4th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Supply Bill (No. 3).
Statutory Declarations Bill.
– By leave, I desire to inform the Senate that E. A. Roberts, Esq., M.P., has been sworn in as Honorary Minister.
– Owing to a function which is to take place in Parliament House this evening I desire to mention that, for the convenience of those honorable senators who may wish to go to their homes before dinner, it is proposed to ask the Senate to adjourn at 6 o’clock.
– On Friday last I unintentionally voted in favour of the third reading of the Naval and Military Decorations Bill, which I had opposed through its passage. When the question was put I did not hear any one but myself call for a division, and until I heard the bells cease to ring I was not aware that a division was in progress; after you, sir, had named the tellers it was too late for me to cross the floor. As I have been twitted with having spoken in one way and voted in another, I wish to put it on record that the vote was given quite unintentionally on my part.
– Was it unintentional on the Minister’s part?
– When Senator Millen was speaking to the second reading of the Electoral Bill the other day I interjected that in South Australia there were at least two party newspapers. I am reported - and I do not blame the reporters for the error; perhaps I did not speak very clearly - as having said that the Register was “ a dirty rag.” I did not mean to make that statement, and it would not be true if I did. I meant the Critic, and I think that it is a dirty rag still. I desire to withdraw the statement in reference to the Register, and to let it be properly understood that it was the Critic to which I referred.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Papua - Ordinances of 191 1 -
Arms, Liquor, and Opium prohibition.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 - Return of land disposed of under section 63 (2) - Old Post Office site, Leura, New South Wales.
Northern Territory - Reports by Mr. W. S. Campbell, ex-Director of Agriculture for New South Wales, regarding the suitability of certain lands in the Northern Territory for agricultural purposes, &c.
-laid on the table -
Return to Order of the Senate of 19th October, 191 1 -
Receiving Post Offices - Number in each State, &c.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the return in connexion with the press cable service is available? I understood that it was to be tabled last week.
– I cannot say offhand whether, the return is ready or not, but I shall make inquiries, and see that its production is facilitated in every way.
– When does the
Vice-President of the Executive Council expect to be able to supply the information which I asked for in regard to the Federal land tax?
– I heard no later than yesterday that the information is being collected, and will be furnished to the Senate as soon as possible.
Debate resumed from 20th October (vide page 1696), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– On Friday last, when discussing this crude, ill-advised, and badly-drawn measure, I dealt with the abolition of postal voting, and endeavoured to show that the odium of refusing a vote to those who will be too far away from their homes on election day to be able to record it at a polling booth, except, perhaps, at the cost “ of a day’s pay, to women in ill-health, and to aged and infirm persons, must rest on the Labour party. It is their responsibility altogether. The more comprehensive system of absent voting which was referred to by the Minister of .Defence in his speech is confined to two classes, namely, sailors and those who may be at sea. That is proved in the memorandum compiled by the Chief Electoral Officer, who states distinctly that those persons alone will benefit by the provision. I think I have shown that there is no provision in the measure referring to a by-election, and consequently that, if there should happen to be a byelection, a man who is outside his own district will not be able to record his vote unless it is intended to throw open the whole of the polling places in the Commonwealth. I wanted to know how the system of compulsory enrolment is going to be enforced. I think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council said that the Department may call out the military or use the police for the purpose, but it seems to me that that part of the Bill will be a dead-letter. I do not see very well how it can be enforced.
– Will it not be as easy to enforce that system as the law for the compulsory registration of births, deaths, and marriages?
– I do not think so. A vote is given to every person who is over the age of twenty-one years, and I do not see how you can compel these persons to enroll. Persons are coming of age every day. The Constitution gives to every adult person the right to vote, but how long are persons to be allowed after coming of age before they will be required to go and register their names on an electoral roll?
– They will run the risk of incurring the penalty if they do net register.
– The Bill does not contain a provision for that purpose. It does not set out how long these persons are to be allowed to enroll.
– How long are persons allowed in which to register the birth of a child, or the death of a relative?
– That does not affect the question. The Bill, I repeat, contains no provision for the purpose.
– The Acts to which the Minister refers do.
– In the States there are laws which provide for these things being done; but, as I said, there is no provision in this measure. People are getting married every day.
– More so since the Labour party came into power.
– And there are more divorces since then, too !
– I am glad to hear that announcement from Senator Lynch, and I presume that the Labour party will, as usual, take credit for all the good things which happen in the Commonwealth. I feel quite sure that they have assurance enough to appropriate any kudos. What time is a woman to have after she changes her name by marriage before she is to be bound to inform an electoral officer of the change, in order that she may appear on the roll under her new name? There is nothing in this Bill dealing with the matter, and under the provisions for compulsory enrolment a woman in such circumstances might incur a penalty through ignorance. Why should we compel people to enroll and then compel them to vote when there is no guarantee that they will secure representation as a result of their vote?
– This Bill does not compel a man to record his vote.
– No, but it compels him to enroll, and the idea in compulsory enrolment is that electors may exercise the franchise. My complaint is that when a man is enrolled and has voted, he is given no assurance of representation on account of his vote. Why is it that people are indifferent in this matter? Why is it that every political organization worries about getting people on the roll?
– No, getting them off the roll.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the Labour party endeavoured to keep people off the rolls ?
– I mean to say that the Liberal party do. They collect hundreds of names with a view to keeping them off the rolls.
– I am willing to take Senator Henderson’s word for it that the Liberal party are guilty of all the crimes under the sun, moon, and stars. I hope the honorable senator will be satisfied if I admit as much as that. Let me say that there is no party so wicked as the Liberal party, and no party so virtuous as the Labour party. Now that I have made that admission, I may be permitted to proceed without interruption. I ask why people are indifferent in this matter, and why, notwithstanding Senator Henderson’s interjections, all kinds of efforts are made by all political parties to have people enrolled who they think will vote for them? Why is it that people do not voluntarily enroll themselves? It is because it may be quite useless for them to do so. I will give an instance. I take the division of Hindmarsh, and I ask of what use is it for any supporter of the Liberal party to record a vote in that division? He will know that there is not one chance in one thousand that he will ever secure the election of a man for that constituency to represent his views.
– That is a Godsend, any way.
– That may be the way in which the Vice-President of the Executive Council looks at it. But there may be some districts in which a Labour supporter would feel that it would be of no use for him to record his vote, since he could not secure representation. Would that be a God-send also?
– No; a misfortune.
– The misfortunes for one side are God-sends for the other. Why should we perpetuate the system under which this takes place? Why should we not have a system under which we might encourage men to vote with an assurance that they would be given representation if they recorded their votes?
– Every person could not be represented. If I were in a minority of one in the whole country, how could I be represented unless I could put myself into Parliament?
– If Senator Givens were in a minority of one in the whole country, and desired a representative all to himself, he would be a glutton, and wouTd want too much.
– I was showing the fallacy of the honorable senator’s argument.
– No one would be so silly as to suggest that a party of one is entitled to a representative. But if a person belonged to any considerable party he could be given representation.
– If the party numbered 1,000 or 10,000 it could not get re- presentation in the Senate.
– I think it could. At the last Senate election the Labour party secured 2,021,090 votes, and by those votes secured every vacancy and the whole of the representation.
– That is to say, the party had a majority in each State.
– Yes, I am taking the total number of votes polled. The Liberal party polled 1,997,029 votes, and did not gain a single seat. I have not the slightest idea that such a thing will happen at the next Senate election, but if it did the result would be that the whole of the representation of the Commonwealth in the Senate would be held by one political party. I say that, no matter what party that was, it would be a calamity.
– Some twenty years ago the Labour party had no representation in Parliament. The honorable senator’s crowd had it all. ‘ Was that a calamity ?
– We are living now in an advanced age. I say that, if what happened at the last Senate election occurred also at the next, it would be held to justify the desire of some members of the Labour party for the abolition of the Senate.
– -Who are they?
– Senator McDougall.
– I do not refer to Senator McDougall, or to any one else in particular. But there is a section of the Labour party who desire the abolition of the Senate.
– What do members of the honorable senator’s party say about the Senate ?
– They always take a common-sense view of these things.
– They say that it is now a mere echo of the House of Representatives. Sir John Forrest has said that, for one, if the honorable senator wants names.
– Has Senator Lynch finished his speech? I do not like to make statements unless I have some authority for them. I have here an extract from the South Australian Register, which, I am glad to hear, is not a dirty rag, although it was declared to be one.
