2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice-
What dutiable goods were delivered free to the tobacco manufacturers of the Commonwealth during the last financial year, under the powers given by the Customs Act?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Spirits, 11,344 gallons; glycerine, 19,445 lbs.; liquorice, 237,055 lbs.; sugar, 94 tons; spice, 14,764 lbs.; starch, 112 lbs.; paper, £1,438; manufactures of cork, £2,624; orange peel, 1,487 lbs.; flavouring essences, 346 gallons; essential oils, 1,248 lbs. ; petroleum jelly, 1,307 lbs. ; tags, £276.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
To what extent has section 57 of the Customs Act, relating to the exposure of lists of copyright books, been used?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Inquiry will be made in the various States. It is, however, believed that the Act has been fully complied with, as Collectors were instructed on the point.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How much did the commission amount to that was allowed to buyers of postage stamps for resale during the last financial year ?
-£13,921 3s. 6d.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
If replies have been received to inquiries made from the various State Governments as to the numbers of unemployed registered on the books of State Labour Bureaux ; if so, will the Minister lay same in the form of a return upon the table of the House?
-The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Replies have not yet been received from all the States, but reminders have been sent. The replies, when received, will be laid on the table.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Has the Government considered the question of the advisability of appointing a Commercial . Agent in Canada to represent; the Commonwealth of Australia?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
It will be considered in connexion with the proposals for the establishment of Preferential Trade relations.
.- I move -
That, unless otherwise ordered, inaddition to the days of meeting set forth in the Sessional Order of the 29th June, Tuesday of each week be a meeting day of the Senate during the present Session, at the hour of half-past two in the afternoon, and that on such day Government Business take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions.
– Forwhat reasons?
-The reasons are obvious.
– I am not at all sure that the exclamatory statement of my honorable friend is well founded. It is usual, when double pressure is put upon honorable senators, to give some reasons why it is necessary to take the course. I do not intend to stand in the way of the motion, because my honorable friend is the leader of the Senate, and is taking this step with a view to the proper conduct of business. That is a matter with which we are all very greatly concerned, and, therefore, I think that the Senate would have been glad if he had indicated the particular business which renders an extra sitting necessary at the present moment. Does he require the extra sitting for the purpose of dealing with a Bill which is usually called, or -rather miscalled, the Commerce Bill?
– It is a very good Bill.
– Does my honorable friend intend to present that Bill during this session?
– The reasons are so obvious against that course being taken, that I thought my honorable friend would bow to the storm of criticism with which the measure has been met by every sensible man in the community.
– Oh, no !
– I really thought that my honorable friend would have paused before saying so emphatically that that was a Bill which he proposed to carry through. Again, does ne really think that the Secret Commissions Bill is urgent?
– What about the Estimates ?
– If the Estimates were here, I should say “ Let us sit not merely on Tuesday, but day and night.” We ought to have had them here before now. And if it is not too severe an observation to make, it is all nonsense for Senator Playford to talk about the inability of the Government to devise some means by which the Senate could consider the Estimates at an earlier date.
– Why did not the honarable and learned senator devise some means last year?
– Last year the matter was brought up and discussed here. A method was being devised by the late Treasurer, Sir George Turner, and I understood that he was able to see his way to make an arrangement by which my promise to the Senate would, to some extent, have been carried out. Of course I do not know what reasons have actuated Senator Playford in this matter, but I think that some means might be devised for carrying out the idea. I am sure that all of us would ‘be quite willing to give every possible minute to the full consideration of the Estimates. My honorable friend might have told us whether the extra sitting is required for the consideration pf the proposal of the Government to repeal the contract provision in the Immigration Restriction Act. It is some months since the proposal was vaguely shadowed forth- by the Prime Minister, and we have been hungering and thirsting ever since for an op;portunity -to consider it.
– Why did not the honorable and learned senator satisfy histhirst last year when he had the. power ?
– Well,, we want to do it this year. It is better late than never.
– Honorable senatorswill not do it.
– I should b.e extremely sorry to take the business out of the hands of the Government. We all hope for the repeal of the provision. I should think that every member of the Senate and the other House look forward this session to the removal from our statutebook of what is admitted to be a blunder.
– By whom?
– By my honorable friend, I. should think.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Does not the honorable senator agree with the Prime Minister?
– Not on that point. ‘
– Does not my honorable friend agree with the leader of his party ?
– He does not say that it is a blunder.
- Mr. Watson favours a modification of the provision.
– He does not say that it is a blunder.
– He admits that it is a blunder if it requires modification.
– He says he is willing to go a little way to meet the prejudice of some persons.
– Well, that shows a reasonable disposition. Every proposal which tends to bring about a chance in that undesirable law should be considered at the earliest possible moment. I think Senator Playford will see that there are reasons why he .should mention what are the pressing matters now before the Senate.
– There are six orders of the day, besides several notices of motion.
-.- I observe that in the newspapers to-day the Prime Minister is reported to have said that the Parliament is to be prorogued within a month. How can we possibly squeeze all this business into that period ?
– He said he hoped that Parliament would be prorogued within a month.
– That is a delightful prospect for us, and unless there are those reasons which I have gently hinted at, I do not see why we cannot deal with the business without sitting on Tuesdays. Let my honorable friend abandon the Commerce Bill, which he knows he will have no chance of -carrying this session, and we will assist him to dispose of the remainder of the business so as to gel! home within a month.
– I objected to the motion being taken as formal, because I desired to refer to one or two matters, and to give Senator Playford an opportunity to speak. It is the custom for a Government not only to state the particular reasons why additional time is required, but to indicate what business it wishes to complete before the Parliament is prorogued. But, following what appears to be a growing habit on his part, the Minister seems to take all things for granted, and to think that merely because a certain thing is desired by the Government the Senate will give its consent. That is hardly treating the Senate with the consideration to which it is entitled. Senator Symon has mentioned certain measures conperning which he thinks that it is entitled to some information. What I wish to know is whether.it is the intention of the Government this session to bring in the immigration proposals concerning which the Prime Minister has been eloquent at times.
– What can we do in that matter ?
– That is a question to be answered by the Prime Minister, who said that he would attempt to do something in that direction. I am not saying whether anything ought to be done, or what ought to be done; but since the Prime Minister has said that he intended to take some action, surely it is not unreasonable for the Senate to expect some information from Senator Playford. We might also ask what is the intention of the Government with regard to the Bill which has been promised for granting aids and bounties to the agricultural industries. Are we to be asked to consider these matters this session? There are among the matters to which I might refer- some of them included in the thirty -six measures which were mentioned in the speech of the Minister on the occasion of the formation of the present Ministry - several as to which we should like to know the intentions of the Government. It is obvious that it will be impossible to deal with them all, and we are entitled to know which it is proposed to proceed with, and which to abandon. Although I have no objection to the Senate sitting on Tuesdays, or any other days when it is necessary to attend to public business, I shall object, if the motion is carried, to an adjournment over next Tuesday, or the following Tuesday, for any reason. I state that now, because I wish it to be understood that, if I object to an adjournment over Tuesday, I shall not do so from any lack of courtesy towards honorable senators. I can quite understand the desire of the Government to have extra time, but I shall protest to the utmost of my powers against any exception being made in respect of any particular Tuesday.
-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) - I join, with honorable senators on this side of the- Chamber in regretting that ordinary courtesy has not been shown to us in respect to this motion. It is perfectly true that Ministers are in charge of the business of the Senate. But it is equally true that it is the duty of Ministers to inform us courteously, when they desire to make any change in the sitting days, of their reasons for doing so. I do not, however, suppose that the Minister of Defence intended, by his summary action, to act discourteously, but I trust he will bear in mind that conduct of this kind is very apt to be so interpreted. Therefore, I hope that when he is replying he will entirely disabuse our minds of any possible suspicion that discourtesy was intended. I would ask honorable senators to look at the list of matters to be brought before us,, and especially at the agenda of private business, and say whether it would not be possible, in the first instance, for the Government to make use of the time usually devoted to private business.
– -Why should we be deprived of our time?
-Col. GOULD.- What is the private business that stands in the way of the Government’ taking the first part of Thursday afternoons? What private busi-ness is there that has the most remote pros pect of being dealt with or of having any effect on the affairs of the Commonwealth?
– Is the honorable senator referring to Senator Pulsford’ s motion?
– Or to Senator Symon’s Judiciary Bill?
-Col. GOULD. - The probability is that the Judiciary Bill will have to be postponed. Its discussion would take a considerable time. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Senator Symon is enabled to move the second reading, and even that the Bill passes the Senate, there will be no prospect of its being carried in another place. I do not say that the Judiciary Bill is not a measure of great importance, but it is of very little use to go on with it when there is no prospect of carrying it into law. I am aware that Senator Symon has made several attempts to bring forward this measure, but on each occasion the amount of private business on the paper standing in advance of his Bill has prevented him. He did not even secure the opportunity to move the second reading. What else is there upon the business-paper? There are several motions. What would be the effect of carrying them? What immediate effect could they have upon the policy of the Government or of the Commonwealth ? Senator Pulsford has a very important motion on the paper, but I believe that he would be willing to give way if there was a general desire to proceed with Government business.
– Indeed, I should not.
.- With all due respect to Senator Pulsford, I should be perfectly prepared to assist the Government in securing the time usually allotted to private motions, if it would assist in pushing forward the business of the country. Then there are two motions with regard to the classification of the Public Service. The adjourned debate on one motion is to be resumed by Senator Croft.
– I would not give way.
– What would be the effect of that motion, if carried? The law, as it stands, -gives the Public Service Commissioner certain powers and duties. I am very glad to know that the ]*aw is of such a character that it cannot be affected by a motion carried in either branch of the Legislature. The ‘only way to amend it would be. by fresh legislation. Those two motions might very well stand on one side.
– What about the motion with regard to the Western Australian railway.
.- There is a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee, but a Select Committee of the Senate has no pow#.r to proceed with business in recess.
– The Committee might be turned into a Royal Commission.
.- We are doing everything by Royal Commission nowadays. We arp almost governed by Select Committees and Royal Commissions. There is also on the paper Senator Dobson’s motion respecting compulsory military training. It is a most important subject, I admit. Indeed, every on.e of the motions on the paper is important. But I maintain that at this late period of the session, there is very little prospect of dealing with any of them effectively. I should like to hear from the Government, not only how it is proposed to deal with the question of immigration, but also what is the policy of the Government respecting the Capital Site question. There has been a conference between the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth and the Attorney-General of New South Wales. Some scheme is to be evolved by means of which the matter in dispute may be settled. Is it to be settled this session or in “the sweet by-and-by?” A statement has been made from the public platform in Sydney by a member of the Cabinet as to a new scheme for the defence of the Commonwealth, of such a character that it will satisfy every individual in the community that the Government are awake to the position of affairs. We have in the Senate the Commander-in-Chief of the Military Forces, “ General “ Playford. Why should he not tell us what the proposals of the Government are? A prominent supporter of the Ministry is very much’ enamoured of the Swiss system, and is in favour of turning every individual in the community into a soldier.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think that that matter has any relation to the question ?
-Col. GOULD.- I refer to it in order to ascertain from the Minister whether he is going to explain the defence proposals of the Government. We ought to know in order that we may form an opinion as to whether it is necessary to give him the time that he requires.
– I do not think that the honorable and learned senator ought to discuss the merits of any particular proposal.
.- I dare say that when honorable senators learn that under the Swiss system soldiers get 4 1/2 d and 7d. a day for their services-
– That has nothing to do with the question.
.- I bow to your ruling, and shall not offend again. I trust that the Minister, in his reply, will inform us how the time for which he asks is to be utilized. We ought to know what business we have to dispose of, in order that we may make up our minds to deal with it promptly and expeditiously.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - Sen’ator Gould has expressed a desire to get all the information I can possibly give him, but he surely does not anticipate that I intend to make a long speech, and to deal with all the subjects he has mentioned. I mentioned what I thought was a sufficient reason why the Senate should give the Government more time in which to deal with business. I may, however, state that I ask the Senate to sit on Tuesdays only when not otherwise ordered. The intention is that if it is necessary to devote more than the usual days of sitting to public business, we shall be in a position to do so without bringing forward a special motion. My motion is ‘not mandatory.
– Will it apply to next Tuesday ?
– I shall not know until Friday next. Personally, however, I intend to ask the Senate not to adjourn over Cup Day, or for garden parties, or for anything of that kind. Supposing we agree to meet on Tuesdays, we shall sit on Tuesdays if public business requires it. Business will have precedence over every other consideration. The duty we owe to those who have sent us here isi more important than a visit to the Melbourne race-course, or attendance at a garden party. Of course, if we do not get a quorum on the extra day it will not be my fault; and the names of those present will be taken down and made public. It was not from want of courtesy that I did not say a few words, but merely because I thought that the condition of the notice-paper made the reason for the motion self-evident. There is a great deal of busi ness before another place, and also before the Senate, so that our work is well “cut out” for us between now and the prorogation. We have already had before us the most important portion of the Estimates, namely, the expenditure on public works. The Estimates proper consist principally of the salaries to be paid to the various public servants, and, as honorable senators know, the Government in another place have been expediting this work as far as possible. Indeed, the Estimates were never so forward as they are this year; and the Government intend to endeavour to get them passed at the earliest possible moment in another place, so that I hope to have them here at the end of this week, or the beginning of next.
– What about the amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act?
– From what the Prime Minister has said, I believe the proposal for the amendment of that Act will be brought before another place and ultimately submitted to honorable senators. I do not know that the Government have decided what other measures it is intended to proceed with, and, therefore, I cannot give honorable senators the information they’ desire. °
– The Minister of Defence promised to afford us an opportunity to discuss the questions to be submitted at the Colonial Conference.
– The honorable senator can have an opportunity’ to discuss those matters by placing a notice on the paper. I do not see that it is necessary for the Government to submit any proposals on the subject, but I should imagine, although it has never been before the Cabinet, that this is a matter for the Government to deal with. There is no doubt that the representatives of the Commonwealth at the Conference will not commit the Commonwealth without the consent of this Parliament.
– What about the naval subsidy?
– That matter has been settled. Anything done by the representatives of the Commonwealth at the Conference will have to be approved of by the Parliament.
– In connexion with the naval subsidy, we were told that it would be a breach of faith if we did not carry out the informal promise of Sir Edmund Barton.
– We have nothing to do with that at the present time.
– I am merely pointing out a danger.
– That danger will, I think, be obviated in the future.
– Are we to have a High Commissioner’s Bill this session?
– I do not know. The Cabinet have not definitely decided what measures they will submit to Parliament; and I do not know why the honorable senator is so anxious about that or any other Bill. The measures which the Government consider necessary will be submitted in due course. At present we have plenty of work before us, and the motion is simply to give us an extra day if an extra day be found necessary. Should we get on expeditiously with the business, I shall not ask the House to meet on Tuesdays, but, otherwise, I must be allowed to be the judge in the matter, although I am at all times anxious to consider the convenience of honorable senators. I prefer to sit a few extra days rather than have to rush the work through in the last hours of the session.
.- Will anything be done in regard to the Capital Site?
– Like the honorable senator, I only know what has appeared in the newspapers. At a Cabinet meeting a week ago, a certain understanding was arrived at that the Attorney-General of New South Wales and the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth should confer and bring up a report. There has been no Cabinet meeting since, and all I know is that there has been an intimation of some arrangement, which will be submitted to the Government, and subsequently to Parliament.
– What about the defence proposals?
– There are no defence proposals that I know of. When I move the second reading of the Appropriation Bill, honorable senators will hear what I have to say on the question of defence; and I think they will find that the problems which confront us are of such a character that, in the short time I have been in office, it would have been impossible for me to lay clown any definite defence policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Keating) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Last week, an attempt was made to recommit the Bill with a view to amending a clause dealing with the copyright of cabled news. It is interesting to note that while the votes of pretty well all honorable senators were recorded either by pairs or in person, a very peculiar change appears to have come over the expressed opinions of some gentlemen. The recommittal of the Bill for the further consideration of the clause to which I refer was refused on division by sixteen votes to fifteen, andin the majority were Senators Keating and Playford, the two representatives of the Government. Had the Ministers voted as we had a right to expect they would-
– Who had a right?
– The Senate and the country. Had the Ministers voted as we had a right to expect they would, there would have been a very different tale to tell in regard to this provision. I do not like to see it stated that Ministers are prepared to “ jump Jim Crow “ whenever it suits their purpose, or, rather, when it suits the purpose of the party which pulls the strings and makes Ministers kick their arms and legs as desired. I wish to call attention to the speech delivered by Senator Keating, as representing the Government, on the occasion when Senator Pearce’s amendment was submitted and then to point to the attitude he assumed when the recommital of the Bill was proposed. I regard the paltry excuse made by Senator Keating for turning round and voting in a diametrically opposite direction-
– Is it in order to describe a Minister as making a “paltry” excuse ?
– I do not think it is a very nice expression to use.
.- I surely have a right to say that an excuse is paltry, if, in my opinion, it is paltry.
– The honorable senator ought to be courteous.
.- It is possible to be courteous, and still describe an excuse as paltry. I should have no objection to tell Senator Keating, in discus- sing the matter with him, that I consider his excuse paltry.
– But the honorable senator further said that the excuse was “ miserable.”
– If the honorable senator prefers, I shall simply use the word “excuse” without any adjective. On that occasion, Senator Keating said that if honorable senators were absent when the matter was debated, they ought not to attempt to put the ‘Senate to the difficulty and trouble of reconsidering the subject in the Chamber as then constituted. The Senate, as then constituted, showed twentyfour votes - fifteen for, and nine against, Senator Pearce’s amendment.
– Is the honorable senator not quoting from a discussion in this session?
– It is the same discussion.
.- What did Senator Keating say when dealing with the amendment submitted by Senator Pearce? He pointed out that he had opposed an amendment of the character, and had shown that it would not carry out the intentions of those responsible for it. That may be a good reason ; but Senator Keating went on to say that he had not, on the first occasion, confined his argument entirely to the draftsmanship, but had opposed the amendment because it seemed to depart altogether from theprinciples of the Bill. Senator Keating also said, in reference to Senator Pearce’s amendment - . . . we are now asked to assert a principle to which, as we have shown by our votes, we are opposed. . . . The amendment proposes that a man, who may have calmly stood by, and, allowing others to take the risks, waited until the enterprise was successful and the rate was low. shall be able to claim to be allowed to participate on exactly the same terms.
The reason given by Senator Keating then is just as good now as on that occasion. Nothing whatever has occurred to enable him to depart from the opinion he then formed.
– The Minister has had more information since then.
.- If so, the Minister has not given it to us. Indeed, the facts go to show that the Senate was misled by want of information.
– I gave the information, but the honorable senator and others were not present on that occasion, although the notice of motion had been in their hands for weeks.
.- I was not present; but the Minister might also have added that it was impossible for honorable senators on this side to obtain “ pairs “ when the matter was under consideration.
– The honorable senator was “ paired.”
– I was not aware of that fact, which, however, only shows that my offence is not so heinous as seemed at first Senator Keating, on that occasion, proceeded to say that the amendment went beyond the necessities of the case, and, as he had already pointed out, left it open to a man to wait until the enterprise was an assured success, and then claim to share the benefits of it at a reduced cost. The Minister continued -
No matter how improved the present amendment is in the matter of drafting, I still ask the. Committee to reject the principle involved.
Again, he said -
I do not think we should attempt in this Bill to give the Minister such a power as this amendment would give him.
