4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway : Papers respecting Adoption of Karri Sleepers.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired at Blyth, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Northern Territory. - Jury Ordinance, No. 7 of1912.
Public Service Act 1902-1911. - Regulations amended (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 217.
– When the Vice-President of the Executive Council informed me yesterday that the report on the Sugar Commission would be available in a. day or two, was he aware that the Commission is to meet to consider its report ten days’ hence, or was his reply merely a guess?
– I did not say that the report would be available “in a day or two.” I said “ in a week or two.”
– All the newspapers report that you said “in a day or two.”
– It must necessarily be a matter of speculation as to the exact day or moment when the report will be available.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council give the Senate an idea as to when the Government propose to bring down a fresh Lands Ordinance dealing with the Northern Territory ?
– An Ordinance is almost ready. It has been promised by the Minister of External Affairs for Tuesday, and I dare say that we can have it here on Wednesday.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are -
– I think that the answer is somewhat contradictory of what the Minister of Defence informed the Senate when I asked him a question.
– We have no Trust Account for obsolete ships, but we have a Trust Account for building ships.
– I move -
That the Senate approves of the distribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. Frederick Poate, Hugh Langwell, and John Gilbert McLaren, the Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report dated the 15th October, 1912, and laid before the Senate on 24th October, 1912 ; and that the names of the divisions indicated on the map referred to in the report be adopted, subject to certain corrections referred to in telegrams from the Commissioners and laid upon the table of the Senate on the 30th day of October, 1912.
I wish to point out to the Senate as a reason for this distribution that section 23 of the Electoral Act provides that -
Such proclamation may be made -
The figures contained in the Commissioner’s report show that at the present time there are seven electoral divisions in which the margin of allowance - one-fifth more or one-fifth less than the quota - is exceeded. They are -
The enrolment in each division under the proposed redistribution with differences from the quota is set out in the report. I do not propose to read the mass of figures, but merely to indicate the general effect by saying that there are eleven metropolitan divisions in excess of the quota, and that the excess ranges from 3,338 in the case of North Sydney to 461 in the case of Illawarra. The other’s, of course, range between those two figures, but all of them are within the excess allowed by the Act. The country divisions are below the quota, but well within the excess allowed by the Act. They range from 5,388, in the case of Barrier, to 125, in the case of Hunter. The others, of course, range between those two figures. The sixteen country divisions are below the quota, but within the excess allowed by the Act, while the other metropolitan divisions are above the quota, as I have indicated. When Senator Millen was speaking on the Queensland redistribution scheme, he drew the attention of the Senate to this peculiarity in this report. The Government gave consideration to the matter when they were deciding what they would do with the report, and they laid down for themselves a broad general line of policy which they have pursued, and that is that where there was no evidence of improper procedure on the part of the Commissioners, it was their duty to recommend the adoption of their report to Parliament. We have” followed that procedure in respect to the previous reports, and we propose to do the same in this case. It is a singular fact that the Commissioners for New South Wales have apparently adopted a policy of differentiating between country and metropolitan electorates, but the Government did not feel justified in rejecting their report, as the Parliament had given, in the Electorate Act, a permissive power to them to vary the numbers. Whilst not giving any direction as to whether that should be followed in the case of country versus metropolitan electorates, still there has been no prohibition placed upon them in the Act, and therefore the Government felt that they were bound, in view of the principle which had governed them in other cases, to bring this report before Parliament, and recommend its adoption.