– No. I referred to the Critic.
– I quote from the issue of 4th February, 191 1. It is a report of a Labour Conference held in Sydney. There had been some ‘differences of opinion between the State Government and the Federal Labour party with regard to the action to be taken at the referenda. I read this in the report -
Mr. Holman asked with great earnestness if he might be permitted to be heard on a most important matter. He asked permission of the Conference, now that the time for opposition had passed, to receive as notice of new business for the consideration of the Conference the matter of the whole remoulding of the Federal Constitution. He wished it to be thoroughly understood that he only asked permission to move the motion as new business.
I shall refer only to the third paragraph of the motion, which was as follows: -
Mr, Holman added ;
That was the only why the Federal Constitution could be made democratic.
Later on it is said -
Mr. Senator Gardiner hoped Mr. Holman would not tell the press the fact that the Labour party intended to amend the Constitution in the direction he had urged. It might defeat the referenda proposals if it leaked out. Let them first get in the thin end of the wedge by carrying the referenda proposals.
– Grace Watson used to quote that.
– The report states further -
Mr. J. C. Watson moved that permission be granted to Mr. Holman to move the motion of which he had given notice as special business.
What became of the motion I do not know. But the report shows that as Senator McDougall said the other day, there is a desire on the part of a section of the Labour party to abolish the Senate. It discloses a desire, not only to abolish the Senate, but also the High Court, to provide, as it is said, a thoroughly democratic Constitution.
– Will the honorable senator say what connexion this has with t’ e Electoral Bill?
– I wanted to show that there might be, as was claimed, a justification for the abolition of the Senate, unless an alteration is made in. our electoral system which will prevent one party only being represented here. There is a remedy for this difficulty, and it is proportional representation.
– What the honorable senator is asking for is representation of the people and not of the States-
– Then the honorable senator is willing to abolish equal representation of the States ?
– No, I would not abolish equal representation of the States. I have asked what representation the States would get here if what I have suggested were to happen.
– A minority from an individual State has no right to representation in the Senate at all.
– I arn glad to say that I am thoroughly opposed to my leader. Senator Millen, On that point. I hold that there should be majority rule in Parliament, and that there should be minority representation. We have single electorates for the House of Representatives, and the preferential vote might be adopted in that case. It is only a kind of homoeopathic dose of proportional representation. It is all right so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. It simply secures the representation of a relative majority in single electorates. I ask why we should not adopt a system of true proportional representation? That is the only safe, sound, scientific and democratic principle to adopt. It was advocated by the late Thomas Hare as far back as 1853, though some such system had been adopted in Denmark to a certain extent two years before. It was indorsed by so high an authority as John Stuart Mill, who in his Autobiography makes reference to the subject in the following terms -
This great discovery, for it is no less, in the political art, inspired me, as I believe it has inspired all thoughtful persons who have adopted it, with new and more sanguine hopes respecting the prospects of human society, by freeing the foTm of political institutions towards which the whole civilized world is manifestly and irresistibly tending from the chief part of what seemed to qualify and render doubtful its ultimate benefits. … I can understand that persons, . otherwise intelligent, should, for want of sufficient examination, be repelled from Mr. Hare’s plan by what they think the complex nature of its machinery. But any one who does not feel the want which the scheme is intended to supply ; any one who throws it over as a mere theoretical subtlety or crotchet, tending to no valuable purpose and unworthy of the attention of practical men, may be pronounced an incompetent statesman, unequal to the politics of the future.
That is the testimony of a great political economist. Miss Catherine Spence, who was one of the finest women Australia has ever known - a reformer, both social and political, a philosopher, a philanthropist, a novelist, and an out-and-out Democrat - advocated a system of proportional representation for a great many years. Miss Spence passed away not long ago, and I am only sorry that she did not live long enough to see some such system adopted throughout Australia. All thoughtful persons admit that single electorates and block voting are unsatisfactory. This is what the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Asquith, said, when approached upon the subject -
I agree that it is impossible to defend the rough and ready method which has hitherto been adopted as a proper or satisfactory explanation of the representative principle. It is not merely that under our existing system a minority in the country may return a majority of the House of Commons, but what more frequently happens, and what I am disposed to agree is equally injurious in its results, is that you have almost always a great disproportion in the relative size of the majority and minority in the House of Commons as compared with their relative size in the constituencies.
– There are very unequal electorates in Great Britain.
– That may be so, but the truth of what Mr. Asquith said was proved at the British elections of 1906. On that occasion the Ministerialists polled 3,395,811 votes, and secured 513 seats. If they had secured seats in proportion to votes polled they would have had 387. The Unionist party polled 2,494,794 votes, and secured only 157 seats . If they had secured seats iri proportion to votes they would have had 283. The Ministerial majority in votes was 901,017, but their majority in seats was 356, whilst they were only entitled to a majority of 104. On the 32nd May, 1909, a deputation from the Manchester Liberal Association waited on- the Home Secretary, Mr. Winston Churchill. The spokesman of the deputation said -
The point on which we wish to speak to you to-day is the reform of the present system of voting, which we hold to be out of date, archaic and in great need of reform.
Mr. Churchill’s reply abundantly bore out Mr. Asquith’ s declaration “ that it was impossible to defend the present rough and ready method.” He said -
I think the present system has clearly broken down. The results produced are not fair to any party, nor to any section of the community. In many cases they do not secure majority representation, nor do they secure an intelligent representation of minorities. All they secure is fluke representation, freak representation, capricious representation.
There can be no greater condemnation of the system of single electorates and block voting than that conveyed in Mr. Winston Churchill’s words. Speaking with regard to the representation of minorities, the late Lord Acton said - - The one pervading evil of democracy is the’ tyranny of the majority that succeeds by force or fraud in carrying elections. To break off that point is to avert the danger. The common system of representation perpetuates the danger. Unequal electorates afford no security to majorities. Equal electorates give none to minorities. Thirty-five years ago it was pointed out that the remedy is proportional representation. It is profoundly democratic, for it increases the influence of thousands who would otherwise have no voice in the Government ; and it brings men more near an equality by so contriving that rio vote shall be wasted, and that every voter shall contribute to bring into Parliament’ a member of his own opinion.
If that be true - as I think it is - Lord Acton’s testimony in favour of adopting the system which I am now advocating is certainly strong. No Democracy, with adult suffrage, is complete without proportional representation. I know that the VicePresident of the Executive Council is an ardent advocate of this principle. I have heard him discuss it with great earnestness and fervour, supporting it very strongly. Therefore, I fully expect his help and vote for an amendment which I intend to pro-, pose to secure proportional representation’ in the election of senators.
– With six senators returned by. each State, it is easy to get minority representation.
– I shall be very* glad to hear my honorable friend on that point. I believe that, the righteousness of this principle is generally recognised by , political experts who have thought about it, many of whom have advocated it from time to time. It does provide for true representation, it is thoroughly democratic, and it really does mean “one man one vote,” and “one vote one value.”
– Then the honorable senator would abolish equal representation in the Senate to give each vote the same value ?
– Why should not every vote have the same value ?
– That is the logical consequence of what the honorable senator has been arguing
– Very well; it is democratic.
– Say “ Yes “ !
– I am advocating this principle, not from any party standpoint, because a great question of this kind ought to be considered above party. When you are seeking to get the very best system of representation, you should not, at the same time, seek advantages for one. party over another. You should desire to secure advantages for the people generally.. When an elector knows that His vote will count if it be recorded, he will use it. That is the poinr on which I insist in regard to compulsory enrolment. If you want people to vote, encourage them in every way, not merely by putting their names on the electoral rolls, but by inducing them to record their votes at election time. When a man knows that his vote will have some effect, he will take a greater interest in an election. He will know, even if he belongs to a minority, that he has an opportunity of securing the representation of that minority in Parliament according to its strength. Under the present system, you may get minority rule. The system which I advocate is simplicity itself. With the system of education which we have in Australia any voter is capable of going to a polling booth and marking his ballot-paper according to his preferences. For the returning officer, the working out of the results is simply a mathematical proposition. I am not asking the Senate to take a leap in the dark. The system has been adopted, and wherever it has been tried it has been proved satisfactory. It was adopted in Belgium with excellent results, and has also been tried in Tasmania. The Tasmanian elections of 1909 gave each party representation according to its strength. The Tasmanian Legislative Assembly is the only legislative body in Australia truly representative of the people. The system adopted there gave each political candidate a run for his money.