A speech like that affords an additional reason why the amendment introduced into the Bill by Senator Pearce should not be allowed to remain. The Senate, in sending the Bill to another place, with this provision in it, will be sending on a measure which does not represent the honest opinions of a majority of its members. Ministers contend that because certain honorable senators were not present when the matter was previously under consideration we should not now attempt to recommit the measure. Possibly, if I had seen the Minister before taking action in the first instance the honorable and learned senator might have been willing to agree to the recommittal. I did not do so, because I thought that after the statement he had deliberately made there would be no chance of his turning his back on the principles in which he had asserted his belief, in order to gain a victory for the benefit of the Labour Party.
– For the benefit of the country.
.- We know that the Prime Minister said the Labour Party simply pulled the strings and made the Government go where they thought fit. That was said at the time when Mr. Deakin was in coalition with Mr. Reid. Since the coalition came to an end, we have learnt how true the statement was, and how well it may be applied to the attitude of the present Ministry on this occasion. If this is the attitude to be taken, up in connexion with our measures, it will be a very bad thing for the Commonwealth. I desire the public to realize the fact that we have now at the head of affairs a Ministry ‘who are prepared within a week to turn their backs upon principles they have enunciated in order to retain the favour of the members of the party by whose breath they remain in office. We know that the present Government are retained in power by the backing so generously given to them by the Labour Party.
– Was not that Mr. Reid’s position in New South Wales at one time ?
.- I am not dis- _ cussing Mr. Reid’s position now. The right honorable gentleman was in an absolutely independent position. The policy which he advocated was believed in also by the Labour Party, who supported him at the time to which the honorable senator refers. At all events, it cannot be shown that the Reid Ministry of that day .in New South Wales turned their backs on principles which they believed in and advocated. It is right that the public should realize the position which the present Ministry, are taking up, and I have no doubt that if they do realize it there will be a very rude awakening by-and-by for Ministers and their supporters. If this kind of thing is to go on, honorable senators on this side will take care that it is known to the public. It is proposed now to send this Bill to another place embodying principles in which the majority of the Senate do not believe. We sometimes talk here about the independent position of the Senate, but it is being dragged in the dust on this occasion as it has been on previous occasions.
– Is the honorable senator an independent member of the Senate on this question?
.- I am, and on* every other measure which comes before the Senate.
– That is news.
– I can assure honorable senators opposite that many of the proprietors of newspapers in New South Wales do not approve of protection being afforded in the way proposed at all. It is a novelty to them. But if we do propose to give protection for twenty-four hours, we ought not to make a farce of it. and say that newspaper proprietors may spend money as they see fit: to secure ex clusive information, but we shall not permit them to derive any benefit from it.
– Will the honorable senator vote to strike out the clause altogether ?
.- I challenge honorable senators opposite to permit the recommittal of the Bill for the further consideration of the clause.
– Will the honorable senator vote to take away the protection given to newspaper proprietors?
.- I am prepared to vote for the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose stated, and if Senator Givens can satisfy me that the clause ought to be struck out, I shall be prepared to assist him. I told honorable senators that I should ask for a recommittal of the Bill at the third-reading stage, but I admit that I do not expect Ministers to go back on the second position which they took up in connexion with it. Realizing that, I have not asked honorable senators to recommit the Bill for the further consideration of the clause to which I take exception. However, if Senator Givens desires that it should be recommitted, I shall be very happy to support a motion to that end, moved by the honorable senator, because I should know then that there would be a very good chance of it being carried.
– As I did on Friday last, I intimate again to-day that it is quite impossible for the Government to agree to the proposal for the recommittal of the Bill.
– I have made no such proposal. I should have proposed it if I had thought the Minister would have voted for it.
– I understood that the honorable and learned senator had proposed it. He has again been guilty of the inaccuracy of which he was guilty on Friday last; though he has not stated it in such express terms as he did then. In moving the recommittal on Friday last, the honorable and learned senator stated expressly that the only protection given to newspapers under this Bill was that given by clause 34. I wish to state again, and as publicly as possible, that there is more protection given to newspapers under this Bill as it now stands than was ever enjoyed by newspapers in any of the States heretofore. In Tasmania, where there is an Act dealing with copyright, and only copyright in cables, it is not worth the paper on which it is printed. Speaking personally, I will say that there can be no possible information or complaint drawn under , that Act upon which a conviction will stand. This applies in, perhaps, a lesser degree to the Acts passed by South Australia and Western Australia, in which States such legislation exists. In those States there is protection afforded to newspaper cables. I say advisedly that my statement applies in a lesser degree to those last-named States Acts, because I have carefully studied them. With regard to the general copyright enjoyed under clause 46 of this Bill, there is not in the case of Tasmania one tittle of protection enjoyed by a single newspaper, unless it is registered at Stationers’ Hall, London. We here propose to give the proprietors of all Commonwealth newspapers a measure of copyright equal to that enjoyed by other persons in respect of any literary production at all. In addition, we also give redress in infringement of their rights by action for damages, for penalties, for profits, or for injunction, or any or either of those remedies. In addition to these rights enjoyed by newspaper proprietors under this Bill, we provide in clause 34 that in respect to cable communications received independently and exclusively they shall have the right to exclusive publication for twentyfour hours. If that exclusive right of publication is infringed by any individual, they have this extraordinary remedy, which is not enjoyed by the proprietors of newspapers in any other part of the civilized globe - the right to go before any two justices in a Court of summary jurisdiction to bring the person infringing their right before that Court, and to have that person punished by the infliction of a penalty of not for every newspaper in which he infringes the right, but for every document in which he infringes the right. Where is the fine to go? Into the consolidated revenue fund of a State or of the Commonwealth? No; but into the pockets of the proprietors whose rights have been infringed. I know of no part of the British Dominions, and of no other part of the world, in which such a right is conferred on newspaper proprietors as they will enjoy under this Bill. The condition to which exception has been taken does not apply to the general copyright” proposed to be given to the proprietors of newspapers, as Senator
Gould would have the public -believe by his “demonstration,” but to the singular and extraordinary right here proposed, which’, so far as I know, has never been previously enjoyed by the proprietors of any newspaper published in the British1 Dominions. Another feature in connexion with this provision is that, so far as newspapers are concerned in an action taken before two justices of the peace in a Court of summary jurisdiction, it will not be necessary to prove infringement in any newspaper. Let me give honorable senators an instance. We will say that the Australian cricket team is in England. Cables concerning the matches played are sent out here, and are published in the two metropolitan newspapers. Those cables are published in the windows, or on boards outside the offices of the Age and Argus. If any individual copies these cables, and’, going out to- Collingwood or to Prahran, writes out the information on a sheet of note paper and puts it in his window, he will be liable to prosecution under this Bill, and under the particular clause to which Senator Gould has taken exception. Is there any section of any other Act which gives Such a power to newspaper proprietors? When Senator Gould comes down here and “demonstrates” - for that is all it is - as he did on Friday last and to-day, with a view to induce people to believe that honorable senators opposite are looking after the interests of the public, it is only right that it should1 be pointed out that, notwithstanding the condition to which exception is taken, we are in this Bill giving to newspaper proprietors an extraordinary right never previously enjoyed in this Commonwealth or elsewhere. Where was the honorable and learned senator who has made this demonstration when the amendment moved by Senator Pearce was under consideration by the Committee ? The Committee discussed one amendment from after the dinner adjournment until half-past 10 o’clock at night, and succeeded in defeating it by a majority of one. Another amendment was discussed for a very considerable time, and at the conclusion of the debate upon it honorable senators who had previously voted with “the Government voted for the amendment, and it was carried by fiftteen to nine. Long before Senator Gould stood up to ask’ for the recommittal of the Bill I had taken the trouble to inform myself as to the course which would be adopted by certain honorable senators, and I was satisfied that it would only be taking up time unnecessarily to propose the recommittal.
– The Minister knows that if the Government had voted with us we should have had a majority for the recommittal.
– We should have had a majority for the motion for the recommittal, but we should be in the same position as we were in before, or, rather, in a worse position, so far as concerns the interests of the people whose cause the honorable and learned senator is proposing to champion. In the circumstances, the Senate would not be well advised in consenting to recommit the Bill, and I therefore ask that honorable senators will expedite its third reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with a message intimating that it had agreed to Senate’s amendment No. 1, with an amendment, and also to Senate’s amendment No. 2.
Message ordered to be printed, and taken into consideration on the following day.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 20th October, vide page 3886) : .
Clause 28 -
Section 109 of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting the whole of paragraph (a), and inserting in lieu thereof the following paragraph : - ” (a) who has reason to believe that he will not on polling day be within ten miles of the polling place for which he is enrolled, or a prescribed polling place for the subdivision for which he is enrolled ; or.”
by omitting from paragraph (b) the words “ believes that she “ ; and
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections : - “ (2) In the case of an application under paragraph (a), the applicant shall state in the application the reason for his said belief.
The application shall be signed by the elec tor in his own handwriting in the presence of an authorized witness.
Any. elector making a false statement, or any person inducing an elector to make a false statement, in an application under this section, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.
Penalty : Fifty pounds, or one month’s imprisonment.”
– It is quite liberal enough to fix the distance from the nearest polling booth at fifteen miles in order to entitle an elector who is absent from his home on polling day to record his vote by post. Therefore I move -
That the word” ten,” line 6, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ fifteen.”
– This amendment does not involve a matter of policy. A distance of five miles has been found in practice to be far too libera] a provision to be the ground for an application for a postal vote certificate. I think that ten miles is a very fair and reasonable limit to fix, and therefore I should like to hear from Senator de Largie a further reason for raising the limit to fifteen miles. Of course) he may have in his mind particular instances in connexion with his own State, but we have to remember that there are varying conditions throughout the States.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - A distance of ten miles is so short that any one who is only that distance from a polling booth can without inconvenience vote in the ordinary way. Unless it is increased to fifteen miles it will be very easy for electors to avail themselves of this system, which at the bestis a very risky experiment. We should be very careful in allowing any persons to vote by post. I consider that fifteen miles is not too far for any person to be away from home on polling day before he is entitled to record his vote by post.
– Of course, no one desires to approve of any proposal which would lend itself to fraud, but we have to recollect that the provision for voting by post was inserted in order to offer facilities for voting to electors who, for a variety of reasons, might not be able to cast their vote personally at their proper polling places. What is a reasonable distance to fix for this purpose? The Act fixes the distance at five miles; the Bill increases the limit to ten miles, and Senator de Largie favours fifteen males. I submit that ten miles is a very fair mean indeed, when we consider the circumstances of this country. The Select Committee on Electoral Administration pointed! out that the distance of five miles was so short as to practically invite excuses which were not sound in themselves. There is no doubt that very considerable advantage was taken of the facilities for voting by post. But if the distance were made more than ten miles, it appears to me that it would largely destroy the value of those facilities. Suppose the distance were increased to fifteen miles, a man would have to travel in all thirty miles in order to record his vote. Unless he was in a position to travel that distance, he would practically be debarred from voting. I prefer a distance of five miles to a distance of fifteen miles ; but, speakingwith a knowledge of the country districts, I consider that ten miles, as the Government propose, is a very fair and reasonable mean.
– The Government must have had some good reason in their mind for wishing to extend the distance from five to ten miles. I do not believe in indiscriminately extending the facilities for voting by post, and therefore I intend to support the amendment. Section 109 of the Electoral Act, which this clause seeks to amend, says -
Any elector -
I believe that the original idea in initiating this system was to convenience those persons who had reason to believe that they would be ill, or who, being sailors or commercial travellers, expected that their avocations would take them further than five miles from a polling place on election day. But the provision in the original Electoral Bill was amended to include any elector who had reason to believe that on polling day he would be more than five miles from the polling- place for which he was enrolled. In my opinion that extension of these facilities was a mistake. In submitting this clause for our consideration, the Government recognise that there is a danger in fixing the distance at five miles.I think that we might very well increase the distance to fifteen miles. Any person who was ill, or had reason to believe that he would be ill, would not come within the operation of the clause, because it would always be possible to get a postal vote certificate. Otherwise, every elector should be compelled to go to the nearest polling booth and record his vote if it was situated within a distance of fifteen miles from his home. Outside that radius he would be able to vote by post. I take it that honorable senators generally do not wish to extend the facilities for committing a fraud. We admitted that we were opening the door to fraud to some extent when we extended these facilities. But it was considered to be expedient to grant them. The Bill proposes to extend the distance from five miles to ten. I think it would be better to go further, and make the distance fifteen miles.
– I recognise that there is a great deal of danger in connexion with postal voting, and the provision was inserted in the Act with a considerable amount of hesitation in the first instance. But there were numerous safeguards, and I do not think there have been many authenticated cases of fraud. The question is whether we should retain the provision for postal voting or not. If we are to allow it we should decide upon a reasonable distance. A distance of fifteen miles from the polling place means that a man would have to travel fifteen miles there and fifteen miles back. That would be all very well if in all cases there were railways to take voters to the poll. But that is not so. Ten miles strikes me as being a reasonable distance. It involves a journey of twenty miles. If a voter had to travel on horseback the journey would take a considerable portion of the day. The amendment doubles the distance at present provided in the Act. If that is not to be done, I trust that some honorable senator will take steps to eliminate paragraph a, and simply permit voting by post in the case of persons who are prevented by illness or infirmity from voting personally. The provision must be a reality if we have it at all.
– A considerable degree of hostility seems to be shown to the system of postal voting. Yet I am unable to discover what are the objections to it. I heard of no fraud at the last elections. The possibilities of fraud are to a very large extent eliminated by a provision of this Bill, by which a reputable person has to witness the signature of each applicant for a postal voting form. The object of our electoral law is to confer upon the electors of the Commonwealth every possible facility for recording their votes, subject to reasonable precautions. With the precautions that we have in this Bill, I do not see why we should extend the distance. Take the case of people employed on stations. They may be- more than ten miles from their polling place. If they have to go to the polling place to record their votes personally, they will lose a day. Take the case of miners. There are plenty of mines in the State which I represent that are more than ten miles from the nearest polling booth. The miners would lose a shift if they had to travel to record their votes. Many a farmer would also have to lose a day if he could not vote by post. To extend the distance would simply mean that many electors following the occupations I have mentioned would be unable to record their votes at all. I see no reason to- extend the distance from five miles to ten, and I see very great objections to extend it from ten miles to fifteen. If the postal voting system is of such a nature that fraud is easily committed, the proper course is to do away with it altogether.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - I understand that Senator Guthrie desires to move an amendment preceding mine. In order to permit him to do so, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment for the time being.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).I do not think that the question of fraud has any relation to the question of distance’ from the nearest polling place. I wish to see facilities given to every person who cannot go to the polling place to record his vote. So fat as- my experience goes, if ‘any fraud is committed at all, it arises out of the use of the words “who has reason to believe.”
– Those words were inserted designedly.
– A .person has to give no reason for believing that he will be unable to get to the polling place. He simply states that he “ has reason to believe. “ My suggestion is to strike out those words! Any number of reasons can be given as to why a man believes that he will be unable to vote in person. It would meet Senator Smith’s views if a miner or a person employed on a station were required to make an absolute declaration that he would be more than ten miles from a polling place on election day.
– No man can absolutely affirm anything as to what will take place ten days ahead.
– I think he can. A man employed on a station knows perfectly well that he will not be near a polling place on a certain day.
– He can. only say so to the best of his belief.
– Such a declaration would not meet the case. Any man can say that, “to the best of his belief,” on a certain day he will not be in Melbourne, but in Geelong.
– But if he wishes tocommit fraud he will take care to miss the boat.
– How could it be proved that it was not to the best of a man’s knowledge and belief that he would be absent on a certain day ? No one could say what a man’s knowledge and belief were on any subject. We should require an absolute declaration, and, therefore, I move -
That the words “ has reason to believe,” line S, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ makes a declaration.”
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - The whole of Senator Guthrie’s argument is directed to making knowledge, and not belief, the ground of the application for an absent voter’s ballot-paper. But the honorable senator must see that it is absolutely impossible, in the large number of cases we intend to meet, for an elector to say with absolute certainty that on polling day he will be absent. He may Le in a position to say that he believes, so far ashis then present arrangements are concerned, that he will be away; but there is always the possibility of something intervening toprevent his going. That may happen very easily in t’he case of persons whose business causes them to travel frequently from State to State ; and, under the amendment proposed, a statement made in these circumstances would amount, in fact, to a false declaration. A sailor may be employed on a vessel which is .timed to leave the day beforepolling day, and yet it may mot sail until a day or two afterwards; and there, again, under the amendment, the sailor, if he had’ applied for a certificate, would be debarred from voting, and his declaration would be regarded as false. All we can ask an elector to do is to declare that, to the best of his knowledge and belief, he will be absent; ‘and that is the present position of the law. The Select Committee which investigated this matter say, in their report, that the evidence given justified them in finding that many persons who voted by post had no reason to believe they would be more than five miles away from the polling place on the day of election, and th;at they were, in fact, within that limit on the day. To meet that difficulty, the Bill proposes that, in case of an application for a postal ballot-paper, the applicant shall state in the application the reasons for his belief that he will be away on the polling day at a distance of more than ten miles. An applicant, for instance, might give as his reason that he intended to go to Sydney on such and such a day ; and in such case there would be, df course, every opportunity to check his statement. It might be found that he made arrangements entirely inconsistent with such an intention, and thus it could be demonstrated that he had no real reason for believing he would be absent in Sydney. Then, again, if a man were to give as TiE reason that he had taken a passage for Western Australia, the accuracy of that statement could be checked. A man will be chary about making a false statement of belief when he has to set forth,’ in plain1, unmistakable terms, the reasons for his alleged belief that he will be absent om the day of election. Such a person may Set the reasons down airily and lightly at the time, but his whole conduct may Le so inconsistent as to clearly show that his reasons were false.
– And there is- the prospect of a month’s imprisonment.
– The proposal in the Bill will make the provision, for postal voting more satisfactory than in the past. The public advantage of voting by post - for I consider it to be an advantage - will be utilized with all proper safeguards for the purity of elections, and the proper registration of the will of the electors.
Amendment (by Senator de Largie) proposed -
That the word “ ten,” line 6, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “fifteen.”
– I entirely agree with the amendment, which meets the view I expressed on the second reading. The extension to ten miles is certainly a great improvement ; but I am utterly opposed to distance, and certainly a short distance, entitling to the privilege of voting by post.
– The honorable and learned senator would not make distance a bar?
– No; but I would not encourage indolence, or the attaching of a very low value to the privilege of voting. If we reduced the distance to a mile, we should find everybody voting by post; it is only a matter of degree. There are some parts of Australia where it is undoubtedly desirable to have an arrangement of the kind ; but five miles is too short, and, while ‘ten miles is an improvement, I prefer fifteen, or, what would be better, twenty miles.
– Ten miles is a long distance in mountainous districts like those in West Tasmania.
– I should have liked some evidence as to the extent to which distance ought to be a reason for affording facilities to vote by post. If a man is not ready to travel fifteen miles to record his vote in the interest of his country, and for the benefit of the constituency in which he lives, he certainly, under-values the right conferred upon him.
– Some people will not travel fifteen yards.
– Quite so; and to make the distance too short would be placing a premium on laziness, and making the franchise too cheap. We ought to set our faces against granting such facilities, unless in cases where they are absolutely essential. I admit that in* Central Australia and in the bush, where there are, perhaps, only two or three voters, it might be well to do without a polling place there, and to enable those voters to vote by post in some more settled district.
– There are some aspects of the question which do not seem to have presented themselves to honorable senators who are in favour of extending the distance. We have created an equal franchise, under which every man and every woman of full age is entitled to vote. Further, we have, as nearly as may be, so arranged the electorates that each vote shall, as far as possible, be of equal value. This is an important point; but what is the equality between the vote of a man or woman who lives 100 yards from the polling place in the city and the vote of a man or woman who lives twenty or thirty miles from a polling place in the bush ? If each vote is to be of equal value, then, as nearly as possible, each individual should have an equal opportunity to record his vote.