– In considering this report one is struck by the discrepancies that exist between the metropolitan and country electorates, as referred to by the Minister of Defence. When the question was brought before the Senate recently in connexion with the redistribution schemes for Western Australia and Queensland, Senator Stewart advanced the argument that the difficulty of getting to the polling-booth in the country electorates, as compared with that in city electorates, really equalized the position somewhat, and in practice effected the principle of one-vote-one-value, which it has generally been contended involves practically an equality of the number of electors. As was pointed out by Senator Millen, in criticising those schemes the discrepancy between the metropolitan and the country electorates is more pronounced in the case of New South Wales than it is in the redistribution of the other States. I have nothing but the highest regard for the Commissioners who acted for New South Wales. With the chairman I am not personally acquainted, but the other two Commissioners I know personally, and I believe that they bestowed a great deal of care and diligence on the very difficult task of trying to reconcile the conflicting interests and the various anomalies which exist between one electorate and .another. But while giving them every credit for having performed their task to the best of their ability, and perhaps to the best of their opportunities, I do think that in regard to some of the electorates changes have been made which are not justifiable, and not to the advantage of the State of New South Wales. The redistribution of electoral divisions is supposed to proceed on certain definite principles and, among others, community of interest between the various portions of a division, and also means of communication. It would be almost absurd to assume that it is possible to secure community of interest in any electorates of the size which they must necessarily be for Federal purposes in New South Wales, and perhaps in any other State. In fact, I think that this provision in the Electoral Act might very well be omitted, because, in the nature of things, the very large area necessary to return a Federal member must contain very many interests. I suppose that there is no electorate in the whole of the country which can be said to be homogeneous in that respect.
– Look at Nepean division, for instance.
– Just so.
– The only way in which you can get community of interests is by multiplying or trebling the number of members.
– Just so; or by adopting a new principle in electing Parliaments. Geographical considerations might be set aside altogether, and representation given to special interests. In this State honorable senators are aware that on one occasion special representation was given to civil servants.
– In New South Wales there were special gold-fields electorates.
– The same principle was followed in other countries in the special representation of universities. In the remote future it is possible that in some countries the principle will be followed of giving such representation to every interest in the country. But representation of special interests cannot be provided in the subdivision of a State into large geographical areas, in which it is clear many diverse interests must exist.
– Is there really such a thing as community of interest?
– I think it is practically impossible to secure the representation of community of interest in a complete form, while I agree that it is probably well that it should be accomplished as far as practicable. A consideration of very much importance, in my opinion, though in the Act it is coupled with the other matter, is the question of means of communication. No matter how divergent may be the pursuits and callings of electors, and though there may be amongst them differences in regard to social caste and industrial occupation, they may well have a community of interest in the facilities of communication provided in different districts.
– Does the . honorable senator think that means of communication may refer to the means which an elector has of getting to the polling booth?
– I cannot say that I have ever construed it in that way, and, with all due respect to the honorable senator, I think that would be a somewhat ridiculous interpretation of the provision. I can understand that there might be a desire to attach a little centre on the borders of a particular electorate to another electorate because the electors would have to cross a mountain range or river in order to reach the political centre of the district to which they are geographically nearer. I think that means of communication should be interpreted to mean the facilities afforded to residents of outlying parts of an electorate to reach the business or market centre, and to refer to the railways and roads reticulating the electoral area, and which are commonly used by the electors in following their ordinary avocations. In the redistribution now under consideration, I find that some strange anomalies are brought about in this regard. I take, for instance, the case of the electorate of Werriwa, which has been prominently in the minds of honorable senators owing to the recent byelection which took place there. I find that the main Sydney-to-Melbourne railway line runs through that electorate, but, so far from the area included within its boundaries being in any sense compact, it will be seen that the railway line does not go completely through the electorate before it enters another electorate. The new electorate of Eden-Monaro crosses the railway line, and takes in a portion of the present electorate of Werriwa. Another electorate, as now proposed, takes in another portion of the Werriwa electorate. The towns of Harden, Yass, and Binalong, which are included in the present Werriwa electorate, are under this scheme of redistribution divided amongst three electorates, whilst the contiguous district of Burrawa which is closely connected with all these places by community of interest due to the extension of settlement from a common centre, inter-marriage of the people, and other relationships, is divided between two electorates. The railway line now passes through a portion of the Werriwa electorate, then through two other electorates, and then through the Werriwa electorate again. Under this redistribution the new
