1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2 p.m. and read prayers.
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD presented a petition from Sir James Graham, chairman of a public meeting of the citizens of Sydney, praying the Senate not to break the existing Electoral law, and thus deprive citizens of the Commonwealth of their just political rights.
Petition received and read. Motion (by Senator Lt.-Col. Neild) proposed -
That the petition bo printed.
– A desire has been expressed that petitions and other documents should be referred to the Printing Committee, which holds a meeting every week. I think it is only fair that such documents, instead of being ordered to be printed forthwith, should be referred to that body.
– Standing order 36 regulates the procedure.
– It is a matter entirely for the Senate to decide.
– I have no desire to disparage the excellent efforts and work of the Printing Committee. The petition applies toa Bill before the Senate, and if there is the slightest delay in the printing of it, it will be of no use to honorable senators afterwards. That is the only reason why I moved the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator HIGGS presented a petition from the Star of Peace Lodge, I.O.G.T., Maryborough, in Queensland, praying the Senate to prohibit the introduction, sale, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors in British New Guinea.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence, without notice, if he is yet in a position to tell the Senate whether any event has transpired in consequence of what took place in the other House last evening? It is hardly necessary to say that in all bicameral Parliaments it is customary for the Minister in one House to make an announcement when an event of that kind has transpired in the other.
– I have no information for the Senate.
– I beg to ask the Minister for Defence, without notice, the following questions : -
– Is that a notice of motion ?
– No; a question without notice.
– I must ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
– I should like to see the question given in print before I give an opinion, but I wish to call the attention of Senator Higgs and the Senate generally to the fact that standing order 94 has modified our procedure in reference to questions. It says -
In putting any such question, no argument or opinion shall be offered, nor inference nor imputation made.
The last words were not in our previous standing order.
– Mr. President-
– If the honorable senator will hand in his question I shall see if it is right or not.
– I beg to give notice that on Tuesday, the 22nd September, I shall move -
I desire to say that in case it should not be convenient to move the motion on the day named, I propose to give one or two days’ notice before I proceed with it. I beg, by command, to lay the paper on the table, and I desire to move -
That the document be printed.
– I do not think that any one can, by command, lay a notice of motion on the table.
– I desire to lay the proposed resolutions on the table.
– But this is a notice of motion.
– Well, I can strike out the introductory line.
– I do not think the Governor-General ought to interfere with the conduct of the business of the Senate.
– I submit, sir, that His Excellency is not interfering.
– Perhaps I misunderstand the Minister.
– I submit, sir, that I can, by command, lay on the table these proposed resolutions.
– They are to be moved.
– I desire, sir, that this paper should be part of the records of the Senate.
– So it will.
– I desire that the paper should be printed and circulated amongst honorable senators.
– If it is a notice of motion it will be printed on the noticepaper, it will be part of the procedure of the Senate, and will be circulated. It seems to me, without having given the matter long consideration, that it is improper to bring in the Governor-General - because any paper laid on the table by command of His Excellency is presumed to be his act - in reference to the procedure of the Senate.
– I shall not press the matter, although I do not see any objection to the paper being laid on the table.
– I have never known a notice of motion to be laid on the table of any House of Parliament by command
– But this is not a notice of motion, but a copy of certain proposed resolutions.
– Ithink it is a notice of motion in the ordinary form. It is certainly a verbatim copy of the notice of motion.
asked the Minister for Defence,upon notice -
When is it the intention of the Government to lay on the table of this House resolutions respecting the selection of a territory within which the capital of the Commonwealth shall be formed?
Senator DRAKE (Queensland - Minister for Defence). - My answer to the honorable senator must be that I attempted to lay the resolutions upon the table of the Senate this afternoon, but the President ruled that proceeding out of order.
– I beg the honorable and learned senator’s pardon. Senator Drake gave notice of motion, and wanted to lay that notice of motion on the table “ by command.” I never heard of such a thing as the laying on the table “by command” of papers which form part of the procedure of the Senate.
– If I may make a correction before it is too late, I distinctly stated that it was the resolutions that I was laying upon the table.
– Nothing is a resolution of the Senateuntil it has been agreed to by the Senate. These are only proposed resolutions, and what the honorable and learned senator has submitted is a notice of* motion for proposed resolutions.
SenatorWalker. - I take it, then, that the answer to my question will be “ Tuesday, 22nd September.”
– I may have misunderstood the Minister for Defence, but certainly 1 never ruled, and never intended to rule, that he could not, in answer to a.question, lay on the table, by command, the motions which he proposes to move in reference to a question.
– Then I shall lay them on the table again directly.
– It is only a question of date.
– These proposed resolutions are practically the answer to my question.
– I do not think the question is asked in perhaps the best way. It ought to read, “ When do the Government intend to give notice of motion ? “
– Am I to understand that I have received an answer to my question?
– I do not know.
SenatorWalker. - Will the Minister for Def ence kindly answer the question?
– I gave the answer just now. I may add. that I propose at the next break of business ‘ to again lay them upon the table of the Senate and move that they be printed.
– I think there is a misunderstanding. Senator Walker has not asked his question in proper form. If the honorable senator had asked - “ When do the Government intend to give notice of motion V there would have been no misapprehension.
– What I did was done with the approval of the Minister for Defence.
– I have nothing to do with that. My ‘only ruling has been this : That a notice of motion ought not to be laid upon the table “ by command.”
At a later stage -
Senator DRAKE (Queensland - Minister for Defence). - I beg to lay on the table, by command, proposed resolutions to be moved in the Senate with regard to the selection of the capital site, and I desire to move -
That the piper be printed.
– I do not think that this ought to be done. I have already ruled that a notice of motion concerning the conduct and procedure of the Senate is a matter for the Senate to deal with.
– I say that this is not -a notice of motion.
– I do not think that a paper in reference to the matter should be laid upon the table “ by command.” There is nothing whatever to differentiate this notice of motion from any other. I call the attention of the Senate to standing order 346, which provides -
Motions for the production of despatches or other correspondence addressed to the Governor-General, or for any information emanating from His Excellency, shall be in the form - “That an address be presented to His Excellency” to that effect.
And standing order 347 provides -
Other papers may be presented pursuant to statute -
This is not pursuant to statute-
– No ; it is by command, as I have said.
– The standing order continues - by the President or by command of His Excellency the Governor-General.
The question which I think the Senate has to consider is, whether this is a paper within the meaning of the standing order.
I do not think it is. It is a part of the procedure of the Senate. It is not a paper within the meaning of the standing order, and I do not think it ought to be laid upon the table “ by command.”
– Do I understand that notice has been given by the Minister for Defence that he intends to lay this paper upon the table of the Senate ?
– The Minister has given notice that he will, on a certain date, move certain proposed resolutions. Now the honorable and learned senator desires to lay the same notice of motion on the table.
– No ; that is not quite right.
– The same words.
– So far only as the proposed resolutions are concerned.
– The honorable and learned senator desires to lay the proposed resolutions on the table of the Senate by command of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral ; and I understand that you have declined to allow that to be done.
– Yes ; that is so.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Have the Government yet considered the report of the engineers on the proposed Trans-. Australian Railway ; and, if so, are they in the position to say if it is their intention to ask the sanction of Parliament to the expenditure of money for the purposes of the required survey of the route of the proposed line :
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
As soon as the Western Australian Parliament have passed the Enabling Bill now before them, authorizing the Federal Government to proceed, the matter will receive attention. The South Australian Government has not j’et introduced a similar measure.
When is it intended to appoint acting or militia adjutants to the mounted ‘ regiments in New South Wales?
– I am sorry that I have been unable to get the information required. I must ask the honorable senator to give fresh notice of the question.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
It is not the intention to proceed with this Bill until certain inquiries have been made in British New Guinea. The matter to which the honorable senator refers will be one of the subjects of inquiry, but not the only one.
Ordered (on motion by Senator Charleston) -
That there be laid upon the table of the Senate copies of the correspondence which passed between the Postmaster-General and the Manager in Australasia of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Co.’s business between and inclusive of 20th August, 1903, and 3rd September, 1903, referring to certain information communicated to the Postmaster-General.
Ordered (on motion by Senator Higgs) -
That there be laid on the table of the Senate a copy of the telegram sent by His Excellency the Governor-General to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on the 21st August, having reference to proposed Cable Conference asked for by Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Order of the day No. 1 having been read as follows -
Senator DOBSON : To move, That in the opinion of the Senate Ministers should take immediate steps to amend the Constitution in the following manner : -
As to section 101 : - To provide for delaying the appointment of an Inter-State Commission until the necessity for such appointment arises, and in the meantime to vest in the High Court the powers of adjudication and administration which the Commission, if appointed would exercise.
As to section 125 : - To strike out the following words - “ and be distant not less than One hundred miles from Sydney.”
– In view of the notice of motion which the Minister for Defence has just given, I move -
That the order of the day be read and discharged.
I shall have ample opportunity to move any amendmentI think desirable upon the resolution of which notice has been given.
– In moving that an order of the day be read and discharged, the honorable and learned senator cannot discuss the question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 26th August, vide page 4209):
The following shall be the scale of travelling allowances : -
upon which Senator Stewart had moved -
That the figures “17s. 6d.,” twice occurring, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “12s. 6d.”
-I moved this amendment when the regulations were last before the Committee, and gave the reasons why I thought the change ought to be made. These allowances in almost every instance, and certainly in the case of the more highly-paid officers, have always been fixed at an extravagant rate. In speaking to the amendment on the last occasion the Minister for Defence claimed that 17s. 6d. was little enough to pay a man away out in. the back - blocks. I have been in the back - blocks, and I have never had to pay more than 2s. 6d. for a meal and 2s. 6d. for a bed anywhere. That amounts to 10s. per per day ; and I do not think that higher rates are charged anywhere in the back-blocks to which a civil servant may find it necessary to go. I have not sought to reduce the allowance to 10s., but have been content to make it 1 2s. 6d. per day, which is, in my opinion, an ample allowance. Honorable senators must remember that when civil servants are travelling by steamer their fares are paid, and these cover their food; and whilst they pay nothing away as expenses when travelling by steamer, their daily allowance goes on all the time. We are in for a period of economy, and this proposed allowance of 17s. 6d. per day is one which might be fairly cut down, in order that some saving might be effected for the Commonwealth. I recommend the amendment to honorable senators, and hope that it will be agreed to.
– I do not know that I have anything to add to what I said when this amendment was moved, though, perhaps, some honorable senators may have forgotten what was said on that occasion.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– In some of the States, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland, where travelling on the part of public servants is very extensive, I do not think that a payment of 17s. 6d. per day is too much. The honorable senator reckons that with three meals a day, at 2s. 6d. per meal, and 2s. 6d. for a bed, the day’s expenses would amount to 10s. But that is the minimum upon which a man could possibly travel. Some of the allowances further down are as low as 14s. and 12s. a day, and the honorable senator is also proposing to reduce them.
– There are some at 6s. a day. How do the men live who receive those allowances?
– Those allowances are paid to officers in the general division, who are travelling for a considerable period. Probably they have a tent and rations, and can cover their expenses on the allowance made. But in a case where an officer is sent away to do duty, perhaps in a backblocks place, for a temporary period, I do not think that 17s. 6d. is an excessive allowance. Honorable senators have been inclined to be very liberal indeed in the expenditure of the money of the taxpayers in other cases, and I do not think that where allowances have to be drawn by an officer in a higher position, who is doing duty of an important character, they should desire to cut them down unduly. I do not know what the personal experiences of other honorable senators have been, but when I have been travelling I have found that 1 7s. 6d. perday did not go far towards paying my travelling expenses. The amount is not unreasonable.
– I do not know that my honorable friend Senator Stewart would take very strong exception to the amounts paid in these cases, providing there was not such a wide gulf between the amounts paid to certain officers and those paid to others. I am not going to quarrel with the amount in this instance, except to say that I hold that such wide distinctions should not be made between officers who happen to be in the lower grades of the service and those who are in thehigher grades. These everlasting, extravagant, and wide distinctions between sections of people have always met with my strong opposition, and always will do. If Senator Drake contends that officers, when travelling, ought to be adequately remunerated for their outofpocket expenses, I urge that that rule should be applied all round. Why should some officers be paid 17s. 6d. per day whilst only a few shillings are paid in other cases ? If Senator Drake would agree, as I think he ought to do, that the members of lower grades of the service when called upon to travel should be paid at higher rates, there would not be so much objection. I do not know whether Senator Stewart intends to press the vote to a division. Perhaps it is not worth while, except to emphasize the point that to be fair and just we should level these distinctions.
Question - That the figures “ 17s.6d.” proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
If senators are anxious to reduce expenditure I ask them to give their attention to this matter. A very large sum is annually swallowed up in the travelling expenses of all the Departments ; and this is an allowance which might very properly be reduced. We do not want our public officials when travelling on Commonwealth business to be out of pocket ; although I may casually remark that when a member of Parliament, who is supposed to have a sinecure, is travelling on public business he has to pay his own expenses.
– Who says that a member of Parliament has a sinecure?
– Many of the public seem to think that members of Parliament have nothing to do, and that they are well paid at £400 per annum. A public servant who receives from £501 to £600 per annum, has an allowance of 14s. per day, whereas another public servant, with a salary of £301 to £500, receives only 12s. Why is there that difference ? Is it more costly for a man with £501 per annum to travel than it is for a man who receives only £500? Are public servants labelled as they travel in order to indicate the salary they receive, and thus hint in broad terms that they are prepared to pay 3s. 6d. per meal and 3s. 6d. for sleeping accommodation, or no more than 3s. ?. What is the principle underlying the fixing of these rates? It appears to me that the higher the salary the more the perquisites enjoyed by the official. It is absolutely necessary that a man when travelling in the public interest should have his expenses paid ; but we must not forget that all the cost of train, steamer, and other locomotion is defrayed for him, and under the circumstances I regard 14s. per day as extravagant. In no hotel that I have come across, even in the backblocks of Queensland, is a man asked to pay more than 10s. per day ; and if a public servant when travelling desires to indulge in extras he ought to pay for them out of his own pocket. If the Commonwealth provides necessary food and sleeping accommodation that is all that can reasonably be expected. I move -
That the figures “ 14s.” and “ 12s.” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “ 10s.”
– According to a promise which I made to Senator Pearce some time ago, I have here a memorandum from the Public Service Commissioner, containing some information on the subject. I notice that the Commissioner assumes that Senator Stewart will subsequently submit a further amendment to leave out the allowances of fis. and 7s. per day in the general division.
– That is so.
– I mentioned that in case Senator Stewart might think the Commissioner was assuming som’ething which he was not justified in assuming. The Commissioner in his memorandum says -
The proposal to reduce the scale of travelling allowances to officers of the Commonwealth is one that, if adopted, will have a serious influence upon the work. In Western Australia, - it will be impossible for officers to travel at these rates. The State officers there are given 2.1s., and. in some coses, 25s. a day when travelling on the gold -fields or in the remote parts.
-ewart. - But these allowances apply to the entire Commonwealth. Why draw a hard-and-fast line 1
– We ought to take into consideration the fact that some Of the Commonwealth officers will have to travel in districts in which State officers travel, who receive from 21s. to 25s. per day. The memorandum proceeds -
The proposal apparently is to reduce the daily allowance to officers of the administrative and clerical divisions, and to increase the rates provided for the general division. When the regulation was made, the greatest consideration was given to the relative cost to officers when travelling, and the scale fixed was that which it was considered would reasonably cover the expenses of the different classes of officers who require to travel, and is that which generally obtains in the different States services. New South Wales and Victoria pay the 17s. 6d. rate for the higher classes. The proposal of the mover is to omit the 6s. and 7s. daily allowance to general division officers getting less than £200 a year. The effect of this will be to largely increase the cost of travelling of the general division officers, as by far the greater portion of travelling is done by officers of this class. As an exemplification of this, the case of Victoria may be cited, where for n period of six months the travelling expenses of the general division officers of the Commonwealth service amounted to A’2,445, whereas, for the same period, the travelling expenses of the administrative and clerical divisions amounted to £261 only.
I hope Senator Stewart will consider these facts when he proposes to save money by his amendment.
– Those facts make no difference to the man who has to travel. .
– Senator Stewart says that his object is to save money, and I am pointing ont that his proposal is to increase the payment in the case of men to whom the £2,445 was paid, and to decrease it in the case of the men who only received the £261. If we increase the rate of payment to the officers of the general division who do a lot of travelling, and decrease the allowance in the case of officers in the other class who do very little travelling, we shall not reduce, but increase expenditure. The Commissioner goes on to say -
It wll thus be seen that the reduction proposed in the higher divisions will not materially decrease the cost of travelling to the Commonwealth, but the raising of the general division rate will largely increase it. The circumstances necessitate much greater travelling by general division officers than by officers of other divisions ; also, the former are generally absent for longer periods, and in order to perform their ordinary duties they must travel daily. Officers of the higher divisions travel infrequently, and on exceptional occasions, when the expenses of their travelling is necessarily larger than where an officer is constantly moving about. There would appear to be no adequate reason for raising the allowance of any officer, as experience shows that positions to which travelling is attached are now eagerly competed for, and not the slightest difficulty is found in filling them. The adoption of the proposal must be to largely - increase the cost of working the service.