– If the honorable senator pushes that argument much further, he will make the whole proposal ridiculous.
– Any argument pushed to its ultimate conclusion becomes ridiculous. The very purpose for which voting by post was instituted is to give this equal value and equal opportunity. No doubt voting by post has been abused ; but where? Not in the country districts, but right in the heart of Melbourne and other big cities, where the system ought not to apply. Because a number of people in Melbourne have abused the privilege, honorable senators ask us to penalize the very electors for whose benefit it was instituted.
– Electors who live in cities may be away on polling day.
– That is quite possible; but it has been proved that the principal abuses of the system occur in the cities. Voting by post is a great convenience to large numbers of people who live in the bush districts of Australia, and it is much more of a convenience and a necessity now than when the franchise was confined exclusively to males. A selector and his wife may have a family of young children, ranging from one to ten years. In existing circumstances, the man or his wife, or both of them, have the privilege of voting by post if they please. If that privilege is not given them the man must go by himself to the poll, leaving the wife at home in charge of the children, or the wife must go by herself to the poll, leaving the husband in charge. Otherwise the whole family must go to the poll together, and I leave honorable senators to imagine the kind of undertaking that would be. I ask the Committee to compare the position of those people with that of a family living in a town. Either the man or the woman can go to the poll without the loss of an hour’s time, without the expenditure of a farthing, and, in fact, without any difficulty whatever. If the provision for postal voting is not continued, persons in outside districts must lose time in any ca»e in recording their votes, and if they have to come info a town 10 do so they must lose money. There are a hundred obstacles in the way of people living in the bush as compared with those who live in towns.
– What does the honorable senator think the distance ought to be?
– I think ten miles is quite sufficient. I know of a number of places in the bush where it would be a serious hardship if the distance were increased. I am satisfied that, but for the abuses of the system which have occurred in the towns, the proposal to extend the distance even to ten miles would never have been made. I agree to that as a compromise only. I hope the Committee will not make the distance fifteen miles, as that would be a very serious handicap on a number of the most deserving people we have in Australia.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).I am sure that honorable senators are agreed that the provision for voting by post should be safeguarded. Whatever our views as to distance and time may be, we are agreed that we should prevent any abuses of these provisions. The Committee would do well to bear in mind that in the largest metropolitan electorate in Australia’ at the last election a greater number of postal votes were cast than in any other electorate in the Commonwealth. There were more postal votes cast in the last Melbourne election than were cast for the whole State of South Australia. On the face of it, that appears as if there must have been -some abuse of the postal voting provisions in Melbourne. The Government have in this Bill to some extent safeguarded these provisions by proposing that only certain persons shall witness applications for postal votes. But if honorable senators will turn to the clause proposed they will find that, while a certain number of persons are named as persons authorized to witness applications for postal votes, they are in no way made judges of the applications. If I am asked to go to a postmaster to witness my application for a postal vote, and to state reasons for it, he should surely be in a position to say, “ Your reasons do not disclose sufficient ground for the granting of a postal vote, and I therefore decline to witness your application.”
– Would not. that be most dangerous ?
– I do not think so. We may assume that a postmaster would not decline to witness an application unless there were good grounds for doing so. If he were so dishonest as to refuse to witness an application for which there were good grounds, he would very likely be dishonest also in agreeing to witness applications which were not bond fide.
– Does the honorable senator propose that the witness shall be the judge as to the merits of the reasons offered by the applicant, or as to the truth of his statement?
– As to the truth of his statement.
– Suppose the witness is an extreme partisan?
– Such a witness would be dangerous in any case.
– How is he to judge of the truth of the statement made to him ? A stranger comes to him and says, “ On the polling day I intend to be at such and such a place, and I therefore apply for a postal vote certificate.”
– The witness would judge on the evidence brought before him. The applicant might, for instance, say, “ I am a sailor. The vessel on which I am employed is advertised to leave on the day before the poll.” If the postmaster has reason to believe that that statement is accurate he will witness the signature of the. applicant.
– In nine cases out of ten the voter will not take all that trouble unless his application is bond fide.
– I direct the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that at the last Melbourne election some voters appear to have gone to a very great deal of trouble, or interested persons rounded them up and went to a great deal of trouble on their behalf. I move -
That after the word “ enrolled,” line 9, the words “ and satisfies the authorized witness that there are reasonable grounds for such belief “ be inserted.
The elector practically asks the witness to indorse his application, and, that being so, the witness, where he thinks it necessary, should have the right to say, “Your reasons do not disclose sufficient grounds for the issue of a postal ballot-paper.” The objection urged by honorable senators to the amendment is that authorized witnesses may misuse this power, but I have pointed out that those who are likely to misuse it are just as likely to misuse the power they now have by witnessing applications which are not bond fide. Most of the persons who under this Bill are authorized as wit nesses to the signatures of applicants for postal votes, are civil servants under the control of the Commonwealth or States Governments, and they can be dealt with if they misuse the power. I believe that under the amendment these persons would be able to prevent a wrongful use of the postal vote. An authorized witness might say with respect to an applicant, “ I know this man will not be away on the polling day, because I know the occupation in which he is employed.”
– If anything improper were intended the applicant would go to a. witness who was known to be lax in his methods.
– Senator Dobson must see that that is an objection to the whole system, and not merely to my amendment.
– Is there not some danger in making an authorized witness a semi-judicial officer?
– That is done by the clause already. What is the object of having a witness to the signature at all if it is not to secure that the application shall be bond fide?
– It is a witness not to the truth of the statement made by the applicant, but to the fact that the signature to the application is the signature of a certain person.
– I “think there is something more than that intended. I believe that the idea is to prevent what we have been told occurred at the Melbourne election when men went round with forms and got electors to sign applications for postal votes who had no idea of being away from the district on the polling day. Under this Bill, the authorized witnesses will be men of repute, and men who can be brought to book if any wrongful use is made of the power which will be given them by my amendment. We should give the authorized witnesses the right, where they think the application made is not bond fide, to refuse to attest the .signature. There is some vagueness about the clause as it stands which should be remedied.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - While I agree entirely with Senator Pearce, that it is necessary we should safeguard all the provisions for postal voting, I think the honorable senator is going too far in asking us to confer judicial powers on the authorized witnesses. We provide, in a subsequent clause, for the addition to the list of persons already authorized as witnesses, of all Commonwealth electoral officers for States, all returning officers, all electoral registrars, all justices of the peace, and all legally qualified medical practitioners. The intention is to provide adequate facilities for those wishing to make application for postal ballotpapers, to have their applications properly attested. I take it, it is not for us to confer on the persons who we decide shall be competent to attest applications, the responsibility and duty of inquiring judicially into an application and deciding definitely whether or not the applicant is entitled to a postal ballot-paper. The amendment makes no provision for any appeal from the decision which might be given by an authorized witness.
– That difficulty might be easily met.
– We provide already that the officer making the scrutiny, and he alone, shall determine whether a postal ballot-paper shall be counted, and we further make provision that if he decides against the applicant, an appeal against his decision shall lie to the Court of Disputed Returns. That is provided for by section 120 of the principal Act. Under the Act at present, if a man secures a postal ballot-paper and exercises his right to vote by that means, there is still an opportunity to disallow his vote, and provision is made in the case of such a disallowance for an appeal to the Court of Disputed Returns. Then it is provided in proposed substituted clause 109B that the duty of the authorized witness includes the duty of knowing the person whose application he is witnessing, and in proposed substituted clause 182B that the witness to the claim or application must satisfy himself as to the truth of the statements. The latter clause meets everything which Senator Pearce desires to meet, without casting upon the witness the responsibility of deciding whether or not the applicant shall get a postal ballot-paper. If it can be shown that the witness neglected to make inquiry as to the truth of the statements, he is liable, under the clause, to ‘a penalty of ^50.
– The paper which is handed to him ought to contain a copy of the provision.
– If that provision is not already made, the suggestion of Senator Fraser is certainly a good one to adopt, so that ever)! one who may be called upon to attest a signature under the schedule shall, know exactly his duty and his responsibility.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - As a matter of convenience, sub-clause 3 would be the better place in which to insert the amendment of Senator Pearce, because it would1 then define the duty, if that be his wish, of the authorized witness provided for therein. Although I am not satisfied that the amendment ought to be made, still I think that the honorable senator has put his finger on what is a gap in this series of clauses. In my opinion, his point is met by proposed substituted clause 182B. There are two provisions in connexion with applications for postal vote certificates. One is that the statement of facts or the reason giVen shall be true, and the other is that it shall be sufficient. In one or two of his expressions, Senator Pearce seemed to refer to a witness sitting in judgment as to whether a statement was true on not. That is unnecessary, because we have the safeguard that if a statement be false, its author shall be liable to a penalty. Then we have a further safeguard in proposed substituted clause 182P.
– That quite covers the case, I think.
– Yes, but no means is provided for determining the sufficiency of the reason given.
– Suppose that a man has arranged to visit friends or for any other reason is going to be away, the object is to permit him to record his vote.
– I do not think that that ought to be accepted as a reason for the applicant believing that he will be away on. election, day, because it will reduce the value of the franchise to a perfect farce. If a man gives a reason, no matter how frivolous or absurd or improbable, he is entitled to exercise his franchise by means of a postal vote. That is not one of the matters which come under the decision of the returning officer, with the right of appeal to the Court of Disputed Returns.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator think that if a man is ten miles away from his polling-place, that is a sufficient reason?
– Let me remind my honorable friend that the words used in the paragraph are, “who has reason to believe.” that he will be ten miles away from the polling place. Suppose that a man is only nine miles away from his polling place. He is within the limit of ten miles, but he can say, “Since our wretched legislators fixed the distance at ten miles, we shall have a little picnic, and I shall go the other mile on that day. I shall say that I have reason to believe that I shall be just outside the ten-mile limit, and then I shall not have the trouble to go to the polling, booth.” In that way he will take a privilege which is not granted to him by the law. Surely we wish to make a man go to the poll and not set up an excuse like the man in the Scriptures, who said. “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come “ ? We want the man to have a substantial, not a frivolous or insufficient, ground for saying that he has reason to believe that he will be more than ten miles away from his polling place. The case of the seaman is one in which every facility should be given to enable him to vote by post, because he cannot stay behind if his ship has to leave prior to the poll being closed. Senator Pearce has pointed out an opportunity of leakage which ought to be stopped. The phraseology of his amendment would require to be changed in order to accomplish that object, and il it is placed on that footing, I shall certainly be prepared to support him.
– I am decidedly opposed to voting by post, because I think it is attended by great danger. But if the law provides for voting by post, and a man, for any reason, expects to be at a certain distance from the polling booth, we are not very much concerned as to what the reason is for his absence. The provision is made to convenience the voter. If it is reasonably certain that for any cause a man will be absent, I do not care if it is to go to a picnic-
– Or to avoid going to the polling booth?
– If an elector has such a fixed aversion to going to the polling booth, I see no objection to him availing himself of these facilities so long as the secrecy of the ballot is maintained. That is the danger I see in connexion with postal voting. Whether a man votes 100 miles away from or at his polling place is not important. What is important is that he shall register his opinion as to which candidate shall be elected. I do not see that we should mend the matter by making a witness responsible for the validity of the applicant’s reason. That would be giving a judicial power to the witness.
– The returning officer, if any one, should do that.
– I cannot see any reason for questioning the sufficiency of the applicant’s reason. If there is a reason that will take the voter ten miles away from the polling place on election day, that ought to be sufficient, whatever it is.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - The difficulty which I see in this matter is not overcome by any provision in the Bill, or by the amendment of Senator Pearce. If his proposal is adopted, a witness will really be a judge as to whether the reasons are sound or not. Honorable senators who have read the report of the Select Committee on Electoral Administration will know that the whole responsibility for misuse of the voting by post provision? was due entirely to the witnesses.
– But to a different class of witnesses.
– The witness who was responsible was a justice of the peace, and he will (still’ remain an authorized witness.
– Not if I can help it.
– I am stating the cause of all the abuse of these facilities.
– Not of all the abuse.
– In the majority of the cases it was. Take the case where it was found that a large number of these forms had been signed in blank. There was a clear intention on the part of the witness to misuse the provisions of the Act, because no person ought to sign in blank any document, even if it be of the most innocent character. What was done in that case amounted to a fraud, and it wau none the less a fraud because no financial considerations were involved. How are we going to guard against the occurrence of such cases. Suppose we say that the witnesses shall be satified as to the validity of the reason given. Then we have only shifted the responsibility from the man who makes the application to a witness of the signature, and we have no guarantee that the witness will be more honest, or that his judgment will be saner, than that of the applicant. A witness who wishes to assist in fraud will be lenient in his judgment, and one who is prejudiced will be unduly stringent. I see verv little practical advantage in throwing the onus upon the person who witnesses the signature. Certainly the person who makes the application will have the knowledge that he is liable to a fine of £50, or to one month’s imprisonment.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - Senator Pearce’s amendment seems to me to be altogether unnecessary. The full responsibility for his statement lies with the applicant, as it ought to do. It is provided in sub-clause 4 that -
Any elector making a false statement …. shall be guilty of an offence under this Act;
And then follows the penalty of £50, or one month’s imprisonment. That ought to be quite sufficient. I have an additional objection to placing the responsibility upon the witness of saying whether an application shall be granted or refused. That is a matter with which the witness ought to have nothing to do. The whole of the responsibility ought to be cast upon the man or woman applying. If this amendment were carried it would afford a very good reason for witnesses to refuse their signature. A witness might say, “ I am mot in a position to say whether your reasons are valid <ir not, and therefore I shall refuse to sign.” Consequently, the applicant would l>e prevented from voting by post, with the result that probably he would not be able to vote at all. The purity of elections is quite sufficiently guarded by subclause 4.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I wish to ask permission to withdraw my amendment for the present. I realize that this is hardly the best place for it. It would be better to move it in sub-clause 3. But, before doing that, I should like to point out that, in the provision which has teen quoted in the course of the debate, we do make the witness a judge. In the proposed substituted clause 109 b we provide that he must inquire and be satisfied that the voter is known to him, and he has to see the signature made. We also provide a penalty in case a witness indorses a statement which is not true. As we are placing that onus on a witness, we should give him some discretion, to say, if he chooses, “ These statements which you make to me are absolutely incorrect, and I will not witness your application.”
– Then the applicant will go to another witness.
– If the other witness chooses to take the responsibility, he can do so. The objection that there is no appeal is not valid.
– This is the position : A man gets a postal ballot-paper, and the scrutinizing officer may say that it shall not be counted. Then there is an appeal. If it is ruled that the vote can be counted, that is done.
– My amendment would not alter that.
– How can you provide for an appeal when there is necessarily a time limit ?
– These applications are not made on polling day, but some time before. If a voter could not get justice from one witness, he would go to another. It strikes me that the Select Committee recognised the necessity for safeguarding the provisions under discussion. The report shows that they were abused in certain electorates. It is not a question of mileage. They were abused by the fact that persons took round signed ballot-papers and obtained signatures, getting them indorsed by unauthorized witnesses. There was nothing to prevent that. But there is something to prevent it in this Bill. When we are making a more stringent provision with regard to these witnesses, we should lay more responsibility on them. As to justices of the peace, I am quite prepared to strike them out, especially after the experience of the Melbourne election. For the present I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, bv leave, withdrawn.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales). - I draw attention to paragraph b, which proposes to omit from the principal Act the words “ believes that she.” The arguments used for the retention of the words that an elector “ believes that he will be absent “ apply equally well’ to the cases provided for here. It is beyond the power of any one to say with absolute certainty that he or she will be somewhere on polling day. Just as it is impossible in the case of a man, so it is impossible in the cases we are dealing with. No one can absolutely predict what will happen. It is much better to leave in the words making the application depend upon belief, and not upon an affirmation that certain things will be. It will also be necessary to omit the word “ or “ at the end of paragraph a. Therefore I move: -
That the words : “ or (4) by omitting from paragraph (b) the words ‘ believes that she’,” lines 10 to 12, be left out.
Senator KEATING (TasmaniaHonorary Minister). - Honorable senators will recollect that the provision which this clause proposes to amend was inserted in the Act to meet a certain class of cases. The provision has been found to be open to some abuse on the part of females, who have stated that they believe that on the day of the polling they will be unable, on account of ill -health, to vote in person. A number of cases of abuse have occurred.
– By loose females, as a rule, was it not?
– I believe so. The provision was utilized by persons who had no grounds whatever for any such belief. The Department, however, has no feeling with regard to the provision, and I would leave it to the Committee to decide whether we shall leave the section of the Act as it stands, or amend it as proposed.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That after the word ‘* witness,” in sub-clause 3, the words “who shall satisfy himself that there are reasonable grounds for the reasons given by the applicant,” be inserted.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - All the necessary safeguards are, in my opinion, adequately provided in this part of the Bill, and also in the clause to which I have previously drawn attention ; and I hope honorable senators will not invest the authorized witness with any functions other than those imposed by the measure. There would be no common principle on which witnesses could arrive at uniformity in judgment; one might prove to be lax, and another very rigid in the performance of these duties. Even if elaborate machinery were provided for expeditious appeal, there would still be the risk of a man not being able to record his vote in any way. Under the present Act, an authorized witness attests the application, and the ballot-paper is given to the applicant, who, after using it, sends it on to the proper quarter. The applicant has indicated his vote, and the postal ballot-paper may be challenged and disallowed by the officer at a scrutiny. An interested party may appeal to the Court of Disputed Returns, and whatever the decision may be, the election is not affected ; that is, if it be decided that the ballot-paper has to be regarded, it is counted, but if not, it is set aside. Under the amendment an elector might not get his postal ballot-paper, and, although he might be successful on appeal, the decision might be too late to be of any use.
– I think that Senator Pearce is going a little too far in seeking to insert this amendment. I aim quite at one with the honorable senator in his effort to safeguard these provisions from abuse, but I do not think his present proposal affords much help in that connexion. A cautious, authorized witness might refuse to witness the document, because of a fear that, in the future, some unscrupulous person would prosecute him and expose him to a penalty of £50 on a charge of not having exercised reasonable care.
– A person is liable if * he witnesses a false statement.
– That is a different matter. The amendment throws on the witness the onus of satisfying himself as to the facts alleged by the applicant; and that is an unreasonable responsibility to impose upon him. A perfectly honest authorized witness might sign a paper on the strength of circumstances within his own knowledge, and yet some designing person might afterwards declare that he had not made proper inquiry, and subject him, as I have said, to prosecution. I know it would be difficult to secure a conviction under the circumstances, but a witness would be liable to be harassed.
– There seems to be a consensus of opinion that this provision is liable to a great deal of abuse, and ought to be surrounded with every possible safeguard. Various expedients have been suggested to that end, but none beyond those appearing on the face of the clause have so far been accepted. In my opinion the best remedy would be to provide for such a penalty as would deter any person from abusing the provisions in the clause. Sub-clause 4 provides that any elector making a false statement, or any person inducing him to make a false statement shall be guilty of an offence and be liable to a penalty of ,£50, with the alternative of imprisonment for one month. That term of imprisonment is the maximum, and I do not think that it is severe enough. We can easily imagine dozens of cases in which offences could be committed under this clause of so serious a nature as to justify a much severer penalty. In Melbourne, at the last general election for the House of Representatives, such a number of fraudulent statements were made in order to secure postal ballot-papers, as to cause a perfect scandal. False declarations as to absence on polling day were made, while some persons declared that they expected to be ill, when they could have no expectation of any illness such as they suggested, during their lifetime. The secrecy of the ballot was, in many cases, destroyed, and the door was opened to all sorts of fraud.. Partisans went round with application papers, and induced people to exercise a privilege to which they were not entitled ; indeed, it was known how people were going to vote, and a sort of terrorism was exercised to induce them to vote in a certain direction. I do not propose to alter the money penalty, but I move -
That the word “ one,” in sub-clause 4, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ six.”