Werriwa electorate comprises a long narrow strip of country covering about 180 miles in length. A complete change has also been effected in the Nepean and Macquarie electorates. A large portion of the old Nepean electorate is included in the new Macquarie electorate, and a portion is now included in the Parramatta electorate. There is practically nothing of the old Nepean district included in the new Nepean electorate. I take now the electorate in which I reside myself, and which is represented by Mr. Joseph Cook. A large portion of the fruitgrowing area of the old Parramatta electorate, in which the residents are mainly dependent upon the fruit-growing industry, is under this scheme attached to the new Nepean electorate, whilst a northern suburban area, including the Crow’s Nest district, is included in the Parramatta electorate. If we take the electorates of Hunter and Newcastle, we shall find that under this scheme a portion of the country in the northern part of the existing Hunter electorate has been cut off and attached to the Newcastle electorate, and a portion of the Cowper electorate is attached to the Hunter in such a way - and I am not objecting to this from a political point of view, because I believe the alteration is not likely to disturb the balance of political power - that whoever represents the Hunter electorate will, in order to work that portion of it, and look after the interests ot electors there, require to spend a fortnight to do what might be done by the representative of the district in three or four days if it were attached to the Newcastle electorate. Without going into details with respect to the various proposed new divisions, I may say that, with probably the best possible intentions, the redistribution submitted has been made obviously for the purpose of doing what Senator Millen has objected to all along, and as a result the discrepancy which, under the old division existed between the number of electors in town and country constituencies respectively in an aggravated form in some cases, has now been spread over practically the whole of the electorates. That is to say, that whilst complaint might fairly be urged against the enormous discrepancy between some metropolitan divisions with nearly 50,000 electors, and distant country electorates, with perhaps only 22,000, the evil, instead of being removed under the redistribution here proposed is spread over the whole of the State.
– It has also been reduced by 50 per cent.
– I cannot see that when we have all the country divisions still remaining.
– But they have added to them portions of metropolitan divisions.
– Very small portions.
– As a matter of arithmetic the discrepancy between country and town electorates has been reduced by 50 per cent.
– I did not go into the percentage. But, broadly speaking, the discrepancy, instead of existing in an aggravated form in a few cases, exists now in a less pronounced form in connexion with all the electorates. If the population of the metropolitan areas continues to increase at the existing rate as compared with the increase in the population of country districts, ‘the discrepancies existing under the proposed redistribution would in a short time become as accentuated as they are under the existing distribution of the States in the case of the most pronounced instances of the kind. I do not say that this is the fault of the Commissioners, because they cannot control the movements of population. I do not object to their action in fixing the maximum and minimum of electors for a district, because in doing so they have acted according to the instructions laid down in the Act. But they have approached the margin so closely that unless there is an extraordinary growth of the population in the rural districts within the next few years, the evils now complained of in this regard will become manifest practically over the whole of the States. It has been stated that the proposed redistribution meets with general approval. We have been told that none of the newspapers of New South Wales have said anything against it, and that there has been no public indignation meetings to protest against it. But honorable senators should recognise that this is not the kind of question on which it is easy to organize public expressions of opinion. Though electors in various portions of an electorate may not be content with the proposed change, it is a difficult matter for them to concentrate their forces, or to agree upon any other distribution that would suit them better. However dissatisfied they may be with the proposed redistribution they are not in a position to criticise what is suggested except in respect of any district in which they reside, and, as a general rule, electors are satisfied if they are not too far removed from the polling booth. Many electors never have an opportunity to become acquainted with the political aspirations and opinions of those in other portions of the electorates for the simple reason that they are separated hy immense distances, and sometimes by the natural features of the country. The proposed redistribution separates interests that previously were together, and places together interests that have nothing in common. Take, for instance, the electorate of Robertson, which extends from somewhere in the vicinity of Mudgee, in the middle west, right down to the sea-coast, north of Newcastle. Here, again, is the electorate of Werriwa, which extends round about the Campden and Moss Vale country on the eastern slopes, comparatively only a few miles distant from Sydney, and away back into the country surrounding Wyong, which is adjacent to Riverina - country entirely dissociated from the coastal belt by history pursuits, and in every .other way.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Can the honorable senator suggest other boundaries which would bring about compliance with the Act?
– Yes. Of course, I admit at once that no man can go right through “these proposals, and suggest alterations forthwith. He would be a genius of a class that I have never yet met with who could verbally sketch forth a redistribution for a vast State like New South Wales. But in the particular cases I have quoted, there should not be any great difficulty in making more compact electorates, whilst preserving something like the associations that exist between the various parts of these electorates, and at the same time getting the requisite quota.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Can the honorable senator tell me what class of electorate the Hunter is? Is it a farming or a mining electorate, or does it embrace both ?