To reduce the allowance of officers receiving £600 a year by 2s. will save very little, and the other amendment which Senator Stewart intends to submit will increase the cost in the general division out of all proportion to the reduction made. I hope the Senate will take these facts into consideration before deciding the matter.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- The Minister for Defence has advanced no reason against my amendment. All he has said is that the proposal to increase the allowance to officers in the general division, while at the same time reducing the allowance to officers in the administrative and clerical division will not reduce but increase expenditure. I cannot see that that argument is to the purpose. J am dealing with men who receive an allowance of 14s. per day ; and if honorable senators look a little further down the list they will find that men, whose appetites, I suppose, are as keen or probably keener, receive only 6s. a day. How does Senator Drake explain that difference ? The Senate is entitled to be informed on the point. I am content to deal with each class as it comes under consideration, and decide the question on its merits. An allowance of 14s. a day is extravagant, and according to Senator Drake is not at all equitable to at least some members of the Public Service. We have been told that on the gold-fields of Western Australia living is much more costly than it is in other States. I can very well believe that. It only shows the remarkable amount of stupidity which has been introduced into the Government service. How is it that we cannot have a single Department managed with a scintilla of the common sense which is shown in the management of private concerns 1 Would any private firm in Melbourne make a uniform allowance to its travellers who have to go right over the continent, when it knew perfectly well that while one traveller in Western Australia would have to pay 30s. a day, another traveller in Victoria would have to pay only half that sum ? The stupidity of this scale is so apparent that I am astonished that a new arrangement is not made. How does the Minister excuse his Department for not paying the officers in Western Australia a sufficient sum ? Have they to provide the balance of 12s. 6d.’ I know perfectly well that in Victoria a man can live on very much less than 17s. 6d. a day. Things seem to be upside down in the Public Service. Where the conditions are favorable, and officers have not to suffer any of the hardships of life, the allowance is more than sufficient to provide for their daily needs ; but where the surroundings are adverse, where the cost of living is high, where very often decent food is not obtainable, and where, I believe, it is the exception, not the rule, to get a drink of good water, the allowance is less than it ought to be. If we are to believe the Minister for Defence, who was in charge of the Postal Department for some time, that that is the case, it is evidence of an incapacity which ought not to find a place in the Public Service. Is it the Commissioner who is to blame 1 He has fixed the rates without an)’ relation to the circumstances of each State. We are getting into the rule of thumb idea in the management of our affairs. If it is the Commissioner who is to blame the sooner he sets his house in order the better, because he is not managing the affairs of the Commonwealth as well as they ought to be managed. He is not managing them competently or with common sense.
– Who ? The Public Ser-. vice Commissioner 1
– Evidently the Minister has found it very hard to follow me. I shall repeat what I said.
-Col. Neild. - Is that a threat ?
– It is a matter of very much more consequence than even Senator Neild seems to imagine.
– I think it is a matter of so much importance that we ought to have a. quorum to hear it. [Quorum formed.]
– There is something of very much more consequence involved in this discussion than the mere amount of the travelling allowance. There is the incapacity which seems to gnaw at the root of our management like a canker. Although the conditions vary in each State, yet the allowance for travelling expenses is uniform for the Commonwealth. It may cost a public servant very much more than 17s. 6d. per day to live in some of the outlying portions of Western Australia, whereas in any part of Victoria it would be ample. In one case the public officer would have to put his hand in his pocket to provide the balance, while in the other he might be able to save 7s. 6d. a day. Surely that is not a condition of affairs which ought to be allowed to exist ! I do not think it is the desire of any honorable senators that a public servant should be out of pocket when he is travelling for the Commonwealth, as he inevitably would be in Western Australia if what we have heard from the Minister is correct. He has furnished ample proof of the necessity to recast the regulations at least in that respect. They are not fair to some officers ; they are more than fair to other officers ; and what we desire is an arrangement which will inflict no injury on any one, and which will not allow an officer in any State to make a profit out of his travelling expenses. I hope that honorable senators will look at this question from a common-sense point of view, and recognise the necessity for altering the regulation.
– I think that Senator Stewart has brought forward a genuine grievance. The Minister does not seem to make any discrimination in the matter of travelling allowances. Senator Stewart has dwelt to some extent on the position in Western Australia. Even in that State there would need to be different allowances, because the cost of travelling is very expensive com.pared with the cost in the eastern States. There is no comparison between the cost of travelling on the coast and the cost of travelling in the back part of the gold-fields. I know many places in which at least 3s. has to be paid for a meal which could be obtained in Perth for ls.
– Senator . Stewart told us just now it was 2s. 6d. a meal in Queensland.
– In the back parts of Western Australia the minimum cost of a meal or bed in all the hotels is 3s. I have travelled considerably in those parts of that State, and I can assure honorable senators that if any civil servant were allowed a travelling allowance of only 6s. a day in those parts he would be out of pocket very much. A man cannot live in those parts for 12s. a day. There is a genuine grievance which requires to be redressed. Surely the Government are not going to allow these anomalies to prevail. They ought to devise an arrangement which will secure to every public officer the amount of his actual expenses. I hope that the Government will recognise the reasonableness of altering the scale in that direction, :and thereby doing justice to civil servants. We do not advocate any extravagance, nor do we desire any cheese-paring. We have no desire that a civil servant shall be allowed only one-half of that to which he is justly entitled. J hope the Minister will be able to see his way to accede to our wishes.
– Senator De Largie knows very well what an exceedingly difficult task it has been to draw up a scale of living allowance, even for one State, with duc regard to the cost of living in particular localities.
– The Government are providing a gold-fields allowance in Western Australia.
– What an insuperably difficult task it would be for the Commissioner to devise a scale of allowances to suit the conditions of every place in .which officers have to travel !
– Any .private firm would do it.
– I have not heard of a private firm which has a different scale of allowances for its travellers in different places. My. experience of commercial houses is that the rule is to have a fixed scale of travelling allowances. I am sure that it would be quite impossible to have different rates for travelling in different parts of a State. It is difficult enough for the Commissioner to fix upon any general rates for the expenses of travelling officers.
– The Government have got that now in the gold-fields living allowance.
– Yes, but it would be absolutely impossible to draw up a scale under which a man, when he was travelling along a road, would be entitled to one rate up to a certain point, to another rate from that point to another place, and so on. I was sorry to hear Senator Stewart make disparaging remarks with regard to the Commissioner. He had a very difficult task to perform, and from all I can hear he dealt exceedingly well with the difficulties of the situation. He found’ a certain scale of travelling allowances in each State, and he had to frame a regulation to apply to the Commonwealth.
– Surely he is not above taking a hint from those who have travelled in different places t
– I know- that he is always willing to take a hint. I am sure that if the honorable senator will consider all the difficulties of the situation he will perceive that it would be- impossible for the Commissioner to draw up such an elaborate scale of travelling allowances as would carry out his suggestion. I still think -that 14s. a day is not an excessive allowance to give an officer when he is travelling, in many parts of the Commonwealth. As- 1 have shown from the memorandum supplied by the Public Service Commissioner, the amount is not higher than that given by the States, and it is very much lower than the amount paid by several of the States before Federation and up to tins time. I think Senator Stewart might very well have accepted the last division as a test. I can quite understand that the honorable senator has had a scheme in his mind for the substitution of a scale of allowances which he thinks better than that submitted by the Public Service Commissioner, and he will surely* not desire to carry amendments which will alter the scale proposed in a purely capricious manner.
Senator GLASSEY (Queensland). - I have never yet heard from the Minister for Defence any answer to the question how the Public Service Commissioner arrived at the decision that 17s. 6d. is a necessary travelling allowance for an officer of one grade, 14s. for another, and only 6s. for an officer in a lower grade. I should like to have some reasons advanced for the discrepancy. A man getting £700 or £S00 a year is allowed 17s. 6d. per day travelling allowance. An officer receiving £600 a year is allowed but 14s. a day ; whilst an officer receiving only £250 or £200 a year is only allowed 6s. a day for travelling in the same parts of the Commonwealth. Is -there any justification for that 1 I agree with Senator Drake that the Public Service Commissioner has had a tremendous task to perform in the framing of these regulations ; but we should be given some information as to how this scale of travelling allowances has been arrived at. Six shillings a day is not a sufficient travelling allowance in many parts of the Commonwealth, and if 1 7s. 6d. is necessary in one case and 14s. in another, how can it be supposed that a third officer can travel in the same localities for 6s. a day ? I suppose the reason is that an officer in receipt of a big salary lives in a big way, whilst an officer receiving a lower salary lives upon a more moderate scale. It has, however, always struck me that a man who is drawing a big salary is better able to pay a . little towards his travelling expenses than is a man in receipt of ‘a small salary. I do not think that the scale proposed is a fair one. The Public Service Commissioner cannot, in any circumstances, have such a personal knowledge of the different localities in each of the States as -would enable him to fix an equitable travelling allowance. I am sorry that owing to the illness of the Queensland inspector the officers of the Civil Service in my State have suffered from the fact that a stranger from South Australia was called in to assist the Public Service Commissioner in fixing travelling allowances in that State. I do not care how anxious that gentleman may have been to do what was right, he could not possess the necessary local knowledge to enable him to guide the Commissioner properly. I have already pressed upon the Minister that he should urge thePublic Service Commissioner ito gatheraround him a couple of officers from each of the branches in the different public Departments of the Commonwealth, and particularly officers of the lower grades, in order that he might take advice from them in regard to the framing of a scale of allowances which would be equitable, and alsoto other matters, in view of the different conditions in each of the States. A man, sitting in an office with a few inspectors, around him, who have no earthly knowledge of the State of Queensland, cannot frame regulations suitable for the requirements of that State. I agree with Senator Stewart that 14s. per day is an extravagant allowance, but if it is to be admitted that itis a reasonable travelling allowance for oneofficer, it is wrong and cruel to ask anotherto travel in the same place for the paltry sum of 6s. per day.
– I think the answer to the honorable senator’s question is thatan officer when travelling generally lives much in the same style as that in which heis accustomed to live when at home. An officer in receipt of £800 a yearwill probably be accustomed to travel in what we may call a decent, if not a highly respectable manner. When he enters a town he will* probably put up at what may be called a first-class hotel. The Commissioner considers that 14s. per day is. not an excessive amount to allow for travelling expenses to a man who is in the receipt of £600 a year. An officer in the general division in receipt of 6s. a day may be just as good a man as the officer in the higher grade, but he is in the habit of living in a totally different manner, and he can economize in the matter of travelling expenses.. We would not expect him, for instance, when travelling, to put up at the finest hotels, to expect to secure the best rooms, and to have the finest meals served to him. He would not do that kind of thing if he were paying his expenses out of his ordinary salary, and he is not likely to do it when in receipt of a travelling allowance. It will probably be found that a travelling allowance of 6s. or 7s. per day will go just as far in his case as 17s. 6d. or 14s. in the case of the more highly- paid officer. The honorable senator did not- “hear the memorandum sent to me by the Public Service Commissioner, and I will just read those portions of it which are pertinent to the present matter, as it appears to me that they meet the honorable senator’s difficulty. He says : -
When the regulation was made the greatest consideration was given to the relative cost to officers when travelling, and the scale fixed was that which it was considered would reasonably cover the expenses of the different classes of officers who require to travel, and is that which . generally obtains in the different States services, ew South Wales and Victoria pay the 17s. 6cl. rate for the higher classes.
He also mentions the fact that -
In Western Australia State officers are given 21s., and, in some cases, 25s. per day when travelling on the gold-fields or in the remote parts.
After referring to what would be the financial result of such amendments as are proposed, the Public Service Commissioner says : -
The circumstances necessitate much greater travelling by the general division officers than by officers of other divisions ; also the former are generally absent for longer periods, and in order to perform their ordinary duties they must travel daily. Officers of the higher division travel infrequently and on exceptional occasions, when the expenses of their travelling is necessarily larger than where an officer is constantly moving about. There would appear to be no adequate reason for raising the allowance of any officer, as experience shows that positions to which travelling is attached are now eagerly competed for, and not the slighest difficulty found in filling them.
What that means is that the general division officer getting 6s. or 7s. per day, gets an extra 6s. or 7s. per day when he is travelling, and it is found that this allowance covers travelling expenses so. satisfactorily that there is eager competition for positions to which travelling is attached. With regard to the expenses of travelling, speaking of the proposal of Senator Stewart with respect to omitting the allowance of 6s. or 7s. a day for general division officers getting £200 a year, the Commissioner says : -
The effect of this will be to largely increase the cost of travelling of the general division officers, ns by ‘ far the greater proportion of travelling is done by officers of this class. As an exemplification of’ this, the case of Victoria may be cited, where for a period of six months the travelling expenses of the general division officers of the Commonwealth services amounted to £2,445, whereas for the same period the travelling expenses of the administrative and clerical divisions amounted to £261 only.
It will be seen that to increase the travelling allowance for officers of the general division will have the effect of greatly increasing the total expenditure in the various Departments. I do not know whether the answer is satisfactory, but I put it to the honorable senator whether he would desire to see officers in the administrative and clerical divisions camping out and economizing in other ways like that 1 On the other hand, would he like to see officers of the general division, who are usually paid 6s. or 7s. a day, and have been accustomed to living in a style which that income was sufficient to cover, living in first-class hotels when they travel 1 There would be an incongruity.
– I say if it is just in the one case it is just in the other.
– Does the honorable senator think that when officers travel they should be put on an exact equality in regard to their expenses ‘] I think that when the State requires a man to travel it should pay him such expenses as would enable him to live in about the same style as he is accustomed to at home.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- If the debate has done nothing else it has made it abundantly clear that these regulations ought to be altered. It is admitted that the conditions prevailing in different portions of the continent are altogether different. One set of conditions prevails iu Queensland, another set in Tasmania, and another set in Western Australia. But the Public Service Commissioner, in framing these regulations, has fixed these allowances at uniform rates all over the continent. A first-class officer gets 17s. 6d. a day whether he is travelling within coo-ee of the Melbourne General Post-office, or a thousand miles away in the interior. There is no fairness in that. It is not a common-sense or business arrangement. An ample case has been made out for some alteration. But of course that is not the question before the Committee just now, although the Government might bring that aspect of the case under the notice of the Commissioner. It must be apparent that it is absolutely impossible to fix a uniform rate which will adapt itself to the varying circumstances of officers throughout the Commonwealth. I have listened to the arguments of the Minister for Defence in reply to Senator Glassey, but I cannot see very much in them. We do not pay a particular man a particular salary so that he shall live in a certain style. We pay an officer £600 a year because his labour is supposed to be worth £600 a year. If he can live on £1 a week that is his look-out. If he spends £10 a week that is his look-out also. All that the Commonwealth is bound to do with regard to a civil servant who is travelling is to pay him an allowance which is sufficient to cover legitimate expenses. So far as my experience has permitted me to observe, a man can live for 10s. a day almost anywhere in any of the States, except Western Australia and some far out corners of Queensland. The sum of 1 4s. a day is at least 4s. above what I consider to be a legitimate sum. How does the Postal Department deal with an officer who is called upon to put his hand in his pocket so as to cover a portion of his expenses. 1 Does he “get at” the Department by some roundabout method, or how does he make up the amount by which he is out of pocket ?
– Those who only get 6s. a day lose 6s. a day.
– I can very well believe that. Apparently t he Minister, the Commissioner, and the Government imagine that an ordinary individual who is getting only 6s. a day can roost in a fowl-house, or sleep in a back yard, or get into a hollow log, or put up with anything in the shape of inconvenience, whilst those luxurious, effeminate gentlemen who get £600 a year must sleep in feather beds from January to June, and from June to January must, while they are travelling on public business, have all the comforts and many of- the luxuries of civilization.
– Very likely they preferto camp out, and do so on their holidays.
– Well, why ‘not? One of the richest men Australia ever knew camped out habitually. It would do some of them good to camp out. They would get a breath of fresh air for once in their lives, and by putting up with a few hardships that other people have to endure they would come to have more sympathy with those who are not so favoured as themselves. I do not want to be too hard on those individuals, or to lop-off the exuberances of luxury which they enjoy, but we might strike a fair average. Without pampering one class, we might treat those at the top in such a way as to be able to deal fairly with the rest. I mean to push the amendment to a division as I did the last one, and probably with the same result.
Question - That the figures “ 14s.” proposed to be left out, be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Senator Stewart) proposed -
That the figure ‘ ‘ 7s. “ be left out, with a view toinsert in lieu thereof the figure ‘ ‘ 8s. “
The effect of this will be to largely increase the cost of travelling of the general division officers, as by far the greater portion of travelling is doneby officers of this class. As an exemplification of this, the case of Victoria may be cited, where for a period of six months the travelling expenses of the general division officers of the Commonwealth Service amounted to £2,445, whereas, for thesame period, the travelling expenses of the administrative and clerical divisions amounted to £261 only.
– I find myself on this occasion differing from the Minister for Defence. I have travelled a good deal in days gone by in various parts of Australia, and I know that in places like Northern (Queensland and Western Australia the allowances granted by the Government are altogether, inadequate. The Public Service Commissioner ought to have discretion allowed him to say whether the allowance in this case shall be 7s. or 8s. per day. In Victoria, for instance, 7s. a day may suffice, but no one would contend that that amount would be adequate in Western Australia. To draw a hard-and-fast line is altogether against my idea of common-sense; and I shall be obliged to support Senator Stewart unless Senator Drake will agree to an amendment giving the Commissioner some discretion. A public servant is working for the community when he is travelling, and the man with a small salary ought not to be put to greater personal expense than the man with a large salary.
– This amendment ought to receive the support of the Senate. I do not think that the extra expenditure involved is as enormous as the Minister would have us believe; at any rate, it cannot amount to more than another £300 or £400 per annum in the case of Victoria. When Senator Drake was administering the Post and Telegraph Depertment, it was conclusively shown that the system of travelling allowances in “Victoria had been abused, and that State, we may take it, has been cited as a glaring example in order to strengthen’ the case of the Government. The Public Service Commissioner is no doubt well acquainted with what has happened in New South Wales ; and I should like to know why the cost in that State has not been laid before us. These matters have always been economically managed in South Australia, and the effect of the allowances to the Public Service there might also have been shown. Victoria, it is acknowledged, has been extravagant in the past.
– Victoria has been just.
– The extravagance might be just. Certain anomalies, exist in the mail service, as the Ministermust know. Two officers engaged on the mail trains running between South Australia and Victoria may be almost equal in position in the service, and live in precisely the same way, but one of them may be entitled to travel first-class while the other is restricted to second-class. I have known a man, .who by reason of his position was entitled to travel first-class, voluntarily travel second-class in order to enjoy the company of a fellow officer. In such a case there may be only a difference ot £10 a year between their salaries, and yet one officer may travel first-class, and receive an allowance of 10s. per day, whilstthe other must travel second-class, and receive only 5s. or 6s. The amendment will to some extent remove such anomalies, and I would support any proposal to place the officers of the Public’ Service on a mora equal footing, so that one may not be entitled to have his meals in the hotel while the other is relegated to the kitchen.
