1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Vice-Pre sident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee. (Consideration resumed from 14th March, 1902, vide page 10960).
Clause 2 (Incorporation).
– This clause was postponed because it provides that the Commonwealth. Franchise Act of 1902 shall be incorporated with and read as part of this Act. There is no doubt that a Franchise Bill will be passed in time to be called the Commonwealth Franchise Act of 1902. At the same time the Act is not in existence, and perhaps the correct course is to omit this clause. A similar clause may be embodied in the Franchise Bill.
Clauses 4, 105, 113, and 128 further postponed,
Clause 129 agreed to.
In the elections for the Senate the voter -
– This clause involves the system of proportional representation, which has been discussed so fully. The great majority of the speeches delivered at the second-reading stage dealt with the question on both sides: No doubt it is a very important question, and worthy of the fullest consideration; but I think honorable senators will agree that if weare to have proportional representation, it would be very unwise to alter in any way the system of voting which islaiddownin the Bill. Fault has been found with the manner in which the different rules have been explained; but honorable senators will find it very difficult to state them better, and to any one who understands the system, they are absolutely clear. I assume that the system and method of voting which the Government propose will be taken or rejected in its entirety. It would be a waste of time if I were to go into any questions of detail. I have dealt with the principle of proportional representation at some length, and explained its working, and the reasons which should impel the committee to adopt it. I do not wish to repeat what I have said. Having regard to the development of our political institutions, this system of proportional voting is the only one which will give adequate representation to the opinion of the Commonwealth. No other system can do anything else than give a representation to one section only, that is, if it is worked on certain lines. “Very often it will give a grotesque and distorted representation, under the name of the majority, of the real opinion of the community. If anything new is said I shall be very glad to answer it, but I hope the committee will pass these clauses in their entirety.
– It is very seldom that I speak, and I should not do so now if I did not consider this a matter of very great constitutional importance. It has been argued most ably on both sides, and, I admit, by Senator O’Connor, and those who agree with him, under great difficulties, because they had to argue a case in which logic and reason were against them. I am strongly opposed to this system of proportional representation, and I intend to adduce twelve reasons why I think it ought not to be adopted. I admit that most of those reasons have been advanced, and in many instances fully argued. . I do not wish to repeat arguments which have been made use of, and, therefore, in most instances, I shall be brief, and merely state my objections without discussing them. Our Constitution is based on the rule of the majority. It is borrowed, to a very great extent, from the British Constitution, and the Constitutions of these States, all of which are based on the rule of the majority. Those who argue for a change have cast upon them the onus of showing that it is required. Have they adduced any arguments to show that the principle with which we are so familiar, which has been in operation for so many hundreds of years, has worked badly? Is not the Constitution itself one of the proofs that the rule of the majority is- a good system to rely upon ? Was not the Senate elected under the old system ? Has any evidence been brought forward to show that majority rule, or the block-voting system as it is called, has worked badly? We may divide political thought into two camps, roughly, I admit, because there are an immense number of subdivisions. Those two camps may be designated as the rash, who desire a change at all hazards - who are “ eager ‘to kiss the lips of unacquainted change” - and the prudent, who will admit that we must all ultimately bow to the expressed and determined wish of the people, yet are of opinion that we ought not to make changes without due consideration ; that we ought to be fully assured in our” minds that the people, after due deliberation, have decided on- any change before we make it. Can either of those two great parties say that the system under which we live has worked badly? Those who desire a change have seen an enormous number of changes made in our political institutions during the last few years. It is quite true that they want further changes, but can they say, or can they persuade the people, that we have not advanced rapidly enough. Take the other camp - those who do not desire rash changes, who want to hasten slowly, - some of them may think that we have gone too fast, but looking at the system all round, admitting, as we must, that all systems are imperfect, is anybody prepared to say that our present system of voting is a failure ? If it is not a failure, if it has worked well, why should we change it ? I assert that in no instance where this system of proportional voting, or any modification of it, has been tried “has it been shown to be a success. It has been tried in France, but is France to be a guide to us ? Has what has taken place in the conduct of political affairs in that country proved ci great success, because they have adopted any modification of this system? I do not know that it has. Coming’ to Australia, we know that the system has been tried in Tasmania, and has been abandoned. It is very easy to argue that it has been abandoned for reasons, which on investigation will not hold water. It has been argued that the politicians and not the people have insisted upon abandoning the system. Politicians are what the people make them. If the people of Tasmania were firmly convinced that this system was a success - and they must have thought in the first instance that it would be a success, otherwise it would not have been initiated - they would not have allowed it to be abandoned without a protest. We have had no statement, and certainly no proof, that the people of Tasmania are indignant with the politicians who, as alleged, have against their will altered the electoral law in this respect. We have no mandate from the people in regard ti this proposed change. At the fag end of the session we are asked to make a fundamental change in our system of electing Members of Parliament. Surely that is a matter of so great importance that the people ought to be asked their opinion. What is the foundation of our political system 1 It is not that Members of Parliament alone should be convinced that a change is necessary, but that the majority of the people should be so convinced, and should elect members to carry out their wish. It is intended by this scheme to alter that state of affairs. It is not the people who are to be convinced ; it is the people who, by a system of minority representation, are to elect Members of Parliament, and the convincing is to take place in this Chamber. I dare say that a hundred years ago that argument might have told against me, but we have advanced since then ; and now all of us admit that it is the people who have to determine, while we have to obey. Therefore, according to the present working of our political system, before members are elected to the Senate, or to any other House, to represent any sectional idea, there ought to be a majority of the electors convinced that that idea is right. I think the Senate is the most unfitting House which can possibly be imagined in which to try this experiment. What is the reason for the Senate’s existence ? It is the council of the States. It is intended to represent the people grouped in States. It is a House of localities ; very large localities, I admit, the localities being the States - but still it is a House to which the people grouped by localities send their members to represent them. I do not think I can call any stronger witness to this view of the question than the Vice-President of the Executive Council. It will be recollected that in the Convention three gentlemen were chosen to look after the drafting of the Constitution, namely, the Prime Minister, Senator O’Connor, and Senator Downer. If honorable senators will turn to the discussion which took place, as reported in the Ilansard for the Sydney session, pages 360 to 380, they will see that section- 7 of the Constitution was discussed. That section now runs as follows : -
The Senate shall be composed of senators from each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate….. Until the Parliament otherwise provides, there shall be six Senators for each original State. The Parliament may make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State, but so that equal representation of the several original States shall be maintained, and that no original State shall have less than six senators.
When the draftsmen brought up that provision, the words “ until Parliament otherwise provides “ were not in it, and when it was proposed to make an amendment for the purpose of giving over to the Federal Parliament, or to a State Parliament, authority to declare in what manner senators were to be elected, the three draftsmen of the Constitution opposed it. I will just read a very short quotation from the debate that took place. It was proposed to omit the words “as one electorate,” and to give authority to the State Parliaments to declare in what manner senators should .be elected. Mr. Barton, Senator Downer, and Senator O’Connor opposed the amendment. Senator O’Connor, in words which are much more expressive than any I could use, showed reasons for opposing it. He said -
My strong reason for advocating this view to the House is this : in the different Parliaments the tendency has been to suggest the cutting up of the representation of the Senate into division0, and the tendency will be always so in the Parliaments, and none the less in a Federal Parliament for this reason.
Then he went on to say -
I think wo ought to be very careful not only that we do not constitute the Senate in that way now, but that we do rob leave it in the power of Parlia- ment in the future to take any step which may derogate from the position of the Senate as we constitute it. and the Senate which we are willing to invest with such large powers….. It is an essential part of the constitution of the Senate that it would consist of representation of the whole State on lj’.
The whole State, as a State, should, according to Senator O’Connor’s argument on that occasion, be represented. I quite admit that this argument was adduced against a geographical division of the States into constituencies, but it applies forcibly in answer to the suggestion that instead of dividing the States into geographical divisions, we should divide them into divisions of political sentiment. In neither case would the members who were representative of a section of a State, whether geographical or political, be representatives of the whole State. There is another point which I wish to make, and it is this : It is quite true that the draftsmen of the Constitution were ultimately defeated, and that power was given to this Parliament to divide a State into geographical divisions. But it must be recollected that that power was given subject to other provisions of the Constitution, and I do not think it ever could have been assumed by any one that that power would be exercised without the consent or knowledge of the people of the States. During the elections in South Australia, although this matter of proportional representation, or minority representation - whatever it may be called - had been before the people to a certain extent for a great many years, we heard very little of it. A circular was sent to the candidates, and the four candidates who were at the head of the poll returned answers to the effect that they would not support it. But I only heard the subject mentioned at one of the meetings I attended ; and I think I attended about 40. The people of South Australia took very little interest in the subject. They looked upon it as outside practical politics to such an extent that it was not to be regarded as a political question at all. Ought we, at the fag end of a session, without the consent of the electors, to spring this surprise upon them? Because it will be a surprise. If we go back to our constituents and tell them that we have altered the old system, under which we were elected, they will say naturally - “ By what authority did you do this thing? We have never heard of it. We have never been asked our opinion upon it, and we think that it ought to have been brought before us before such a great change was made.” The next point I wish to make is this : If this system is effective - and I venture to doubt whether it will be effective - the consequence will be that some senators will be elected who otherwise would not be elected. That must be so, I think. If we are going to divide the States into three camps of political opinion - because we cannot divide them into more, as there are only three candidates to be elected at a time - and if we admit the theory to be true, how do we give effect to it ? Ought not the agriculturists to have a representative t Ought not the commercial men to have a representative ? Ought not the free-traders, the protectionists, the prohibitionists, the licensed victuallers, the single-taxers, and all the other wellknown political organizations which have a good many followers, to have one representative each ? Undoubtedly ! If we are going to make Parliament an exact image of the views of the people, we must have one voter one candidate. Of course, I know that this is carrying the thing to an absurd conclusion, and it may be contended strongly that you can carry any proposition to an absurd conclusion. But is it carrying the argument to an absurd conclusion if you say when there, are more than three parties in a State - three political phases of opinion - that only three phases of political opinion can be represented, because only three candidates can be elected 1 How can this system be said to be effective and to carry out the ideas of those who advocate it when it will not do what they say it should do ? It will at the most give perhaps one man a seat who otherwise would not be elected, and that man will represent one phase of political thought and leave all other phases out of consideration. If the system is ineffective - and I am very much inclined to think it will be - it is useless. Suppose we have an election. The probability is that in any State there will be a large numbet of candidates for the Senate. Suppose that not a single one of them gets the quota. Then the second and the third preferences will come into count. I contend that a man who gets a large majority of second votes will be the choice of the people as a whole. He may, however, be elected or he may be struck out. If all those people who hold strong opinions on one point, and who have an undue idea of the proportional importance of other political questions, give their first votes to their political candidate, and their second vote to some other candidate, will any one say that the man who gets the second votes is not the real choice of the people, while the other men are merely the choice of the political sections whom they particularly represent? The strongest argument against the contention in favour of proportional representation is the Bill itself. This measure, so far as the House ot Representatives is concerned, carefully provides that minorities -shall not be represented. For that House we have single electorates provided for ; and to obviate the possibility of a minority being represented we have a. transferable vote. So that the greatest care is taken that minorities shall not be represented in one House whilst minorities are to be represented in the other. I quite admit the persuasive powers of my honorable and learned friend the Vice-President of the Executive Council. He may be able to persuade us that black is white ; but I do not think he will persuade us that it is both black and white. It would be a very great mistake if the Senate were to be so -illogical as to halt between two opinions on this subject. I am aware that a distinction is attempted to be drawn between the position of the two Houses, and that it is said that one is the representative of .localities, whilst the other is the representative of the States ; so that the House of Representatives ought therefore to represent majorities of people who live in localities, whilst the Senate ought to be formed of representatives of minorities.’ I can see no force in that argument. Is not this House also a House of localities, those localities being the States 1 What is the difference 1 There are larger localities in the one instance than in the other, but that is all. I think that the attempted explanation of the difference between the two cases and the two methods of election should not bear any great weight. Then if honorable senators will look at sections 57 and 128 of the Constitution they will see that in the ultimate result we are to have a referendum whenever an alteration of the Constitution is provided to be made, and we are also to have a referendum - because it is practically a referendum - when the two Houses disagree permanently on any important question. It may be argued that it is not - a referendum that takes place under section 57, because the people have to decide on a choice of candidates; but those who will be elected under that section will be elected on one point, and one only, namely, the point on which the two Houses disagree. So that, as a matter of fact, the appeal to the people under that section where the two Houses have become irreconcilably divided in opinion is a referendum. How are the Government going to adapt this system of voting to such a case ? They cannot do it. Surely this system of proportional representation, which is to be the political salvation of Australia, ought to be given effect to in the ease of a referendum t But that cannot be done. It is impossible to do it. Tlie last reason I have to adduce against the proposal - and I think it is the strongest reason - is this : What is the object of representative government and of responsible government 1 Why should we have elections at all t Simply for the purpose of forming a machine to do certain work. Parliament is not an end ; -responsible government is not an end ; representative government is not an end ; they are only means to obtain .an end. The end is to attain wise and just laws, and good administration. Which is the more likely to attain that end - the present system, or the system now proposed ?
