3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
Senator MILLEN laid upon the table the following papers : -
Patents Acts 1903-1906 -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 96. Papua - Ordinance of 1909. - To repeal the Removal of Natives Ordinance, 1907.
-Assistant laid upon the table the following returns : -
Return to Order of the Senate of 21st July, 1909-
Hansard and Government Gazette: Cost of printing and advertising.
Return to Order of the Senate of 30th July, 1909-
State Rifle Associations - Grants to, &c.
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : - 1, 2, and 3. This matter will receive full consideration when a favorable opportunity for amending the Bounties Act presents itself.
– Arising out of the reply, I desire to ask whether the Minister has borne in mind that during the current year there will be unexpended on bounties about £30,000 or £40,000. Surely there must be a. favorable opportunity afforded for amending the Bounties Act as suggested, when out of the total appropriation there will be that amount unexpended this year ?
– I can add nothing to the answer which I have already given to my honorable friend.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– This information is being prepared, and I ask my honorable friend to repeat the question, say this day week.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Referring to the question asked by Senator Pulsford on the 26th August relating to State guarantees, such as those by the three Eastern States in connexion with the Pacific Cable, and to the reply to such question, has the Government now examined the whole subject, and are they prepared to make a definite statement in relation thereto?
– I am still unable to give a definite reply. I can only repeat that thewhole matter is under consideration. I shall inform my honorable friend if he will allow me to do so, when the information is available, and then he can repeat the question.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
In the event of the amount of£250 in item 11, subdivision 4, division 51, page 76 of Estimates being found insufficient to provide for all expenses in connexion with the work of the Military Inventions Investigations Committees in the various States, will the Government make further provision to cover any further expenses; and, if so, in what form? Is it the intention of the Minister to assist inventors whose inventions have been favorably reported on by such committees to perfect their machines, models, or processes, and, if so, what vote of money is proposed for the purpose, and in what part of the Estimates?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
It is the intention of the Government to give every assistance to inventors, and, if it is found necessary, funds will be made available from Treasurer’s Advance Account. No specific sum can be named, but each case favorably reported upon will be dealt with on its merits.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow :–
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
In connexion with the notice in Commonwealth Government Gasette, page 1474, appointing the Right Honorable Sir John Forrest as Honorary Colonel of the nth A.I.R., and seeing that Regulation lor of Commonwealth Military Regulations provides that “ the above honorary positions are reserved for officers and others who have rendered valuable, distinguished, or gallant service to Australia in a military or other public capacity,” will the Minister say -
For what valuable, distinguished, or gallant service to Australia in a military capacity the right honorable gentleman has been made an Honorary Colonel ?
– The answers to .the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– May I ask the Minister if there was any difficulty in inducing the right honorable gentleman to accept the position?
– I have not had an opportunity of conferring with my honorable colleague about, the matter.
asked the VicePredent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will the Government lay upon the table of the Senate copies of all corespondence with the Admiralty (since the last printed papers on the subject) on the question of Local Naval Defence and the control thereof ?
– I am not in a position now to state definitely ; but I anticipate that there will be no objection to the course indicated by the honorable senator being followed.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill. Coinage Bill.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales-
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [2.38]. - I beg to move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I anticipate that at this stage it will not be necessary for me to detain honorable senators very long, because the Bill merely deals with the machinery provisions of the Electoral Act. Many of the alterations embodied in the Bill are of a somewhat minute, though still necessary, character. To enable honorable senators to understand the amendments more clearly I have caused to be printed the Electoral Act, together with the proposed amendments, so that it may be seen at a glance where words are to be struck out or inserted. I notice that copies of the paper are now being circulated. I think that honorable senators will agree with me that it will enable the purpose of an amending Bill to be followed more clearly than does the Bill alone. The amendments, as I said, deal exclusively with the machinery of the present law. They have been found necessary, largely as the result of administrative experience during the past few years. In some cases it has been shown by the working of the Act that defects do exist; that there is reasonable room for doubt as to the exact interpretation of certain provisions. In this measure it is sought to set those doubts at rest, and to make abundantly clear the intention of the provisions themselves and of the Parliament. 1 might summarize the various amendments proposed in this Bill under a very few headings. A certain class of them is designed to prevent an election being upset upon purely technical grounds when there is no doubt as to the expressed will of the electors. As an instance of this class of amendments, I would remind honorable senators of what occurred in connexion with a Senate election in South Australia. There, amongst other complications, certain postal votes were discarded, because the initials of the returning officer did not appear on the ballot-papers, although they had been placed upon the counterfoils. The Court held that as the counterfoils had been detached from the ballot-papers - although the officer who detached them testified to having done so - it was not competent for it to take such votes into account, although the will of the electors was clearly manifested. Some of the amendments embodied in this Bill seek to avoid a technicality of thatkind. Under them it is intended that ballot-papers shall be printed upon a special kind of paper. That paper will bear a secret water mark, will be manufactured under the supervision and control of Government officials, and ballot-papers bearing that secret mark - even though the initials of the returning officer may be absent from them - will still be held to be valid, provided that the desire of the electors has been made sufficiently clear. At the same time it is not intended to dispense with the initialling of ballot-papers by returning officers. But should it be found that inadvertently a properly authenticated ballot-paper, clearly evidencing the wish of the elector, does not bear the initials of the returning officer the election cannot be invalidated on that account. Another amendment which we seek to make is embodied in clause 20 of the Bill. At present the law requires that an elector who desires to vote must not merely have his name upon the electoral roll for the division in which he seeks to vote., but must also reside in that division. Under the proposed amendment the very appearance of his name upon the roll at the time he wishes to vote will be absolute proof of his title to do so, subject to his ability to answer the necessary statutory questions. Hitherto it has been possible to upset an. election if it could be shown that an elector, at the time he voted, did not reside in the electorate for which he voted. But in order to determine whether or not an elector, at the time he voted, was residing in the electorate for which he voted, it was necessary to be able to identify each ballot-paper. That has been found an impossibility, and, as a matter of fact, this provision has been largely a dead let- ‘ ter. It has, therefore, been thought desirable to remove it and to declare that if a man’s name appears upon the electoral roll on polling day, he shall be entitled to vote by virtue of that fact, subject to his ability to answer the requisite statutory questions. Another class of amendment is designed to strengthen and simplify the procedure adopted under the principal Act, and to reduce the number of forms at present in use. I would remind honorable senators that, in regard to applications for enrolment, for transfer from one division to another, and from one subdivision of an electorate to another subdivision of the same electorate, three forms are at present in use. This circumstance has resulted in great confusion. The electors, either from want of knowledge or want of care, have frequently used the form necessary to effect one change for the purpose of attempting to secure another change. It is, therefore, intended to introduce one form which can be used for all purposes of change. With this end in view the officers of the Department have designed a system which, I think, will commend itself to the approval of honorable senators. Under that system, instead of having three separate forms, it is proposed that a card shall be utilized. I hope shortly to have a few of these cards distributed amongst honorable senators. The card is so drawn that it will enable an applicant who wishes to secure enrolment to use it for that purpose. If, subsequently, he desires to get his name transferred from one electoral division to another the card will enable him to accomplish his object. In that case he will merely be required to fill in a form stating whether he is seeking an original enrolment or merely a transfer of his name from one electoral district to another. Should he inadvertently seek an original enrolment when he is entitled only to a transfer, the card will enable the error to be at once detected by the officials who will speedily put it right. The card is equally suitable for the purpose of enabling an elector to transfer his name from one subdivison of an electorate to another subdivision of the same electorate.
– A similar system obtains in Western Australia, but there the elector has to fill in two cards.
– At present an elector merely desiring to transfer his name from one electoral roll to another, may inadvertently use the form provided for enrolment purposes and vice versa, and his application will then become invalid. But under this system he cannot possibly use a wrong card. By using it as part of a card index system, the Department will be able to keep track of an elector very much better than it can do so at the present time. The cards will be placed in their cabinets in alphabetical order. Then, when the Department receives a card from an elector applying for enrolment or for a transfer from one electoral division to another, or for a transfer from one subdivision of an electorate to another subdivision of the same electorate, it will at once turn to its card system to ascertain whether an elector of that name is already included in its index. Should it be found that it. possesses a card for the original enrolment of the elector, it will at once say, “ What this applicant really seeks is not an enrolment but a transfer.” Therefore, without any inconvenience, the Department will be abie to keep a check upon the actions of the elector and to rectify any error that he may make. The adoption of the proposed system will also prevent the inflation of our electoral rolls. At the present moment quite a number of electors whose names are already upon the roll, upon removing from one district to another, instead of applying merely for a transfer of their names, apply for a new enrolment. In such an event the Department will easily discover that the elector seeking enrolment is already enrolled. Having done that, it will remove his name from one roll and place it upon another. There is another way in which it is sought to avoid a multiplicity of forms and to simplify procedure with regard to postal voting. At present, under our postal voting system, an elector has to obtain, and does obtain, from the returning officer a ballotrpaper for the House’ of Representatives, also a ballot-paper tor the Senate; and, in the event of there being a referendum, a paper on which to express his wishes thereon. With each of these he has also a certificate from the returning officer, and he has in respect of each of them to sign his name on a counterfoil. Thus, in a case where a referendum is being taken, there have to be three certificates and three signatures of the elector. Forms have now been designed by means of which it is desired to enable an elector merely to make one declaration, and thereturning officer to give one certificate, this being sufficient for the one elector for the three purposes for which he is required to vote. In this case, also, I am having printed copies of the forms so as to enable honorable senators to see both the existing system and- that which it is proposed to introduce in substitution.
– In what clausesare the forms referred to?
– In various clauses ; but, with regard to the postal votes, clause- 18 repeals the whole of that part of the existing Act, which deals with postal votes, and substitutes a new part in its place. Many of the alterations made by clause 18 are of a minor character, some of them merely drafting amendments setting out in clearer language what is designed. But the principal alteration, beyond the alteration of the forms, will be found in the provisions dealing with witnesses. The alteration there made is entirely in the interest of the elector himself. The number of competent witnesses has been enlarged. This proposed new section will become section 109 (a) of the law when amended. The enlargement of the number of competent witnesses has been suggested by experience. It has been found that there are such people as lighthousekeepers whom it is very necessary io use for this purpose in certain limited
Areas as witnesses, and whose competency and desirability was overlooked when the original Act was being drafted. Proposed new section 109 (b) sets out the duty of authorized witnesses, and tells them exactly what they have to do. Step by step the course which the law prescribes is set out in such a way that any man who runs may read. Indeed, it will be almost impossible for a man of ordinary intelligence to make an error in the course which he has to follow. Other proposed new sections in this part of the Bill set out in the same categorical order the procedure to be followed both by officers in dealing with the votes, and by the elector himself when he proceeds to indicate his vote on the paper supplied him. I am merely indicating these alterations, which are of a .machinery character, in order to show the scope of the Bill, rather than attempting to debate them at the present time. One of the other alterations made is in clause 27, which relates to elections for the Senate, and has its counterpart in clause 28 dealing with the House of Representatives. These clauses permit of an effective re-count of votes under certain circumstances, without resort being necessarily had to the Court of Disputed Returns. Clause 27 states that -
The officer conducting the re-count shall have the same powers as if the re-count were the scrutiny, and may reverse any decision in relation to the scrutiny as to the allowance or admission or disallowance or rejection of any ballot-paper.
The purpose of that provision is to enable the Returning Officer for the Commonwealth where he is called upon to make a re-count, to exercise an independent judgment in regard to ballot-papers which have been challenged as being informal. At present, the officer who counts the papers in the first instance does that, and there is no provision in the law by which the superior officer making the re-count can exercise any judgment whatever. He has to follow the decision of his subordinate officer. It is thought that if there is to be a re-count, the superior officer should have an opportunity of determining whether or not a ballot-paper should be regarded as formal or informal.
– Will his decision be fina,l?
– No, because there is recourse to the Court of. Disputed Returns. At the present moment, the electoral officer gives a decision. If a re-count is taken later by the Commonwealth Electoral Office, he has ho voice whatever in determining whether his subordinate officer was right in accepting or rejecting a challenged ballot-paper. It is thought desirable that if the Commonwealth Electoral Officer is to be intrusted with the duty of the re-count at all, he should have the same right of independent judgment as was exercised in the first instance by his subordinate officer.
– Is an “ informal vote” clearly defined?
– This Bill does not affect that purpose. The existing law stands in that respect, and I cannot say at the present moment whether it contains a definition of “ informal vote.” .
– A vote which does not comply with the conditions of the law is informal.
– Exactly. We, by this Bill, simply declare what the electoral officer shall do in certain circumstances.
– The Judge presiding over the Court of Disputed Returns has to read into the mind of the elector what he intended. Is that power still retained ?
– The Bill does not touch that point. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to lay down absolutely at what point a certain ballotpaper ceased to be formal and became informal. For instance, the placing of a cross within its proper place is provided for by the Act. If that cross was placed half in and half out of the proper position, or fifty-one hundredths in and forty-nine hundredths out, the determination of the question must be within the discretion of the officer called upon to adjudicate. Another class of amendments has been designed with the very desirable object of making the law clearer than it is now, both to the officer and to the elector. Such an amendment will be found on reference to clause 22, which relates to the right of an elector to receive a ballot-paper. There is no alteration in the method there prescribed, but merely in the directions given. It is thought that by redrafting the section of the Act in this way it will be easier for the ordinary elector to understand what his duty is, and for the presiding officer to understand what he lias to do. The clause to which I have referred amends section 145 of the principal Act. Another direction to the officers is referred to in clause 14 of the Bill, which proposes an innovation which, I think, is also an improvement. It deals with objections to names already on the roll. It proposes that -
Where the Returning Officer is satisfied that the ground of objection stated in any objection lodged by an officer is not a good ground of objection, he may dismiss the objection, in which case no notice of the objection need be given to the person objected to.
In all good faith, a registrar may lodge an objection with the returning officer. This officer having better sources of information, or having, as he should have, a better knowledge of the Act, may see that the objection is not a sound one, and it has been thought desirable in such a case to intrust him with the power of saying, “ I will discard this objection ; it is too trivial; it is not worth while bothering the elector about.” If he so decides, he oan, under this provision, dismiss the objection, and the matter will end there.
– What about objections raised by private individuals?
– A private individual, lodges an objection at the risk of losing the deposit which he must make. Where an elector enters an objection, I think it would not be quite safe to give any one the power to dismiss it without also giving the. person making the objection a right to be heard.
– Suppose notice of the objection never reaches the elector objected to?
– The existing Act’ provides that notice of an objection to an elector must be handed to him, or served upon him, at his last address. It is not intended to disturb that provision of the existing law. There is a multiplicity of amendments of the character of that which I now propose to indicate in connexion with clause 15. Under section 99 of the Act, it is provided that nominations shall be signed by not fewer than six persons en titled to vote at the election. It has been found necessary to add the words “ for which the candidate is nominated.” A resident of Melbourne may know that he will be entitled to vote at the next general election., and may nominate a candidate for an electorate far removed from Melbourne. It has been thought desirable to add the words to which I have referred, in order to make it quite clear as to who a candidate’s nominators must be.
– A candidate is not going to risk ^50 unless he can get six residents of an electorate to nominate him for it. /
– This alteration will not prevent persons in any part of a State nominating a candidate for the Senate. Every elector in a State is, of course, entitled to vote for a candidate for the Senate, irrespective of the portion of the State in which he happens to reside. Senator Pearce has directed my attention to clause 10 of the Bill, which proposes the omission from sub-section 3, of section 61 of the Act, the words “ an elector,” with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ a prescribed person.” I propose, in Committee, to make the provision read “ elector or other prescribed person.” The object of the proposed amendment is not to limit, but to widen, the choice of witnesses. It was pointed out that there might be desirable witnesses who would not be electors. This is one of the minor matters which escaped my attention in first reading the Bill. When I ascertained from the officers that the desire was to widen the choice of witnesses, I decided that it would be well to use the words, “elector or other prescribed person.” I need hardly refer to the amendments in clauses 16 and 17. It will be seen that the first merely sets out the method of dealing with the deposit. There was some little doubt as to the person to whom the deposit should be refunded. That doubt will be set at rest by the proposed amendment. The second amendment deals with the time at which nominations shall be lodged and the method of declaring nominations. There are two important provisions in the Bill designed to further the movement for cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States in the preparation, printing, and maintenance of electoral rolls. These provisions will be found in clause 5 subclause 5 of proposed new section 56, and clause 11, sub-clause 3, of proposed new section 6ib. In order to brins; about this uniformity of legislation it is necessary that there should be some elasticity provided for it first. It is obvious that the States and the Commonwealth cannot be expected to legislate simultaneously. Some little difference exists between the legislation of the various States and of the Commonwealth ; for instance, as to the period during which a person must be resident in an electorate before he can become enrolled. In order to give the necessary time for the passing of similar legislation by the Commonwealth and by the States Parliaments it has been thought desirable that the two provisions to which I refer shall be only temporary in their operation. It is proposed to provide that although a month’s residence is required the absence of the qualification shall not invalidate a transfer or change in a State in which such a residence qualification is not required. This being merely a temporary expedient it is proposed to ask honorable senators to include in these two clauses a proviso limiting their operation for a reasonable period. I might instance Tasmania as the State which it most immediately concerns. At present Tasmania has come into line with the Commonwealth in connexion with electoral legislation to such’ an extent that I believe I am correct in saying that one set of officers, one set of rolls, and one application for transfer is sufficient there for Federal and State purposes. It is obvious, however, that as we are proposing a change in our law the Tasmanian Parliament cannot be expected to legislate simultaneously with us in a. similar manner. It is necessary that some time should «lapse, during which a difference in the Tasmanian law shall not invalidate an application for transfer. So far as I have been able to do so I have ascertained that the Tasmanian authorities have expressed their willingness to bring their law into conformity with the provisions of this Bill if it should pass, and a reasonable time must be given them in which to do so. I believe that if the provisions to which I have referred are made operative up to the end of next year that will allow ample time for all the contingencies which are ever present to the minds of members of Parliament. I propose to insert words limiting their operation to the end of next vear. It is intended that special paper shall be used for ballot papers, and in consequence clauses 31 and 32 have been introduced, making it an offence to attempt to imitate the paper or to have similar paper unlawfully in possession, or any instrument capable of making on any paper an official mark. Penalties are provided for these offences. These clauses are necessary to carry out the purpose of the Bill to have a special paper with a special water-mark for use in preparing ballot-papers. There is one alteration made in the Bill which, perhaps, stands quite apart from the amendments to which I have referred. It is covered by clauses 5 and 11. Honorable senators are aware that a qualification to secure original enrolment under the existing law is six months’ residence in Australia. A man having resided six months in Australia can be enrolled in any electorate in which he happens to be. For a transfer he must be resident in any electorate one month, but he can change from one subdivision of an electorate to another without such a period of residence in the new subdivision being required. First of all, some confusion exists in the minds of electors. Some men will abstain from applying for enrolment where they are entitled to apply because they think that a month’s residence attache’s there. Others, knowing that a month’s residence is not required for original enrolment, think that it is not necessary with regard to transfer. The average man has probably quite enough to do to attend to his own affairs without bothering to load his memory with details. The result is that, owing to varying practices with regard to different applications, a great deal of confusion and uncertainty exists in the minds of electors. There is a further objection to the law. At present a. man can obtain original enrolment without any residence in the electorate for which he seeks to be enrolled ; but if he wants a transfer he has first to live in the new electorate for a month. The result is that an elector, instead of applying for a transfer, frequently applies for an original enrolment. Our rolls unquestionably become inflated to that extent. For the reasons I have given, and for the further reason that we desire as far as we can to work in co-operation with the States, it is thought desirable - and the officers strongly recommend this for administrative purposes, too - to make the period of residence uniform, namely, one month. At the same time, as I have pointed out, for the present, in those States in which a month’s residence is not now required, provision is made that the application of an elector shall not be invalidated solely on that account.