– It is my intention to support the proposal. I do not think that one class of public officials should have to dip into their own pockets in order to pay theirway while another class are allowed more than is necessary. In New South Wales itis the rule that in the distant back-blocks, where travelling and living are expensive, to give increased salaries and increased travelling allowances. If that is requisite in a country like New South Wales, which, has more facilities for travelling than arefound in the back country of Northern Queensland, Western Australia., or in the Northern Territory, it is my duty to see a small measure, not of liberality, but of justice extended to officers who are not so advantageously situated. The action of Senator Stewart may encourage me to submit a motion at the earliest opportunity, dealing with the anomalies which exist in regard to the allowances in the Defence Department. Staff non-commissioned officerstravelling on duty, particularly in connexion with the drilling of rifle clubs, have had their allowance reduced to 6s. or 6s. 3d. per day; at any rate, it is under 7s. The result is that these men cannot travel without de laying portion of the cost out of their small salaries. I think I heard an honorable senator say sotto voce that it is no argument against a propositi to mete out fair treatment, to say that it will cost so much money. We cannot govern a country without the expenditure of money, and if we are not prepared, simply on the ground of expense, to do justice to the humblest employe of the Commonwealth, we are not fit to be here. Our duty is to see justice done, and to find the money for the purpose ; indeed, I think the money has been abundantly found by means of a very high Tariff-
– Some of the States do not think so.
.- Possibly, the State which I represent may be an extreme example, but I hope the Minister will not regard me in a similar light. Never in my public life have I sought to defend- the -cause of the rich, who can always look after themselves. The man with the big salary or the big income needs no assistance ; it is the man with the little salary, .and the man who is “ on his uppers,” who requires protection and help from persons in positions of public trust.
– But now-a-days it is held that God helps the rich and the poor can beg.
.- That is not my view. I. should be very sorry to think that that view was held by any member of this Parliament. It is not our duty to be liberal to a man because his pay is small. It is our duty to be just to a man. I consider that Senator Stewart is simply asking for justice, and therefore I shall vote for his motion.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Stewart) proposed -
That the figure ‘ ‘ 6s. “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure “8s.”
– I shall now take the -feeling of the Senate rather than the view which may be held by the Public Service Commissioner ; but I think that in this instance Senator Stewart should be satisfied to fix the rate at 7s. in accordance with the scale. I shall not oppose the amendment if it is altered in this way.
– I shall agree to that.
Amendment amended accordingly, and agreed to.
First-class railway fares shall be allowed to all officers receiving salary of .-£185 and upwards per annum, and second-class fares to officers receiving under .-£185 per annum. Provided that in special cases the chief officer or permanent head may allow first-class fare to any officer.
– I move -
That the following words be left out : “Provided that in special cases the chief officer or permanent head may allow first-class fare to any officer. “
My information is that the proviso has given rise to a great deal of jealousy in the public service. I understand that favorites of the permanent head, or chief officer, are always provided with first-class fares, while those who are not in favour are allowed secondclass fares.
– Give them all firstclass fares, because the carriages are always empty.
– I have no objection to the first portion of the regulation, although, as my honorable friend suggests, it might be well to grant them all first-class fares. I do not see why it is objectionable to ride in a second-class carriage, except when one is going on a very long journey. Usually I ride second class. I desire to deprive the permanent head or chief officer of the power to make any distinction between the officers. If the regulation makes a difference between high-salaried officers and lowsalaried officers, let it be carried out.
– I do not think it is worth while to bother about this matter. I have not heard of any complaint or of any jealousy with regard to the administration of the regulation. If an officer is making a long journey - if, for instance, he is being shifted from one district to another- - he gets a second-class pass. There is no great hardship in that ; but at another time he may be called upon to travel on special duty. I do not see why the permanent head should not be allowed to grant a first-class fare to an officer who is doing some duty of a special character, which places him for the time being in the position of an officer in a higher class. No doubt a little money is saved by not giving first-class fares to all officers when they ai-e being shifted about, but I do not think that any ill effects can arise from intrusting the permanent head with this power.
– I think that Senator Stewart ought to amend his amendment so as to provide for the issue of first-class fares to all officers. As a rule, officers only travel when they are on duty. Mailmen, for instance, have to travel for the purpose of carrying out the work of the mail department expeditiously, and, of course, they have to make a long journey when returning. One officer gets a firstclass ticket because he is in receipt of £185 a year, while another officer in the same Department is provided with a second-class ticket because he receives only £160 a year. When these men are coming back to their starting place, they really require an opportunity to rest themselves after their work. An officer who is provided with a second-class ticket is obliged to travel in a crowded carriage, while the first-class carriages are gene rally empty. I do not see why one officer of the Department should be required to travel in a compartment in which there is barely room for him to sit, while another officer, because he happens to get a few pounds more per annum, is permitted to ride in a firstclass carriage in which he has the opportunity of lying down or reclining, and thus fitting himself for the performance of his duty when he returns to his starting place. If the regulation were amended as I suggest, all officers would travel in first-class carriages, and one could not be jealous of the other.
– I think that some good grounds ought to be given for the alteration of the regulation. We have to consider the public as well as the civil servants. What decent, honest working man rides in a first-class railway carriage t What guarantee is there that if a man is allowed a first-class fare he will not travel on a second-class ticket, and pocket the difference 1 .
– He cannot do that.
– It will be necessary to provide for the issue of free passes. In England some of the best people travel continually in third-class carriages. I have travelled hundreds of times in secondclass carriages. The fact that a man travels in a second-class carriage does not determine his status. It may be more convenient for him to travel hi that way. Are we going to create a class entirely for the civil servants, and to chuck out the public t
– The first-class carriages are always empty.
– The first-class compartments are nearly always filled with officers, and the public cannot get a seat. No doubt the honorable senator is animated by a desire to help theworking man, but he should reflect a littlebefore he interferes with the arrangements of the Government, and gives a public officer an opportunity to make a profit at the expense of the taxpayers. “When a civil servant is travelling at the public expense, heis saving the cost of the food which hewould otherwise consume at home, so that he is incurring no loss. Where we have to deal with hundreds of persons we must show some consideration for the interests of the public.
– A public servant isjust as much a member of the public as. anybody else.
– Ye:;,, and he is also a servant of the public. Weshould not pamper the public servants and make them believe that they are very much superior to ordinary humanity. In England many persons travel for long distances in third-class carriages, and I do not see any reason for altering this regulation.
– I move -
That the report of the Printing Committee be adopted.
We desire to adopt the same procedure asis being followed in connexion with printing by the House of Representatives. ThePrinting Committees of the two Houses have decided to sit together, and they did so to-day. The desire of both is to avoid all unnecessary expense in the printing of parliamentary papers. The proposal we make is that all reports laid on the table of either House shall be received, and the question of their printing shall be referred to tha Joint Printing Committee of the two Houses, provided that the ‘ matter is not one of urgency, in which case the Minister or thePresident has power to have the papers printed. This proposal is in conformity with standing order 36, which provides -
A Printing Committee, to consist of seven senators, shall be appointed at the commencement of each session, to which shall stand referred all petitions and papers presented to the Senate or laid on the table, the committee to report from time to time as to- what petitions ought to be printed and whether wholly or in part : Provided that when a paper has been laid on the table, a motion may be made at any time, without notice,. that the paper be printed. The committee shall have power to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives.
By virtue of the powers given under that standing order, the Senate has appointed a Printing Committee, andthe report submitted by them is as follows : -
The Printing Committee of the Senate have the honour to report that they have adopted the following resolutions, viz. : -
That this committee do not recommend the adoption of the report of the Joint Printing Committee of last session.
That meetings of the committee be held weekly.
That this committee recommend that all papers, except those which are required by special urgency to be printed, be referred to the committee for report, in accordance with standing order No. 36.
– What is the nature of the report of last session which is referred to ?
– Last session a report was presented from the Printing Committee sitting in conference with the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives, together with the proceedings of the committees, minutes of evidence, and appendices. This was ordered to be printed on the 3rd of September, 1902. The recommendations of that committee were as follow : -
Many of these recommendations have been adopted. The only important recommendation which has not been adopted is number 4. It is impossible to ask honorable senators to go through all the recommendations and the evidence submitted in the report of the Printing Committee of last session, and on the advice of the President and the Vice-President of the Executive Council it has been deemed inadvisable to ask honorable senators to adopt those recommendations. All that we think ought to be adopted is contained in the third paragraph of the report which has been submitted by the Printing Committee this session -
That this Committee recommend that all papers, except those which are required by special urgency to be printed, be referred to the Committee for report, in accordance with standing order No. 36.
The necessity for that has been shown by an incident to which reference was made only to-day. Sir John Quick pointed out at the joint meeting of the Printing Committees to-day that that the Committee of the House of Representatives had considered very carefully a report furnished with regard merely to correspondence connected with military matters in Tasmania. They had considered the matter in all. its aspects, they had received an estimate of the cost of printing, and they recommended that the paper should not be printed. As a merely formal matter in the Senate the report was laid on the table and ordered to be printed. Six hundred copies of it have been printedat a cost of £6, and no one is likely to read the report. If the suggestion of the Printing Committee were adopted, the report would have been considered with the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives, and the expense which has been incurred would have been saved. Honorable senators will agree that we should not incur unnecessary expense for the printing of documents which are not required for general use or for reference. If this report is adopted in accordance with my motion we shall be in a similar position to the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives, we shall sit jointly every week, and with the exception of papers of special urgency, all papers will be referred to the Printing Committee, who will bring up a report which can be agreed to or disagreed to as honorable senators desire.
– Perhaps as this is a matter referring to the conduct of the business of the Senate, it is advisable that I should say a word or two. In the first place, I call the attention of honorable senators to standing order 36 under which the Printing Committee is appointed. The only power which the Printing Committee has is to consider petitions and papers presented to the Senate. The . Committee cannot control the Senate, and if the Senate requires any paper or petition to be printed, we must have power to order it to be printed irrespective of any decision which may be arrived at by the Printing Committee. The paper may refer, to a Bill coming on for discussion on the afternoon on which it is presented or on the next day. The Printing Committee is an entirely subsidiary body, and the duties cast upon it are not perhaps so important as may at first sight appear. I have taken the trouble to go through all the papers on the Senate file from the commencement of the session, and I find that the only papers that have been printed by order of the Senate which were not otherwise printed,
Such as the Civil Service Regulations and such papers, have cost £58 to print. That is a very small expenditure indeed, and. I mention the fact in order to dissipate the idea that this Parliament is very lavish in printing expenditure. If we had not ordered any papers to be printed which were not already printed we should only have saved £58 this session, and with respect to a great many of the papers, it was of course necessary that they should be printed. In reference to the report of the Printing Committee presented last session, it was merely a sessional report, and I really, do not know what we have to’ do with it.
– Then what do we require paragraph 1- of this report for?
– I pointed out that the report of the Printing Committee of last session was partially considered by the Senate last session, but we did not come to any conclusion upon it. ‘
– Did we ever discuss it ?
– Yes. I distinctly recollect a discussion upon it, but no conclusion was arrived at. But so far as the Printing Committee’s report of. last session is concerned, nearly every recommendation in it had been anticipated by the Speaker or by myself, and it was therefore unnecessary for us to consider it. I can see no harm .whatever in the Senate agreeing to the motion proposed by Senator Smith, because it is of the essence of the duty of the Printing Committee that they should consider all the papers referred to them which the Senate has not already ordered to be printed. This is their duty under the Standing Orders. I do not know that their work very very onerous. I was a memberof a Printing Committee for a great many years, and I generally found that it had very little to do. It will, of course, be seen that the Senate must have power toorder the printing of papers necessary for carrying on its business. That is in accordance with the recommendation of the committee, and it is only those papers in connection with which there is some doubt whether they should be printed that are referred to the ‘ committee. The Senate may very well agree to the adoption of the report.
– I understand that the previous report is to be regarded as dead, and that the Printing Committee starts with a clear field at the present time. Really they only make two recommendations : that the meetings of the committee shall be held “weekly, and that all papers except those required by special urgency to be printed shall be referred to the committee for report in accordance with standing order 36. In passing the motion submitted covering the first paragraph of this report -
That this committee do not recommend the adoption of the report of the Joint Printing Committee of last session.
I suppose we shall not commit ourselves to the converse, as some of the recommendations made are not condemned. The Committee are starting with a clear field, and can recommend anything they like with regard to printing. “Whatever suggestions they see fit to make will be brought before the Senate as recommendations from week to week.
– We wanted to deal definitely with last session’s report.
– But seeing that the report belongs to last session we may regard it as being dead. We are not required to adopt it. While we are on this subject,
I would point out that there is a recommendation that in future no Bill be printed in block or raised type unless ordered by the Senate. That recommendation has been acted upon quite recently. Perhaps some member of the Printing Committee, or Mr. President, can explain why. I made -a special request that the Defence Bill should be printed with the amendments made in it up to date.
– Bills do not come within the scope of the Printing Com.mittee’s powers.
– So far as I am aware the order that was made upon the Defence Bill was that it should be printed showing the amendments up to date, but I notice they are not printed in block or raised type.
– There was no order to that effect.
– I must confess that I was not aware that under our present practice it was necessary that there should be a special order of the Senate. We have had Bills printed- with amendments in them on -several occasions, and, on one occasion at least, a Bill has been printed in block and raised type.
– It was done in one case and found to be rather expensive.
– I believe it is expensive, .but it certainly is very convenient ; though I do not know whether the convenience would compensate for the extra expense.
– It was shown to the committee that the expense was greater than the convenience justified.
– If the committee consider that the expense is too great to permit of our indulging in such a luxury, I shall not urge my opinion against theirs, although I still think that sometimes it is convenient to show the amendments which have been made in a Bill in that way. I am glad to observe that the Printing Committee have started so well, and hope they will keep on as they have commenced.
– It seems to me that the report of the committee is not necessary. In the first place, the committee say that they have the honour to report that they have adopted the following resolutions.
I do not know that it interests us very much to learn what resolutions the committee have adopted. They may adopt whatever resolutions they like in carrying out the standing order under which they are appointed. The standing order says that there shall be appointed at the commencement qf each session a Printing Committee -
To which’ shall stand referred all petitions and papers presented to the Senate or laid upon the table, the committee to report from time to time as to what petitions and papers ought to be presented and whether wholly or in part.
Then there is a provision relating to papers laid upon the table of the Senate, which the Senate may at any time order to be printed. The work of the committee is denned in that standing order. I do not know that they have any right to tell us that they do not recommend the adoption of their report of last session. That is no part of their functions. I do not think they had any business to make a recommendation about it. We only ask them to report on documents which they consider should be printed. The report of last session has lapsed, and we may as well let sleeping dogs lie.
– It is a dead dog.
– There is no necessity for the recommendation. Then the committee report that they have resolved -
That meetings of the committee be held weekly.
That is a very “weakly” report. Surely the committee can make provision as to when they shall meet, and how often they shall meet, and how they shall conduct their business, without telling the Senate all about it. Let them go on their own sweet way without troubling us. “ Pretty’ Fanny’s little ways” are said to be very peculiar, and probably the meetings of this Printing Committee may be like the conduct that that eminent female, used to in- dulge in. But there is no necessity for them to tell us that they intend to meet weekly. Why .should they not meet daily or hourly if they like ? Why bother us about it ? There is not the slightest necessity for it. They also recommend -
That all papers, except those which are required by special urgency to be printed, be referred to the committee for report in accordance with standing order 36.
Of course papers of that kind are bound to be referred to the committee.
– They have not been as yet.
– Then the committee should have complained. There is the standing order telling the committee what their duties are, and if that standing order is not obeyed, the blame should be be laid upon the right shoulders. This report is not one that we need adopt.
– I think that my esteemed friend, Senator Playford, is rather hypercritical in his remarks about the Printing Committee. With reference to the report of last session, it was brought up and was spoken to by one or more senators. The Printing Committee reconsidered it, and discovered that a great many of its recommendationshad alreadybeen anticipated by both Houses. In order to dispose of it entirely we have suggested that last session’s report be not adopted.
– It was never proposed that it should be adopted.
– The recommendation that the committee meet weekly serves as an intimation to the Senate that we intend to meet with the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives weekly, and that we are desirous that honorable senators shall not jump up and move that reports or papers be printed before they have been referred to the Printing Committee.
– The standing order provides for that.
– But we want to impress the standing order upon the minds of honorable senators, and let them know that we meet weekly, and that all such papers will be considered by us. We are anxious that, instead of papers being ordered to be printed without reference to the committee, they should be carefully considered before being printed. In some cases the other House has declined to print a paper and the Senate has afterwards ordered it to be printed without consideration.
– We can be a law unto ourselves.
– After a member has failed to secure the printing of a report by order of another place, he has got a senator to move that it be printed, and a motion to that effect has been carried in a formal way.
– Why did not the honorable senator object?
– I did. For these reasons, I hope that, although some honorable senators may think that this report is not necessary, it will be recognised that the committee is anxious to carry out the work which has been intrusted to it.
– This report of thePrintingCommittee strikes me very much in the same way as Mount Vesuvius is said to have struck Sir Charles Coldstream in the old comedy. Sir Charles, who was rather a blase sort of gentleman, climbed right to the top of Mount Vesuvius, and when he looked down into the crater he observed that there was “ nothing in it.” It strikes me, with reregard to this report, that there is- “ nothing in it.” My honorable friend, who has just sat down, with a splendid energy and admirable diction, and a most commendable desire to save the public revenue, and maintain the solemnity of the proceedings of this Chamber, was kind enough to make reference tothe action of the Senate this afternoon in ordering that a certain document be printed. I was the culprit who induced the Senate to pass that motion. The committee recommend that, except in matters of urgency, the printing of all documents shall be left to them. I quite agree. But the document, which was ordered to be printed on my motion, was eminently one of urgency. The Printing Committee meets once a week, and if the document had been referred to them it would have been useless by the time they met and discussed it. While I was a member of Parliament in the State from which I come, there was a Printing Committee which met nearly every night It was not an unusual thing to see the members of the committee leave the Chamber as soon as documents had been laid upon the table, and deal with them there and then. The documents were in the printer’s hands in halfanhour, and were distributed next morning. It would be very much better for the committee to meet just as often as necessity arises. What is the use of calling the committee together if there are no documents to consider ; or, on the other hand, what is the use of delaying a week if there are documents which require to be printed? The only serious aspect is the expenditure on the printing of the report. The report of the Printing Committee of last session is as dead as Julius Caesar ; we could not handle that report without a resolution of this Senate, and an instruction given to the committee, who otherwise would, have no more to do with it than thev have with printing the records of the Chinese Empire. I can quite see that the committee have gone about their business with an earnest desire to discharge their duties faithfully and well, and I shall vote for the adoption of the report, for the reason that it can do no possible harm, though, in my opinion, it can do no good. The report is a record of the energy displayed by the members of the committee, to whom I hope every honorable senator is grateful. If I speak in a jocular way it is not out of any disregard for the members of the committee, or for the excellent work they have discharged. But there are occasions, even in a deliberative assembly, when matters appear not quite so serious as usual, and after the tragedies of the last few hours, I hope I may be forgiven for treating, with a little levity a matter of such import as the report before us.