This will make the maximum penalty six months’ imprisonment; and,, if anything, the amendment errs on the side of leniency. If a man obtains £1 by false pretences, he may be sent to gaol for twelve months, and a man, who, by false pretence, introduces corruption into an election is far more guilty of an offence against the community, and the Government-. The justices will have discretion, and may either inflict a money penalty, or send an offender to gaol for any term up to six months ; and this is not at ‘all too severe for the class of offences which may be committed under the clause.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - This is entirely a matter for the consideration of the Committee. The Government are not wedded to the particular term of imprisonment proposed as an alternative punishment. As has been pointed out by Senator Givens under the Acts Interpretation Act, the fine and term of imprisonment stated in the clause will, in each case, be the maximum. It will be within the competence of the Court inflicting the penalty to consider the whole of the circumstances, and to determine what fine or term of imprisonment will be adequate to meet the offence in each case. If the Committee desire that a longer term of imprisonment should be provided as an alternative, I shall offer no objection to the amendment.
– Are the Government going to oppose or accept the amendment ?
– Six months’ imprisonment is the alternative provided foi in other Acts, and I am prepared to accept the amendment.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I am rather sorry that the Government propose to accept the amendment, not because I think there is any objection to a longer term than one month, but because I think that six months’ imprisonment is not adequately represented by a penalty of ,£50. By accepting the amendment we should be playing into the hands of the well-to-do, who would gladly pay £5° or £25° rather than go to gaol for three months.
– The magistrates might not give such a person the alternative.
– ^£50 is a pretty big price to pay for a vote.
– The point is that it is not so big a price as is six months’ imprisonment.
– In a serious case the magistrates would not inflict a fine, but would impose imprisonment.
– That might be so, and so far as the period is concerned!, it matters little one way or the other. I put it to Senator Givens that we should remember to whom the determination of the matter is intrusted. We know what party and political feeling is, and that justices of the peace mix more with public affairs and citizenship in the ordinary sense than do, for instance, Judges of the Supreme Court.
Senator- Givens. - Some of them hold strong political opinions?
– I am not saying that they are not open to criticism, but that is only an additional reason why there should be some kind of proportion between the money penalty and the imprisonment penalty. If we mark our sense of the enormity of this offence by permitting the magistrates to impose a term of six months’ imprisonment there can be no doubt that the maximum money penalty proposed will be an infinitely less severe punishment. I commend to the attention of the Minister the fact that this has nothing whatever to do with the purity of elections. A postal voter may record his vote according to his conscience and uninfluenced by any one, and yet may bring himself within this provision and infringe the law by giving a reason which is considered not to be accurate. His vote might be unassailable and unimpeachable, so far as its purity is concerned.
– On the other hand, it might not be so.
– I quite agree that the system might be used in an improper way. The Select Committee, who investigated the matter, found that it had been so used ; but the remedy for that is provided in another way under this Hill. I point out that this provision is directed against an erroneous statement which may not be wilfully false. It is not directed so much against corruption as against an abuse of the system.
– An abuse which might lead to a great deal of corruption.
– I have said that the remedy for that is provided elsewhere in the Bill. I do not believe in imposing heavy penalties for trivial offences. We know that the imposition of heavy punishments in the olden times led not to the prevention of crime, but to its being looked on by juries as pardonable, and to their refusal to convict, because of the heavy punishment imposed for comparatively venial offences. The offence against which this provision is directed does not involve perjury or wilfully false statements, and I, therefore, regard it as a comparatively venial offence.
– The Bill speaks of “ inducing a person to make a false statement.”
– But what is a false statement in this connexion ? It is a reason given which is inaccurate or erroneous. In the course of a debate, reasons may be given which are erroneous and logically false, but not necessarily false in intention. It is proposed that if a man makes an erroneous statement in giving his reasons he shall be liable to the unequal maximum penalty of ^50, or six months’ imprisonment. The object which Senator Givens has in view is a good one, because we should secure, so far as we can, that the intention of the law shall be carried out, but the honorable senator must see that there are some objections to his proposal. If he would propose an alternative of three months’ imprisonment, that would be more in proportion to the maximum fine of ^50 proposed. . » Senator PULSFORD ‘ (New South Wales). - The Committee should consider the relative difference between a penalty by way of fine and a penalty by way of imprisonment. A magistrate might think an offence well met by a fine of -£.5, but the defendant might not be able to pay the fine, and he would have to go to gaol. We should have information as to the period for which he would be committed to gaol, in default of the payment of a fine of -£5.
– I am sorry that the Government have given way in this matter, because I think the alternative of one month’s imprisonment is quite sufficient. I take it that these offences will be committed for the most part by a class of men who may look on these matters in a different light to that in which they would be viewed by educated people. Very many people believe that it is no very great crime to defraud a railway company. I believe that the effect of the amendment would be to enable well-to-do men committing these offences to escape very much more cheaply than could uneducated and poor men.
– The amendment does not mean anything of the kind, and I am prepared to propose that the fine should be omitted altogether, in order to challenge the honorable senator’s sincerity.
– I would prefer to retain the money penalty for the reason I have given.
– Then the honorable senator’s argument is only “flapdoodle.”
– I might retaliate by saying that the amendment is “ flapdoodle.” I recognise that this offence may be committed by uneducated persons, who will not realize its seriousness, and one month’s imprisonment is a sufficient penalty to impose in such cases. Under the amendment, a wealthy man committing an offence could get off by paying a fine of ,£50, whilst a poor man would be made a criminal for doing what he did not recognise as a serious offence against the law.
Senator GIVENS (Queensland). - I desire to remove a little of the misapprehension, if it is misapprehension, that exists in the minds of Senator Gray and others with regard to my amendment. Senator Gray says that there are many offences committed by classes of people who do not regard them as serious offences, and that some people do not consider that defrauding a railway company is a serious offence. That fact does not detract from the seriousness of an offence in the slightest degree. This is only another variant of the argument that merchants who have been used to defrauding their customers and the public for years come to believe that what they do is right in equity and justice.
– That is absolutely “ flapdoodle. “
– That is the position assumed by Senator Gray.
– The honorable senator never said anything of rh kind. What he said was that uneducated people might commit this o.Tence without recognising its heinousness.
– My illustration was on all-fours exactly with that of the honorable senator. The contention is that because people do not regard a certain action as an offence’ it is not an offence; that, because cannibalism with some people is recognised as a custom, there is nothing wrong about it. I wish him much joy of his argument in that direction. When he said that my amendment proposed to differentiate between the rich and the poor, apparently he had not intelligence enough to perceive that he was making a remark which was altogether wrong, because the penalty which I propose, and which, I may say, is already provided in- the Bill, is simply an alternative penalty. It will rest entirely with the justices of the peace to say whether the seriousness of the offence is such as to deserve the alternative penalty or not.
– A poor man cannot pay the money.
– The alternative penalty of imprisonment is already provided in the Bill.
– Yes; but a man cannot be imprisoned for six months.
– Under my amendment a man could not be imprisoned for six months unless the magistrate was satisfied that the seriousness of the offence demanded the infliction of that penalty. I do not wish to withhold proper punishment from the poor man any more than from the rich man. I do not believe that the former should be allowed to commit an electoral fraud any more thaw the latter. The two persons should be subject to exactly the same provision. An offence committed under this clause might be of so serious a nature that no fine would adequately meet the case.
– Does the honorable senator think it is wise to give the justices so large a discretion as to fix the term of imprisonment at six months?
– If the honorable and learned senator will join me in fixing the fine at £100 I shall ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
– If the honorable senator will fix the term of imprisonment at three, instead of six, months, I shall go with him.
– No. There is a class of offences defined in the sub-clause which I maintain would not be adequately met by a monetary penalty. One of the most serious offences of which, in my opinion, a man can be guilty is to deliberately go to an elector and induce him to make a false statement. That can only be done as an aid to corruption. It was done in a wholesale way in Melbourne, and no fine would adequately meet the case. Suppose that only one month’s imprisonment were provided for, a wealthy man would derive a greater advantage therefrom than a poor man, because the latter could not find the money, and therefore would have to go to gaol. I am willing to trust the magistrates with the exercise of this alternative method of punishing an offender ; but it appears that Senator Symon and others who are continually praising the discretion and judgment of the magistrates withhold from them their trust on this occasion. I can see no better way out of the difficulty than I have proposed, and therefore I intend to call for a division, even if I should have to sit alone.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to section 260 of the Customs Act, in which the relative position of fines and imprisonments is laid down. It says : -
The gaoler of any gaol to which any person has been committed for non-payment of any penalty shall discharge such person -
If the penalty adjudged to be paid is not paid or realized according to the following table : -
That is the proportion which has been fixed by that Act.
– It is a very unjust proportion. Any school boy could work out a sum in proportion in a better way than that.
– The honorable senator wishes to make the penalty three times as heavy as it is made in the Customs Act. In our various Acts we should have reasonable uniformity between fines and imprisonments. Clearly, six months’ imprisonment is altogether too large a penalty to impose. It should not exceed two, or, at the outside, three months.
– I move -
That the word “ six “ be left out of the amendment, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ three.”
Senator Givens does not seem to see the force of the argument of Senator Symon. He practically says that the penalty shall be imprisonment for six months or a fine of £50, equivalent merely to an income of £100 a year. In the case of a poor man that fine would be far too large. A rich man would of course be able to pay it, and scarcely feel it.
– I am not satisfied that either the proposal of Senator Givens or the amendment thereto will be of any service. I intend to vote for the clause as it stands, simply because, in my opinion, no convincing arguments have been used to show that it is necessary to make an alteration. A reference has been made to the case of a man who, under a false pretence, took£1 from a person. In my opinion the former was clearly practising a fraud for the selfish purpose of gaining a pecuniary advantage. Under this clause the man who has made a. mistake in rendering a service to another fellow will be liable to be punished.
– What about the man who induces another man to make a false statement ?
– So long as the clause remains as it stands, that man will always be in a position to put his hand in his pocket and put down the sum of £50.
– In the first instance, no magistrate would send a man to gaol unless he was able to pay the fine.
– Quite so. If a man makes a false declaration, he will be liable, under this provision, to a term of imprisonment, no matter how unthinkingly he may come to commit the mistake. Any part of a term of six months’ imprisonment would be quite ample to meet the exigencies of the case.
Question - That the word “ one “ proposed to be left out, be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment and amendment negatived.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 29 -
After section one hundred and nine of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - “ 109a. The following persons are authorized witnesses within the meaning of this Act : -
All Commonwealth Electoral Officers for States; all Returning Officers; all Electoral Registrars ; all Postmasters or Postmistresses; all Police or Stipendiary or Special Magistrates of the Commonwealth or a State ; all Justices of the Peace; all Head Masters of State Schools; all officers of the Department of Trade and Customs; all members of the Police Force of the Commonwealth or of a State; all Mining Wardens and Mining Warden’s Clerks in the Public Service of a State; all legally qualified medical practitioners; all officers in charge of quarantine stations ; and
All persons or classes of persons, employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a State, who are declared by proclamation to be authorized witnesses within the meaning of this Act.”
– I move -
That after the word “ Postmistresses,” line 9, the following words be inserted, “ or persons in charge of post-offices.”
A great number of post-offices throughout the Commonwealth are in charge of persons - male and female - who have not the status of postmasters or postmistresses. Under the Bill as it stands these persons would be precluded from acting as authorized witnesses. Such offices are mostly to be found in outlying portions of the Commonwealth where the provisions regarding postal voting are more especially required.
– There is no objection to the inclusion of the persons mentioned in Senator Stewart’s amendment. As he has pointed out, there are many cases where persons have charge of post-offices who do not hold the status of postmaster or postmistress. They are, however, so connected with the Department permanently that they are readily available, and they must have intelligence or knowledge, or they would not occupy such positions.
– I am opposed to the amendment. I do not desire to extend the facilities for postal voting to an almost unlimited extent. There is no necessity for me to repeat arguments which I have already used, but I may state briefly that, if this proposal is carried, it will mean placing in the hands of a number of persons who are almost irresponsible the power to become authorized witnesses. The amendment would cover a number of persons receiving merely a few pounds per annum for discharging services for the Post and Telegraph Department. They are only responsible to that extent. Desiring to limit this provision to reasonable lines, I shall oppose the amendment.
– - The amendment appears to me to be reasonable, simple, and logical. If a person is worthy of being intrusted with the letters of the public, surely he is worthy to be a witness to a signature.
– I hope that the Committee will not indorse this proposal. On all sides it has been practically agreed that the provisions affecting postal voting contain inherent defects, and that it is necessary that the issue of certificates should be hedged about with safeguards. What are these people who are in charge of post-offices? Generally they are storekeepers, over whom the Commonwealth has absolutely no control, and who are in many instances strong political partisans. Some are members of my own party.
– The same can be said of policemen.
– Policemen are prohibited from taking part in political organoizations. Generally speaking, the persons authorized to act as witnesses under this clause are members of the Commonwealth Public Service, or of the Public Service of a State. The reason is that such persons are prohibited from publicly taking part in political affairs. Now, however, we are asked to introduce a very dangerous element. It is a safe rule to select for this purpose persons who belong to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a’ State. We should not go outside that class. If we include storekeepers, who happen to be in charge of post-offices, why not include any business man in a town who may be a registrar of births, deaths, and marriages? In a small country town, the persons mentioned in Senator Stewart’s amendment merely distribute a few letters per week. We have no tie upon them. They are irresponsible in that sense. If we are not to permit the indiscriminate use of postal certificates, we must resist the amendment. The Select Committee that inquired into the Melbourne and other elections pointed out that the postal voting provisions were open to very grave abuse. The very clause that we are discussing is based upon a recommendation bv the Committee. It lays down a definite list of persons to whom the privilege of witnessing signatures should be conferred. We should be very illadvised if we extended the list. I trust the amendment will be rejected.
– In spite of the assurance of my colleague, Senator Pulsford, that this amendment is reasonable and logical, I feel bound to oppose it, largely for the reasons adduced by Senator Pearce. I ask honorable senators who have an intimate knowledge of country life whether I am not correct in saying that if this amendment is carried it will include a large number of persons who are simply keepers ‘of receiving offices. What are the circumstances under which they are placed ? I have no desire to institute a comparison! between them and other members of the community, but the fact remains that, to a very great extent, they include persons who have to study the feelings of those around them. Senator Pearce has pointed out that the majority of persons already authorized are State or Commonwealth public servants. The great advantage of that is that a public servant doing his duty is under no fear. But the keepers of these small offices are not in that position. I can call to mind cases where local postmasters are little storekeepers. This provision would place a man of that kind in a very unfair position. It would require more than ordinary moral courage on the part of a storekeeper, who was dependent on the custom of his neighbours, to refuse to witness a signature. For that reason I cannot vote for the amendment. It is not that I wish to cast a reflection upon the keepers of small country offices. It’ is largely for their protection that I take this ground. In pastoral districts very much of their business comes from the large pastoral holdings in the locality, and it would be a serious matter to place a storekeeper in the alternative of risking his business connexion with the squatters or witnessing a signature about which he had serious doubts.
– It is a curious thing that those who have cited the evils that have occurred under the system of voting by post, have alluded only to the big towns like Melbourne, where there is very little necessity for the system at all. There is no evidence of abuse in the country districts.
– There were more cases in Melbourne than in the whole of the State of South Australia.
– Honorable senators who argue in that way are simply saying that we may make a postmaster or a postmistress an authorized witness, but that we must refuse to allow the keeper of a postoffice in a small township where postal voting facilities are required to be exercised, to witness signatures. Could anything be more ridiculous? If the postal voting facilities are to remain in existence they are mostly required in the large scattered districts of the Commonwealth, where the polling booths are few and far between, and where there are not many persons authorized to witness signatures. In very small places there is no official postmaster or postmistress, for the simple reason that the Post and Telegraph Department requires an office to have a revenue of ^400 per annum before giving it the status of an official office.
– Are there no schoolmasters or policemen available?
– In Queensland we have travelling schoolmasters, who, however, may not be available at the time signatures require to be witnessed. If we are sincere in our desire to extend these postal facilities, it is essential that we should accent the amendment. It is in the big towns like Melbourne that additional safeguards are required, though I do not know that we can safeguard the provisions more than’ we have done. The Committee has refused to increase the penalty, and therefore we should, at any rate, make sure that facilities to vote by post may be utilized where they are most required.
Senator CROFT (Western Australia).I am just as anxious as Senator Givens can be that the facilities for voting by post should be extended as far as possible. But at the same time I am not desirous of enabling the keepers of unofficial postoffices to witness signatures. I am opposed to that principle for the reasons advanced by Senator Pearce and Senator Millen. The other persons mentioned show, by the positions they occupy, that they are likely to be unprejudiced and unbiased in the discharge of their duties>. Senator Givens has pointed out that there may be no schoolmaster or -police officer available; but those who drafted ihe Bill have provided ira sub-clause b of this proposed substituted clause that the documents may be witnessed by public servants of the Commonwealth or State who have been proclaimed as authorized witnesses. That provision shows a desire to have as witnesses people who hold responsible positions, and whose training is some guarantee that they will perform the duties impartially. Later on, however, I shall object to the inclusion’ of legally-qualified medical practitioners and justices of the peace amongst the authorized witnesses.
– The tendency seems to be to penalize people in the country, and pamper up those who live in the city. The country residents are the real producers of wealth, on whom we depend in a great measure for our prosperity, and yet it is sought to deprive them of the facilities enjoyed by the people in the towns. Senator Pearce adopts a very extraordinary position when he practically declares that public servants are the only people who can be intrusted with this duty. In my opinion, a State public servant is amenable, or likely to be amenable, to certain influences exerted by a dominant party in State politics1 ; and it might mean, though I hope it never will, that a public servant of the State, or the State Service as a whole, might suffer if certain concessions were refused by them. We know the extent to which the policy of “ spoils to the victor ‘ ‘ has been carried in the United States. It seems strange to provide that a police constable, who is, of course, just as reputable as any other member of the community, shall be entitled to witness these documents, and that a person who has charge of an unofficial postoffice shall not be permitted to discharge the duty.
– Is there a town in Western Australia where some of the persons mentioned in sub-clause b are not available?
– There are quite a number of localities where none of these persons are found - mining camps and stations.
– On every mining camp there is a State public servant.
– There are mining camps in Queensland where no such persons are found.
– Why should we not in this matter give equality of opportunity, irrespectiveof where people reside? A person is penalized to a certain extent by having to live in an out-of-the-way place, and I do not see why he should suffer further disability because the postal business is not sufficient to justify the establishment of an official office. I am in favour of giving every possible opportunity to people to record their votes.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I am rather amused at some of the arguments which have been advanced against this very useful amendment. A number of honorable senators seem to have focussed their attention so exclusively on the late Melbourne election that they cannot see anything else ; but the amendment would not apply to people in Melbourne, where one can run against a public servant every ten yards. But in the bush, how many of the officials enumerated in the clause are to be found? There are dozens of mining camps in Queensland where there is neither warden nor warden’s clerk.
– Is there a mining camp or bush camp where persons could not he found who are qualified under subclause b?