– It embraces both. It embraces cultivation, dairying, and, to a certain extent, pastoral interests. There are lucerne flats and many small farms. There is also coal mining.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - There is a coal mining industry, though it is concentrated in a small area.
– The Newcastle electorate, is nearly all industrial.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - To which the Commissioners are adding a further mining area in West Wallsend.
– They are attaching more dairying and timber country from the Cowper to the Hunter; and at the same time they are cutting off country from the Hunter, and attaching it to Newcastle, which is naturally associated by means of communication and facility of intercourse with the Hunter rather than with the Newcastle electorate.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Nonsense.
– I know that it is so.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - There is community of interest and facility of communication with West Wallsend. That was always attached to Newcastle in State politics.
– The country that has been attached to the Hunter could have been more easily attached to Newcastle, and with better results. In regard to the Robertson electorate, what community of interest and what facility of communication is there between Wyong and Gosford on the one hand, and Mudgee on the other ?
– But the honorable senator admits that we cannot obtain community of interest with complete regard to the quota.
– I have admitted that we cannot obtain anything like community of interest, but what facility of communication is there? Is there any other way of getting round from Wyong and Gosford to Mudgee, than by a circuitous route, or from Deniliquin to Broken Hill than by going through two States?
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Oh, yes.
– The honorable senator is ignoring the quota altogether.
– I am not ignoring the quota. I admit that there have to be different boundaries if there is to be a redistribution. I admit the difficulty of the task. Immediately we begin to cut off a piece of country from one electorate we dislocate matters in the adjoining electorate. We have to keep on shifting our lines until we secure an average degree of fairness. I am not looking for perfection. I think, however, that if more time were taken, a better distribution could be made in the light of experience. The Leader of the Opposition stated, in discussing a former redistribution, that the Commissioners had increased the number of metropolitan electorates and reduced the number of country electorates. I am not here to dictate to any body of Commissioners who have to do with the distribution of electorates. I recognise that if there had to be more metropolitan electorates the fault is not with the Commissioners. The fault is in our social life, which brings about a congestion of population in the cities, and leaves the country districts comparatively sparsely settled. We cannot avoid that ; and if we are not to alter the Act to provide that country electorates - in view of the distances that electors are from the polling-booth, and in view of the fact that people in the country cannot associate themselves for political purposes with the same facility as in cities - shall have a larger measure of representation, we should face the position and come as nearly as practicable to a quota for every electorate. Unless we do that we shall be proceeding, as the Leader of the Opposition himself said, to legislate through Commissioners instead of doing so by the will of Parliament. This question is one of indifference as far as I am individually concerned. It does not matter to me, or to any other senator, whether the electorates are large or small, even or uneven, as we have to travel over the whole State.
– There is no adjustment of our boundaries.
– There is not, and there will not be unless Victoria succeeds in annexing Riverina. I am rather frightened lest Senator McColl should be inclined to invade that district !
– Victoria ought to have Riverina by rights.
– I know that there is in Victoria an underlying feeling of resentment, which some day may lead to such a war as is now taking place in Europe.
– Who are going to be the burlgars
– I am thankful to say that comparatively peaceful relations exist at present. Speaking seriously, I think that this scheme of redistribution might well be sent back to the Commissioners - without in any way impugning their good faith, or the degree of diligence and hard work which they have displayed - with a view to the rectification of some of the anomalies which it presents. I say quite plainly that many of the electorates of New South Wales have been so cut up, and so completely changed from what they were before, that very little is left but the name by which they have been known. No attempt has been made to bring State electorates into harmony with Federal electorates. I admit that that could not be done absolutely. We could not divide the ninety New South Wales State electorates so as to make the boundaries of Federal electorates conterminous with them. But were that possible, it would be a good thing to have the boundary lines running in common. Even if we cannot have conterminous lines running throughout the State we should, as far as we can, arrange the Federal divisions on the same lines as the State divisions. At present we find that one Federal electorate runs through seven or eight State electorates. It does not embrace the whole of them, but portions of one and portions of another, with the whole of two or three. Surely that is a state of affairs which is not advisable, except as far as it is rendered inevitable. I hope that the time will come when an arrangement will be made by which the Federal electorates will be a multiple of the State electorates, and when, whatever the number of members may be, the one will be divisible by the other. Federal electorates should embrace so many State electorates, and the boundaries should be conterminous. If that were done we should save a great amount of expense, and should only require one set of poll clerks and returning officers. The scheme should work so harmoniously that any alteration required could be made’ to affect both Federal and State electorates quite easily. I moved in connexion with a political association with which I am connected in Parramatta that that should be done. The matter was taken up by the Political Labour League some years ago, and the press was generally favorable to the idea. While such a scheme is not within the region of practical politics at the present time, I trust that it will be some day. In the meantime, I think that regard should have been had to the boundaries of State electorates to a greater extent than has been done in this redistribution. Here we have in some cases seven, and, I believe, more, portions of State electorates included in one Federal electorate. The average elector is so befogged by the way in which State and Federal electorates cross and recross each other that he does not know where he is.