– The Hare system.
– Is it 1 It is the most unlikely system in the world that one oan imagine under which to obtain good and wise all-round laws. If this system is adopted, we obtain in Parliament - I do not want to call them cranks or faddists, but that is the name by which they are commonly known - members with one predominating idea. If it is effective, we shall have a collection of those people who have no idea of the proportional importance of political questions, and who will sacrifice anything to one political idea, to secure which they are elected. Suppose, as was the case in the ‘old days, that our law-makers were chosen by an Almighty power on high, we should have no need for elections, and should not have to give votes at all. But I ask honorable senators to consider the object for which we sit here, and the object for which all this machinery is provided. It is in order that we may obtain wise and just laws, and laws which the people want ; and to carry into effect a system of administration, by a sound, honest, and effective executive. I strongly believe the present system to be more conducive to the attainment of that object than the. system we1 are now asked to adopt, and I shall therefore vote against the clause.
– I certainly object to clause 146, as now printed. I should have liked to insert in the first line of the clause, after the word “ Senate,” the words “ and House of Representatives,” but I believe I should be out of order in movingto that effect. We have already decided, much against my wish, that there shall be single electorates for the House of Representatives. I am, therefore, unable to more such an amendment. I admit that there is a great deal of force in what Senator Baker has stated with regard to the applicationof the proportional system of voting to the Senate. When speaking before, I pointed out that the application of the system to the Senate alone would not be a fairtest, seeing that for this Chamber only three members for each State have to be elected every three years, whereas for the House of Representatives 75 members have to be elected. If, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council told us, it is only through the Hare system that we can have a true representation of the wishes and opinions of the people, then that system ought to be applied to both Houses.Under that system, every opportunity is given for the expression of the will of the majority, but holding, as we do, various opinions upon various matters, we are not prevented from coming to a decision on all questions which may be brought before us. If an honorable senator represents one section of thought more largely than another, still, after he has advocated that section of thought, he is prepared to vote according to his opinions, and the majority must in all casesdecide. There is nothing to prevent the rule of the majority ; but we contend that minorities ought to have a voice in both Houses.
– Theadvocates of the system say that it is not a representation of minorities, but of majorities.
– I havealready explained that the Hare system gives minorities representation, but that it also gives the majority the power to rule.
– What majority?
– The majority in the House for the time being.
– That is not the majority of the people.
– It must be the majority of the peoplewhom senators represent.
– Under thissystem they would represent minorities
– They would represent minorities, but they would represent also the whole people, inasmuch as they would meet here for the discussion of matters of State importance, which their votes must decide. If we must not adopt the Hare system because we have no mandate from the people to change our present methods, have we any authority to provide for single electorates and the rule of the absolute majority? We have no authority ; yet this Bill makes such a provision, and the majority of honorable senators have already accepted it. In the absence of any mandate from the people we have no right to change the system of election for the House of Representatives, any more than we have to change the system for the Senate.
– The honorable senator was last week prepared to change the system for the Senate.
– I am prepared to do so now. At present I am only answering the argument of Senator Baker. In South Australia there has been, in every instance, a refusal to have single electorates, but in that State there has been for years a strong agitation on behalf of the Hare system of election. I am thoroughly convinced that if we decided on establishing the Hare sytemfor the election of both Federal Houses, we should have the approval of the people of South Australia.
– Butthe system proposed is not the Hare system.
– It is the Hare system with modifications, which, perhaps, I do not altogether indorse.
– The system proposed is not even the Hare-Spence system.
– I know it is not ; still the principle is embodied in the Bill, and I contend more for principle than for detail. I earnestly hope that after all that has been said about the great advantage ofhaving every section of the people represented, we shall agree to that system beingadopted. There is no virtue in stating that the elector must also insert the figures 2 and 3, but a man who understands the Hare system will not stultify himself or reduce his choice by. simply plumping for one. The provision as drawn is rather an invitation to plump than otherwise. I should much prefer to provide that the elector shall place the figure “ 1 “ opposite the name of the candidate for whom he votes in the first place, and thefigures “ 2 “ and “ 3 ” opposite the other candidates of his choice.
– Is the honorable member going to vote against the clause ?
– I am not. I am going to vote against any proposal to strike out the clause.
– The honorable senator said he would vote against the clause.
– I understand there is a determination on the part of certain senators to strike out the clause, and I said I should oppose that determination.
– The honorable senator told me exactly the contrary. He told me that if the system were applied to the House of Representatives he would vote against it.
– That is absolutely false.
– The honorable senator must withdraw those words.
– I withdraw the words at your request, sir, but I do not know what other words to employ in order to tell Senator Playford that I did not make the statement he attributed to me. Senator Playford made certain suggestions as to what I should do, and said that if I could not carry the system for both Houses I ought to vote against it for the Senate. I never said, however, that I would act on the suggestion. I have always stated that I would not vote against the Hare system. The Bill, as introduced, gives us the smallest fraction of what we desire, while imposing on us much that is directly opposed to the opinions of those who favour the Hare system. I am extremely sorry that I did not make myself clear when I rose. What I meant to say was that I should oppose any attempt on the part of the antagonists of the Hare system to destroy that system as it appeared in the Bill.
– I listened with a very great deal of interest to the speech of Senator Baker, who made some crushing points against proportional voting. The other day I stated that when a candidate gets the exact quota in this very abstruse and complicated method of not dealing with votes, the whole of his votes are put aside and are not further dealt with. On that the Vice-President of the Executive Council interjected-“ Perfectly correct ; that shows that the honorable senator does not understand the difference between the system adopted in Tasmania and the system in the Bill.” But it so happens that the very words I was quoting were taken from the notes and illustrations furnished by the Vice-President of the Executive Council for our guidance. On page 2 of those notes and illustrations we find confirmation of the statement which I made, and which the Vice-President of the Executive Council questioned. We read -
The voluntary constituency of 251 electors take no further part in the election ; they are fully represented. They have no more right to interfere in the election of the two other members than have electors after voting in one electorate to interfere in other electorates.
That is clear enough ; and if what I said is not correct the author of this document does not understand what he is about. I was also contradicted by the honorable senator when I said that the two Ministers in the Senate flatly contradicted each other, and that one of them must be wrong. The Postmaster-General, when speaking, said -
When a candidate gets the exact quota there is no surplus.
That is a self-evident fact, I presume, and I interjected -
Then his papers are thrown aside and take no further part in the election.