– I could point out dozens of places if I had a map of Queensland here. However good the intentions of certain honorable senators may be, their actions seem to be directed to placing every possible obstacle in the way of the people in the bush recording their votes. Their attention seems to be concentrated on the big cities, where there is really no need for voting by post. It is provided that an authorized witness shall not witness the signature of any elector unless he is personally known to him. Who would be more likely to personally know applicants than the men and women who keep the post-offices in the country districts? The suggestion that the keepers of the unofficial post-offices are unreliable is a serious reflection, not only on the Commonwealth Administration, but on the people themselves.
– It has not. been said in this Chamber that these people are unreliable.
– That was the inference I drew from the remarks I heard ; if the statement was not made in direct language, a suggestion was made in a worse way. If the keepers of unofficial postoffices are reliable, where is the objection to their acting as authorized witnesses? These people have charge of the correspondence of the people, and discharge responsible public duties. They issue postoffice orders, and sell postal notes and stamps, and, although there must be thousands of them in the service, we have heard of very few cases in which they have abused their trust. It is admitted that the amendment would give greater facilities to a number of people to record their votes, and I hope the Committee will not be led away by the opposition of Senator O’Keefe, who has distinctly told us that he wishes to place every impediment in the way of postal voting.
– In the way of the misuse of postal voting.
– It has been shown that the abuse of the system is not in the country districts, but in the towns, and the amendment applies only to the former.
– There are contract post-offices all round Melbourne.
– But in Melbourne, where there are numbers of public servants, there would be no necessity for applicants to go to unofficial post-offices.
– If we are asked to make any addition to this provision, the wishes of Senator Stewart and those who support him would be best met by inserting the words “and the public generally.”
– I should have no objection.
– The amendment very nearly meets the suggestion which I have thrown out. Senator Stewart lays stress on the argument that those who oppose the amendment are placing impediments in the way of country people recording their votes by post. It is on record that very few of the country electors have ever attempted to utilize the provisions for postal voting, and country people may be fairly assumed to be alive to their own interests. We desire to prevent people over whom we have no control from exercising the duty of authorized witnesses. I have travelled over many of the bush districts of Western Australia, and have been in a number of the mining districts, and I do not know of one place in which the convenience of the electors could not be met under paragraph b of this clause. For the reasons I have given, I shall oppose the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted, be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania). - I move -
That the words “ all Justices of the Peace,” lines 11 and 12, be left out.
It is not necessary that I should occupy time in reiterating the arguments in support of this amendment. It is well known to everybody that many justices of the peace are strong political partisans. With the exception of medical practitioners, justices of the peace, and the persons who will be included by the amendment which has just been carried, the persons who will be authorized to witness these applications are public servants under the control of the Commonwealth or States Governments. These officials are not likely to be biased or to be strong political partisans, and if it is shown that any of them are, they can be very easily dealt with. I trust that the amendment I move will be agreed to, and thata further amendment to strike out the reference to legally-qualified medical practitioners will be moved.
– I desire to know whether a personwho has the misfortune, or good fortune, to be a justice of the peace is to be prevented from witnessing an application for a votingpaper. Justices of the peace are sworn to do what is fair between man and man, and it might be expected that they would be the best persons to act as witnesses in this case. Many of the justices, myself amongst the number, seldom or never sit on the Bench, and act merely as witnesses to signatures. Is it to be supposed that justices of the peace are less trustworthy than are persons in temporary charge of country post-offices?
– Justices of the peace will have to try persons accused of committing these offences.
– I have little doubt that a justice of the peace who commits an offence will be struck off the commission. If I may say so without offence, I consider the amendment ridiculous.
– At the end of their term of office, or at some interesting period, every Government appoints a number of its supporters to the commission of the peace. When it is remembered how the majority of justices of the peace have been appointed, there can be no doubt that they are political partisans. It would be a very great mistake, indeed, to allow them to perform the duty of witnessing these papers. Only a few months ago I and other members of the Senate were appointed to the commission of the peace in Western Australia for, as I know, political reasons.
– Would the honorable senator be dishonest, simply because he was appointed to the commission of the peace?
– Would the honorable senator run the risk of getting six months’ imprisonment ?
– I would not be disposed to run the risk of getting into trouble for the sake of adding any names to the roll, or assisting any one improperly to vote. At the same time, there may be circumstances under which I might venture’ lo take a risk. I do not profess to be any better than the average justice of the peace, and I know very well that such things as I have suggested can be done. All the persons who are enumerated in paragraph a are more or less under the control of the Government, and that reason induces ne to agree to even persons who are in charge of unofficial post-offices being permitted to witness these papers, rather than justices of the peace. I believe that it would b’e a very grave blunder to allow partisans to have any connexion with the electoral machinery.
Senator CROFT (Western Australia).t take it that the provisions in this part of the Bill are intended to prevent any person from using postal votes in a manner which would prevent a legitimate election from raking place. I repudiate the statement made by Senator Stewart, that I. with others, opposed his amendment simply because we desired to prevent men in the back blocks from getting a vote.
– That would be the effect of the opposition.
– I support the present amendment, because I know that in Western Australia justices of the peace have frequently been appointed because of the political support which they have lent to the. Government. Senator ~de Largie has mentioned that recently some representatives of Western Australia in this Parliament have been appointed to the commission of the peace. Whilst that step may have been taken from a desire to do honour to the “representatives of the State, I can remember a case where its Premier, Sir John Forrest, not only appointed his supporters to the commission of the peace, but in Parliament called upon them either to vote for him, or not to oppose him, saying, “ I made the honorable member a justice of the peace, and why does he now oppose me?” Mr. J. J. Holmes, the member for East Fremantle, was the first lieutenant in the Opposition, and in consequence of that demand, he immediately resigned from the commission of the peace. If, in the opinion of Sir John Forrest, Mr. Holmes should have supported him and his political party, surely it is expected by certain political parties that the justices of the peace whom they have appointed shall support them; or do shady things on their behalf.
– Mr. Holmes’ action gave the answer to the demand of Sir John Forrest.
– Exactly; and that would be my answer in like circumstances. But how many storekeepers and frowsy old roads and bridges politicians in different parts of the State would be glad to ‘go round and lick the boots of a man like Sir John Forrest? I am opposed to such persons, and I wish to see the elections to the Senate conducted in a clean manner. I am prepared, to be disqualified in regard to witnessing these applications, and I ask the Committee to consider the advisability of leaving out medical officers as well as justices of the peace.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - In my opinion this is a most outrageous proposal. A man is appointed a1 justice of the peace for a certain locality in a State because he is entitled by his character, attainments, and honorable conduct to occupy a position of very considerable importance. He is accustomed to weigh evidence, ‘and possesses a good general knowledge. He is called upon to adjudicate in cases in which, very often, considerable sums are involved. He has a large criminal jurisdiction. The liberty of the subject is a most valuable possession. Although a certain man is deemed to be good enough to adjudicate in cases in which the liberty of the subject is involved, still it is urged that he is not competent to impartially witness or give authority for the issue of certain electoral documents. Any person can go before a justice of the peace, and get him to witness the signature to documents relating to transfers of great value, and to various matters of the utmost importance. He can even issue a warrant for the arrest of a person who is alleged to be leaving the State in order to evade his creditors. Yet it is contended that he should not be authorized to witness a document which a policeman is permitted to witness. Who else is considered competent to perform this duty? Any Customs officer, whatever his status may be, is competent. The only reason which has been advanced for disqualifying a justice of the peace in this regard is that he might be a political partisan. At election time one man is just as strong a political partisan as another. Perhaps there are no stronger political partisans than policemen and civil servants. The latter take great interest in elections by reason of the fact that their positions may be jeopardized or advantaged by the success of a certain political party. One candidate may be advocating the cutting down of the Civil Service, while another candidate may be in favour of its extension. In that case a civil servant is far more partisan than any justice of the peace is likely to be. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that justices of the peace are generally appointed for political reasons. It does not follow that thev will be dishonest in carrying out their duties.
– Nor that they are necessarily unfit.
– Exactly. The fact that Mr. J. J. Holmes resigned from the commission of the peace proved that, although he might have been appointed for political reasons, he was thoroughly honest, and determined ‘to do what he thought was right. Senator de Largie has mentioned that some representatives of Western Australia have recently been appointed to its commission of the peace for political reasons. I think that the appointments were made, not on political grounds, but merely as a compliment to those representatives of the State who were not already on the commission of the peace. Suppose, however, that the appointments were made for political reasons, will the honorable senator say that in witnessing a document the representatives of the. State in this Parliament would be dishonest or partisan simply because they had been appointed by the leader of a political faction ? Certainly not, and we ought not to impose a stigma on other people that we would not apply to ourselves.
– I applied it to ourselves.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.Would Senator de Largie be dishonest in witnessing a document?
– I might be biased.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.The only thing that was brought against justices of the peace in the recent inquiry was that they signed some forms in blank. That cannot be done under this Bill. Honorable senators might as well say that because certain dignitaries of the church have misbehaved themselves all church dignitaries are not reputable persons, or that because certain members of Parliament have disgraced themselves all members of Parliament are rogues, as say that because some justices of the peace have done wrong all justices of the peace would do wrong. Because in individual instances justices of the peace have been dishonest or careless, or guilty of reprehensible conduct, surely we are not going to say that justices of the peace as a class cannot be trusted to issue voting certificates.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of a bench of justices being packed?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.I have heard of reprehensible conduct in every walk of life, but I do not say on that account that all members of a class ave rogues. Has not the honorable senator heard of injustices being done by policemen, and of cases where civil servants were not as honest as they should be? But we do not condemn policemen and civil servants for that reason. In country districts it is generally found that amongst the most reputable people in a town are the justices of the peace. Justices of> the peace are bv their commission appointed to witness documents of the greatest importance, and vet it is proposed to excise them from this Bill - to say that, while they are competent to witness State documents of great moment, the)’- are not competent to witness the signatures of voters.
– It is rather late in the day to consider the advisableness of omitting justices of the peace from the performance of responsible duties under our electoral law. Quite a subordinate duty is assigned to them by this clause, whereas in the principal Act, and in portions of it which are to remain in operation, they are appointed to exercise jurisdiction, particularly in regard to special Revision Courts. The duties relating to those courts are of infinitely greater consequence than the more or less nominal duties assigned to them by this clause.
– This Bill does away with Revision Courts and the functions cf justices of the peace in that respect.
– The Committee will be aware that it has been the policy of Parliament in innumerable Acts of Parliament to assign responsible duties to justices of the peace. It is quite obvious that where any large body of men are appointed to exercise judicial functions there will be miscarriages of justice, and perhaps much to object to. But speak-, ing generally, the system of appointing justices of the peace for such purposes has been successful. .They have, as a rule, discharged their duties conscientiously and well ; they have added greatly to the effective working of the general machinery of justice, as well as to its cheap administration. It is a fact we cannot ignore that, as a rule, ‘ the more important and prominent inhabitants of townships are justices of the peace. They are looked up to.
– Many of them are looked down upon.
– There may be individual justices of the peace who are unworthy of the position they occupy. But in the higher courts of justice you will also occasionally find men who are incompetent, biased, and totally unfit for the duties they discharge.
– What is the qualification of a justice of the peace?
– The chief qualification is to do justice.
– To have money is the only qua filiation.
– I think my honorable friend is rather ungenerous. .
– Many of them cannot write their names, but they are appointed because they have money.
– My honorable friend casts a stigma upon a body of reputable men.
– They are principally appointed for political purposes.
– Many have been appointed for political purposes, but the very large percentage of appointments are of men who, when they go on the Bench, forget the manner of their appointment, forget their political bias, and behave as reputable and honorable men. The Senate is not justified in casting such a serious reflection upon them as would be done by suggesting for a moment that they are incapable of carrying out the functions assigned to them by tha provision under discussion.
Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia). - I have decided to vote against the amendment. We have decided to intrust the functions conferred by this clause to any little two-penny half-penny storekeeper who may be doing work for the post-office in any part of the country. Now, we are asked to remove from the scope of the
Bill a large body of men, most of whom,. I think, have been chosen honestly, and. because of their integrity as citizens.
– Two-penny half-penny justices of the peace !
– They are, as a rule, men who hold a good position inthe community.
– They hold money.
– I know of hundreds of justices Of the peace who have no more money than I have. But they are men of principle, men of integrity, who certainly would not risk the loss of their honour, and the consequences that would follow from being discovered in any shady transaction connected with signatures to applications for voters’ certificates. Something has been said respecting the appointment of members of this Parliament as justices of the peace in Western Australia. Like my fellow members, I was appointed to that honorable position. I do not regard the appointment as being by any means conferred for reasons of partisanship. I certainly think that the Government of Western Australia made a very wise and judicious selection in appointing members of the Senate to the commission of the peace. In the sparsely populated parts of Australia justices of the peace are more accessible than are any other people provided for in this Bill. Consequently their usefulness in this direction should be great. In fact, I am inclined to move an amendment for the purpose of including the whole of the clergy of every denomination. Then we should very nearly have reached the climax in the extension of postal voting facilities. I cannot support the amendment, in view of the fact that the Committee has inserted a provision including men, and possibly women, of whom we are not nearly so certain as we are in including justices of the peace.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).I have to admit that it is somewhat difficult to adduce arguments against this amendment, in view of the personal testimony we have had concerning the characteristics of justices of the peace from members of that distinguished fraternity. It appears to me that it is just possible that the honorable senators to whom I allude have been committing the not uncommon error of drawing general conclusions from particular cases. I cannot share their views. When I look to this Bill, I am struck with this anomaly - or what would be an anomaly if we adopted the amendment - that while honorable senators would refuse to allow a justice of the peace to witness a simple application for a postal vote, they have already decided by passing the previous clause that’ if any person wrongfully witnesses a signature these same justices of the peace can sentence him to one month’s imprisonment. Where is the logic of that? If certain honorable members could have had their way they would have authorized an ordinary justice of the peace to sentence an offender to six months’ imprisonment, whilst at the same time they would .decline; to allow that same justice to witness the document’ himself. The logic of such a position does not appeal to me. Senator Croft stated that one of the reasons for eliminating justices of the peace was the fact disclosed by the report of the Select Committee that they had been guilty of negligence, Or, possibly of some action deserving of a harsher term. If that argument is to be pushed to extremes, there is quite a list of people who may be debarred from taking any part in electoral work. One or two officials, according to the evidence given before :he Select Committee, had acted in a way ‘hat was certainly highly improper.. A’ presiding officer, who had allowed certain electors to vote, and found out afterwards that they were not on the roll, had their names placed on the supplementary roll, although the election was over, and induced the registrar to treat them as if they had been entered at an earlier date. Are we, therefore, to debar every one belonging to the same class of life as that man?
– He was not entitled to witness an application.
– He was entitled to perform the much more responsible duty of recording votes. As to the capacity of justices of the peace, we must not forget that we have already approved of their constituting a court of appeal. It has also been argued that justices of the peace should be debarred because their appointments are political, and they are invariably partisans. But the same statement might be made against the great majority of our Judges, and no one ever questions their capacity or impartiality after appointment. Quite recently a gentleman who was a party man in every sense of the word, was appointed to one of the highest judicial positions in the Commonwealth but does any one question his impartiality? It does not follow that a man who, in private life, is a political partisan, allows his partyfeelings to sway him in the discharge of a responsible public duty. One argument used by Senator Henderson ought to appeal to all honorable senators. The purpose of the provision is to extend, as far as possible, facilities for voting to electors who, under ordinary circumstances, would not be able to Teach the poll on the day of election. Quite a number of people in the humbler ranks of life, who are in receipt of small pittances for looking after country post-offices;, have been ‘included amongst the authorized witnesses, and we know that in a great many cases these people were appointed by the same political forces and influences which surround the appointment of justices of the peace. Having made that provision, is it logical or common sense on our part to strike out the more numerous body of those who are on the commission of the peace?
– Is it quite clear that the justices of the peace in every one of the States could act as witnesses to those signatures? My impression is that in South Australia justices of the peace, who witness signatures of the kind, have in mast cases to charge a fee.; and I do not see why the electors in that State should be thus handicapped. There is in force in- South Australia an old Ordinance of the year 1843, which provides that a magistrate shall charge a fee for the performance of this duty, unless ft be proved to his satisfaction that the party is unable to pay by reason of his poverty, F rom the schedule to that Ordinance, we learn that, for witnessing the signature to a declaration, a magistrate must charge a fee of one shilling, which, however, is not retained by the magistrate, but is sent on to the Government, with a quarterly return. Such fees have been charged, to my knowledge, in a number of cases during recent years in South Australia. Justices of the peace who belong to the same political party as myself, may, with a clear conscience, remit the fees because of the poverty of the parties concerned, so that the charge would weigh more against the other political party. The Constitution demands that Commonwealth legislation shall be uniform throughout the whole of the States, and I ask what provision the Government nave made in the Bill to tha*end?
– Commonwealth law supersedes State law.
– Yes, when that is absolutely stated in a Bill, but the present measure is silent on the point. My only desire is to see the law made uniform, and I hope the Minister is able to give us some information on the point.
Senator’ KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - Senator Guthrie need be under no apprehension as to any want of uniformity in the application of this provision. It is not proposed to throw on the elector the obligation to make a declaration. The declaration referred to in the Ordinance is undoubtedly the ordinary statutory declaration of the State, which in South Aus* tralia, as in other States, supersedes in many instances the affidavit. The Bill merely provides that justices of the peace may attest a signature to an application, such as never could have been in contemplation by those who drafted or passed the Ordinance. It is not a declaration in the ordinary sense, and certainly not one which would come within the meaning of the words of the Ordinance. There is no obligation thrown on the elector to do more than sign the prescribed form. The witnesses are authorised to attest the signature to an application created by, and peculiar to, the Bill, and at the same time we confer on them no power to charge any fee. Even if we had a declaration provided for, and empowered the authorized witnesses to attest it, the Ordinance would not apply. Commonwealth legislation will supersede theOrdinance, and a declaration created by Commonwealth legislation would not be in any way affected by the State legislation which has been quoted.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - The clause limits the power of the authorised witnesses by providing that they shall not sign any application Unless they actually know the applicant. It would, therefore, be pitiable if we were to eliminate such important witnesses as justices of the peace or medical men ; and I see no reason to prolong the discussion on so simple a matter.
Senator GIVENS (Queensland).- Senator Millen says that he cannot see the logic or consistency of refusing to allow justices of the peace to witness a signature, while we at the same time invest them with power to sit as a court of appeal in certain cases. But the Legislature frequently invests Judges of the Law Courts with power to decide certain matters, while altogether re fusing to allow them to be parties in any transactions which may lead to an action. There is, therefore, no inconsistency on the part of those who wish to prevent justices of the peace witnessing these signatures,* while at the same time they are prepared to invest them with the power to try certain cases arising under the Act. Is it not a fact that no Judge will witness an affidavit in connexion with a case brought before him for trial? A justice of the peace, under this provision, might witness a claim which would subsequently come before him in carrying out his functions as a magistrate. The argument of Senator Millen in the circumstances is void of all force. With respect to the advisability ot permitting justices of the peace to witness the signatures of applicants for postal ballot papers we are all very well aware that they have in many instances in the past acted indiscreetly and injudiciously in connexion with duties imposed on them by the electoral law. Some have gone the length of signing application forms in blank. That is a very reprehensible practice, and can only be accounted for on the assumption that they did so for political purposes.
– The next clause would put men who did that kind of thing in gaol for a month.