– I should like to ask you, sir, as a point of order, whether, in view of the fact that on the notice - paper there is a motion for the adoption of the report of the Joint Printing Committee of last session, it is competent for this debate to proceed ?
– I think that is such a trivial matter that we had better pass it over.
–We should be grateful to the members ofthe Printing Committee for doing what they can to introduce reform. -In connexion with Parliament there is more money squandered on printing than in any other direction. Would any mau engaged in private business print a short report of the kind before us on a double sheet of foolscap 1 Why was not the blank side of the one sheet utilized 1
– And this is the report of the Printing Committee !
– But the Printing Committee do not seem to realize their extravagance, lt appears that 800 copies of the report have been printed, at a cost of £8, although half .that expenditure might have been saved. As to the first resolution, I do not think that we ought to repudiate what was done by the joint committee. Does the chairman of the Printing Committee not think that such a resolution constitutes a breach of faith 1
– I may explain that the committee only met for the first time to-day. That refers to a previous meeting, and, with concurrence, we are asking the Senate to adopt this resolution so as to put us on the same footing as the Printing Committee of the House of Represen-tatives.
– In my opinion we are in honour bound to carry what the joint committee has recommended. I can see no objection to the proposal that the committee shall meet weekly, and” I ask the chairman to be careful that no useless documents are printed, because, as I have said, there is more waste iu this direction than in any other.
– Senator Zeal has made a somewhat amusing speech at the expense of the report, and has called attention to the cost of the document.
– I called attention to the extravagance. ,
– In my turn, I should like to call attention to an extravagance of which, perhaps, the honorable senator is not aware. To conduct the affairs of this Parliament costs so much per minute, and I venture to say that the time occupied by the honorable senator in criticising the report has cost more than the preparation and the printing of the report itself.
– The honorable senator has cost more in that way in one night than I have in twenty years.
– The subject on which I addressed the Senate was one of vast importance, whereas Senator Zeal is concerned about the saving of a few pounds in connexion with a report which I am sure we all.’ consider very valuable, though some of us have treated it with some slight levity. There seems to be too much “ red tape “ in connexion with the Printing Committee, either in the Senate or in another place. The annual report of Sir Edward Hutton was .brought up and placed on the table of the Senate. I was on the point of rising to move that it be printed when I was told that such a motion was unnecessary, seeing that the document was already in print, as, indeed, I myself saw. Two weeks passed, and still honorable senators were unable to secure copies because the committee had not authorized its printing, although at that very time there were probably stacks of the reports in the printer’s hands. This was owing to some stupid little piece of red tape “ for which the Printing Committee is responsible, and I ask the members of that body to use a little more intelligence in dealing with such matters.
– That report never came before the committee.
– The reason given to me by, I believe, Senator O’Connor, for the non-circulation of the report was that the printing of it had not been authorized by the committee. Some steps ought to be taken to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
– We have spent some time over this matter, and in order that the discussion may not be absolutely wasted, I should like to know what the practice of the Senate has been, or is to be, in regard to the printing of documents. In the Parliament of Tasmania, the Printing Committee was a most useful body. At one time in that State Parliament, documents moved for by honorable members, and dealing, perhaps, with matters of little or no importance, were printed, almost as a matter of course, at great expense ; but ultimately the Printing Committee adopted the plan of considering each case, and bringing up a report every now and then, recommending that certain of the documents should, while others should not, be printed. The reports were considered by the House, and if an honorable member desired to have a paper printed, he moved to that effect. Am I to understand that the Printing Committee of the Senate is to occupy a similar position in regard to all documents - in other words, that all documents are to be referred to them? I should also like to know whether the committee are to bring up reports, and how often? Senator Matheson has raised an important question. According to the honorable senator, the valuable report of Major-General Hutton, when presented, was already in print. Had there been any order given for the printing? If the report was laid on the table as a printed document, it ought to have been circulated immediately. It is quite clear that we must not abrogate the power of the Senate to order any urgent or special document to be printed, and, to-day, Senator Neild asked sanction for the printing of a large and urgent petition from Sydney. The members of the Printing Committee have taken considerable pains, and I think that some of the rules which will operate in the interests of economy have been adopted as the result of the evidence brought forth in their first report. What is to be our future practice in regard to the printing- of documents?
– Unless urgent, the. documents will be referred to the Printing Committee.
– And will the committee report, from time to time, recommending that some documents shall, and others shall not, be printed 1
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - That will be the practice, and the Senate may or may not adopt the reports. After the storm and stress, and the excitement of carl ying a wantofeon.fidence motion against the Government yesterday, the Senate seems to be in a facetious mood in considering this humble little report. Senator Neild instanced a document which, in his opinion, was urgent : and, in reply, I might point out that the objection is met by the third resolution of the committee, which recommends that all papers except those which for reasons of special urgency are ordered to be printed shall be referred to the committee for report.
– What is the use of that resolution, when there is the standing order ? The Printing Committee are only pretending to do something.
– The Printing Committee devote a considerable amount of time and trouble to the work, and it is no special privilege to be a member of it. For their- efforts to reduce the printing expenditure as much as possible, the Printing Committee - I am not speaking for myself - are entitled to credit. Senator Neild, with that magnificent generosity which always characterizes him, suggested that we should meet once every day. While I am quite willing to sacrifice myself to a certain extent, I am not prepared to attend a meeting every day, nor is any other member of the Printing Committee. The honorable senator is exceedingly generous in matters in which he is not concerned. He reminds me of the remark of Artemus Ward, that if the State were in danger he would be willing to sacrifice all his mother-in-law’s relations. The report mentioned by Senator Matheson did not come before the Printing Committee at all. If this report is adopted, meetings will be held weekly instead of fortnightly, and a better system will prevail. All the documents not ordered by the Senate to be printed will come before us each week. We shall be able to inspect the documents and to give reasons why a paper should or should not be printed. It will not take any right away from the Senate. I do not think that the question is of sufficient importance to justify this long discussion. Senator Neild likes a joke as well as any one else, and other senators have made some remarks which will, no doubt, be of value to the Printing Committee in considering its report.
Question resolved in the. affirmative.
Debate resumed from 8th September (vide page 4747), on motion by Senator Drake -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I do not think that I should have been tempted to rise if it had not been that speaker after speaker, on our side, has been obliged to continue the debate in opposition to the measure, and not a single speaker has been found prepared to rise and support its second reading, though we are informed, and I believe it is the case, that the Government command an absolute majority, and will be able to force it through the Chamber. If that is the case, all I can say is that honorable senators have absolutely failed to realize the gravity of the position which will be created should it become law. In Western Australia we have had experience of the terrible injustice which a Government can be capable of in carrying legislation through a Legislative Assembly whose members had been elected on an improper basis. Our experience in that respect has been very acute, and therefore the senators from that State are able to speak with very much more authority than probably any other senators. Last year a Bil’ was introduced and passed to regulate parliamentary elections, and it met with the approval of the Governor-General on the 10th October. After all the discussions on its provisions one would have imagined that Sir William Lyne, in pursuance of section 14, would have taken immediate steps to appoint a Commissioner for each State to make the electoral divisions. In those discussions allusions were made to the great importance of getting, that work completed as soon as possible, in order that no hitch should arise in connexion with the elections, which everybody knew would take place at the end of thissession. But instead of that, what do wefind ? We find that the Government allowed nearly six valuable months to elapse beforethey thought it was worth while to move in that direction. So far as I can ascertain the Commissioners were not appointed until April. What was the result? TheCommissioners, whose reports had to belaid before the electors in each Statefor thirty days, and afterwards revised, if necessary, and at a later date brought before the Houses, were not in a position to take those necessary steps until, as it turns out, in the opinion of the Government, it became too late. What are we to conclude from that ? I think it is perfectly obvious that the Government deliberately held their hands in order that, if the divisions did not please them, they might be in a position to resort to special legislation with a view to adopting the divisionson which the member’s of the other Housewere returned. It may seem to some honorable senators that I am not justified in taking that view, but if reference is madeto Hansard of last session, it will be found, that all the members of the Government were strongly of opinion that the very great difference in the States between the representation in the country’ and the representation in the towns should be, if possible, conserved intact. Nearly every Minister was absolutely of the opinion that no equality of voting should be provided as between the towns and the country. I have very little doubt thatthey deliberately adopted the course which they have taken in order to evade thoseamendments which were put in the Electoral Bill at the instance of democrats, who wished to see the spirit of the Constitution carried out in its entirety throughout the Commonwealth. The leading principle of the Electoral Ace is that every vote shall have an equal value, but that principle does not appeal to Ministers. I understand that among the supporters of this Bill will be found many senators who were principally responsible for the reduction in the margin from a fourth to a fifth. It will be interesting to quote what was said on the Electoral Bill, both in the Senateand in Committee, by honorable senators. who always figure as supporters of democratic legislation. I propose to recall to several honorable ‘senators the views which they then expressed, in the hope that they may be prevented from plunging into the terrible mistake of voting contrary to those opinions.
– There is ho “contrary” in it.
– As the honorable senator has not yet heard the opinions which they expressed, how can he know that what I am going to quote will not prove what I say it will ?
– Oh, but I know.
– I shall begin by quoting the utterances of the honorable senator. In discussing the question of the quota on page 10676 of Hansard, he said -
In clause 18 we are given some slight idea of what is to guide the Commissioners who are to be appointed to divide the districts. They are to be -allowed a margin of one-fourth iu regard to the size of the districts. The margin seems to me to be too great, and I will do all I possibly can to alter it. I want to show what it means. In the State of South Australia, where we have adult suffrage, the quota for each division would be from 20,000 to 22,000.
That is exactly the kind of distribution which the honorable senator has secured for his own State, and which has been adopted by each House of the Parliament. The electorate with the least number of electors contains 21,000, while the electorate with the largest number of electors contains 26,000.
– That shows that we had good men to divide the districts.
– Although the honorable senator makes that remark, yet we shall most likely find him supporting a proposal by which the limits of the margin of the quota are vastly exceeded in other States. I wish to know how he can reconcile what he said on that occasion with the vote which we shall probably find him giving.
– I shall tell the honorable senator.
– I should like the honorable senator to get up and state the reasons which will lead him - if I am correct in my surmise - to depart from those principles which he so very clearly laid down, and which he so very ably led me to support. That is where my trouble comes in. My vote is made use of when it suits the honorable senator to follow democratic lines of legislation, but when it does not suit him to be consistent we find him and his friends turning round and voting in a diametrically opposite way.
– This Bill does not form a quota at all.
– Is not the honorable senator aware that the Commissioner for New South Wales points out in his report that if the principle of this Bill should be adopted, electorates would come into existence in which the number of electors in excess of the maximum in the towns and the number of electors less than the minimum in the country would be many thousands beyond what is permitted in the Electoral Act, which we were at such pains to pass last session 1
– That is only a necessary expedient.
– It is only a necessary expedient because it suits the honorable senator. A necessary expedient, but why? I will not attribute motives, principally because it is not in order to do so, but I could refer to motives.
– It does not suit me at all.
– Then why is the honorable senator prepared to advocate it 1
– Because there is no time to alter it.
– We shall deal with that question later on. I desire to “rub in” to the honorable senator his own statement of his true principles, principles which I admire, and which I am always ready to support. He says further -
Suppose 22,000 were the quota. Four into that number would give 5,500. It would be possible with that margin to have one district containing 16,000 electors, and another with 27,000. Is not that too great a margin ?
Yet to-day we find the honorable senator prepared to advocate the division of the States into electorates in which the margin between the highest and the lowest is vastly in excess of that, and will, in some instances, be as much as 11,000. The honorable senator went on to say -
We are not legislating for Queensland only. In South Australia we have one district containing less than 20,000 people, which is bigger than all Queensland. This principle means counting acres instead of men -
The principle advocated in the. Bill before us - and I hope that the Postmaster-General does not intend to advocate anything of that kind. I- am prepared to allow an ample margin, which to my mind should be one-eighth.
One-eighth was the ample margin which the honorable senator was prepared to advocate when dealing with this question on principle. But what do we find now ? We find that after having passed a Bill prescribing a margin of one-fifth, we are asked to pass another Bill which entirely sweeps away all those necessary restrictions, which were themselves far less effective than the restrictions which Senator McGregor advocated. The honorable senator went on to say, and this is worthy of great attention -
But in no case would I allow the margin between the population of one district and another to exceed 5,000.
What does the honorable senator propose to do now ? He said further -
If it was not the intention of the framers of the Bill to keep within a reasonable limit, so far as diversity and numbers were concerned, why did they insert clause 22 » That clause provides that when the Commissioners have made their divisions, iE any district is. greater by 1,000 than an j’ other district, or less by 1,000 than any other district, they are to assign some reason for the difference.
I hope that this small reference makes it sufficiently clear to Senator McGregor that his principles must receive a very severe wrench if, on . division, he is found voting with the Government for a measure like this.
– I have not changed my principles.
– I am very glad to hear that, because I begin to hope that we may reckon on the honorable senator’s vote.
– I could not vote for a wobbly thing like this.
– I am sorry that the honorable senator should characterize a Government measure as “a wobbly thing.”
– I refer to the proposed divisions.
– In Committee upon the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, Senator McGregor, speaking to an amendment introduced by Senator De Largie, said -
It is said that the Commissioner should be allowed a margin of 5,000 in an electorate of 20,000. It is too much to go in both directions. He should be at liberty to go 2;500 below the margin or above the margin.
Then we have Senator Higgs speaking to the subject. The honorable senator took credit for the particularly honest attitude which members of his party adopted towards legislation. This is of particular interest at this juncture. The honorable senator, at page 10697, is reported to have- said -
The party in this particular corner differs from other parties in the Senate in the fact that we are at any time prepared to assist the Government in passing legislation, while honorable senators in Opposition oppose any and every legislative measure brought forward by theGovernment.
– Not all of them.
– Not all of them. Honorable senators like Senator Smith have given the Government fair support when they have brought forward democratic legislation, but the honorable senator is almost like an outlaw on theOpposition benches, as other members of the. Opposition oppose everything that comes’ from the Government. When an honorable senator like Senator Gould complains of the stand taken by the Labour Party in giving support in return for concessions, I think we can claim that it is far betterfor the country that we should take that stand and support that legislation wo believe to begood.
That is the point I desire to impress upon Senator McGregor. ‘ If we find the honorable senator and Senator Higgs voting fortius Bill, we must assume that it is legislation which they believe to be good. And if they believe this to be good legislation, they are distinctly eating every word they said in connexion with the limitation of the quota when the Commonwealth Electoral Bill was being discussed.
– This has nothing to do with the quota.
– The honorable senator would like to believe that it has. nothing to do with the quota, in order that he might salve his conscience, but I can assure him that when the people of the country begin to realize the way in which they are being robbed of their rights for purposes, in connexion with which I do not propose to make any suggestion, they will be aflame with indignation. The honorable senator is happy in the belief that in South Australia, where an equitable system of distribution submitted by the Electoral Commissioner has been submitted, there will becontentment. The mere fact that it is. recognised that that is an equitable system of distribution, points with additional forceto the conclusion that the divisions proposed under this Bill are as inequitable as any that could possibly have been devised. Then we have Senator Barrett, reported at page 10750, as saying: -
I am one of those who believe in uniformity, but according to the argument of honorable senators we ought notto touch our electoral system at all, but to allow things to go on in their own sweet way, and to allow members of each House to be returned under a varying system which I think we utterly condemn.
What are we proposing to do now ? We are proposing to pass a Bill which introduces the very varying system which Senator Barrett has said we utterly condemn. We have two of the States of the Commonwealth divided equitably and rationally by the Electoral Commissioners, but in the other four States the election is to be carried on under a system under which two or three times as much political influence is given to the country as is given to the more settled portions of the States. Senator Barrett went on to say -
Did not the States federate in order to secure uniform legislation on all those subjects on which it is possible to obtain uniformity ? Why are we legislating fora uniform tariff? It is simply because we believe that a uniform tariff is good for the whole of Australia. I hold that a uniform electoral system is a good thing for the whole of Australia.
There we have Senator Barrett’s opinion when the Commonwealth Electoral Bill was being passed, and when no side issue in connexion with the political principles of honorable members had been introduced. The honorable senator was laying down his views as to the proper method to be followed if honesty and justice were to be observed. J. trust we shall find him voting in opposition to this Government measure, though I have faint hopes that he will do so. The honorable senator spoke even more strongly in Committee upon the Bill, and I find that at page 10800 he is reported to have said -
I believe in the old Chartist doctrine, that the electorates should be us nearly equal as possible. The only reason why I would consent to depart from that principle is that some parts of the country are sparsely populated, whilst others are thickly populated. Senator Matheson has truly hit the point of the matter when he says that not territory but men shall be represented here. In Western Australia I learn some very peculiar things have been done, because the distribution of electorates has been made on the principle of considering territory.
And I call theattentionof the Senate particularly to this passage, because if this Bill becomes law the Victorian State system of distribution is the system which will prevail at the coming Federal elections -
The same thing has taken place in Victoria. In one electorate in Victoria there are about 3,000 electors, who return two members to the Legislative Assembly, whilst in another there arc some 10,000 electors who return also two members. The basis of distribution should be thenumber of electors, and not territory. Therefore I think that a departure of one-fourth from the quota would be altogether too great.
Then I have to refer to the views of Senator De Largie. The honorable senator actually moved, on behalf of Senator McGregor, an amendment that the word “ fourth “ should be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ eighth “ - that is to say, that the margin allowed to the Electoral Commissioners for the purposes of the distribution should be reduced from one-fourth to one-eighth. The honorable senator said -
It is possible, though I do not think it likely, that their may be one electorate with 20,000 electors, and another with 15,000 electors.
The honorable senator considered that possibility an objection to the scheme proposed in the Bill, and he distinctly affirmed the principle that the electorates should be as nearly equal as possible. Then at page 10746, I find that Senator Keating said -
When the States Parliaments divided the States into electorates for the House of Representatives, it was openly asserted in many public organs that the divisions in some cases were marked out on. lines to suit particular members of the State Legislature.
Those are the very divisions we are now being asked to adopt for the election of members of the House of Representatives for another three years.
– Not in the case of Tasmania.