To that the Postmaster-General replied - “That is right.” That was aflat contradiction of the statement of the leader of this Chamber. Let me say here, that the paper which supports Senator Drake and myself, supports the Vice-President of the Executive Council in another part. I do not desire to cast ridicule on either Minister, but merely to show that this matter is not understood even by those whose duty it is to understand it. I have gone to the trouble of referring to Tasmania, where there have been six elections conducted on the Hare something system. There was an election for the State Parliament in Hobart in 1897 when there were twelve candidates ; and in giving these illustrations I wish to show what an absurdity it is to waste time over this Bill. In that election the six candidates who were at the head of the list at the first count, remained there after nine counts, and, what is more, on the first count, there were only 59 votes between the sixth man who was elected and the seventh man who was not. At an election in Launceston at the same time there were seven candidates for four seats, and out of the whole who were elected only one got the quota. I shall, no doubt, be met by the statement that that is the Hare quota, and thatI do not understand it; but what is the use of having a quota ? The others were elected on the number of votes they got. The four candidates who were at the head of the poll at the primary count stood at the head after four counts, and the singular fact is that the fourth man and the fifth man at the first countshowed only six votes between them, yet they kept apart on the final count. There was an election in Hobart in 1900, when there were ten candidates for six seats. In that case the six men who were at the head of the poll at the first count were still at the head at the final count, and there we’re only nineteen votes between the sixth man and the seventh on the first count. But the latter could not secure those nineteen votes after all the counts. The first count decided the election in each instance. All this machinery did not disturb the position of the candidates, although in one case only six votes separated the sixth candidate from the seventh. At Launcestion in 1900 the successful candidates were all elected on the first count. Only one out of the four as I mentioned got the quota. In that case there were only eleven votes between the fourth man and the fifth on the first count. Yet the fifth man could not overtake the fourth one. All the other counts went for nothing. At the federal elections last year nine candidates contested the five seats in the House of Representatives. The first five candidates on the poll at the first count were elected after eight counts had been made. For the six seats in the Senate there were fifteen candidates, and the first six men on the, poll at the first count were elected after fourteen counts had been made. That shows what a lot of time is wasted. Here we are told again that where there are two seats under the system embodied in this paper you divide the number of votes taken here as a thousand by three and add one to it. Three hundred and thirty-four votes would be the quota of a thousand. If two men were elected on the quota they would get 668 votes. It is urged that it is a beautiful thing to have all sections of opinion represented. Let us see what the first count gave in Tasmania in each case, and whether the successful candidates did not in nearly every case represent a larger proportion of the electors who polled than would be represented if three men contested two seats under this system. At Hobart in 1897 the first count gave the six candidates who were successful eventually 741/2 per cent. of the whole of the votes polled, and in 1890 the first count gave the six leading men 76 per cent. of the whole of the votes polled. At Launceston in 1897 the successful four at the first count got 681/2 per cent. of all the votes polled, and at the next election they got 661/2 per cent. At the federal elections last year, the first count gave the five successful candidates for the House of Representatives on the first count 791/2 per cent. of all the votes polled, and the six successful candidates for the Senate 671/2 per cent. At the first count, only 40 votes separated Senator Macfarlane from the seventh candidate, but he was not overtaken after fourteen counts. It all goes to show that there is nothing in the system. When Senator O’Connor was pleading for simplicity, he said -
We may leave to the intelligence of an ordinary well-trained clerk in the electoral office the duty of attending to the rest of the process with the most absolute confidence and certainty.
In a paper which has been sent to every honorable senator, the Rev. T. J. Smith, M.A., says -
But though the most illiterate voter can use with care and with intelligence a preferential voting-paper, yet when the question of scrutinizing such papers comes up it is felt that to settle this matter equitably taxes the powers of the ablest.
Yet we are to handover these papers to ordinary well-trained clerks to deal with. In 1883 the Rev. Mr. Smith graduated as a Master of Arts of the Melbourne University. At that time Professor Nanson had been there eight years. Presumably this arithmetical parson sat for years at his feet, drinking in quotas and absorbing surpluses through every pore, and he flatly contradicts the professor, and says that his system is all moonshine when applied to a large election. I propose to show from the Tasmanian count that only second preferences are counted. The Bill provides, as Senator O’Connor has told us, that a voter may mark every one of the candidates in the order of preference in which he would elect him if he had the opportunity. That is to say, if there are 30 candidates, he begins at number one and goes right through the list. A paper has been laid before the Senate showing the primary votes, and the subsequent counts, at the Senate elections in Tasmania, and it is signed by Mr. J. G. Davies, chief returning officer of that State. I said the other day, when Senator O’Connor was speaking of fourteen counts, it would lead one to suppose that there were fourteen preference counts. There are fourteen counts, but only dealing with the first and second preferences. I mentioned the other day also that a second count might be made, and that after that there was no method followed; the returning officer would take a parcel of votes, hand them to the assistants and say - “ Distribute those votes,” and it was a matter of pure chance as to how the polling would result. When I asked if any one would contradict my statement Senator Sargood said - “ I do not think it is so.” I said - “ At all events there is a good deal of chance in it,” and Senator Drake said - ‘ 1 Non e. “ Th e last three lines of the paragraph (a), sub-schedule 7, of the notes and illustrations, reads -
Where a candidate is raised above the quota by the receipt of a sub-parcel all the ballot papers in such sub-parcel shall be transferred and no others.
You are going to transfer that sub-parcel, and divide the ballot-papers amongst the candidates and not to touch any other. When I put the question to Senator O’Connor he said - “ They are transferred ; you do not hand over the votes at all, but see what each candidate has out of the total number of votes.” But here it is a parcel only, which is divided amongst the unelected candidates. So that if it comes to a third or fourth preference in a case of this kind, they do not go right through the ballot-papers, but take a part of them and hand them over for distribution. There is a footnote to the illustration, as follows : -
The latter part of this sub-rule is a rule of convenience. The object is to avoid all unnecessary’ handling and rehandling of large masses of ballot papers.
I shall show that none but first and second preferences were used in the Senate elections in Tasmania. On the first count Senator Keating, who polled 3,761 votes, got a surplus of 694 votes. That surplus was divided amongst the other candidates. The votes were not handed over, but they counted the number of votes for. Morrisby and found his proportion to be ten. Morrisby was then cut out, although
I do not know why. If all these counts are made, why cut out a man at all ? Morrisby had 186 first votes and 10 of Keating’s surplus or second preferences, making 196 votes to divide amongst the other candidates. This division brought Woolnough ‘s total up to -2.37 votes, and then he was cut out. He had got his own primary votes, Keating’s secondary votes, and Morrisby’s secondary votes when he was cut out. Page was then cut out ; he had 416 of his own primary votes, 25 of Keating’s surplus, 9 of Morrisby’s second preferences, and 15 of Woolnough’s second preferences. Where do all the other counts come in 1 At this election, so far, only second preferences have been counted. Patterson was then cut out. He received 586 primary votes, 18 of Keating’s surplus, 1 1 of Morrisby’s second counts, 41 at Woolnough’s cut out, and 53 at Page’s cut-but. You cannot find an instance where the third preferences were used. Let us see what would have resulted in New South Wales under this system. In Tasmania 18,403 electors voted, and in New South Wales 182,000. If we multiply the Tasmanian figures by ten we shall ascertain the figures for New South Wales. Honorable senators would be appalled at the result of the multiplication which is shown on this paper, although it give3 only the first and second counts. I am going to prove, if the Rev. Mr. Smith is an authority, that I am right in my contention that only second preferences are provided for in the Bill. Senator O’Connor said -
We say to the voter “Here is your ballotpaper, and we ask you to mark on it the figure 1 opposite the name of the person whom you select as your representative. But you may put 2, 3, 4, o, 6, 7, and as many preferences as you like opposite the names of others whom you intend to vote for. You need not mark the preferences unless yOU like, but if you do your preferences will be given effect to. If you do not your vote will be lost altogether in the event of its not being required for the man you have chosen.”
If the voter marks only one he gets nothing but the primary votes. If he marks further down, say to fifteen of them, my contention is that he gets two votes, and that the other thirteen are not counted. Letus hear what the Rev. Mr. Smith says : -
There are two ways of studying a preferential voting paper - namely, as containing one single transferable vote, or as containing a whole series of judgments about all possible alternatives between candidates. These two ways ore quite different ; they must always be distinguished - . they must never be confused or intermixed. Hence the method of scrutiny adopted in the Bill must rest upon one only of these two principles. . . Of course it is desirable to use a voting paper for all it is worth, and hence in small committees or electorates - say when from 10 to 100 votes are received - the best way to scrutinise such papers . . is to use the second principle of examination, and hence to adopt the method of scrutiny discovered by Hanson. . . But in a large electorate the labour involved in this method would be enormous ; and hence, however desirable, it may be regarded as outside the use of practical politics. Accordingly the Bill examines each voting paper on the first principle - namely, that of the single transferable vote ; and this one principle it adopts in both the single or district electorates for the. House of Representatives, and in the multiple or State electorates for the Senate. The voting paper for the multiple electorate is to be interpreted as containing only one single transferable vote.
I do not know what other honorable senators may think about that, but it seems to me, taken in conjunction with the elections in Tasmania, to be conclusive proof that only the first and second votes are used where there is a large number of electors. Now I should like to come to the appendix to the notes and illustrations to the Electoral Bill. I am going to quote from this document, to show that the establishment of thissystem in real life and ordinary every-day practice would be utterly impossible. The appendix says that it is an -
Example of an election when’ there is more than one senator to be elected.
It goes on to say -
Let us suppose that there are five senators to be elected, and that there are eight candidates. There are two parties, the red rose and the white rose, the former running five candidates and polling 365 votes ; the latter three, and polling 230 votes. The number of valid votes polled is 595.
To begin with, it will be seen that in this sample election there are only two parties provided for, although we have been told time and again that this proportional voting system is proposed in order to give all parties an opportunity of being represented inParliament. Yet when anexample is placed before us, only two parties are contemplated. Furthermore, this sample election only contemplates eight candidates for five seats. There may be 30 candidates. Let us suppose forargument’s sake that we have to deal not with the red rose and with the white rose, but with two actual political parties. We will take the more numerous party in New South Wales, the free-trade party, and also the protectionist party of that State, at an actual election. For that purpose, in order to make the figures of the specimen election approximate to the actual facts, we shall have to multiply the votes in each case by 300. The result will give us something near to the actual election in New South Wales when this Senate was elected. We will accept the same number of seats, with the same number of candidates as givenin the appendix, but in order to lift the proceedings from an academical to a practical issue we must deal not with a total of 595 votes, but with 182,000 or some close approximation to that number. If we multiply 595 by 300, the result is 178,500 votes - which is very nearly the 182,000 polled at the Senate elections in New South Wales. All the other figures in the example must also be multiplied by 300. Thus we get in our imaginary election 109,500 free-trade and 69;000 protectionist votes. Then we multiply the quota also by 300. The result is 30,000. I now intend to quote from the appendix the example there furnished to honorable senators, in every case multiplying the figures by 300. I will read the result -
First Count. - The protectionist P has polled the exact quota of 30,000, and therefore all his papers are finally set aside and take no further part in the election. The free-trade candidate A polled 48,000 votes. These two candidates are declared elected at once.
Honorable senators will observe that I am taking the figures of the appendix and multiplying them by 300 in every case.
Second Count. - The free-trader A’s surplus is to be distributed among the unelected candidates in proportion to the number of second preferences of each in A’s whole parcel. The freetrader A has a parcel of 48,000 first votes or ballot papers. These are now divided into sub-parcels according to the second preference. It is found that B, D, and E, members of his own party, are marked 2 on 24,000, 9,000, and 14,400 respectively. A’s surplus of 1,800 is to be distributed among B, D, andE in proportion to the numbers 24,000, 9,600, and 14,400. The shares of B, D, and E in the surplus are 9,000, 3,600, and 5,400 respectively.
