. the end of their journey. All these things occur every day, but because we do not understand every detail we object to a thing although we very often admit that the best principles are carried out by its adoption. I hope that in committee we shall have opportunities of discussing the clauses of the’ Bill and dealing at greater length with the details of the principles contained in clauses 146 and 147.
– I should not have arisen if I had thoroughly understood this system. I wish more light from those who do understand it. Like others, I desire to make my position perfectly clear at the outset. If I were sure that proportional representation or minority representation would be placed on the statutebook through the medium of this Bill I should oppose its passage at every stage. Senator Higgs told us yesterday by interjection that it contains only six clauses which could be objected to even by those who are opposed to minority representation. That is the old story of the young lady who pleaded that it was a “ little one.” I wish that some of these ingenious people would invent another word for quota. I have heard so much about quotas during the last few weeks that I do not wish to hear the word again. It is like that blessed word Mesopotamia. It seems to mean a great deal more than it really does. There is a quota even for the House of Representatives. It has been dealt with to some extent by Senator McGregor.
– It only means quo,tient
– Thank you! That is one matter on which I have secured alittle more light ; and I dare say that before I have finished I shall learn more of other parts of the Bill. It appears that the commissioners are to be eighteen in number, three for each State ; but nothing is said in the Bill about their pay. I may here say that I am going to wander about a little bit in discussing the measure. I do not see that I am bound to confine my observations c* that portion of the Bill to which so much attention has been directed, and which has been so little understood. If the commissioners find that the population of a division as delimited by them exceeds the quota by 1,000, they have to show reasons for the difference. As pointed out by **Senator McGregor, the commissioners have liberty to increase or decrease the number of electors in any division by 25 per cent. In South Australia, as he justly pointed out, this would make a difference of 11,000 votes between two electorates. In other words there might be two electorates side by side, one containing 16,000 electors, and the other containing 27,000. In Tasmania it would allow a difference’ of 3,900 votes between two electorates. That would be one-tenth of the total number of the electors in the State. The whole of this Bill is open to discussion by the House of Representatives, but the Senate is forbidden to discuss the boundaries of divisions. “We are, however, allowed to discuss the variation that should be allowed - whether it should be 25 per cent, or only 5 per cent. That is to say, we can discuss something which is of infinitely more importance than the mere divisions of the electorates. “Why should not the Senate also discuss the divisions ? I think I am right in saying that there are members in the Senate who know more about some of the divisions of Victoria than any member of the House of Representatives. I may particularly refer to Senator Best, who is a native of what is known as the Yarra electorate. He was a councillor in that district for many years, and knows every yard of every street in it. Yet Parliament is not to have the benefit of Senator Best’s knowledge, though it would be useful if we were allowed to discuss the boundaries. It would appear in Hansard, and those members of the House of Representatives who did not know very much about Victoria would probably read what was said by him. The same argument applies to all the States. Surely this is a reason why the. Senate should discuss the boundaries of the electorates. Of course it is a very dangerous tiling for a layman to differ from a lawyer on constitutional matters.
– Dangerous for the lawyer, the honorable senator means !
– I am going to show that in my opinion one lawyer, Senator Downer, was wrong in a legal view which he has expressed ; though it may require a good deal of confidence on my part to say SO. I understood Senator Downer’s contention to be that these electoral divisions would have to be framed by the whole Parliament, and not by one House. It appears to me that if the Senate consents’ to delegate its powers in the apportioning of those divisions to the other House, and the decision of the House of Representatives in the matter in question is embodied in an Act of Parliament, that decision will be the will of Parliament and become an Act.
– Hear, hear.
– My law is indorsed by the very high authority of the VicePresident of the Executive Council.
– It might be ultra vires.
– It would not necessarily be so.
– There is another lawyer who indorses my statement.
– According to Senator Styles’ proposition the Senate could give away every right it possesses.
– I do not know that it is a right. Western Australia and Tasmania each return to the House of Representatives five members, but they return six each to the Senate. I think I am right in saying that the six senators returned to this Chamber, for each of those States, are quite on a par, so far as knowledge and intelligence go, with the gentlemen representing the States in question in the other Chamber. Possibly the senators may know a great deal more about their respective States than any of the members of the House of Representatives. Therefore, they should have a voice in the delimitation of the boundaries of the electorates. I am sure that the lawyers will not agree with the next statement I am’ about to make : I would not allow lawyers to appear in the revision courts.
– I would not allow them to appear in any court !
– They should not be* allowed to appear when the rolls are revised, at all events.
– Go back to old Jack Cade’s time, and hang all the lawyers !
– I have no dislike to lawyers. I have had a good deal to do with them, .and have found that they are not very much worse than other people - and not very much better, for the matter of that. There is a good deal of human nature about lawyers, just as there is about other folk. My reason for not being willing to allow them to appear at revision courts is the same as the Victorian Government gave many years ago for not allowing lawyers to appear in arbitration cases respecting railway and public works contracts. In such cases the Government had all the best legal talent available at their control, while the other side, if poor, could not fee counsel: It was in order to place both sides on an equality, when questions of fact and not questions of law had to be decided, that the Victorian Government made that rule. This Bill provides that the rules of evidence shall not be rigidly adhered to, and, therefore, a man may be able to cowduct his own case. If lawyers were allowed to appear, a wealthy person could send a highly-feed barrister to represent him, while the poor man would be left to be jockeyed by the rich. As to the limitation of election expenses, the Bill provides that £250 maybe spent on elections for the Senate, and £10 upon elections for the House of Representatives. In addition to that, a candidate can, up to within two days of an election, spend what money he likes on meat, drink, and entertainment - whatever “ entertainment “ may mean. The Bill also says that there shall not be less than two days or more than 30 between the day of nomination and the day of polling; and; after the nomination is declared, it will be considered bribery for a candidate to spend money among the electors on meat, drink and entertainment. But a wealthy man might see his way clear to spend a good deal of money up to within two or three days. Then also he is allowed “reasonable provision” for personal and travelling expenses, ‘which are not included within the £250. I maintain that every expense should be included, no matter who the candidate may be.
– That would be impossible for the Senate, because candidates would have to go over an immense extent of country.
– If the amount is not sufficiently large, make it larger ; but everything should be included in the sum named in the Bill. There are plenty of men in Australia who live at the rate of £4,000 or £5,000 a year. Such men would say that expenditure at the rate of £100 per week was their reasonable personal expenditure. Another man might only be able to spend £2 per week. Who is to declare what is a fair and reasonable amount to spend on personal expenditure and on travelling ? Who is to be the judge ?
– The court, assisted by lawyers.
– If lawyers had a hand in the matter they would never finish the case, so far as the rich man was concerned, if an opportunity were allowed to them for extending it. As to proportional representation, I put the question - Who ever asked for it? I prefer to call it a system to provide for the representation of minorities. , No such question has ever been raised in Victoria since I have been1 in public life. I have appeared on many platforms, but this question has never been referred to in any way. What is the object of including in this Bill provisions for proportional representation 1 I can understand the other provisions. They are laudable enough. But why introduce this innovation ?
– Has the question never been introduced in the State Parliament ?
– I believe that Senator Best introduced a measure to that effect, but it was still-born.
– Is he nobody ?
– He is not the public. I am speaking generally ; I am not referring to any one man. The question has never been brought before the public on the platform, so far as I can recollect. Generally speaking, so far as I have seen, those who advocate proportional representation are, first, gentlemen who have plenty of spare time upon their hands for working out abstruse calculations, which are of no use to themselves or any one else. Secondly they are gentlemen - of whom I speak with all respect - who are engaged in teaching young men the theory of earning a living. There is another section of people who favour proportional representation, namely those who time after time have tried to get into Parliament. I do not mention any names, but I know some who have always been at the bottom of the poll, and who naturally advocate some innovation in connexion with the electoral system. They see clearly that under the present system they will never be elected, and they believe that if they could only have a fresh system they would do better. They do not care what it is so long as it is a fresh system. Another section of wouldbe politicians favour this principle. They have never contested an election, because they are afraid to try under present conditions; but they think that if there were to be a new system, which no one understood, they would stand a better chance of getting into some Legislature. These are the only people who have asked for proportional representation. Let me give one of Senator O’Connor’s reasons in favour of the Bill -
One of the evils of the block system of voting is that it encourages men to throw away their rights of representation. ‘
I wonder what this Chamber or any other legislative body has to do with a man’s right to vote when it is given to him. Ought the Government to undertake to dictate to any man what he should do with his vote? I apprehend that the duty of Parliament is to give votes to the peoples and let them do what they like with them - throw them away or use them or not use them as they think fit.
– At the last Senate elections that was not the case. Each voter had to vote for six.
– A very good thing, too. And the honorable senator reminds me that this Bill deprives the electors of five-sixths of their voting power.
– It does nothing of the kind.
– The interjection shows another difference amongst those who profess to understand the provisions of this Bill. I do not. I am only showing how it affects my mind. Senator Sargood, I believe, has not to stand for election at the end of the first three years. Three of us have to do so. I am going to describe what would happen if I were to vote for the proportional representation provisions of the Bill. I should be asked “ Are you one of those members of the Senate who voted to deprive me of five-sixths of my power as an elector ?” If I said “ yes “ he would reply : “ You have explained that I can give one vote or less if I like, and now you have the front, After depriving me of all my votes but one, to ask me to give you that one vote.” I think I am right in saying that Earl Cairns has been referred to during the debate by Senator Symon. When the Reform Bill was sent from the House, of Commons to the House of Lords, Earl Cairns - one of the ablest men who ever sat in the House of Peers, and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of conservatives - advocated two “ tacks.” He would’ not allow a man to vote for more than two out of three candidates in either the city of London or in the boroughs or shires. He was afraid that if the electors had three primary votes something might happen. I may tell my honorable friends in the labour corner what this great conservative said would happen if the electors were not deprived of part of their voting power. He did attach these “tacks,” and although the Bill was returned by the House of Commons, and the provision was ‘objected to by Disraeli and Gladstone and John Bright, they had to accept it. Lord Cairns said -
He did so on the ground that it was necessary -for the better representation of the bulk of property and intelligence.
That was the reason why he deprived men of one vote out of three.
– There is no analogy between that and this case.
– But under this system a man is deprived of five-sixths of his votes. There are two honorable senators for whom I have a special regard. They are both young men, both very able. Both have highly-trained intellects. When I state that they are lawyers, that goes without saying. One is Senator Best, and the other is Senator Keating. I am going to give one of the reasons given by each honorable and learned senator in support of the system of proportional voting. “ Senator Best said -
The Senate is supposed to speak with one voice.
– I did not say that. I -was quoting some one else. 30 p
– If the honorable and learned senator will turn to page 10415 of Hansard he will see that that statement was made by him by way of interjection.
– Then I was misunderstood.
– Misunderstood! Let us see what Senator Keating said. We have one honorable and learned senator prepared to vote for this Bill because it will return representatives who will speak with one voice, while on the other hand we have Senator Keating saying -
If a State, however, is simply to speak with one voice, and that the voice of the dominant majority, I contend that the logical principle to follow would be to have one representative from each State.
Thus we have one of these honorable and learned senators accepting this particular part of the Bill because it will produce a Senate which will speak with one voice, whilst another is ready to vote for it because it will lead to the return of a Senate which will speak with a divided voice.
– The honorable senator is quite right as to Senator Best. Ilansard will not help him.
– Here are some figures which Senator O’Connor gave in his desire to convince us that the Government proposal was the proper one to adopt : -
The result of the vote was - the honorable and learned senator was referring to the Senate elections in New South Wales- that out of 182,000 voters 75,000 returned five representatives, and if their organization had been more perfect they would have returned the whole six ; while 170,000 voters would have been absolutely unrepresented.
He told the Senate that there were 75,000 free-traders and 65,000 protectionists. W’here did he obtain those figures from 1 I am going to show how nicely they have been divided, in order to support minority representation. Senator O’Connor told us that there were 75,000 free-traders, 60,000 protectionists, 30,000 labour votes, and 17,000 voters “ who might be classed as independent.” My experience of the labour party, and I have belonged to it for years, is that there is no section of the community, at all events in Victoria, which takes more interest in the fiscal question than do the working men, with the exception, of course, of importers and manufacturers. Yet Senator O’Connor puts aside the labour vote of 30,000 as representing no fiscal opinions. I do not know who the independents are.
– A great number of them are protectionists.
– I apprehend that they have some fiscal opinions, but out of the 182,000 voters Senator O’Connor says there are some 47,000 of the electors in New South Wales who have no opinions on fiscal questions.
– The honorable senator does not know New South Wales. The electors there look upon the fiscal question as a very small matter, compared with their own particular views.
– That is a novel idea.
– It is true.
– These are some of the arguments which have been advanced in order to convert me and others who do not understand this principle of minority representation. Here are the deductions which Senator O’Connor draws from these figures -
The inference to be drawn from the figures I have quoted is that it is not the majority that is represented here under the block system, but the minority.
Like the lady’s letter, the explanation is contained in the last few lines. Senator O’Connor continued -
It is of course a difficult matter to fix, with any accuracy, how many of these were free-trade and how many protectionist votes. I do not pretend to have fixed them in any accurate way.
What is the use of these figures, when the author tells us that they are not reliable ? Notwithstanding that he does not pretend to fix them “in any accurate way,” he gives us these figures as a reason why we should adopt this harebrained scheme. Referring again to honorable senators who have endeavoured to convince me of the advisableness of adopting this scheme - and they have not succeeded in doing so - I shall endeavour to show how unreliable are their figures, and the deductions drawn from them. Senator Keating dealing with the block vote in its application to the Senate elections in Victoria, said -
The candidates returned received a total of 434,017 votes ; the candidates unreturned obtained slightly more, namely, 455,495 votes. A sixth of the votes for the candidates returned .
is 72,336, while a sixth of the number of votes for the unsuccessful candidates is 75,916.