– If I had my way some of them would be there for six months or longer. We know that the majority of justices of the peace are appointed for purely partisan political reasons. I know men on the commission of the peace in Queensland and in New South Wales whose only qualifications for appointment was that they possessed a certain amount of money and performed certain services for the dominant party in politics at the time of their appointment. I know also of men who are fitted in no way for the position to which’ they have been appointed. I would ask honorable senators who are opposed to the amendment whether it is not a fact that the chief qualification required of justices of the peace by those who have had the power to appoint them has been that they should possess a certain amount of wealth and occupy a certain position in the district in which they reside? One does not hear of poor men being appointed to the commission of the peace, and it must be admitted that a man’s fitness for the position does not depend on the possession of great wealthSome of the poorest men in the community are as well fitted to perform the functions required of a justice of the peace as are many men possessed of hundreds of thousands of pounds. I do not for a moment say that the majority of the magistrates of the Commonwealth do not faithfully discharge their duties as such. I do not say that the majority are not men of high character, but I ‘ do say that a large number of them are such strong political partisans that they should not be intrusted with any function whatever connected with the administration; of our electoral law. I shall, therefore, vote for the amendment.
– I am not quite sure that the tribunal which is now dealing with this question is altogether unbiased. I understand that quite a number of honorable senators are justices of the peace, and as interested parties I am not sure that they are entitled to record a vote against the amendment. The Committee has already decided to allow a large number of people who distribute a few letters once or twice a week to witness these application forms. For quite a number of years in Queensland we tried to prevent justices of the peace having anything to do with electoral matters. We were satisfied from our experience that thebest thing we could do was to give them no hand whatever in the administration of the electoral law. As has already been pointed out, most of them were appointed because they were strong political partisans. In many instances they have advanced the most paltry reasons for refusing to witness signatures to electoral claims. In Queensland a person desiring to have his name placed on an electoral roll had to have his application attested by a magistrate, and I have known dozens of instances in which magistrates have advanced all sorts of excuses for refusing to attest these applications. I remember that I filled in a claim for an elector to have his name placed on an electoral roll. When hebrought his application form to the house of a magistrate, who was an officer in the volunteers, he met that gentleman coming out of his house in uniform, on the way, I suppose, to some drill. When he asked him to attest his claim the magistrate advanced the preposterous reason that because he happened to be in uniform it would be altogether illegal for him to do such a thing. I have known magistrates in some cases, I think deliberately, to render electoral claims informal, believing, as strong partisans, that it was their duty to some extent to prevent certain people from getting their names on the rolls. It is not wise to have justices of the peace mixed up with this business at all. Senator Millen has said that we have already decided that magistrates shall take part in dealing with appeals, but it should not be forgotten that the whole of the magistrates of Australia will not be eligible for the performance of those duties. They will be performed only by such persons as are specially gazetted by the Governor-General in Council. Again, this work is not intrusted to one justice of the peace, but to two, I suppose because it is recognised that, from the nature of their appointment and their general capabilities, they are not competent to carry out such duties satisfactorily. In the State from which I come it was a common practice some years ago for magistrates to pack the bench at a Revision Court. Men who had sent in properly attested claims were summoned to appear before packed benches to show their bona fides, and that they were entitled to have their names on a roll. I recognise that the appointments made to the magistracy in Queensland at that time were altogether one-sided, and that since then more care may have been exercised in the selection of men for appointment. But the system of appointing justices of the peace is such that they ought not to be mixed up with the administration of the electoral law. I shall vote for the amendment.
Question - That the words proposedto be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I think that provisional school teachers should be capable of acting as witnesses, and therefore I move -
That after the word “ State,” line r2, the words “ and provisional “ be inserted.
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - What Senator Stewart seems to be aiming at is to provide greater facilities for postal voting. We are at one with him in that regard; but as. the clause stands, I think that the class of teacher to which he refers is included in the ‘phrase “ head masters of State schools.” These provisional schools are either State or private schools. If they are private schools then the head masters will not be eligible witnesses. But if they are State schools, the fact that they are merely provisional schools will not prevent the head1 masters from being eligible witnesses. The honorable senator will be more completely carrying out his desire if he allows the provision to stand as it is. If we draw a distinction between State and provisional schools we shall give rise at once to doubt and confusion.
Senator GIVENS (Queensland).- I approve of the insertion of the words, “ and mistresses,” in order to make the paragraph consistent throughout. I agree with Senator Stewart that the amendment indicates is necessary, because provisional schools, at any rate, in Queensland, are not usually recognised or technically known as State schools, nor are they State schools in the legal acceptation of the term there.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Givens) agreed to-
That the word “ Masters,” lines 12 and 13, beleft out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Teachers.”
Senator STEWART (Queensland).Does Senator Keating think that the clause as it stands covers everything I want in this connexion ?
Senator Keating. - Undoubtedly.
Amendment (by Senator Croft) .proposed -
That the words “ all legally qualified medical practitioners,”’ lines 19 and 20, be left out.
– For the reasons I have al- ready given, I ask the Committee to reject the amendment. I cannot expect those who have disapproved of the principle of voting by post not to support the amendment. But it is our object, whilst makingadequate provision for proper safeguards against its abuse to provide, as far as possible, reasonable facilities for the registration of voting by post wherever that method has to be resorted to. It must be patent to every honorable senator that in many instances it would be only a legally qualified medical practitioner who would be in a position to witness an application for a postal ballotpaper. He may be called away to attend to a person who is living five or six miles, or even at a greater distance from a township. It may be that in consequence of the illness he is called in to attend to, the person will be unable to be present at the poll. If this class is disqualified as witnesses, a justice of the peace or the head teacher of a State school would then have to be taken out to witness the signature.
– Can they not send a message from the sick bed to a justice of the peace?
– When the doctor arrives the patient may say, “ I wish to be able to vote by post,” and if the doctor cannot witness the signature to the application it will be necessary to send for a justice of the peace, or the head teacher of a State school, or some authorized State, or Federal officer.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 30 to 32 agreed to.
Clause 33 - 118a. The following directions for regulating voting by means of postal papers shall be substantially observed.
– I should like the Minister to define the word “ substantially,” used in this clause? What is the object of it? Does it not depart from the principle of the Bill? Should not all the regulations be observed without leaving a discretionary power?
Senator KEATING (Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - The idea in the use of the word “substantially,” is that which I pointed out in connexion with a clause of this Bill considered last week in relationto the use of forms. We provided that forms “ may be in the form of the schedule.” With out giving too much elasticity, we must provide that when regulations of this kind are attached, so long as they adhere substantially to the form, the act done is not invalid. If we did not so provide for “ substantially “ observing the form, we might find that some little informality, or some omission of a detail provided for by a regulation or provision - which might be as unimportant as the dotting of an “ i “ or the crossing of a “ t “ - might be fatal, and might destroy all that was done. It is to obviate an invalidity arising from some technical omission which does not goto the merits of the matter that the word is used.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 42 agreed to.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania). - I move -
That the following new clause be added : - “ 42a. Section one hundred and fifty of the Principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the word’s ‘ the voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.’ “
I gave my reasons for this new clause when I spoke on the motion for the second reading. They are these: As the Electoral Act stands at present, it is compulsory on every elector to vote for the full number of candidates to be elected, whether he can find a number of candidates whose views agree with his or not. The main principle underlying the whole of our electoral machinery is that the elector shall be granted the utmost freedom. He is not compelled to vote at all. His name is on the roll, but he need not exercise the franchise unless he pleases. If he does choose to go to the ballot-box to record his vote, I submit that we should follow out the principle of freedom, and allow him to votefor one, two, or three candidates, or for the full number to be elected. I understand that exception may be taken to this proposal on the ground that it is not relevant to the Bill. But as I read the Bill, 1 submit that it is relevant. Suppose that an election hinges on the great principles of free-trade and protection, and there are three seats to be filled for the Senate. There may be a double dissolution, when there would be six seats to be filled. But whether there are three or six seats to be filled, my contention stands good. A very ardent free-trader might find that there were only three candidates who represented his views.
– I may as well take a point of order at this stage. I intend to ask your ruling, sir, as to whether Senator O’Keefe’s proposed new clause is in order. I am loth to stop the honorable senator, but it is a question of saving time. My point is that his proposed new clause is not within the scope of the Bill. If that point is upheld it will put an end to a debate that might be of long duration.
– I do not object to the point of order being taken now.
– A proposal made last week with respect to the HareSpence system of voting, gave rise to a ruling by the President. I submit that that ruling clearly applies to the present case.
– Will the honorable and learned senator pardon my interruption? As this matter will probably be discussed in the Senate, whichever way I rule, st may be as well for me to State my view now. Then the matter can be carried to the Senate if necessary..
– Very well.
– I have been thinking over this question for a few days, and I have experienced considerable difficulty in coming to a decision, especially as the President has been kind enough to give me his view as to the practice of the Senate. It is as follows : -
The principle on which the British practice is founded has not been objected to. That principle, which has been adopted by the Senate, is this - “That the relevancy of a proposed instruction or amendment must be to the objects of the Bill, as shown by the contents of the Bill.” In the case of a Bill amending an Act, it has been suggested that such relevancy may be extended to the Act which it is proposed to amend ; but this would be contrary to the principle adopted by the Senate, and would lead to the most inconvenient results. For instance, on a Bill to alter the salary of the Auditor-General, the whole audit system of the Commonwealth could be opened up. On a Bill to alter some of the penalties prescribed by the Customs Act, every one of the 277 sections of that Act might be amended. On a Bill to alter the fees payable for the inspection of an award under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the whole question of Conciliation and Arbitration might be discussed, and the ‘Act itself radically altered.
It appears to me that if, in discussing an amending Bill, we are only to consider the clauses contained in it, the action of the Committee is more circumscribed than would be the case in considering an original Bill. Our Standing Orders provide that an amendment may be made to any part of a Bill-, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. The subject-matter of an amending Bill includes all the principles contained in all the parts of the proposed alterations. ‘If honorable senators look at the Bill before us, and observe the matters mentioned in the memorandum submitted by the Government, they will see that it is an amending Bill which proposes to alter all the parts of the original Act excepting three. It proposes to alter Part I., Preliminary; Part II., Administration; Part III., Electoral Divisions ; Part IV., Subdivisions and Polling Places; Part V., Electoral Rolls; Part VI., Additions to Rolls, Transfers and Alterations of Rolls ; Part VII., Removal of Names from Rolls; Part X., Voting by Post; Part IX., The Polling; Part XII., The Scrutiny; Part XIV., Limitation of Electoral Expenses; Part XV., Electoral Offences; Part XVI., Court of Disputed Returns; and Part XVII., Miscellaneous.
– Is not that al) machinery ?
– That is a subject for argument. For example, Part VI., . which deals with additions to rolls and transfers, may increase the number of electors.
– But the clauses are machinery clauses.
– This part of the Bill increases the voting facilities of people who are already electors, and enables men and women to keep their names on the roll. Part VII., which deals with the removal of names, may decrease the number of voters by striking; off names, and this part of the Bill also provides for appeals by persons whose names are struck off. Part X., which amends section 109 of the principal Act, is intended to restrict and safeguard the use of postal votes. Part IX. prescribes the form and construction of the ballot-box, and where and how electors may vote. Part XII. deals with the scrutiny, and makes provision for a recount. The whole of these proposed amendments cover the chapters of the principal Act, which contain the vital principles of that Act, and they all, more or less, if carried, will affect the total votes polled for the candidates, and the order in which the candidates will stand at the close of the scrutiny. Senator O’Keefe has proposed an amendment which may be held to affect the totals polled. An elector now has to vote for a number of candidates equal to the number of seats to be filled, whereas Senator O’Keefe proposes to allow him to vote for one, two, or three, as the case may be; and there is no doubt that that proposal will, if carried, affect the totals polled for the candidates, and affect the position of the candidates at the close of the scrutiny. But will this proposal, if carried, affect the total polled to a greater extent than will some of the amendments in the proposed amending Bill ? Whether the proposal does or does not affect the totals to a greater or less extent, is Senator O’Keefe’s proposal not one which might be legitimately considered by a Committee dealing with an amending Bill of this character? There are cases on record in which, when an instruction has been moved to a Committee to consider certain matters in a Bill, that instruction’ has been deemed to be unnecessary, because the Committee could do all that was required. Can this Committee deal with this question? If Senator O’Keefe had brought his proposal forward as an instruction before the Bill reached this stage, what would have been its fate? Would it have been ruled out of order on the ground that the Committee could deal with the question without an instruction? However, the question has been decided, and it seems to me that our practice is rather restrictive, because, if the proposal is to be ruled out of order in the same way as was the proposal made by Senator Mulcahy for an instruction to the Committee to consider the question of proportional voting, how is Senator O’Keefe, or any other member, to get a proposal like this considered bv the Committee? We are told that he will be compelled to submit a separate Bill, ls that not putting rather too great a restriction on members of the Senate and members of the Committee ?
– There would have to be a new Bill_ for every alteration we desired lo make in the main Act.
– Honorable senators will see the obstacles in the way of a private member bringing in such a Bill. If an honorable senator did bring in a Bill, in all probability, when time, which is limited, had been afforded him, he would he met with the statement by the Government that so important a matter should be dealt with in a Government measure. However, I think that this amending Bill is of so comprehensive a character that the amendment brought forward by Senator O’Keefe is one which might well Le considered by this Committee ; and, therefore, I rule thai it is in order.
– I dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, that the new clause proposed by Senator O’Keefe in the Electoral Bill is within the scope and object of such Bill, such ruling being opposed to the principles laid down in a recent ruling of the President, and also contrary to the practice of Parliament. 1 request that you leave the Chair and leport to the President.
In the Senate:
The Chairman of Committees. - Since you, Mr. President, were present in the Chamber during the discussion in Committee, I need not repeat what I said in giving my ruling. I merely wish to add that, although I expected that you would decide against me, I gave the ruling I have given in order that the Senate may be thoroughly seized of the obstacles in the way of an honorable senator who may wish to discuss a question of this kind in Committee.
– As I submitted the amendment to which exception has been taken by Senator Gould, I should like to say a few words. I find that this is a Bill to “ amend the law relating to parliamentary elections.” Senator Gould takes exception to the amendment proposed by me, on the ground that it deals with a matter of vital principle. Do I understand Senator Gould to mean that the amending Bill deals only with machinery matters, and not with matters of principle? If that be the meaning of the honorable senator, I assert that we have during the greater part of to-day’s sitting been dealing with a question which is essentially one of principle. We have to-day taken action which will certainly have the effect of considerably extending the facilities for postal voting, and surely Senator Gould, or any other honorable senator, will not assert that the granting of such facilities is not a principle of parliamentary elections ? If we either extend or circumscribe the facilities for postal voting we deal with a principle, because, as I submit, postal voting is the main principle of the Act. We have considered other matters which may well be regarded as involving questions of principle. I submit that the amendment moved by me is not any more a vital principle than is the question of postal voting with which we have been dealing all the afternoon. I further submit that the amending Bill seeks to alter the sections of the main Act dealing with postal voting. Senator Gould may say that the question of postal voting is placed before us in the amending Bill, and that any further amendment, besides those outlined in the Bill, is relevant to the subjectmatter. That would be a reasonable argument. But Senator Gould will also probably say that, as the subject-matter of the amendment moved by me is not mentioned in the Bill, it cannot, therefore, be considered relevant. That, of course, is a question on which, Mr. President, we shall have your ruling. I know that you have already given a ruling.
– Not on the same matter.
– You, sir, gave a ruling that Senator Mulcahy was not in order in moving that a certain instruction be gi’ven to the Committee. I submit that when a Bill is introduced to amend the main Electoral Act, not only the sections mentioned in clauses submitted in the amending Bill, but any section of the main Act, whether dealt with in the Bill or not, may be considered and amended by the Committee. The Government think that certain sections in the’ Electoral Act requite amendment, and they have submitted certain proposals in this Bill ; but I contend that, as soon as a Bill- is placed before us, it becomes the property of the Senate, together with the Act which it is sought to amend. Although the Government have not thought it necessary to propose amendments in many of the sections of the original Act, it is within the power, the right, and the privilege of any honorable senator to propose amendments in any section. What is the law relating to parliamentary elections? Surely a part of the law is the principle of voting ; surely the method of voting is a very vital part of the law relating to parliamentary elections? If you, sir, rule, as Senator Gould evidently desires, that the Senate has no power to consider any section of a main ct but those which are dealt with in an amending Bill, our action as a Senate will be very much circumscribed. The Chairman of Committees has just now read a memorandum, which I. think he said he got from you, and in which you mention the Customs Tariff Act and the Audit Act. I may be wrong in the view I take, but I submit that, if the Government were to introduce a Bill to amend, say, half-a- dozen items in the Customs Tariff Act, we should probably .find that the amendment of those items interfered with the duties on other items.
– The honorable senator is under a misapprehension. The memorandum read by the Chairman referred to a Bill introduced to alter a date in the Customs Act, not a duty.
– Then I stand corrected; I did not catch the word “date.” I can, however, illustrate my argument in just the same way. Would Senator Gould maintain that if the Government introduced a Bill entitled “A Bill to amend the Customs Tariff,” proposing the amendment of only a certain number of items in the Tariff, it would not be competent for an honorable senator to propose the alteration of any other items, although it might be clear that the alteration of the items proposed by the Government would render the alteration of other items absolutely necessary? If the honorable senator would not take up that position, the position he now takes up is untenable.
– That would be a money Bill, and such an amendment would require another message.
– That does not affect the argument.
– Suppose a measure were brought in to alter only the method of collecting the duty, there could be no such amendment moved as the honorable senator suggests. If the proposal were to alter the duties, a broad principle would be involved, but if the Government proposed only to alter the method of their collection, the honorable senator would not be entitled to propose alterations in the Tariff itself.
– I think Senator Gould is splitting straws to suit his own purpose. I say that if a Bill were brought forward by the Government in another place to amend the Tariff, Senator Gould’s contention is that it would not be competent to propose the amendment of any other items than those referred to in the Bill. I hope that the President, will not rule my amendment out of order, but will uphold the Chairman’s ruling. If he does not do so. -the action of the Senate in the future will be very much circumscribed.
– I remind honorable senators that we have not only had the President’s ruling on this question, but that it has been. accepted by the Senate.
The ruling given in connexion with Senator Mulcahy’s suggested amendment was unquestionably that it did not come within the scope of the Bill. Senator Mulcahy proposed the adoption of the “ Hare system” of voting, which would virtually have permitted plumping; but as it would have introduced an entirely new principle, it was declared to be beyond the scope of this Bill. Senator O’Keefe’s amendment is on all-fours with that suggested by Senator Mulcahy, inasmuch as the honorable senator proposes to introduce a new principle under which plumping may be permitted, although it is not allowed at present. The Bill before us is clearly a machinery Bill. That has been referred to by the Chairman in addressing, himself to the question. Voting by post is one matter which has been alluded to, and there are also provisions with respect to the polling, the scrutiny, and the limitation ot expenses. All the clauses in this Bill dealing with those matters will be found- to be purely machinery provisions, and they do not involve any broad principle.
– Surely postal “voting is a matter ot principle.
– It is in itself, but it is not proposed in this Bill to interfere with the principle of voting by post, but with the machinery by which effect is to be given to that principle. For instance, it is provided that a man shall be ten miles distant from his polling place instead of five miles to be entitled to avail himself of the right to vote by post.
– Will not that disfranchise those within the ten-mile limit and beyond the five-mile limit?