– Under the Constitution is it possible to differentiate the qualifications of electors as between State and State?
– My honorable friend raises a question which has disturbed my mind a good deal, and which 1 have submitted to the Crown Law officers. It was the first point which occurred to me, and I have their assurance in regard to it. I am bound to be content with that for the present.
– Does this apply to changes from one subdivision to another?
– For the reasons I have stated I propose to make it apply.
– - For administrative purposes the officers declare that it is almost necessary to have a provision of that kind. In Committee I shall be glad to furnish detailed information as the result of departmental experience. I have left this matter to the last because it is a class of amendment which I recognise stands entirely apart from the other amendments embodied in the Bill. The one alteration to which, perhaps, some exception might be taken is the requirement of a month’s residence when transferring from one subdivision to another. That, however, is not a disability on the elector, because, even if he is not transferred, he can still vote for his old division.
– He will have to vote by post then?
– No, he can vote anywhere within his division.
– The disability will come in when a man removes from State to State?
– When an elector removes from division to division in a State the position will remain just as it is. The present law requires a month’s residence before a man can change from one electorate to another. One of the objections to the present system is that, rather than wait a month .in an electorate to qualify, an elector will apply for an original enrolment to which, of course, he is not entitled. The rolls have become inflated, and perhaps a little time elapses before the duplicationof names is noticed and the original name struck out.
– The proposed amendment will not prevent a man from doing that.
– If the same qualifications apply anywhere a man will be under no inducement to say, “ I want an original enrolment because I am not enrolled.”
– The honorable senator proposes to take away that inducement.
– Yes. If we can put before the electors one simple procedure which they can all remember and follow it, it will help them as much as it will aid the officers of the Department. I have not attempted to outline very many amendments proposed in the Bill. “ What I have sought to do has been merely toindicate the class of amendments which we seek to effect.
– I am informed on verygood authority that form Q has been verymuch abused. It has been authoritatively stated that in one instance twelve men have gone from one poll to another and voted onsuch a form. I want to know, if possible,, how that abuse can be obviated.
– The danger to whichmy honorable friend refers presented itself to my mind. I had not heard anything specific, but naturally it occurred to methat the opportunity for abuse existed. I am pleased, however, to learn from the officers of the Department that, after the most careful scrutiny and search they have no reason to suspect that the form has beensystematically abused. At the same time, in Committee I shall be only too glad toconsider suggestions which may be made with the object of rendering impossible any fraud upon our electoral system. Every one of us, irrespective of party, has the keenest interest in seeing that, as far as. possible, the electoral system is kept abovesuspicion. With these necessarily brief remarks, I submit the Bill ; and I ask honorable senators if they intend to propose any amendments to give me early ‘notice of them, so that I may have an opportunity toconfer with the officers.
Debate (on motion by Senator Henderson) adjourned.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 3rd September, vide page 3019).
First Schedule (as amended) -
Scale and Conditions of Compensation.
Act shall be-
That the following words be added : - “ and, if at any time the seaman is entitled to an old-age pension from the Commonwealth, not to exceed -during that time an amount which together with the weekly rate of the pension will make up
Thirty shillings. For the purposes of the grant of an old-age pension, compensation under this
Act shall not be taken to be income.”
That will, I think, make the purpose abundantly clear. We have made 30s. the amount of compensation which can be claimed under the Bill. If, upon a seaman attaining the age of 65 years, he becomes entitled to an old-age pension at 10s. per week, he will then receive£1 as compensation from the shipping industry, and 10s. as an old-age pension. His income will still remain 30s. per week as hitherto, but the Commonwealth will assume a liability to the extent of the old-age pension.
Senator STEWART (Queensland) (3.24]. - I understand that the Minister proposes to relieve a private company of a certain amount of its obligation when the person compensated becomes entitled to an old-age pension. In my opinion, that is not a right thing to do. I think that the obligation on the private company should still continue, and when it lapses it will be quite time enough for the State to step in.
– A seaman entitled to a compensation of 30s. a week will not be qualified for an old-age pension unless the amendment is made.
– Why ?
– Because the Oldage Pensions Act provides that a man in receipt of more than £1 per week is not qualified for a pension. An injured seaman cannot expectto receive 30s. per week compensation from the shipping industry, in addition to an’ old-age pension of 10s. per week from the Commonwealth. The proposal which I have submitted is a reasonable one. Subject to certain qualifications the Commonwealth have undertaken to pay every man attaining the age of sixty-five years a pension of 10s. per week, irrespective of whether or not he has been injured. That obligation ought to be honorably observed. When an injured seaman has attained the age of sixty-five years he should receive an old-age pension from the Commonwealth. But when he does receive that pension, the shipping industry should be relieved of its liability to pay him the full amount of compensation provided under this measure.
– I doubt whether we can repeal the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act by the schedule to this Bill without special reference being made to the matter in the body of the Bill. I fear that under this measure an injured seaman who became an old-age pensioner might not be entitled to receive the maximum amount of compensation. I apprehend that we can alter the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act only by inserting an express provision to that effect in the body of this Bill, and that we cannot accomplish our object simply by adopting this schedule.
– Senator Guthrie is abundantly justified in attempting to safeguard the rights of an injured seaman to the maximum amount of compensation provided for in this Bill, namely, 30s. per week. But I would point out to him that this schedule will have exactly the same legislative force as will the remainder of the measure. The provision which we are now discussing - although it is contained in the schedule - will entirely govern the circumstances to which he has directed attention. I need hardly remind him that under our Acts Interpretation Act the schedule of any Act is a part of the Act itself, and is just as operative as are any words that may be embodied in its main provisions. Upon the merits of the case I entirely agree with the VicePresident of the Executive Council. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
– - -It does not seem to me a fair arrangement that a seaman who has been insured by a shipping company, and who as the result of injuries which he has sustained has become, entitled to 30s. per week by way of compensation, should have 10s. per week deducted from that amount on account of his old-age pension. Under any such arrangement a burden which should properly attach to the ship-owner or to the shipping industry, would be transferred to the general taxpayer.
– Should we not be relieving the taxpayer?
– No. Suppose that the arbitrationauthority under the Act de- cided that an injured seaman was entitled to 30s. per week by way of compensation. Under the amendment proposed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, when that seaman attained to the age of sixty-five years, his employer would be relieved of the obligation attaching to him to the extent of 10s. per week by reason of the operation of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act. If, under this Bill, the shipping industry is to be called upon to pay a specified amount to injured seamen, it is wrong to transfer one iota of that obligation to the shoulders of the taxpayer. For that reason I shall vote against the amendment.
– I question whether Senator Lynch has looked closely into this proposal, which I would remind him will not be exclusively applicable to seamen who have been totally incapacitated from work. In the first place there is no limit to the period over which the payment of compensation may extend. So long as an injured seaman is incapacitated from work his employer must continue to pay him compensation. Let us assume that a man who is partially incapacitated from work is in receipt of ‘ 10s per week by. way of compensation.
– That would be the sum due to a boy who was injured, because the amount of compensation payable to any person is based upon his earnings.
– The second schedule shows how the amount of compensation is to be arrived at. It does not declare that every injured seaman shall receive 30s. per week by way of compensation.’ For instance, if he has been partially incapacitated, he may be awarded only 10s per week. Thus, if bie is sixty years of age when he is injured, the shipowner will continue to pay him that amount until he attains the age of sixty-five years, when he will become eligible to receive an old-age pension. Obviously, he ought to be just as eligiBle fo receive that pension as he would have been if he had not been injured. So long as a seaman receives compensation for his injuries, there is no reason why we should unnecessarily load the’ shipping industry, seeing that at sixty-five years of age he will be entitled to an old-age pension.
– Take the case of a seaman who is receiving £i- per week by way of compensation. Unless the amendment be carried he will not be entitled toreceive an old-age pension.
– Exactly. For that reason I hope the amendment will be agreed to.
– This clause is certainly drafted on right lines, but it is scarcely complete. I am satisfied that it is not the intention of this Committee that the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act should be utilized for the purpose of relieving employers of their liability under this Bill. In all cases in which the compensation awarded to an injured seaman is less than £1 per week the Bill will not have that effect, but in all other cases it will. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to consider what will “ happen to an injured seamanwho is in receipt of compensation to theextent of 25s. per week. Upon attaining, the age of sixty-five years, he will receive from the Commonwealth a pension of 10s per week.
– Let the honorablesenator put the case the other way about.
– If he was receiving- 5s. a week under this Bill, he would beentitled to an old-age pension of 10s
– The provision iscapable of that interpretation. But suppose that a man gets, in the aggregate, only 30s. a week. He gets 10s a week. from the Commonwealth, and 5s. a week less from the employer.
– That is what the clause means.
– But is that what we wish to do?
– I should think that it was a good thing.
– Personally, I think it is a mistake. In almost all cases, the risk will have been taken by an insurance company, and the liability will have been placed on the industry. Why should we relieve the insurance company of its risk?
– I do not see why we should not, so long as the workman does not suffer.
– The point I am putting is, whether the employer or insurance company is to be relieved, and the taxpayer to make up the difference, or whether the liability is to continue on the insurance company, the taxpayer simply making up the difference to 30s. a week. I think the liability on the industry should continue. If a man becomes an old-age pensioner, and is also entitled to compensation under this Bill, we should not treat the compensation paid to him as income; and if we do, we should not relieve the source of that income at the expense of the taxpayer.
– - I am rather surprised at any honorable senator opposing the’ amendment. Let us analyze what -it means. I cannot believe that there is any member of this Committee who desires -o punish the ship-owners, and for that reason would run the risk of. depriving an injured seaman of the maximum amount of compensation which would be due to him if the amendment were allowed to pass. Take the case of a man who, under this Bill, received in compensation any sum per week from 20s. upward. If this amendment were not made, such a man would get his 20s., or his 21s., 23s., or 24s., as the case might be, but he would not get 30s. The Committee are simply asked to do nothing less than to forego their right to punish a ship-owner in order to benefit an injured seaman. That is the plain English of it. It is. certain that an injured seaman will, in many cases, have a distinct chance - in fact, more than a chance - of getting more money if the amendment is made. In a case where a seaman was paid 21s. per week compensation, he would not be able, except for this amendment, to get any more. If the amendment be inserted,” he will be able to get 30s. Take the case of a seaman getting, less than that amount. He would not lose his 10s. additional income from old-age pensions. He would get it from the Commonwealth just the same. If he received 5s. a week compensation, he would be getting 10s. a week more from the oldage pensions fund. If he got 20s. a week compensation, he would still get his 10s. old-age pension.
– What will happen in the case of a seaman being awarded 30s. compensation ?
– That is a case to which my . honorable friend attaches too much value. I am prepared to admit that under this amendment if a seaman is awarded 30s. compensation, 10s. will be taken away, and a burden to that extent will be placed upon the Commonwealth.
– That is to say, the industry will pay a correspondingly less amount.
– I admit that ; but I do not think it is wise to sacrifice a large body of injured seamen for the sake of a few to whom 30s. a week will be awarded as compensation under this Bill.
– The question- is whether the deduction should be made from the Commonwealth or from the shipowner. _ Senator CLEMONS. - I think that justice is being meted out fairly evenly. In some instances, the ship-owner will be relieved of a burden which will be placed upon the shoulders of the taxpayer. I suppose that we may assume that in the majority of cases the amount of compensation will be less than 30s. a week.
– In 75 per cent, of the cases.
– Are we then going to sacrifice 75 per cent, of the injured seamen for the sake of 25 per cent. ? If a man is en.titled to an old-age pension, the fact that he is also an injured seaman ought not to deprive him of his pension in any way. We should certainly not sacrifice 75 per cent, of injured seamen for the sake of the remainder.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia)
D?-5°]- - It seems to me that Senator Clemons was under the impression that honorable senators on this side of the chamber who have addressed themselves to the amendment we.e opposed to it. That is not so.
– I thought that the honorable senator and Senator Lynch were opposed to the amendment.
– I am not opposed to it, and have not the slightest intention of voting against it. I am in favour of an injured seaman getting up to 30s. a week. But my opinion is that if a choice has to be made between relieving the ship-owner or the Commonwealth of liability, the shipowner should not be relieved. The liability upon him created by this Bill is considered to be a just one. If the amendment is further amended, as I hope it will be, it will not in any way affect the amount received by the injured seaman. Where he is entitled to get 30s., he will still receive that amount.
– But the man who is receiving a lesser sum in compensation will be affected.
– No; because, if he is getting ros. a week in compensation, he will still be entitled, if such an amendment as I desire to see carried be made, to get another I OS. a week from the old-age pensions fund, making his income £1 a week. I am prepared to vote for the amendment ; but I think there should be a proviso to the effect that the ship-owner shall not be relieved of his liability.
– - Honorable senators opposite have directed attention to the case of a man getting 30s. a week compensation. But they should look at the average of cases. If a man was getting 11s. a week compensation, he would be entitled to receive 9s. in old-age pension. But if this amendment is passed, he would get I OS. If a man was receiving 12s. compensation, he would get 8s. old-age pension under the Bill as it stands; but under the amendment, he would get 10s If he received 14s. compensation, he would get 6s. oldage pension under the Bill ; but if the amendment were agreed to, he would get 10s Every shilling additional a man receives in compensation lessens his old-age pension by the same amount, because his total income under the Old-age Pension Act can only amount to £1. But every seaman receiving compensation ranging from 10s to £1 per week, would have the benefit of this amendment, and would receive from £ to 30s. per week. The subject has been discussed as if the number of those who would receive 30s. a a week in compensation were the majority, whereas in the average of cases a lesser amount will probably be paid. If the amount is likely to be over, no harm will be done to the seaman; but if the average amount is under, the amendment will confer an additional benefit. I do not know whether honorable senators can say whether the range of compensation will be over or under j£i.
– Over, I think.
– I differ from the honorable senator. I believe that the greater number of applications will be made in connexion with injuries resulting in partial incapacity, and the compensation to be paid will be under £1. In all such cases the amendment would confer a distinct benefit upon the injured seaman. I hope, therefore, that in the interests of the seamen the Committee will accept the amendment. We have heard a great deal about relieving the shipping industry, but whyshould we relieve the Commonwealth of an obligation, voluntarily assumed, to pay qualified persons a pension of 3 os. per week at sixty-five years of age? That was not put forward as a charity, but as a right of citizenship.
– That is not the way in which the Act is being administered.
– We can leave that for the moment, and take the intention of the Act. I can see no reason why we should relieve the Commonwealth of a national obligation. Senator Pearce says that a seaman should receive 30s. compensation from the shipping industry, and ai> old-age pension of 10s
– No; I said that he has a right to receive 25s. from the shipowner, and a Commonwealth pension of 5s.
– I say that that would be relieving the Commonwealth of what I regard as its national duty to pay the old-age pensions provided for by this Parliament. Honorable senators should bear in mind that, under this Bill, we are placing an entirely new obligation upon the shipping industry. I believe the industry is well able to bear it, and that it is just and right that it should. But why should we seek to add to that obligation by relieving the Commonwealth of an obligation voluntarily assumed? I have already said that I regard this measure as a step towards a much wider range of legislation of this kind, and I ask honorable senators not to create a prejudice against this class of legislation by pushing it a point too far. I have met honorable senators in agreeing to make the compensaton as liberal as possible under this Bill. We have struck out all limit as to the amount to be paid.
– That is the greatest thing in the Bill.
– I agree with the honorable senator. I say that when this Bill leaves the Senate, we can safely claim 4-hat it is probably the most liberal seamen’s compensation measure in the world.
– It will be the most liberal Workmen’s Compensation Bill of any kind in the world.
– I think so, and I think we may take- a just pride in the face that such a measure emanated from the Federal Parliament. That being so. I ask honorable senators not to unduly load or hamper the Bill.
– What I propose will not unduly load it
– I think it will, anu, besides, the honorable senator’s proposal attacks the integrity of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I think it would rather injure the seaman by reducing the benefit which he might derive under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– The honorable member knows differently.