I have very little complaint to make with these figures save that they are wrong. Thehonorable and learned senator has credited the unsuccessful candidates with 48,053 votes in excess of the number given in theGovernment Gazette above the signature of the returning officer. He was .arguing that under the block system in Victoria theminority polled more votes than did the majority. As a matter of fact the six successful candidates polled nearly 27,000 votes, more than did the thirteen unsuccessful candidates, so that apparently the block system* is not so much in fault. Now, here is Senator O’Connor pleading for simplicity -
We should make the duty of the elector as simple as possible. . . . We may leave to theintelligence of an ordinarily well-trained clerk in the electoral office the duty of attending to the rest of the process with the most absolute confidence-, and certainty.
If I had not known otherwise I should have ‘ imagined that this was the language of somebookworm unversed in everyday life. It took them three weeks to figure out the result of the elections in Tasmania, whereonly some 18,000 votes were cast, and therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that it would take 30 weeks to do the same work in New South Wales with 180,000 votes polled. As I understand the principle, the number of second preferences to be allotted is arrived at, as it has been explained, and explained very clearly, by taking the average of the man, who receives more than the quota, and dividing it in proportion to the average among the other candidates when the second count is made. By the way, there were fourteen counts for the Senate in Tasmania, and twelve of these were all left to chance. After the -second count the officers simply grab a parcel of votes, and say - “ How many votes are there in this parcel for Brown, Jones, and Robinson?” They do not go through the whole of the votes. Will any one who is versed in the system say that that is not the case ?
– I do not think it is.
– At all events there is a great deal of chance in it.
– I do not attach much importance to the statements made by the honorable the Postmaster-General, because yesterday he contradicted his leader, and I am going to show that a printed document laid on the table of the Senate contradicts the latter. What is the simple method provided in the Bill ? We cannot compare it, but we may contrast it, with the system in force in South Australia. In that State a man would receive a ballotpaper, and if there were three candidates to be elected - as there will be for the Senate for future elections - he would be told to tick off the names of three, and the matter would be done with.
– He might tick off one only.
– Yes. There could not be anything simpler, at all events, than that. Under the scheme proposed here, however, it would not matter if there were twenty candidates. A man might strike out all the candidates but one, or he could leave the three. He has no need to number any of them, and if he does number them, he can bracket the three he wishes to be returned, and leave it to the returning officer to allot them. He can number them one, two, three, and so on, right down the list of twenty candidates, if he likes. Some electors, not in the district I had the honour to represent, but in other members’ districts, would never understand that. Those in my district would, of course, thoroughly understand it after it had been explained to them by certain honorablesenators. Senator O’Connor says that we should make everything as simple as possible for the elector, and then he proposes about sixteen different ways in which he can mark his ballot-paper, or he need not mark it at all. As to honesty now, we find the man of the world, the lawyer, the statesman, the man who knows human nature, and is acquainted with everyday affairs, speaking, and he says -
I suppose that so long as there are elections, there will be devious ways of conducting them, wherever it is possible.
And he puts every chance in the way of the returning officer and his assistants to make the conduct of elections as devious as possible. Every honorable senator knows that there are many ways of conducting elections. It may be said that the reference was only to the candidates, but that would not say much for the candidates. We hear every day of cases in which servants have betrayed the trust reposed in them, and while I would not go so far as to say that the returning officer and his assistants would deliberately do what is wrong, we know what men are like, and after a couple of months of this sort of thing they would get a little bit tired. The returning officer would go to lunch at twelve o’clock, and would not get back till two or half-past two; directly he had gone somebody else would put on his hat and go, and then some industrious fellow would be left to do the whole of the work, and there would be nobody to check a single vote counted.
– Does the honorable senator really believe that that is the way an election count would be conducted?
– I do not say that it would be so conducted, but, I say, it could be so conducted, and we should provide against such a contingency. We know that there are dishonest men in every walk of life, and it is our duty to protect electors and candidates as well as we can. I am coming now to the Tasmanian example, and I am going to show what a hollow sham this proportional voting is, not from theory, but from actual practice, and from the result in Tasmania of two elections. In the case of the election for the Senate, the primary votes recorded for the whole fifteen candidates were counted, and a list compiled of the candidates in the order of the number of votes they polled. That was perfectly right. Then they went through fourteen counts, and the candidates on the list remained in exactly the same order as upon the count of the primary votes. That is the experience of one State, and that is one reason why the system was abandoned there.
– A very poor reason.
– I am going to show what a sham it is, and that they might keep on counting until doomsday, and the result would be about the same if they made 140 counts. Exactly the same thing happened in connexion with the elections for the House of Representatives. The whole of the candidates stood in exactly the same order when the final count was made as when the first count of primary votes was made. Now what was the use of the intervening process? A rather awkward position in some respects arose in connexion with the election for the Senate. The quota was 3,067, and four of the candidates received the quota. Two did not receive the quota of votes, but they were returned in the ordinary way, simply because they had got more votes than the next man. We know only what the returning officer tells us, and he says that four of the candidates received the quota. I wonder which of those four is going out next year ? Who is to decide ? I may be told that the right thing to do will be to take the list as it first appeared, and that the honorable senators will retire in that order. Senator Clemons might safely suggest that as he was second, but then I would ask at what stage should we take the list? When the primary votes were recorded, or at some intervening stage between the counting of the primary votes and the final declaration of the poll by the returning officer? An honorable senator might say - “ If the stage selected is early in the progress of thecounting I am agreeable, because I was second for some part of the time, and I do not see why I should go out next year, although I was lower down on the poll when the final return was announced.” I suppose the final return will be relied upon, but if it is where there were four who received the quota, and two who received less than the quota, I am interested to know which of the four honorable senators is to retire next year ? There is another view which strikes one in considering this matter. If we are to have minority representation, as has been pointed out so clearly, we shall have sections of the community returned to this Chamber. If I recollect aright, some honorable senators from Queensland made it quite clear during the discussion upon the Pacific Island Labourers Bill, that they were sent to this Chamber for the purpose of sending the kanaka about his business, and removing him from the Commonwealth as soon as possible, consistent with a due regard for humanity. As soon as that is done, what is their mission, if they were returned upon that one issue? If a man is returned for a particular object, I apprehend that when that object is achieved he is no longer required here. He will stop here then to make the best use of his vote whichever side makes thehighest offer - not in cash, I do not mean that, but in terms. What did the head of the labour party say - “ We are up for sale.” The kanaka question and the question of the introduction of undesirable immigrants has been disposed of. We are now asked for minority representation, but have we not minority representation already in this Senate? Is not every section of the community represented.Did not every one of us, and all the senatorial candidates in addition, declare on the hustings that we were not going to represent one particular party, butall parties? Here we have the great protectionist party, with Senator O’Connor at its head, and the smaller wrong-headed free-trade party, with Senator Symon at its head. Then we have the small minority of capitalists represented by, we will say, Senator Walker. Then we have our friend Senator McGregor, the leader of the labour party, representing the great bulk of the people. We have my honorable friend and colleague, Senator Barrett, representing the liberals, and Senator Ferguson representing the conservatives. We have the peaceatanyprice party, represented by Senator Dawson, on one side, and to counterbalance him Senator Clemons, thechampionof thefighters, on the other side. Here we have Senator Stewart, who represents the radicals and pro-Boers, and on the other hand we have Senator Dobson, who represents the very superior imperialists. I think that, if the matter is followed out, it will be found nearly every section of the community is represented here. I was very glad to hear Senator Best’s explanation of the Hare-Clark system, and I thought it so good that I copied it out that some of it might be re-embalmed in Hansard. He says -
Take a constituency of 120,000 electors, with three seats to be filled, and assume that the electors comprise 65,000 protectionists and 55,000 free-traders. Of the two protectionist candidates A gets 40,000 votes, and B 25,000 votes, while of the two free-traders X gets 28,000 votes and Y 27,000 votes, making a total of 120,000 votes. The Hare quota is 40,000 ; that is to say, three into 120,000. The Droop quota is 30,001 . According to the Hare quota, A would be elected with his 40,000 votes, and X and Y, representing minorities, would be elected - X by his 28,000 votes, and Y by his 27,000 votes.
Surely I have heard something like that before, without ever hearing about Mr. Hare ? Here are the three highest men on the poll elected. The three men who have got the most votes are elected. I have certainly heard something like that before.
– The honorable senator should give the context. He knows that I was there proving that the Hare system results in minority representation, and not the Droop system.
- Senator Millen interjected by saying -
Although they have not the quota ?
And Senator Best replied -
Although without the quota.
They were elected under the Hare system, although they had not the quota. There are four candidates for three seats, and without any counting of the secondary votes the candidates are returned on the primary votes.
– I was contrasting the Hare-Clark with the Droop system.
– Senator Symon then interjected -
Not necessarily. The honorable and learned senator is assuming that only the No. 1 votes are counted. It all depends on the distribution of the second preferences.
And then Senator Best said -
I am speaking of the Hare-Clark system.
– There are no preferences in the caseI refer to, and that is where Senator Symon was wrong, because only the quota was received by A.
– Then Senator Symon further interjected -
The return of members with less than the quota only comes into play after you have exhausted all the preference votes. The honorable and learned senator has not done that.
Then Senator Best replied -
That is according to the Hare-Clark system ; but according to the Hare system, what I have explained would be the result.
That is, that the three having the highest primary votes would get in, quite irrespective of what their fiscal opinions might be. The primary votes only were counted, and if that is the Hare system I should like to know why it should be called a system at all. I suppose that system was in existence before Mr. Hare was ever heard of. Now we come to consider the Droop quota, and Senator Best here made the same mistake as Senator O’Connor in dealing with the returns from South Australia. He assumes that under the Hare-Droop system one-half of the surplus of the 9,999 votes belonging to A would go to B because he was a protectionist. I take exception to that assumption at once. There is not the slightest reason why they should go to B. Twenty-five thousand protectionists may have voted for A in the first place because he was a protectionist, and the other 15,000 may have voted for him for some other reason. That is frequently done. In order to show that men do not vote solidly for protection or free-trade I shall take the election of Senator Sargood. He was on the platform honest and straightforward enough to tell the electors that he was a free-trader. He received 80,000 votes. To the House of Representatives 23 members were returned, namely twenty on the protectionist ticket, and three on the freetrade ticket. If the question of protection or free-trade was the only consideration that influenced the electors, and it was according to the argument of Senator Best then Senator Sargood should have received only 13 per cent, of the total votes polled for the successful candidates, and that would be 56,600 votes. It is within my personal knowledge that a large number of the electors threw aside, the fiscal question, not only in the case of Senator Sargood but also in the case of Senator Fraser. I went about amongst the people, and I know that thousands voted for those two honorable senators without reference to their fiscal opinions.
– Especially for Senator Sargood, because of his interest in the Factories Act.
– Senator Sargood had shown a good deal of sympathy with our factory legislation and that helped him enormously. Then, of course, the personal equation came in. Senators Sargood and Fraser were both well known in the State, just as Senator Symon, a free-trader, headed the poll in a protectionist State. The following is an extract from the report of Senator Best’s speech : -
– Hare finally advocated the elimination of those candidates who had not received the quota.
– I think the position is correct as I have explained. But, according to the Droop system, the result would be that A would be elected, and B, the second protectionist, would be elected, because B would get the benefit of the surplus votes, 9,999, given to A.
– Do I understand the honorable senator to say through those quotations that Senator Best contended that 65,000 protectionists ought to have both seats?
– He said they would.
– If so, what becomes of the argument for minority representation?
– I never argued for minority representation. Minority representation would mean the return of the third man.
– It has been pretty well shown that there is great diversity of opinion amongst the various inventors of this system. According to Senator Best the Hare system is nothing more nor less than the old-fashioned system of giving the seat to the man who gets most votes the first time. It has just occurred to to me that the mau who votes for minority representation is not true to -the principle that the referendum should be supreme. I am one of those who believe it should.
– One question one quota.
– It is not one question one quota ; it is one man. I heard the honorable senator interject the other day, but it is a question of whether you will have Brown or Jones. It is not a question of whether you will have part of Brown’s opinion and part of Jones’s opinion. Where fifteen or sixteen candidates are standing, the referendum says that you shall select one man.
– One quota.
– A quota of this State cannot be a referendum of the State. Were the delegates to the Federal Convention elected by quotas ? No ; they were elected by the whole State. That method of election was good enough to secure the best men to draft the Constitution, but it is not considered good enough to select the men who work it. I read with very great attention some portions of the Messrs. Ashworth ‘s book, in which they display a good deal of ability and research. They disagree with every previous writer. Mr. Droop disagrees with Mr. Hare, and somebody comes along and disagrees with Mr. Droop. Miss Spence disagrees with them, and Professor Nanson disagrees with the lot. Then the Messrs. Ashworth sweep the whole lot aside, and say that all are wrong. Last night we heard of a new combination - the Smith-De Largie quota, and by-and-by I suppose we shall have the Charleston quota. After listening to his very eloquent and lucid speech last night, I am quite certain that Senator Charleston has a scheme up his sleeve, which he considers infinitely superior to any other. I suggest that before the Government bring down a Bill of this kind all the authorities in the Chamber and outside the Chamber should meet, and decide on which is the proper thing to do.
– They would never agree.