What do honorable senators think of this as a proposal to place before full-grown men? Here is a free-trader who gets 48,000 first votes, which are examined in order to see whether the other candidates have secondary votes upon those ballot papers or not. But it is found, according to the example given . to us, that in those 48,000 ballot papers C, a free-trader belonging to the same party as A, does not get a single second preference vote. Does any one believe that such a result as that would be possible? It is also found that Q and R, who are protectionists, do not get a single second preference vote amongst 48,000 ballot papers. It is too absurd to seriously contemplate, that amongst 48,000 ballot papers given to A, at the head of the poll, not a single second preference would be given for two protectionists and one free-trader. I do not know what other honorable senators may think, but I should say that to conceive of any such state of affairs occurring is “ too thin “ altogether. Then we are told, according to this illustration -
B has now a surplus of 6,000, and is declared elected. “We shall see what becomes of his votes. It appears to me that in a large State ‘ like New South Wales or Victoria the system would be totally unmanageable if attempted -to be carried out in its integrity. But that is not proposed to be done. To proceed -with our example -
Third count. - B:s surplus of 6,0 0 was produced by the sub-parcel of 24,000 second preferences, having a value of 9,000. These 24,000 second preferences are now divided into packets -according to the third preferences. It is found that the sub-parcel divides into two equal packets, one containing 12,000 papers, on each of which the free-trader D is marked three, and the other 12,000, on each of which the free-trader E is marked three.
Is that at all probable or even possible ? Could any one imagine such a state of things as that only two out of the remaining can- didates would appear on those papers ?
Thus B’s surplus of 6,000 is equally divided between D and E, each receiving a packet containing 12,000 third preferences but counted as 3,000 votes.
Here again we are asked to believe, according to this example, of what would happen when I am applying the system to an actual election in New South Wales, that out of B’s 24,000 second . preference ballot-papers there would not be a solitary third preference vote cast for <C of the same party as B, or for either -Q or R of the protectionist party. I want, if I can, to make it quite clear that that is utterly absurd. Although C polled 17,100, Q 21,000, and R 18,000 first preferencesor a total of 56,000 first votes - we are asked- to believe that neither of the three got a single vote out of A’s 48,000 second preferences or out of B’s 24,000 third preference ballot-papers. That is, out of a total of 72,000 ballot-papers the name of neither of these three candidates appeared. It seems to me that it is hardly worth while bothering any more about the system in the face of illustrations like that In the first count on this ideal system R, who is the bottom man, gets 60,000 preference votes. He gets no more third or’ fourth votes. But they do not serve him under this system as Mr. Morrisby was served at the Tasmanian election. They do not cut him out altogether. They let him go on. Q gets 70,000 preference votes. He gets no more votes on the second and third and fourth counts, but on the fifth count he jumps up from 70,000 votes to 130,000. Here is a man who got no votes for three or four counts, and then his poll is jumped up in this fashion. I do not know, however, whether the question has not now been thrashed out. No burning interest seems to be taken in it at this stage. I conclude that the speeches already delivered have not convinced many that proportional voting is wrong, or that it is right ; but I invite those who believe in proportional representation to convince me I am wrong, when I say that only secondary votes were counted in Tasmania.
– The Tasmanian system is not the system in the Bill.
– I quite recognise that, but the only distinction between the two systems is .the quota. In Tasmania there is the Hare quota, whereas this Bill provides the Droop quota, but that distinction makes no difference in the counting
– In Tasmania the Legislature had the courage to compel a voter to express three preferences, whereas the framers of this Bill are afraid to’ do so.
– I understand that the quota makes no difference in the method of counting.
– In Tasmania they count up to eight preferences.
– But according to this document, Senator Macfarlane was not counted up to eight preferences, and did not receive more than the secondary votes of those successively counted out.
– That gave the honorable senator his quota.
– Neither Senator Macfarlane nor Senator Cameron got his quota, and yet both were elected. If the numbers had been left as ascertained at the first count, we should have had the same senators as ‘ were elected after fourteen counts, as the whole fifteen candidates stood in the same order after fourteen counts as they did after the first count.
– That is under the Hare-Clark system.
– I do not know that that makes any difference, except that the quota is smaller under the Bill than under the Hare-Clark system. Although no sample is given to us it seems that the author did not deal with the second and third preferences, but only went as far as the fourth place. Then he found there were no more surpluses ; and if there had been a ballot of 180,000 voters only it would not have been the surpluses which would have been exhausted. If we multiply 50 candidates by 180,000 electors we get something like 9,100,000 votes to look through. The whole proposal is too absurd for serious consideration ; though when I say that, I give the advocates of the system credit for sincere belief in its efficacy. To me it seems an utter waste of time and money to institute such a system, unless we are compelled to do so by the people of the Commonwealth.
– As I made no remarks on the second reading, I should like to explain shortly the reasons which influence my vote on this occasion. The subject before us opens up two very important questions. TheA first question is whether the proportional system of voting, known as the Hare-Clark system, is a decided improvement on the block system ; and the second question is, supposing that the Hare-Clark system is an improvement, is it an appropriate and proper system to apply to the Senate occupying the position that this Chamber does. The first question I can answer very simply to my own satisfaction, but the second presents a great deal of difficulty, and I have had some trouble and much thought in arriving at a conclusion. With reference to the first, it appears to me that,- notwithstanding all the arguments to the contrary, the proportional system as set forth in the Bill is a vast improvement on any we could possibly work out on the principle of the block vote. Again and again I have been struck with arguments which prove most conclusively that that is so. When I first commenced to study this matter, as I had to do when Tasmania adopted the system, and it was part of my duty to explain it in the House, to the electors, and to the man in the street, I turned my attention to what has happened in Belgium. Senator Keating did good work in bringing before the Senate, at the outset of the debates, facts and figures connected with the elections in that country. I have read many articles regarding what took place there, and, as I understand the matter, the conservatives and clericals worked the unjust and tyrannical block system for all it was worth, for many years, and, as they had a majority, the liberals or socialists, or whatever we may call them, could get no representation. It is asclear as noonday that if we were to> organize each State, as in America, with. “ bosses “ in every little township, and thewhole population divided into two parties, theparty that had a small majority could, if” they polled every available vote, return every representative. In other words, if there were 100,000 electors, and 55,000” were of one way of thinking and 45,000 were of another way of thinking, themajority, under the block or . “ ticket “ system, could dominate the minority for alL time.
– Quite right,, too.
-We know what, happened in Belgium under the system,, which Senator Zeal now says is quite rightI have heard it stated, over and over again, that there would have been an absolute revolution in that country if the proportional system of voting had not been introduced, or some means found by which minorities could to some extent make themselves felt in the Legislature. Let me ask SenatorZeal what position the people of the State of Victoria would be in if they lived undersuch a system of government that ideas,, growing every day in the minds of a. few of the people, and making continual and steady progress, could not be advocated effectually in the Legislature. Suppose the teetotallers, with whom we all have more or less sympathy, could not make their voices heard, although they were entitled to a tenth or a twentieth of the representation-
– The teetotallers dominate the licensing system in Victoria now.
– Such a position as I have described would not tend to encourage those people, whose only desire is to promote the happiness and welfare of the community, and to build up a higher national life. I shall not, however, argue this point any further because we are not seeking to apply the Hare system to a State Parliament. If we were I should be bound to vote for it, and would be able to give good reasons for my action. The Parliament of Tasmania adopted the system for several years, but, having conducted two general elections «ind the elections for the Senate under it, have now repealed the sections. In that, with all respect, I think a mistake has been made, though it is not for me to gainsay what the representatives of the people have done. I should be perfectly ‘ prepared to justify my vote for applying this, system to a State Parliament, and had I been a member of the Tasmanian House I should have opposed the repeal of the section. The Hare system was abolished in Tasmania because the people who had to work it were dissatisfied. When it was first introduced, I used to be met by election agents, canvassers, and hangers-on at elections, who objected to the system because they could not understand it and because they could not work it with the same effect as they could the old system. A few of the candidates, who did not get as many votes as they had expected, were also dissatisfied ; and it may be said that the agitation or feeling against the system is not in the minds of the great bulk of the people, but in the minds of the few who have to do with the actual conduct of elections. Now we come to the second question. Believing, as I do, that the proportional system in the Bill is an admirable system to apply to a State Parliament, shall I vote for applying it to the Senate, and if not, for what reason? I shall not vote for applying the system to the Senate, because I think it is altogether inappropriate to such a chamber. The Senate has a particular and most delicate part to play under our Federal Constitution. We cannot compare the Senate in any way with an ordinary chamber of the State Legislatures which have to make laws on all conceivable subjects. Supposing the idea had been carried of confining the Federal Parliament to two on three subjects, such as trade and commerce, posts and telegraphs, and defence. Will Senator Best, or anybody, be brave enough to assert that, with a Constitution which committed to the
Federal Parliament only these three large subjects, the proportional system, whereby minorities and different cliques and classes can be represented, would be applicable? Under such circumstances, we want the three best men Tasmania, or any other State, can send. As Senator Baker has so well pointed out, we shall never, unless the number of senators be enlarged, have to elect more than three senators, and these are not enough to represent, I shall not say cliques, but the various parties, such as free-traders and protectionists, conservatives and liberals, the beer and sporting interest, the temperance interest, the Catholic interest or the Wesleyan interest, always supposing that these sects, perfectly within their rights, put up their nominee, as some people say they do. Then we have the civil servants and the miners ; and with three senators there is no room for the representation of all these different interests. We have heard much about ‘ the representation of minorities, and the privileges and advantages which this system confers on small sections of the people. It has been dinned into the heads of these sections of the people that if they are strong enough they can elect one representative of the three ; and what would be the question that electors would ask themselves if the system were adopted at the next general election for the Senate ? The civil servants, forinstance, would ask themselves whether it was not possible for them to elect their representative, and people would begin to look at this question from a low provincial standard. A similar question would be asked by the miners on the West Coast of Tasmania and elsewhere, and by every section of the community, who would wonder whether the system could not be worked in their self interest. The people would forget the national and State character of this Chamber, and it is quite impossible to exaggerate the harm and evil which might follow if this system of voting were to be regarded from a low standpoint. The electors would at once say that here was a” system essentially framed to give minorities full power, and they would cease to have regard to the national point of view. The Senate has not to make laws for the people in the same way as does a State Parliament. We have nothing to do with the licensing laws, or with temperance or prohibition, and we cannot possibly interfere with the acts of local government, or in those small and, in one sense, petty matters which affect the daily life of our citizens. We have to deal only with subjects which affect the people of Australia as a whole. Putting aside trade and commerce, posts and telegraphs, and defence, the Federal Parliament have to deal with light-houses, astronomical and meteorological observations, quarantine, fisheries, census and statistics, currency, banking, insurance, weights and measures, bills of exchange and promissory notes, bankruptcy and insolvency, and so on. Is there any one of the subjects I have mentioned in connexion with which more can be said than that each State ought to send to the Senate the highest educated, most cultured, and the best trained men of business, whether selected from the capitalists, professional, or working classes ? A number of workers have won their way to the position of merchants or manufacturers, and if they are suitable in the respects I have mentioned, they have just as fair a chance of being returned as those who, so to speak, were born to the higher positions. What room for cliques and minorities, for instance, is there in reference to the subject of defence ? This is a great national subject on which the safety of the Empire rests. Some people may approve of a little conscription, while others may not. There may be two ways of defending ourselves, but not half-a-dozen; but even if there were a dozen ways, or four or five, we do not require a representative for each phase of the question. As to trade and commerce, there is only protection on one side and free trade or revenue tariffism on the other. There is no room except for the two parties. The whole fiscal issue is between free-trade and protection, and the settlement is the. great work of the session. It represents our one way of getting the necessary revenue of £9,000,000. Although this Parliament has a perfect right to introduce a land tax, or other forms of taxation, it is hoped that it will be many years before that right is exercised. Their, what room is there for the representation of minorities on the question of railway construction ? For the settlement of such questions we want good practical men of business, no matter from what class. Railway construction means either the benefit or the injury of the wholeof the States of the Commonwealth, and does not call for the representation of sections of the people. Amongst the powers of the Federal Parliament is the acquisition of the State railways, and in such a matter what room is there for the representation of minorities ? It is essentially a State matter. It is absolutely necessary in order to preserve the balance of the Constitution, to keep the Senate as the representative of the States, and to recollect that its duties are national. If this system of proportional voting is to be applied to any section of this Parliament, it ought to be applied in the first instance to the House of Representatives. If it is applied to that House, and the different States are cut up into electorates, returning four, five, or six members each, and it is not applied to the Senate, it will make the Bill more perfect than it is. But I agree with Senator Symon that to some extent it would be a failure, because Western Australia and Tasmania return five representatives, and South Australia seven. I contend that no matter how good a system it may be applied to a State House of Parliament, it ought not to be applied to a Federal House of Parliament.