– No ; in the case of Tasmania the division proposed by the Electoral Commissioner was accepted immediately, because no vested interests were touched. Senator Keating further said -
I shall oppose as strongly as 1 can any attempt which may be made to leave the mapping out of the electoral divisions for the House of Representatives with any of the State Parliaments.
That concludes the few quotations I propose to make upon the subject, but I hope I have made it perfectly clear that the members of that particular party were one and all imbued with the most intense distrust of the States divisions. They were satisfied that in many cases they had been planned to suit members of the States Parliaments, and were most inequitable..
Yet these are the divisions which I understand they propose now to assist the Government in enforcing upon us in the Bill which we are now discussing. What we have to consider is this : Are we sent here to protect the interests of sittingmembers of Parliament, or to protect those of the electors? What we, as a Senate, have to consider is - what are the views of the electors in the various States ? The answer to that question is very simple.
– The electors would go for what is fair and right.
– r-They would, and we have absolute proof of it. The Electoral Act provided, in the most careful way, that the Commissioners should, for thirty days, expose their proposed distributions to the comment of the electors in every State. That was done. Hardly any protests were made. In each report that has. been laid upon the table, particulars are given as to the number of objections made. The reasons are stated by the Commissioners either for holding with those objections or otherwise. No reasonable person can doubt that the divisions were perfectly satisfactory to the electors. It might have been imagined that Senator Drake, when dealing with this question, would have pointed out why the Government were throwing over the recommendations of , their own Commissioners. But nothing of the sort has been done. The Government have not the remotest scintilla of an excuse. Senator Drake cannot defend the action of the Government. He has not a word to say in their defence. He cannot for an instant suggest that the rejection of the reports was in any sense desired by thecountry. indeed, the recommendations were perfectly satisfactory to every one concerned except the friends of the Government. They alone were distressed about the divisions ; and in compliance with their requests the Government throw over the recommendations of the very gentlemen they appointed to divide the States. When honorable senators point out that if this Bill is adopted it will be an absolute outrage on the principles laid down in the Electoral Act, we are told that it is inevitable. Senator McGregor says that time does not admit of any other course.
– I am afraid not.
– What is the restriction in time ? It is an arbitrary restriction which certain members of Parliament, to suit themselves, desire to force upon the Government. It is not to suit the country that they desire that the elections shall all take place upon the same day. Will any honorable senator rise in his seat later on and say that it is for the convenience of the public that they should be deprived of their proper share of electoral representation by being forced to vote on the same day in all the States ?
– lt is in the interests of the country.
– I should like the honorable senator to prove that in reply to me later on. Under present circumstances, one-third of the electors in most of the States will be disfranchised.
– They all have votes.
– Of course they all have votes ; but what is a vote worth to one man when another elector in another part of the country has nearly three times more representation? The Commissioner for New South Wales points out that 12,000 people in Darling have the same right of returning a member to Parliament as 30,000 people in Dalley, and 31,000 in Parkes or North Sydney. Is that consistent with fairness ? Is it equal ? Is it just ?
– No one ever said it was.
– The honorable senator admits that it is unfair, unjust, -and unequal. It is either one thing or the other. It is either fair and equitable or unfair and inequitable. There is no half measure. This is not the time for splitting hairs. The Government take all the credit for introducing female suffrage throughout Australia. What is the value of their adult suffrage vote, when, as one of the Commissioners points out, the very strength of the female vote in the settled districts actually deprives those settled districts of their fair proportion of representation. We have the very best evidence that public opinion in New South Wales was amply satisfied with the distribution provided by the Commissioner. Only to-day a petition has been presented to the Senate on behalf of the people of New South Wales, as represented by an. enormous meeting held in the Park’ in Sydney, protesting against this Bill. In the face of this we are asked to believe that the people are dissatisfied with the recommendations of the Commissioners.
– The people of Sydney are not taking any interest in the matter.
– How does the honorable senator know?
– I was in Sydney the other day ; they did not take much interest in it in East Sydney.
– The argument is that if the people do not take an interest in their own rights, we should take no interest in them. They took so much interest in the subject that they have sent a petition to the Senate, and the Minister can produce no petition advocating that the Commissioners’ distributions should be dissented from. Where do the Government get their mandate from ?
– From the representatives of the people in the other House.
– Exactly ; from the supporters of the Government, who happen to be representatives of the people on a basis of distribution which is obviously unfair. These gentlemen, who were returned on unequal electorates, are the people who object to the establishment of equal electorates throughout the Commonwealth. They are the people who object to the electors getting justice. They are the people at the back of the Government who are forcing this Bill flown our throats.
– Would there be equal electorates under the scheme proposed by the Commissioners ? “Senator MATHESON.- The honorable senator is correct in pointing out that we should not have equal electorates under the proposals of the Commissioners. But the reason is, as the Commissioner for New South Wales points out, thathe availed himself of the licence given under the Electoral Act in order to make provision for the return of the people from the towns to the country as soon as the effects of the drought wore away. But the present electorates go further in the direction of inequality than the Commissioners go in their recommendations. That is where the absurdity of the present proposal comes in. The Government have actually thrown out the recommendations of the Commissioners in order to retain more unequal representation than was provided by them. No secret was made of it. Members of the Government have openly said, “ We have always disapproved of the reduction of the onefourth margin to one-fifth.” I believe that that as much as anything is at the bottom of the situation in which we find ourselves. It is a deliberate attempt bythe Government to over-ride the provisions of the Electoral Act. Could anything be more absurd than the argument about the drought when weremember that the scheme of the Commissioner for dividing South Australia has been accepted without comment 1 Why has not the Government said that the South Australian divisions are unequal? Has there been no drought in South Australia ? The answer is obvious - because there were no vested interests there.
– Because the members of Parliament in the other House were in favour of the South Australian divisions.
– I cannot tell.
– Simply because no vested interests were involved. Originally the South Australian members were returned to represent the whole of the State, and not on any sectional principle.
– The other House considered that the divisions made by the late Sheriff Booth by were so fair that there was no necessity to alter them, whilst the members from New South Wales held an opposite view with regard to the divisions for that State.
– As I understand, the bulk of the representatives of New South Wales and Victoria were perfectly content with the scheme of distribution. But the fact that the new distribution cut into the vested interests in those States, induced members to support the Government in throwing out the recommendations of the Commissioners, against whom no complaint could reasonably be lodged. If any complaint can be lodged it will be largely intensified under the divisions which will have to be adopted if this Bill becomes law. The Bill actually accentuates the difference in the proportions, as compared with the difference advocated by the Commissioners. Senator Drake made use of a most remarkable argument in interjection yesterday, when, as a reason why the divisions in South Australia and Tasmania had been adopted, he said that the schemes worked well in those two States.
– I wrote the interjection down at the time, and chuckled.
– I said that the provisions of the Act worked satisfactorily in those States.
– I must point out that in those two States the divisions were made almost on an equality.
– I said the provisions of the Act worked well.
– Will the honorAble senator point out where the provisions worked badly in the other States ? if the provisions worked well with equal distributions in Tasmania and South Australia, they must have worked badly elsewhere because of inequality of distribution ; and yet the Government bring in a Bill to intensify the inequalities. Senator Dobson quoted section 22 of the Electoral Act as justifying this Bill. The honorable senator seemed to think that that section which provides that the Minister shall direct the Commissioners to submit a fresh distribution of the States into divisions, is a justification for entirely ignoring the Electoral Act, and bringing in a Bill which is a complete reversal of the principle we have already adopted, The peculiarity of the whole situation is that we have only had two of three reports submitted to us.
– There would be no use in submitting the other reports to the Senate, because the Electoral Act provides that, where a report is rejected by one House, it cannot be adopted.
– That is quite true ; but we have not had an opportunity :in the Senate of debating the other reports. The Government have given us no reasons why the course prescribed in the Act should not be carried out.
– There is not time.
– Under the Constitution the election for the other House need not take place before April next.
– It is considered desirable that the elections for the House of Representatives shall, if possible, be held at the same time as the elections for the Senate.
– Now the honorable gentleman is shifting his position, and saying that it is not desirable to carry out the Electoral Act. The honorable gentleman cannot deny that there is ample time.
– Of course there is time, if the elections are not held until next year.
– What I have indicated is the provision in the Constitution, and yet we are asked, simply to suit a few Government supporters, to override the Constitution and the Electoral Act, and to do violence to our instincts of fairness and justice.
– The Bill is introduced in the interests of the people of Australia.
– I should have thought the honorable gentleman would have been satisfied by now that the interests of the people of Australia are the very last to be considered in the Bill - that the sole consideration has been the interests of the sitting members. That should not be ; and it is a position which we in the Senate were particularly sent here to guard against.
– Reproaches have been hurled so indiscriminately at members of the party to which I belong that I feel bound to say something in justification of the course I mean to adopt. I do not think that any one claims that the measure before us is intended to be permanent. It is a mere stop-gap, designed to get over a peculiar and almost unprecedented condition of affairs in Australia, which we believe will not last for an)’ time.
– The Bill will govern our legislation for three years.
– My information is that the bush districts are rapidly filling up again, and that probably within the period mentioned by the honorable senator the population in those districts will be much larger than it is at the present moment. The Labour Party is accused of “going back” on democracy, and on their professed opinions in regard to parliamentary representation. I have always been an advocate of one vote one value, provided we have equal population in eg mil areas.
– The honorable senator wants one vote one acre.
– Honorable senators smile at my suggestion ; but I think it contains a very good ideal up to which we may work. It is an ideal not attainable until, as I repeat, we have equal population residing in equal areas. I ask honorable senators to take a few matters into consideration when they deal with the question of one vote one value. I am not particularly fond of referring to examples set us by other countries, but it is a well recognised principle everywhere that density of population, remoteness from the seat of government, and the opportunities for getting to the poll, have to be considered in fixing the number of electors who are to constitute a particular electorate. Members of the Opposition - or some of them at any rate - in the Senate were not very much to the front in breaking down the old system of conservatism which prevailed at one time in Australia.
– They are not to the front in building the system up again. They are not spurious democrats.
– If the principle now advocated by senators of the Opposition were- carried out in London, that city, instead of having about twenty-five members
– London has sixty members as against seventy-four in Scotland, and the populations are about equal.
– The population of London is about one-sixth of the population of England-, and if the one vote one value idea were carried out, that city would have one -sixth of the representation. The population of London is one-eighth of the population of Great Britain and Ireland, and with one vote one value, London, instead of her present number of members - which I did not think was so large - would have about ninety. In any case, I maintain that the principle which I am supporting contains in itself the verv essence of democracy. In deciding whether one vote lias the same value as another, there are several elements to be taken into consideration. In the first place a resident in the bush has much more difficulty in getting on the roll than has a resident in the city. The latter probably lives within a few yards of the polling booth and can record his vote whether the day be fair or foul. It may safely be said that ninety-nine per cent, of the city electors have abundant opportunity of placing their ballot-papers in the box. ‘ On the other hand, the bush elector may be ten, or even a hundred miles from the polling booth ; and surely the element of distance ought to be taken into consideration. The town elector’s can exercise the full measure of their political power without losing a moment’s work, whereas the bush electors have probably to give up their employment for one or two days; indeed I have known them compelled to take three days’ holiday in order to record their votes. Is it possible to put the town and country elector on the one level in the face of these disparities ? The town elector, together with the advantage of the daily press, can meet hundreds of his fellows any day or evening of the week for the discussion of current political topics, and may bring his whole political influence to bear at the shortest notice. None of these advantages are enjoyed by the bush elector, who may be kept from the polling booth by one of a hundred circumstances in the life of a man earning his living in such districts. Yet with those advantages on the ‘one hand, and so many disadvantages on the other, senators submit the plea that the vote of the bush elector shall count for no more than the vote of the town elector. When the bush elector is given an equal opportunity of exercising his political power with the town elector, let us by all means have one vote one value. We hear a great deal about the equality of every man before the law. But that is only a fiction. The doors of the Court of Justice are wide open, so that any one who has the cash may enter and take advantage of the procedure, and come out shorn. Again, we may be told that every resident of the Commonwealth is equally protected by our admirable police system. But will honorable senators say that 5,000 inhabitants clustered on a few acres require as many policeman “to look after their interests as 5,000 persons spread over a territory of, say, 50,000 square miles ? The suggestion that they do is ridiculous. Again, it may be said that the postoffice is brought to every man’s door. That is done in a kind of way. A man living in the bush gets his mail weekly or fortnightly, and in some cases I believe monthly, while a man living in Melbourne gets his mail, three, four or five times a day. Doubtless the post-office reaches both individuals, but it reaches the townsman much more quickly and evenly than the bushman. Again it may be said that the school master reaches everybody in the town and in the bush But the children of the bushman have not the same opportunity of availing themselves of the advantages pf education as have the children of the townsman. In the town the school may be within a few yards of the children, but in the bush it may be miles away from their homes, and they may have to ride to school on horseback, occasionally double-banked. If the weather should be unfavorable the children in the bush are compelled to remain at home.
– Before all this talk the honorable senator voted for a margin of one-eighth.
– I was always iti favour of a larger margin than we have, but I do not remember exactly what I voted for.
– The honorable senator can talk to suit the times.
– Sometimes people find themselves in circumstances in which they are compelled to vote against their conscience. We have an opportunity ‘of rectifying any mistake which was made. I believe we were in error in doing what we did. If the bush voter could get to the polling booth with as little inconvenience and loss of time as the town voter, I should say by all means let us have an equal number of electors in each electorate all over the continent. But since that is altogether impossible, we ought to act on the principle, that the number of electors should be proportionately larger where the population is dense than where it is sparse. Does any man assert that 20,000 electors spread over 300,000 square miles of territory, as in the Maranoa electorate of Queensland, are to be pitted equally against 20,000 electors clustered on a few acres of ground in Brisbane ? Such a proposition is worse than absurd ; it is unfair and unjust.
– That is exactly the opposite to what the honorable senator said a few months ago.
– It does not matter what I said before. I am not bound–
– -No ; the honorable senator is not bound to turn a somersault, but he is likely to do so.
– If I see a better way of doing a thing, I am bound to adopt that way. I am always learning. I am not like Senator Clemons. Evidently his education is finished, and he is pinned to a cast-iron set of opinions which cannot be altered.
– It never began in somersaults as the honorable senator’s did.
– The bones of the honorable and learned senator are too stiff to enable him to turn a somersault or to do anything else. This is not a somersault. We know quite well why honorable senators are raging, rampaging, and tub-thumping They are sorry that Sydney is not to get another representative, and a certain party another supporter. Evidently they do not care two straws whether a certain number of persons in the bush would thereby be practically disfranchised. We have heard how the population in Australia is gravitating to the big cities. That is an unfortunate and undoubted fact, and the morepolitical power we give to the people in the cities, as compared with the people in the country, the more will that gravitation continue-
– The more democratic we are becoming.
– I hope that we shall get the country people made a little more democratic than they are. I can assure the honorable senator that I am prepared to do justice to the people in thebush, even if they are not quite so democratic as some who live in the towns. I recognise that one of the greatest evils we have to contend with is the clustering of people in the great cities. In Australia the ordinary processes of nature are reversed.. In the older portions ri the world the townsare built up from the country, but in Australia the cry is for the people to get out of the townsand settle in the country. The morepolitical power we give the people in thetowns the more will they cluster there, until some day we shall find ourselves face to face with the appalling fact .that the townspeople have too much political power, that it hasbeen misused, and that an entire change of policy is absolutely necessary if we are tosurvive as a country. It is extremely desirable that political power should be distributed as fairly as possible over the various portions of the continent, that all the factors I have mentioned - distancefrom the polling booth and obstacles tovoting - should be taken into consideration when fixing the number of electors in any division. All I desire to do is to deal out as nearly as possible even-handed justice toevery section of the community. It would be the height of injustice to say that 30,000- men and women spread over a huge territory - say 350,000 square miles, as may be easily found in Queensland - should haveno more voting power, man for man and woman for woman, than 30,000- electors in Sydney,- Melbourne, or Brisbane.
– The honorable senator looks upon them merely as electors for the purpose of an election.
– Yes. Can my honorable and learned friend give each elector an equal chance of getting to the polling place ? If he cannot do that, then where does his cry of “ one vote one value “ come in? When one man is within ten. minutes’ walk of the polling place, while smother man is a hundred miles away, does “the honorable and learned senator say that those two persons have an equal opportunity to record their vote 1
– Yes, I do, under the provisions of the Electoral Act.
– When one man is within arm’s length of the political machine and another nian is a hundred yards away, does the honorable and learned senator claim that the latter can bring his force to bear on the machine as quickly as the former, who has only to reach out his hand to tu rn the handle 1
– The Electoral Act, as he ought to know, makes every provision for those cases.
– It has been pointed out, both here and elsewhere, that peculiar circumstances make it necessary to revert to the old divisions. We know that the bush has been more or less depopulated by the drought, and that people are -only now beginning to go back. Only a few days ago I read in a newspaper how hundreds of electors were finding their way back to Broken Hill, and to the western districts of New South Wales. I have no doubt that within a very short time the population there will be much larger than it is. In any case, I think, it is very desirable that the scanty bush, population should ne fairly and equitably represented in this Parliament, but that is impossible if one vote’ one value is to be the rule. I believe in one vote one value–
– Yes ; but the honorable senator takes precious good care that it shall not be put in force.
– I believe in one vote one value with this qualification, that we must have equal population in equal areas, with equal opportunity to vote. Without -that qualification one vote one value is a mere fiction. This is about the first time -that we have heard Senator Clemons ever ^advocate anything democratic.
– The honorable senator never heard me advocate spurious democracy, mock liberalism, like himself !
– Order !
– The honorable senator is simply turning a somersault, and yet he prates about democracy to me.
– Order !
– I am very sorry if my remarks do not suit the honorable and learned senator.
– Rank hypocrisy !
– I must ask the honorable and learned senator not to interrupt.
– If I had any doubt when. I rose as to whether I was right or wrong, I have none now. It is clear to me that Senator Clemons being so much opposed to the course I am advocate ing, it must of necessity be the right course. I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill.
– Of late I have so frequently had the pleasure of supporting the Government, that it is almost a new experience for me to find myself in direct opposition to them. However, what I say will, I trust, be taken in a kindly spirit. This is purely a Federal question, and it must not be supposed that, because New South Wales senators quote New South Wales statistics, we look at it merely from our own point of view. I propose to make a little departure in that respect later on. If “ one adult, one vote, one value “ is what is called a democratic principle, this Bill is in direct contradiction to such a principle; I should not have been surprised if the Government, rather than bring in a Bill so opposed to the principle which they have hitherto professed, had suggested that we should try the Hare system for once, as applied to each of the States, because under that system we should have secured proportional representation.