– I am quite sure of that. I think I am right in saying that Senator O’Connor told us that if a man had the exact quota his ballot-papers would, in certain circumstances, be all re-examined. When the Postmaster-General rose to speak on the Bill he said that that was not the case, that they would not be re-examined, but subsequently he varied that statement very slightly by saying that they would be re-examined.
– That statement is incorrect.
– Is it incorrect to say that the Vice-President of the Executive Council told us that the papers would be used ?
-Under certain circumstances.
– Well, hear what an authority says onthat matter.
– What I was referring to was the supplementary process. They would only be used under those circumstances.
– We are now told that the first preferences are used under certain given circumstances. Listen to what Mr. Johnston and Mr. Davies say in their report on the working of the Hare-Clark system in Tasmania, where six different elections have been held -
As P. polled exactly the quota there is no surplus to transfer, and therefore all his papers are set aside, and he takes no further part in the election.
– Perfectly correct. That shows that the honorable senator does not understand the difference between the system adopted in Tasmania and this system, because that system did not provide for a supplementary process.
– I am willing to admit that I do not understand the question, and I am satisfied that a great many who believe that they understand it do not. Taking the two illustrations I gave, in one case there were eight counts and in the other fourteen counts, but in each case the last count resulted in exactly the same way as the first count.
– The original one plump vote decided the whole thing.
– Of course it did. I think if it were worked out by clear-headed mathematicians it would be found that in all cases it would operate in that way.
– Where do the abuses arise ?
– Is it not an abuse to spend thousands of pounds and to place a system like this before the electors when there is nothing in it and they will not use it? In New South
Wales at the next election, if the same number poll as did last time, there will be 182,000 votes cast. According to the Bill, the quota will be 45,501 ; therefore 45,500 electors will not be represented at all, because there would be a quota without these men for each of the other three. Then, again, is it right to say that if a man gets the exact quota his ballot-papers are not to be used again except in very unusual circumstances, which I am told are not likely to arise ? Consequently, those 45,500 electors would take no further part in electing the other two candidates. A good deal has been said of the block vote ; for instance, that it gives the minority an opportunity to rule. That was not so at the Senate elections, except in New South Wales. There were then 50 candidates, 28 of whom only received a total of 123,000 votes.
– And where no plumping was allowed.
– They only received on an average 4,494 votes each, while the six lowest of the six successful candidates received over 70,000 votes. The unsuccessful 46 candidates polled about 205,000 more votes in the aggregate than the six successful candidates, but in every other State exactly the opposite was the case. In Tasmania, when the primary votes were counted, the six successful candidates were found to have 12,403 votes, while the nine unsuccessful candidates had exactly 6,000 votes. Therefore, the successful six polled 100 per cent, more votes than the unsuccessful nine. In Victoria the successful six polled 27,000more votes in round numbers than the unsuccessful thirteen - equal to 6 per cent. In Queensland 25,000 odd more votes were polled by the six successful candidates than by the ten unsuccessful ones. Thus the returns show in every case except New South Wales, that the six men elected represented a substantial majority.
– What was the minority in New South Wales ?
– Two hundred and five thousand votes.
– That was largely due to the fact that plumping was not allowed, and many votes were thrown away.
– In Western Australia the successful six had a majority over the other ten candidates of 27,000 votes - equal to 46 per cent. Surely that is a substantial majority. As usual, the “ model State “ comes out pretty nearly on top. In South
Australia, the six successful candidates had a majority of 89,000 votes over the other five, a percentage of 83. When the Reform Bill was returned to the House of Commons under the circumstances I have already mentioned, with the “ tacks “ placed there at the instance of Lord Cairns, Gladstone, Disraeli, and John Bright denounced it in the strongest terms. Disraeli said of minority representation on that occasion -
It stagnates representation, and enfeebles the executive.
That was his view of minority representation. J ohn Bright said -
It is the most violent attack on the principle of representation in this country that has ever been made in this House.
I come now to a quotation from a man as great as any of these, and who has not been referred to in the course of this debate. I allude to the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain - an up-to-date man. Of course I am not saying anything as to his politics, but certainly he is one of the great men of our time.
– Surely the honorable senator does not mean to compare Mr. Chamberlain to a man like Gladstone ?
– Yes !
– What nonsense !
– Mr. Chamberlain would never have made such a mistake as Gladstone did in reference to Majuba Hill, and would never have left Gordon at Khartoum. These things counterbalance a great many other considerations in my opinion. Speaking of minority representation in 1884, Mr. Chamberlain said -
I believe that what these gentlemen are trying to solve is a problem for which no solution can be found. They are trying to devise some machinery by which minorities may be saved from the natural consequences of being out-numbered, and at the same time they declare that they will insure majorities their full rights.
Let us see if we cannot judge of these statements made by a great man - great quite apart from his politics.
– How is Mr. Chamberlain great apart from his politics?
– I should have said apart from his political leanings. I was alluding particularly to his policy in South Africa. No doubt a great many persons disagree with Mr. Chamberlain in regard to his South African policy. I am not one of them. Mr. Chamberlain also said -
The two things are inconsistent. When men differ either the majority must give way to the minority, or the minority must give way to the majority. There is no other way out of the difficulty, and if there is any hardship in such surrender, surely- it is much less when the operation is performed by the less numerous party ?
– Every one says that.
– Then why vote for minority representation under this Bill ? If the honorable senator agrees with what I have read he cannot possibly vote for minority representation. Mr. Chamberlain continued -
There is no system of minority voting that I have ever seen produced which does not give an influence to the minority more than its numbers practically warrant, and which is not, therefore, a misrepresentation of majorities. I beg to entreat all those liberals who believe that the people have a right to govern themselves - all those who think that they will manage their own affairs much better in the long run than any selected minority of superior persons - I entreat you to resist the extension or continuance of the arrangements which tend to confuse great issues of politics, and bring into prominence crotchets, individual peculiarities, and personal vanities, and, more than anything else, to defeat party progress - the popular party - in the face of a united party of obstruction and privilege.
These are weighty words from a great man - an up-to-date man.
– What was he speaking about there ?
– He was speaking about minority representation in the year 1884.
– He has changed his views since then.
– I should say, to prevent any misunderstanding, that Mr. Chamberlain did not make that statement in the House of Commons, but on a public platform.
– He is a chameleon politician.
– A very sensible delivery.
– At any rate, in regard to a question of this kind, I should attach a considerable amount of importance to Mr. Chamberlain’s opinion. I recognise that he is a statesman who stands high above myself in connexion with such subjects, and I should be inclined to be led by his view. Will honorable senators opposite venture to tell me that they are better able to grasp such contentious principles as are embodied in this Bill than a statesman like Mr. Chamberlain?
– What did he say about Majuba Hill 1
– I am not referring to that now. I should not have made any. reference to it at all except that I was challenged in reference to a comparison between Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Gladstone, and I say again that Mr. Chamberlain, is quite as big a man as any of the others I have mentioned. Of course it is a matter of opinion. I have a right to my view,and am not at all backward in expressing it at all times.
– The honorable senator is perfectly safe just now in expressing such a view of Mr. Chamberlain.
– When the honorable senator knows me a little bit better he will be aware that I am not very particular as to the occasion for expressing views which I hold. Of course, I do not mean to say that I am better than my fellows. I am not such an ass as to make any such remark. But we cannot all be “ Joe “ Chamberlains - as they call him in England. We cannot even be Bartons, or Deakins, or O’Connors, but we can do what any ‘of these great men can do - and they are great men. The humblest amongst us can do the best that is possible within his powers, and with the resources at his command, without fear of consequences, to discharge his duty in relation to the measures which are brought before us.
– The honorable senator has discharged his duty very well on this occasion.
– I thank the honorable senator and the Senate generally for paying such attention to me on a subject which has been worn rather threadbare. I conclude by repeating what I said at the outset. If I were sure that the principle of proportional representation, or the representation of minorities, would ultimately find a place in this measure, I would vote against it at every stage from beginning to end.
– I do not propose to detain the Senate at any great length, because I recognise that the Bill has undergone a considerable amount of consideration. There have been a large number of speeches delivered, both in support of and against it, and the whole debate has manifested considerable ability. The last speech that has been made - by Senator Styles - is one into the delivery of which he has infused a great deal of vigour, and from which there was a great deal to learn. The debate shows clearly and conclusively that there is a good deal of difference of opinion about the policy of the Government in this respect, and much doubt as to what they really mean. On the one hand we have had it stated by some of its advocates that this measure will effectually insure the representation of the majority, whilst by other of its advocates it is asserted that it will lead to the representation of minorities. We must remember that when this proposal was first introduced - I do not mean in this Chamber - it was devised for the express purpose of insuring the representation of minorities. The majority ought to rule in every community. That has been regarded as one of the democratic privileges possessed by the people. Somebody, or some party, must rule, and surely the party that represents a majority of the people of the country should do so. I fail to see the value of minority representation, as proposed by the Government, when it is regarded from that aspect. Our electoral system has to be built up by means of a law dealing with the method of voting, and other matters relative to that end, and had the Government introduced a measure in which they accepted the present condition of affairs, there would have been no difficulty in passing it. But when we find the Government springing upon us a principle of a revolutionary character, a principle that radically changes the whole of the system under which we have been accustomed to see Members of Parliament returned, we may say very fairly that it is time to pause before we deal with a measure of that kind ; that we ought, at any rate, to give the people of the States an opportunity of considering a change of this character before we make it. The change may be a good one. Soma honorable senators seem to think that it will be, but I do not. Even assuming that it may be good, I contend that it is no part of our duty as the representatives of the States to force a radical and revolutionary change upon the people until they have had an opportunity of considering the question, and forming an opinion upon it. We have to bear in mind’ that the duty of a Parliament is to deal only with matters that have been before the public, and upon which they have had an opportunity of forming an opinion. We should not thrust upon the public any radical change, however beneficent it may be said to be, until they have had an opportunity of stating whether they desire it or not. We have in this Bill two opposing principles ; we have one system of voting relating to the House of Representatives and another to the Senate.’ The same people, only in different units are’ called upon to return the members of both Houses. In the one case they vote in divisions, and in the other each State is’ polled as one electorate; but the same people are called upon to record their votes upon matters that may be submitted for public consideration. We say that we desire to insure majority rule in the other House, but in this Chamber that the representatives of minorities may prevail. Does not that seem to be an absurdity 1
– It is certainly a contradiction. 4
– Yes. We can understand that there may be certain differences of opinion in regard to some questions that come before us ; that the local element may predominate more in one House than in the other, but still upon all great questions the people speak their minds whether they return representatives to the Senate or another place. If the Government consider that the principle of voting to be applied to the Senate is a good one, they are logically compelled to submit a similar proposal with regard to both Houses of the Parliament. If they did so then, however much we might differ from them, we would say that at all events they were consistent; that the views which they proposed to express in a measure were not of a contradictory character. The fact that they are contradictory should in itself be sufficient to destroy a proposal of this kind. The Hare system of voting proposed in the Bill has been regarded as a matter belonging rather to debating societies. It was first brought before the Senate by Senator McGregor, who by way of a motion sought to urge the adoption of the system here, and to educate, not only honorable senators, but the public generally, and thus assist in directing public attention to the system.
– Surely that is a worthy object t
– Yes ; no one objects to the honorable senator dealing with it in that way ; but if we seek to push the proposal in the shape of concrete legislation and to fix it upon the people of the country without giving them an opportunity of saying whether or not they will have it,, we shall be false to our duty ; false to the people who send us here. We ought not to attempt to do this. My objection to this principle of voting has been expressed by honorable senators who have spoken already, and perhaps it is not worth while attempting to repeat what has been said so much better than I should probably be able to say at the present juncture. I recognise distinctly that we are entitled to the rule of the majority, and while I have the honor of a seat in the Senate my endeavours will always be to see that majority rule is observed in connexion with our legislation. It is better that we should let all doubtful questions be fought out before the people of the country than that we should introduce numerous sections of opinion in this Chamber, and thus leave it to a bare majority to decide some great question Senator McGregor pointed out some little time ago that he believed the influence of a third party in Parliament had had a steadying effect upon the Government. It may be so. But if we have four, five, or six sections, each of which has to be placated by a Government or Opposition in order that their votes may be insured, in what direction will our legislation go 1 Could a Government formulate a policy with any prospect of it being adopted by their supporters ? If they wanted to remain in office they would be compelled to formulate a policy which would catch the various sections.
– They would not take much more trouble than they do at the present time.
– The honorable senator says that the presence of the labour party in politics has brought about security of Government. We know what has been the result of a third part)7 in Parliament. From the very inception of labour legislation representatives of the labour party have said “ We are here to give support in return for concessions.” One honorable senator in the labour corner has said in the Senate, “ We .are up for sale, we will go with the highest bidder, the man who will give us most is the man we will support, not only upon questions in which we believe, but upon those in which we do not believe.”
– Let the honorable and learned senator try that on.
– We shall obtain no support from the honorable and learned senator, and he will receive no support from us.
– Perhaps not in certain circumstances. A Government is always looking about for means to placate their supporters in order that they may remain in office, or else they have to turn round and say - “ Here is a certain kind of policy, and now you can take it or leave it as you see fit.” We have only to trace the history of the present Government in order to see how it has operated ; to see how one set of principles has been adopted here under the leadership of the Government, only to be abandoned in the other House under the leadership of the Government, and ultimately to be rejected here. Why did that come about 1 Because of the fact that whilst an honorable member of the Government in another place remained firm in his adherence to the policy which had been enunciated and determined upon in this Chamber, when pressure by a certain section of the House was brought to bear gave way. Some one then said “He behaved handsomly.” These are occurrences which will take place when we have a large number of parties in this Parliament. What we desire is a certain fixed policy by the Government. At one time it was supposed to be that of a revenue Tariff; but now the policy of the Government is protection. Let the Government stick to it by all means. 1 do not want them to give way in matters of that kind in order to placate their supporters. Then we may have supporters of a Government saying - “We want a particular thing carried out, and are prepared to support you if y0U will give us what we desire.”