– I do not. The Bill is a liberal one, and I ask the Committee not to load the shipping industry bv relieving the Commonwealth of the obligation to pay old-age pensions.
– A question has been raised as to the average amount of compensation which will probably be paid under this Bill. If honorable senators consider the rates of wages at present paid to seamen, I think they will find that the average compensation which will be paid will be more than seme of them seem to think. For instance, a fireman gets £9 per month, or about £2 5s. per week, exclusive of his board. If we make a reasonable allowance for his board, we must recognise that the earnings of a fireman run to about £3 per week, and 50 per cent, of that would bring his compensation, in case of injury, up to the maximum allowed under the Bill.
– That would be a case of total incapacity. He would not get the same compensation if he were only partially incapacitated.
– A man partially incapacitated is useless as a fireman.
– If he lost a hand he would be useless as a fireman. I say that in this case the limit of compensation will be brought up to 30s. per week, _and under the amendment, according to the VicePresident of the Executive Council, a portion of the burden would be shifted from the ship-owner to the struggling taxpayer. 1 do not think that that is a fair proposition.
– Why relieve the taxpayer of the obligation to pay old-age pensions ?
– The Minister speaks as if there will be a large number of men at sea who will be sixty-five years of age. I do not believe there will.
– There will be no firemen sixty-five years of age.
– Certainly not; men ot that age will not be wanted as firemen.
– The Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act does not provide that a man must be at sea until he is sixty-five years of age.
– The Minister means that a man may be injured at sea when he is forty-five years of age. and be on shore when he has qualified for an old-age pension.
– That is so. I still think that, in view of the average wages paid tq seamen, the average amount of compensation payable under this Bill will be more nearly 30s. than -£i per week. The Minister’s contention is that if the compensation rises above £1 the disadvantage will be with the injured seaman - that is to say, if he received 21s. compensation, he will receive only 9s. as pension. In, view of the fact that the average compensation likely to be paid under the Bill will be more nearly 30s. than _£i, I see nothing for it but to vote against the amendment.
– I have no objection to the principle of the amendment, but I am afraid that in the interpretation of the law the arbitrators or Courts will not give effect to it.
– There is no question of arbitration raised by the amendment.
– No ; but arbitrators are to decide the amount of compensation. Sub-clause 1 of clause 5 reads -
If personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment is caused to a seaman his employer shall subject to this Act, be liable to pay compensation in accordance with .the first schedule to this Act. 1 direct special attention to the use of the words “his employer.” There is nothing in the body of the Bill to provide that any amount due to a person by way of old-age pension shall be added to any award of an arbitrator. I say, confidently, that if the amendment is to be given effect, there must be a special reference to it in the body of the Bill. I am raising a question of interpretation. I have not them by me now, but I could quote cases where claims based on provisions in the schedule to an Act have teen disallowed because there was no reference in the body of the Act to those provisions. [ am reminded by Senator Pearce that under the Acts Interpretation Act every schedule to an Act is deemed to be part thereof; but I still contend that if a provision of this kind in the schedule is to be given effect there must be a special reference to it in the body of the Bill.
– Does the honorable senator admit that we could make this amendment in the body ‘of the Bill ?
– I do.
– If so, we can make it in the schedule, which is declared to be a part of the Bill.
– I do not think so, and I could quote cases in support of my contention.
-. - There is a reference in this Bill to the matters contained in the schedule.
– I do not think there is a reference to the particular matter dealt with in the amendment, which really proposes an amendment of the- Invalid ana Old-age Pensions Act. I am prepared to support the amendment if a reference to it is made in the body of the Bill, in order to secure that claims made under it shall be heard.
– Could we amend the Old-age Pensions Act by this Bill ?
– I think we could do so in the body of the Bill. I repeat that 1 am prepared to agree to the amendment if it is inserted in the body of the Bill, as I should then be satisfied that an injured seaman would receive the full amount of compensation and pension to which he might be entitled.
– - Senator Guthrie, in common with other honorable senators, is anxious that the Bill shall be passed in such a way that its’ provisions cannot be disputed. If the honorable senator will read the first portion of clause 6, he will see that a reference is made in the body of the Bill to the first schedule.
– The reference is to payments by the seaman’s employer, and not by the Commonwealth Government.
– The amendment if carried will become part and parcel of the first schedule, and clause 6 refers to that schedule. I think that every safeguard is provided, because the compensation . to be paid is now mentioned in the first schedule, and if the alteration proposed is made it will still be mentioned therein. If any Act requires to be amended, it will be the Old-age Pensions Act. To all intents and purposes, the amendment, if adopted, will be safeguarded by the fact that it is covered bv clause 6. It may be safely accepted. Whilst in some cases it is thought that it might be the means of reducing the weeklyallowance of a seaman, I believe that it will confer the greatest good on the greatest number of seamen.
– Honorable senators are all agreed that the injured seaman should have a claim to certain compensation, and the question at issue is whether a certain burden should be borne by the Commonwealth or by the ship-owners. According to a recent cablegram, some insurance clubs in the Old Country, which are known as protection clubs, and which insure shipping against all sorts of risks, have within the last week given notice to Australian and New Zealand ship-owners that after the 20th February next they will not cover Australasian shipping against those risks ; and their ground for doing so is the ever increasing burden which is thrown upon shipping in Australasian waters. Having regard to the lines on which this measure is drafted, I think that we need take no special notice of that intimation ; but I do suggest that we should not go out of our way to add to the burden on shipping by relieving the Commonwealth. Certainly if we could go the other way about, I believe that it would be to the advantage of the shipping industry. To that extent honorable senators will admit that it is a great and important industry. It is to the advantage of all Australia, and of other industries, that it should not be unduly Burdened. Therefore I ask honorable senators to pause before they even vote to add to the necessary charges on the industry one which appears to me to be unnecessary.
– Senator’ Guthrie has asked whether or not the amendment is proposed in the right place. Of course, it was not brought forward without having received some consideration. I had the advantage of a consultation with the parliamentary draftsman, and it was on his advice that the amendment was drafted as submitted. I am not at all fearful about the first point raised by Senator Guthrie, and that is whether the amendment, being in the schedule, will be invalid. What troubles me is whether it is not also an amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act, and, if so, whether it will not be necessary to bring in a Bill for that avowed purpose. However, that is a matter on which the Committee can hardly expect me to pronounce an opinion off-hand. What I ask honorable senators to do, if they approve of the principle, is to pass the amendment now with an assurance that I shall ascertain what steps it may be necessary to take to safeguard it. I recognise that if it is adopted it must be enacted- in proper legislative form.
Amendment agreed to.
. -Immediately after the amendment just made in paragraph b, section 1 of the first schedule contains this proviso -
If the incapacity lasts less than two weeks no compensation shall be payable in respect of the first week.
In connexion with land industries, that proviso has appeared in all Compensation Acts. It has been taken exception to, and I believe that it was proposed to amend the Queensland- Act in the direction of shortening the time. But in connexion with seamen, how is it likely to operate? Suppose that a seaman gets injured when he is ten days or a fortnight distant from his home port. Will he get no compensation until a fortnight after he has left the ship at the home port? It is laid down that he can get no compensation for the .first week. If an accident happens to a man ashore, the position ;< different. He is taken either to a hospital or to his home. But in the case of a seaman the position is not the same.
– My honorable friend forgets that until a seaman gets to his home port he is protected by the Merchant
Shipping Act. He is not like a man on shore.
– Exactly. A seaman will be on the articles of a ship until he is discharged at his home port ; but from that event will he be entitled to compensation without an interval of a fortnight taking place?
– The provision does not say where the incapacity is to last - whether at sea or ashore. ‘ It is the incapacity which is the salient feature.
– According to a work on the Seamen’s Compensation Act, by Sandford D. Cole, who is recognised as an authority on shipping legislation, and also a pamphlet issued by the National Seamen and Firemen’s Association of Great Britain, if an accident happens on a, ship at sea, the owner’ is responsible for the medical attendance upon, and the care of, the man until he dies, or is cured, or is brought back to the province in which he shipped, and as soon as he is discharged from the ship he comes under the Seamen’s Compensation Act. Under the Merchant Shipping Act, however, if a man ships in Sydney, and on his way to Melbourne breaks his leg, all that the ship-owner is required to do is to take him back to Sydney and dump him upon the wharf. At that point the Seamen’s Compensation Act will begin to operate. While a man is under the. Merchant Shipping Act he will not be entitled to compensation, but as soon as it ceases to operate, he will become entitled to compensation under this measure. In mv opinion, the position is very clear indeed.
– Hear, hear ! I was only asking for information.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Second schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported, with amendments.
Consideration resumed (vide page 3114), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– One of my objections to this Bill has reference to proposed new section 56, clause 5, in which a retrograde step is contemplated, so far as our electoral legislation is. concerned. Up to the present time, an elector who has been resident in the Commonwealth for six months is entitled to make a claim for enrolment, and to have his name at once placed upon our electoral rolls. But, under this proposal, he must not only be resident within the Commonwealth for six months prior to making his claim, but he must also be resident for one month in the electoral division for which he claims the vote ; and should he remove from one State to another, he must further’ be resident there for one month before he is eligible to claim enrolment. It appears to me that no valid reason can be assigned for these proposed changes. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that the amendments will facilitate the administration of our electoral laws. But I claim that we ought to consider the convenience of the electors quite as much as that of the officers of our Electoral Department. It cannot be gainsaid that, under the provision to whichI have directed attention, occasions will arise upon which electors will suffer serious inconvenience “ by reason of being required to reside in a State for one month before they are eligible to vote there. Under the principal Act, an elector may make a claim for enrolment so long as he has resided in the Commonwealth for six months ; but, under proposed new clause 5, he will be required to reside for a month in the electoral district for which he desires to vote before he can become eligible to make a claim.
– But he may vote for the electoral division for which he is enrolled.
– I fail to see why we should make this retrograde step, merely to convenience the Electoral Department.
– Will not the proposed amendments also render us more secure against acts of impersonation ?
– As a matter, of fact, we all know that the trouble which we experience is not in preventing impersonation, but in inducing electors who are eligible to vote, to get their names placed upon the electoral rolls. I hope that the VicePresident of the Executive Council will not press his proposals in regard to the residential qualification of one month. I shall move an amendment in favour of eliminating that qualification in each case. Sub-clause 5 of this proposed new section is a provision to which I invite the serious attention of the Committee. It reads -
Where an arrangement has been entered into under section thirty of this Act for the preparation, alteration, and revision of the rolls jointly by the Commonwealth and a State, and the law of the State contains no provision requiring a person to have lived or resided in any division or subdivision for any specified period before being enrolled therefor, the regulations may dispense with the period of one month under this section as regards persons claiming to be enrolled in that State.
If honorable senators will turn to section 30 of the principal Act, they will see that it empowers the Governor-General to make arrangements with the Governor of any State for the preparation and revision of a roll. It is in this connexionthat I desire to direct attention to section 41 of the Constitution, which reads -
No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of theCommonwealth from voting at elections for either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
Now, in Western Australia, a residence of one month is not compulsory to qualify an elector to vote at elections for the State Parliament. Yet it is proposed, under this Bill, to prevent those electors from voting at elections for this Parliament. Section 117 of the Constitution deals with the same subject. It reads -
A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.
I understand that an arrangement has already been entered into in the case of Tasmania. But no arrangement has been entered into in the case of Victoria. In this State, therefore, an elector, under this Bill, would be subject to a disability which would not be applicable to him if he were an elector in Tasmania. In Victoria, he must be resident for one month beforehe is eligible to make a claim to have his name placed upon our electoral roll. But, under sub-clause 5 of this proposed new section that disability would not lie upon him in Tasmania. Consequently, I hold that if this provision does not infringe the letter of the Constitution, it certainly transgresses its spirit. The difficulty, however, will be overcome if the Government agree to the omission of the residential qualification of one month, because the greater would include the less.
– But the one application could not then be accepted.
– If a State imposed a residential qualification of one month and the Commonwealth did not, the one application for transfer by an elector would not suffice for the two purposes. It would be a valid application under one law and an. invalid application under the other.
– I do not think that we have a right to enact more conservative laws than we should enact merely for the purpose of making them harmonize with State legislation on this subject. The residential qualification has long since been abandoned in all Democratic countries. I thought that we had seen the lastofit. In Western Australia we have done so, and I hope that the Committee will notagree to the proposals of the Governmentin this connexion. If we strike out the residential qualification contained in sub-clause 5 that provision will not then infringe the Constitution, either in its letter or its spirit, because a Commonwealth elector will be eligible to vote in any portion of the Commonwealth. The objections which I have already urged to this particular provision apply with equal force to clause 11, proposed new section61b. Another important amendment to which I desire to direct attention is proposed in clause 24 of the Bill, which reads -
Section one hundred and forty-eight of the principal Act is amended by inserting therein before the word “ illiterate “ the words “ physically incapacitated or.”
The effect of that amendment would be to allow the presiding officer at any election to mark the ballot-paper for an elector, provided the latter was physically incapacitated.
– That would apply to the case of a palsied man.
– But who is to be the judge of “physical incapacity?” Obviously the presiding officer. Now, it is generally known in the district in which a man resides whether or not he is blind or illiterate.
– How can one ascertain whether he is illiterate?
– The circumstance is generally known to some of his friends.
– And they would know whether he was physically incapacitated.
– The amendment proposed will certainly have the effect of opening the door a little wider to practices which permit of the violation of the secrecy of the ballot. Unfortunately, votes are sometimes bought, and the purchaser naturally desires to see that the bargain is ratified. Hitherto the chief value of our system of voting has been that under it the buyer of votes has no means of ascertaining whether those votes are cast in the way that he desires. The secrecy of our ballot system has done more to purify our elections than has anything else.
– Except in the case of the postal vote.
– But in this instance we are dealing with the electors who go to the polling booth and vote. I feel some diffidence in extending the provision to which I have alluded still further. There is only one other point to which I wish to direct attention. That relates to clause 30, amending section 182 (b) of the Act. It is proposed to make the section read -
The person witnessing any claim or application to transfer or change under this Act shall, if he is not personally acquainted with the facts, satisfy himself, by inquiry from the claimant or applicant, that the statements contained in the claim or application are true. Penalty : £50.
It is proposed to exempt from the operation of that provision those who witness the application for a postal vote certificate. The Vice-President of the Executive Council did not explain why.
– The witnesses are dealt with under a special provision.
– Then I need offer no further criticism upon the point. As to the card system. I may say that we have had in operation in Western Australia a similar method, although the card used does not seem to be quite the same. The system has had a most excellent effect in purifying the rolls of the State. I am strongly of opinion that the Commonwealth rolls are inflated immensely. Take my own State.I venture to say that the people of Western Australia are more enthusiastic, politicallyspeaking, than are the people of any other State in the Commonwealth. Yet, according to the official figures, fewer of them, proportionately, go to the poll than in any other State. I am sure that that percentage is arrived at by an inflation of the rolls. Probably the Western Australian roll is inflated more than that of any other State, for the reason that our people move about more. I know that it has been a common practice for electors on moving from one division to another, instead of filling up a transfer form, to make out a fresh claim. A man may, within a comparatively short period, reside in the five divisions of the State. If he is an enthusiastic politician he takes care to get on the roll for each division.
– If the card system is made effective that could not be done.
– Under the State system two cards are filled up. The registrar sends one of them to the chief officer of the division affected, and the other to the head office. The head office thus has a check over all transfers, and the officer of the division has a check in his office as well.
– To take the place of the second card under the proposed system the head office could send on a notification to the local office.
– I consider that the postal voting system might very well be abolished. Undoubtedly it has been abused.
– It is capable of abuse, at all events.
– In my opinion it is still abused. I have taken part in two elections in which I was concerned, and have assisted in a number of others; and I believe that this portion of our electoral law is more capable of abuse than any other. In view of the liberal provision made for absent voters, the postal vote might very well be abolished. Our elections would thereby be made purer, better, and safer, and the number of people not able to exercise votes would be very few.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council in introducing this amending Bill did great credit to himself by explaining as clearly as it was possible to do the amendments which the Government propose to make in the existing law. But there are one or two things in the Bill which probably escaped the honorable senator’s attention, and with which he might perhaps deal in his reply. I desire in the first place to bring under his notice the amendment which the Government propose to make by means of clause 4. It is there provided that -
Section 29 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the word “ sex.”
Hitherto every Commonwealth’ electoral roll that has ‘ been published has distinguished between male and female electors. I do not know why the Government propose to make” this amendment. It seems to me that we have now arrived at a time when it is hardly necessary to distinguish upon the electoral roll whether a person is a man or a woman.
– Does it matter?
– For voting purposes, I doubt whether it does. A woman on reaching the age of twenty-one is qualified to vote just as is a man, provided all other necessary qualifications are complied with. Whether there is any necessity for distinguishing between men and women on the rolls can be discussed in Committee. I have always regarded the postal voting, system as wrong. During the passage of the amending Act of 1907, I opposed’ the provisions affecting the qualifications for postal voting then brought forward. I shall take exactly the same course on the present occasion, and shall render all the aid I can towards abolishing postal voting in Federal elections. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will carefully consider the provisions relating to the transfers of electors, in view of the fact that a six months’ qualification is already provided for. I cannot for the life of me see why a period of residence in a particular division should be required from any man or woman before he or she is entitled to vote in that division.
– A month’s residence is provided for in this Bill.
– I know that, and I do not see why the provision should be there. There is no logical reason, for it. A man or a woman must be a qualified elector before being able to vote, and so long as we make provision to that effect, and provide also that each elector shall vote only once, there is no need for the provision as to residence.
– What about a bisection, and the flooding of an electorate on the eve of an election?
– Does . the honorable senator think that it is possible for people to change their residence, in case of a bi-election, for the mere purpose of doing a service to a candidate ? If that is the view of the Government, I differ from them. People, as a rule, shift from one place to another because they have some particular purpose in view, such as convenience, or change of employment. T do not think that there is ‘any possibility of danger arising, such as the VicePresident of the Executive Council has suggested. If I thought for a moment that such a danger could occur, I should bf one of the last to argue for the deletion of the provision as to one month’s residence.