– It will not disfranchise a single individual, because electors are permitted to vote at any polling place in a division if that should be necessary. It is a mere matter of detail whether we say that a man shall be five, six, or ten miles away from his polling place before he is entitled to make use of the right to vote by post.’ The principle of voting by post has been affirmed in the principal Act. and there is no attempt made in this Bill to interfere with that principle. Dealing with the question of polling, the principle affirmed in the main Act is not interfered with by the proposals made in this Bill. We find in clause 34 that section 125 of the principal Act is proposed to be amended by adding at the end thereof the words, “ unless he appoints some other person to be the presiding officer thereat.” There is no interference with the principle in that amendment. By clause 35 it is proposed to amend section 126 of the principal Act by adding at the e+id thereof the words, “ and shall in respect of the exercise of those powers be deemed to be the presiding officer.” In clause 36 it is proposed to repeal section 129 of the principal Act with a view to substitute, in lieu thereof the following : -
Each polling booth shall be provided with the necessary ballot boxes constructed and fitted as prescribed.
– The honorable and learned senator should not forget that we were given no opportunity to discuss Senator O’Keefe’s amendment on the second reading.
– I shall come to that presently. Of course if it had been incorporated in the Bill introduced by the Government we could have discussed it on the second reading. In clause 37 it is proposed to provide that -
Section 130 of the principal Act is amended in paragraph a by inserting after the words “polling place” the words “for enrolled for the subdivision, and for whom the polling place is prescribed)’,’ ; paragraph b by omitting the word “ signed “ and inserting in lieu thereof the words “certified to.”
I need not weary honorable senators by a further reference to these provisions, but it will be seen that there is no principle affected by any of these clauses, and they are intended to carry out more effectually the principles embodied in the principal Act. We must distinguish clearly between a machinery Bill and one which embodies definite principles. The Minister interjected just now that we had not an opportunity to discuss this matter on the second reading, as we should have had if it had been dealt with in the Bill.
– Could not that be said of a number of amendments moved upon. every Bill?
– Let me say to the honorable senator, as I said to Senator Mulcahy the other night, assuming for the sake of argument that I were in favour of very proposal in this Bill affecting the machinery provided by the principal Act. If there had been a further proposal made in the Bill to give effect to the amendment proposed by Senator O’Keefe, it would have been my dutv to vote against the second reading of the Bill, because that would have introduced a new principle with which [ could not agree, affecting the number of candidates who should be voted for when an election takes place.
– The honorable senator’s argument would apply to any amendment moved cm any Bill.
– If the Government desired that that matter should be submitted for consideration, they would have embodied the honorable senator’s amendment in the Bill. As they have not done so, if Senator O’Keefe desires that it should be considered, he must submit it in another Bill. I admit at once that it is very difficult for a private member to bring forward a measure for consideration. The Government are responsible for the legislation submitted to Parliament, and while they are supported by a majority of the members of the Parliament, they occupy a commanding position. Suppose Senator O’Keefe desired an amendment of the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill ; if he could induce the Government to bring in an amending measure to give effect to his desire, we should have an opportunity to discuss it. But if the Government did not introduce such a measure, the honorable senator would have to do so if the question was to be considered. When the Government ask us to deal only with machinery clauses, they virtually say that they do not desire us to discuss matters of broad principle.
– They have not said so.
– They have said so by introducing the Bill in its present form.
– The Bill introduced is “A Bill for an Act to amend the Law relating to Parliamentary Elections.” There is no reference tomachinery clauses, or matters of principle.
d- The Bill speaks for itself, and it plainly deals only with the machinery provided to give effect to certain principles already affirmed. I may just as well remind honorable senators of what has been pointed out beforeby reading what May has to say on the subject of instructions -
Whena Bill has been read a second time the House has assented to the principle of the Bill.
We have already assented to the principle of this Bill-
In the last few years a standing order has been passed, stating that when the House is prepared to go into Committee, the Speaker is to leave the Chair without question put -
That is the practice of the Senate - but there is a reservation made with regard to instructions to the Committee. It would be obvious to the House that if an instruction moved on that occasion were to traverse the principle of the Bill, or to go so far outside the limits and scope and frame-work of the Bill, so as to set up an alternative scheme, or a counter proposition to the Bill, that would virtually be a secondreading debate over again. It would be an amendment to the principle of the Bill, and would therefore reduce to a minimum and would nullify altogether the provision which the House has passed in the standing order which states that when the House is prepared to go into Committee I should leave the Chair at once, without any question put.
In the face of that decision, it is quite impossible to argue that we can go beyond the scope and frame-work of a Bill. The amendment suggested by Senator O’Keefe is clearly beyond the scope and frame-work of this Bill. If the Bill introduced by the Government had proposed that a voter should be allowed to vote for two candidates, I admit that Senator O’Keefe would then have had the right to move his amendment, because it would have been clearly within the scope and framework of the Bill. The Government, however, have decided to leave this matter alone, and to ask honorable senators to deal only with machinery to make more effective the provisions already contained in the principal Act enabling persons to record their votes, and dealing with the matter of the scrutiny, the revision of the rolls, and the rights of electors. If the honorable senator desired to alter the system of revision, it would be competent for him to propose an amendment dealing with that matter, because it would come within the scope and frame-work of the Bill.
– Does the honorable senator contend that it is not competent to move an amendment on sections of the principal Act which this Bill does not seek to amend ?
– Not unless they deal with matters of principle already partially involved, and under consideration.
– Who is to be the judge as to what are matters of principle?
– In the first place, the President, and in the second place, I presume, the Parliament.
– Does the honorable and learned senator contend that it is not possible to alter the hours of polling?
– The broad question is, shall men be permitted to vote ? and the fixing of the hours is merely a matter of detail. May, at page 456, says -
Thus, as the subject-matter of a Bill, as disclosed by the contents thereof, when read a second time, has, since 1S54, formed the order of reference which governs the proceedings of the Committee thereon, it follows that the objects sought by an instruction should be pertinent to the terms of that order.
I submit, sir, that the rulings given in May, and your own ruling, which has been accepted by the Senate, clearly show that any instruction must be within the scope and frame-work of the Bill. It is equally clear that when the Senate goes into Committee on ‘a Bill any amendment must be within its scope or frame-work. Otherwise it would be equivalent to saying that an instruction from the Senate was to be of less weight than; the power of the Committee to’ deal with the Bill. That is utterly wrong, as every person who understands parliamentary rules will admit. In the Senate we have dealt with the Bill in principle or in globo, and in Committee we have to consider its provisions in detail. What does considering a Bill in detail mean? It means that you go into Committee to consider whether you cannot work out the broad principle which you have accepted more efficiently and effectively than you could in the Senate, when debating the second reading. The object of an instruction is if possible to enlarge, not to limit, the power of a Committee when it is considering the details of a Bill. The proposed amendment does not involve the question of whether we shall have the right to vote for one or more candidates, but it involves an important principle which we are called upon to lay down for our guidance, not only now, but in the future. I ask honorable senators to be dispassionate, and to consider the point quite apart from whether they agree with the principle which Senator O’Keefe wishes to incorporate in the Bill. Whatever may be the merits of his proposal, it is far more important that we should lay down certain principles bv which the Senate will always be guided in its consideration of any measures which are brought forward.
– It is important that we should lay down, to a certain extent, our procedure without relying so much on precedents.
– That is perfectly true. I recollect a party saying, when the question of precedents was quoted : “We have not come here to follow prece dents, but to create them.” Let us not attempt to set up an extraordinary principle which has never been adopted by any Parliament that I know of. We appeal to the rules of the mother of Parliaments, because we know that it has included the most able constitutionalists and parliamentarians, and that we are on perfectly safe ground in following out the principles which have been there laid down.
– The honorable and learned senator means the grandmother of Parliaments. It is in its dotage.
– I do not think that honorable senators will be able to mention one Parliament where the principle I am now contending for has been departed from. I admit at once that in Senator Stewart we may have an embodiment of the matured wisdom of the world, and that it would be a very dangerous thing in °the interest of this great Commonwealth for the House of Commons, or any constitutionalists or parliamentarians there to attempt to lay down a principle which has not been accepted bv him. I have addressed myself rather to honorable senators than to you, sir, because l know that we may rely with absolute safety upon your knowledge and experience.
– I cannot understand any honorable senator striving, as Senator Gould has striven, to clip and cramp the powers of the Senate in Committee. It seems to me, sir, that he is trying to get you to place the Senate in such a condition that the shape which our legislation shall take shall be absolutely in the hands of the Government of the day.
– I would ask the honorable senator to consider what would happen if important, amendments were made of which no* notice had been given.
– In a case of that kind we can rely upon the Senate being able to protect itself. ‘ We are here for the purpose of legislating, and the Standing Orders are merely a means to carry out that object. Senator Gould says that the question of five or ten miles in the matter of postal votes is a mere circumstance, because it involves no principle. But he says that the proposal of Senator O’Keefe may mean an alteration of the voting power. Let us consider those two instances. It was contended that by extending the limit from five to ten miles, a number of persons who previously would have been able to obtain’ postal vote certificates would no longer be able to obtain them ; in other words, that a certain number of persons who, under the Act, are able to vote would be disfranchised. Surely the question of disfranchisement involves a principle !
– We do not disfranchise, but we merely alter the conditions under which the vote shall be cast.
– It is urged that by doing so many persons will not be able to avail themselves of this system of voting.
– You do not alter the principle, but merely the application of it?
– The two cases are entirely on all-fours. Senator Gould has said that the introduction of this question at this stage has prevented him from exercising a certain right at the second-reading stage. His right is safeguarded, because he will have an opportunity to vote against tha third reading of the Bill, if what he regards as an objectionable principle has been inserted. Is it correct to assume that the Bill deals with only machinery? Let us/ take Part III., which deals with the redistribution of seats. It brings in a principle which is novel and which is not contained in the Electoral Act.
– Clearly we can deal with that principle, because it is submitted in the Bill for our consideration.
– Some amendments to that part, notably the one brought forward by Senator Millen, introduced an entirely novel principle into our electoral law, and that is that each House of the Parliament shall give up its present power of determining when, a redistribution of seats shall take place.
– Surely parliamentary revision is not a principle?
– It is a principle connected with the redistribution of seats. Under the Electoral Act the power to appoint polling places is in the hands of the Governor-General, but in this Bill it is transferred to the Minister. That introduces an entirely new principle, and one which may be fraught with big consequences. It may enfranchise hundreds of persons who otherwise would not have been entitled to vote, as past experience has shown. Again,, the Bill wipes out at one stroke the Revision Courts, with their periodical sittings, and establishes the principle of continuous revision. It might very well be argued that the old principle, inasmuch as it only dealt at periodical intervals with the question, and with a secondary party who was not infinitely associated with our electoral law or machinery, cannot purify the rolls as effectively as the proposed continuous system which will be carried on by the officers who are responsible for the rolls. That is an entirely new principle, which is brought into our electoral law.
– But it is embodied in the Bill as submitted.
– I am now arguing that the Bill deals not merely with machinery, but with new principles. The honorable and learned senator shifts his ground so often that it is difficult to corner him. On one occasion, he says that we must not bring in new principles, because the Bill deals with machinery, and on another occasion he says that we can deal with new principles, because they are dealt with in the Bill. Then, in the case of postal voting papers, an entire alteration of the principle is proposed. Under the Electoral Act, persons who wish to vote under form Q, and have not previously voted, can vote at a polling place where the election has been adjourned ; but under this Bill only those who are registered for that particular polling place can vote.
– That is a matter of detail.
– That is a novel principle. It will prevent hundreds of electors from voting who otherwise could vote, and who in one case, I understand, did vote. Clause 5r also introduces a novel principle. In the case of a disputed election, under the Act, the Court of Disputed Returns might find that an elected candidate had been guilty of certain illegal acts, and yet could not declare the seat void ; he could hold the seat until the next election. But, under clause 51 of this Bill, not only could the Court find him guilty of the illegality, but it could declare his seat void. Is it a detail that a man who has been elected bv the people, and who, because of some illegal practice which before did not avoid his seat, is now to be declared not elected?
– That is merely curing an omission in the Act.
– It is not a detail, but a principle, when a new election is necessitated, except in the case of a seat in the Senate.’ It was argued that if a Bill were brought in to deal with the salary of the Auditor-General, it could not be amended to deal with audit generally.
That is quite correct. But if a Bill were brought in to deal with the question of audit, I contend that it could be amended to deal with every subject connected with audit.
– It all depends upon the scope of the Bill.
– This is a Bill to amend the law relating to parliamentary elections. I contend that, just as in the case of a Bill relating to audit we could deal with all subjects connected with audit, so in this Bill we can deal with all questions connected with parliamentary elections. Now, what is it proposed to do? I think it is open to question if Senator O’Keefe’s proposal does affect any principle of the Act. The principal Act says that if there are three seats to be filled, a voter shall vote for three candidates. Senator O’Keefe’s proposal is that he shall vote for not more than three, but may vote1 for less than three. Is there any alteration of principle there? It is merely a matter of whether He shall vote for the full number or a lesser number.
– Does not the honorable senator think that that is a matter of principle?
– I think that it is a matter of detail. If it is argued that we can only deal with matters of principle in this Bill, I contend that this can hardly be called a matter of principle ; and on the question of matters of principle I contend that this Bill, in the matters which I have indicated, does deal with great questions of principle; and, therefore, that we should be allowed to bring forward amendments in Committee dealing with the same questions. Furthermore, I put this position : This Senate has purposely decided not to adopt the practice of the House of Commons. It has decided to build up a practice of its own. We are by means of your decisions doing so.
– When did the Senate decide not to follow the practice of the House of Commons?
– When it adopted its own Standing Orders. Previously we worked) temporarily under the Standing Orders of the South Australian Parliament, which followed the practice of the House of Commons. But, so far as the practice of the House of Commons differs from our Standing Orders, or from the rulings of the President, we do not recognise them. It has been stated several times, and generally accepted, that we are building up a practice of our own. The point which I wish to make is this: If we are to have a practice of our own we should not slavishly follow the practice of the House of Commons. More than that, it is manifest that a practice which might be advisable and wise for a House containing over 600 members, may be the very worse practice to adopt for a House containing thirty-six members. Reasons which would make a certain practice very advisable in a House of the magnitude of the House of Commons would not have the same force here. And is it not far more important in this Senate to safeguard to ourselves the full rights and powers of the members of the Senate, than that we should slavishly follow a practice which has been adopted by a House of such gigantic proportions as the House of Commons? It is said that the rights of honorable senators are safeguarded because any one can bring in a private Bill to amend the sections with which we are concerned. But is that a practical remedy? Is it not a fact that a private senator has very few opportunities of bringing in a Bill to amend any Act?
– A senator can bring forward a motion directing the Government to bring in a Bill.
– And the Government may disregard the motion if passed. We should lay down a practice which will safeguard the rights of the members of the Senate to deal fully with the legislation that is proposed, and we should allow no standing orders to interfere with this right, except such as are necessary to preserve due decorum and something like decency in debate.
– Would the honorable senator advocate the abolition of the secondreading stage of Bills?
– No, I would not; but I say in this particular instance that if an honorable senator is debarred from doing what Senator O’Keefe desires to do by the previous ruling of the President, he would also be debarred from giving contingent notice of motion, and the only alternative . left to him would be to introduce a separate* Bill. That would mean that there would be no chance of passing into law what is desired this session, and possibly no chance next session. Certainly, such a Bill could only get through next session by the good will of the Government. That would place us- in this position : That in regard to every principle contained in the principal Act, we should require an amending Bill. Does any one say that that position is a wise one? I therefore trust that in order to safeguard the rights and privileges of honorable senators, and to lay down a practice which will be applicable to the requirements of the Senate, although it may not be in conformity with the practice of the House of Commons, you will rule that Senator O’Keefe’s proposal is in order.
– In this matter, on a former occasion, and in regard to a cognate question, I was careful to point out that we were making a practice of our own, and that we are not necessarily bound by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. I said -
I propose to enunciate the principle which I think should be laid down, and to give the reasons why we should adopt a certain practice.
I stated what the practice of the House of Commons was, and I argued that it was a fair and logical practice, that it works well, and that it is the outcome of centuries of experience. I therefore suggested to the Senate that it should adopt it, and the Senate did adopt it. The argument has been used that we ought not to cramp the rights and privileges of honorable senators. If that were so, we should not have any Standing Orders at all ; because every one of our Standing Orders cramps honorable senators in doing certain things which the Standing Orders themselves say shall not be done. What we ought to provide for in our practice is this : We ought not unduly to cramp the rights and privileges of honorable senators, but we ought to consider the best way of conducting the business of the Senate. The Senate has to be considered as well as its members. I quite agree with the remarks of the Chairman of Committees, and with the general principles he enunciated. But I do not agree with the application of those principles in this particular case. Our standing order is quite clear upon the point in dispute. There can be no doubt as to what the test is. Standing order 194 says : -
Any amendment may be made to any part of the Bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the Senate.
That is quite clear. We cannot get away from it. Therefore we must consider the subject-matter of the Bill, and whether
Senator O’Keefe’s amendment is relevant to that subject-matter. The subject-matter of the Act which it is proposed to amend really has nothing to do with the question. It is the subject-matter of the Bill which our standing order says shall be the test. As has been admitted in the course of the argument, if a Bill were introduced practically to make some trivial amendment in an Act of great length and importance, it would not be open, according to standing order 194, to the Committee to deal with all the subjects dealt with in the principal Act which it was proposed to amend. As to the question of relevancy, what is meant by “ relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill “ ? There is always room for difference of opinion as to what is relevant. It is all a question of degree. What might appear to one man to be relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill might appear to another man not to be so. For instance, on this particular question it might be argued that the subjectmatter of the Bill is the electoral law ; that it is an amendment of the law affecting electoral questions. Therefore, it might be argued, the proposed amendment is relevant to the subject-matter. It depends upon the way in which you put it. But it seems to me that there is a great principle involved. That is this : On the second reading of a Bill we enunciate the principles contained in the Bill as drawn. Then the Senate goes into Committee to consider the Bill in detail. I do not agree with the proposition that the Committee could not amend this Bill in any particular except the particulars mentioned in it. I never stated that, and I wish it to be clearly understood that I do not say so. But I do say this - that when this Bill was read a second time, it did not contain the important principle that is now sought to be enunciated in it. There was no discussion on that principle. Although Senator O’Keefe mentioned the matter, there was not, I say, any discussion on the principle of his proposed amendment at the second-reading stage.
– Senator Symon mentioned it also, and spoke at length regarding it.
– That may be so; but if we adopt the principle which is attempted to be. laid down, and allow an amendment like this to be inserted in the Bill in Committee, where are we going to land ourselves? We must not look at this particular Bill by itself. We must lay down a practice which is convenient to the Senate, and which will tend to the greatest convenience of the Senate and its members We must adopt a practice which will enable expression to be given to the views of the Committee, and will permit the introduction of amendments, which, however, must not be foreign to the purpose of the Bill when it was read a second time.Otherwise we shall get into confusion. What is the test by which the happy mean can be arrived at? It is - what was contained in the Bill when the Bill was read a second time.The Bill having been read a second time, can it then be radically altered in Committee by putting in some great principle of farreaching importance not contained in the original Act itselfIt appears to me that we ought not to adopt any such practice. If we did no one would know what was going to happen. No one would know, after a Bill had been read a second time, what novel principle might be introduced into it in Committee. There would also be this great disadvantage - that if it were necessary to amend an Act of great importance, on which there was great difference of opinion, the Government would shrink from bringing down an amending measure to amend some details. They would say : “ If we bring down a Bill to amend the existing Act, the whole subjectmatter of the Act will be open to discussion. It will all be raked in ; and, instead of having a short Bill which can be dealt with in a short time, we shall have a long general discussion, and, possibly, a radical alteration of the principal Act.” I am very anxious that we should adopt a practice which shall be as convenient as possible to honorable senators, and which will restrict them as little as possible in the discussion of Bills. But at the same time, we should adopt a practice which will serve to carry on the business ofthe Senate and the business of the country - which is tantamount to the same thing - with as little friction and inconvenience as possible ; which will enable honorable senators, when they have passed the second-reading of a Bill, to know practically what thatBill is going to be, and which will prevent honorable senators in Committee from radically altering a Bill by introducing provisions novel to the Bill itself.I have the greatest respect for the opinion of the Chairman of Committees. I agree with what he has said as to general principles. But I consider that it is my duty to dissent from his ruling in this particular case.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania).- I beg to intimate that I dissent from your ruling, sir, and I move -
That the ruling of the President be dissented from, on the ground that such a practice as is therein laid down would unduly restrict the powers of the Senate in Committee.