– I do not rise to reply. I have answered all the arguments which have been put in different ways, and it is out of no disrespect to honorable senators that I do not answer them again. The question is ripe for decision, and I hope that the committee will come’ to a division at once.
– Believing, as I do, in this system, but recognising that the voice of the majority here is against it, I do not think it necessary to give f urther reasons for my belief. I shall not vote in the division, because I have paired with Senator Cameron, who is unable to be here to-day.
Question - That the clause stand part of the Bill - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 9
Noes … …18
Majority … … 9
Question resolved in the negative.
Clause 155 (Preliminary count in Senate elections).
– The recent division is an emphatic expression of opinion by the committee, that this system of proportional representation is not to be the system of voting at the Senate elections. There is only one other systemwhich can be adopted, and that is the system of the block vote. In order that no time should be lost, I had drafted some new clauses which will introduce that system. I propose to ask the committee to negative all the clauses which pre-suppose proportional representation, and later on to insert the new clauses, which are now being circulated. When we come to the schedules, I shall have forms ready to carry out the provisions of the new clauses.
Clause 156 negatived.
– May I crave the indulgence of the committee for a few moments ? This afternoon I certainly spoke with some heat and am afraid that I did an injustice to my esteemed friend, Senator Playford. When I referred to him I had in my mind the third reading of the Bill. He evidently thought, and perhaps was justified in thinking, that if I did not get my desire in committee I should oppose clause 146. At the time I spoke I had in mind every intention of fighting in committee as far as I could for the application of the Hare system to both Houses, and I had determined that if I did not succeed and the Bill got through, I should be prepared to vote against the third reading as a protest against single electorates for the House of Representatives. I can see, however, that I mayhave misled Senator
Playford, and I wish to make this explanation and apology to him for the hasty way in which I spoke.
Postponed clause 4 (Interpretation).
– I move-
That after the interpretation of “Officer” the following new interpretation be inserted : - “ Prescribed “ means “ prescribed by this Act or the regulations.” “Prescribed” is not defined in the interpretation, and this amendment is, therefore, necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) agreed to -
That after the words “‘Roll’ means an electoral roll,” the words “under this Act” be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 105 -
The deposit made by, or on behalf of, a person nominated shall be retained ponding the election, and after the election shall be returned unless the person on whose behalf it was made fails to obtain at the election more than one-fourth of the number of votes polled by the successful candidate who obtained the smallest number of votes at the election, in which case it shall be forfeited to the King. The number of votes for the purposes of this section means the number of votes indicated by the number 1 .
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). I move -
That in line 5, the word “fourth” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “fifth.”
The Western Australian Electoral Act provides that a candidate who receives less than one-fifth of the votes received by the lowest successful candidate shall forfeit his deposit, and the deposit provided for in the Bill will, I think, be a sufficient deterrent to those whom we may class as undesirable. The deposit provided is £25, and if a candidate can poll one-fifth of the votes of the lowest successful candidate there is some justification for his candidature. In an election in Western Australia there were some fifteen candidates, six of whom had to be returned, and yet one who polled 2,000 votes lost his deposit. I claim that a man who could poll so many votes under the circumstances was justified in becoming a candidate, and the law in this respect ought not to be too stringent when only three candidates are to be elected. No one can say that fifteen candidates was an unusual number for six seats, and it is not wise to narrow the choice of candidates too much. No deposit is provided for in South Australia or New
South Wales, and while I agree that there ought to be some provision to prevent what has been the experience in the latter State, we should not make the margin so small as to create a possible danger in the limitation of choice.
– In deciding the issue raised by Senator Pearce, it is important to consider how we are going to ascertain the numbers which will determine whether a penalty is to be inflicted. If we have regard only to the primary votes it is possible for a candidate who ultimately rans within two or three of the successful man to be fined, and I am sure that that is not the intention. It is necessary to determine whether the proportion shall be on the primary votes or on the total voting. One thousand electors may go to the poll, and on the primary voting 499 may vote for the first man, and the next candidate receive 122 votes, the other four candidates dividing the balance between them.
– There is only one successful candidate, and the proportion is only, one-fourth of his votes.
– If the primary votes only be regarded the second man will not have one-fourth of the votes on the first counting, and yet at the ultimate count possibly be within two or three votes of the successful man, who may have 510 votes and the other 490. If it is proposed to take the primary votes, the proportion ought not to bo one-fourth or one-fifth, but something lower still. If, however, the calculation be made on the total vote, as I think it ought to be, the proportion of one-fourth is very fair.
– The proportion cannot be taken on the total votes.
– Then the clause should go. It is ridiculous that a nian may be only twenty votes behind the successful man and yet be fined ; I cannot believe that the committee intends to pass a clause which might under very likely circumstances so punish a candidate. I have taken, I admit, extreme figures, but it is very probable that something of the kind may occur with the contingent vote in operation. One advantage claimed for the contingent vote is that no matter how many candidates there may be for one particular party, all will come right. But if one candidate be run, say, in the protectionist interest and four candidates in the free-trade interest, all the protectionist votes are grouped on one man, whereas the free-trade votes are divided over four or five candidates, and the result may be that not one of the latter may poll within one-fourth of the protectionist candidate on the primary votes. Yet, by the contingent vote, all the free-trade votes are ultimately given- to one who may be within four or five of the successful candidate. The clause ought to be struck out or the proportion be made one-fourth or onefifth of the total ballot.
– I think that Senator Millen will see, on reflection, that if we are to apply this at all to the question of the contingent vote, it cannot be done in the way he suggests. He has been taking the case of a candidate who is so far advanced on the list that he gets some secondary and tertiary votes. But take the case, which is very likely to happen, of a man who i3 dropped out after the first count, and who gets no preferential votes. The only votes to be counted to him are the primary votes. Would it not be very unfair to compare him with the lowest on the list - that is the man elected - -who has to count in his favour not only the primary votes but the secondary votes of the man who has been dropped out, and other votes as well 1 It would be most unfair to make that comparison, and therefore it cannot be applied in that way.
– Can it “be applied to the system at all with any degree of fairness?
– Surely we have not arrived at the position that because we adopt the contingent vote there is no way by which we can make it imperative for a candidate to get so many votes ? It can only be done by taking the count at that stage at which the candidates are all on an equality, and that is at the stage of the No. 1 votes, because, after all, those votes represent the choice. It is perfectly fair, although, as Senator Millen says, it is possible that a candidate who on the primary votes is a long way behind the candidate who is elected, might, by the process of division afterwards get so many votes that he may come close up to the latter. He would get there by reason, not of his primary votes, but of the contingent votes. With regard to Senator Pearce’s amendment, I do not feel very strongly one way or the other. Taking the laws in existence in the
Other States, I think that more of them provide for a fifth than for a fourth. In New
South Wales when we had this provision the fraction was a fifth. In Queensland it is a. fifth, and the deposit is £20 . In Victoria the deposit is £50, and the proportion a fifth. It is just possible that where we have to count the No. 1 votes there may be a certain amount of hardship if we compare the votes, which the second man secures by reason of the distributed votes and the number of primary votes which the candidate who is successful gets, but I think that a fifth would be in the direction of fairness.
– We are discussing two questions which ought to be treated separately. I am inclined to agree with Senator O’Connor that a fifth might be fair with regard to contingent voting. There is a good deal in the contention that there should be a clear distinction drawn between the fractional part which should be secured in one case, and that which should be secured in the other. The very operation of the contingent vote seems to me to give good reasons for Senator O’Connor accepting a fifth in regard to the other House ; but in regard to the Senate I hope that he will retain a fourth. While it is hard perhaps for many candidates to obtain a fourth under the method of contingent voting, the case is quite different under the method to be adopted for the Senate. The amount of the deposit and the fractional proportion of votes” to be secured to avoid its forfeiture, are two closely intertwined questions. I think that deposit of £25 is too little ; but seeing that it was adopted without a division Senator O’Connor might well maintain the spirit of that decision. Under the system of election for the Senate you let a candidate off quite easily if you say that he shall not forfeit his deposit if he obtains a fourth of the votes. I do not believe that any one can fail to recognise that it will be much easier for a candidate to obtain a fourth of the votes under the method of voting for the Senate, than for a candidate to obtain a fourth of the votes under the method of contingent voting for the other House.