– Are not all parties very much alike in this respect ?
– I am not blaming one party more than another, but this is what happens, unfortunately, in political life, and it will be a matter for regret if we have a number of parties in Parliament, which must often bring about such a position of affairs. We have to make the best of the position, but we do not want to make it worse than it is at the present time.
– We will rule with majorities under the present system just as we have to do now.
– In a little work entitled The Lesson of Popular Government, by Bradford, it is pointed out that -
That which constitutes the strength of the English Government ; that which has made up its history for the last 200 years, is the growing continuity of two solid and coherent parties. On the other hand, the curse and cause of failure of representative government on the continent of Europe is the formation within the Legislature of unstable and dissolving groups.
– Still they seem to be working away all right.
-We do not hear of the fears of revolutions in Great Britain that we hear of in States on the continent. The trouble in those places is due to their unstable forms of government.
– In England the people are not game to throw the tyrants off their backs.
– There are no tyrants there. The people of England rule, practically, as they do here, and as they have a right to do. Then this writer goes on to say : -
For decent forms there must be a definite and fair policy, approved or disapproved and changed by public opinion. . . . There should be a decided and strong majority, based not upon particular measures, but upon general policy.
He goes on to deal with various other cases in exactly the same way. If honorable senators will turn to any of the constitutional writers on this question of government, they will see that the same principles are laid down by them and the same reasons assigned for the value of these principles. I can understand honorable senators who do not believe in party government, but believe in Ministers being elected from among Members of Parliament, disagreeing with the proposition I have read ; but whilst men believe in the system of majority government and majority rule–
– We believe in improving the political machine.
– So we all do. But there are ways of improving and of destroying it.
– The honorable and learned senator will vote against the second reading of this Bill?
– Yes. We should pause well before dealing with a matter of this kind. We should remember the cloudiness of honorable senators’ minds in reward to what will be the effect of this proposal, and also the difficulties which will be experienced in working it out.
– It does not matter what is the effect as long as the principle is a just one.
– If it is a just principle its effect will be correct. But this Bill does not contain the principle that we wish to see embodied in our politics. It may be all very well to go to the electors and say - “ Here is a principle under which you will be called upon to vote. We cannot understand it; we know that you will have a primary vote, and that if the man you prefer attains the quota he will be returned, and if there is anything over you will have a chance of a third or a fourth man as the case may be ; “ but the public want to understand how the whole of this system will be dealt with. I will defy any member of the public, unless he gives close attention to the subject, to say that he understands this system. We have heard that there are two, three, four, or five different methods of recording the votes, to all of which there are objections. I was going to say that we are called upon to take this leap in the dark, but it is not quite in the dark, because we know that in the State of Tasmania the system has been tried in two elections, and has been abandoned. We have been told that it has not been abandoned by the people, but by the politicians. Unfortunately for those who use that argument, the politicians represent the people, and they know that they will have to answer to the people if they have made a serious mistake in repealing the Act. Are not all these reasons why the consideration of this measure should be delayed at the present time, and why honorable senators should be prepared to vote for the amendment proposed by Senator Symon? That will leave them free later on to express their opinions one way or the other upon the subject. At this late period of the session, when we know that within an appreciable time we shall have important business coming before us, honorable senators must see that it is quite impossible for this Bill to be dealt with. It is useless for us to be wasting our time considering it. Suppose we pass the Bill after accepting all these principles, and then send it down to the other House, what time will the House of Representatives have to deal with the matter ?
– We will give them enough time when we get the Tariff.
– The honorable senator knows that there are other important matters which the House of Representatives has to consider while the Tariff is being dealt with here. It is a mistake altogether to thrust a measure like this upon the House at the present time, and it is a still greater mistake to thrust upon the people of the country a measure which has not been considered by them. We should give the public an opportunity of understanding a proposal of this kind before we attempt to fasten it upon them. We all recognise that the present system has its abuses, and we should be glad to get rid of them ; but no great change in our electoral laws has been thrust upon the people suddenly. The question of one man one vote, for instance, was fought out over and over again until the people became educated upon the matter.
– lt was opposed just as this is.
– Probably it was opposed at first for similar reasons, but, being opposed, it was brought more directly under the notice of the people, who were subsequently enabled to form a sound judgment upon it before the change proposed was made the law of the land. No man talks to-day of repealing that law, and we do not want to have a radical change like this carried suddenly into effect, and then have to repeal it after the next election because there has not been, time to consider it. So it has been with manhood suffrage, and so it has ever been, not only with electoral reform, but with reforms in other matters. I ask honorable senators to consider the very serious objection raised to the Bill by Senator Downer upon constitutional grounds. The honorable and learned senator takes exception to the power of this Parliament to deal with this matter in the way proposed, to deprive men of rights they have at the present time to vote for Members of Parliament. Whether he is light or wrong, is not that a matter which we should carefully consider t Let honorable senators bear in mind that, while we have got powers in this Senate, they are restricted within the four corners of the Constitution, and if we pass a law in contravention of the powers given us under the Constitution, it will not be worth the paper it is written upon. When an important objection like this is raised in sober earnest by an honorable and learned senator who is known to be an able constitutional lawyer, it is well for us to give it careful consideration.
– What is the honorable and learned senator’s own opinion ?
– I am not going to offer my own opinion at the present time. I simply say that this is a matter which should be considered most carefully beforeit is determined upon. We have had it urged by honorable senators that we should have the utmost simplicity in connexion with our elections, and we have heard Senator Styles reviewing the simple character of this measure. It is not worth my while to go over it again after it has been’ put so strongly by that senator. As I have said, I do not propose to go into this matter at length. My object at the present time is to state the reasons which actuate me in the vote I intend to give. In the first place, I think we should not thrust a matter like this on the people of the country without giving them due time to consider it. Again, I think this is too late ‘a period of the session at which to undertake the consideration of so important a Bill. For these reasons I say that the amendment proposed by Senator Symon is justified, and it will have my support. If that amendment is defeated, holding the views I do in opposition to minority representation, I shall deem it my duty to vote against the second reading of the Bill. Some honorable senators have said that, as there are portions of this Bill with which we agree, we should support the second reading of the Bill, and eliminate these objectionable principles in committee. My idea has always been that upon the second reading of a Bill we should deal with its vital principles, and if we are opposed to its vital principles, however much we may agree with subordinate provisions contained in it, it is our duty to vote against the second reading, The time was, when a Government introducing such a Bill as this would have said boldly, “ These are the principles we have embodied in this Bill, and unless honorable senators are prepared to accept them we shall abandon the Bill.” I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether, if his principle of proportional representation is cub out of this Bill, the Government will abandon it 1 No, it is thrown to honorable senators to worry as they like, and the Government will be quite satisfied if they get the second reading agreed to. If honorable senators do not believe in the vital principles of this Bill they are not called upon to vote for the second reading. If Senator O’Connor chose to introduce a measure in place of this Bill, omitting this principle of proportional representation, it might have my support.
– The honorable senator would find some other objection.
– At any rate I consider proportional representation one of the vital principles of this Bill, and it is one with which I do not agree. I think that in this measure the Government make a great mistake in abandoning our old landmarks and adopting something which is neither more nor less than a fad, worked up into some system which it is thought may be acceptable to the Legislature and to the country.
– I desire briefly to support the second reading of the Bill. I think that honorable senators generally should support it, because with all the defects which have been pointed out as attaching to the system of proportional representation, the Bill is a good one. It contains many good features, and on the whole it is an advance upon any electoral system in force in any of the States. It is all very well for Senator Gould to request that the Vice-President of the Executive Council shall stake the reputation of the Government upon this system of proportional representation. I can sympathize with the honorable and learned senator in his position as an oppositionist. He is anxious that the Government shall receive a check, and he can see from the debate that it is very doubtful whether the proposals of the Government, with regard to proportional representation, will be carried. As a true and loyal oppositionist, the honorable and learned -senator desires to put the Government into an awkward position. But inasmuch as the Bill is necessary, and contains many good provisions, we should pass the second ‘reading, and if a majority disagree with the clauses providing for proportional representation, they can be struck out in committee. I cannot fall in with the views of some honorable senators, who seem to be of opinion that we should never do to-day what we can put off till to-morrow. That has been the attitude of mind displayed by some honorable senators ever since I entered this
Chamber. They always seem to think that a time will come when we shall have very little to do, and when we can go upon a very long holiday. I believe that some honorable senators are now prepared to throw out the Electoral Bill, and adjourn for some three or four weeks until we get the Tariff, although it is known that there is other important business for the Senate to do, such as the passing of the standing orders.
– We have taken a very long time about some of the measures.
– I admit that the honorable senator deserves a great deal of credit for the way in which he has listened*, to the debates, and because he has not prolonged the debates himself, but he must admit that whenever a measure is brought forward by the Government, certain members on the Opposition side say that the time is not ripe to consider the question, and that it should be postponed until the people have had an opportunity of dealing with it. Although the people of the Commonwealth may not have considered the question of proportional representation to any very great extent, they have considered all the other principles contained in this Bill. I think we can very well put in the time between now and when we receive the Tariff, by trying to pass this Electoral Bill into law. Honorable members in opposition to the Government may call this killing time, but they appear to me to object to the present Government making anything like a record. In my opinion, the Government have so far made a very good record in Commonwealth politics, and that will stand to them later on. The party in this particular corner differs from other parties in the Senate in the fact that we are at any time prepared to assist the Government in passing legislation, while honorable senators in opposition oppose any and every legislative measure brought forward by the Government.
– Not all of them.
– Not all of them. Honorable senators like Senator Smith have given the Government fair support when they have brought forward democratic legislation, but the honorable senator is almost like an outlaw on the Opposition benches as other members of the Opposition oppose everything that comes from the
Government. When an honorable senator like Senator Gould complains of the stand taken by the labour party in giving support in return for concessions, I think we can claim that it is far better for the country that we should take that stand and support legislation we believe to be good, rather than that we should oppose everything in the hope that some time or other we may succeed in turning out the Government, and taking their places on the Treasury bench. This Bill, containing as it does such, clauses as those referring to the limitation of the election expenses, is a good Bill. We were shown that during the last federal elections some candidates were able to spend thousands of pounds in their campaign, and to that extent were able to gain undue advantage over candidates who had not large bank balances, but who perhaps were better representatives of public opinion than those who were able to spend such large sums.
– But is not that the representation of property 1
– I suppose that as a rule the candidate who is able to spend thousands always puts property before the personality of the people. I think that £250 is ample to cover all the legitimate expenses of a candidate. As far as possible we should prevent a candidate from spending money in ways other than those mentioned in the Bill, which might be fairly deemed to be endeavouring to bribe the electors. On the whole the provisions for collecting the rolls are very good. The provisions for the removal of names from the roll are an advance on those in operation in Queensland. In that State, after having been put to very great trouble to get on the roll, a man may find his name struck off at any time. Some person has been to the electoral officer, and said that the man has no right to be on the roll ; a notice is sent to the man that his name will be removed, but he has no knowledge of the complainant. The Bill renders an objector who cannot substantiate his objection liable to a fine of £5. That, I think, is a very fair provision. In .Queensland, without any valid reason, a man can object to a thousand names on the roll, and not be made to suffer at all if he cannot substantiate his objection. The Bill makes a great advance on the existing system in providing for a court of disputed returns presided over by a Judge of the High Court, or of the Supreme Court of the State. We should long since have altered our system of dealing with disputed returns. It seems absurd to ask a committee, composed of representatives of each party in the Senate, to decide the fate of a member of a party. It is generally a party vote that is given on election committees - or, if not a party vote, honorable members do not care, as a rule, to give a verdict that will unseat one of their number, and in that way very often injustice is done. The proposal in the Bill will meet with the approval of every man who has been elected to Parliament. With regard to the proposal for proportional representation, I am sure thatno man here will deny that, under the present system,- there is a chance of a minority in the State seeming the whole of the representation in the Senate. In the first place, a majority in the State can secure the whole of the representation ; and in the next place, through there being a multiplicity of candidates, a minority can secure the whole of the representation. We should view the question of elections to the Senate as broadly as we can ; we should not consider our personal prospects so much as what system will bring about a just representation. I believe that under the proportional system proposed, if they have sufficient sense to run a moderate number of candidates, the majority party in the State will secure majority representation in the Senate, and at the same time the minority will get some representation. I feel very much inclined to vote for it, although I have my doubts. I must confess that I cannot understand why it is that the votes of a candidate who secures a quota only shall be placed on one side, and the second preferences in that bundle of votes not considered except in a case where the candidate who is elected gets more than a quota. I read in Mr. Ashworth’s book that Mr. Hare abandoned the idea of considering second preferences because of the long and almost interminable process of calculation that would have to be undergone to ascertain what was the value of a man’s preferences. But I can well see that if we were to consider the second preferences in that bundle of votes which were placed on one side because a man had got just his quota, there would be an almost interminable calculation required to arrive at the result. Take the case of 100,000 ballot-papers being used. You would have to consider first the 100,000 first preferences, then the 100,000 second preferences, and so on. How long would it take you to arrive at a result 1 I shall feel inclined, when the Bill goes into committee, as I hope it will, to accept the proposal which Senator De Largie suggested in his second -reading speech. I take it that under his proposal an elector would be at liberty to vote for six candidates at a first election, and for three candidates at a second election. I should be in favour of an elector being able to cast three votes, if he felt so disposed, for one candidate - to give a cumulative vote.