– Will the discussion on Senator O’Keefe’s motion be taken subsequently ?
– Yes ; the debate on the motion stands adjourned until tomorrow.
In Committee :
Debate resumed from 4th October (vide page 3135), on motion by Senator Keat ing -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I regret that it is necessary for me to address myself at this hour of the night to a Bill of admitted importance, which involves principles of considerable magnitude. It is particularly fortunate, in one way, that the Representation Bill should be with us at the same time as the Bill to amend the Electoral Act. Although the two Bills appear to, and actually do, deal with two different matters, still there is an overlapping in one very important connexion. The reason why I say it is fortunate that the two Bills are before us at the same time is that when the principle of the Representation Bill was taken exception to in another place, the Ministerial answer was that the matter referred to was provided for in the Electoral Act then before the Senate. I refer to the machinery for determining the quota, and I wish to point out, before I deal with this Bill in detail, that there is absolutely no provision in the Electoral Bill which in any way affects or covers the principle in the Representation Bill, the statement of Ministers elsewhere to the contrary notwithstanding. Section 24 of the Constitution provides -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators. lt is the following portion of the section to which I particularly desire to draw attention : -
The number of members so chosen in the several Stales shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner : -
There are two points to which I invite attention. It is first laid down as a fixed permanent principle that the representation is to be based 011 numerical quality ; it is not within the power, function, or scope of Parliament to disturb that principle in any way. But then there follows the second portion of the section, which contains the words “until the Parliament otherwise provides.1’ I wish honorable senators to not:ic& that the portion which Parliament cannot alter is that which provides for equal political representation, and that the portion which Parliament may alter is concerned with the machinery for determining the quota; and if is the latter with which the Bill deals. It is quite true that the section of the Constitution to which I have referred does itself prescribe a method for ascertaining the quota. But it is clear that it is optional with us whether or not we adopt that method - it is available for our acceptance, but it is quite open to us to reject it and submit another in its place. I think it may safely be affirmed that the machinery for ascertaining the quota set out in the. Constitution was to cover trie interregnum - the period between the adoption of, the Constitution and the election of the first Parliament. It must have been obvious to the framers of the Constitution that machinery must be provided for the election of the first Parliament - for the launching of Federation on its voyage. The words “ until the Parliament otherwise provides “ clearly show that this portion of the section was intended to apply until a Parliament was called into existence, and it was framed in anticipation that Parliament would sooner or later choose to determine some other method, possibly approaching the one suggested in general outline, but varying somewhat in detail. I lay stress on the words of this section1, because of the discussion which has ranged round two phrases therein used, namely, “whenever necessary,” and, further on, “the latest statistics of the Commonwealth.” As to the first phrase, Senator Keating admitted that the words are vague, and he quoted from Quick and Garran’s
Annotated Constitution, to show the varying interpretations to which they lend themselves. The words “ whenever necessary “ naturally open up the question as to who is to determine the necessity, and the factors which are to be held to determine it. I lean to the view that, having regard to the earlier portion of the section, the words “ whenever necessary “ were intended to apply whenever an alteration in the numbers of the people of the several States rendered a re-adjustment and re-apportionment of representation necessary - that the method was to be automatic, the representation varying with the ebb and flow of population. That, to my mind, is clearly the intent of the first portion of the section, which states, without any reference to parliamentary action, that the representation shall be in proportion to the number of people in the several States. In the portion of Quick and Garran’s Annotated Constitution, which was quoted, it is pointed out that it would be extremely undesirable in practice for those re-adjustments to take place at irregular intervals, and take place, probably, as the outcome of individual or Ministerial caprice, or even parliamentary necessities, and I think we shall agree with the proposal to have fixed periods. Tt is quite true that even within the short space of five years provided in the Bill, there might be numerical necessity, if we were to follow the Constitution too literally, to provide for re-adjustment at short intervals. I submit, however, that even in interpreting the Constitution, some regard must be paid to the practical working of the document and the system under which we live. Therefore, I think it may be held to be a reasonable interpretation of the words “ whenever necessary “ if we make provision for re-adjustment every five years. I now come to the words “ the latest statistics of the Commonwealth.” It is true that these words operate only until we legislate, and that the moment we choose to do so they remain operative, or otherwise, as we decide. But I direct attention to the remarkable difference between the words “ the latest statistics of the Commonwealth,” and the corresponding word “census,” which is employed in the American and Canadian Constitutions, and which was in the original draft of the- Commonwealth Constitution. A great deal has been said, much, I regret, partaking largely of the language of party warfare, regarding the term “ latest statistics.” I think, however, that we’ get a clear insight into what was intended by the framers of the Constitution, when we contrast the words with the word “census,” employed in the instances to which I have referred. It is clear that some difference was intended, because “ census “ was adopted, and abandoned in favour of “ latest statistics.” Why was there a substitution unless some alteration of meaning and intent was also contemplated ? I cannot help thinking that in this, as in many other instances, the framers of the Constitution exhibited remarkable foresight. Seeing that in the circumstances of Australia we are liable to changes, which elsewhere would be regarded as rapid, in the movements of population, it was evidently thought desirable to leave Parliament as much latitude as it could possibly be left within the four corners of a written Constitution. Instead, therefore, of binding Parliament to a census to be taken as it was then taken, and as it is generally taken throughout the civilized world, every ten years, the Constitution leaves Parliament with a measure of freedom which has been denied to the Parliaments of America and Canada. That they meant something different from a census is indisputable. It is open to those who object to our taking what we have, as the latest statistics, to show what was intended by the term “ latest statistics,” if it does not mean something other than the census figures. The alternatives before us are to rely upon the Constitution as it stands, and I admit that an Executive act would enable us to
Carry out its provisions, or to legislate. The objection to the first alternative would be that the Constitution is somewhat vague in the use of the term “ whenever necessary “ ; and it would be open to the further objection that it would depend entirely on Ministerial action. What I am about to say will have no special reference to the .Ministry in power at the present time, but to all Ministries. There 0 is, and always must be, a strong general objection to leaving to Ministries any particular matter on which the fate, either of individual members of a party, or the party itself may depend.
– The honorable senator does not say that that is an objection on the part of Ministers?
– I thank the Minister for his interjection. I aim not aware that Ministers object to being clothed with power, but there is a genera] objection on the part -of Parliaments particularly, and of the people generally, to trust to the
Executive more power than is absolutely necessary for the ordinary administrative purposes of government. There is certainly a well-founded objection to trusting a Government to deal more than is necessary with the electoral machinery of the country. In this particular case, Australia is faced for the first time with something more than an ordinary Electoral Bill, inasmuch as here we have to consider, not merely the machinery by which members are elected, but the number of members to which each State is entitled. Although the Constitution lays down the principle which shall determine that apportionment, it may be left absolutely to the Executive to say whether or not the machinery provided shall be put in operation, unless, of course, we legislate. I cannot think for a moment that this Parliament, the country, or even Ministers themselves, beyond the pressing exigencies of the hour, would approve of a position which left the whole working of section 24 of the Constitution to Ministerial initiative. The alternative is to legislate, and this brings me to the provisions of the Bill itself. Having to legislate, there seems to me to he two principles which we have to determine. First, the period of determining the apportionment, and then the method by which it shall be determined. I think the Bill should determine four main things which I lay down in this way : First, the period at which the enumeration shall take place; secondly, the method of enumeration; thirdly, the apportionment of representation among the States according to that enumeration ; and, fourthly - and I lay particular stress upon this, because it is the weak point in the present Bill - that the apportionment of representation consequent on any enumeration ought to follow automatically, and not be left to the caprice of the Executive, to the interests of a party, or the intrigues of individuals. I ask whether this Bill meets those conditions. It certainly does as to the first two. It provides the period at which the enumeration shall take place, and the method’ of enumeration. But with regard to the last two - and these I regard as vital - it certainly does not. It does nothing more than the Constitution does. It indicates how certain figures shall be worked, but it does not say who shall ascertain what the result of the arithmetical calculation shall be, and it does not throw’ on any one the responsibility of determining the representation which the figures would show ‘ each State to be entitled to. As to the period of five years, I think that possibly the happy medium is struck in the Bill considering the peculiar circumstances of this country. It may seem to some honorable senators that, ‘as compared with the systems in force in the United States and Canada it is a somewhat short period, but when one looks at the varying rates of increase of population in the several States, and remembers that in Western Australia the percentage of increase is vastly in excess of that in the older and more settled States, he must recognise that the period proposed by the Bill is a fair recognition of the peculiar circumstances in which Australia is placed to-day. It may be that, as times moves on, and conditions become more uniform, that period will be found to be too short. In that case it will be quite competent for a later Parliament to provide by an amending Bill for a longer period. At present I cannot help thinking that each five years is a reasonable and equitable period for the apportionment to take place.
– The proportion will only be altered if the enumeration shows that to be .necessary.
– Exactly. It cannot he held to be unduly stretching the provisions of the Constitution which, literally interpreted, might mean a re-apportionment every election, when we come to consider the use of the phrase “ whenever necessary.” A State might plead after an election that it had been shown that its population had increased to such an extent as to entitle it to another member, that it was therefore necessary that a re-apportionment should be made, and under the Constitution it might be claimed that there should be a reapportionment after every election. This Bill does not go so far as that, but it provides that if there is such an alteration in the population of different States as to render an alteration of representation necessary it can take place practically at every second general election. I come now to deal with a point which Senator Styles will regard as perhaps a little more debatable - that is, as to the figures which we are to take as the basis on which the representation is to be calculated. I have already pointed out the difference between the phrase “statistics of the Commonwealth “ and the word “census,” as used in the older Constitutions in force on the American con tinent. It is a little curious that the figures which have been taken - and I need not remind honorable senators what those figures are - are practically the figures of the last census. When an enumeration provided in the Bill falls on a census day the figures of the census are used, and at the intermediate periods the figures used are the figures of that census, with certain additions to and subtractions from the figures then ascertained. With regard to the additions and subtractions, it is necessary to note that whatever irregularity or want of uniformity there may have been in the past, the Statisticians of Australia are in agreement upon these several matters. We may therefore assume, as they have arrived at ari agreement, that any addition or deductions made will be fair to all the States concerned.
– Will the honorable senator say when the agreement to which he refers was made?
– Speaking without the advantage of the full, notes I should have had before me had the second reading of the Bill not been brought on at this late hour, I am under the impression that it was within the last two years. Senator Styles will not dispute that an agreement was arrived at.
– A conference was held; I will not dispute that.
– A conference at which an understanding, - if Senator Styles does, not like the word agreement - was arrived at as to the basis upon which additions and deductions should be made. There was an understanding arrived at as to the percentages to be allowed in respect of unrecorded arrivals and departures for the various States, experience having shown that for reasons readily understood the capacity for observation was more in some States and less in others. It is easy to understand, for instance, that in a State like Queensland there may be more departures and arrivals over the border unobserved and unrecorded than in the case of a State like Tasmania. The Statisticians arrived at an agreement bv which they set out what might be regarded as allowances fair to all the States, those allowances being based on the experience of several years’ observation. It is a little curious, whether these figures are good, bad, or indifferent, that we should be asked to accept them now by a Government, many of the members of which not long since denounced them as mere guesses. I do not recollect just now the language absolutely applied to these figures, but it will be within the knowledge of honorable senators, including the two members of the Ministry in this Chamber, that the Attorney-General was particularly - I was about to say vicious - but I will say vigorous in his denunciation of these figures as the basis on which to determine the representation of the several States.
– Circumstances alter cases.
– Office seems to alter views ; but whether that is the circumstance to which the honorable senator refers, I do not know. Following the attacks by the Attorney-General we have this extraordinary action that, although these figures were previously denounced by him as mere guesses, he now comes forward, and by an Act of Parliament evidently seeks to make them definite statistics. I am drawing attention to that, not with a view to quarrel with the decision of the Government, because I do not see that there is any other course which they could have followed. The only difference between the action they propose to take and that proposed to be taken by the previous Government is that the previous Government, taking these figures, proposed by Executive act and proclamation to make them the statistics of the Commonwealth. The present Government take what I think is the better course, and propose, while accepting exactly the same figures, not to make them statistics of the Commonwealth by proclamation, but that Parliament rather than the Executive shall place its seal of approval upon them, and make them the figures on which the re-apportionment of representation shall be calculated. I say at once that I prefer the action of the present Government in this respect. The only thing at which I marvel is the courage with which Ministers, after having previously denounced these figures, venture before Parliament with a Bill in which they frankly accept them. ‘ I think that it is probable that these statistics will be challenged, not because they can be successfully challenged, in my opinion, but because from conversation with certain honorable senators, from certain press criticisms, and interjections I have heard in this Chamber,
I assume they will be challenged. I therefore point out that they have hitherto been regarded as good enough for determining the per capita charges to be borne by the several States in connexion with what is termed the “ new expenditure ‘ ‘ of the Commonwealth. T think I have never heard even the most vigorous opponent of these statistics, even Senator Styles, raise his voice in protest against adopting them for determining the amount of expenditure which shall be charged to each State. Not only have they never hesitated to do that, but these statistics, calculated in exactly the same way, formed the basis of the representation in the first Parliament. Not only were they the figures on which that representation was determined, but they were the only possible figures ; there “were none others available, unless a special census had been ordered immediately prior to the elections. If these statistics, adopted before the Statisticians had arrived at an agreement as to the allowance to which I have referred, were good enough to determine the apportionment of the members for the first Parliament, if they have sines been held to be good enough for apportioning the per capita charges amongst the States, I cannot see that there is anything fundamentally wrong with them for the purpose of determining the future apportionment of the members which each State is entitled to return. I admit that, other things being equal, a census would be an advantage, but I ask honorable senators to consider what that would involve. It would mean one of two things. It would mean .either having a redistribution only once in ten years - and that period, I submit, is far too long for the circumstances of a country like Australia - or having a more frequent census at a cost of nearly ^120,000. Either of these alternatives, to my mind, puts that proposal out of court. I hardly think that Australia is prepared to spend ^120,000 every five years on a census, nor do I think that the States, with the rapidly growing population, would be content to wait ten years for the additional representation to which their numbers would entitle them. The Bill, in that particular, seems to me to provide the only workable via media which I can conceive. Further, I would point out that, whilst the figures which we are asked to accept cannot necessarily be absolutely perfect, experience has shown that they have been to all intents and purposes practically so. I believe I am correct . in saying that the last census proved that, on the total population of Australia, the Statisticians were in error to the extent of 12,000, although their previous estimates had been framed before the uniform methods of calculation had been determined upon. Up to this point I absolutely support the Bill. As far as clause 8, it is clear and definite.. It leaves nothing to caprice or chance. It gives absolutely definite instructions to the Chief Electoral Officer to do certain things. He has to obtain from the Statisticians on census day the actual returns of the census, and on enumeration days returns, based on the original census, with the additions to and deductions from, and to send to the Minister a certificate showing the population in the Commonwealth and the population in each State. Whilst it may be necessary for him to do that, all he really does is what any newspaper in the country will do, and that is, obtain the figures from the Statisticians, and send on to the Minister a certificate to that effect. Up to that point the Bill leaves no loophole, no possibility of the Chief Electoral Officer, except by wilful neglect, avoiding the duty that is placed upon him. It merely places us in a position to commence action, but from that point everything is absolutely left - just as it is to-day - at the mercy of the Ministry. I submit that it is useless to get the numbers to determine how many representatives a State is entitled to unless you insure that it shall automatically get that representation. Clause 9 says -
For the purpose of determining the number of Members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States, the following procedure shall be followed : -
That is all right ; but, I ask, when and by whom is the quota to be ascertained? When the Minister moved the second read ing of the Bill, he used these rather remarkable words-
So soon, then, as these figures are ascertained, the effect of this Bill will be to adopt them as the latest statistics of the Commonwealth for the purposes of section 24 of the Constitution. Proceedings can thereupon be taken in accordance with that section and clause 9 of this Bill for the re-apportionment of representation.
The whole of my charge against the Bill is that it ought to provide the means by which the proceedings shall be taken, and ought not to leave it to the Minister to say that they need not or shall not be taken. At that point I interjected that the Minister had said that steps “ can ‘ ‘ be taken, and he replied -
Steps will be taken. I think there need be no doubt whatever about that.
Clearly, the quota ought to be determined in the certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer ; but there is no provision made for that. It merely says that it shall be ascertained by dividing “ the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer, by twice the number of senators,” while the words in the Constitution are “ as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth.” Both the Constitution and the Bill say how the quota shallbe determined, But neither one nor the other says whether it shall be determined by the “man in the street” or by a newspaper editor, or by a Minister, or by the Chief Electoral Officer, or by the Senate. If there is one thing which ought to follow automatically beyond any party intrigue, beyond any Ministerial manipulations, it is that, when a State is entitled to representation as shown by the figures of the Statisticians, it shall be given without the slightest interference from any quarter. But the Bill does not insure that. What is to be done with the Chief Electoral Officer’s certificate showing that a State is entitled to an additional member? Every one can work out the calculation for himself, but what does it say ? It is a serious defect that it does not make it part and parcel of the Chief Electoral Officer’s duty to determine the quota, and incorporate the result in his certificate. At present clause 6 is limited to giving the information which the Statisticians will have collected, and which will have been published in every newspaper in the Commonwealth, merely setting out the number of persons in the whole Commonwealth and in each State. I intend to move an amendment which will make it part of the Chief
Electoral Officer’s duty to work out the quota, and to include in his certificate a statement of the number of members to which each State is entitled, based upon the figures to which he certifies. That would place the matter entirely beyond Ministerial control. I invite the Minister to say whether it is intended to retain in the hands of the Ministry the power of determining the quota, and saying whether or not the representation to which a State is entitled shall be given. If it is not their intention to retain that power - if they do not wish at any time to leave ah opening for a State to be deprived of its proper representation - then I think they will welcome the amendment I have indicated. If, on the other hand, they do wish to retain this power, I shall ask the Senate to consider an alternative proposal, namely, to place the .determination of the quota be-, yond Ministerial and Executive control. I feel justified in referring to our past experience in this matter. Certainly it was not a matter of determining the representation of one State as compared with the other, but the same principle was involved when a redistribution scheme was before the Parliament. It was then, as it will always be, difficult to get any proposal which disturbs the existing state of affairs indorsed by the Parliament, and Ministers are always more or less subject to its influence. Under the Bill as it stands, it would Le possible for a Ministry, with an election looming in the near future, to delay action until such election was over. Is that a proper state of affairs? Ought any Ministry to have that temptation’ presented to it? Yet, according to the admission of *he Minister, in reply to my interjection, it would be possible for a Government to so delay the taking of the quota, and subsequent action, that a State might for the time being be robbed of its proper representation in this Parliament. I cannot think that that is the desire of honorable senators, and I hesitate to believe that it is the desire of Ministers. It is better for Ministers and members, and the country generally, that the whole of the machinery dealing with representation’ should work automatically, quite free from outside influences, good, bad, or indifferent. I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051025_senate_2_28/>.