– A Bill would have been required for that purpose.
– That is so, but it would probably have been more easy to get that Bill through in certain quarters, than it will be to pass the- Bill now before the Senate. The action of the Government is really, though not intentionally, insulting to their own Commissioners. Under section 13 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the Government appointed an Electoral Commissioner for each State, and now, apparently because the result has not been exactly what would suit them, they propose to throw the Commissioners overboard, and to fall back upon the existing electoral divisions in some of the States. I notice by the newspapers that one of the Electoral Commissioners, Mr. Archibald McDowall, of Queensland, has been twitted by some person or persons with being under local Ministerial influence in the preparation of his report. He has been so annoyed by this that he has called for an investigation. This gentleman is personally known to the Minister for Defence and to myself. We know that he is an ex-Surveyor-General of the State, and a man of the highest integrity. I personally believe that he submitted an honest report. Under section 16 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the manner of settling the quota is provided for, and it is also provided -
But in no case shall such quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
The figures which I propose to submit to honorable senators will show that there is a tremendous discrepancy between the numbers of electors in various electorates under the divisions which it is proposed to adopt if this Bill be agreed to. I am afraid that the quotation of these figures will lay me open to the charge of piling Pelion upon Ossa. We have had so many mountains of statistics submitted lately, that this may be considered an apposite reference. If, as is proposed by this Bill, the old States Divisions are to be recognised, I find that, whilst there will be 95,063 electors in four country electorates of New South Wales, there will be only 59,129 electors in four other country electorates in that State. The difference between these two sets of four country electorates is no fewer than 35,934 electors. In other words, the average number of electors in one set of electorates is no fewer than 8,983 more than the average in the other set. I have statistics here which show that in eight electorates of New South Wales there are 241,898 electors, whilst in eight other electorates there are only 130,183 - a tremendous difference of 111,715. I may mention that of the 241,898 electors, 132,088 are female electors, whilst of the 130,183 electors in the other set of eight electorates, only 52,364 are female electors. In the case of one of these sets of electorates, the average number of electors is 30,237 ; whilst the average for the other set is only 16,272 - a difference in the average number in each electorate of no less than 13,965 electors. How can it possibly be said that this is a democratic basis of representation ? I propose now to submit to honorable senators a few .figures with respect to Victoria. If the old boundaries are adopted for Victoria, we shall have five country electorates with 125,984 electors, and five other country electorates with but 91,932 electors - a difference of 34,052 electors. These two sets of electorates, though differing so materially in the number of electors, they comprise, will be represented by the same number of members in the House of Representatives. Dealing with another portion of Victoria, and including town and country electorates, I find that six electorates comprise 207,791 electors, whilst six other electorates comprise only 112,013 electors, the difference between the number of electors in the one set and the other being 95,778. It must be admitted that these figures are extraordinary, if there isreally a desire that we should do what is. fair between one electorate and another. The average difference in the number of electors in the two sets of electorates, to which I have last referred, amounts to noless than 15,963. Supposing for argument’s sake that the quota is 25,000, the margin of one-fifth more would allow for 30,000, and of one-fifth less for 20,000, a difference between the highest and the lowest of only 10,000, and yet the figures I have given show an average difference in the case of twoseta of six electorates, each of 15,963.
– In exceptional cases.
– T admit all that. I am not surprised that Tasmanian senators, are supporting the Government, because they are getting fair play.
– Not under this’ Bill, but from the Electoral Commissioner appointed for Tasmania.
– The report of the Tasmanian Electoral Commissioner has been approved of, and in the division he has. proposed, I find that Denison, a city division, contains 16,220 electors; and La Perouse, a country electorate, 16,122. This will show how closely the Tasmanian Commissioner has kept to the requirements of the Act. In the case of the South Australian divisions, which have been approved, as. submitted by the Commissioner for that. State, I find that two city electorates, Adelaide and Port Adelaide, contain together 47,081 electors, while two country electorates, Angas and Wakefield, contain 47,354. So that in this case the city electorates have actually fewer electors than the country electorates.
– The Commissionersfor South Australia and Tasmania were successful in their divisions, whilst the Commissioners for the other States were not.
– Equally competent officers were appointed to divide the other States.
– They did not prove it.
– I know that one of the strong arguments against the divisions proposed in some of the other States is that owing to the drought a considerable decrease of population occurred in certain country electorates. That is perfectly true, but the margin provided for under the Act would more than have made up for the difference, and might have been utilized to obviate the necessity for any special provision being made: Mr G. H. Reid prepared a certain set of figures, from which I find that in the case of sixteen country electorates of New South Wales, during the twelve months ending 30th August of this year, no fewer than 8,000 odd electors have returned to their electorates. I cannot, therefore, understand, even if the people go back, as we hope they will, why there should be any necessity for providing for divisions in which there is so great a discrepancy between the number of -electors they contain, as those which it is proposed to adopt under this Bill. Honorable senators may have found these figures somewhat dry, but as one of the representatives of the State of New South Wales, I must show that I am not altogether blind to the interests of that State. As one of the honorable senators representing that State, I shall be obliged to cast my vote against the Government in this matter. If they should be defeated, I hope that -the divisions will be again referred to the Commissioners, because after all is said and done, a delay of only thirty days from the time they are submitted to them is involved. Section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides -
The Commissioner shall forthwith, after the expiration of the thirty days above mentioned, forward to the Minister his report upon the distribution of the State into divisions, and the number of electors residing in each proposed division, together with a map signed by him, showing the names and boundaries of each proposed division.
The report and map are to be laid before the Houses of Parliament within seven days after their receipt.
– There are other stages.
– These have been passed. It is true that objections have -to be received under section 18, but I gather that those objections have already been lodged.
– They refer to the divisions which have already been submitted by the Commissioners, and which have been objected to.
– -I feel it my duty to vote against the second reading of the Bill.
– -I had been of the opinion that the necessity for this Bill was so self-evident as to require no discussion or argument here. I felt that it would pass through its second reading and all its stages in almost one day. Some honorable senators of the party to which I belong have been accused of a want of consistency in that we have always advocated, as nearly as possible, equality of electorates. But I say that this Bill has nothing whatever to do with that question. We settled that in the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
– And the honorable senator is now seeking to reverse it.
– We are not seeking to do anything of the kind. The Electoral Act has not up to the present time worked as satisfactorily as it might have done-
– It has not been allowed to work satisfactorily.
– -It does not matter from what cause.
– Whose fault is it?
– Surely it is not the fault of the Labour Party, because from the very passage of the Electoral Bill members of that party have being doing all they possibly could to push on the carrying out of the provisions of the Act. We have been continually urging the electoral officers to get on with the electoral rolls and to get all the necessary work done. At last the work was done, and it was done in some States in such a satisfactory manner that it was scarcely questioned. The work of the Electoral Commissioners for South Australia and Tasmania was accepted, but there were other States in which the work done was not considered of such a satisfactory character.
– By whom ?
– By the- House of Representatives.
– The electors were satisfied.
– I am not talking of the electors. I am speaking of the position in which we find ourselves. The Electoral Act which we passed gives both Houses of the Federal Parliament certain powers, and up to the present time they have done nothing more than exercise those powers. The short time that must elapse before an election must take place will, if any attempt be made to carry out the provisions of the Electoral Act, force us into certain difficulties. I know that honorable senators are anxious to save the money of the taxpayers. It would be a great -advantage to the Commonwealth if the election for the House of Representatives could take place at the same time as the election for the Senate.
– But is it worth the loss of principle ?
– There is no loss of principle. We have affirmed the principle ; we are only waiting for an opportunity to carry it out.
– The honorable senator ignores it.
– I am doing nothing of the kind. If honorable senators will curb their impatience for a little while, I will make the position clear to them. The holding of the two elections at the same time will save £50,000. Anything we can do to save that money is a justification for any inconsistency that ma)’ appear - because I hold that there is none actually - in connexion with the passage of this measure. If we do not carry the Bill, and thus give the representatives in another place the opportunity of holding their seats until April or May next, and cause two elections where only one is necessary, the responsibility will be upon the Senate.
– Is there no alternative?
– I am going toshow what the alternative is, and to ask whether we are willing to accept it. Those who have any experience of the way in which electoral work, even in the States, is carried out, know that there is not sufficient time to refer the reports back to the Commissioners. If they were referred back what would be the position ? . Some of the Commissioners would return the divisions just as they are now, and it ‘would be absolutely necessary for the House of Representatives to refuse to adopt them, to displace those Commissioners, and to appoint others before the work could be completed. SenatorWalker referred in a pathetic way to Mr. McDowall, the Queensland Commissioner. That gentleman at first made a division of Queensland that as far as community of interest and basis of population wereconcerned would be accepted by almost every one in the House of Representatives. But in less than a week that scheme was withdrawn, and another division was putforward. If a man deliberately does a thing and then withdraws it in less than a week, some influence must have been brought to bear upon him to make him change his plan. The subsequent division for Queensland has satisfied nobody. Itdoes not satisfy the representatives of Queensland, the people of Queensland, nor even the Government of Queensland. Consequently the House of Representativeswas quite justified in rejecting the Queens- land scheme of division. As to NewSouth Wales, I know that there is a very great divergence of numbers in the presentelectoral districts. But the people of New
South Wales elected their members of the House of Representatives on the presentbasis, and I do not think they have made serious complaints about it. What is the alternative to accepting this Bill? Every one admits, I think, that it is impossible to send the divisions back to the Commissioners and have them amended in time.
– Sir William Lynesaid it was possible.
– Sir William, Lyne said that a month ago, but time is. going on.
– Was it possible when Sir William Lyne said that ?
– I am speaking of present conditions. I have no faith in these newborn democrats, who are now so anxious, about the principle of one vote one value,, but who during all the rest of their lives have opposed all legislation for giving the f franchise to any one except their own friends.. It may be suggested that an amendment of the Electoral Act might be carried in a short time, reducing the term for makingobjections, and so on, and enabling the main principles to be acted upon. But I do notbelieve that that could be done. I am firmly convinced that it would be impossible within a reasonable time to obtain a subdivision of electorates that would satisfy both the Senateand the House of Representatives. Both; Houses must be satisfied before any scheme- oan be adopted. All that this Bill provides is that we shall go back to the divisions made by the States, until such time as .the two Houses agree upon a subdivision under the terms of the Electoral Act. The one alternative is to throw out the Bill and return the divisions to the Commissioners.
– The alternative is to comply with the Electoral Act.
– Then we shall be bound to have two elections, and put the Commonwealth to £50,000 additional expenditure, when there is no necessity for it. We should be unable to get any satisfaction hy returning the schemes to the Commissioners for the work to be done over again, before next April or May, and then there would be no guarantee that the amended schemes would be carried by both Houses.
– The Act was passed ten months ago.
– It does not matter whether it was ten years ago. I quite agree that the work ought to have been done long since ; but it has not been done. We must speak of things as we find them, not as they were ten months ago. If Senator Walker owned a building, in which there was a great winding staircase leading to the top flats : and if in order to obviate the necessity of climbing the stairs, he went to the expense of putting in a lift, and his customers or clients became accustomed to it ; and if all of a sudden that lift broke down - what would he have to do 1 He would have to return to the use of the . old stairway. And that is what we are doing at present. If Bourke-street were blocked, and some honorable senators had been in the habit of coining up that street every day, they would simply have to come up Collins-street. That is what we are now doing. We are not waiving aside any principle. We are prepared to do a’ll we possibly can to get the obstruction to the Electoral Act removed as speedily as possible. The Constitution provides that if the States ase not divided into electorates, each State shall be polled as one constituency. Is that what honorable senators want? Is that the object of the New South Wales representatives ? If so let them say so.
– The Constitution says until Parliament otherwise decides.
– Parliament has otherwise decided in a manner that has not been carried out up to the present .time.
– It has been carried out, but the Government have rejected what has been done.
– It is not the Government, but the House of Representatives that has rejected what has been done.
– It is the Government by a brutal majority.
– I say that the House of Representatives has rejected the work.
– On the motion of the Government.
– It does not matter on whose motion. The Government took the shortest way out of the “difficulty, and they did so with the support of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives. If the representatives of New South Wales desire that that State should be polled as one electorate, we know why they are so anxious to defeat this Bill. If they would declare their purpose, i t would open the eyes of the representatives of other States.
– If the honorable senator wants to gerrymander he should say so.
– We do not. We simply want to defer putting some of the provisions of the Electoral Act into operation until such time as Parliament is able to carry them out. In Victoria, when the divisions were first published, most of the conservative organs pointed out the great disparity in connexion with the representation of the town and country. But they do not say so to-day. Their tone is entirely different. Why this change of opinion 1 There is some reason for so sudden a reversal as that. We have not altered our views. We are prepared, as soon as possible, tocarry out the Electoral Act.
– So long as it is not done before- the next election-
– It is impossible to do it before the next election, and the honorable and learned senator knows that. I could carry out the provisions of the Electoral Act ; Senator Clemons could carry them out ; and probably we could get a_ dozen others to act with us:. Honorable senators must recollect that we have to get the approval of a majority, in the House of Representatives in order todo this work.-
– If the honorable senator cannot get the majority to do right, does he propose to help them to. do wrong ?
– There is no wrong. We are doing exactly what we have done before ; we are suspending an Act for the purpose of saving £50,000, so that another place may not be able to place the responsibility for such an expenditure on our heads, lt is proposed to suspend certain provisions of the Electoral Act in order to avert the necessity of polling each State as one electorate, and to adopt as an alternative the divisions on which the last elections were conducted. Why do not representatives of Tasmania propose that the report of the Commissioner as to that State shall be returned ?
– Because we are satisfied with the division.
– But the name of one of the electorates in Tasmania has been changed, and there is as much right to send the report back on that score as on any other. Until the Parliament under the Constitution can cany out the provisions of the Electoral Act we are prepared to adopt the only alternative, and to pass this Bill. I might dilate on the “ burning enthusiasm “ which is said to be spread all over the Commonwealth. 1 have travelled as much in the country as most honorable senators, and I have never heard knots of people in the streets, or crowds on the highways, discussing the monstrous acts of this Government and Parliament. Even the free-trade “ joss,” who did take exception to the Bill and was very tragic in his manner of doing so, when he went into the “ hot-bed of enthusiasm “ amongst his own people, could get only .1,600 out of 13,000 electors to vote for him.
– In the whole electorate there were only twenty-six against him.
– The honorable senator has forgotten his lesson, because some three or four hundred electors voted for the other two candidates ; and that does not show “burning enthusiasm.” Even if Senator Pulsford addressed a meeting on a burning question he would get a crowd to hear him, but he certainly would not get fifty to listen to him discussing the Bill. before us. The head of the Free-trade Party, no matter where he goes, can always get a crowd to listen to the funny things he says ; but out of a total roll of 13,000 only 2,000 electors took the trouble to walk half-a-mile to record their votes on a question which was said to be nearly setting the “ beautiful harbor “ on fire.
– They knew that opposition to him was futile.
– It perfectly amuses me when I hear honorable senators talking about “ burning enthusiasm.” We know that it is impossible to carry out the provisions of the Electoral Act before theelections take place. We are not supporting the Bill because we do not believe in equal electorates, or, so far as we can obtain it, one vote one value, but because we deem it to be the nearest and most convenient road to saving £50,000 and to preventing each State being polled as one electorate.
– I rather regret that some honorable senators have imputed bad motives to those who support the Bill. Such an imputation does not come with good grace, because if there are members of both Houses who believe that under the circumstances the States divisions may be made use of, we must remember that those whooppose the Bill .so vehemently and passionately are advocating the use of another set of boundaries. We do not impute any improper motives on that score ; and if the motives of the opponents of the Bill are everything that can be desired, they should’ give the supporters of the measure creditfor being animated with intentions just as. pure.
– We are prepared’ to remit the reports back to the Commissioners according to law.
– I have stated already, and shall state again in another form, the reasons why that course is not at thepresent time open to us.
– Why not 1
– Because there is not-, sufficient time.
– Why is there not sufficient time ? The neglect of the Government?
– I shall show from the speeches of some of the opponents of the Bill why there is not time. First of all, I wish to reply to the argument, which has been used over and over again, that we are undoing the work of last session and repudiating the principle weadopted in the Electoral Act. We are doing- nothing of the kind ; we are merely providing in that Act that under certain circumstances - that is where no division has been approved, under section 21, by both Houses of Parliament - we shall adopt the boundaries as they were drawn at the last election.
– But the Government majority has been used to prevent approval.
– There is nothing contrary to the Electoral Act in such a course as I have indicated, because it merely puts us in the position that, if it is necessary to hold an election, it may be held on the previous boundaries.
– But the clause which deals with the excess over a quota is nullified.
– Honorable _ senators have argued that the reports should, under section 22 of the Electoral Act, be returned to the Commissioners, and they have quoted again and again the statement ‘made by my colleague in another place on the 14th August - I do not know the exact expression - that there was then time, with a month to spare, to take that step. Honorable senators have said over and over again, when they desired to throw the blame on the Government for the boundaries having been so recently dealt with by Parliament, that the Commissioners were appointed in April last. They have magnified the statement of my colleague to the fullest extent, in order to make the Government responsible for the delay. It is quite true that there may be time between now and the end of the year for fresh divisions tq be drawn up by the Commissioners and adopted. But only in one or two of the processes is there any term fixed by the Act, while there are a number of stages in reference to which there is no limit. Section 17 provides that when the Commissioner has made his divisions and prepared his plans, they have to be posted in the post-offices in every division. How long would it take to carry out that provision in a large State?
– Would it not be as easy to amend that portion of the Act as it is to amend a vital portion ?
– Is it desirable ?
– lt is more desirable to amend that portion than the portion we are amending.
– Is it desirable that the safeguards which were adopted in the Act of 1902, should be omitted - that the provisions requiring that the divisions shall be properly advertised and time given for suggestions or objections shall have no effect? If those provisions be struck out we shall then be undoing the work of last session. That, however, is not proposed ; the Bill allows those safeguards to remain, and under the’ circumstances we could not reasonably count on getting fresh divisions from the Commissioners before the end of the year. Sections 17 to 22 of the Electoral Act show that there are many stages which these plans have to go through before they can be prepared and ready for an election.
– If this Bill be passed those sections will be “ wiped out “ so far as. the coming election is concerned.