– Multiply the plump by three.
– That is another system.
– It is a system which is in vogue in connexion with the London School Board.
– It is a system which would be condemned by almost every democrat in the old country.
– I have not heard that it has been condemned by many democrats in Australia very strongly. It seems to me that the cumulative vote would give minorities a chance of being represented - a representation which I think they ought to have - and as I think that the proportional system is likely to be somewhat uncertain, that is with my present knowledge of the system proposed by the Government, I rather favour the cumulative vote being adopted. But if that proposal is rejected I shall take the risk of voting for the system proposed by the Government rather than continue to take part in elections under the present system, which appears to me to be so likely to allow a majority, or even a minority to obtain the whole of the representation. It will be a very great mistake for honorable senators to vote against the second reading of the Bill, and postpone the business of the Senate until the Tariff is received from another place, a month hence.
– So many very admirable speeches have been delivered on both sides - indeed, sir, the debate on this Bill has risen to high-water mark in the history of the Senate’s debates - and so much has been said that expresses the views I hold, that I merely propose to offer a few words on two points. The Parliament would not be justified in altering the entire system of representation that has existed from the inception of responsible government in Australia up to the present time without some evidence that the great body of electors wish for a change. What evidence is there in any shape or form that any large section of the community have the slightest desire for the alteration now sought 1 Until there has been some indication on the part of a reasonable number of the people, I do not consider that I should be doing my duty by giving a vote that involves so enormous an alteration as that now proposed ; an alteration that has been very well expressed as not giving six votes for members of the Senate, but giving six fragments of one vote. I think it was Senator Higgs who used that apt description of what we are asked to do.
– The cumulative vote will cure that.
– I was sent here under a system which everybody understood, and I do not think I am justified ill taking the great responsibility of alteringthat system, without any indication of a desire on the part of my constituents that I should deprive them of that which they possessed at the date of my election. Senator Downer has indicated that in his view the proposal would interfere with the constitutional rights which ares guaranteed to the electors of the Commonwealth in respect to voting. Not only is. he a constitutional lawyer of eminence J but. he was one of the legal authorities of theConvention that drafted our Constitution, and so far as a layman is entitled, or dares, to express an opinion on so large a. question, I venture very humbly to think that the view he expressed demands,, and will receive, the gravest consideration from all concerned. But I take itthat this view should have equal attention, - that the proposal for proportional representation is at distinct variance with thewhole theory of the existence of the Senateas representing State entities. It is plainly laid down by Sir John Quick and Mr. Garran, in their work on the Constitution, and itmust be plain to every one of us, that we are voted for by people, but that we are sent here irrespective of people. One State is. represented by six senators, not one of whom, polled, I think 4,000 votes. In another casea State is represented by six senators, notone of whom polled less than 70,000 votes. No one is taking any exception to that..
That is the law. The whole idea of the Senate is that it represents State entities rather than so many people. The proposal for proportional representation, as applied to the Senate, means that not only are the people to be represented rather than States, but that sections and cliques are to be represented rather than the whole. It is a deliberate attempt - when I use the term “ deliberate” I do not mean it in any offensive sense - to set on one side the whole theory on which the Senate is based, namely, the representation of States rather than of individual voters. We must be voted for by human beings - by electors - because otherwise there can ‘be no process of election. We are certainly sent here by, in some cases, comparatively few, in other cases a great number, of electors. The theory, however, is not that we represent those who vote for us so much as the States; we are simply sent here to conserve the interests of the States. It appears to me that this new system would lead to the representation of cliques in the community rather than the representation of the different States. That is a serious, and a very monumental, inroad upon the very theory and basis of the Constitution under which this Senate exists. I should like, also, to say a word or two with reference to the Senate elections in New South Wales. They have been mentioned by Senator Styles in his very able speech. He showed that in five of the States senators representing the majority of the electors were returned, but with reference to New South Wales, he pointed out that the six senators elected did not represent the majority of the votes polled. The Senate elections in New South Wales were of so remarkable a character that they really proved very little. First of all there were nearly 33,000 informal ballot-papers. As each paper is supposed to represent six votes - plumping being forbidden - no less than about 230,000 votes absolutely disappeared. We can have very little idea of what was in the minds of the electors who went to the poll. Certainly nearly 38,000 electors tried to record their votes, but the confusion was so confounded that the papers missed fire. There is another proposition which may be submitted, and which, to my mind, clearly shows that the elections in New South Wales cannot be taken to prove anything with reference to the representation of the majority. There were 50 candidates - which was an abnormal number. Surety in the whole history of the world there has never been so remarkable a ballot-paper as that, containing the names of 50 candidates for six seats. Bytheway, I may mention that those names were so crowded together on the ballotpaper that it was scarcely possible to scratch one name without scratching out the one next to it. The names needed to be printed further apart on the ballotpaper. I explained this difficulty to Mr. Critchett Walker, the returning officer for New South Wales, but he said it was impossible to print the names further apart without having a very much larger ballotpaper, and that if that were done the ballot-boxes used by the New South Wales Government would not be large enough. With so large a number of candidates and only six to be returned, plumping being prohibited, a kind of sham plumping was resorted to. M.en were nominated for no other purpose than that votes might be wasted upon them. It is notorious that men went to the ballot-box desiring the return of one man, and, having given him a vote, wasted their other votes on men none of whom had a chance.
– That was under the block system.
– I have notsaid a word in favour of the block system. I do not suppose that a perfect system can be devised. There is a proposal in this Bill requiring a deposit of £25. If it were made £50 it would make no difference, except to the pockets of one or two persons, in the course of years. But if some means is devised whereby so enormous a list of candidates will be avoided in the future, one of the great objections to the block vote system, as applying to the last Senate elections in New South Wales, would not apply in the future. I notice that there is no provision in the Bill for the continuation of the use of electors’ rights. I am not aware at the moment whether electors’ rights are issued in all the States. Certainly I have been a strong believer in them. In the old days, before the issue of electors’ rights, frauds were frequently perpetrated - in fact, the thing had become so notorious that there was a universal demand for electors’ rights. I believe that the discontinuance of their use will lead to malpractices such as existed in former days. I do not see any provision in the
Bill with regard to disqualification from nomination. According to the Constitution, a member of the Senate cannot be nominated for the House of Representatives, and vice versa. According to State Acts, members of the Federal Parliament cannot be nominated as candidates for State Parliaments. But apparently there is no provision to prevent members of State Parliaments, without resigning their seats, from being nominated for seats in the Federal Parliament. An old phrase says - “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” and it appears to me to be unfair that members of the Federal Parliament should be debarred from candidature for a State Legislature, whilst members of a State Parliament are not debarred from candidature for the Federal Parliament. I think a provision to remedy that defect should have been made in the Bill. It can, however, be dealt with in committee if the Bill passes its second reading. I join with Senator Gould in saying that in past times it has been the practice to accept or reject the second reading of a Bill on its main features. It is not proposed by a number of honorable senators to follow that practice on the present occasion. Undoubtedly the chief feature of this Bill is that with regard to proportional representation. Yet we are told that that is a matter which can be dealt with in committee. Assuming that we have entered into a new career in dealing with the second reading of Bills, that may be all very well, but. I am a sufficiently old-fashioned politician to think that it is desirable to retain the practice that has hitherto been followed in the Legislatures of Australia, and which exists in the mother of Parliaments, with regard to Ministerial responsibility and the acceptance or the rejecting of a Bill on its leading features. According to that practice honorable senators should not merely say - “We will get the Bill into committee and mangle it there, giving the Government as much of it as we please.” Such a process induces a disregard of Ministerial responsibility, and a willingness on the part of Ministers to try experiments in legislation, knowing that they will not be held responsible for their experiments. I am old-fashioned enough as a politician to adhere to the idea of Ministerial responsibility in the submission of Bills. I do not approve of the principle of proportional representation - certainly not in the form submitted - and shall therefore vote against the second reading of the Bill ; though I recognise that in many of its machinery clauses it is - and as a matter of course it must be - all right. A great deal of the machinery of such a Bill must be correct. But that does not reconcile me to giving a vote that necessarily involves, to a large extent, the adoption of what I regard as a pernicious principle.
– The debate, which has lasted for some time now, has been full of most admirable matter. Much of it offers very tempting material for reply, but a great deal of it is matter which can be better dealt with when the proposals for proportional representation are under discussion in committee. Therefore, I propose to deal only with the main objections to proportional representation as a matter of principle, to deal with the objections which have been made to other portions of the Bill, and to deal particularly with the proposal made by Senator Symon to shelve this Bill indefinitely. Let me point out, in the first place, what the honorable and learned senator’s amendment means. He asks the Senate to say that, because of the late period of the session, and because the Franchise Bill has not been considered in the other House, it regards it as inexpedient to deal with this matter at the present time. When we come to interpret the amendment by the opinion of Senator Symon, as expressed here, and by the opinions of Senator Pulsford and others who supported him, we find that time will never be ripe for these honorable senators to consider this question, until, as they say, the country has spoken upon it. But the country cannot speak upon it until the next general election. Therefore the, amendment means that the whole of this. Bill, with all the reforms and the proposals for bringing about the necessary uniformity which are contained in it, is to be postponed, until the country has had an opportunity of speaking upon this system of proportional representation. That is no ground for the Senate shirking its duty to consider this Bill when it is brought before it. It seems to me to be an extraordinary thing that Senator Symon should be supported in his view by honorable senators who have time after time in the Senate and in their own States voiced the opinions of democracy. There is an opportunity now to carry outmany reforms, apart altogether from proportional representation, by the passing of this Bill. I say that it is a desertion of these principles to throw aside the whole of the benefits which this Bill will bring about in regard to uniformity, and the removal of the incongruities in the present methods, whatever may be thought of the question of proportional representation. Let us recall the attention of the Senate for a moment to what the real position is as indicated by the policy of the Government. The Constitution, as pointed -out by Senator Pearce, evidently contemplates that the position there indicated is only a provisional condition of things. When we sat in Convention it would no doubt have been more in accordance with the wishes of the delegates, and more in accordance with the proper working of the Constitution, if we could at that time have arrived at some uniform method by which the people of Australia could be represented in the Parliament of Australia. But it was obviously impossible at that time to arrive at any system of the kind; and, therefore, in order that a workable basis for the first Parliament might be created, we adopted the different franchises and methods of the different States and declared that, until the Parliament provided, that should be the working basis of our Constitution.. But is it not perfectly clear that if it is important, as surely it is, that not only should the whole of Australia be represented in the two Houses of Parliament, but that its opinions, should be represented accurately, as far as possible, and that the opinion of every person entitled to a vote should be represented as far as possible, it is a matter that we should attend to without delay. We have attended to it in this measure. We have, in the two measures, which have been spoken of during the debate, enunciated a policy. The policy is .that in one Bill the franchise shall be made uniform throughout Australia ; and that in this Bill, the method by which the opinions of the electors are to be made known shall be made as perfect as possible. These two proposals might have been embodied in one measure ; but it is a very common practice to embody them in two. They have been embodied in two and both measures were in the same House. It occurred to the Government, however, that the Senate was the House which might very well discuss, and might very well settle, to a large extent, the principles and the methods that were to be adopted in the exercise of this machinery ; that we might do that, instead of waiting here doing nothing, and losing all the time which would be occupied by the other House, while the Tariff was being discussed. Therefore, it appeared to the Government that we might fairly ask the Senate, consisting not only of members who can get away to their homes every week, but consisting very largely of members who are obliged to be here throughout the session, to deal with this Bill. We thought it was a very fair thing to remove one of the Bills into the Senate, and to ask this House to consider and pass the Bill dealing with the method of representation. Now, we are asked to say that, because we have not passed the other Bill first we are not to pass this. What reason is there for such a suggestion ? Is it suggested that the Senate is not capable of doing this business - that because this proposal is not in one Bill we should not deal with it ? Is there the least ground for the suggestion that there will be any difficulty in passing the other measure? What is it ? It is to carry out what, I venture to think, will be affirmed almost unanimously in the Senate as well as in the other House. There are only two principles in it. The first is to carry out throughout Australia the principle of one man one vote; and the second is to carry out the principle of the adult vote. I would ask honorable senators whether there is the least doubt that the measure embodying these two principles will pass through Parliament without any delay and without any difficulty 1 That being so, what reason can there be for saying that we are not to deal with all the reforms contained in this measure ; that we are not to bring about the uniformity of system which Australia expects and requires us to bring about in this first Parliament, until there is an opportunity of dealing with the other. Bill - an opportunity which. if many of honorable senators who support the amendment had their own way, would never come 1 Is the amendment for the purpose of giving time for consideration, or is it really an amendment to enable a number of our conservative friends, who stand behind Senator Symon, to refrain from expressing their opinions on such questions as the limitation of election expenses, the postal vote, and the several other matters of recognised democratic reform which are contained in this measure.
– The amendment has no reference to any of those things.
– The honorable and learned senator says so, and I am quite sure he believes it, otherwise he would not make such a statement. But I say it is patent on the face of it that a course is being adopted which is never followed in dealing with a measure upon its second reading. A provision of this Bill, important no doubt, but still dealing only with the method of election for one House of the Legislature, is picked out, and it is said that, because certain honorable senators do not approve of it-
– A vital principle.
– It is a vital principle of that one portion of the Bill.
– It is the principle of the Bill.