– Has the honorable senator forgotten his friend, the wicked capitalist ?
– No ; but though the capitalist may be wicked in many things, he may not be sufficiently wicked to make others wicked’; and it would be necessary for other people -as well as the capitalist to become exceedingly wicked to carry out the suggestion, made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I think that there is very little danger in that direction. The officers of the Electoral Department have, through the Vice-President of the Executive Council, done excellent service in furnishing information in regard to voting papers and the card system of application. The mare we simplify our electoral law the’ better it will be for the electors. With that object in view I hope that we shall, in Committee, be able to delete some provisions which are not as clear or as simple as they might be. I have no doubt that it is the desire of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that we should pass as perfect a measure as possible, and reverting again to the matter of postal voting, I say that I shall do my best to have the provisions for that form of voting deleted. If honorable senators are not prepared to adopt that course some amendment of the provisions proposed by the Government will be necessary in respect of the persons qualified to witness postal votes. For instance, I think -that teachers of provisional schools, as well as teachers of State schools, should be included amongst those qualified to witness a postal vote. I believe that quite a number of the schools in South Australia are provisional schools.
– There are a great many of them.
– The object of the proposed amendment is to enlarge the qualification.
– I see that. I hope that the postal voting provisions will be altogether deleted, but, if not, I think that the teachers of provisional schools, who will, for the most part, be located in outside districts where the services of witnesses to postal votes are most likely to be required, should be included amongst the persons qualified to witness a vote by post. I have not been able to ascertain why the provision for a month’s residence referred to by Senator Millen should be made. The honorable gentleman may be able, in Committee, to give a better reason for it than that which he has alreadygiven. I should like the Minister to look into the proposed new section 118 (a), dealing with the directions for the regulation of voting by post, which- must be substantially observed. If he does so I think he will be forced to admit the desirability of repealing the whole of the sections permitting voting by post. Paragraph / of the proposed new section reads -
The ballot-paper shall then be placed in the envelope addressed to the Returning Officer, which must then be fastened and taken charge of by the authorized witness for posting.
– And it might never be posted.
– -May I remind the honorable senator that that is not an alteration ; that is the existing law.
– I am aware of that. But I direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the fact that after careful consideration, as well as at first, blush, the object of the provision would appear to be to encourage electoral agents. The provision might be used in a way which neither the Government nor the electors would desire. It practically shuts out the elector and transfers his duties and responsibilities to some other person - the authorized witness - who is no more than another elector. -He mav be an agent for a number of electors, but this provision transfers to him, practically speaking, the responsibility of the vote. I admit that if he does anything wrong a penalty of £100 may be imposed on the authorized witness who is found out, but no penalty can be imposed on the man who is not found out. We should consider very carefully whether if is not desirable to take advantage of this Bill to entirely obliterate from our electoral law the provisions permitting postal voting.
– - I notice that it is proposed to substitute a new section for section 157 of the existing Act. That section reads- -
Any scrutineer may object that any ballotpaper is informal, and thereupon the officer conducting the scrutiny shall mark the ballotpaper “ admitted “ or “ rejected “ according to his decision on the objection ; and such decision shall be final, subject only to reversal by the Court of Disputed Returns.
It is proposed by this Bill to give the same power in the case of a re-count to the officer conducting it, as if the re-count were a scrutiny. It is provided that he may reverse any decision in relation to the scrutiny as to the allowance or admission or disallowance or rejection of any ballotpaper. The Act very distinctly sets out what is to be an informal vote. If a ballot-paper is not initialled by the presiding officer it is informal. If at any election for the Senate it has more or less crosses or squares than the number of candidates to be elected, or if in an election for the House of Representatives it has more crosses or squares than one it is informal. If it contains any mark or writing not authorized by the Act to be put upon it it is also informal. Under section 198 it is provided with regard to disputed returns that -
The Court shall inquire whether or not the petition is duly signed, and so far as rolls and voting are concerned may inquire into the identity of persons, and further whether their votes were improperly admitted or rejected -
This seems to me to entail a good deal of trouble and inconvenience, and it would be better to say at once that if ballot-papers are not marked as provided in the Act, they shall be regarded as informal, and shall be rejected.. Honorable senators are aware that I had a very enjoyable experience not very long ago in connexion with a disputed election. The matter of informal votes came up, and the Judge said he would not reject a voting paper if the intention of the voter was clear. That is to say if he could read into the mind of the elector and discover what he really intended he would admit the vote. The effects of following that decision, so far as the disputed election to which I refer was concerned, were to me absolutely ludicrous. Ballot-papers were put in having marks on them other than those specified in the Act, and the Judge said, for instance, “Here is a voting-paper. I notice that there has been a mark made on the top square, but it has been completely blotted out, and there are three crosses in three squares below it. As I can see nothing but the three crosses and three squares and the blot I admit this paper as a good vote.” Then he took up another, and said, “ Here is another ballotpaper which has a smudge on the top and three crosses below. But if I hold itup to the light I can see just the outline of a cross under the smudge, and I therefore throw this ballot-paper out as informal.” It seemed to me that the intention of the voter might have been just as clear in the one case as in the other. Instances may occur in which a Judge may lav down perhaps half-a-dozen voting papers which are marked in a peculiar fashion, and ask the counsel to argue whether those votes are good, and, if so, whether they should be admitted. What happens then? The counsel on one side, if he thinks that the votes are in his favour, rises and argues for all he is worth that they ought to be admitted, and then the counsel on the other side argues just as strongly that they ought not to be admitted. If, however, the counsel were appearing on opposite sides they would argue in exactly the opposite direction.
SenatorGuthrie. - Is not that so in every law case?
– Yes, and that is why I want to see the present system amended. If, in my own case, all the improperlymarked papers had been thrown out it would not have affected the result of the election by one iota, because the mistakes were made just as much on one side as on the other. All the trouble and argument were absolutely wasted, and, to my mind, it would have been very much better if the Court could have taken the votingpapers and said, “The Act provides that a paper is informal if it does not comply with certain conditions. This paper does not so comply, and out it goes.”
– What about the voting-papers which were supposed to be burnt, but which were recovered?
– That does not affect my point at all.
– It might have affected the result of the election.
– Yes, in that it would havesaved me all the trouble and bother to which I was subjected. I want, if possible, to avoid in the future a very great deal of this trouble and bother. In my opinion it is practically impossible for one man to take up a voting-paper and read the intention of the voter at the time he marked it. I know of a case where a voter was altogether opposed to one candidate in a State election. A friend said to him, “If you do not like the candidate simply go and put a cross against his name, and not against any other name,” and he did as he was advised. If a man had taken the voting-paper and endeavoured to ascertain the mind of the voter at the time he would have seen at once that he wanted to plump for the candidate against whose name he had put a cross. It was certainly not his intention to waste his vote; he was simply misled. When a returning officer finds that any voting-papers are not marked in accordance with the Act, he should be required by the Act to put them aside. In the case of a recount the returning officer of the State - who, of course, possesses superior knowledge and intelligence^ - goes through the voting-papers and throws out those which are informal. That act might well be looked upon as final. The provision which enables the Court to decide whether votes should be admitted or rejected might be struck out, and if that were done, probably a good deal of trouble and expense would be saved- in the future.
– I am pleased to ‘say that I agree with most of the remarks which fell from the last speaker. It is a pity that when the Act is being amended it cannot be made clear what a formal or informal vote is. Like Senator Vardon, I was generally present when the Court of Disputed Returns in South Australia was sitting, and I heard the lawyers quibbling over trifling matters. It was pointed out by all concerned how easy it would have been for a common layman, even without the aid of lawyers, to say what votes were informal. I had hoped that the provision of the Act to which I refer would have been amended by this Bill in the way of simplifying procedure, keeping down lawyers’ expenses, and suppressing quibbles. I have often advocated before the electors that under the Electoral Act it should be compulsory upon every person on reaching the age of twenty -one years to see that his or her name was enrolled. That would effect a saving. I should also like to see voting made compulsory as far as possible. Further, I believe in the compulsory attendance of members of Parliament, health permitting. Having advocated these principles, I thought it possible that Senator Millen, who is an advanced Liberal with a long experience, might have seen his way to have some provisions drawn on those lines, and inserted in this measure.
– What does the honorable senator mean by the compulsory attendance of members?
– I am not going to say.
– I want to be clear on that point. Does the honorable senator mean that he would compel honorable senators to attend here when they were designing a count out ?
– Is that a custom here? Why does the Minister speak disrespectfully of the House which he leads? Where are several of the senators? Let any one take the attendance-sheet for either House of this Parliament and see who have attended frequently or infrequently. I should like to see some provision made to secure the compulsory attendance of members, with, of course, a penalty attached.
-The honorable senator is getting away from the subjectmatter of the Bill when he introduces the question of the attendance of members of the Senate.
– I thought, sir, that a provision on that subject might be included in the Bill.
– A provision of that kind could not be included in the Bill, because it deals with the electoral law, not with the attendance of senators.
– I thought that at least I might have expected from the Leader of the Senate an intimation that if it was not possible to deal with the subject in this Bill, an opportunity, would be taken on another occasion to make a desirable reform. I admit at once that in the case of outside districts, the provision for voting by post may be necessary. At the same time, I think it is a very wrong system. It leads to corruption. I do not think it is necessary to appoint all the provisional teachers, as has been suggested, to authorize signatures. In South Australia the capitalist element, and sometimes the other, have agents going about who are justices of the peace. Sometimes the postmistress or the postmaster uses the stamp of the office for political purposes. There is a great deal of corruption in connexion with this system.
– I advocated the wiping out of it.
– I know that the honorable senator did. but I am a Scotchman, and sometimes I am a little bit slower than he is. I admit that the system needs to be modified. But if it cannot -be modified, I am. prepared to go the whole way with my honorable friend.
– And disfranchise a number of persons ?
– It would . not disfranchise a man or a woman.
-In my opinion it would be the means of purifying the rolls.
– In the absence of such a convenience how could many persons vote? What would be the position of a sailor ?
– I do not suggest a hard-and-fast law on the subject. 1 admit that an exception might be made to meet the case of the sailor.
– And the commercial traveller.
– The commercial traveller generally knows his way about. I regret the muddle in connexion with the Senate election in South Australia. The electors were not so much to blame as one or more of the officials. Fancy the man who acted as a returning officer for one division giving evidence that voting papers were burned, and those papers turning up afterwards. Of course there was something seriously wrong, and the Government should look into the matter, and try to simplify the law, making its provisions more easily understandable. Instead of trying to discourage persons by saying that their names must have been a month on the rolls before they can vote, give them every possible encouragment to vote. Those who have a vote and do not exercise it, ought, unless they can give a good reason to the contrary, to be penalized for not having done their duty to the country.
– In my opinion the provisions of this Bill will effect a considerable improvement upon the provisions of the Electoral Act. I notice one or two provisions which seem to me to be very onerous. After enumerating a large number of witnesses who mav be chosen, the proposed new section. 1 1 8c, says -
Any person present when an elector is before an authorized witness for the purpose of voting by post shall - (a) obey all directions of the authorized’ witness.
That seems to me a very extraordinary provision, and I think that the Minister will be well advised if he modifies it. Will form Q, as submitted, be sufficient to meet all the purposes intended ? It is proposed to wipe out forms B. C, D, K, L, M, and N in the original schedule, and to substitute the new form Q. But will it really be sufficient for the purposes aimed at? I think that it will open a door to a. practice which may be very objectionable. A suggestion has been made to abolish the provisions for voting by post. I can hardly believe that it is seriously made.
– It never conveniences a simile individual.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to disfranchise a lady in ill-health? Does he want to dis franchise any one who is prevented by serious illness or infirmity from attending at a polling place?
– In the Bill we do not propose to do that.
– No, but the adoption of that course has been seriously suggested. To my mind the voting by post provisions of the principal Act are very valuable. Undoubtedly they may be abused just as other provisions of it may be abused. Why should we, disfranchise a number of sailors?
– They do not require to vote by post.
– They may desire to do so’.
– An invalid is not injured by being deprived of the opportunity to vote.
– Simply because a large number of invalids cannot attend the polling-booth why should they be disfranchised? The cards which have been distributed to honorable senators this afternoon, and under which claims for enrolment and for transfer from one electoral division to another may be made by electors, mark a great advance upon the existing system. I consider that the Bill is a decided improvement upon the principal Act.
– I desire to congratulate the VicePresident of the Executive Council on the departure which has been made by the Government in the matter of circulating copies of the principal Act, in which the proposed amendments are set out in a different type. My objection to the Bill is that it does not seek to abolish the postal voting provisions of the principal Act. In my judgment the time has arrived when those provisions ought to be repealed. Whilst it was never the intention of the Legislature to encourage corruption and false practices, experience has unquestionably demonstrated that that has been the result of the operation of those provisions. The intention of the Legislature has thus been entirely baffled. Instead of perpetuating the voting by post provisions of the principal Act, it would be far better if we increased the number of polling-booths throughout the Commonwealth. In my own State I know of townships in which there were from 60 to 100 electors on the rolls, and yet there was no polling-booth within from 13 to 20 miles.
– And how far were they from a post-office?
– Probably a great deal farther. In order to record their votes they would have to travel from 13 to 20 miles.
– Only from 13 to 20 miles?
– They would thus have had to sacrifice a day’s work, which meant a day’s wages. Now, the average workman cannot afford to make that sacrifice. It has also been found that if an elector recorded his vote to-day - the day of the elections - in one of these remote settlements, it might not leave there until to-morrow, and as it would then bear to-morrow’s post-mark it would be rejected by the returning officer, and the elector would thus be disfranchised. If the Department established polling-booths in every centre where there are twenty electors the necessity for voting by post would entirely disappear. Without enumerating instances which have come under my own notice I know that the existing system has lent itself to corruption. Under the impression, however, that it may, perhaps, be retained, I have, with the assistance of the officer who is advising the Government upon this Bill, drafted an amendment with a view to extending the area over which it may operate. But, as a matter of fact, I should prefer to see the voting by post provisions of the principal Act eliminated.
– This is not a very difficult Bill. It contains a few clauses which correct obvious errors, and others which make for simplicity of administration. I was sorry to hear several honorable senators express a desire to diminish the voting facilities which are at present possessed by our citizens.
– Does the honorable senator think that the voting by post provisions of the principal Act do facilitate voting?
– I am sure that they do. There is, unfortunately, a certain proportion of sick and invalid persons in the community, and it is only proper that we should not lay upon them the added misfortune of inability to record their votes. I shall do my best to enlarge the facilities for voting which are enjoyed by the electors. I note with regret that in this Bill it is proposed to wipe out the distinction which has hitherto been made upon our electoral rolls between male and female voters. I think it is very probable that upon reconsideration, the VicePresident of the Executive Council will recognise that the contemplated change can scarcely be regarded as a reform. After each name upon our electoral rolls, either the letter F or “ M “ appears. It is thus easy to determine the number of male and female voters upon the roll, and also to ascertain the percentage of each who exercise the franchise. The Bill itself evidences the necessity which exists for distinguishing between male and female voters, because it contains a reference to an elector who “being a woman,” &c. If our electoral rolls are prepared without any distinction being made between male and female voters, it may be difficult for our officers to decide the sex to which they belong.
– The name determines the sex.
– Not always. I hold in my hand a copy of the electoral roll for the division of Melbourne. I have only perused the first three or four pages of it, and a few of the names which I have chanced upon do not indicate whether the persons owning them are men or women. For instance, there is Melvena Ashlin. I take it that this person is a woman. Then there is S. J. C. Lancefield. In this case the Christian name is not given in full, so that it is impossible to say whether the voter is a male or female. Then there is Vallence Borthwick. That name might belong either to a male or a female. Another electorupon, the roll is named Hurtle Burt. “ Hurtle,” I suppose, was originally a surname, which has been adopted as a Christian name. Then there is Syna Bushnie. This elector appears on the roll as a female. But in the absence of that information, no returning officer could say whether the name belonged to a man or a woman. Another name which strikes me is Hanora Casey. I imagine that a mistake has been made, and that the name should be “ Honorah Casey.” Then comes the name of Chisholm Hatty. In this instance, Hatty is a woman? But the name might belong to either a man or a woman. I note also the occurrence of names such as Marion and Marian. We are all familiar with the name of Marion Crawford, the well-known novelist, and we also know that Marian is a well-known female name. Then there are such names as Francis and Frances. We also have upon our electoral rolls, a certain percentage of foreigners who have been naturalized. In their case, it is still more difficult to determine their sex by their names. Further, we have the names of women of foreign extraction who have married British-born subjects. In their case, whilst they have a true British surname, their Christian name may be a foreign one, and may therefore afford no guide as to sex. For instance, upon this roll there appears the surname of Azzopardi, with the Christian name Valletta, and the elector is a man.
– - What difference does it make?
– There are good reasons for making the distinction. I have shown that there are clauses in the Act which require a returning officer to know whether a voter is a man or a woman. Furthermore, by miking this distinction we are able to state the percentage of women who vote. If this proposed alteration be made, that interesting factor in our statistics will disappear. I have looked through 400 names, and there seems to be an average of 2i per cent, as to which it is impossible to tell whether they are those of men or of women. Probably we may infer that there are 50,000 electors in the Commonwealth as to whom it would be impossible to find out from their names, without any statement or indication of sex on the roll, whether they were men or women.
.- - As this is a machinery Bill, to make more effective the administration of the electoral law, I shall not discuss it at length : but there are some questions to which I should like to direct attention. I believe there is a provision in the Bill to the effect that the mere appearance of a person’s name on an electoral roll shall be conclusive evidence of his right to vote. I am not sure whether there is such a provision in any State Electoral Act. We must be careful about such a clause as that, because, as we all know, there is such a thing as roll stuffing or impersonation.
– The Court of Revision would remove names improperly on the roll.