– The State Parliament is to blame for that, because we have attempted over and over again to make our boundaries conterminous with theirs, and to bave one roll, but have failed to obtain cooperation with the State.
– It must be remembered that such a scheme would involve a complete change of policy on the part of the States. They would have to reduce the membership of their Parliaments, and that, of course, involves a change of policy upon which, naturally, there would be a division of opinion.
– We did not ask them to reduce their membership.
– But they would absolutely require either to reduce or increase their membership so that the number of State electorates might be divisible by the number of Federal electorates.
– No ; in Tasmania they have so many State electorates for each Federal electorate.
– Just so; in Tasmania you simply divide 35 by 5. Whereas there used to be thirty-six members in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, the number was reduced so that the number of members returned to the House of Representatives, five, would be divisible into the number of State electorates. A similar adjustment would be necessary in the case of New South Wales if we were to bring the State and Federal electorates completely into line. New South Wales would either require to have fifty-four members, if there were two State electorates for each Federal electorate, or eighty-one if there were three. We cannot insist on that, but I say that, as far as practicable, it should be done. I think that there is time to return this redistribution scheme to the Commissioners with a view of getting them to take further action. There is time for them to prepare a fresh report, and, in view of the objections urged, to recast their plan and to provide a very much better scheme than that which has been submitted to us.
– Should they recast their scheme with a view to securing greater equality or with a view to removing local objections?
– They should recast it with a view to achieving both those objects.
– They could never do that, because one object conflicts with the other.
– I do not think so. The reason why they have not taken much notice of the criticism to which their scheme was subjected between the period of its first publication and its final submission to the Minister is that, except in a few instances, that criticism was not presented in a form of which they could take cognisance. In other words, local objections were not placed before them in the way that they should have been. It was a case of everybody’s business being nobody’s business. The Cumberland Argus which is printed in Parramatta, published one or two very strong articles dealing with this redistribution scheme. It called it a hotch-potch, and pointed out that under it the interests of Parramatta would be dissociated from that centre and attached to another electoral division with which it had no community of interest whatever. Take the district in which I live, some 20 miles north of Parramatta. That district has been eliminated from the Parramatta electoral division and attached to the division of Nepean, which ‘ is partly an industrial electorate.
– That remark is applicable to nine out of every ten electorates in New South Wales.
– The electoral divisions further west have not been affected in the same way. In their case there is no greater divergence of interests under this scheme than there was previously. But in the divisions which I have mentioned it looks as if the Commissioners had gone out of their way to unite portions of country which are most dissimilar. If it be a sin to divorce those whom the Divinity has joined together, surely it is equally a sin to join together portions of country which have absolutely conflicting interests.
–Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Gosford, Wiseman’s Ferry, Windsor, and Richmond are all a long distance from Parramatta, and yet they have been taken out of that division.