– It is not. The honorable and learned senator cannot say that a Bill dealing with the number of subjects that this does, has that for its vital principle. Honorable senators on the other side pick out that principle, however, and say, “ Because we do not want to carry out that principle; because we do not think it ought to be pressed until the country has had an opportunity of speaking upon it, therefore, we will throw out the whole of this measure, and have nothing to do with it.” I ask honorable senators to say that, whatever may be thought of proportional representation, whatever views they may hold as to the method of electing members to the Senate, they realize that this measure is necessary for the proper voicing of the opinions of Australia in the Parliament of Australia; that until such a measure is passed the voice of the people cannot be uniformly and adequately heard in the Parliament ; that this is a measure which ought to be decided as early as possible, and that no reason has been shown for delay. My honorable and learned friend, Senator Downer, in dealing with the question of the representation in the House of Representatives, made some observations regarding the cutting up of the electorates, about which I desire to say a word or two. I should like to say at once that I have, as we all have, the greatest possible respect for the opinion of the honorable and learned
30 Q 2
senator upon any question of constitutional interpretation. But it does seem to me that in this particular instance he has unconsciously allowed his detestation of this measure to rather sway his judgment. Even Senator Symon could not support it, and Senator Gould would not give an opinion upon the point. I take it that, knowing what we do of the honorable and learned senator, we may say that at all events he cannot have any enthusiastic approval of Senator Downer’s opinion on this constitutional point, otherwise he would have given voice to it. Considering Senator Gould’s experience in politics, and remembering his profession, we may take it that when he does not express an opinion on the point he certainly does not agree with Senator Downer’s contention. I am not driven to using any argument of that sort, however, because I say, and say it with the utmost confidence, that there is no ground whatever for assuming that the division of electorates, in the method proposed in the Bill, would take away the power of the Senate in any way whatever. The Senate has a right to deal with the question of the division of electorates ; and if it thinks fit to deal with it by handing over the work of delimitation to some authority, it has a perfect right to do so. While I am dealing with this question I should like to refer to another constitutional objection which my honorable and learned friend took. I. hold the same opinion about it, and I think the same observation may be made with regard to it - that none of his friends really supported him in it. I refer to the view that we are taking away a right which the Constitution gives.
– Certainly we are taking away a right.
– Perhaps the honorable senator and I may be speaking of different things. I am dealing now with the constitutional objection. I say we are not taking away a right, and there is nothing in the Constitution which prevents us doing what is proposed to be done here.
– We are giving one vote, and taking away six.
– I do not desire to labour that point, because I do not think the Senate, as a whole, will feel that upon this occasion honorable senators should be prepared to follow my honorable and learned friend Senator Downer.
– Not to-night, perhaps, but before the Bill gets out of committee.
– I do not think they will. I do not think this is the time for a discussion upon a constitutional question. If there were any doubt about it this question might be gone into, but apparently the consensus of opinion in the Senate is not in agreement with my honorable and learned friend, and I do not, therefore, think it necessary to discuss the question any further. I now come to the question of the division of electorates, to what I may call the merits of it.
– The honorable senator is speaking now of the House of Representatives.
– Yes, of the House Of Representatives and of the division of electorates. We are told that there is something new-fangled in this idea proposed in the Bill, but, as a matter of fact, it has been the law in New South Wales for a great many years.
– And very mischievous, too.
– Of course, the honorable and learned senator thinks everything is mischievous that does not come from South Australia.
– I do not think the honorable and learned senator mischievous, except upon this occasion.
– Exactly, and when my honorable and learned friend does not agree he is at liberty to say that, but I am at liberty also, when this is spoken of as being as new-fangled as the system of proportional representation, to say that it has been the law in New South Wales for a considerable time. The necessity which made it law in New South Wales will make it law here also - that is, the necessity for having as the basis of our representation a certain quota of electors. The Constitution allots a certain number of members to each State, which changes with the population and may alter at every census, and, therefore, it is right when we divide our territory into single electorates that we shouldmake a quota, a number, the basis of that division. If that is conceded, we may carry it out either by passing an Act of Parliament with a schedule attached which fixes the boundaries of the electorates, or we may do it in the way proposed. If we pass an Ant of Parliament fixing definite boundaries, we are always in this position, that any change of population may make a considerable change in the number of electors, and may put one constituency in the position of having too many electors for one member, and perhaps the adjoining constituency in the position of having too few electors for one member. In other words, we cannot keep up with the change of population in such a country as Australia without either having constantly to come to Parliament to alter the delimitation of electorates, which is in itself a difficult and most unsatisfactory process for Parliament to carry out, or to hand the task over to some such commission as is here proposed, and let that commission settle the matter of the boundaries, having regard to the principles laid down in one of these clauses. It would then be for Parliament to approve or disapprove of what had been done.
– Need that happen more than once every ten years - the census period?
– Undoubtedly it might happen. The allotment of members given by the Constitution to each State may be changed only with the census period, but certainly a change in the population may make it necessary at any time to make a change in the delimitation of different electorates in the State itself. That is the reason why this method is proposed. I gather from what honorable senators have said that, if both Houses of Parliament were consulted in the matter, there would be no very grave objection to the method proposed. But it is said that, because only one House is consulted, there is something in the provision which takes away the rights of the Senate, and whether it takes them away constitutionally or not, it is something which the Senate ought not to concede. I say that that objection is more imaginary than real, because if these boundaries of electorates were set out in a report and laid before Parliament, would the Senate take it upon itself to disapprove of a set of electorates which had been approved by the House of Representatives ?
– Yes, if the distribution was manifestly unfair.
– Undoubtedly it would be in the power of the Senate to do it.
I do not deny that for a moment. But ic would be contrary to parliamentary usage, as we know it, for one House to interfere with a matter which so entirely concerns the affairs of the other House.
– This matter concerns the States as well.
– Would these remarks apply to an interference by the House of Representatives with the application of the Hare-Clark system to the Senate ?
– Then if the Bill leaves here containing the application of the Hare-Clark system to the Senate, that must not be altered in another place ?
– I say the same principle would apply. It is because of that principle, and because the laying of this report upon the table of the Senate would be a mere form, since the Senate would not exercise any control over ifr, that I say there is no necessity for laying that report .upon the table of the Senate, and that to do so would make the proceeding cumbersome and inconvenient. We should face the reality of the thing, and as the House of Representatives will have the settlement of these boundaries, we should let them have it in the way we have proposed.
– This Senate, as representing the States directly, has surely a right to see that the settlement is not an unfair one 1
– The honorable and learned senator, I am sure, uses that argument without reflection, or he would see that there is nothing in it. The States, of course, have a right, but who are the States 1 The States are the same people who will send the representatives to the other House, and the people who send their representatives to the other House will have an opportunity of pronouncing their opinions upon any proposal made.
– Then what becomes of the doctrine of equal representation ? .
– It has nothing whatever to do with the position I am putting before the Senate.
– This Senate exists solely for the protection of the States.
– And the States have ample protection in the Senate in regard to every measure that comes before it; but this is peculiarly a matter of procedure, and it should be left to the other House.
These are the principles which I think it necessary to state again. I have stated them before, though perhaps not so much in detail. It does seem to me that whatever honorable senators may think as to the division of electorates, if we are to have a division into single electorates it is impossible to have a plan which will work better or more smoothly than the one here proposed, and I do not think it will interfere with the rights of the Senate in anyway. These are the only matters with regard to the Bill generally with which I think it necessary to deal now. I come now to the question of proportional representation, and upon that I propose to deal only with some of the main arguments used. The most important of those arguments was one addressed to us by my honorable and learned friend, Senator Millen, last night in his very admirable speech. That was this : The system, he says, will result in the representation of sections, and it will therefore destroy responsible government, because the great necessity of responsible government is to have two well-defined parties, and the more we depart from that the less efficient responsible government becomes. I take it that that is a fair statement of the honorable and learned senator’s argument. It seems to me that he has fallen into the error of mistaking the symptoms for the disease itself. I quite agree with him that the essence of responsible and party government is that there shall be two well-defined parties. But the honorable and learned senator should remember that Parliament has two functions. Parliament is a deliberative body for the purpose of discussing and shaping legislative measures, but it is .also in another sense a governing body, inasmuch as it supplies the power and force which is behind the Executive Government. Those are the two functions of Parliament, and I think every one will admit that if we are to have Parliament in its governing function, in its greatest strength, we must have two parties and two parties only, and the more we depart from that the more we weaken Parliament as an executive power. Can any one doubt, upon looking back a little upon the history of the matter, that the strongest days of parliamentary government were the days of the younger Pitt and the days following that time before reform ? But immediately the people got reform and immediately they altered the condition of parties from what it was in those days they began to weaken the Executive Government. I suppose there never was a time in the history of Great Britain when the Executive Government was stronger than it was in the days when Pitt on the one side andFox on the other, led those great parties. They consisted, no doubt, of a few very able men, but the rest were rank and’ file, and almost dumb rank and file, men who were party men in the sense that they
Always voted at their party’s call,
And never thought of thinking for themselves at all.
Those were the ideal party men, and every member of a Government and every man who has had executive work to carry out would like to see those days again. There can be.no doubt about that. I say there never was a time in the history of the Empire when the Executive Government was so strong as it was in the days when there were only the two parties, and when those parties were disciplined in such a way that they were absolutely solid bodies on each side of the House. Why was it that those parties were enabled to maintain such marvellous discipline? Why was it that they were such solid parties ; and why was it that there were only two parties ? It was because, in those days, it was the leaders who fixed the policy - the people had very little to say to it. It was the leaders who fixed the policy, and they got their men into Parliament to support that policy. Those men went into Parliament and helped their leaders, because there were prizes and rewards in the shape of fees, emoluments, and distinctions, which came tothemembers whofaithf ully and loyally followed their party. But whenever a difference was made in that matter, when the franchise was extended, when public discussion became more common, when the power of the press was extended, and when men began to think independently, we began to have parties formed outside, and immediately we had parties formed outside, we had parties formed inside Parliament also. The reason why we had only two parties in Parliament was that there were only two parties outside, because public opinion had not formed itself outside, but immediately public opinion did form itself outside we, had, by whatever method it was brought about, a reflex and reproduction of that opinion in the House of Parliament. I ask any honorable senator who has followed the history of Great Britain, and of responsible government since, whether that tendency has not displayed itself in a marked degree? And now we have in the Parliament of Great Britain - I do not care in what way obtained - a reflex and reproduction of the opinions outside. The only country in the world where we have two solid parties outside of Parliament is America. And why ? Because the machine keeps the two parties solid. Why does the machine keep the parties solid ? . Because the election of members there is only an incident in the selection of a vast number of officeholders. When the republican or democratic ticket comes out, that is seen. But there are, in addition to that, all the State offices which can be filled by election, from the position of the State Governor down to the positions of the State policemen. Those are the prizes of the governing party, and thus you get two solid parties outside Parliament, and two solid parties inside Parliament. But does that sort of thing happen anywhere else where you have responsible government? No. Wherever public opinion is divided, the opinion of the representatives of the people will be divided. My honorable friends opposite mistake the symptoms for the disease. As time goes on, and people begin to take more interest in politics, and public discussion throws light upon different phases of public opinion, they will insist upon having those phases of opinion represented inParliament, and whatever your machinery or party organization, you cannot prevent that representation. There has been a great deal of sneering at the representation of factions. It has been said that the Bill will give representation to such bodies as the licensed victuallers, the teetotallers, the prohibitionists, and other small bodies. But have not those bodies representation now ? The great parties may lay down the dominant issues of an election, but, besides those who take sides upon those issues, there are persons - we will take the prohibitionists as an illustration - who say that their particular views are of much more importance. They prepare a prohibitionist bunch and vote solidly for that bunch ; and they obtain representation by misuse of the block system. If a party like the prohibitionists know that they cannot elect more than one representative, their followers are instructed, where there are, say, six candidates to be elected, to vote for the selected candidate, and - not any five others whom they consider best fitted for the position, but - to use a common expression - five “ wasters,” five candidates who have no chance of being elected.
– They generally plump.
– Where plumping is permitted, they plump. In that way they attain their ends by a misuse of the electoral privilege.
– Sometimes a “ waster “ gets in.
– That is another objection to the system. It is an inevitable law in political affairs that, whatever your mechanical contrivances or your party organizations, you cannot prevent any considerable body of public opinion from being represented in Parliament.
– That is only right.
– Yes ; but under the block system, if a minority, it can get itself represented only by devious and irregular ways. Under the circumstances, the present electoral machinery does not, and cannot, work truly ; and as a result you may have a representation which is entirely opposed to the wishes of the majority of the community. Why is it that these anomalies occur, and that public opinion will have itself represented ? It is because Parliament is a different body now from what it was when Burke spoke of the British Constitution as the most marvellous that had ever been devised. No doubt it is a marvellous Constitution ; but , its most marvellous quality is its adaptability to the changing spirit of the times. There have been half-a-dozen periods in the history of England when, if parliamentary procedure and methods had stood in the way of the accomplishment of the will of the community, our Constitution would have been swept away as thrones and Legislatures and forms of government have been swept away in other countries when they stood between the people and the realization of their wishes. We have now arrived at a time when our machinery for the representation of public opinion is inadequate. Public opinion gets itself represented, but only by indirect and devious ways. If we want to make our parliamentary system efficient, we can only do so by providing means for the direct representation of public opinion in Parliament.
– New classes and new parties have arisen.
– My point ‘ is, not that the system of responsible government is altering, but that the multiplication of parties tend to weaken it, and that the proposed electoral law will tend to encourage the multiplication of parties. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council admit that ?