– A case might escape the attention of the revising authorities. Suppose that the name of a man or a woman who under the Constitution is not permitted to vote appears, through fraud, accident, or the neglect of an officer, on an electoral roll. Can we in such a case say that the mere presence of the person’s name on the roll is to be unimpeach able evidence of a right to vote ? Cases to that effect have arisen once or twice in the Law Courts.
– Clause 22, proposed new section 145, speaks of the right to challenge a vote.
– To that extent the Bill seems to be inconsistent. I dare say that the law officers have looked up the legal point involved, and I only mention it in order that we may be quite sure of our position. It seems to me that if under the Constitution a certain person is not entitled to vote, no provision which we can make can give him that right. The vote of such a person would not be allowed if an election were questioned.
– What would the honorable senator do in such a case?
– In a case where there was a majority of a thousand, the vote of such a person would probably not make any difference ; but in a closely contested election the point might be important.
– If the vote were unconstitutional this Bill could not make it constitutional.
– And probably that is not the intention.
– Proposed new section 145 says “ is not challenged.”
– Suppose that such a. vote was not challenged, but that some one discovered afterwards that the voter had no right to exercise the franchise. Suppose, too, that the election depended upon that vote. If the election were challenged, would the mere appearance of the name on the roll debar the petitioning candidate from upsetting the election?
– That is the effect of the provision
– Then this appears to be an attempt by means of an Electoral Bill to override the Constitution. Strong reasons require to be given to show why an election depending upon the vote of a person not entitled under the Constitution to exercise that vote, should be valid merely because he had his name on the roll.
– Has the honorable senator considered clause 5 of the Bill? Can we say that a man may be eligible who has not lived a month in one State, whilst in another State he will not be eligible until he has lived a month there?
– I think that we can do so.
– Then where does the uniformity come in?
– We must, under the Constitution, have uniformity as to the franchise, but not necessarily as to administration. I do not think, however, that we can confer upon a person a right to vote on account of the mere presence of his name on the roll. I admit that the point is technical, but as it affects the Constitution it ought to be considered. I know of a case in a State where it was contended that the Court could not go behind the electoral roll ; but as the Court held that the Act had been defeated, they did go behind it. I doubt whether such a provision as that to which I have ‘ called attention would be effective if it were carried. As to postal voting, I gather that some honorable senators opposite would be glad to do away with the whole system. I admit at once that the postal voting system may be subjected to very gross abuse. One has not to look very closely into the administration of the system in some of the States to find that it has been abused. I may anticipate objection by saying that no one political party in any State has a monopoly of the abuse.
– There has been no abuse by our party ; we deny it.
– Although the system may have been abused there is no reason for abolishing it. Judging from some speeches, however, it appears that there is to be a direct attack upon the system. It is not an uncharitable inference from some of the objections that have been made to say that some honorable senators opposite would be glad if postal voting were to disappear entirely.
– I absolutely deny that, and I am the author of the postal voting system.
– Of course, I accept the honorable senator’s denial. I hope there will be no question of the abolition of the provisions for postal voting. Honorable senators opposite will find honorable senators on this side as willing as they are themselves to safeguard those provisions from abuse. I shall gladly give my assistance to preserve the postal vote.
– With proper protection.
– With such safeguards as will prevent its abuse. I shall be prepared to support any proposal intended to make the postal voting provisions more effective as a means to enable every adult in this vast continent to record his or her vote without unreasonable physical or other inconvenience. Because we insist on strict proof of the guilt of an accused person, many persons, who we know are morally guilty, are enabled to escape punishment, but no one would say that on that account that beneficent provision of our law should be abolished. Arguing by analogy the question is not whether the postal vote has been abused or the extent to which it has been abused, but whether in a continent of vast distances, with a scattered population, facilities should not be afforded to all electors, and especially women electors, to record their votes notwithstanding physical disabilities. The question is not whether the postal vote has been abused, but whether in principle it is sound. If it is sound in principle we should continue it, but should take every precaution to lessen the opportunities for its abuse. In response to interjections let me say that I” shall be very glad if, as a result of my speech, it is made clear that the postal vote is not to go. When I stood up to speak I may not have had a proper appreciation of Senator Needham’s remarks; but I hope I shall be regarded as being on the stool of repentance if I have been wrong.
– The honorable senator answers to the crack of the whip every time.
– Why should I not, if the whip is driving the team in the right’ direction?
– The honorable senator needs it very often.
– May I not retort by asking how many honorable senators opposite are not amenable to the whip or loyal to the leader of their party, ls what is a virtue on the other side to be regarded as a vice on this?
– We are all free agents on this side.
– In answer to the honorable senator’s remark, let me say that I am reminded by it of the observation in Hamlet, on the conduct of the “ Player Queen “-
The lady protests too much, methinks.
I have not insinuated that the honorable senators opposite are not free agents. I merely say that we, on. this side, are free. I am told that the leader of the party asked me to make this speech. I have raised a constitutional point, but there may be nothing in it ; and I have dealt with the question of the postal vote. I intend to give a strong reason for preserving the postal vote, and I rose chiefly to mention it. Honorable senators opposite are aware of how vast is the State of Western Australia, and of the immense distances to be traversed in the Northern Territory. I can give an instance from the State of Queensland to show how an elector might have been deprived of his right to vote, notwithstanding the existence of the “ Q “ form for postal voting. He had to travel over too miles from his station in the north to record his vote. He saw me after the election and mentioned the matter. I asked why he should put himself 10 so much inconvenience when he might have taken advantage of the “ Q “ form and voted by post. He said that he could not take advantage of it because he feared that if he did so he would be unable to record his vote in time. He could not say for whom he would vote until all the nominations were before the electors in proper form, and he feared that by the time his application to vote by post reached the registrar and got back to him it would have been- too late for him to reach the nearest place at which he could exercise a postal vote. I hope the postal vote will not be interfered with.
– If more polling booths are established there will be no necessity for postal voting.
– The answer to that is that it will involve very great additional expense to establish polling booths in remote localities where there are only a few settlers.
– It is the proper thing to do. The expense should not be considered when it is a question of providing proper facilities to enable every elector to record a vote.
– Honorable senators must admit that the provisions for postal voting give facilities which are of very great advantage to electors, and especially female electors, settled in remote districts. There can be no doubt that in a large State like Queensland or Western Australia it is an immense advantage to electors so situated to be able, under proper restrictions, provided they are not too harassing, to vote by post. Such facilities should not be removed without very strong reasons, unless it is shown that they are so abused as to endanger the purity of elections, or some more effective system can be suggested. I wish now to mention a matter in connexion with the administration of the law. The conduct of the last election in Queensland was certainly highly discreditable to ‘the- Electoral Department. I am not prepared to say whether this was due to defects in the law, or to inefficient administration. There should be no repetition of such blunders as were made in Queensland, and as were revealed beyond the possibility of doubt in connexion with a disputed election in South Australia. It is to be hoped that the Government, with the assistance of their expert officers, will be able to guarantee that at the next election there shall not be the friction and the awful farce that was witnessed in some cases at the last general election. I can mention an instance of what appeared to be defective administration, which occurred in Queensland. The central polling booth in Brisbane, where there is a population of about 120,000, was located on the top of a hill, to which there was no convenient access by tram or train. Notwithstanding representations made as to the hardship, especially to female voters, imposed by the selection of such a place for a polling booth, there appeared to be no desire on the part of the authorities to make any alteration. Many electors from outside divisions of the electorate naturally come into the city on the day of the election, and when they went to record their votes at the central polling booth they discovered that it was located on the top of an almost inaccessible hill. It was pointed out that at the previous election different arrangements had been made : but, whether on the score of economy or not, I do not know, the suggestions for an alteration were not acted upon by the Department, and immense personal inconvenience was imposed upon a great many electors.
– Does the honorable senator propose that polling booths should be established in a hollow?
– I do not care where they are established so long as they are easily accessible, and meet the convenience of the public. The subdivisions and divisions of electorates were so mixed up that persons could scarcely discover the particular division or subdivision in which they should vote, and those coming to the central division in the hope that they would be able to exercise their votes there, were told that they could not do so. The polling booth to which >I refer was established at the top of Wickham Terrace, in a building which had been bought by the Railway
Department, and which was formerly a Presbyterian Church. It is a very fine building, in a very fine situation ; but from the moment it was determined to establish a polling booth there it was objected to.
– Where was the central polling booth established at the previous election?
– Near Queenstreet, in the heart of the city, and easily accessible by excellent train and tram services. To use advisedly words which were on the lips of candidates and electors at the time. I say that how the Department came to perpetrate such an utter stupidity passed the comprehension of all concerned.
– In Charters Towers they did the same thing.
– At Charters Towers there was a good deal of trouble. I have experienced some difficulty in finding a solution, but Senator Trenwith almost affords “a key when he talks about abolishing the provisions for postal voting.
– The honorable senator should not complain, because he won last time.
– I am not complaining, but seeking fair play for everybody. Probably on the platform I exhibited such a desire to secure fair play for every one that a majority of the electors decided to return me.
– If the honorable senator won under those circumstances, what a large majority he would have had under other circumstances?
– Certainly. All these matters, I submit, should be attended to in the administration of the law. The conduct of the last election was a disgrace to the Department, if it was responsible, or a disgrace to the Act, if it was responsible. It is to be hoped that the same blunder will never be perpetrated again. It may be said that I am merely seeking to obtain facilities for those who may agree with me in politics, but that is not my motive. I only desire to secure a quick means of recording the will of the people. I congratulate the Government upon having proposed some amendments, which, on their very free, are bound to prove beneficial to the’ administration of the law. One of these improvement’s is the personal record which is offered bv the card system. I do not know whether this method has been tried elsewhere, but it seems to be one which ought to be introduced here. The great trouble which is experienced in the scat tered electorates, especially in Queensland, is the vast distances, which in so many cases hamper applications. The difficulties are sometimes so great that men and, still more so, women become disgusted in their efforts to get on the roll. They find that they are applying for original enrolment when they should be applying for transfer, and vice versa. If the ordinary man who takes an interest in politics finds himself bumped out once or twice, he is inclined to ask whether our democratic system is only a huge farce or what it is intended for. I congratulate the Government upon having devised what appears to be an effective system by means of the card. Senator Pulsford wants to preserve the distinction on the roll between male and female voters. I join in that request. I suppose that the effect of the female vote on politics, not only in Australia, but in the rest of the world, is one of the greatest of social questions.
– Would the honorable senator separate men and women into two paddocks, like sheep and goats ?
– I have quite a different appellation for women than is suggested by the term “ goats.”
– But that is virtually what the honorable senator is suggesting.
– LEDGER.- I do not call ‘ women goats.
– That is what the honorable senator suggests when he proposes to differentiate between the voters.
– If the honorable senator would only repress his sometimes impulsive impetuosity, he would have heard my statement. What the effect of the female vote on our politics will be is very largely a matter of conjecture. The whole world, as well as Australia, is interested in the enfranchisement of women. In Australia, women have had the franchise conferred upon them, while in the Old Country women are fighting for it. It is very important to know what the effect of the female vote will be, and we require to have it separately classified for the procurement of social statistics, and the determination of some sociological problems. It may be, and I think it will be,- of great benefit to humanity to learn the effect of the exercise of the female vote, and its strength, in order to ascertain the measure of interest they take in polites. There can be no doubt that very often, on important points, a woman looks at matters differently from a man. A husband who has the most profound love and respect for his wife may find her differing from him on very many important social questions.
– If honorable senators on the other side are going to be logical’ they ought to allow women to sit in Parliament.
– It was because we wanted to wipe out the injurious differentiation between the sexes that we admitted women to the suffrage, but now Senator St. Ledger wants to introduce differentiation again.
– It is in order to discover, not the sexes, but the points of view of the electors, that I want a differentiation to be made. In my opinion it should be made in order that those who study social politics and sociology may be able to ascertain first, whether women intend to take an active interest in politics and to exercise that influence at the polls; and, second, whether the political opinion of women differs markedly from what might be called the average public opinion.
– The Act contains certain provisions providing special facilities for female electors.
– Yes. That convenience is granted on the ground that the electors are women, and I hope that their appeal, when it is reasonable, will always be listened to with the respect which is due to their sex. I am making the request for a differentiation of the electors more particularly from the point of view of a student of sociology. I want -to ascertain how the female vote is exercised. My honorable friends on the other side have most good-humouredly, and otherwise, chaffed me about the interest I have taken in the voting of women, and also about my frequent appearance here, there, and elsewhere in trying to encourage them to exercise the suffrage, and to enable them to understand what its exercise is intended to effect. I have no doubt that such efforts will have a beneficial result on the politics of Australia. It may be that women are too severe upon men. Probably women expect too high a standard from us both intellectually and otherwise. But if they do err in that direction, the error is on the right side.
– We might not be here if the standard were very high.
– I would not say that for a moment ; but I have a larger knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of women than my honorable friend has. Every man who has a wife and familywould like their political views to be recorded. I hope that Senator Pulsford’s point, small as it may appear to be, will be taken into careful consideration, and that we shall preserve on the rolls by the names a clear differentiation between male and female voters. On the whole, I congratulate the Government upon having brought in this Bill at such a stage as will afford us ample time in which to deal with administrative matters.
– Would it not be better to bring down a consolidating measure at once instead of proceeding in this piecemeal way?
– I think not. To my mind, the principle of Democracy is that a majority of the people shall rule through a majority of representation in Parliament. That is the great principle which we should seek to achieve. How it may be achieved is a very great question. Whether by preferential voting, or by compulsory voting, which seems to be a pet project with Senator W. Russell, is a matter to be carefully considered. That honorable senator is such an ardent Democrat that he would not allow a person to enjoy the advantages of Democracy who would not exercise his vote. And there is a. good deal to -be said in favour of his point pf view. The salvation of Democracy means the use of the suffrage ; of course, in the right direction. The Bill, however, does not attempt to deal with that matter. Rut the time is not far distant when such questions must be considered. At present, a little more than a majority of the male electors go to the poll. It is a moot point whether the neglect is not seriously weakening, not merely the principles of Democracy, but also our parliamentary institutions. That question might well be raised in connexion with another Bill. But this measure deals purely with administrative machinery, and I cordially welcome it as an improvement on the principal Act. I shall give the Government my hearty assistance to place it upon the statute-book.
– What about informal votes ?
– A suggestion has been made in reference to informal votes. I do not wonder that Senator Vardon is interested in that matter, in view of his past experience by flood and field. I quite agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council as to the danger which is to be apprehended in regard to the registration of informal votes. I believe that the provisions of the principal Act in regard to informalities are very wise ones. Under the additional safeguards provided in this Bill, the determination of whether or not a vote is informal will be left to the persons who are best qualified to decide it. I appeal to the Vice-President of the Executive Council not to attempt to define too rigidly what constitutes an informality in the matter of voting. Under the principal Act, the Courts which have been called upon to decide such questions have been vested with power to ascertain from the ballot-papers what was the intentionof the electors.
– Provided the intention of a voter appears upon His ballot-paper that is all right.
– Exactly.If the intention does not appear on the ballotpaper neither this Parliament nor a Court of law can determine what it was. But under this Bill we axe endeavouring to make it easy for any elector to record his or her vote. Having done that, we may well leave it to the Law Courts to say whether a vote is informal.
– By adopting that course, we would be merely feeding the legal profession.
– It is said that a child who has been bitten by a snake is afraid even of a rope in the dark, and I can quite understandSenator Vardon ‘s fear in that connexion. I think we shall do well to allow the principal Act to stand in its present form without attempting too rigidly to declare what shall constitute an informal one.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.- I recognise that this Bill is exclusively a machinery measure, and that any debate upon it might therefore more appropriately take place in Committee. I should not have risen had it not been for the strong plea of Senator St. Ledger that we should differentiate between the male and female voters of the Commonwealth. ‘ His idea is that both on the electoral rolls and at the polling booths the male voters should be separated from the female. I do not agree with that idea at all, nor do I think that it is one which would be indorsed by the female electors of Australia. They wish to be placed upon an equality with men in the exercise of the franchise.
– That is what Senator St. Ledger advocated.
– He advocated keeping a separate account of the male and female votes.
– For sociological reasons.
– I wish to know where the sociological reasons come in. I believe that it is for political reasons that Senator St. Ledger advocated the adoption of that course. As far as I have been able to interpret the wishes of the women of Australia, they merely desired to be placed upon an absolute equality with men in the exercise of the franchise. But Senator St. Ledger pleaded in effect that at every polling booth there should be two paddocks, and that the male voters should be drafted into one, and the female voters into the other. His suggestion reminded me of the talk about separating the sheep from the goats. I repeat that the female electors of Australia merely wish to record their votes just as their fathers, husbands, and brothers do.
– Who said otherwise?
- Senator St. Ledger advocated the keeping of a separate account of the male and female voters.
– The honorable senator is mistaken.
– I am not. As soon as his proposal is put into plain language honorable senators opposite have the grace to be ashamed of it. If they had only had their way the women of the Commonwealth would not have possessed the vote to-day.
– The honorable senator is absolutely mistaken.
– When, that reform was first proposed were we not vigorously denounced throughout the country? We’re we not told that we would ruin the home by setting husband against wife?
– Iwould remind the honorable senator that the question before the Chair is not that of depriving women of the vote.
– I merely wish to show that the persons who fell into such a grievous error on a former occasion are likely to again lead us into error if we follow their advice. The female voters of the Commonwealth should regard with grave suspicion any suggestion emanating from such a tainted source. I wish now to briefly refer to that portion of the Bill which relates to voting by post. The Government propose to repeal all the voting by post provisions contained in the principal Act, and to substitute for them an entirely new set of provisions. Whilst I commend them for endeavouring to improve the principal Act, I hold that the best way in which to effect that object is to eliminate the postal provisions in their entirety. Every honorable senator will admit that those provisions are capable of the gravest abuse. Now, any provision which is capable of being used to vitiate the public verdict at an election should be repealed. What is the great object of holding an election? It is to obtain an impartial judgment of the electors on the political questions of the day. To accomplish that object, Australia, to its credit, initiated the ballot system, which insures the absolute secrecy of the voting, and consequently the independence of the elector. But under the voting by post provisions of the principal Act this secrecy of the ballot is absolutely destroyed. All our experience shows that this is the case, despite what may be said to the contrary. In Australia many elections have been conducted under the existing law, and after the votes registered at the polling booth have been counted the result of the postal vote has been known by the party managers upon both sides. At the last elction for Townsville, in -Queensland, the Honorable Robert Philp, and his colleague Mr. Hanran, were beaten decisively by the votes cast at the polling booths.