– Is the system still used in Tasmania?
– Yes. Each elector is perfectly free to vote as he likes, without injury to his party, and without vote splitting. After the election in Tasmania, the Premier of the State called for an official report on the working of the new system. Amongst other things, this is what the officer said -
The working of the system from the point of view of the returning officers was an unqualified success. No serious difficulty of any kind was found in conducting the scrutiny. Scrutinies for two of the districts were carried out in country towns where the number of persons available for the choice of a staff was small. But here, as elsewhere, no serious difficulty was found.
From the point of view of the electors, it is interesting to know the number of informal ballot-papers. The results show that the number of informal votes throughout Tasmania, excluding one electorate, was iess than 3 per cent., whilst in the case of the electorate of Wil mot it was only 3.44 per cent. The average was 2.86 per cent. In the face of these figures, the idea that the elector does not know how to vote is absurd, because 2.86 is a very small percentage. It will be found that, under the Federal system, at the last election for the Commonwealth, the proportion of informal votes was considerably higher than that. I believe that in one case it was as high as 5 per cent. The system, therefore, has been well tried. Mr. Braun, the burgomaster of Ghent, says -
During the four years that proportional representation has been applied to the communal elections of Ghent, every one has been able to appreciate the happy effects of the reform. Everybody recognises that, far from being endangered, the material prosperity has increased, and theameliorating and pacifying effects of the altered electoral method have even exceeded the expectations and hopes nf its advocates.
Another gentleman in Belgium has also borne testimony to the beneficial effects of this system of representation. Count Goblet d’Alviella, Secretary to the Belgium Senate, says -
The author of this pamphlet writes -
The following additional advantages may fairly be claimed for proportional representation : -
It widens the choice of electors. Whenever the official nominee is unacceptable, the electors can nominate a further candidate without affecting adversely the representation of the party in Parliament.
It would insure the election of the ablest men of all parties, thus strengthening the personnel of Parliament.
It would assist in the restoration of the authority of Parliament, for no member who adhered to his election promises need fear to criticise, if necessary, the expenditure and administration of the Executive; his re-election would depend upon the continued support of those electors who were in agreement with his views.
The influence of parly organizations would not overshadow that of Parliament; their power would be limited to that which legitimately arises from organization ; their approval would not, as now, be essential to any successful nomination.
The evidence of these gentlemen, coming as it does from a country where the system has been in operation for a considerable time, ought to carry some weight with the Senate. We cannot adopt the system for the House of Representatives, but we might insert in the Bill a provision for proportional voting which would be a step towards the other system. I intend, in Committee, to submit an amendment which, if carried, will, I believe, render unnecessary provisions for compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting. The voters will then take so much interest in the elections that I think they will voluntarily enroll and vote. More than that, a Parliament elected under the system will, I hold, faithfully represent the people as a Parliament ought to do. I propose to ask the Senate to insert, as new section 150, the following provision : - (1.) In elections for the Senate the voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper by placing the number 1 in the square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he votes as his first preference and by placing the numbers 2, 3, 4 (and so on as the case requires) in the squares opposite the names of the remaining candidates so as to indicate the order of his preference for them. (2.) Where an elector votes before a Registrar before polling day or where an elector votes in accordance with the regulations relating to absent voting, the manner in which a voter shall mark his vote on his ballot-paper shall’ be prescribed by the regulations, but so that the principles contained in the preceding sub-section relating to the marking of first and other preferences shall fie observed.
– Will that apply to elections for the House of Representatives ?
– It will, if the system of preferential voting is adopted, but I am dealing now more particularly with elections for the Senate. I hope that my proposal will be adopted, and so provide for what I believe is the true system of representation. That is, that all parties may be represented according to their strength, that the majority may rule, and that the minority may be heard.
– That amendment is only intended for securing preferential voting?
– It will secure proportional representation.
– I do not think so.
– If my amendment is carried I shall ask the Senate to insert a schedule providing for the adoption of the quota and the counting of the votes.
I desire to refer to the proposals of the Government relating - to the wicked newspapers. Proposed new section i8ia reads - (1.) - The proprietor of every newspaper shall cause the word “ advertisement “ to be printed as a headline in letters not smaller than long primer to each article or paragraph in his newspaper containing electoral matter, the insertion of which is or is to be paid for or for which any reward or compensation or promise of reward or compensation is or is to be made.
Penalty : Five hundred pounds.
I should like to ask the Honorary Minister why long primer, simply ?~
– What is long primer ?
– The provision does not even say long primer capitals. It does not describe the kind of long primer which has to be used, but simply refers to bare long primer. Does not the Honorary Minister think it necessary to insert great primer ? And would it not be better to define the sort of great primer ? Great primer expanded Gothic, for instance, would be broad enough to carry the announcement over two columns of the newspaper, and then there would be no mistake about its publication. It would catch the eye immediately, and persons would say, “ Hallo, we have the newspaper now, and here is the advertisement for which we have been looking.” I would point out to the Honorary Minister, who knows all about the printing trade, that as the provision stands the newspapers might get long primer hair-line condensed, and the print would be so fine that no one would be able to read the advertisement. If my honorable friends opposite must have this provision enacted, why not provide for the use of characters about which there can be no mistake? I am sure that the Honorary, Minister will recognise the force of my remarks and provide that the announcement must be published in types so large that “ he who runs may read,” and there can be no mistake. He ought, however, to make an exception. I think that, in order to carry out the principles of the measure, he ought to provide that Labour newspapers shall be excepted from the operation of this provision. I do not think it is fair to make a Labour newspaper advertise these matters. They are altogether too pure to descend to anything that would be wrong, or to do anything which might be unfair to electors generally. I hope that on this provision the Honorary Minister will move an amendment exempting Labour news- papers from its operation. Not for one minute do I wish to see them laid open to a penalty of£500. I have too much respect for them. I recognise their integrity and honesty, and so on; and so I do not desire by any chance that they shall be laid open to a penalty of that amount. I hope that the Minister will take my suggestion into consideration. Proposed new section 172A reads - (1.) Every organization, association, league, or body of persons which has, or person who has, in connexion with any election, expended any money or incurred any expense -
I wish to ask the Minister whether he cannot make it quite clear that a trade union comes within the definition? If he will provide that, besides the bodies named, trade unions shall each make a return of moneys which they collect and spend in any way for electoral purposes-
– Any organization coming under the provision will have to make a return.
– Yes; but I want to be sure that trade unions do come under the provision.
– I have no objection to the amendment suggested.
– Surely the Minister should be quite willing to do what I have suggested. According to an extract from the Age of this morning, two delegates have been expelled from a party because they would not pay some political levy. It shows that we need to be careful in this matter. It proves that money is collected and spent for political purposes. The extract reads -
Recently p. McNeill and T. Johnson, delegates from the South Seaham and West Wallsend miners’ lodges respectively, were expelled from a meeting of the delegate board because they would not pay a levy imposed on behalf of the Political Labour League. A meeting convened by the two delegates was held at West Wallsend.
Mr. T. Hoare, who presided, stated that their political freedom was endangered by the attempt of the Colliery Employes’ Federation to force its members to contribute to the P.L.L. Every effort had been made by the industrial workers of the world, the Socialist Labour party and others to frustrate the attempt of the Colliery Employes’ Federation and the Political Labour League to take away from the men the liberty that has been so dearly paid for by the pioneers of the working class organization, but in vain. In his opinion the time had arrived when all those who wished to preserve their political freedom must sink their differences of opinion and appeal to the Equity Court to restore the rights these political coercionists had taken away. He stated that similar meetings would be held in other centres.
Here is distinct testimony that levies are made and that money is collected to be paid to a Political Labour League simply to help forward matters at elections. If that is so, I feel quite sure that the Minister cannot refuse to make it perfectly plain that when trade unions collect money from their members in this way, and use it for electioneering purposes., they should each make a return showing how much they have spent, and how it was spent.
– So they do.
– If anything is wanted to make the provision clear, I shall vote for an amendment.
– I am very glad to hear that statement. In conclusion, I wish to say that my desire is to secure to the people a proper system of representation. When that is done, all inducements for fraud and corruption will be removed.
– Are they not properly represented now?
– I could name persons who have told me that they have not voted for sixteen or twenty years simply because they never got representation.