– It will not multiply parties. The representation of parties and factions which takes place now is sometimes inadequate, but at other times it is altogether out of proportion to their importance. It may happen that the issue separating the two chief parties in the Parliament is that of free-trade or protec- tion. Let us assume that a prohibitionist and two or three of his friends have got into Parliament, and a critical division is about to take place. It then happens that the prohibitionist and his followers control the situation. They naturally say : “ We can make this side or the other the victors. We intend to carry out pur principles, and we shall therefore throw in our weight with the party most in favour of our views.” The result is that the prohibitionist party gets infinitely more power than the number of its adherents entitle it to. That is the resultunder the present electoral system.
– And it is the result which the proposed system will make certain.
– I think I can demonstrate that it will not make it certain. No party will be entitled to representation unless it can command a quota of votes. Taking the total number of voters in New South Wales as 182,000, the quota there would be 26,000.
– In New South Wales the total number of voters who went to the poll was about 220,000, so that the quota would be more than 26,000. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has overlooked the large number of wasted votes.
– I take it that in stating the quota as 26,000 I am under the mark. But can any one say that an opinion which is held by 26,000 persons is not entitled to a voice in Parliament t Under the present electoral system, we indirectly, and in many cases improperly, have the representation of every shade of opinion, and very often the representatives of that opinion have an influence in Parliament disproportionate to their numbers. But when those who hold a certain opinion can openly vote for it, and number a quota of the electors, their voice is a voice which should be heard in Parliament. It has been said that we shall destroy party government, and the lines of demarcation of parties, by the representation of opinions in this way.
-That has been said by the advocates of proportional representation.
– No advocate of proportional representation has intimated, even indirectly, that this system will prevent the formation of parties.
– No, but it will end party government as we understand it. Senator Best has said so, and Professor Nanson says so.
– I take it that party government as an institution has been failing for many years. Why should we suppose that of all the’ insitutionists under the British Constitution that alone will survive the changes of social condition which time brings about 1 I dare say that in the Parliaments preceding the abolition of Old Sarum and the Rotten Boroughs there were men who used the same argument as ‘my honorable friend is using to-day. No institution is perfect, and no institution can hope to be always the same. If it is to live, it must conform to the changing conditions of the people who make use of it. Changed conditions have come about to necessitate the representation of opinions. If we realize this we have to seek the fairest way of securing that object, and I contend that opinions should be represented in the proportion in which they prevail in the community. What could be fairer than that 1 What fairer basis of representation could there be than one which insures that the opinion in Parliament shall be a reflex of that of the public outside. It is stated that if we carry out this representation of opinion we shall do away with party government, because we shall efface the lines of cleavage which separate parties now. I would ask Senator Symon and others who use that argument what it is that makes a party issue 1 Surely it is not the will of any particular person, but the importance of the question agitating the public mind at any particular time. At one time the dominant question may be free-trade versus protection, but at another time an entirely different matter may come uppermost. It might be a question as to the commerce of Australia, or defence, or anything of interest to the whole community. It is the people of Australia who will make that issue, and not the politicians. I do not care upon what lines parties are elected, or what lines of cleavage divide them. Whenever the people set up any question as being of the first importance, that will be the dominant issue ; and if it happens to be free-trade and protection, this system of representation will make no difference. The free-traders will take care to secure as many quotas as they are entitled to, and the other party will do the same. If, on the other hand, that ceases to be the dominant question, then equally the managers of the parties will, whatever else is the dominant question, see to it that they secure their proper representation. I do not wish to detain honorable members at any great length upon this point, but merely to illustrate the arguments I have been using. I have said sufficient to showthat party government, or party issues, are not obliterated by this system, but that, with our broad franchise, with the independence of thought of modern times, and with the power of -the press, it is the people who will say what is to be the dominant issue. Therefore, it is the people who ought to be represented, according to their opinions, in the Parliament that has to settle that question. Now, there is another matter which some honorable senators have gloated over very joyfully, and I shall proceed to make what I venture to say will be a complete answer to the charge of inconsistency. It has been said - “ If you are such an enthusiastic admirer of this system of proportional representation, why do you not apply it to the House of Representatives V My answer is that the House of Representatives occupies a position entirely different from this House, under the Constitution. The House of Representatives represents the people of the whole Commonwealth necessarily in regard to a number of affairs of local concern. There is no doubt that the great bulk of what are ordinarily considered as local concerns are not placed under the control of the Federal Parliament, but it is true that some of these remain for us to deal with. Such matters as post-offices and defence are left to us, and the question of the management of the railways at some time may, and probably will, come under the control of the Federal Parliament. The levying of customs and excise duties also affects the States with regard to their localities as well as to their people.
– Customs duties and localities ?
– Of course. Take the case of ^Queensland, which produces all kinds of commodities, and has almost every climate. Does the honorable member say that there are not people in one portion of Queensland whose local and particular interests will be quite different from those of the people residing in other localities ? So it is throughout all Australia. Therefore in framing the system of representation we must have regard to local conditions. That is the difference between the functions of the two Houses, and therefore we must, in the case of the House of Representatives, consider the limitation of localities. If we are to have regard to this, there is no system which can be compared with that of single electorates for reflecting the real value of public opinion in any locality.
– But the quota will secure that.
– There is nothing magic in the quota, as the honorable member supposes. The quota serves to represent opinions when the whole State is speaking as one, with one set of representatives ; but it does not touch the question of local representation at all. I do not think it is necessary to labour the arguments in favour of single electorates. I take it that that principle is almost unanimously approved, and, having agreed that it is necessary to have single electorates, we have adopted the principle of the Hare-Nanson system in the method that is laid down here. We provide that persons may mark their voting-papers 1, 2, 3, 4, &c, in the order of their preference. The first operation is to find out the quota or absolute majority. This is arrived at by the same process as that by which the quota is ascertained in dealing with an election for the Senate. Having fixed the quota, or absolute majority, you immediately proceed to drop out the last of «the candidates, and distribute his votes according to the order of preference amongst the others. If, after that, no candidate has an absolute majority, you proceed in the same fashion with the othercandidat.es, until you have disposed of all the votes. That is precisely the same principle a.s is applied to the votes at a Senate election. I hope that my honorable friends will recognise that the inconsistency which they have discovered has proved after .all to be a mare’s nest. There is no inconsistency, because the conditions necessitate a different kind of representation in the other House, and we have provided for that in this Bill. Senator SYmon, in his very powerful speech, was never tired of referring to this system as the fad of a mathematician. It is very cheap to. use an abusive epithet of that kind, but is it justified ? This system has actually been in existence for several years in some of the continental countries - in Denmark, in Belgium, and in some portions of Switzerland. But we need not go as far as that, because Queensland .and Tasmania have adopted it. I will deal by-and-by with the circumstances under which Queensland gave up the system, but the fact that the system has been in operation in some of the States affords a complete answer to those who ‘have spoken of it as a fad. Now what is to be said with regard to the complexity of the system, the difficulties of understanding it, and the expense attached to it. First of all, I take it that some guide will be afforded as to the difficulty of understanding it by the number of informal votes registered at the elections. When this new system was initiated in Tasmania the number of informal votes did not amount to more than 2£ per cent. They have conducted four or five elections under this system in Tasmania, and Mr. Davies and Mr. Johnston have stated in their reports that that has been the proportion of informal votes. Now compare these figures with the result of the recent elections in New South Wales. In the block vote there 188,000 ballot papers were issued, and 38,000 .were returned as informal, or more than 20 per cent. I admit at once that there were, perhaps, very abnormal reasons - if I may so describe them - for informality in that case, because of the number of candidates offering themselves, the shape of the ballotpapers, and other matters of that sort. I acknowledge that these circumstances would account for a very large proportion of the informal votes registered. But what an enormous difference there is between the 20 per cent, of informal votes recorded under a well known system - a system which, it is contended, everybody understands - and the number of similar votes cast under a system which is described as an unknown, complicated, and mathematical fad.
– A different method of marking the. ballot-papers was adopted in the two cases.
– But the honorable senator did not mention that fact.
– I did not, because I cannot mention everything at once. I am not so quick as is the honorable senator. But I am quite willing to compare this system with any system which he can suggest. In South Australia I think the. proportion of informal votes cast represented about 1½ per cent.
– The informal votes totalled, within a fraction, the percentage registered in Tasmania.
– It has become a matter of common knowledge that in South Australia everything is done in such a way as to secure the best possible results. At any rate there is one thing we can copy from that State, and that is the admirable method which obtains there of placing little squares in front of the name of each candidate. No doubt the adoption of that method materially reduces the number of informal votes recorded.’I take it that the South Australian system is the easiest possible system for the elector, and yet the number of informal votes registered there was about the same as was cast in Tasmania under this system, which is supposed to be not understandable, and is regarded as the mere fad of mathematicians. The best proof that the system which I am advocating is understandable is that where it has b.een applied the electors have not lost many votes. There is another argument which was elaborated by Senator Pulsford to an extent which was almost depressing. He spoke of the enormous cost of this system, and made a number of calculations which proved entirely to his own satisfaction that, under its operation, more than the 60 days allowed by the Bill would be required to count the votes. He forgot to tell the Senate that the delay, even in New South Wales, was not caused by the counting of votes, but by the long distances which the ballot-papers had to travel.
– It is just the same in Queensland. Months elapse before all the ballot-boxes come in.
– That result will obtain under any system. If the final counting is to take place at some central point, there must necessarily be delay in getting the papers in, and the period of that delay will be dependent upon the extent of territory which has to be covered, and the difficulties of travelling. Under any system the difficulties in this respect will oe equal. The only thing to be added under the electoral system proposed, is the extra time which will be spent in calculating and distributing the votes. In this connexion I will simply quote the experience of a man who has actually conducted elections under this system. In a note to the report of Messrs. Johnston and Davies, under the heading of “The work of counting and determining the results of the Poll,” Mr. Johnston, ‘amongst other things, makes the following observations -
The work of counting and determining the results of the poll within, say, an hour of its close, might be accomplished with ease and accuracy if the following plan were adopted : - 1st. Set a room apart for the counting staff - properly safeguarded as regards privacy and scrutiny - adjacent to the chief polling room ; and let the work of sorting, counting, and distributing ballot papers be carried on simultaneously with the work of polling. 2nd. Depute the duty of transmitting in due order from time to time the various ballot boxes to counting room to a particular officer, who shall see that the contents are discharged upon the first sorting table by the superintendent of the counting room, who alone possesses the power to unlock the boxes. A spare box should be always available in the polling room to take the place of the box during its transmission and return from the counting room. 3rd. Let the chief returning officer periodically examine and finally determine all doubtful and invalid papers set apart for his decision.
These are not the wild words of a rhetorician searching for a phrase which will take with an audience, but a plain statement of the official experience of a man who has actually worked this system.
– Not experience of that. What he suggests has never been done.
– Will the honorable senator deny that Mr. Johnston, who writes thus, has actually superintended the working of this system ?
– He has never worked any election under it, and the honorable senator said that he had had experience.
– Really is that interjection worthy of the honorable senator? What I am pointing out is that Mr.
Johnston makes this recommendation. With all the knowledge and experience which he has acquired, he intimates that if the recommendation I have quoted is acted upon - and it seems to me to be a perfectly simple recommendation - the counting of the votes might be concluded within an hour. Of course I am aware that his remarks apply only to a city election. I know that, comparatively speaking, such an election involves the counting of a small number of votes only,” but making all allowances upon that score, what possible ground is there for declaring that if the votes were multiplied ten or twenty times over there would be anything in the nature of a prohibitive cost such as has been indicated by Senator Pulsford and others’? I have appealed to the example of Tasmania, because it seems to me that the fact that this system has been actually in operation, and has worked satisfactorily in four or five elections there, is a sufficient answer to all the objections which have been urged in regard, to its being unworkable. Of course the reply may be made - “ Oh, that is all very well j ‘ but Tasmania became sick of the system and put it aside.” That fact standing alone, without any explanation, has a good deal of force.
– We have had several explanations.
– Yes, and every One of them has established the fact that the disuse of this system does not involve any expression of opinion adverse to it upon the part of Tasmania. We have had the experience of Senator Keating, who explained the circumstances under which the Tasmanian Parliament decided to abandon the Hare-Clark system of voting. We have also had the explanation of Senator O’Keef e, who declares - and his statement has not been contradicted in any way - that the whole press of Tasmania, without exception, has reprobated what has been done, and expressed opinions in favour of that system. In addition to that, I have had the advantage of reading in one Hobart newspaper, and two others which are published in Launceston, articles commenting upon Senator Symon’s speech, all of which point out the absurdity and fallacy of the arguments which he used against it. Undoubtedly the Tasmanian Parliament swept away this system. But in view of the explanation which has been given, it cannot be said that such action implies that Tasmania was dissatisfied with the experiment which it made. On the other hand, the most complete answer that can be made to all the suggestions that the operation of this system will result in the return of faddists to Parliament, is that we have in this Chamber the six gentlemen who represent Tasmania. I have no desire to say anything more at present, because I am aware that there are a number of matters which will have to be dealt with when the Bill is in committee, and my answer to some of the arguments which have been used will come more appropriately there. I hope that the Senate will treat this measure as one of muchneeded electoral reform. I hope that honorable senators will not be deterred by the suggestions contained in the amendment of Senator Symon, from discharging the duty which is imposed upon them - the duty of approving the principle of this Bill upon the second reading. Then, if any honorable senator thinks he can satisfy his fellow senators in committee that the system of proportional voting is not a proper one to adopt, he can endeavour to do so. As far as I am concerned, I shall fight the question of proportional representation to the bitter end. I feel that this Commonwealth, in establishing a new electoral system, is bound to disregard any scheme which it thinks has outlived its usefulness, and is not in accordance with the social and political conditions of the present day. Believing as we do that the system of the block vote, with all its faults, its difficulties, its attempts to secure a result which cannot be secured, and its endeavour to exclude opinions from Parliament, has proved a failure, we are not bound to wait till we are forced to that conclusion by the people of Australia. If we honestly believe that this is a reform which ought to be adopted, it is incumbent upon us to do our best to carry it into law ; and I say that this Senate will have every reason to feel proud, if it can place upon the statute book the most perfect system of electoral reform that I think has yet been devised.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 9
Noes … … … 14
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 2 (Incorporation).