– The suggestion which Senator Clemons makes is utterly opposed to what I consider to be reasonable. He is quite agreeable to make the fraction a fifth as regards the House of Representatives, but only a fourth as regards the Senate. What would it mean in some of the larger States, like Victoria or New South Wales, after the adoption of adult suffrage ? To get into the Senate, a candidate would have to secure at least 100,000 votes in New South Wales or Victoria, and a fourth of that.number is 25,000. Would any honorable senator make such a preserve of the Senate that he will say that no candidate must ever stand in any of the larger States who cannot poll over 25,000? I hope that the amendment will be carried, because 20,000 votes is a very fair number for a defeated candidate to secure, and in that case we have no right to take his money. If a man secures less than 9,000 or 10,000, he should forfeit his deposit. In Tasmania, under the most favorable circumstances, even after adult suffrage is adopted, 20,000 votes - even less than that number - may elect the lowest candidate, and whether it is a fourth or a fifth does not make a great deal of difference there. I hope that as the Commonwealth is not going to be dictated to by Tasmania, honorable senators will have some little consideration for men who might think themselves justified in standing, but who, after their nomination might become unpopular by reason of the occurrence of something for which they might not be to blame, and, therefore, would not get the necessary number of votes to save their deposit.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - An arbitrary number of 100,000 votes is absolute nonsense. Neither Senator McGregor nor any one else can say how many votes will be necessary in order to secure election. It will be determined by the number of candidates. The honorable senator’s argument seems to me to be worthless. The method of election for the Senate is such that every elector may record three votes where three seats have to be filled. Under the contingent method of voting, every elector will record one primary vote. That being so, it is perfectly obvious that it will be much easier for every candidate, however poor his chances may be, to get a certain proportion of votes for the Senate than for the House of Representatives. The difference may be, as I hope it will be, as three to one. For that reason a distinction in the proportion is necessary.
– It will be useful to see the actual figures of the voting in New South Wales, for the purpose of throwing some light on the controversy. The successful candidate who got the lowest number of votes in New South Wales, received 70,468 votes. One fourth of that number is 17,000 odd. A fifth is 14,000 odd. Surely if a candidate secures 14,000 odd votes, he gets reasonably near to the candidate who is successful, and the securing of that number justifies a man in standing for election. I am aware that there was no deposit in New South Wales, and that consequently there was a large number of candidates.’ But if this rule had been applied in that case, 31 of the candidates would have lost their deposits, leaving something like twenty who would not have forfeited their deposits. Probably many of them would not have become candidates. What we want to shut out is not only the man who has a small number of votes, but the man who shows plainly in. the result that he had not such a chance of succeeding as justified him in putting the country to the trouble of voting with regard to his candidature. Putting it in that way, it seems to me that one-fifth is a reasonable proportion. I see that there is a distinction between the case of a candidate for election to the Senate and one for the House of Representatives, in as much as the candidate for the Senate has the advantage of being compared with the last successful man of three. But there is not sufficient difference to make it necessary to have a higher proportion in the one case than in the other.
– I am glad that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is going to accept the amendment. Senator Millen has raised a point which is of considerable interest. Even if we adopt one-fifth as a proportion, it is not difficult to imagine a case of a candidate who would have been eventually returned having to forfeit his deposit.
– The man who is elected cannot possibly lose his deposit.
– We can imagine an election in which there are 1,000 voters. Under a clause which necessitates a man getting an absolute majority before he is returned he would have to secure more than 500 votes. If one candidate only gets 490 votes, and five others between them get the other 510 votes, and by the operation of the contingent vote the whole of those other votes go to the lowest candidate he will be penalized, although on the final count his candidature would have been justified by his return. .
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - It is impossible to forfeit the deposit of a man ‘who is returned, but, notwithstanding that, the penalty meted out by this clause is absolutely unfair. It proposes to put the same penalty upon a man who, when the final count is made up, is within a few votes of the successful candidate, as upon a man who only ‘polls nine or ten votes. The lower we make the percentage of votes required, the less risk there is of that occurring. There is every reason for making, a distinction between the two Houses in this respect; and although Senator O’Connor, with that easy compliance that sometimes marks his conduct, has indicated his intention to adopt Senator Pearce’s amendment in favour of one-fifth, I still think that a distinction should be made. At the proper time I shall move an amendment having the effect of discriminating between the two Houses.
– Half, the trouble arising in this debate comes from the fact that the part of the clause dealing with the course of action to be adopted in the case of the House of Representatives is quite unsuitable. The first part of the clause deals very properly with elections to the Senate,’ but when we come to deal with the House of Representatives there is no such, thing as “a successful candidate who has obtained the smallest number,” because there would be only one candidate to be elected for each seat. Some of the arguments with regard to the last two lines of the clause have been based on the assumption that there will be more than one candidate to be elected in the case of the House of Representatives. It would be a wise thing if we left it to the House of Representatives to deal with the forfeiture of deposits for its own elections. I have noticed that in other parts of the Bill we have simply passed clauses dealing with the House of Representatives without discussion. If we were to split this clause into two and to deal with the part referring to the Senate, leaving the other part, it would be the wisest thing we could do.
– I do not agree with Senator Matheson. If his argument holds good in this case it holds equally good so far as other matters are concerned. The Senate ought to deal with questions relating to the House of Representatives just as it deals with those relating to the Senate. If a man believes that he has a fair chance of polling well at an election, and polls less thana fifth of the votes recorded for the successful candidate, surely a fine of £25 is sufficient. I remember that the first time I stood for election in Queensland I had not a penny in the world, and had to borrow £10 to enable me to enter the contest. Fortunately I was successful, but if I had been defeated, and it had been shown that I had under-estimated my strength,or if some change had taken place at the last moment of the campaign so that I had not polled a fifth of the votes cast for the successful candidate, would not a penalty of £25 have been sufficient to meet the case ? Other honorable senators may have had the same experience, and I would appeal to the committee to say that the deposit shall be £25, and not £50. That is a fair compromise. Our actions should always be on the side of generosity and leniency. 1 certainly hope that honorable senators will decide that it shall only be necessary for a candidate to secure one-fifth instead of one - fourth of the number of votes polled by the successful candidate lowest on the list, in order to avoid the forfeiture of his deposit.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I desire to submit a definite amendment, in order to take the sense of the committee on the question, of whether or not the percentage of votes required to be obtained, in order to avoid forfeiture of the deposit money, shall be the same for the two Houses, andalso whether the method of calculation in the case of the House of Representatives shall be on the primary votes, or upon the total number of votes obtained. I can only do that by the withdrawal of the amendment now before the committee.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That the words “ in the case of the Senate “ be inserted after the word “ election,” line5.
Subsequently I shall move an amendment that in the case of the Senate the percentage shall be taken on the votes polled by the lowest successful candidate, and that in the case of the House of Representatives it shall not be calculated upon the primary votes, but upon the total votes as shown by the final count.
– I take it that this will be a test vote on the question of whether the Senate is to be dealt with differently and separately from the House of Representatives?
– Even if we take a test vote on the amendment ‘just moved, as to whether there shall be a distinction drawn between the House of Representatives and the Senate, in regard to the percentage of votes, we shall still have to deal with the second question which arises as to differentiation in regard to the basis upon which the proportion is to be ascertained. That could best be dealt with by moving to strike out the words -
The number of votes for the purposes of this section means the number of votes indicated by the number 1. and by introducing the words “ in the case of the Senate,” not where it is proposed to insert them now, but after the word “polled.” That would require the calculation to be made, not on the basis of the primary votes, which is open to Senator Millen’s unanswerable criticism, but on the basis of the total votes obtained by the successful candidate lowest on the poll. The contingent vote gives rise to a great deal of anomaly. It seems a monstrous thing that a man, who on the second count would be brought within twenty of the successful candidate, should, as pointed out by Senator Millen, be compelled to forfeit his deposit. There may be other inconveniences which ought to be remedied, but that fact does not lessen the mischief in the case of that one man. There should be a straight-out vote on the majority plan, without seeking to reach an artificial absolute majority.
– I can hardly agree with Senator Symon that the question of whether or not a candidate should forfeit his deposit should not depend upon the first count. If the honorable senator will look at clause 159 he will see that it would be impossible to give effect to his proposal while that provision remains. The man obtaining the lowest number of votes is out of it after the first count, and I would ask, therefore, how it could be decided whether or not he obtained one-fifth of the total number except on the first count ?
– No doubt that is a difficulty.
– I must confess that until Senator Symon addressed himself to this question I was in some doubt as to what was Senator Millen’s proposal. He intimated that it was his intention to move an amendment which would have the effect of leaving the total number of votes polled in an election under the contingent vote system as the basis upon which to work out the proportion of votes necessary for a candidate to obtain in order to save his deposit. But let us take his own illustration of six candidates standing for election, and of 1,000 votes being polled. A, who is highest on. the poll, receives 490 primary votes, B, C, D, and E each receive 110, while the sixth candidate, F, polls 70 votes. According to the method of counting, F would be cast out of the election at once, and the No. 2 votes on his ballot-papers would be given effect to as primary votes. Then B might be the lowest of the remaining five candidates, and his 110 - or more perhaps than 110 - ballot-papers would , be gone through. The No. 2, or the No. 3 votes in the case of the transferred votes, would be given full value as primary votes, and perhaps D would be eventually elected. If Senator Millen attaches a primary value to the second preferences on the 70 papers of those who selected F as their candidate, why does he deny a similar value to the second preferences on the papers of B, C, D, and E, when such second preferences have been given to F ?
– I do not.
– If Senator Millen will follow out his contention to its logical conclusion, he will be confronted with a stonewall equal to that which he found so great an obstacle in the way of his acceptance of the principle of proportional representation. If we come to determine the matter logically, there is not the slightest reason why we should not give to these No. 2 and No. 3 preferences their full value. We must have something that will be fair to determine the proportion, and the proposal already submitted, which is that in force where there is preferential voting, is the one to follow. When we recognise that no voter can give more than one primary vote to a candidate, we see that the proportion of the successful candidates of one-fourth or one-fifth is maintained right through, just as if every one were entitled to give three votes of equal value, and every one did so. The proportion, whatever it be, should, under the circumstances, be the same for both Houses, and the basis on which it should be calculated in the case of the contingent vote, is the primary vote.
– If we apply the proposal in the Bill to the forthcoming election in Tasmania, we see how burdensome it will be. Allowing six candidates, according to the present proposal, if five candidates secure only 2,000 votes each, all of them will lose their deposits, the successful candidate securing 10,000 votes. That is not an extraordinary case, because it occurred at the last general election in Western Australia. There was one seat and six candidates, five of whom lost their deposits, and that was on a margin of onefifth, and not one-fourth, as proposed by the Bill. I hope senators will see their way to adopt the principle of one-fifth, because, unless they do so, I am satisfied that we shall be making what may be called a “close preserve” for the present senators, whereas voters ought to have the right of electing whom they like.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - We appear to be wasting a good deal of time over a difficulty which may not in practice prove so formidable as is anticipated. If the percentage of one-fourth is lowered, I shall not proceed with my amendment for alterating the basis on which the percentage is calculated.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the word “fourth” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “fifth.”