– Nothing of the kind. It is simply provided in the Bill that until the two Houses of Parliament have approved of plans, as to which the conditions of the Act have been complied with, the divisions which were used for the purposes of the last election shall be operative.
– Until that approval the four sections are suspended.
– None of the sections are struck out. If we do not pass this Bill what will happen? Doesany honorable senator contend that it isdesirable, even if it were possible withoutlegislation, that the next election should beconducted with each State as one electorate ?’ If the Bill is not passed we run the risk, even if we attempted under section 22 to send the plans back, of not being able at the end of the year, when the time for theSenate elections arrives, to proceed with the election of members for the Houseof Representatives, owing to our havingno divisions or boundaries ready. Wehave been told, and I think it is undisputed, that the holding’ of the elections: separately would probably involve an! additional expenditure of between £40,000 and £50,000.
– A cheap expenditure, for the Government especially. It would cover some principle.
– If the honorable and learned senator desires to expend the extra sum of £50,000 in that way, I think he stands almost alone.
– It would cost more than that to give principle to this Government.
– In all the States there is a desire that we should economize the expenditure where we can, and that we should, if possible, hold the elections at the same time. “Up to the present time the responsibility has rested primarily on the Government to take such measures as will prevent the unnecessary expenditure of £50,000. They have brought down this Bill which, by putting a clause in the Electoral Act, provides some electoral boundaries and divisions to go upon, if we should have to hold the elections at the end of the year. But if the Senate should in its wisdom throw out the Bill it will relieve the Government of that responsibility.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Where under a law of a State, made in pursuance of the Constitution, the State is at the commencement of this Act distributed into electoral divisions equal in number to the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen therein, those electoral divisions shall until both Houses of the Parliament have passed a resolution approving of a proposed distribution of the State into divisions, be taken to be divisions within the meaning of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).In my speech at the previous stage I intimated that if the Bill should survive its second reading I intended to move certain amendments in this clause. The purport of the principal amendment which I proposed to move was to provide for such an alteration of the Electoral Act as would, by reducing the period set out in certain sections, enable the reports of. the Commissioners to be referred back for revision. But, after looking more closely into the matter, it appears to me that the most satisfactory way of accomplishing that object would be to ask the Committee to negative this clause, and to insert in its place the following new clause -
In respect of any redistribution of a State into divisions under section 22 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1902, prior to the 31st March, 1904, seven days shall be read for thirty days in sections18, 19, and 34 of the said Act.
The whole point of the arguments which have been used in support of. the Bill have turned on the alleged impossibility of complying with the Electoral Act. The burden of the song of honorable senators has been that they are taking this course merely under the pressure of necessity. I shall endeavour to show, as briefly as I can, that it is still possible to comply with the law. Speaking on the 14th August, Sir William Lyne stated that there was then time to refer the reports back to the Commissioners for revision. If there was time then, as a period of about three weeks has elapsed, we are three weeks short of the time necessary to comply with the Act. If my suggestion were adopted, the three weeks which have been lost would be regained, and, consequently - on the showing of the chief sponsor of the measure - it would still be possible to refer the reports back to the Commissioner, and to carry out the provisions of the Act in all subsequent stages. There are many ways in which a Government, honestly desirous of carrying out the law, could save time. The Minister for Defence has pointed out that, apart from the time prescribed in the Act for taking certain steps, there are other steps in respect to which no time limit is fixed. That rests entirely in the hands of the Government. I am perfectly certain that the Commissioner for New South Wales would deal with the matter expeditiously. He would have a very simple task to perform. There are only three or four possible alterations in his scheme, unless it is intended to permanently depart from the equal quota. That being so, it is not at all likely that he would occupy more than a few days in making the revision. He has had the advantage, if it is an advantage, of listening to the criticisms which have been directed against his- scheme, and I venture to say that the only revision which- he would require to make would be the alteration of a line on the map which he has submitted. If that is so, I wish to ask Senator Drake where is the necessity for carrying out all the various steps prescribed in the Act, to which he referred ? I was struck with the remarkable tenacity with which he clung to those sections - dealing as they do with matters of detail. He is greatly concerned to maintain all these safeguards ; but, if the Bill should be passed, every section which he referred to as a safeguard would be, for the time being, rendered nugatory.
– That is exactly what I am contending. While the Minister, seriously objects to a proposal to limit the time in which these things are to be done, he admits now that he is suspending the provisions.
– Ni> ; we shall have the State divisions then.
– Of course the Government will have the State divisions, and that constitutes the .whole iniquity of this measure. The Minister for Defence objected to any alterations of sections 17 and 18, and subsequent ones. But what does he propose to do ? He will not have them altered. He said that it would be going back on the Act, but he admits now that he proposes to suspend those sections indefinitely. Surely it is very much more preferable to adopt my proposal - the effect of which would be merely to shorten the time for carrying out the safeguards to which he appears so much attached - than to suspend indefinitely the various provisions, for which he has so much regard. If I am met with the statement that, even on a reduction of the time from thirty to seven days, there would still be an insufficient period in which to get the scheme revised, then I reply that, if the Government is desirous of still adhering to the Act - it has given us no evidence of that desire - it will be possible to have a very much preferable state of affairs by abolishing that time limit. Honorable senators may say that it is necessary to give the electors an opportunity, of objecting. Is it necessary 1 The electors had an opportunity of objecting during the period of thirty days, and what objections were lodged 1 In New South Wales only thirty-five objections were lodged from various people, out of over half a million electors, and many of those objections were, as the Commissioner points out in his report, ‘ rather in the nature of suggestions. As fourteen objections came from one electorate, the balance - many of them being suggestions only - came from the rest of the State. If, in regard to the main scheme, such a limited number of objections were forthcoming, is it reasonable to suppose that there would be any serious objections to a revised scheme ? And even if we have to depart from what I admit is a very desirable procedure - the opportunity for electors to object - surely it is preferable to do that rather than to disfranchise, as we are doing by the Bill,- about 100,000 electors. I shall admit at once that 1 would prefer every elector to have the fullest opportunity of stating his objections ; but seeing that, owing to the dilatoriness of the Government, if not something worse, we have in some way or other to depart from the principal Act, I maintain that it is better to do so in unimportant details, rather than in its vital principle. Therefore, with the view of testing the sincerity of those honorable senators who say they would willingly stand by the Act if time did not prevent them, I propose if this clause should be negatived, to submit the amendment I have outlined. Of course, if the clause should survive a division, there would be no opportunity for me to move the amendment. To those who may desire to assist my object, but who may not feel disposed to support my method, I would suggest another alternative. If we have to amend the Electoral Act at all, clearly it is desirable that it should be amended in such a direction as would depart least from its principles. There are halfadozen other alternatives to be considered. Instead of passing an Act of repudiation like this, it would be just as easy for us to pass an Act legalizing a scheme of distribution which had been prepared in the office of the Minister himself. If the Minister objected to a proposed distribution, surely it would have been competent for him to have submitted a better one, and to have asked Parliament to legalize that. That could have been done without sending the reports back to the Commissioners at all. I admit that it would have been a departure from the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act ; but would it not be better to depart from the Act in that manner, than to make such a departure as is provided for by this Bill in restoring, to all intents and purposes, the old principle of plural voting ? I have already indicated the amendment which I propose to submit.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator in regard to what he suggests should be put into the Bill. The three weeks saving in time which would be effected would not be anything like sufficient, in my opinion, to enable fresh divisions to be made by the Commissioner and adopted by Parliament, if an election should take place before the end of the year. Though there are certain fixed periods which he proposes to alter, the greater part of the time which would be taken up would be occupied in carrying out the provisions of the Act, with regard to which no special time is fixed. For instance, there is the exhibition of the plans at post-offices throughout the Commonwealth.
– That could be dispensed with.
– The honorable senator has not proposed that that should be dispensed with. He has only suggested an alteration with regard to the period of thirty days within which objections to proposed divisions may be lodged. There is just as much reason for people having an opportunity of entering objections to the divisions made at any time in the future, as there has been for giving them time for objection in the past.
– The honorable and learned senator gives them no opportunity of objecting to the electorates it is now proposed to adopt.
– Because we are adopting divisions which existed before, and which were acted upon in the last Federal elections. We know exactly what those divisions are.
– Yes, that is just the trouble. .
– There is no particular reason for giving people thirty days in which to object to divisions which were made three years ago, and which were used in the last Federal elections, for the simple reason that everybody knows them. The provision is intended to apply to a case in which an Electoral Commissioner makes a fresh division. In such a case thirty days are given in which people may make objections to the proposed divisions.
– The people have hot objected to the divisions which have been proposed.
– It is absurd for Senator Millen to say that, because we are proposing divisions with which the people are well acquainted, we should not give electors thirty days in which to make objections to divisions which may be made in the future, and of which they may know nothing. The saving effected by the amendment suggested by the honorable senator would be very small, in comparison with the time required for the fulfilment of other conditions under the Electoral Act. This is the excuse which the honorable senator makes for a proposal to practically reverse the decision just come to by the Senate. The Senate has .just passed the second reading of this Bill by a considerable majority, and the whole of the substance of the Bill, as Senator Millen knows, is contained in the second clause. The honorable senator i3 now proposing to strike that out, and to do so would clearly be to reverse what has just been done by the Senate. It is almost unthinkable that honorable senators, having just passed a motion for the second reading of this Bill, should, immediately we go into Committee, consent to the striking out of the operative clause of the Bill. Senator Millen knows perfectly well that I cannot possibly listen to his proposal. I trust that not very much time will be occupied in the rediscussion of the subject.
– I refrained from taking part in the debate on the second reading of the Bill, not because I had not something to say, not because I did not feel strongly on the subject, but, to be candid, because I was afraid of the Standing Orders. I do not know that my position has altered in that respect, now that the Chairman of Committees is in the Chair instead of the President. I hope, however, that in the few remarks I have to make upon the amendment I shall not be called upon to withdraw very often. With regard to the explanation - I suppose it was meant for an explanation - wo have just heard from the Minister, the honorable and learned senator must obviously recognise that he is at total variance with what the eminent author of this Bill said in another place on 14th August. The honorable gentleman admitted that there would be ample time for the Commissioners to bring up fresh reports. The amendment suggested by Senator Millen will, if adopted, put the Government in exactly the same position as they would have been in if the reports had been sent back to the Commissioners three weeks ago by the the House of Representatives. Senator Drake has argued that because the Senate has passed the second reading of this Bill we have affirmed its principle. We have done nothing of the sort. Many honorable senators who have voted for the second reading of the Bill, have done so in the belief that if the elections were to be held before the 51st December they had no other alternative. I do not for a moment believe that the majority of honorable senators would prefer this Bill to securing fresh reports from the Electoral Commissioners, but I do believe that the Government would prefer this Bill df they had six months in which to secure fresh reports from the Commissioners. I am satisfied that the Minister for Defence and his colleagues would prefer to go back to the old distribution of electorates if there were six months ahead of us before the elections take place, and I believe that they would even then be found sufficiently fertile in excuses for going back to the old divisions. I do not believe it is possible for any honorable senator to justify his opposition to the. amendment suggested by Senator Millen. Those who vote against the amendment will be voting deliberately in favour of going ; back to the old distribution of electorates rather than having a new distribution made in each State by independent Commissioners appointed under the Electoral Act. They will be voting against the principles to which they have given expression in that Act, and casually during this debate.
– Does the honorable and learned senator really believe that 1
– I desire to put those who will vote against the amendment suggested by Senator Millen in their proper position. Every honorable senator who opposes that amendment will show that he deliberately prefers to go back to the redistribution of electorates made three years ago, that he absolutely ignores all the principles of distribution to which he has agreed in the Commonwealth Electoral Act, ‘ and is not prepared to give the Electoral Commissioners an opportunity to make fair divisions of the States.
– If there were six months’ interval before the elections, there would be no reason whatever for curtailing the time as proposed by Senator Millen.
– It is all very well for the Minister for Defence to sit there and to say that if there were six months available there would be no reason for curtailing the time. But my opinion of Ministers is that if they had twelve months they would be prepared to do everything they could to prevent a redistribution by Electoral Commissioners under the Act. I point out to honorable senators who may be inclined -to oppose the amendment that the Bill will disfranchise over 100,000 electors. There is no blinking that fact. The question of expense is raised as another bogy. We have no desire to put the country to an expense of £40,00.) or £50,000. But I say unhesitatingly that I would sooner put the country to the expense of £50,000 than consent to perpetrate such a piece of political jobbery as this. Further, I believe that most of the electors of the Commonwealth would sooner that they should be put to that expense than that they should be victimized and betrayed as they are being under this Bill by the present Government, and those who support them. I hope we shall hear some reason why the amendment suggested should not be carried. I say, without fear of contradiction, that there is time to give the Commissioners an opportunity to submit fresh divisions, and, unless any honorable senator is prepared to foolishly persuade himself that there is not time, I cannot see the smallest justification for his objection to the amendment. This is simply a piece of political jobbery that is not necessary. The only argument that could be suggested fortius scandalous jobbery is the necessity for curtailing time - that the time available does not allow of the Government being honest. In my opinion no extension of time would cause the present Ministry to be honest. They are capable of all . kinds of political jobbery, and so are those who support them.
– The honorable and learned senator must withdraw the remark that the present Government and their supporters are capable of all kinds of jobbery.
– And of dishonesty.
– I repeat it ; and of dishonesty.
– The honorable and learned senator must withdraw the remark.
– I am not referring to your ruling, Mr- Chairman. I withdraw, as I shall always do when you give such a ruling ; but I was referring to an interjection, which 1 shall always be glad to answer in the same way. I am sorry that the Standing Orders should interpose an obstacle to the expression of my views upon this matter.
– They do not bother the honorable and learned senator rauch.
– I have not said a tenth of what I should like to say, if the Standing Orders did not prevent me. I repeat that no honorable senator can justify opposition to the amendment suggested by Senator Millen unless he is satisfied that time will not permit of fresh reports being submitted by the Electoral Commissioners. Surely we are prepared to indorse what we have done in passing the Commonwealth Electoral Act ; and, if we are, we should do our utmost to carry out its provision. Every honorable senator should be loyal to the principles of that Act, and should give the Electoral Commissioners an opportunity to bring in fresh divisions. Under section 22 of the Act it is provided -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh distribution of the State into divisions.
I admit that it is unfortunate that we used the word “may” in this section. It would have been much better if we had used, the word “shall.” Still, I appeal to honorable senators to give the Electoral Commissioners an opportunity of carrying out their duties under the Act we passed last session, unless they are absolutely convinced that there is not sufficient time to enable them to submit fresh divisions.
– Like the learned and angry honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, I did not bother about inflicting my opinions upon honorable senators on the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I take advantage of this opportunity to object to the dictum of Senator Clemons. The honorable and learned senator has talked loosely and wildly, and he has attributed certain dishonorable motives. He has also made charges of dishonesty, not only against the
Government, but against every honorablesenator who may oppose the amendment suggested by Senator Millen.
– The honorable and learned senator withdrew those words.
– If the Chairman will permit me, Senator Clemons repeated his charges several times. It wasonly when he was putting them not only in parentheses, but in italics, that hewas compelled to withdraw. His attitudeseemed to be that not only were the Government dishonest, but that everybody else, who disagreed with the proposal of SenatorMillen. was dishonest. I stand here as the representative of one of the States affected by this Bill, and whose intention it is tovote against Senator Millen’s amendment. I agree with Senator Clemons that votingagainst Senator Milieu’s amendment will, tosome extent, confirm the idea of going back to the old divisions. In the interests of theState I represent, I should prefer going back to the old divisions to accepting the divisions submitted by the dividing Commissioner. I believe that those divisions donot truly represent the opinions of thatCommissioner, Mr. McDowall, for reasons that have been stated in another place, and which it is not necessary for me to repeat. Honorable senators talk about referringthe matter back to the Commissioner. The trouble would have been avoided if we had had foresight enough to give power to ourselvesto amend any Commissioner’s report. Butwe did not do so. The Commissioners havehad ample time in which to do their work, but have done it in a manner that is not satisfactory to the majority of honorablemembers of another place. Honorable senators now at the eleventh hour coolly and calmly suggest that we should send thework back to workmen who have not shown themselves competent to perform it. The Commissioners have not discharged their duties to the satisfaction of the Federal Parliament. It .is a queer way to get over the difficulty to send it back to be done again by the same incompetent hands. But 1 venture to say that we have not time tosend it back to the Commissioner’s, even though we were satisfied that on a reconsideration the)7 could do their work well. I am much amused at the glibness manifested in expressing new-born faith in the statements of Sir William Lyne. This is the only time within my recollection when honorable senators belonging to the great free-trade party- - especially those from New South Wales - have expressed belief in any statement emanating from his lips. Why this newborn faith in that gentleman’s accuracy? It is not because honorable senators have been converted to a belief in Sir William Lyne, but because some of his statements happen to suit their particular attitude at this moment. So far as my knowledge and experience of the Home Affairs Office goes, I should say that instead of seven days being sufficient for making an alteration in the boundaries, nothing less than six months would suffice. Briefly stated, my attitude on the whole question is as follows : The boundaries recommended by the Commissioners have been rejected. That rejection is fixed and final. If we are to have any boundaries we must have those that were in operation at the last election.
– Why “must”?
– Because we have no time to make the necessary alterations. Time is the essential particular. The only reason for the introduction of this Bill is that there is a doubt whether we can hold the next election legally on the old boundaries. In order to clear away that doubt this Bill is introduced. Otherwise the other House could have settled the whole question without any Bill whatever. If we have no legal right without this Bill to adopt the old boundaries, we are thrown back into the position either of accepting the Commissioners’ reports, unsatisfactory as they are, or of polling each of the States as one electorate. I have a suspicion that the free-trade representatives of New South Wales are thoroughly wide awake to the position that unless the Commissioner’s divisions for New South Wales are accepted, that State will be polled as one electorate. There will then be no divisions whatever, which, according to their anticipations, would mean that in the House of Representatives there would be one Free-trade Party for New South Wales, and no one else would be within sight.
– My amendment would not have that effect.
– That is the way in which I view the position. The Commissioners’ divisions are gone. We have to determine whether we are going to poll New South Wales as one electorate for the House of Representatives, or whether we are going to poll that State as it was polled at the last election, with the old divisions retained. If we reject this Bill, New South Wales will be polled as one electorate. Viewing the matter from that stand-point, I shall support the Bill.