– The honorable senator means the 1907 election. In 1908 the postal vote had been abolished.
– I meant the last election in Queensland at which the postal vote was used. The two gentlemen to whom I have referred were beaten emphatically at the ballot-box.
– The same two gentlemen were returned in 1908, when there was no postal vote.
– The honorable senator will find that what I have stated is correct.
– The honorable senator will recollect what happened in 1907. There was a glaring case of the kind he has instanced. After 1907 the postal vote was abandoned in Queensland.
– At the election to which I have referred two candidates were beaten by over 200 votes at the count of votes recorded through the ballot-box. But it was. known that, in spite of that result, they would be returned by a considerable majority on postal votes. We shall be told, no doubt, that the returning officers appointed are members of the Public Service. But what occurred in Townsville on that particular occasion? The returning officer was appointed by the Government ; but instead of carrying out the provisions of the law, he allowed them to be evaded. Instead of the returning officer keeping the postal ballot-papers, as required by law, from the time when they were received until the time of the count, the postmaster in Townsville kept them in a box, and the returning officer did not take possession of them as he should have done.
– Does the honorable senator accuse the postmaster of partisanship ?
– The Queensland law directed that the ballot-papers should be stamped with the postal date-stamp of the day on which they were received at the post-office. But the postmaster to whom I refer, instead of carrying out that injunction, stamped the papers with the datestamp of the day preceding that on which they were received.
– Does the honorable senator accuse him of partisanship?
– I say that the Act was not carried out properly, and I am quoting this case to show that abuses have crept in under the postal ballot-paper system.
– Abuses occur under the ballot.
– At any rate, no one is compelled to vote by ballot except in such a way as he pleases. But will the honorable senator say that under the postal ballot system a person is always a free agent? I will quote an instance that occurred in Charters Towers. The men were at work in the mines. Their wives and the other women of their families were at home. Some of the mine managers went round and coerced these unfortunate women to vote against their conscientious and honest convictions, and a number of cases of domestic strife arose because of that pernicious practice. I am saying this publicly and openly, because the charge was proved up to the hilt at the time. What is to be done in cases like that, and in cases where a postmaster deliberately neglects his duty? The Act, as I have said, laid it down that a postal vote, when received at the post-office, should be stamped with the date-stamp corresponding with the date on the postal vote, thus insuring that the postal vote must be posted on the same day that it was signed and witnessed. The postmaster to whom I refer used to receive these letters in the morning. He used to lay them aside, and stamp ordinary letters with the date of that day. Then he deliberately changed the date of the stamp, and stamped the postal papers with the previous day’s datestamp. I say that a system under which that kind of thing can occur is pernicious, and should be wiped out.
– It cuts both ways.
– Senator Chataway knows of cases which have occurred in Queensland in which abuses crept in with regard to these postal votes. An outcry was raised against the system, which, in consequence, was wiped out by the Queensland Parliament. I do not think that it can be claimed that any method has been discovered which would free the postal voting system from not only the suspicion, but the actuality of abuse and corruption. What occurs under any system of postal voting that can be devised is simply this : that any man, or any party, that has money enough’ to spend, and will engage a sufficient number of agents to go round and canvass, can get almost as many postal votes as he pleases.
– The honorable senator will be all right now ; he can get votes from the Transvaal mines.
– I do not want to get votes from the Transvaal mines. I had rather be returned by honest votes recorded at the ballot-box. If the honorable senator wants to get votes from people who are absent from this country, he can do his best in that direction ; but he is notentitled to speak for me. Like every other honorable senator, I am desirous that the fullest possible facilities should be given for every one to record his vote. I would not cavil at any reasonable expense to obtain that very desirable end. I believe that we should have a great many more polling places than we have. Men should not be asked to travel such great distances as they now have to do in many instances. » Originally the postal vote provisions were adopted so that women might be able to exercise the franchise, say, at a time of maternity, and that sailors’ absent from, a State might be able to vote. Those were the two principal cases which Parliament had in mind when the system was adopted. But, as a matter of fact, we know that women who had no expectation of maternity have adopted .the postal vote system. We have known of cases where women have declared, and have been induced to declare, that they would be absent, when there was not the slightest or the remotest possibility of their being absent. They have been induced to declare that they would not be able to go to the polling booth on a certain day, when there was not a single thing to prevent them.
– Some women were induced to render themselves liable to a heavy penalty through the misrepresentations made to them.
– Every one knows that the women of Australia do not, as a rule, take a keen interest in the details of Electoral Acts. People come round and tell them to do this and that, and, women being usually trustful creatures, take what is said to them in good faith. Many of them, by accepting the corrupt suggestions that have been made to them, have rendered themselves liable to heavy penalties, which, fortunately for them, have not been enforced. But if these postal provisions remain part of the law, and the same abuses continue, undoubtedly some penalty will have to be enforced. I see no earthly reason why facilities should not be afforded to every person to go to the poll. There is no reason why anybody should be expected to go a great distance to vote. It is very much cheaper for the Commonwealth to send a returning officer and a poll clerk to open a polling booth at a place, than to expect ten or fifteen men to travel 20 miles to a polling booth.
– These little quart pot polling booths are a great source of corruption.
– There is no source of corruption in the polling booth, where every man is entitled to record his honest vote without any outside influence, and in such a manner as will not enable any one to know how he votes.
– Cairns, in the honorable senator’s own electorate, affords the most striking example in the history of Australia.
– The honorable senator is mistaken. It was a former whip of his party who got every one in the graveyard in the Cook electorate to come and vote for him.
– The honorable senator admits the corruption.
– I do.
– All that I said was that there was corruption.
– But at that time we had not a Labour party to see that elections were conducted in a fair and honest manner.
– Those things occurred under the old Tory regime.
– They certainly occurred before the advent of the Labour party. Honorable senators opposite cannot deny that opportunities for corruption and abuse exist under this voting-by-post system which is embodied in our electoral law. Nothing that can be said or done will justify” the retention of the existing sections in the Act. Our main object should be to allow the greatest possible number of people in Australia to record their votes in an honest and independent fashion, and in a way that will not allow them to be unduly influenced or victimized. There are not two per cent, of the population entitled to vote who could not record their votes at the polling booth under a proper system, and for the sake of the two per cent, is it worth while to perpetuate a system which is capable of abuse of the most glaring character ?
– What does the honorable senator think would be a proper system?
– The polling booth system.
– Would the honorable senator have a polling booth at every house?
– Certainly not, nor is there any necessity to do so. In every town there should be, at least, one polling booth for every 5,000 electors. , If necessary there should be two polling booths for every 5,000. In every country district in which there are ten voters residing more than seven miles from a polling booth, it would pay the Commonwealth to send an electoral officer to enable those people to vote, rather than that they should have to travel the seven miles. Because, after all, it is the people of this country who have to bear the expense of an election, and it is cheaper that one man should travel seven miles than that ten should do so. If such facilities were afforded there would be no necessity for postal voting. The postal-vote system has been fruitful of disgraceful abuses in our Federal elections.
– In Queensland, perhaps.
– In every State. Women have been induced to make false de clarations - to say that they had reason to know that they would be unwell on the day of election, or had reason to believe that they would be absent that day, when neither statement was true. That sort of thing has occurred in every State. Women have been induced to make such declarations because of the interested motives of party political managers.
– Labour members themselves formed part of the committee in Queensland which considered and dismissed the charges to which the honorable senator has referred.
– They did nothing of the sort. The circumstances to which I have referred occurred within my own knowledge. The Townsville case I mentioned, in which the date stamp was purposely altered for purposes of party manipulation, came under my own notice.
– Was the alteration made by one of the officials ?
– Yes, by a Commonwealth official, and I reported the matter at the time.
– Has the officer been sacked?
– No, he was not sacked. I venture to say that, under the rose, the action of the postmaster in question had the approval of the Commonwealth authorities at the time, because it was done in the interests of the party with whom they were in sympathy. If we permit opportunities for corruption, it will certainly creep in. No political party, and no human being, are beyond the reach of temptation. We are prone to error and liable to fall. I have Scriptural authority for that. In the prayer said every day by the President in opening the proceedings of the Senate, one of the most important petitions we put up to the Throne of Grace is that we should not be led into temptation.
– The petition is very necessary in the honorable senator’s case.
– I do not think the Vice-President of the Executive Council should be the first to cast a stone. I am net posing as a Simon Pure, or4 as a selfrighteous individual. I merely point out that so long as the opportunity to do evil exists, evil will be done, while human nature remains as it is. -It is admitted on all hands that evil occurs under the postal voting system, and we should abolish it. No disability would be imposed upon any one by wiping out the postal voting system if polling booths were established at all place where they are required.
– Except upon invalids.
– We might confine the use of the postal vote to sailors at sea on the day of election, and women who from causes peculiar to maternity are unable to attend at a polling booth.
– The system was originally intended only for such persons.
– But how many others now make use of it? In hundreds of cases people have declared that they will be absent more than a certain distance from a polling booth on the day of election, in order to secure postal ballot-papers.
– They declare that they “have reason to believe” that they will be absent more than a certain distance from a polling booth.
– In many cases their only reason is that they are induced by party managers, for party purposes, to sign their names to false declarations. Any political party that has money enough” to spend, and can secure canvassers to_ go round canvassing for postal votes, might exercise a corrupt influence upon any election taking place under the postal vote system. I hope that postal voting will be abolished, and that the Government will be induced to afford the best facilities to electors to record their votes by establishing polling booths in convenient places, in order that we may secure a freer and more independent expression of public opinion at elections.
– I think I should first of all congratulate Senator Millen upon the new departure he has taken as regards the form in which the Bill is submitted to the Senate. It makes it very much easier for honorable senators to know what is exactly proposed. Before referring to the amendments proposed by the Bill, I should like to suggest to the Government the desirability of consolidating our electoral law. Clause 1 of the Bill reads -
This Act may be cited as the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1909.
It must be clear that no one but a lawyer could possibly tell at any given moment what the law in regard to our elections is.
– And possibly not a lawyer.
– This of course suits Senator St. Ledger down to the ground. >I do not know whether he has received many fees for interpreting our electoral law; but I have no doubt that, in common with other lawyers, he delights in the general confusion which prevails in connexion with our statute-books. I want the law to be laid down in such a clear and simple fashion that the most ordinary intellect can understand it without having to pay 6s. 8d. for an interpretation. On that account, I submit the desirability of consolidating our electoral law, and grouping all our legislation connected with that subject in one comprehensive measure. With regard to the amendments of the law now proposed, I sympathize very much with the remarks made by Senators Henderson and Pulsford as to the omission of the word “sex” from section 29 of the principal Act. I think that is a mistake which ought to be rectified in Committee. A reactionary alteration is proposed in clause s of the Bill.
– Why reactionary?
– Because it would tend to make our law not only more conservative than it has been, but more conservative than it ought to be. I submit to honorable senators generally, and to Senator Walker in particular, who is an extremely reasonable man if one gets on the right side of him, that wherever a man lives ‘ in Australia he is a citizen of the Commonwealth, and as such ought not to be deprived of his political rights for a single instant.
– I agree with that.
– Then I invite the honorable senator to assist honorable senators on this side to have eliminated the proposed provision in clause 5 for a month’s residence.
– The elector can claim his right to vote for his old division.
– It would be very much better if from the moment an elector leaves one electorate and goes to another, in which he hopes to remain for some time, he were at once qualified to be placed on the roll for the new division or sub-division to which he has removed. Clause 7 provides -
Section 59 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ Form C in the schedule,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ prescribed form.”
I think that every form used in the conduct of an election ought to be inserted in our electoral law, so that every member of
Parliament and every elector may be able to see it, and judge whether it is right or not. Clause 8 reads -
Section 60 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ an elector,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ a prescribed person.” [ remember that we had a very stiff battle in this Parliament before we were able to secure legislation permitting one elector to witness the claim form of another. It seems to me that in clause 8 an attempt is made to depart from that principle. Who is “ a prescribed person “ ?
– I have already intimated that an alteration will be made in that clause.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council always speaks in such a modest lone of voice that, unfortunately for me, I lose a great deal of what he says. I am very glad to find that he sees that a mistake has been committed, and proposes to rectify it in Committee. A similar mistake is repeated in clause jo. Sub-clause 3 of proposed new section 6ib, as set out in clause n appears to me to be contrary to the Constitution, because it proposes to differentiate between electors in the different States. As I read it, it proposes to conform more or less with the laws which prevail for the time being in the different States. I do not think that that should be permitted in a Commonwealth Statute. I am aware that there is a very proper desire that the Commonwealth and States electoral rolls should, as far as possible, be the same, but if that cannot be accomplished without causing a differentiation between electors in the various States, it ought not to be attempted. The sub-clause to which I refer reads -
Where an arrangement has been entered into under section 30 of this Act for the preparation alteration and revision of the rolls jointly by the Commonwealth and a S’tate, and the law of the State contains no provision requiring an elector to have lived or resided in a sub-division for any specified period before his name can be changed to the roll of that sub-division, the regulations may dispense with the period of one month under this section as regards electors enrolled in that State.
Where that is not the law the provision of the Commonwealth measure will hold good. Where it is the law the Commonwealth law is to be abrogated.
– And they say that that is not differentiating between State and State.
– I do not know. I do not pretend to be able to give a legal interpretation of the clause; but reading it as a layman, that is what appears to be the case. I come now to the part of the Bill dealing with the removal of names from rolls. Clause 13 reads -
Section 68 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ Form D in the Schedule,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ prescribed form.”
A matter of that importance should not be left to regulations, but should be embodied in the law. I next come to the part dealing with voting by post,- the one question which seems to rouse any enthusiasm on either side of the chamber. I have always approved of the principle of voting by post. I believe that the object of this Parliament ought to be to give to every elector equal, or as nearly as possible equal, political power. I submit to the Minister that if one elector lives next door to the polling booth and another lives 100 or even 20 miles away, there cannot possibly be anything like equality of political power. One man can reach the polling booth with a small expenditure of energy to himself, but a man - and it is more especially so in the case of a woman - who lives 20, or 30, 50, or 100 miles away from the polling booth, is placed under a most serious disability. The weather, their state of health, their business - in fact one hundred things - may come between persons and the exercise of the franchise. In principle the electors are entitled to some such facility as is given to them in the provision for postal voting. But how has it been applied? It has been used most largely where it was never intended to be used, and that is in large centres of population. During the last few years it has done more to corrupt political thought and action than any other provision in th electoral law. So bad did the thing become in Queensland that the provision was swept off the statute-book by a torrent of public opinion. I have no hope that we here will be able to repeal the provision in our law.
– Do not be too pessimistic.
– I have no very great hope in that direction. When the question was last under consideration I was one of the strongest advocates for the right of a. person to vote by post, but after the experience I have had, both in Commonwealth and State elections, I am prepared to vote against the provision in our law.
– How about persons who are lying ill in bed?
– I am very sorry for them. I think that they should have an opportunity of recording their votes. I hold that every man and woman who, for some physical reason - distance or illness, or whatever it may be - is unable to go to the polling booth on election day, should have an opportunity, in some other way, of recording his or her vote.
– In what other way, if we abolish postal voting?
– I do not know. All I know is that this has been made an instrument of corruption - that it literally stinks in the nostrils of the people of Australia.
– Does it?
– I have never heard a complaint of it in South Australia.
– It is a fact. A demand has arisen almost everywhere for its abolition. I regret that very much. I see, perhaps as clearly as any one, that if we do that we shall practically penalize a large number of respectable persons who ought not, for any reason, to be deprived of the exercise of the franchise, because a few have not used the privilege in a lawful or moral manner. But when we have before us the example of Queensland, where the Legislature was literally compelled by the force of public opinion to sweep away the system, because it gave rise to so much corruption, then a very strong case is put forward for its abolition in connexion with Commonwealth elections. If the honorable gentleman who is in charge of the Bill can suggest some method of preventing the corruption of which I have spoken, and which I think every one admits has taken place, I shall most certainly vote for the continuance of the system; otherwise I shall be bound to vote against it.
– At this point the honorable senator might quote some of the opinions expressed by returning officers on the system in Queensland.
– The honorable senator has placed in my hand the Queensland Hansard of 1907, vol. 99, in which I find at page 213 the following statement by the Home Secretary, who, I believe, was Mr. Hawthorn-
I shall now read a few of the extracts that I promised. The first is a portion of a letter from the Returning Officer at Toowoomba, dated 29th July, 1907. I shall not weary the House by reading the whole of these letters, but only those portions that meet the present case. Amongst other things he says - “ I venture to condemn the almost unrestricted use made of a concession I am inclined to believe the Legislature intended to be sparingly applied. “ The course pursued in relation thereto in this electorate in May last seems to point to the political agents of candidates being provided with application forms for postal ballot certificates (obtained chiefly from non-official sources, at a cost of a few shillings per 1,000), and having canvassed electors, especially females, and of these not the best informed, and when any doubt arose as to the willingness of the elector to vote at the ballot-box, the signature of the voter to a postal application form was secured, this form being handed back to the agent, who presented it to the returning officer, and that official forwarded the required voting papers to a given address, which the agent was careful to provide as one ensuring the papers again coming directly under his control. “ I arrive at the conclusion that the majority of electors who signed the application forms under such conditions deemed it also his or her duty to vote for the candidates the agent represented, and if the request for a signature to the form was not complied with, the voter was considered hostile to the agent’s principles. “ The general tendency of the voting by post certainly impairs the secrecy of the ballot in more ways than one. ‘ It is within my knowledge that at the last election the hand-writing of the voter on the postal vote could be identified by officials engaged in counting at the close of the poll. The freedom of the elector is forestalled, and the too generous use of the postal vote may cause an election to be decided before polling day. The fact that the votes of 243 male electors given under the postal system were recorded for candidates at the May election, I think, indicates that the declaration these voters made - that they would be absent from the district on polling day - in order to obtain such a right, was not always in accordance with actual conditions.”