Question - That the word “fourth” proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … … 10
Noes … … … 19
Majority … …9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That after the word “King,” line 9, the following words be inserted - “In elections for the House ofRepresentatives.”
– I wish to express my acknowledgements to Senator Styles for the very clear explanation he gave of the position which will be involved in making the basis of the calculation, in relation to the House ofRepresentatives, one-fourth of the total votes of the successful candidate on the second count. It is perfectly obvious that the result will be, as he points out, that while we may be doing justice, to the second man or “ runner up,” we may be doing a very great injustice to all the other candidates. This shows the extraordinary anomaly in connexion with contingent voting as applied to the House of Representatives, and we shall be making a very great mistake if we adopt this system. The only logical method of dealing with the matter is, as I suggested before, to strike out the last line and a half of the clause.
– The system has been an absolute failure in Queensland.
– This system was never tried in Queensland.
– I do not wish to settle the dispute between Senator O’Connor and Senator Dawson, but to point out that, whilst by this Bill we declare that a man shall forfeit his deposit on the count of primary votes, we also declare that the election shall proceed upon the primary vote, plus the second count. The two things are utterly inconsistent.
– The House of Representatives will reject the provision.
– I hope the House of Representatives will do so, but it is necessary to show the extraordinary inconsistency of adopting the system. The only remedy is to do away with contingent voting, and leave the determination of the election on the same voting as we leave the determination as to who shall forfeit his deposit.
– That has been dealt with.
– Subject to recommittal.
– There is no question of recommittal.
– Why not ?
– Unless honorable senators can carry a recommittal.
– I hope the presence of this provision in the clause will be an incentive to the Senate to insist on a recommittal ; and, putting an end to the contingent vote, to rest on the determination by a simple majority.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Postponed clause 113 (Marking of postal vote).
– In consequence of the vote taken this afternoon, in reference to proportional representation, an amendment is necessary in this clause which deals with voting by post. I move -
That after the words “ The vote may be marked on a postal ballot-paper,” the word “by” be omitted with a view to insert the following words : - “ (a) In elections for the Senate by writing the name of each candidate for whom the elector votes on the ballot-paper opposite a square, and making a cross in each square opposite to which the name is written. (6) In elections for the House of Representatives-
-. I rise to ask Senator O’Connor what is the necessity for the complication. In Western Australia we have a method of proxy voting which in effect is the same as this system of voting by post. The names of the candidates for whom a person votes are written on the ballot-paper. Since we have abolished the principle of preferential voting, why should we not adopt that rule for the Senate, instead of requiring the elector to write the name of the candidate opposite to a square ?
– Is there any reason why the names of the candidates should not be printed on the ballot-paper issued to an elector who wishes to vote by post?
– It cannot be done, because at the time when the application , for the ballot-paper is made all the names of the candidates may not be known. These ballot-papers have to be sent out between the issue of the writ and the receipt of the nominations, otherwise the better way would be to print the names. In the case of all other votes that are recorded the elector is required to put a cross opposite the name. The ballot-paper which is sent . on to the voter by post contains these squares on its face. It facilitates the counting of ballot-papers if they are all uniform, and it certainly does not impose very much trouble on the voter.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).There can be no uniformity, and no assistance will be given to the returning officer if one ballot-paper contains twenty names printed in alphabetical order, and another contains six written names. So far as the cross is concerned, the less clerical work the voter has to do the better. All he should be required to do is to write down the names on the ballot-paper.
Senator EWING (Western Australia). - Everything we require the elector to do in the way of complicating his vote, creates facilities for informal votes. Our object is to secure as many valid votes as we can, and consequently we do not wish to complicate the voting. The provisions with regard to voting by post, require the voter to write on the ballot-paper the names of the candidates for whom he desires to vote. If the votes for the candidates whose names are written down are equal, what is the sense of adding a cross opposite to the name? It only makes another formality, which the elector may overlook, and consequently will add to the number of informal votes. I suggest to Senator O’Connor that an amendment should be put in the first line of the clause, to the effect that a vote may be marked on the postal ballotpaper in the case of the Senate, by writing the names of the candidates for whom the elector wishes to vote.
– I do not think that there is very much reason for continuing these words. I am willing to consent to an amendment, but I think that the better plan will be to strike out of my amendment the words, “ and make a cross in each square opposite to which a name is written.” The elector must write the name opposite to a square in ‘ order to give a formal vote.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
Senator EWING (Western Australia). - If the name were not written opposite a square the vote would be informal. It is really absurd to say that a man shall write the names in a particular place. The ballot-paper may be of a considerable size, and a more or less illiterate voter, knowing for whom he desires to vote, but not realising the technicalities with which he is surrounded, may write the name on any part of the ballot-paper. Why should he be called upon to write it opposite a square?
– Surely technicalities ought not to stand in the way of an elector recording his vote in the best way he can. I hope that the clause will be soamended as to provide for the vote to be counted as the voter intended it should be.
– I would ask Senator Ewing not to trouble about moving the omission of the words “ opposite a square.” The elector receives from the returning officer a slip on which there are three squares, and he is required to write opposite those squares the names of the men for whom he votes. Under present circumstances he can plump, and may write down only one name, but it has to be written opposite a square. There is not the slightest difficulty in complying with this provision. It may as well be left as it is instead of allowing a man to write on any slip of paper he may choose to select. The method is as simple as ABC.
Senator EWING (Western Australia). - I move -
That the amendment be amended by the omission of the words “ opposite a square.”
My object is to enable an elector not to write on any piece of paper he chooses to use, but to write on the ballot-paper, wherever he sees fit, the names of the candidates for whom he votes. Excepting the squares the ballot-paper is a blank sheet, and if a man does not write the names opposite the squares, unless we omit these words the votes will be informal. If these words are retained an elector may write a name a little too high or a little too low, and a technical electoral officer will say that it is a bad vote.
– There is no difficulty in complying with this very simple requirement. The ballot-paper contains a square at the beginning of each line, and if a man writes the name on the line he must write it opposite a square. What possible difficulty can there be in writing a name on the line opposite the square ? We have to preserve the secrecy of the ballot. The ballot-papers have to be folded, and if a man is allowed to write in any place he may write the names in such a way that his vote may be destroyed when the ballotpaper is being folded, whereas if the name has to be written in a particular part, and it is written any where fairly near that part; it will be counted. No electoral officer will put aside a vote as informal because the name is not written quite on the line. We have gone quite far enough in making the method of voting simple for the voter. We can get to such a point in dry-nursing the voter that it will be very difficult to count the votes.
– Supposing that an illiterate person should desire to vote by post, can he, under clause 144, get some one to assist him in marking his ballot-paper?
– I think he could. I shall look into the point, but it does not arise now.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the amendment - put. The committee divided -
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 128. - (Senate ballot paper).
– An amendment requires to be made in this clause, which refers to “the first schedule.” There will only be one schedule now, so that the word “first” should come out. The same word occurs in a number of clauses in which a similar amendment will be necessary. I presume that it will be made by the Chairman wherever it occurs. I move -
That the word “ first” be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
First schedule postponed.
Second schedule negatived.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted, to follow clause 33 - “ 33a. All persons qualified to vote at any election for the Senate or House of Representatives, or who would be qualified so to vote if their names were upon a roll, shall be qualified and entitled to have their names placed upon the electoral roll for the division in which they reside.”
This amendment is necessary in order to make it perfectly clear that not only the persons who are on a roll, but all persons who are qualified to vote at an election, although they may not be on a roll, are entitled to have their names placed on a roll. The matter was discussed at some length by the committee, and I think it became evident that such an amendment was necessary.
New clause agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted, to follow clause 119: - “119a. Any elector may, after the issue of the writ, and not later than three days before polling day, make application in the form Ml in the schedule to the returning officer for the division in which he resides for a voter’s certificate.”
This clause and the four succeeding clauses which I shall move presently are necessary to carry out the principle that has already been adopted, of providing for the issue of voters’ certificates. The clauses 119 (a), (b), (c), (d), and (e) provide a system for the issue of these certificates, similar to that which is provided in the case of postal notes.
– In accordance with the intimation I gave at the time clause 135 was under the discussion, I move -
That the words “after the issue of the writ and,” lines 1 and 2, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “at any time.”
The object of the clause undoubtedly is to give the elector an opportunity of voting at a booth in the division, on the list of which his name has not been inserted. That is to say, an elector is not to be confined to any one booth in a division. It was pointed out when clause 135 was under discussion, that very great hardship might be inflicted upon an elector if he were prevented from voting at any booth, but the committee, taking into account the great size of the divisions and the fact that separate electoral lists had to be prepared for each polling booth, settled that it would be impossible to allow a voter to vote at any booth he liked. When that vote was given I, as the committee will remember, supported the clause as it stood on the distinct understanding that an opportunity would be allowed of increasing the power which a voter might have of voting under an elector’s right. If we are going to give a voter any convenience in this respect, I fail to see why we should propose to restrict the time within which he may obtain his elector’s right to the period between the date of the issue of the writ and the actual date of election. In many districts and especially in Western Australia where there are huge electorates and men have to go very far out back, it would be almost impossible for an elector to avail himself of the two special provisions in the Bill for making voting easy. I propose to show by reference to clauses 90 and 91 that the minimum period within which these rights may be obtained might very easily be curtailed to 14 days, and I think honorable senators will agree that that would be wholly insufficient.
– In the large electorates to which the honorable senator refers, they would probably have three or four weeks. We have to deal with the Bill in its practical working.
– It is not certain that the practical working of the Bill would be as suggested. The committee ought not to be guided by the maximum period, for the minimum is undoubtedly that which curtails the right of the elector. The chief objection that I have heard raised against my amendment is that it would afford additional facilities to a voter to sell his vote. But surelyno one can reasonably contend that long before any election could take place, a man would set to work to buy up these electors’ rights, and store them away in his safe ? If there were a purchaser he would not appear on the scene until after the date of nomination, and in that case the objection would apply with equal force to the special provisions brought forward by the Government, I have heard no other objection which is not equally applicable to the clause as it stands.
– I intend to support the amendment moved by Senator Matheson, and had he not brought it forward I should have made a similar proposal. Unless the amendment is carried, this provision will be practically useless so far as a large number of electors in Queensland are concerned. As pointed out by Senator Matheson, the distances are so great that in most cases it would be impossible for an elector to obtain a voter’s right between the date of the issue of the writ and three days before polling day. An elector enrolled for a constituency near Brisbane, who had removed to some place near the Gulf of Carpentaria, would require six months notice in order to be able to secure his voter’s right.