– Whatever- we may do, we cannot to any great extent influence what has been done in the House of Representatives, in reference to accepting the boundaries of divisions as submitted to Parliament by the Commissioners. Section 22 of the Electoral Act provides that -
If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution, or negatives a motion for the approval of any proposed distribution, the Minister may direct the Commissioner to propose a fresh, distribution of the States into divisions.
The other House has disapproved of the boundaries proposed by four of the Commissioners. Therefore they are gone. Now we are asked to pass a Bill to enable certain other things to be done.
– Which the Act says may not be done.
– Which the Act does not contemplate. In the first place I desire to make it clear that I do not approve of this Bill, nor of the action of the Government. I believe that there was ample time in which to propose the divisions to Parliament. There was also ample time in which to refer the reports back to the Commissioners if Parliament did not approve of them. When we passed the Electoral Act, we decided that it was unwise for Parliament to have anything to do with dividing the districts, because we might be charged by the people with trying to carve out districts to suit ourselves. I voted for the second reading of the Bill, although disapproving of the action of the Government, because I feared that if it were rejected the Senate would be charged with compelling two elections to take place at different times. I come from a State that has been watching the action of the Federal Parliamen t very closely with regard to expenditure, and I feel that I could not face my electors if I had been guilty of forcing two elections at an extra cost of £50,000 when one election would suffice. But the second reading of the Bill having been carried, I am now asked to do something else. I am not asked to assist in destroying the Bill as effectually as we should do if we rejected it on a motion for the second reading but to support an amendment of it in its most essential clause.
The amendment asks us to say that we are determined, as far as the Senate can express its determination, to give effect to the Electoral Act, which is our own work. If passed it would have the effect of sending the Bill back to the House of Representatives, in order that they might see whether they could reverse their decision, and give effect to section 22 of the Act. The Government would then have an opportunity of submitting the divisions again to the Commissioners for fresh suggestions. The Commissioners have all the districts mapped out, and by shortening the time laid down by the Act - one month - we should make it possible for the Commissioners to present their reports within the time specified. The Government would thus have another chance of complying with the Electoral Act. By taking that course also, we should treat the other House with that courtesy to which they are entitled. We are asked, by supporting this clause, to depart entirely from the principles we adopted last year. If the Government are desirous, and I presume they are, of giving effect to their own work, they should be able to instruct the Commissioners in such a way as to enable them to return their reports in time. If that were found to be impossible, and we were absolutely forced to break one law by passing another, I might not be found opposing the measure. But in justice to the other House and to ourselves, we. ought to agree to the amendment, to which I think the other place will be prepared to give effect, and thus open the way to the adoption of a scheme which would in some degree comply with the Electoral Act.
– I am glad that Senator Charleston recognises that we should, above ail, remain true to the principle we laid down in the Electoral Act. Senator Millen has shown how, in his opinion, we can be faithful to that principle and, at the same time, not unduly delay the preparation of the necessary plans. The cry of the Minister for Defence all through has been that there is not time to comply with the Electoral Act ; and it is absolutely incumbent on him to satisfy the Senate that time will not permit of effect being given to the amendment. ‘ The Minister for Defence referred to section 17 of the Electoral Act, which requires that notice of the proposed divisions shall be exhibited at the post-offices; but the difficulty which the honorable senator foresees can very easily be surmounted by the repeal of that provision. Senator Millen’s amendment provides that the present Bill: shall remain in operation only until the 31st March next, so that the only elections affected will be those anticipated in the month of December or some time during the present year. The Minister for Defence also said that if the amendment be passed, and we desire to have an election before December, the necessary machinery will not be ready. But is it not a notorious fact that the electoral rolls cannot be ready under any circumstances until late, in November? The Minister is making anutterly futile appeal to the Senate whenhe uses such an argument. I know, and’ he knows full well, that already the “ handwriting is on the wall.1’ The Parliament is practically moribund. The elections cannot be delayed more than a couple of months, and that another place,, even if desirous Of delaying the electionsfor a longer period, would find it utterly impossible to do so. The objections of the Minister for Defence may be at once swepton one side, if the period of thirty days,, within which, according to the Act, the work has to be done, be reducedto seven days. According to the Minister for Trade and Customs, it is quitepossible to carry out the Electoral Act if that reduction be made in the* period. Senator Dawson has said that thisis the first time honorable senators on theOpposition side - at any rate, honorable senators from New South Wales - have been prepared to accept a statement by theMinister for Trade and Customs. Thatmay or may not be the case ; but that Minister, on the occasion to which I refer, was speaking in his official capacity, and to a House which he desired to influence, and’, he was not likely to make a statementwhich was not, so far as he knew, perfectly correct.
– Does the honorableand learned senator really believe there is time ?
– I believethere is time if we reduce the period in the way suggested, and repeal the section to which I have alluded. SenatorDawson has also said that honorable mem- - bers of another place are not satisfied with the way in which the work has been done by the Commissioners. From remarkswhich I have heard, I know that is the case- in regard to Queensland, but except in that State there is no dissatisfaction with the schemes of the Commissioners. It is recognised that the work has been done properly in accordance with the law, but certain changes in the residence of electors have taken place since the Commissioners were furnished with the numbers on the rolls. If the reports be sent back, the Commissioners will have the knowledge afforded by the electoral rolls, and will have an opportunity of making the divisions satisfactory to members of both Houses, provided those honorable members are desirous of observing the principle of equality of voting power within the margin allowed.
– If a division is not accepted by one of the Houses, what then ?
– There will be time enough to deal with the question when it arises. If necessary the Standing Orders could be suspended, and a Bill quickly passed through all its stages. I am perfectly satisfied that honorable members of another place will have no ground to raise any objection, so long as regard is paid to the present state of the population. Even as to Queensland, Senator Dawson recognises that in the first instance the Commissioner proposed a very reasonable scheme.
– I did not say so. My dissatisfaction arises from the fact that the Queensland Commissioner ‘ took months to formulate a scheme, and substituted another, which was prepared in twenty-four hours, and submitted to the Government by wire.
.- Cannot the honorable senator see that now, special attention having been directed to the matter, it may be reasonably assumed that when the returns are made for Queensland they will be based on clearly acceptable lines t The duty of the Commissioner is clearly laid down in the Electoral Act ; and the probability is that his next scheme will be satisfactory. Up-to-date schemes for Tasmania and South Australia have been accepted ; but we are asked to adopt in the larger States divisions which are three years old, and are admitted by all to be incorrect or undesirable. In the States where the Commissioners’ schemes have been accepted,* the 1 equality of the voting power is most marked in both town and country. In the larger States, however, the difference is immense, and even in the schemes which we are now asked to put aside there is a difference of something like 8,000 electors between the largest and the smallest electorates. In New South Wales, four country electorateswith a total ,of 95,000 electors are entitled to return only four representatives, while a similar number of representatives are given to four other country electorates with only 59,000 electors. The inequalities in the old divisions are so glaring that it is hard to conceive that any Government who claims to be honestly desirous of carrying out the policy of the country would, in such an unblushing manner, attempt to depart from principles accepted by them within twelve months. If honorable senators choose to accept the clause, they will be parties to a political iniquity - they will countenance a principle with which they cannot honestly agree, and which would cause the expulsion of a Government from office by any’’ selfrespecting Parliament. It is only fair and reasonable that the amendment of Senator Millen should form part of the Bill as it emerges from this Chamber. If honorablemembers of another place find that honorable senators have made up their minds to see the principle of the law carried into effect, I have no doubt the decision of thisChamber will be accepted. I hope honorable senators will not place the Senate in the contemptible position it will occupy if our every profession made in regard topolitical equality be abandoned. I feel strongly and speak strongly, because I hold that Parliament should consider its own selfrespect, as well as the rights and interestsof the Commonwealth at large.
– Unlike some honorable senators, I do not feel or speak strongly on this, question, but endeavour to take a commonsense view of it. Another place considered it very carefully, and cameto a conclusion as to the best method’ of dividing the States for electoral purposes. They had before them information, the result of inquiries carried out since theinauguration of the Commonwealth, and’ they deemed it better, at all events tentatively, to adopt the course which is now submitted to us.
– We know the value of “ tentatively “ - that means for the next election.
– If the honorable and learned senator pleases.
Members of the House of Representatives came to the conclusion that they were not prepared to alter the existing boundaries in New South Wales, as fixed by the State Parliament. That is the body which is being reflected upon by honorable senators who are speaking so indignantly on the other side. They are reflecting on their own Legislature and their own people.
– We are reflecting on a subdivision which is out of date.
– The position which the other House had to consider was that only three years ago the Parliament of New South Wales made a subdivision.
– To suit themselves.
– I have a very high opinion of the senators for New South Wales and of its Parliament. I consider ‘ that it knew ‘better how. to do its business, so far as the electoral boundaries Are concerned, than we do. The other House, which primarily ought to decide the question, carefully considered the reports of the Commissioners, and said that it was not provided with sufficient information to warrant a disagreement with the decision of the Parliament of New South. Wales, although it was come to three years ago. Not being able to satisfactorily settle the question, it decided to fall back on the deliberately expressed conviction of the Parliament of New South’ Wales, and to adopt the divisions which it made, rather than leave the matter at large. The question before us is whether we should pay respect to the legislative decision of New South Wales, or whether we should accept the dictum of certain honorable senators that the Parliament of New South Wales was absolutely false to the opinions of its people in making that subdivision. I think that my honorable friends opposite are making a mistake in distrusting that legislative decision.
– Surely the honorable and learned senator will admit that the divisions made by the State Parliament contravene the Commonwealth Electoral Act?
– How can they contravene it ?
– Because it provides for equal electoral districts.
– They do not contravene the Act, because they were made before it was passed.
– The Government are ignoring the Electoral Act that we passed.
– They are not ignoring the Act in the slightest degree, but carrying out its provisions in the best possible way. The matter was entirely in the hands of the other House. It could have said that New South Wales should be polled as one electorate, or it could have divided the State and said that the electors should vote in those divisions. But, coming to the conclusion that it could make no satisfactory subdivision, it decided to accept the legislative decision of New South Wales. Prom my point of view it is not material whether the divisions were made lawfully or unlawfully. Being unable to come to a different conclusion, the other House decided to accept them, and, after listening carefully to the debate, I think that the best thing we can do is to pass the Bill as soon as possible.
– If I could have induced myself, no matter by what stretch of imagination, to think that Senator Downer either believed himself or expected the Committee to believe what he was putting forward, I should not have risen to speak. I cannot bring myself to think that he believed what he was saying. I am quite sure that he possesses far too high an intellectual faculty to suppose that those who listened to him could possibly regard seriously what he was saying. He referred to a distribution of New South Wales into electorates nearly four years ago. I was a member of the Legislative Assembly at the time. Those divisions were fair enough then, but what has happened since ? The honorable and learned senator overlooked - if intentionally then unworthily, and if unintentionally then- with a supreme carelessness of fact - that since those divisions were made, and within the last few months, this Parliament, by enacting adult suffrage, has added to the voting power of New South Wales no less than 296,000 voters.
– That does not make any difference.
-Col. NEILD.- My honorable and learned friend is showing so superior an ignorance that I would ask him, in the interests of his great reputation to hold his peace. The. divisions which were fair and equitable, as between one portion of that great State and another, have become inequitable in every possible shape, because the votes of the newly enfranchised women are not distributed in the same proportion as the male voter, and the same rule applies in every State. The enormous bulk of the female voters are to be found in the metropolitan areas of the Commonwealth, and not in the far away back-blocks and pastoral areas, where the male voters are to be found in fairly large numbers. Therefore the divisions, which were eminently straightforward and accurate in regard to not only New South Wales but the other States in respect to male electors, are inequitable now that this new army of electors, as the Electoral Commissioner for New South Wales properly termed the female voters, has been introduced, upsetting all previous calculations, and rendering it essential that if any. regard whatever is to be paid to the principle of one vote one value, honorable members must support it with their votes as well as with their voices. When I heard the speech of the Minister for War to-night, I could not help thinking of the old North Country proverb, that “ any stick will do to beat a dog with,” because no matter what proposal is made to deal with the equities of this case, be echoes the opinions of a colleague, who, with his malign influence, seems to dominate the operations of the Ministry and of Parliament in a direction which has been described in an official report as “gerrymandering.” My honorable friend says, in effect - “ No matter what you propose in order that equity may be done, the old electorates must be retained.” I showed in my second-reading speech that these electorates afford advantages to Ministerial supporters and Ministers which are not given to them by the distribution proposed by the Commissioner. The figures I gave make it plain that the proposed distribution of the Commissioner would inevitably wreck the chances of one Government supporter, and give a seat to the Opposition, to say nothing of the disadvantages which would accrue from its adoption to other distinguished politicians. I shall not, however, go over that ground again. I intend to support the amendment, because it will give proof of the insincerity of those who oppose it. Those who support it will show their desire to maintain the principle of. one vote one value, while those who oppose it by every specious argument which they can invent will be seen to have done so to obtain the advantages which will accrue to their party from retaining the existing divisions, however unjust the retention to the electorsIf I had any other desire than the wish toproperly discharge a high duty to the people, I would assist the Government tocompass their own infamy by destroyingthe principle of one vote one value by legislative enactment. If I set party before principle, I should rejoice in the opportunity that the Government are giving tothose who are opposed to them in insisting upon something which cannot benefit them, in the opinions of the mass of the electors. While by the denial of the principle of one vote one value a temporary advantage may appear to begained, the day of reckoning cannot forever be postponed by any method of manipulation by the authors of the Australian Commonwealth’s great “gerrymandering.”
– I do not know that it is of any use to occupy time in debating the amendment. I intend to support it, though it is perfectly clear from what we have heard from honorable gentlemen opposite that the Government have made up their minds that nothing: will suit them but the retention of the old,, immoral, unfair division ; and that, at all costs they intend to keep them. They arenot prepared to meet us half way, or to do-‘ anything to facilitate the fair exercise of thefranchise by the electors of the Commonwealth. Judas has come down to us in history with the most unsavory reputation of having betrayed his Master, and this Government will go down to posterity with a reputation which will be no less unsavory.
– I listened with great interest to the speech of Senator Gould, who is an ex-Minister of the Crown, and has had large parliamentary experience. He spoke with great emphasis of the’ view which the other Chamber would take of our action, in the event of the amendment being carried, but I have very grave doubts about the correctness of his. opinion. The measure directly affects the members of that Chamber and their electors, as it does not affect us, and, that being so, we must pa)1 some regard to the fact that they passed it by a large majority. Can it be contended for a moment that the House of Representatives is likely to goback upon its own action by the acceptance of an amendment which practically destroys the Bill ? I am in no way in love with this Bill, and if I were sure that there would be sufficient time to enable us to have their reports referred again to the Commissioners, I should not support it. I am satisfied, however, that there is no time for that to be done. I point out that Senator Millen’s amendment really means the repeal of about six of the sections of the Electoral Act which we passed last year. Senator Millen is a man of large experience, for whom I have great respect. I admire the honorable senator’s ability, and I greatly admired the able speech which he delivered in opposition to the measure yesterday. I ask the honorable senator if, after his many years’ experience in the New South Wales Parliament, he thinks that this amendment, if agreed to, would be accepted by the House of Representatives. »
– My amendment does not propose to repeal the sections of the Electoral Act, but to suspend them for the coming elections only. The Bill is a permanent measure.
– The amendment will practically have the effect of repealing certain provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The Bill before the Committee is but a tentative measure, and, if an amendment is moved to make it definitely apply to the coming elections only I shall support such an amendment. The amendment now proposed is one which the House of Representatives will never accept if it is the self-respecting legislative body I take it to be. I should like to say that I rather regret some of the remarks made by Senator Dawson reflecting rather seriously upon the Queensland Commissioner, Mr. McDowall. I have known Mr. McDowall for many years, and have often come into contact with him in his official capacity. So far as my knowledge of him goes, I believe him to be an exceedingly capable and honorable man. I therefore take exception to some of the remarks made by Senator Dawson. Senator Millen has said that his amendment will only suspend certain provisions of the Electoral Act. I point out that under section 17 it is provided that -
Before reporting on the distribution of any State into divisions, the Commissioner shall cause a ma p of each proposed division to be exhibited at post offices in the proposed divisions, and shall invite public attention thereto by advertisement in the Gazette.
There are two conditions to be complied with under that section. Maps have to be distributed to the various post-offices throughout the States, and in the State of Queensland no less than 900 maps will have to be exhibited at the post-offices, whilst in the case of New South Wales J suppose the number would be considerably more. Under section 18 I find that -
Objections or suggestions in writing may be lodged with the Commissioner not later than thirty days after the first publication of the proposed distribution, and the Commissioner shall consider all objections and suggestions so lodged before making his report.
Senator Millen proposes to suspend that provision, and to allow only seven days in which electors may lodge objections.
– Under the Bill no opportunity for lodging ‘objections is given.
– If I believed that there vas sufficient time to do what Senator Millen proposes, I should join with him. I do not think there is sufficient time ; because I recognise the immense territory of the State of Queensland, and the necessity for allowing electors to give advice in connexion with these divisions, not with any view of influencing the Commissioners politically in the discharge of their duties, but with a view of assisting them. It is only reasonable that the conditions of this section should be adhered to. Again, section 19 provides that -
The Commissioner shall forthwith after the expiration of the thirty days above mentioned, torward to the Minister his report on the distribution of the State into divisions, and the number of electors residing in the proposed division, together with a map signed by him showing the names and boundaries of each proposed division.
I say that there is no time to comply with these conditions, and that the House of Representatives, which is more immediately concerned in these proposals, is not likely to go back upon its action. It is not fair at this time to provoke a conflict with another Chamber, because, if we run the risk of a dispute between the two Houses in connexion with these divisions, the result may be that when the elections come on we shall be without the necessary machinery to give effect to the new force of the women electors to which Senator Neild has referred. In all the circumstances I ask Senator Millen to consider whether it is wise to push the matter to an extreme, which may result in our having, to fall back on the old electoral systems which we had in operation for the last Federal elections. Honorable senators must recognise that this is only a tentative measure.
– No ; it is a permanent measure.
– The honorable senator must know that it is not a permanent measure, and, even if in its present form it were, that can be attended to before it leaves the Committee. In deference to the strongly expressed opinion of honorable members in another place, and in view of the time required to put into operation the machinery of the Electoral Act, I appeal to Senator Millen not to push his amendment so far as to run the risks to which I have referred.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3’
Question so resolved iff the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 September 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030909_senate_1_16/>.