– Oh, God help them !
– If my suggestion is adopted, elections will be fought, not on personalities, but on principles.
– Then your party will never get representation, as they have no principles.
– I am quite prepared to run the risk of that. If the honorable senator thinks that, he must consider that I am very foolish to advocate an amendment which, if adopted, will mean my political extinction not that that would matter very much, I suppose.
– It does not square with the past, anyhow.
– I have a political reputation as good as that of the honorable senator.
– Not on the franchise.
– Order !
– I am not advocating this amendment from a party standpoint, but on broad national grounds.
– Are you not?
– I understand that the honorable senator who interjects does not know anything else but a party standpoint, and never did.
– You know that that is not correct.
– I desire to introduce a system of voting which will be democratic, sound and scientific, one which will discourage illegal practices and unfair methods, and put the Commonwealth in the van in the matter of electoral reform.
– On Thursday afternoon we had a long and a bitter speech from the Leader of the Opposition. In this Chamber we have had many lengthy speeches, but it is long since I heard a speech which occupied so much time, and meant so little, as that which we heard from his lips. It occupied about 180 minutes, and I should say that, during the major portion of that time the honorable senator was engaged mainly in shadowsparring.
– In dealing with interjections from yourself and others.
– The honorable senator began by attacking two or three minor provisions of the Bill because, in his opinion, they were superfluously worded. He then said that, because there were one or two unimportant printer’s errors in the Bill, it was worthy of condemnation, and had been hastily drawn. Then he worked himself almost into a white heat on the assumption that the Bill contained something which he afterwards found it did not contain.
– No. You wanted to put in the Bill something which if did not contain.
– Later, without attempting to testify whether the principle of voting by post was sound or unsound, the honorable senator made, coldbloodedly, the statement that, because it was bad for the Labour party and good for the party which he represents, he fought like a Tasmanian devil in the interests of his party for its protection.
– That is not true, and vou know it.
– Order !
– I venture to say that my statement is absolutely correct.
– I think that Senator Millen knows that it is not in accordance with the Standing Orders to in terject that a statement made is not true, and that the senator making the statement knows that it is not true.
– I have no desire to violate the Standing Orders, sir, as I hope you will recognise from my general deportment here. But I should like to know under what standing order I can give a flat denial to a statement which is an absolute travesty on what I did say.
– The honorable senator knows that interjections are altogether disorderly. Any honorable senator may interject that a statement made by another senator is incorrect:; but to say that the statement is not true, and that the speaker knows that it is not true js altogether out of order.
– I withdraw anything I have said which is a violation of the Standing Orders, and will take another opportunity of bringing home to the Senate what I desire to communicate.
– I leave it to the fair sense of honorable senators who were present when Senator Millen delivered his lengthy speech as to whether my statement that he deliberately charged this party, and this Government, with desiring the abolition of postal voting on the ground that it was inimical to this party - is not correct.
– Hear, hear ! That is what I said.
– If the honorable senator is within his rights in charging this party with desiring the abolition of postal voting because it is harmful, in his opinion, to themselves, I am quite within my rights in charging the Opposition party with being desirous of retaining the postal vote because it will be helpful to them.
– Yes ; but -your first statement was that I said that that was the reason why I. was fighting for the retention of postal voting.
– I still repeat what I said.
– Then the honorable senator repeats what is not correct.
– We ought to discuss principles apart from party. I venture to say that every member of the Senate who has had any experience of the operation of postal voting has long since arrived at the conclusion that no matter how many safeguards surround the system they will be evaded, and the system will not give satisfaction to a majority of the members of the Seriate, or of another place.
– To what party do the majority of the members of the Senate belong?
– We are desirous of bringing about purity in our electoral system, and that postal voting has not had a tendency in that direction has been manifested on more than one occasion.
– For instance?
– We need not go further than the city of Melbourne for an instance. The result of one election for Melbourne was in favour of a certain gentleman who died some time ago in the Old Country, but when the seat was again contested it was won by the previously unsuccessful candidate, mainly because of the undue influence exercised under the postal voting system at the first election.
– The honorable senator should give us some proof of that undue influence.
– At the first election a considerable number of votes were recorded by post, and at the second election there was a very considerable diminution in the number of votes so recorded.
– How does that prove undue influence?
– It was proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that numbers who ought to have gone to the poll were influenced to vote by post.
– That does not show influence as to the way they voted.
– I do not know what honorable senators opposite require, In the first case, a certain gentleman was returned by a fairly substantial majority, while at the second election for the same seat the number of postal votes recorded was considerably reduced, and the unsuccessful candidate at the first election was successful.
– Is” that why the Government are against postal voting?
– It looks like it.
– I am against postal voting, because 1 believe that no matter how the system is safeguarded it will be found to be unsatisfactory.
– To the honorable senator.
– To everybody who desires purity in election contests. Senator Millen quoted the number of votes re-, corded by post ^ throughout the Common wealth at the last general election. He quoted the figures correctly as 29,249, but he might have gone a little further, and have shown to what extent postal voting was adopted in the different States. It does not follow that the whole of these people Will be disfranchised by the abolition of postal voting.
– Not one-half of them will be.
– I do not believe that one-half that number will be inconvenienced by the abolition of the system.
– The honorable senator admits that the other half will be.
- Senator Millen in his plea for the retention of the postal voting system said that its abolition would inconvenience the aged, the sick, and infirm. The honorable senator pleaded particularly for the women folk also. He pleaded for aged and infirm men, and sick women falls,
– Hear, hear.
– An honorable . senator cheers the statement. Let me say that the time was, and it is not so very long ago, when certain persons belonging to the party with which Senators Millen and Vardon are associated to-day would not give every man a vote.
– Or any woman.
– And would not, in any circumstances, give a woman a vote, because they said she was unworthy of a vote, and if she were given it would not be able to exercise it intelligently.
– It was rubbish’. That is what we said of it - that it was absolute rubbish.
– And now that they have been given a vote, the Government do not wish them’ to exercise it.
– The time was when it was said that every man should not have a vote.
– By whom?
– By persons belonging to the honorable senator’s party.
– I remind the honorable senator that he is dealing with my speech now.
– I am. and I am dealing with the honorable senator as the leader of a party that at one time denied that every man should have a vote.
– It has been said by members of his party that some men were entitled to more consideration than others in connexion with our electoral system.
– Who said that?
– Many of the party still hold that view.
– Some still cherish a life-long regret that one-man-one-vote ever became the established electoral law of the country.
– There has never been a party in the Federal Parliament opposed to universal suffrage.
– Let me remind the honorable senator that in the first Federal Parliament the only State that was represented on adult suffrage was the State of South Australia. I well remember a meeting held in the supper-room of the Melbourne Town Hall after the establishment of Federation when an amendment was proposed, that the franchise for the Commonwealth should be an adult franchise - one adult one vote. And such was the bitter opposition shown to that proposition that a division was called for, and those in favour of it won only by a small majority.
– That was only in Victoria.
– It was proposed for the whole of the Commonwealth. It was highly amusing to me to hear honorable senators opposite pleading for aged and infirm men and sick women. To hear Senator McColl pleading for sick women ! The honorable senator, when he had the opportunity to do so, would not give either a sick or a strong woman a vote for the State Parliament of Victoria. Yet he had the brazen-faced audacity the other night to get up in his place here and say that the Labour party do not desire to have a full or complete roll.
– The Minister may use the word “brazen,” but apparently Senator McColl may not.
– Order ! I should like to point out to Senator Millen that on the occasion to which he refers an honorable senator rose to a point of order, and asked me whether I thought the word “brazen” was in order. I said that it might te out of order if objected to as being offensive.
– I did not intend any reflection upon you, sir. I wished to draw Senator Findley’s attention, as one of those who objected to the use of the word by
Senator McColl, to the fact that he now uses it himself.
– I did not object to the word.
– The honorable senator did. I do not object to it. I think its use is entirely parliamentary.