Hon. R.Philp. What is the returning officer’s name?
The Home Secretary. - Thomas Mowbray P.M. The next is from Laidley. I may say that almost every instance they are unsolicited. “4. Agents, in some cases J.P.’s, canvass for postal votes, and a few application forms were sent in which had been signed by J.P.’s as witnesses, but without any signature of applicant. The latter must either have forgotten to sign, was not aware that he had to sign, or the form was signed by the witness first and then carried round. “ 5. There is nothing to prevent a person signing an application for a person unable to write, and then signing the certificate also.”
– There is in this Bill.
– Yes. The letter from Laidley continues - “ 6. It has been said by persons of both sides that application forms have been signed by persons other than the name would imply, and there may be some truth in the statement. “7. In view of possible abuse, I think the vote should be abolished. Extra voting places might be appointed so as to give female voters better opportunities of recording their votes. The presiding officer might be paid on a sliding scale, according to votes polled, and this might prevent any great increase in the expenses.”
The next letter quoted by the Home Secretary was from Ipswich. It reads as follows : -
As soon as the applications began to come in I noticed that electors who were resident in Ipswich signed to have the postal certificates sent to another address than the address specified at the top of the application. I interviewed the Hon. A. H. Barlow on the matter, and it was found that in that respect nothing could be done to prevent such a course. Scores of postal certificates went to one address, and were taken out to the several electors by the justice of the peace, collected, and posted by him.
In examining the ballot-papers, myself, assistant, and scrutineers, were satisfied that in a very large number of cases the voter did not write the names, because, whilst there was the usual want of similarity in the signatures on the postal certificate, the writing on the ballotpapers was exceedingly good and of a similar character. I am of opinion that the postal voting in a great number of cases., was not a secret ballot, and that it is open to very grave abuse.
I do not know that I need read any more.
A number of other cases might be cited, all of the same tenor. I think that the evidence of Queensland is incontestably against a continuation of the postal vote. But if that vote be continued, one thing might be done to secure- greater secrecy. Paragraph a of proposed new section ii8a reads -
The elector shall exhibit his postal-paper (in blank) and his postal vote certificate to an authorized witness.
Honorable senators will understand that the first proceeding in connexion with a postal vote is the exhibition of the blank ballot-paper to an authorized witness. Then, in the presence of that witness, but in such a way that the witness cannot see for whom the elector is voting, the elector is supposed to write the name of the candidate for whom he wishes to vote upon his ballot-paper. I submit that under such circumstances secrecy is almost impossible.
– Very many wills are attested in exactly the same way.
– But a will is a very different document from a ballotpaper, as the honorable senator ought to know. I desire that postal, ballot-papers shall be witnessed in exactly the same way as wills are witnessed.
– In witnessing a will the object is to preserve secrecy.
– In the case of a will, the testator either draws out the will himself, or employs a gentleman connected with the honorable and learned profession to which Senator St. Ledger belongs, to do it for him. After the will has been drawn, he calls in witnesses who are not supposed to know anything about its contents, and signs his name in their presence. The witnesses as such then sign their names. That is all that I want in connexion with postal votes. I desire that the elector shall be permitted to fill up his postal ballot-paper not necessarily in the presence of a witness at all. When voting by means of the ordinary ballot-paper, the elector is obliged to go into a box where nobody can possibly see him. But in connexion with the postal vote, the authorized witness is not permitted to leave the room. What happens in the great majority of cases? Does the witness turn his back on the elector, or does he go to the other end of the room whilst the elector fills up his postal ballot-paper? Certainly not. As a matter of fact, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the authorized witness knows exactly how the elector has voted.
– At the election in Queensland, to which the honorable senator has already alluded, there were 1,300 postal ballot-papers which were not returned. Many of these are believed to have been destroyed, because they favoured! a certain candidate.
– If the postal voting system be continued, I think it would be better to allow the elector to fill in his or her postal ballot-paper independently altogether of the authorized witness, and to merely ask the witness to attest the signature. Under the existing law another duty of the authorized witness is to see that the postal ballot-paper is duly posted. Now, what on earth has a justice of the peace, or a public servant, or any other authorized witness, to do with the question of whether or not an elector posts his postal ballot-paper? That is entirely, the concern of the elector himself. If he does not chose to post it, he ought to lose his vote. Such a provision, I maintain, lends itself to the employment of professional witnesses. Let us suppose that the Vice-President of the Executive Council were a justice of the peace, and that a number of persons entered his office and asked him to sign postal ballot-papers as an authorized witness, and thereby to become responsible for the posting of those papers. Would he not say : “ Surely it is enough that you come here and occupy my valuable time in attesting your signature without my being called upon to see that your postal ballot-papers are posted’ ‘ ? That is the attitude which any ordinary individual would take up. But the paid hireling of any political party would undertake the work willingly. Why? Because he is a professional witness. Because he is paid per capita, which appears to be a favourite method of payment with honorable senators opposite. The hiring of these professional witnesses is a blot upon our electoral system which ought to be abolished. From the back of the card which has been circulated amongst honorable senators, I gather that the witness to a postal ballotpaper is not only required to attest the signature of a claimant, but also to become responsible for the statements made in the claim. That is altogether a wrong thing. It happens in connexion with the signing of no other document. I can make a declaration to-morrow, and get a justice of the peace to attest it. All that he will trouble himself about is to see that my signature is correct. Why should the witness to a postal ballot-paper take any responsibility whatever?
– He ought not to sign it unless he is prepared to accept that responsibility.
– He does not sign it as the guarantor of the claimant, ‘ but merely as a witness to his signature. Why, then, should he be held responsible for the statements contained in the claim? Under this Bill the witness is liable to a penalty of ^50 if he fails to make himself acquainted with the correctness or otherwise of the statements contained in the claim. That is another provision which requires to be amended. Any other remarks that I may have to offer upon the Bill I shall reserve until the measure is in Committee.
– I hope that all the clauses in this measure which relate to postal voting will be eliminated. The story that has been told of the operation in Queensland of the voting by post provisions of the principal Act is equally true of the experience of Western Australia.
– The abolition of those provisions will deprive the seamen of votes.
– I admit that it is a matter for regret that we should destroy the voting power of any citizen. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact that for a long time the postal voting system has been tried in the different Spates, and has been found wanting.
– Has it been tried in Western Australia?
– Has it been abolished there?
– It has not been abolished, but the feeling against it is growing daily, and I have not the least doubt that eventually it will be repealed. Honorable senators upon this side of the chamber have no motive in urging the excision of these clauses from the principal Act other than a desire to preserve the purity of our ballot system. No matter how well devised a postal voting system may be for ascertaining the will of the people, it is impossible to keep it entirely tree from acts of questionable interference. 1 recollect one occasion upon which a candidate for a seat in the Western Australia Parliament employed a large number of agents to go around the country canvassing for absent votes. These agents acquitted themselves remarkably well. One of them even went so far as to obtain access to the Fremantle gaol, and to secure the vote of an inmate who was serving a period of imprisonment there. When the postal ballotpaper of this person came under the observation of the scrutineers the latter were convulsed with laughter.
– Did the honorable senator object to her voting?
– As a matter of fact, her vote was quite illegal, inasmuch as the State Electoral Act absolutely forbids the extension of the franchise to persons who are attainted of crime. This is merely an illustration of the extent to which abuses have crept in under our postal voting system. I hope that the postal voting system will be abolished, since it has been tried and found lamentably wanting. I fail to see how under it we can give facilities for the full and fair expression of the opinion of the people with secrecy, and free from the exercise of any intimidation or influence. There is a provision in the parent Act to which I should like some attention to be directed. Although I am against the postal voting system root and branch, still, if the sections are to stand,
I want to see them amended, so as to give increased facilities to persons situated in remote parts of the country to record their votes. In the proposed new section i i 8a, provision is made to enable persons in remote localities to obtain postal votes. But a roundabout procedure has to be followed. The returning officer may be hundreds of miles away from the place where persons desiring to vote in this manner reside. I can quote a case in point. A new gold-field was developed at Black Range, Western Australia. Four or five hundred men were attracted there. There was no polling place in the vicinity, and no person there who was authorized to attest signatures. On the 1 2th December, three years ago, when the election took place, those men were deprived of the franchise and could take no more part in the choice of their representatives than could the aboriginals.
– That is a strong v reason in favour of postal voting.
– It is a reason for amending the postal voting sections of the Act if the system is to stand. I quite recognise that the system has its advantages. But it also has its disadvantages, and the demerits of the system so far outweigh the advantages that I am in favour of its abolition. Every proposal that is made to Parliament has some advantages, apparent or otherwise. We have to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages, and we reject a project if we consider that the balance of reason is against it. I should like the Minister to take into consideration the desirableness of enabling the nearest presiding officer to issue postal vote certificates whenever called upon to do so. There is an urgent need for this reform in the case of new districts. Advantages which can easily be secured by those who are only a hens’ race from a tram car are not available to those who go out and help to develop the remote parts of the country. At Black Range the miners were undoubtedly slow in taking into consideration what they required to do in order to exercise the franchise. About a fortnight before the 1 2 th December, they found that they had to send to the returning officer at Coolgardie, a distance of about 600 miles, an application for postal vote certificates. It took a week to send down their application. It took another week for the certificate to be sent up, and a third week for the voting papers to be sent down again to Coolgardie. In order that these men might vote they would have had to take action at least three weeks before election day. As a rule, however, men on goldfields are busily engaged in attending to the problem of whether they have a payable proposition in hand; and as these men did not think of what they had to do until about a fortnight before the election day, they were too late. There should be no distinction of power so far as the presiding officer is concerned. The ordinary ballotpapers are furnished to the presiding officer, and postal voting papers should be supplied to him also. A certain number might be given to each presiding officer throughout a division, and he should be called upon to keep an exact account of the number of papers filled up and the number remaining, which account should be rendered to his superior returning officer. The subject is a very serious one in the larger undeveloped States. In Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania it may not be a matter of much concern ; but in Western Australia, Queensland, and the Northern Territory, where developments often occur in .remote portions of the country very rapidly, the slow-going Department is hardly likely to take the necessary action in time to enable men to exercise the franchise. If the postal voting system is to stand at all it should be amended in the direction I have suggested.
– I am very pleased that Senator Millen has re-introduced the system of circulating with his amending Bill a copy of the original Act showing the amendments proposed to be made. This plan saves a considerable amount of trouble to honorable senators who desire to find out exactly what is proposed to be done, and the Minister is entitled to our. thanks.
– He cannot be always wrong.
– He must be right sometimes, and when he is we must recognise the fact. The tone of the debate indicates that there is a real desire on the part of all honorable senators to amend our Electoral Act so as to make it as perfect and complete a measure as possible. Indeed, the only justification for amending legislation of this character is to improve its machinery. At the commencement of our career as a Commonwealth we passed an Electoral Act which introduced some innovations as to which there has now been sufficient time to collect data and show whether they are beneficial or not. I confess that I was a supporter of the postal voting system in the first instance, believing that we ought to give every facility to our people to record their opinions at the poll. But I must admit that the system has not added to the purity of elections. It has not been as satisfactory in working as might reasonablyhave been expected. I should be very sorry to see theFederal Parliament adopt so conservative an attitude as to be afraid to experiment with some innovation merely because it is an innovation. But I should also be very sorry if, after it has been shown that the system of postal voting endangers the purity of elections, this Parliament declined to abolish it. I’ feel that the postal voting system is now really the only source of annoyance and possible corruption that we have to fear at election times. It has been found wanting, and I hope we shall not lose the present opportunity to remove this objectionable feature of our existing electoral system. I quite recognise that some sections of the community might suffer from the abolition of postal voting, and that section of the population more directly represented by Senator Guthrie would probably suffer to a greater extent than any other section. Seamen and women would suffer more than any other sections of the community from the abolition of postal voting, and in the circumstances we can claim that the Labour party would be likely to lose more by the abolition of the system than would the members of the Government party. Notwithstanding the fact that the abolition of the system would be likely to result in the loss of votes to the Labour party, I am prepared to put up with that rather than have a continuance of the annoyance and dishonesty arising from its operation. It has been proved to be a failure in Western Australia, but I think that the results have been found to be even worse in other States of the Commonwealth.
– What would the honorable senator propose in its place?
– I confess that I can suggest nothing but the establishment of additional polling booths.
– Even if we do establish additional polling booths there will be a sprinkling of electors who will be out of reach of them, and how does the honorable member propose that they shall record their votes?
– There would hot be many so situated. The inconvenience following upon the abolition of the postal voting system would probably be greater in Western Australia where the population is more scattered than in the smaller States such as Victoria and New South Wales.
SenatorChataway. - And Queensland.
– After all, as compared with Western Australia and South Australia, Queensland is not a very large State. I recognise that the abolition of postal voting might be a cause of complaint by persons living in the backblocks, and by the seamen whom Senator Guthrie represents.
– I thought the honorable senator represented South Australia.
– He does represent that State, and represents it well, but he more directly represents seamen than does any other member of the Senate. Just as Senator St. Ledger represents a certain section in Queensland more directly than any other section in that State, so Senator Guthrie more directly represents seamen than any other section of the electors of South Australia. I have shown that in asking for the abolition of postal voting we are not on this side making a party move.
– I hope that no party matter is involved; but will the honorable senator say how seamen engaged on the Inter-State boats are to record their votes if we abolish postal voting?
– I have already said that seamen are likely to suffer more than any other section in the community from the abolition of the system, but I would rather, face that contingency than permit the evils which have arisen from the operation of the system to continue.
– Is the Vice-President of the Executive Council prepared to confine postal voting to seamen and invalids?
– I should certainly not confine it to individuals.
– To the two classes of individuals to whom I have referred?
– Honorable senators opposite have contended that in principle the system is bad, and leads to swindling. Would not the swindling continue if seamen were entitled to vote by post?
– I recognise the difficulty mentioned by Senator Millen. I hope that before the Bill leaves the Senate we shall be able, if not to abolish the system entirely, to put it on a more satisfactory basis.
– As honorable senators are no doubt aware, the provision for absentee voting originated in South Australia, and very little harm followed from it as carried out in that State. It was originally intended for the benefit of seamen only, but because of the provisions under the Commonwealth law enabling an elector to vote at any polling place in a State, the provisions for absentee voters under the South Australian law were extended to commercial travellers, railway servants, and to women in certain circumstances.
– An elector cannot vote under the Commonwealth law except at a polling booth.
– Seamen engaged on the coast of North Queensland very often cannot attend a polling booth.
– That is exactly the case I wish to put to the Senate. I say that men on land can always get to a polling booth.
– No; there are mailmen in New South Wales who have to travel 40 miles between one polling booth and another.
– I contend that it is possible for persons on land to get to a polling booth, but it is often impossible for a seaman to do so, and his case would be met by extending the time during which he might record his vote sufficiently to enable him to reach a port at which he could do so. If the intention had been to break down the postal voting provisions it could not have been better carried out than it would be under this Bill.
– Who is going to handle the seaman’s vote?
– Under the South Australian law two men only handle the seaman’s vote. One is the returning officer, who takes the formal application, and gets the elector to sign his name in a book before he gives him his permit to vote, and the other the postmaster before whom he votes secretly and signs his name secretly on a counterfoil, which is brought to the scrutiny and compared with the signature in the returning officer’s book. That is the whole of the machinery, and it provides a better safeguard against corruption than even the appearance of the voter himself. The authorities of a bank will cash a cheque on the strength of the signature to it, when they would scarcely do so on the mere appearance of the man who signed it, without his signature. Under the Bill it is proposed that amongst authorized wit nesses within the meaning of the Act shall be-
All Commonwealth Electoral Officers for States; all Commonwealth Returning Officers; all Commonwealth Electoral Registrars; all Postmasters or Postmistresses or persons in charge of post-offices; all Police or Stipendiary or Special Magistrates of the Commonwealth or of States; all Justices of the Peace; all Head Teachers of State Schools - and so on, down to men permanently employed as telegraph line repairers. Doubtless a great many of these persons would act justly, but many others might merely be political agents. Under the South Australian law a returning officer was the only person authorized to take the signature of a person claiming a postal vote. There was no danger under that provision, but under this Bill every man on land is enabled by the use of the “ Q “ form to record his vote as an absent voter. If a resident of Adelaide happens to be at Port Augusta, he can vote there for the Adelaide electorate.
– Why should not a mailman have the same facilities.
– He has exactly the same facilities.
– Not in New South Wales.
– A mailman on each trip will pass through some place where there is a polling booth’.
– Does the Minister mean to say that a mailman would not on his trip pass a station at which there is a polling booth?
– I can give instances of mail routes running out to the Darling on which there may be 70 miles between polling places.
– There must be very few such instances, and the abolition of postal voting means that all the men employedin the mercantile marine will be dis-. franchised
– They are not more worthy citizens than are others.
– I am not saying that they are, but I say that provision could be made to meet their case without expense. I believe that every man and woman in the Commonwealth should ‘be given an opportunity to exercise the franchise, so far as it is possible to give that opportunity without danger of corruption in the casting of the votes. Corruption is always possible, and our duty is to prevent it as much as possible. I have thrown out a suggestion, and I hope that in Committee a provision will be suggested to insure to those who have the franchise an opportunity of voting in a way which will be clean and above board. That is all I ask, and I hope that the Minister will accede to my request. I believe that he will be only too happy to make the Bill as workable as possible, and to take steps to close the avenues of corruption which have been mentioned here to-night.