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).This clause provides that the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 should be incorporated and read as part of the measure. Is there such an Act as the Franchise Act? The clause I suggest had better be postponed.
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
– I suggest that this clause had better be postponed because it may be necessary to insert other interpretations.
Clause 5 -
This Act shall not apply to the election of a new member to fill any vacancy happening in the House of Representatives during the continuance of the present House of Representatives.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).Is it intended that this clause shall apply in the case of a vacancy in the Senate, although that vacancy may occur prior to the expiration of three years ?
– The case of a vacancy in the Senate is different to that of a vacancy in the House of Representatives. In the former case the Parliament of a State, if sitting, will appoint the member, and if the Parliament is not sitting, the appointment will be made by the Governor or the Executive under the Constitution. The person appointed by the Governor or the
Legislature holds his office until the first general election for the House of Representatives, or the first general election for the Senate, whichever first happens. The clause cannot apply before the first general election, and there is no need to make any difference.
– Will it apply to a casual vacancy in the Senate ?
– No the Constitution provides for that in the way I have described.
– It is not proposed to disturb that method.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Electoral Registrar).
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).This clause provides that electoral registrars may be appointed to keep the rolls at specified polling places. Is it necessary to have the words “ polling places,” seeing that such a provision might lead to confusion ? In small places in New South Wales the registrars are frequently the postmasters, and it might be desirable to have a registrar where it was not convenient to have a polling place, although handy to a polling place. As much room as possible should be left to meet varying circumstances, and it would be sufficient to provide that registrars may be appointed to keep rolls at specified places.
– The necessity for the clause in its present form is that the scheme of the measure is to have registrars at certain polling places, which are really local centres, where the rolls are prepared. It is intended to appoint registrars, and there is no reason why the Bill should not say exactly what it means.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 -
Each State shall be distributed into electoral divisions equal in number to the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).If the opponents of proportional representation are not successful in maintaining their view when we come tothat portion of the Bill which deals with the Senate, they will attempt to apply the Hare system to the House of Representatives. I do not want by voting far this clause to seem to assent to the proposition that the country should be divided into electoral divisions for the House of Representatives, if we are to have proportional representation for the Senate. If the opponents of that system are not successful in regard to the Senate, they desire to have an opportunity of revising the clause so as to make the method of election to the two Houses uniform.
– The suggestion of the honorable senator is reasonable, and I have no objection under the circumstances to say that in the event of the opponents of proportional representation not being successful in their efforts, I shall be willing to have this portion of the Bill reconsidered in such a way as to give them’ a reasonable opportunity of testing the question. We shall not be called on to reconsider the whole question, but only such points as may be necessary.
– I should like to test the question at once by moving that all the words after “ divisions “ be omitted with a view of inserting “ each of which shall be represented by not less than four members ; a State returning not more than eight members may be declared an electoral division.”
– There is no use in having two debates on the question.
– If the leader of the Senate thinks his suggestion more advantageous I am quite willing to wait. I was anxious at a very early stage to test this question, because if my amendment were carried the Bill would have to be reconstructed. I hope an early opportunity will be given me of submitting my amendment.
– I presume Senator Charleston shares in the general desire to have as little discussion as possible. I am quite willing that honorable senators shall have an opportunity of discussing this matter in the event of there being a recommittal as suggested by Senator Millen. I presume that will carry out Senator Charleston’s views.
– This is the proper place for the honorable member to move his amendment. It will settle the question.
– This may be the proper place, but it will not settle the question now, because a great many honorable senators who are unwilling to apply proportional representation to the Senate, may be equally unwilling to apply it to the House of Representatives ; whereas if it were allowed to stand over, the honorable senator would, at the time when these questions were being discussed, have an opportunity to move his amendment. What is the use of taking up time in discussing the same question twice t I would suggest to Senator Charleston that he should fall in with Senator Millen, and when the time comes, if it is necessary, I shall be glad to recommit the clause.
Senator CHARLESTON (South Australia). - If I understand Senator Millen aright, he is opposed to the effective vote system being applied to the Senate, but if he should be beaten in that respect he will try to apply the system to the House of Representatives as well as to the Senate. What I desire is that at the earliest stage the committee shall decide whether the Hare system shall be applied to both Houses or not.
– Let the honorable senator take his own course, and he will be beaten.
– If, at a later stage, I can gain the support of honorable senators, which I cannot get now, I am content to wait.
– I rise to suggest to Senator O’Connor that we should postpone, without any condition, this clause, which opens up a very important question.
– It involves another important question which will be raised no doubt by Senator Downer. It has to be dealt with sooner or later, and it will be better to- deal with it now.
– It is because the clause involves so many important issues, that I suggest that it should be postponed without any conditions. Senator O’Connor, I believe, has suggested that it should be passed with a condition that if the committee reject proportional representation f or the Senate, we shall then have a subsequent opportunity of rediscussing the clause.
– My suggestion was that if the committee accept proportional representation, then my honorable friend opposite ‘will have an opportunity of reopening the question.
– We may wish to discuss many questions which arise out of the clause, whether we adopt proportional representation for the Senate or not. I think it will expedite business if the clause is postponed without any condition.
– I do riot accept the idea of any postponement of the clause, nor do I ask the committee to pass it without discussion.
– I do not blame Senator O’Connor in the slightest degree for offering to give us an opportunity of reconsidering any clause if we are strong enough to enforce our will. Meanwhile we are expected to run through a most vital clause with a few hurried words on a promise to reconsider it supposing that we who are against it happen to be in a majority. This is the first one of a fasciculus of clauses, and it is practically the test one of the lot. It involves the principle of whether we shall have one system for one House, and a different system for the other House. We cannot possibly consider whether we are to have single electorates for one House, without considering the system we are to adopt for the other. The Government propose to have single electorates for the House of Representatives. The Vice-President of the Executive Council says that that system has worked uncommonly well in New South Wales, and that I am prejudiced against it because it is not applied in South Australia. I have no doubt that my honorable and learned friend could hold a brief just as well on the other side, and contend that it has worked uncommonly badly in New South Wales, as we have heard a good many people say it has done. At all events, I hold that the principle of single electorates is undoubtedly a bad one, and absolutely inconsistent with the rest of the Bill. It has been shown in the course of the debate that if there is one House of the Parliament more than the other in which the whole of the people should express their views by means of the proportional system, it is the House of Representatives ; and if there is one body which especially ought to deal with the manner in which the districts shall be divided it is the Senate. This point is vital to the Constitution. In the Senate we have equal representation; in the House of Representatives we might have proportional representation. There are in the House of Representatives 26 members representing New South Wales, 23 representing Victoria, and five representing Tasmania and Western Australia respectively. When it comes to be a question of dividing the constituencies for the purpose of elections for the House which is assumed to be dominant - I deny that it is dominant, but it is assumed to be -
Western Australia will only have five votes against 26 for New South Wales and 23 for Victoria. Talk about gerrymandering and dividing districts without the consent of the people ! Under this proposal the division of the districts will be left in the hands of those who do not represent the people of the smaller States. Two-thirds of the whole House of Representatives will be composed of members representing the two larger States ; and all the strong efforts which were made to prevent the smaller States being merged in the larger ones will be destroyed in this ignoble fashion. If we deal with the subdivision of the electorates in the Senate, there will be even voting for each State, without regard to population. But the Ministry has asked us to hand over this great power entirely to the House of Representatives, ignoring the great efforts which were made to keep matters on the only pure basis upon which a Federation can rest.)
– The honorable and learned senator is anticipating.
– I want at the first opportunity, after the Government have carried the second reading of the Bill, to test this point, as one that is vital. This is the most appropriate clause at which to discuss it.
– I rise to a point of order. We are now upon clause 13. What Senator Downer is saying has nothing to do with the question dealt with in the clause. The mode in which the clause is to be carried out is dealt with in clauses 23 and 24, which set forth what is to be done to make the report of the commissioners final. The point to which my honorable and learned friend is addressing himself is entirely involved in those two clauses. It will be very inconvenient to depart from the usual rule that an honorable senator is confined to the subject-matter of the clause under discussion. I submit that under clause 13 the sole question that can be discussed is : Shall each State be distributed into electoral divisions equal in number to the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein.
That is a clear-cut issue which has nothing to do with the other points raised by Senator Downer.
– I would point out that this part of the Bill is under the heading of “ Electoral divisions.” Those are the general regulating words that cover the -whole, and on the first clause under that part of the Bill we have the first .opportunity of testing the question of whether pr not we are to have single electorates. I ask you to rule, Mr. Chairman, that it is impossible to discuss that question without referring incidentally to the clauses that come under Part 3., and what is to be done with respect to the other House.
– I cannot prevent the honorable and learned senator from discussing the question of single electorates under clause 13, but the constitutional question as to the rights of this Chamber cannot be discussed under it. It is usual on reaching on early clause in a division or part to submit an amendment with a view of testing a general question dealt with by that division or part, and, of course, if there were such an amendment before the Choir, I should be obliged to allow a general discussion.
– When I spoke on the second reading, I was not antagonistic to the division of the States into electorates for the House of Representatives, and possibly into single electorates, if it were found advisable to do so ; but at first sight I was against single divisions altogether, and desired the commissions to simply report to both Houses, leaving them to decide. Having heard the discussion since, I am not prepared to agree to one word in this clause. We know from their speeches that many honorable senators who voted for the second reading of the Bill are practically opposed to it, and I thought it would save time if, at the first opportunity, we tested the question of divisions, and decided what we were really agreed-upon. I do not favour single electorates. I think that it would have been much better if, instead of laying down an arbitrary rule that we ore to have single electorates, to be established after the precedent of New South Wales, we had appointed a commission to report - not with the view of dividing the States into single electorates - as to the best divisions that could be made. Then we should have had the whole question before the two Houses, and would have been able to decide.The Government, however, begin by saying that we are not to have anything todo with it. This clause places the responsibility with the other branch of the .Legislature-
– That is, under clauses 23 and 24.
– The Chairman has agreed that it is covered by this clause.
– I trust the honorable and learned senator will understand exactly what I said. He can discuss the question of equal electorates upon this clause, pr if he chooses to put an amendment by way of a test question as to the desirability of uniformity between the two Houses, he may discuss the general question. I hare no amendment before me proposing such a test question, and consequently the honorable and learned senator, is confined to the discussion of the question of equal electorates.
– In order to test the question I will move an amendment.
– If the honorable and learned senator will allow me, I will make a suggestion which I think will carry out his views. The question he wishes to raise, as I understand it, is this : He contends that Parliament, and not one House of Parliament, should have the settlement of the boundaries of electorates. The other question is whether there ought to be single electorates at all. That question is raised in clause 13, and if Senator Downer does not wish to have single electorates, he can negative that clause. The other question is raised expressly by clauses 23 and 24, and I submit that it is upon those clauses that question should be discussed. If the honorable and learned senator were to move an amendment upon this clause, involving the matter contained in clauses 23 and 24, he would only be duplicating debate and confusing the issue. My honorable and learned friend will understand that I have no wish to burk discussion, and I am quite willing to meet him in any way he thinks fit ; but he will agree that we ought not to waste time, and if we are to have a discussion, as I suppose we will, upon the matter contained in clauses 23 and 24, it is better to wait for it until we reach those clauses, and to settle upon clause 13 only the question of single electorates.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - All these clauses are most intricately involved, and if there is to be a consistent scheme we should discuss ohe with the other. I submit that the first clause dealing with this new scheme might well be taken as a test of the general principle.
We are discussing a crucial clause which involves a distinction between the mode of election for the two Souses, and it is impossible to adequately consider the affirmative clause which we have before us immediately relating to one House without contrasting it by way of illustration with the method proposed to be adopted for the other. We have two Houses of Parliament, and everything has to be carried by the two Houses. How can we possibly consider the constitution of the one House without at the same time considering the constitution of the other 1 The whole question is one of- relation, and the methods for both should be considered together. Although in terms we are discussing particular clauses that apply to only one House in substance, it is impossible not to consider the clauses applying to both.
-What is the honorable and learned senator’s objection to the principle of single electorates ?
– What is my honorable and learned friend’s objection to single electorates for the other House? I am contending that we cannot consider the methods proposed for the one House without considering the methods proposed for the other.
– Will the honorable and learned senator be good enough to tell me the question he desires to have tested upon this clause?
– The question I desire to have tested is whether or not we shall have single electorates in the general terms of this series of clauses, not merely of one clause. I desire to test the question of single electorates throughout. I am opposed to single electorates, because they give supreme power to the actual majority, and prevent the representation of the minority, however large its numbers may be. But, although we heard to-night from the Vice-President of the Executive Council a speech in which he showed us how majorities have in the post trampled upon minorities, the proposal contained in the Billis one which, in the election of the House of Representatives, gives the majorities in the various electorates the greatest possible power, while in the election of the Senate the minorities are given the greatest power, and the power of majorities is diminished as much as possible.
Senate adjourned at 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020306_senate_1_8/>.