– I shall say that the honorable member had the cool audacity the other night to say that we wished to deny to sick’ women the right to vote, although when he had the opportunity to do so he refused in the Victorian Parliament to confer the right to vote on women. Now the honorable senator has the boiler-plated impudence to get up in his place in this chamber and say that the Labour party do not desire a full or complete roll because it would mean disaster to them. Let us examine that statement. For the election of the first Federal Parliament we had not a full or complete roll, and Labour secured eight members in the Senate and sixteen members in the House of Representatives, or a total of twenty-four. At the next Federal elections, with fuller and more complete rolls, Labour secured fifteen seats in the Senate and twenty-four in the House of Representatives, or a total of thirtynine. From the next election, with a still larger and more complete roll, due to an increased population and better facilities to enable people to get their names on the roll, the Labour party came back with fifteen in the Senate and twenty-six in the House of Representatives, or a total of forty-one. And at the last Federal election, with the biggest roll in the history of the Commonwealth, and the highest percentage of electors voting, according to Senator McColl s reasoning, the result should have been disaster to the Labour party. But what happened ? We came back twenty-three strong in the Senate and forty-two strong in another place, or a total of sixty-five. And we are here to-day.
– Honorable members are there in spite of the referenda.
– We are here, and if there was anything in the reasoning of Senator McColl we should be in a hopeless minority, because of the completeness of the roll, and the big percentage of votes recorded at the last Federal elections. Every member of the Senate, I hope, is desirous of bringing about the most complete and satisfactory roll for the Commonwealth. I believe every one will admit that to-day there are innumerable names on the rolls which ought not to be there, and that no matter what pains or care are taken by the Electoral Department and its officers it is absolutely impossible to bring about an entirely satisfactory roll. In the departmental memorandum it is shown that although the Electoral Department may know that an elector whose name is on the roll for a particular division has removed to another division, as soon as the name is removed from the roll of the division which he has left it is automatically removed also so far as an election for the Senate is concerned. That is an injustice to the elector. It may happen that the names of persons who have long since left the division will remain on the roll for it, and although such persons, are entitled to vote somewhere their votes may considerably influence an election in a district where theydonot reside. I say that the persons who live in a division, and only those persons, should vote at an election for that division. The way to bring about a better roll is to adopt compulsory enrolment. Senator Millen says that we shall need to Kaye one-half of the population chasing the other half to bring compulsory enrolment about. We have considerably over 2,000,000 electors on the Commonwealth electoral rolls. Does Senator Millen imagine for a moment that we shall require one-half that number to bring about compulsory enrolment? Let us examine the queries presented to us By the Opposition in regard to the difficulties of compulsory enrolment. In the first place, let me say that policemen , are going from door to door to-day armed with copies of rolls, with cards which have to be filledin, and with copies pf regulations, which are supplied to every householder. Thousands of copies of these regulations have been printed and circulated. I believe that everybody in the Commonwealth is to-day aware of the fact that compulsory enrolment is to be, or, as a matter of fact, has been initiated, and that if they do not comply with the terms of the regulations they will be liable to be punished.
– Are they in force yet?
– No, not yet. The present rolls will be compiled in a double way. The police will assist as well as the cards.
– The word “double” is a very unfortunate word for the honorable senator to use.
– I mean that the practice now adopted will insure a much more satisfactory roll than would otherwise be the case. The police, who take the rolls with them, may or may not put names on the rolls or remove them, but in addition they supply every one with cards.
– Is the honorable senator dealing with the system proposed to be created under this Bill, or the system now in operation?
– The system we are initiating now is the card system.
– The honorable senator means the system proposed by the Bill.
– The card system will provide for compulsory enrolment. And, after the roll now being compiled is completed, those who do not send in their names on the cards supplied to them will be liable to be punished.
– How are they to send them in?
– One would imagine that there were a thousand and one difficulties in the way of the average person becoming enrolled as an elector.
– We want the system explained.
- Senator Millen knows that there is an income tax operating in this State. A small paragraph, sometimes in an out of the way part of a newspaper, appears calling the attention of business men to the fact that on a certain day income-tax returns must be furnished at a certain place, and that forms for the purpose can be obtained at the Income Tax Office, or at a post office. We do not require an army of men to hunt up all those who are required to send in income-tax returns.
– Where do the policemen come in of whom the honorable senator was talking just now ?
– We do not send out forms to every one liable to pay land tax. We put a paragraph in the newspapers telling people that such forms may be obtained at certain places-.
– Is that what the Government propose to do in connexion with the card system?
– We propose to leave cards at every place which people usually frequent. But, before we do so, we do what has not been done in connexion with income-tax or land-tax returns. We circulate a regulation notifying every one in Australia over the of twenty-one years that, after a certain date, they must enrol themselves as electors, and that, if they remove from one electoral division to another, they must notify the Electoral Department of the change, or otherwise they will be liable to a penalty. When I was referring to our proposal to abolish postal voting I mentioned that 29,249 postal votes were recorded at the last Federal election. It is interesting to note how these votes were recorded. New South Wales being a larger State, having a larger population, and the people being more scattered than in Victoria; a larger number of votes by post might have been expected to be recorded there. Senator Millen himself urged that extra facilities should be afforded to people to vote in States with scattered populations. Now what are the facts. In New South Wales at the last election the number of votes recorded by post was 6,219.
– What was the percentage of electors who el iri not vote at all ?
– 1 am not concerned about that.
– But it is material.
– The electors had every opportunity of recording their votes either at the ballot-box or by post.
– The honorable senator was concerned about the number of electors who voted by post. I intend to show the number who recorded their votes by post in the different States. Victoria is a smaller State than New South Wales, and its population is much more compact. Consequently, the difficulties in regard to voting in this State are not nearly so great as they are in New South Wales. Yet the number who recorded their votes by post in Victoria was 14,049 - more than twice the number who voted by post in New South Wales.
– Most of those resided in the cities.
– A considerable number of those votes were recorded in the city of Melbourne.
-Col. Cameron. - Are there not more females in Victoria than in New South Wales in proportion to population?
– In proportion to the total votes polled the number of votes recorded by post in Victoria was still greater at the last referenda.
– The total of votes by post in Victoria was made up of 6,341 votes by males, and 7,708 by females. In Queensland 4,020 votes were recorded by post, in South Australia 1,751, in Western Australia 1,977, and in Tasmania 1,233.
– Can the honorable senator give the number of males and females who voted by post in each State?
– Yes. I have already given those details for the State of Victoria. In New South Wales 2,894 males, and 3,325 females voted by post; in Queensland there were 1,638 males and 2,382 females; in South Australia 960 males and 791 females; in Western Australia, 1,127 males and 850 females; and in Tasmania 530 males and 703 females. It will be seen that in Western Australia the number of males who voted by post exceeded the females. It must not be supposed that .because we intend to abolish postal voting under this Bill, those who voted by post at the last election will be entirely disfranchised. I do not think that anything like that number will fail to record their votes at the ballot-box. The probabilities are that a considerable number of those who recorded their votes by post at the last election will take other means to vote when they find that the old system is no longer operative.
– The Government would shut off the balance.
– No matter what system is adopted somebody will suffer. Senator Millen remarked that the Minister of Defence, in introducing this Bill, had said that we intended to introduce a substitute for voting by post in the form of absent voting, and he complained that we intended to provide for that method of voting by regulation. He was very indignant that such a provision should be left to regulation. Perhaps Senator Millen is not unmindful of the fact that absent voting at the present time is left to regulation.
– No. There is a great deal in the Act itself dealing with absent voting.
– I repeat that absent voting is left to regulation. What we desire to do under this Bill is what is already done in regard to absent voting under the existing Act.
– What about Form Q? That is provided for in the Act itself.
– We intend to abolish postal voting, but I am now dealing with absent voting.
– Form Q deals with absent voting.
- Senator Millen knows very well that a certain procedure has to be followed with regard to all regulations made under Federal Acts. What will be done with these regulations when they are framed?
– We do not know what the regulations will provide
– The honorable senator will know. He is not such a parliamentary novice as to be unaware that regulations have to be laid upon the table of the Senate for a certain time, and that if in the meanwhile no objection is taken to them they have the force of law.
-Will the Government put in their Bill a provision providing for a corresponding form to Form Q?
– We intend to provide for absent voting by regulation, and I will tell the honorable senator, in case he has forgotten, what is meant by a regulation. The Acts Interpretation Act 1904 provides that -
Where an Act confers power to make regulations all regulations made accordingly shall unless the contrary intention appears -
be notified in the Gazette;
take effect from the date of the notification or from a later date specified in the regulations;
be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within30 days of the making thereof or if the Parliament is not then sitting within 30 days after the next meeting of the Parliament ; but if either House of the Parliament passes a resolution of which notice has been given at any time within 15 sittingdays after such regulations have been laid before such House disallowing any such regulation such regulation shall cease to have effect.