– That applies also to the whole of the Northern Territory
– A large number of men are continually on the move in Queensland. They are termed nomads, and many people look upon them with contempt. But they are the men who have made Australia what it is. If every man dumped himself down in the city, where would we be? These men are the backbone of the country ; but instead of making it easy for them to achieve the full right of citizenship we are throwing every impediment in their way. Queensland is polled as one electorate for the Senate, and why should not a man be permitted to vote at . any polling place within the electorate ? At the last federal elections in Queensland a man whose name was upon any electoral roll was allowed to vote, irrespective of where he happened to be at the time. Thousands availed themselves of that privilege, but we did not hear of a single case of personation coming before the courts. Then again, the Queensland divisions for the House of Representatives are very large. The electorate of Capricornia, in which I live, extends nearly 300 miles from east to west, and from 150 to 200 miles from north to south. There the workingman, to whom this clause applies specially, is almost continually on the move, always assisting to develop our resources and build up this great Commonwealth.
– The power of transfer would apply to them.
– These men have something more to do than to attend to the mere transfer of their votes every time that they are compelled by the nature of their occupation to change their place of residence. Take the case of a man who removes from Rockhampton to Mount Morgan. He does not know how long he may be employed there, but he knows that in the ordinary course of events an election will only take place trienially. He knows also that the rolls will be purified only once in three years, and he asks - “ What is the good of transferring my vote ? I may be back before then, or I may have removed to half-a-dozen different places in the interval. While I favour the punishment of personation in the most severe manner, I think that every facility should be given to men to record their votes, irrespective of where they may be on polling day. The amendment will achieve the desired object as far as seems to be possible.
– Even if the amendment be carried, the voter is limited to voting in his division.
– That is a most decided defect, but the amendment is an improvement, and I trust that the committee will give electors as many facilities as possible.
– The proposal of the Government is, I take it, a compromise between the amendment I moved on clause 135, and the amendment now before the committee. It is still possible, however, to deal with clause 135 on recommittal, and I intend to move to that end in order to again test the feeling of the committee. The more one considers the question, the more one can see that voters’ certificates will not get over the difficulty even with the amendment of Senator Matheson.
– These clauses simply expand what has been in the Bill all through.
– But I take it that the expansion is to meet my objection to clause 135, and to suit the convenience of absent voters.
– That is the effect.
– That does not meet the case of voters in outlying districts who do not know where they will be until polling day arrives. Many of them, though still in the division, may be hundreds of miles away from where the vote is registered. They are not too familiar with Acts of Parliament, and unless this system of certificates is explained, they will take no steps until polling day arrives. I ask the committee to assent to Senator Matheson’s amendment, and also to recommit clause 135. Senators who have been in the goldfields, or in the interior, do notneed to have the position explained, but it is an unfortunate fact that there are honorable senators who do not know or realize, or who seem not to have any sympathy with those who have to live under the conditions which have been described. Those senators appear to think that we desire to legislate for sundowners, who never do a useful day’s work. The men for whom we wish to legislate are those who work hard, and who, in doing so, have to follow an ever-changing labour market.
– The amendment will mean the unlimited issue of certificates. Electors in hundreds may take out these certificates and keep them, hand them over to some one else, or deal with them in any way they like, and yet the bearer will be able to vote at any time at any polling place within the division.
– That is a reversal of the policy of the Bill.
– It is a complete reversal of the policy of the Bill. We have had some experience of electors’ rights in New South Wales and Victoria, and even with all the safeguards they have been found absolutely unworkable, for the reason that they put a ready instrument of fraud into the hands of designing persons who are always ready to collect votes at election times. I do not suppose for one moment that the voters in those far away places are nearly as bad as the vote-mongers we find in crowded cities. I believe that these outlying voters are as honest as the average voter, and may be more honest, but, at the same time, we must have some regard to human nature. Although there may be no definite intention of committing a wrong, people at election times are approached by designing persons, and may innocently be made instruments of fraud. We ought to make the exercise of the franchise as easy as possible ; and it is a mistake to suppose that those who oppose the amendment, are wanting in sympathy for the class of men now under consideration. Their case has been under review in all the Parliaments of Australia for years past, and the great struggle has been to give them the greatest possible voting facilities, without leaving the system open to fraud. It must be admitted that the Bill gives more facilities to voters in outside places than any measure that has yet been before the Parliaments of Australia.
– Toomany !
– I dare say some people think that the’ facilities are too many, but that is not the opinion of the Government, so long as there are proper safeguards. No system can be devised by which every elector shall at all times be able to record his vote. An elector may be somewhere in the interior of Australia, away fromall post-offices, pollingplaces, and even beyond all knowledgo of elections. All we can do is to secure that the great bulk of men shall be able to record their votes, and I submit that the cases in which a man will not be able to vote under this Bill will be very few. If a man is going to make a residence of anything like a month away from the place of registration, he can transfer his vote up to within three days of polling day ; or, if he happens to be within reach of a post-office in any part of Australia, he can apply for a certificate and vote by post; and, in addition, if he knows he is not likely to be near a polling place, but will be somewhere else in the division, he can get a certificate entitling him to vote. That certificate can be got at any time after the issueof the writ to within three days of polling-day. Unless a voter is in such a place that no Electoral Act would enable him to vote, every facility is given under this Bill. I can quite understand, though I altogether disagree with, the position takenup by Senator Pearce, that a man ought to be allowed to vote in any portion of the division.
– And outside of the division.
– The present proposal is infinitely more mischievous, because it enables certificates to be obtained, it may be a year before the election, and hundreds may be issued. A person may have been entitled to vote, but have lost his qualification, and the certificate may be presented by another person. All the returning officer can do is to put the statutory questions, and if these be answered, the holder of a certificate must be allowed to vote. Under such a system it is impossible to say to what extent fraud and personation would take place in large districts. It is impossible to suppose that in extensive electorates the polling can take place earlier than three weeks or a month after the issue of the writ, though a lesser period is provided for populous localities ; and ample time is thus provided in which to obtain certificates. Under the system proposed we have some sort of check, but ifthe limitation be swept away we shall have all the dangers and difficulties of elector’s rights without any of their safeguards, and do more to help the fraudulent, than to help bond fide electors.
– Is it provided, as in clause 135, that the voter shall deliver up his certificate on voting.
– The clauses must be read together. Electors not having voters’ certificates, and not voting by post, may vote at the plane for which they are enrolled. Electors having voters’ certificates may vote at any polling place within the division by delivering up to the presiding officer their voters’ certificates. We lay down the general rule that the elector must vote at his own polling place, and we then state the exception. Clause 119 is the machinery for the purpose of getting those votes issued. For these reasons, although we have every desire to make voting as free and open as possible for voters in every part of Australia, at the same time we must have some regard to the necessity for preventing fraud by the misuse of these electors’ rights, which may happen by reason of neglect or loss. Let me point out to Senator Matheson one consequence of his amendment. Supposing that; a man loses his voter’s certificate, is he to get another voter’s certificate without satisfying the returning officer that the other has been lost, or has not been imporperly used? There is no necessity for making that provision if we limit him to the time here stated, but if we allow him to take out avoter’s certificate at any time, it may be a year before the election, it is impossible to know what is being done. I hope that the committee will pass the clause as it is, as it gives all the facilities which are reasonably required.
Senator MATHESON (Western Australia). - I am surprised at the attitude taken up by Senator O’Connor, because the only practical reason he gives for objecting to the amendment is just the very one . which ought to appeal to honorable senators to pass it. He said that there would be an unlimited use of voter’s certificates, that they would be issued in hundreds. If that is the view he takes, it practically admits the absolute necessity of the amendment he deprecates. He says, not in so many words, but by implication, that it will meet a universal want. It is to meet that want that we propose to introduce the amendment.. The only inference to be drawn from the remarks of Senator O’Connor, is that the Government deliberately contemplates that these facilities shall not he availed of. These facilities wore inserted_in the Bill in nach a way that the Government are aware that they cannot be exercised to any large extent, and they do not propose to have those alterations made which would make available the facilities they simply affect to give.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I I am very sorry that Senator O’Connor cannot see his way to accept the amendment. He professes to have very great sympathy with the nomadic electors in the outlying portions of the continent, but very little opportunity to vote is given to them under this Bill. What we wish Senator O’Connor to do is to embed his sympathy in the Bill. It throws more obstacles in the way of electors voting than does any Australian Act I know of. It is much more conservative than even the Queensland Act, so far as allowing voting facilities is concerned. It deliberately ties down a voter to the polling place for which he is enrolled unless he gets a voter’s certificate or claims the privilege of voting by post. In Queensland an elector is permitted to vote at any polling place within the electorate. Why should not/ that provision be inserted in the Commonwealth law I At the federal elections in Queensland men were permitted to vote anywhere within their division for the House of Representatives, and anywhere within the State for the Senate. Senator O’Connor gave himself away when he said that hundreds of voters’ certificates would be issued. Why should hundreds of them be issued ? Would any man ask for a voter’s certificate unless he knew that on election day ho would not be, in the locality for which he was enrolled ? He would merely demand a voter’s certificate under stress of the circumstances which compelled his removal from the place in which he was residing. Then Senator O’Connor says that if the holder of a voter’s certificate satisfactorily answers the questions put to him by the returning officer he must be permited to vote. He must be aware that any voter who answers satisfactorily the questions put to him must be allowed to vote, so that there is no difference, as far as I can see, between one man and the other. Then, out of the depth of his imagination, Senator O’Connor conjured up some great amount of fraud that was going to take place. We ought to legislate on the presumption that every man will act honestly and honorably at elections. When we find that a large number of the electors are rogues and vata-bonds, then it will be quite time for us’ to rear obstacles in the way of such persons being allowed to vote. I appeal to Senator O’Connor to give at least as great voting facilities to the electors of Queensland as they now enjoy under the law of that State. This is a matter of very great consequence to 20,000 or 30,000 men in that State. . That may stagger a senator from South Australia, where the people are all huddled together In Queensland the population is very evenly diffused. I believe it is much more equably spread in that State than in almost any other. We have a population of over 100,000 in the north, about 60,000 in the centre, and about 300,000 in the south. I am well within tlie mark in saying, that 20,000 men will be affected by this provision in Queensland. All that I ask is that they shall have reasonable facilities for voting, such as they had at the last election. If these are afforded nobody will have any cause of complaint ; but if the limitations proposed by this Bill are insisted upon, I say deliberately that, it means that 20,000 men will be in serious danger of disfranchisement
Senate adjourned at 10.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 March 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020319_senate_1_8/>.