– I am pleased -that in moving the second reading of the Bill, the Minister furnished some information, especially in connexion with the proposed card system. I have been comparing it with the present system. It is about the best device I have yet seen for dealing with new ‘claims and transfers from one subdivision to another, or from one division to another. When I went into the State Electoral Department in Brisbane not very long ago about some matter, the officers said “ The Commonwealth has what seems to us a peculiar system. It allows a person to get oh the roll without having a witness to his claim, but after he is enrolled he is obliged, if he desires a transfer, to get a witness to his signature. In the State it is altogether different. A man first shows his bona fides when he sends in a claim-, as it is witnessed by some person ; but afterwards, seeing that he is enrolled,- and can be traced, there is no need to have a claim for transfer witnessed, because the matter is then in the hands of the officials.” The card system seems to me to be a very simple device. I think that it will have the effect which the Minister anticipates In preventing the appearance of a large number of names on two or three different rolls. That, I know, has been a source of trouble not only with the State rolls, but also the Commonwealth rolls. While I do not think that a great deal of personation is carried on - and I have had a fair share of electioneering experience - still the Senate should do all that it possibly can to prevent facilities for personation being afforded. If we have a card system, under which a voter can be traced from one place to another, we shall have a check on that duplication which, I think, is an incentive to personation. Sometimes when one glances at a roll, he finds that it contains quite a number of persons bearing the same name. I dare say that a little difficulty will arise in that regard. I suppose that we cannot obtain a perfect roll, but our duty certainly is to make it as perfect as possible, and the card system is the best device I have heard of. The provisions for postal voting seem to be receiving a great deal of attention from honorable senators. At one time I was an advocate of the system, but always within what I considered to be fair limits. 1 suppose that in those days I was young and innocent, and therefore could not anticipate the ability which my opponents were able to exercise in these matters. Since then, however, I have learned much, and now know that a good deal can be done in the way of manipulation. Of course, I cannot speak from- personal knowledge. I have seen the reports from returning officers in Queensland, some of which were read by Senator Stewart; and a lot of information has been supplied to me at one time and another, not only by members of the Queensland Parliament, who were engaged in the contest, but also by local residents who had observed how the game was played. I do not think that anything too strong has been said in condemnation of the system as it was inaugurated there. From one end of Queensland to the other, there went up a cry for its abolition, and as soon as the Parliament reassembled, even before the AddressinReply had been dealt with, a Bill was submitted for the repeal of the very provisions which had been enacted only a few months before. On this subject there is, I admit, room for differences of opinion. Just as in dealing with the card system, so in dealing with the system of postal voting, the Parliament should be governed by one consideration, and that is that there shall be no facilities offered for wrongdoing. We on this side have* not inveighed against the principle of postal voting. It appeals, I think, to every one as a principle which is most eminently fair and likely to do the greatest amount of good in the effort to ascertain public opinion. It is only in actual operation that it is found how impossible it is to control the system. At one election in Queensland, it would have been possible to lay charges against a considerable number of women in connexion with their exercise of the privilege. The candidate, who had a considerable amount of money at his disposal, was able to procure the services of a number of hired canvassers. It was considered by the canvassers that the best thing they could do would be to show the largest results when they reported themselves every day or every week. They decided to make house to house visits when the husbands were absent at their work. They represented to the wives that under the Commonwealth law they would be entitled to vote by post, even though they were not in a condition which would enable them to make the declaration required. The women were assured that if they availed themselves of the privilege it would save them a lot of worry as well as the trouble of visiting the polling booth on election day. Not knowing anything better, the women accepted the assurances of the canvassers that everything would be all right. The canvassers had secured the necessary application forms, and explained how they should be filled in. To the women they said, “ You send in the application form today, and in a day or two we will call round and witness the ballot-paper, when you will be able to use it.” In acting upon this advice, the women rendered themselves liable to a penalty under the law, because they were not in a condition which justified them in signing the declaration. Had the law been carried out, practically- every woman in a large town would have been haled before a court and charged with an electoral offence. In that case there was certainly misrepresentation. The women themselves were quite honest. Some of them told me that it would have been no trouble to them to go to the polling booth on election day and record their vote. However, the canvassers represented that everything would be all right, and their advice was followed, and not being acquainted with the law, the women acted upon it. It will be seen that the system of postal voting enables unscrupulous persons to bring electors within the meshes of the law, simply by reason of their ignorance of its provisions. Such facilities should not be allowed to exist, because there is no reason why hired canvassers should go round and deceive the electors, thereby making them amenable to some punitive provision. That is one of the reasons why I think there should be a considerable alteration made in connexion with the system. We have heard about the long distances which have to be travelled in the country. I know something about long distances, for I have travelled over a very large portion of Queensland. I admit that at times persons experience a good deal of trouble in getting to the polling booths, but that occurs more in pastoral districts than elsewhere. Take, for instance, a mining district. There is no trouble in providing polling booths at the mining camps. Of course there may not.be a large number of votes recorded at a mining camp. If a certain number of votes be recorded, the counting is done locally; otherwise the votes are forwarded to the assistant returning officer to be counted. The law already meets the convenience of most of these persons. It is possible to get to the various mining camps. The average miner does not take it harshly if he has to go 20 or 25 miles to record his vote. Often the miners go into the small centre of population, where a polling booth is provided, or to the nearest mining camp, and record their votes. On many a camp work is suspended on election day, so that all hands may be able to go away and vote. In the case of the pastoral districts, I admit, with Senator Millen, that polling booths are separated by long distances. But who are there to vote, anyhow? There- are very few persons to be found in all these long distances, and there are very few mailmen who, if they are on the track, do not pass some station or other where a polling booth is provided. It must be remembered that polling booths are established at a considerable number of stations, and in the vicinity of wayside hotels. On the public road, I have seen a polling booth comprising two tents, namely, one for the returning officer and the other for the electors. Although, perhaps, only 30 or 40 votes may be recorded during the day, still voting facilities are provided, not only for the electors within a reasonable distance, but also for those who may be on the road that day. So far as travelling on the public road is concerned, there is generally a polling booth within 25 or .30 miles.
– 1 can give instances to the contrary.
– I can mention placesright away back where there are very few persons. There may be a few teams on the road in addition to the mail-driver. But as the latter usually starts his journey early in the morning, and does not finish it until late in the evening, he will, in the great majority of cases, pass a polling booth during the day, and, consequently, will be able to record his vote.
– What does the honorable senator regard as a fair distance between polling booths?
– I have seen poll- ing booths 20 miles apart, and I have seen them 30 miles apart.
– Does the honorable senator know the distance which sheep are supposed to travel during the course of a day?
– What about the drovers who are attending them?
– Those men are mounted.
– Not always.
– They do not travel very far when they are on foot. There are always horses connected with their outfit, and at no time will they be more than 15 miles distant from a polling booth.
– Has the honorable senator ever been behind a mob of sheep in a dry season with his horses knocked up?
– T know that there is a good deal of discomfort attached to such a position. But I would point out that the largest percentage of votes in Queensland is always recorded in outlying electorates. Although there may be thousands of miles embraced in those electorates, a larger percentage of votes is recorded there than is recorded in the big centres of population.
– That was the case in connexion with the recent election for the district of Wakefield, , in South Australia.
– Perhaps the electors in the thickly-populated centres know the candidates better than do the electors in outlying districts.
– I question whether they know them so well. If a candidate arranges to address a meeting in a thicklypopulated district, scores of persons will attend it, and will thus get to know him. In the large centres of population a candidate - although he may advertise his meeting - will get a much smaller attendance than he will in an outlying township. I have addressed meetings in townships in which I expected to secure an attendance pf twenty-five or thirty persons, but at which those present have numbered 150. In remote portions of the country, too, people are not so divided bv class interests as they are in the metropolitan areas. Of course” I know that a large number of electors who support honorable senators opposite would think it beneath their dignity to attend a meeting which was to be addressed by a Labour candidate.
– That is a very laudable sentiment for them to entertain.
– I .think it is an evidence of ignorance, because a person should- at least endeavour to make himself acquainted with the opinions which are held by all the candidates for his suffrage. 1 come now to the question of how the repeal of the postal voting system will affect our seamen. I, admit that a difficulty exists so far as they are concerned. But_ I would point out that there are not many seamen engaged on the Australian coast who are absent from their home ports for more than a month. In the case of a man having his home in Melbourne, the longest voyage that he could undertake in our coastal boats would be one to Cooktown and back. That would occupy him within a day or two of four weeks, If, on the other hand, his name appeared upon the Queensland rolls, he would’ be in a port of that State at least twice during that period, and, therefore, would have ample opportunity to record his vote. There is no reason why facilities for doing this should not be afforded to him. The names of many of our seamen appear upon the rolls of New South Wales and Queensland, and they would have ample opportunity of recording their votes in those States after they had left Melbourne. That fact, in itself, would do away with all likelihood of impersonation. I know that the postal voting system warfirst extended to seamen by South Australia. Later on it was adopted by New Zealand, which also extended it to commercial travellers. Still later, its application was made even more general, until at last its abuse became so pronounced . that the people now recognise that the principle underlying it is a bad one. It seems to me that it is better that this question should be removed from the atmosphere of party altogether. . No party should be able to use such influence as to get a large accession of voting strength from the fact that it is able to induce people to evade the law. I do not care whether it is the party opposite or my own party that benefits. I say that we should remove that incentive altogether.
– Except in the case of seamen ?
– What about invalids?
– If we allow invalids to vote by post we immediately 01)er the door to abuse. What is an invalid?
– What is a seaman ?
– He is a man who if on a ship’s articles. The only seaman who should be able to exercise a vote by post should be a seaman actually on the articles of a vessel. A man ashore, looking for employment, should vote at a polling booth in the ordinary way. He has the same opportunities as any other man or woman.
– Why differentiate between, a man who travels by land and bv sea?
– I should be prepared to wipe out the postal vote altogether, but there are some who think that it is advisable to give this privilege to certain classes of people, whose conditions of employment are such that no improper influences can be brought to bear upon 4 hem. I know that there are some people who travel in the interior, and who find it very inconvenient to vote at a polling booth. But I would make no exception in their case.
– I have travelled 20 miles to record a vote.
– I have known men to walk 60 miles to vote. I have seen a whole camp of over fifty men travel 60 miles to a polling booth, at a time when there were no postal votes, and facilities were not given them to record their votes at a nearer polling place. But as to invalids other difficulties arise. Every one knows that at election times it is a nuisance to the public hospitals to have canvassers going round asking patients for their votes. It is not a very good thing to permit. The medical gentlemen object very strongly to the practice. Of course, if a doctor expressly forbids a canvasser to see a certain patient he is not permitted to do so ; but still the practice is resorted to, and it seems to me that it would be just as well for people who happen to be in hospitals at election time to lose their votes for that occasion rather than that the hospitals should be overrun by canvassers. In saying this I am certainly not speaking in the interests of my party, because we may fairly assume that the majority of hospital patients would vote for Labour candidates. In objecting to the practice I am therefore speaking impartially. But there are’ in hospitals many people who are convalescent, and there is no reason why a presiding officer should not be sent to enable them to record their votes. The thing is quite simple. When the Bill gets into Committee I trust that honorable senators will see whether some means cannot be devised whereby the incentive to do wrong may be removed from the existing law, whilst at the same time we safeguard the interests of the electors in enabling them to express their opinions at the ballot-box in the most convenient manner possible.
– There is no need for me to detain the Senate with a speech in reply, except to express my thanks for the tone of the criticism which has been directed towards the Bill. I may remind the Senate that the position taken up by the Government in the matter is simply this : It was not a question of introducing a Bill for the purpose of carrying on the Federal elections. There is already an Act upon the statute-book,, which it is to be presumed represented the mature judgment of the Parliament that passed it. The task which confronted the Government was that certain loopholes had been found in the existing law, and that there was a need to strengthen the machinery, and to overcome certain difficulties in administration. To fulfil those purposes is the sole scope and object of this Bill. There has been no attempt to depart from the framework of the existing law.
– In some respects there has been - with regard to the one month’s qualification.
– I do not regard that as a departure from the existing law, because there is already in the Act a stipulation with regard to a month’s residential qualification. It is now proposed to make that apply to an application for original enrolment also. The larger matters of principle such as postal voting do not really arise in connexion with this Bill. Sections embodying the principal of postal voting were inserted in the original Act, and I think I am safe in saying that they were approved of by a majority of the members of the Senate. I do not profess to be enamoured of the postal voting facilities myself, but at the same time I do recognise that honorable senators are asking for a .very great thing indeed when they ask that we shall completely abandon the facilities granted after consideration by this Parliament only a few; years ago. Some of those who object to postal voting generally have pleaded for the maintenance of that privilege for seamen. I take strong exception to making provision for a certain class of electors that is not made for every elector similarly placed.
– Wipe out the provisions altogether.
– Then we shall be faced with the difficulty that we shall be intentionally disenfranchising a large number of people’ for whose voting the existing law makes provision. We have to make a choice in the matter; or, rather, we have to see whether we cannot devise a via media, and at the same time safeguard it against the temptation . to misuse, which it is stated exists under the present law. I shall be very pleased if any suggestion is made in Committee which will indicate to us a method by which we can arrive at what I take to be the goal we all have in view, the maintenance of every possible facility, accompanied- by every possible safeguard. One or two matters have been referred to in the course of the debate to which I may allude. Senator Pearce has raised a question as to why only one card is to be used under the system now proposed, whereas two cards are used under the Western Australian system. I think I informed him that the card would be sent to the chief returning officer, and that that chief returning officer, having made his record, would forward the card to the local officer. I was in error there. The application card will be carried forward in the first instance to the registrar of the locality in which the application is made. That local registrar, having made his record, will forward the card for permanent keeping to the office of the chief electoral officer of the State. The one card serves the two purposes. The elector making his application forwards the card to the local registrar; the registrar then enters the particulars in his books, and forwards the card to the head office, where it is kept as a permanent record. There is therefore no need to have two cards, as in Western Aus- - tralia. Another matter which has been re- ferred to is that relating to the word “ sex.” I am not at all wedded to the repeal of that word, but I should like to point out. that the difficulties which apparently are present to the mind of Senator Pulsford are already guarded against. In the first instance, so far as statistical purposes are concerned, a record is kept of every voter who comes to the poll. Each returning officer has in front of him tables of numbers in consecutive order running from 1 to 300. One table is for males and the other for females. The moment an elector comes in a pencil is run through number 1, and subsequent numbers are marked off as other electors come in. A record is thus kept of the number of males and females who vote, with the result that at any moment during the election a returning officer can tell from the last number struck out how many of each sex have voted.
– That plan does not cover the number pf those enrolled, nor does it include those who vote by post.
– That is perfectly true.
– If the plan fails in any direction, its value for statistical purposes is set on one side.
– That also is perfectly true. As I have said, I do not attach very much importance to the omission of the word “ sex.”
– Is any one very much interested in the retention of the word? If there are 1,500 electors on the roll, and 1,300 vote, that is all we want to know.
Senate MILLEN. - I do not see that there is anything of practical importance in the use of the word, but a great many things which are not of practical importance are a guide to us in that kind of social legislation which is more and more making demands on our time. At all events, we do not desire to lose the opportunity of getting statistical information if it can be obtained without infringing any principle. Personally, I have no objection to the use after my name on the roll of a letter signifying that I figure as a male, nor do I suppose that any one else objects. The amendment proposed to be made was inserted for the reason that certain States, such as Victoria, do not include in their rolls an indication’ of the sex of electors.
– Victoria does now.
– I assume that the amendment is proposed to enable the Commonwealth to work in with the Victorian roll if an arrangement can be made for that purpose. However, I do not say that that is a sufficient reason for striking out the word “sex,” if it is desirable to retain it on other grounds. When the Bill gets into Committee, I trust that it will be dealt with as it has been during the debate today, and that it will be regarded purely as a machinery measure for ascertaining the will of the electors at certain stated periods. Every one of us, regardless of party interests,- has the same kind of anxiety to see that our electoral machinery is made as perfect as possible. We never know how an election will go, though we all know how it ought to go, and we all have an equal interest in seeing that the machinery is made as perfect as possible, and that everything is provided that will tend to smooth running.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause1 agreed to.
– In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I desire to take the opportunity of intimating to the Senate, that you, sir, have drawn attention to the desirableness of considering a report from the Standing Orders Committee. With that object in view, it is our intention to make way for the consideration of the report to-morrow, when it will stand as the first business for consideration.
– Some time ago, Senator Neild ventilated the case of Naval Storekeeper Critten, and made certain statements which were rather a reflection on the Defence Department, though not on myself as exMinister, because what was done occurred before I took office. The Department was accused of not having done justice to this man. 1 pointed out that I had appointed an impartial Committee to investigate the case, and that as the Committee was then conducting its inquiries, I thought we should suspend judgment. Since then, the Committee has arrived at certain findings, which have been laid upon the table of the Library at my request. I propose now to read a summary of the findings, as follows : -
As to the second contention - Assuming his retention in the Permanent Forces to be regular, he would not in any case be entitled to the extra 6d. per day until 1911.
As to the third contention - Critten was granted compensation of£200 for permanent injury while on duty. His claim that this was an allowance for expenses caused by injury and not as compensation is not correct.
Critten does not, in our opinion, appear to have any legal claim to further compensation under the Act of 1890, 1903-4. The question is one purely for the Minister.
On the whole, we are of the opinion that Critten has been treated with great consideration by both Ministers and officers, and owes his continued employment in the service of the Naval Forces to the most liberal interpretation, if not complete disregard, of the Acts and the Regulations relating thereto.
This is signed by P. Cohen, P.M., Captain W. H. Panter, of the Royal Navy, and Mr. A. G. Brown, the Secretary to Ministers in the Senate. The report I have read will show that the remarks made by Senator Neild were rather too sweeping. This man has had a very fair inquiry into his case, from which it is shown that he has been treated with the utmost consideration by past Ministers and by the Department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.13p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090908_senate_3_51/>.