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred regulations made under a Federal Act are laid before Parliament, and they cannot have the force of law if objection is taken to them.
Senatot Millen. - That was not my point at all. My point was that the Government are leaving to regulation what was previously dealt with by the Act itself.
– The honorable senator need not attempt to quibble in that way, because he knows that we are abolishing postal voting.
– I am not now referring to postal voting, but to absent voting.
– Absent voting is dealt with in this Bill in the same way as it is dealt with under the existing law.
– Is there in the schedule to this Bill anything corresponding to Form “ Q “’ under the existing law?
– No, not in the present Bill.
– But Form “ Q,” under the law as it stands to-day, deals with absent voting. It is now proposed to deal with the system by regulation.
– Harking back again-
– The honorable senator passes over that point. Let him deal with it. He has contradicted me. Let him demonstrate that I am wrong.
– I have said several times that absent voting is left to regulation.
– The honorable senator said just now that this Bill dealt with absent voting in the same way as does the existing law.
– Let me deal with another point raised by Senator Millen - in regard to compulsory enrolment. Whilst the honorable senator did not object to compulsory enrolment, he did not utter a word in favour of it.
– I see no utility in it at all.
Senatot FINDLEY. - What the honorable senator did say was this -
If we desire a healthy roll it is far better that we should say to electors, “The obligation is yours to become enrolled ; we do not bother about it at all.”
In other words, if we want a healthy roll, we should, according to the honorable senator, say to all electors, men and women, that the obligation to secure enrolment is theirs, and that Parliament will not bother about them. Therefore, the fewer facilities we give people to secure enrolment the better. I am, however, of opinion that by placing facilities in the way of electors to become enrolled, we shall secure a healthy roll, and that by simply leaving the matter in the hands of electors, we shall obtain nothing better than an unhealthy system, and one deserving to be condemned. I venture to say that if we were to abolish the card system, and were to dispense with the services of the policemen, contenting ourselves with saying to the electors, “ On a certain day you have to enroll, and if you do not you will not be able to vote,” we should have smaller polls than we have today.
– The Government say that in regard to the land tax, and it is also said in regard to the income tax.
– But it is compulsory for people to fill up schedules in regard to income tax and land tax.
– The Government do not send policemen round to help electors in regard to taxation.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator is tying himself up in a knot. He makes an analogy between income, land tax, and the enrolling of electors. But behind the income tax and the land tax there stands the stalwart form of the policeman, and there is a substantial penalty awaiting citizens if they do not fill in the required returns.
– The policeman does not go round and do the work for the taxpayer.
– I am satisfied that the system of compulsory enrolment now proposed will give us a better roll. a much less costly roll, and a roll that will afford more satisfaction to every candidate who stands for election, either for the Senate or the House of Representatives. The honorable senator argued that compulsory enrolment ought to be followed by a system of compulsory voting. But it would be impossible to make compulsory voting effective. I defy any honorable senator to devise an effective scheme.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator, and, therefore, compulsory enrolment is worthless.
– It is possible to compel people to enroll, and by so doing you can insure a fuller roll. By means of a completer roll you will get a larger percentage of votes recorded at elections. But at the same time it would be impossible to compel men and women to record effective votes. We all believe in voting by ballot. The secrecy of the ballot must be maintained. You cannot tell whether a vote recorded by any particular person is effective or non-effective unless you nullify the ballot system. 1 feel sure that there is no desire on the part of any honorable senator to do that.
– To have compulsory voting you must have compulsory enrolment. You could not have the one without the other.
– But the Government are proposing the one without the other.
– I believe strongly in compulsory enrolment, but nothing up to the present has convinced me of the possibility of compulsory voting; because, while you might be able to compel any number of men and women to go to the polling booth, you could not, because of the secrecy of the ballot, compel them to record effective votes. Why should you introduce a system that would exempt from punishment those who would go into a polling booth and wilfully render their votes informal, whilst punishing those who stayed away from the poll altogether?
– Why punish a man if he does not enroll when he need not exercise the vote after he has enrolled?
– I am satisfied that the proposed system of compulsory enrolment will lead to a higher percentage of votes being recorded at each general or by-election. It must have been the experience of thousands of persons who have interested themselves in elections that those who have made the greatest noise about the defects of the electoral system were those who had not taken the trouble to enroll themselves In many cases this was due to sheer carelessness. But if people .know that they will render themselves liable to be punished if they do not enroll, and do not notify the Department of a transfer, thousands of names will be added to the rolls which are not upon them to-day. In attacking this Bill, Senator Millen said inferentially that it is a class Bill.
– A party Bill.
– That means the same thing.
– So that honorable senators opposite admit that they are a class party.
– We are a class party. I have always contended that we are a class party. We should not be worth our salt if we were not a class party. But in reality the only class in this country which is not a class in the true sense is the working class - which is the nation. The honorable senator said -
If this Bill passes into law it means that the only man who will be able to launch an appeal before the Court of Disputed Returns will be he who is in a position to pay, not only his own costs, but possibly the costs of both his successful opponent and of the Department.
The honorable senator objected to the elimination of the ^100 limit as to costs.
– No; I objected to the introduction of the Government as a party.
– The honorable senator objected to the limitation as to costs, also urging that only a rich man would be able to contest a case before the Court of Disputed Returns.
– It is not very material ; but, if the Minister will allow me to correct him, my statement was that the elimination of the £100 became more serious, in view of. the fact that the Government were claiming the right, through the Electoral Office, to become a party to a disputed election. The ^100 itself was not material.
– Anyhow, my honorable friend will admit that he dealt with that aspect. But I would point out that the elimination of the £100 will have the opposite effect to that which he anticipated. During the last few years a number of cases have been contested in the Court of Disputed Returns, and in half-a-dozen cases which I can cite Parliament has been appealed to for monetary assistance to the respondents. The most recent case - Crouch v. Ozanne - the Judge said was frivolous. Mr. Ozanne was put to a considerable expenditure of effort and money, and all the costs which he could get from Mr. Crouch were £100, although his costs amounted to considerably more than that sum. I think that, in the Riverina case, the costs of Mr. Chanter amounted to considerably more than £100. In about half-a-dozen cases Parliament has been appealed to for monetary aid to those candidates against whose return petitions had been unsuccessfully lodged. The elimination of this maximum of .£100 will cause a candidate to hesitate before he goes in for a speculative chance, and some of these appeals have been merely speculations. An unsuccessful candidate will hesitate before he appeals to the Court against the return of the man who has been declared elected when he knows that if the costs should be high, and he should be found to blame, he will have to bear his share of responsibility. In respect to the appearance of the Electoral Branch, I believe that, in the Crouch v. Ozanne case, charges were made by Mr. Crouch in respect to the administration of some of the departmental officers on election day. But those officers and the Department itself had a complete answer to the charges, but they were not allowed to appear. To give the Department an opportunity to appear when its officers are involved and its administration is attacked, and to empower the Judge to award costs against those who, in his opinion, are at fault, is, I think, a step in the. right direction.
– The Bill goes beyond that.
– There are one or two other matters I wish to deal with.
– Before the Minister passes away from that point, will he say whether he will be agreeable to an amendment limiting the right of the Department to appear when its administration is subjected to review?
– I like the Bill as it is.
– The Bill goes much beyond what the Minister has just stated.
– I think that I have stated the case fairly well. The Department will have an opportunity to appear in respect to cases which come before the Court, and it will be able to protect itself and also the Government.
– And fight the case of one of the candidates ?
– It will.
– What object would the Department have in fighting the case of a candidate?
– I am not here to deal with objects but to point out opportunities.
– The Department will only appear in the Court when its administration is attacked.
– Put that in the Bill and I shall be satisfied.
– There are lots of things with which the honorable senator would be satisfied if we amended the Bill in accordance with his wishes.
– Well, that justifies my statement to the Senate.
– In respect to recounts, the honorable senator found fault with clauses 25 and 26, but I think his criticism was hardly fair. In order that the provisions may be understood I shall read them -
Senator Millen took strong exception to the last few lines of proposed sub-section. 3.
– No; to the whole limitation.
– Suppose that these words were eliminated, would the Court not desire the fullest possible evidence that a mistake or an error had been made before it would consent to grant a recount of the votes ?
– Take out the whole limitation on the power of the Court.
– The honorable senator not only desired the elimination of these words, but quoted from a report which was made not long ago in respect to the Riverina case, and he wanted, if he possibly could, to embody in the Bill the recommendation contained in the report. What did that recommendation mean?
– I did not read any recommendation.
– The honorable senator, if I remember rightly, referred to this recommendation.
– Look at the Hansard report and see the portion of the report which I did read. I did not read any recommendation from the Commission. I do not know what they recommended.
-I do not want to do the honorable senator an injustice. If my memory serves me rightly, and I hope that the honorable senator will correct me if I am wrong, in the report it was recommended that a candidate should have an opportunity of demanding a recount, and, as far as I remember, he desired that such a provision should be made in this Bill.
– If this concession is granted to one party it ought to be granted to another. Let us examine the proposal. At Senate elections in New
South Wales and Victoria there are more than two parties. On the last occasion in New South Wales there were three parties, and it may be that at the next election there will be four parties. At the last election Senator McDougall topped the score on behalf of his party with 250,000 votes. I believe that the highest score for the. Fusion party was slightly over 200,000 votes, and the Socialist party, if I remember rightly, scored about 13,000 votes. Does Senator Millen seriously contend that a candidate belonging to a party, no matter how small a number of votes a member of that party may poll, should have the right to demand a recount of the votes ?
– You are making an absurdity of the argument.
– If the concession is to apply to a candidate who scores 250,000 votes, why leave out a man who represents a party, which, though small in number to-day, is growing in strength every year? The same thing might well be said of the Labour party. A few short years ago the votes it polled were small in number as compared with those which it polls to-day. If this proposal is to apply at all, it cannot have a one-sided application. It should have a general application. Therefore, it should not be entertained for one moment that any candidate standing on behalf of a party should have the right to demand a recount.
– So he should, if he is prepared to put up a. penalty. Make a penalty and let him put it up.
– Candidates have every facility now to get what they want. What takes place in regard to counting? First a count is made by the Assistant Returning Officer. Then a recount is made by the Divisional Returning Officer.
– No, a recount may be refused by both these officers - that is the point.
– A count cannot be refused by the Assistant Returning Officer.
– I am speaking of a recount.
– An appeal may be made for a recount.
– And may be refused.
– That is the case I am dealing with. A recount was refused in the Riverina case.
– It may be refused. I hold that unless the strongest possible reasons can be shown that an error or a mistake has been made, a recount of the votes polled in a division or in the State should not be granted.
– I agree with the honorable senator, but I say that when a prima facie case has been made out, a man should have the right to a recount.
– Under those circumstances the Court would hardly refuse a recount.
– But this provision will bar the Court ; it says that the Court must have absolute proof that an error or a mistake has been made, and not that a prima facie case must be made out.
– If the Divisional Returning Officer refuses to recount the votes there is an appeal to the Chief Electoral Officer.
– Who may refuse a recount.
– I cannot think it is possible that a high official would, unless he were absolutely certain that they were correct, refuse a recount.
– Why did they refuse in the Riverina case?
– Then the candidate can appeal to the Court.
– If it can be shown to the Court that an error, or a mistake in counting has been made, it can grant a recount.
– But how can a man prove that an error has been made unless he has had a recount?
– That brings us back to the original contention of the honorable senator who, apparently, cannot get the idea out of his mind that every candidate should have the right to a recount.
– I do not go so far as that. If we were to grant that concession to every candidate, we should have never-ending work, and, of course, no finality. I feel satisfied, in my own mind, that the Court will take into consideration
– My objection is that the provision does not allow the Court to deal with the matter. .
– The Court will take into consideration the application for a recount, and also the possibility of error.
– - But the Bill will not allow the Court to deal with that. It pro vides that an error must be proved to the satisfaction of the Court.
– Surely, if we eliminated these words from the Bill, the Court would not grant a recount unless it was thoroughly satisfied that there had been an error.
– How is the Court to know that?
– What does it bring us back to ? That honorable senators opposite do not want these words retained, but desire that every unsuccessful candidate should have the opportunity to demand a recount.
– No. I want to secure to a person the right to show the Court that it is reasonable that there should be a. recount.
– I am satisfied that the provision in the Bill will grant enlarged facilities to candidates to get what they have not been able to obtain under the principal Act. . I do not see that any member of the Senate need have the slightest fear on that score. I now desire to say a few words in .respect to the provision relating to advertisements in newspapers’ The other day, when Senator Millen was, as I have said, shadow-sparring for an hour, or thereabouts - and I meant that in all seriousness - he singled out for special criticism a newspaper which has won a name for its fairness and the mental pabulum it provides from week to week. It is owned and controlled by working men, and cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a hireling press. It is co-operatively and collectively owned. I venture to say that, with the exception of those lines which men in their spare moments contribute, every line it prints is paid for, and paid for as well as every other newspaper pays for its contributions. That it is a party newspaper is undeniable. It would not be worth calling a newspaper if it were not. It came into existence over twenty years ago. It was started in Queensland, and by a few men who blazed the track and knew what persecution and martyrdom meant. Senator Sayers may laugh, but this is a sad and serious story. These men blazed the track, pioneered the bush, and were black-listed from one end of Australia to the other. One of the first editors of the Queensland Worker - which, in my opinion, has been rightly called the workers’ bible in that State - was a man who made great sacrifices. His opinions could not be bought and sold like some opinions can be bought and sold in the journalistic world nowadays.
The PRESID ENT.- Will the honorable senator indicate how he intends to connect his remarks about the starting of a newspaper and journalism generally with the provisions of this Bill?
– On Thursday last, sir, an attack was made on this newspaper, and 1 am endeavouring, in my humble way, to reply to that attack. I am trying to point out, if you will permit me to proceed, that to all newspapers, whether they are party organs or what Senator Millen called hireling press organs, the Bill applies ; it makes no invidious distinction in regard to one newspaper or another.
– No; but it makes a big difference between a subsidy and a specific payment for a special article.
– The Queensland Worker was edited at the commencement by William Lane, who, I understand, gave up a position worth£600 a year, to take a position at a salary of £200 a year, in order to advocate the Labour cause. Other men contributed money and brains to the newspaper. Later, the Sydney Worker was established; and almost simultaneously with the birth of those two weekly Labour journals, there came into existence a Labour party. The two newspapers I referred to are essentially party organs advocating the Labour party’s platform. There are in Australia to-day other party newspapers. There is a newspaper in Adelaide which had a humble beginning, and which is known as the Herald. It has grown, until to-day it is a daily paper having, I understand, a larger circulation than any other daily paper in South Australia. There is to-day in Tasmania a Labour daily called The Post. There is in Broken Hill to-day another Labour daily. These newspapers have been brought into existence by great sacrifices on the part of men who, in some cases, have put their all into the ventures, and by many who have gone into the business of canvassing day and night. There will, I sincerely hope, be in existence before another twelve months have passed a daily morning newspaper published in Sydney and controlled by the working classes.
– That is the newspaper which the party opposite are building up by forced levies.
– There are no forced levies.
– Forced or voluntary ; when a man joins a party he knows why he does so, and what he will be called upon to do.
– And that the majority will rule.
– He knows that in every organization, whether political or industrial, majority rule obtains. With regard to the compulsory levy of which Senator Millen speaks, I may inform him that, at one time, those who believed in the establishment of the proposed newspaper were in a minority, but by persistent effort they have become a majority. Those who were in the minority a short while ago are now as enthusiastic about the establishment of this daily morning newspaper as they were previously in their opposition to the proposal. This newspaper will spring into existence, and, from time to time, other morning newspapers published in the interests of the Labour party will also be established. The clause of this Bill, against which such strong criticism was levelled by Senator Millen, will apply to them equally as to every other party organ in Australia.
– Not unless they are made to show their subsidies.
– The Labour party, above all other political parties, have nothing to hide, and they do not desire to hide anything.
– They hide more than any other party. Let the honorable senator insert the word “ subsidies “ in the clause.
– On Thursday afternoon last, Senator Millen quoted voluminously from the annual report of the Australian Workers Union.
– How did the honorable senator get it, I wonder?
– Anybody can get it.
– Then why did they refuse it to me at the Worker office in Sydney ?
– Anybody can get it at any time he desires. The Australian Workers Union publish an annual report from time to time. We want our political opponents to publish their reports in the same way. It is because we cannot get them to publish what it costs them to conduct elections and referenda that we desire this provision of the Bill to have a general application. It was said, whether with or without justification! that untold wealth was spent at the referenda on 26th April last.
– I can prove that, in Queensland, more was spent by the honorable senator’s side than by the other. At Chillagoe, they had two organizers at work at £,6 per week.
– We have no objection to the expenditure of money, but we have a strong objection to the violation of the Act of Parliament which limits the amount of money which may be expended in connexion with elections or referenda. That a seemingly unlimited fund was available for some people at the last referenda was evidenced, not by inch advertisements, but by double and treble column advertisements, by special illuminations at the street corners, and by thousands of extra large posters on hoardings throughout Australia. We do not object to that, but we want to know who pays for it, and whether there has been any violation of our electoral law in connexion with it.
– The Government do not object to the expenditure?
– It all depends.
– The honorable senator said just now that they did not.
– We do not object to it provided that it is within the limit set by the law.
– The honorable senator is becoming a law -upholder now, is he?
– I always have been. Our honorable friend opposite waxed wrath in regard to the proposal for the abolition of paid canvassers.
– Yes,, whilst the other side keep organizers going.
– 4Honorable senators opposite can have as many as they like.
– What is the use of pretending? The honorable senator knows that every organizer of a trade union becomes a political canvasser.
– Day and night the organizers of the Liberal party are vigilant. They are ever on the march. They boast about the number of meetings they have addressed, and the number of converts they make from time to time. They are not satisfied with visiting distant places to address meetings from platforms, but they have armies of men and women going from door to door - -
– Just like the Labour party.
– Except that they havenot so many.
– I should be sorry to belong to any party responsible for half the tarradiddles attributed to the Liberal party. Some of the statements made do. no credit to men and women who call themselves fair-minded. There ought not to beany member of the Senate, or any person outside, no matter to what party he belongs, who is not in favour of the abolition of paid canvassers. Canvassing is a. violation of the vote by ballot. If we believe in the secrecy of the ballot, why should we permit men or women to go from, house to house asking electors for whom they intend to vote ? ,
– Does the honorable senator not do that from the platform? Doeshe not ask the electors to vote for him?
– I can truthfully say that I have never, to my knowledge, asked a man or a woman to vote for me personally. I have asked people to vote for the party to which I belong; and solong as I have breath in my body I shall continue to do so. There is nothing in this Bill to prevent honorable senators opposite employing men or women to get people to vote for their party.
– Nothing to prevent them employing them ?
– I defy any one to point to any provision in the Bill to pre? vent the Liberal party, the Fusion party, the party with so many aliases that one almost forgets what its real name is-
– The honorable senator’s party will have its aliases directly. Its members are already ratting on each other.
– We have but one name for our party, and it has been the same ever since it came into existence.
– What about the Socialists and the Independent Socialists?
– They can call themselves what they like. Let me inform honorable senators that provision is made in the New ‘Zealand Act for the abolition of canvassers, and no one ever heard of any hue and cry from one end of the Dominion to the other because their employment is not permitted.
– The honorable senator admits that canvassing may go on so long as it is not paid for.
– in our party there are thousands of men and women who work, not with any expectation of fee or reward, but for the good of the party as a whole.
– They are gratuitous political canvassers because they are paid as organizers.
– On the other side there are very few canvassers, men or women, who will do anything unless they are paid for it.
– Hence this Bill ?
– No. At the last referenda, and at the last general election, there wns a big fund available, and some folk in this city, and in every city in Australia, participated in it. Let me quote the following from the 5th schedule nf the New Zealand Act in respect to canvassing, and with that quotation I shall draw my remarks to a close -
Part I. : Persons legally employed for payment -
One scrutineer for each polling-booth in each polling place, and no more, who may or may not be an elector.
A number of clerks and messengers (who shall not be voters) for conducting business in the committee-rooms, not exceeding one clerk and one messenger for each polling-place in an electoral district.
Part II. : Legal expenses-
The personal expenses of the candidate.
The expenses of printing, and the expenses of advertising in Dewspapers.
The expenses of stationery, postage, and telegrams.
The expenses of holding public meetings.
The expenses of a number of committeerooms, not exceeding one committeeroom to each polling-place in an electoral district.
Expenses inrespect of miscellaneous matters, not exceeding Twenty-five pounds, so, nevertheless, that such expenditure bc not incurred under this head in respect of any matter constituting an offence under this Act or in respect oi any matter or thing payment for whichis expressly prohibited by this Act.
Under section 219 of the Act it is declared to be an illegal practice to employ any person as a canvasser for paymentor promise of payment. Let me say, in closing, that I believe that this Bill will make for the purity of elections. I believe that it will insure a bigger and a more complete and a much more satisfactory roll than we have had since the commencement of the Commonwealth. I believe. that some who have taken strong exception to its provisions will find, after it has been in operation for a time, that they have been mistaken, and that some views that they have expressed in regard to the injury it is calculated to do themor their party will be found to begroundless. I commend the measure to the Seriate feeling satisfied that when it reaches Committee it will be found to require very little amendment.
– I wish to say a word by way of personal explanation. I understand that in my absence the Honorary Minister stated that in the State Parliament I was against women’s suffrage. A reference to the record of my votes in the Victorian Hansard will show that that statement is not correct.
-Colonel CAMERON (Tasmania) [5.19]. - The first question that occurs to me in connexion with this matter is, What necessity is there for the Bill at all, or for any of the alterations of the existing law which it proposes ? It seems to have been intro- . duced for two main purposes. The one is to introduce a system of compulsory enrolment and the other, which seems to me to be quite unnecessary, is to abolish the postal voting system, without any attempt being made to meet the injustice that will arise in consequence. I do not wish to impute motives, and I dislike the imputation of motives by honorable senators on either side. But I should like to say that if fault can. be found with the operation of the postal voting system, surely the administrators of the existing Act are strong enough to see that those who violate its provisions incur the penalties provided for such violation. It seems to me that it is merely a question of the proper administration of the law, and that it is quite unnecessary to pass an amendment which will inflict injustice upon certain people. No one can deny that the abolition of the postal voting system will inflict injustice upon two classes of people who have hitherto been’ given, and who ought to receive, some consideration. I do not ask for sympathy, but for consideration and justice, for these electors. There ought to be no adoption of the methods of the Chinaman, who burns a house down in ordeT to destroy an unfortunate rat. That is what is proposed by this drastic Bill - to repeal an honest endeavour in the existing Act to give all classes of voters at all events an opportunity to register their wishes at an election.It is not a question of whether the Labour party did not receive as many postal votes as their opponents. If that be true, the position may be reversed at the next election. I think the reasonable attitude to observe is to consider whether we shall be right in doing a serious injustice to a certain class of people, when all that is necessary to remedy any evil arising from the existing law is that it shall be administered in such a way as to make an example of any one who has been shown to have violated its provisions. I understand from what has been said that cases of the abuse of the postal voting system are known, and I ask, if that be so, why the Government do not make an example of the persons concerned? If I were in a position to administer a law of the kind, I should certainly, before proposing so drastic an alteration of it, endeavour to put it into, operation and deal out justice to those who have violated it.
– A case of the kind is mentioned in this morning’s Age.
– Then let the law be put into operation, and thus prevent similar evildoing in the future. It would be the proper course to follow. Even if only a few persons, to put the matter in the most favorable light for this Bill, take advantage of the postal voting provisions of the existing Act, why should we deprive them of their natural right to be placed in a position to record their votes. That is a very serious point. I trust that the regulations will be so framed that justice will be done to all classes of persons.
– This is not a party question.
– I hope it is not. Therefore I trust that the honorable senator will support the view that I am expressing. With regard to canvassers, I do not pay very much attention to what is proposed, though very much is made of it on both sides. I am satisfied that canvassing will go on in some shape or form as long as politics endures. All that I wish to insist upon is that canvassing, if it takes place at all, shall be conducted in a clean, straightforward, honest way by both parties. 1 f one party canvasses in a particular manner, I see no reason why the other should be penalized. I warn honorable senators on the Ministerial benches, who now oc cupy, their places so pleasantly, so confidently, and so modestly, that they will not be there always, and that before many years have passed, they may have to give place to advocates of quite a different system of politics.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chataway) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 5.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1911/19111025_senate_4_61/>.