– Admittedly Gosford is a long distance from Parramatta, but it has been attached to a centre like Mudgee. It seems to me that the inclusion of these long strips of country which extend from the western slopes across the ranges to the eastern slopes, and in some instances down to the sea-board, constitutes such glaring anomalies that it would he well to refer the scheme back to the Commissioners with a view to their rectification. We might then secure a better redistribution from the stand-point of community of interests, so that a person would be able to visit different parts of the same electorate without being obliged to cross a mountain range. as he has to do now in travelling from Deniliquin to Broken Hill. To get to the latter centre from Deniliquin one has first to travel to Echuca, he has then to go to Melbourne, from Melbourne he has to journey to Adelaide, and from Adelaide to Broken Hill. That is the position of any person who desires to go from one portion of the Barrier electorate to another.
– Can anything that the Commissioners may do remove the diversity of interest which exists between the mining and pastoral country included in that division?
– I do not find fault with that. But I object to a distribution under which there is no community of interest between the outlying portion of one electoral division and other portions of the same division. In the case to which I am referring, there is no main road, no coach road, and no mail communication.
– Because nobody wishes to go out there.
– Any number of people desire to go there, but they do not want to go from one part there to another part there. The only connexion between Deniliquin and Broken Hill, which I can recall, is that, some years ago, Messrs. Sleath and Ferguson were taken from the latter place where they would not have been convicted to the former, where it was known that they would be convicted. There is .absolutely no connexion between them by any means of communication, such as is adopted even by savages. There is not even a bush track between them. A good deal of that country is flooded in the wet season. In my judgment, the country, which lies towards the Darling River, might more naturally be attached to the Barrier Division than might a portion of the Riverina.
– The honorable senator suggests pushing out into the Gwydir electorate.
– I do not “Care what country the Commissioners may embrace in the different divisions, so long as we secure something like means of communication between one portion of an electorate and another portion of it. But, in effect, the parts of the proposed Barrier electorate to which I have referred are as much divorced from each other as are the Balkan States from Turkey. The many glaring anomalies which exist require to be remedied. In my judgment, sufficient time has yet to elapse before the general elections to enable us to refer this scheme back to the Commis sioners, with a view to having the boundaries of the proposed electoral divisionsof New South Wales revised, and some of these anomalies wiped out. I believe that if this motion be rejected the scheme will be referred back to the Commissioners for further report, and, that being so, I shall certainly vote against it. In the interests of New South Wales I trust that it will not be carried.
– This is a matter which affects the whole of the representatives of New South Wales in this Parliament, but in view of the fact that Senator Rae has put the case of those WA-0 disagree with the scheme of the Commissioners fairly and temperately, I shall not occupy the attention of the Senate at any length. Although I shall vote against the scheme of the Commissioners I have every confidence in their integrity.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - But the honorable senator has no confidence in their judgment.
– I have every confidence both in their integrity and in their judgment. At the same time, one, who, like the honorable senator, has been obliged to travel from one end of New South Wales to the other in seeking election to this Chamber, must necessarily have some knowledge of the constituency which he represents. For two years, prior to the last election, I was endeavouring to make myself acquainted with the State from which I hail, and I am sure that the Commissioners themselves would repose some confidence in my judgment.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - But the honorable senator is taking exception to their judgment.
– I am not doing anything of the kind. I am merely pointing out how an improvement might be effected., I entertain no antipathy whatever to the Commissioners. It is quite possible that if I were confronted with the task of distributing New South Wales into compact electorates, keeping in mind community of interest, I should make a much worse distribution than they have done. At the same time, these electorates have been planned in such a way that the scheme should be referred back to them with a view of seeing whether effect cannot be given to some of the suggestions which have been made. I was surprised to hear
Senator Gould question Senator Rae in regard to the redistribution of the Hunter electorate. Let me point to three constituencies which are represented by Labour members in the other branch of the Legislature, namely, Newcastle, Hunter, and Robertson. Under this scheme it is proposed to extend the Hunter division so as to make it embrace a portion of the dairying districts to the north, with which, when the coast railway is completed it will not have very much in the way of community* of interest. The Newcastle division has, if anything, been made smaller than ever. Now the railway from Sydney to Newcastle forms a natural link by means of which Gosford and Wyong might be connected with the Newcastle electorate. Had these places been included in that electoral division it would have obviated the necessity of attaching a little peninsula to the Robertson electorate, of which Mudgee is the centre. If the Commissioners, in dealing with these three electorates, had included in the Newcastle division the suburbs of Gosford and Wyong-
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - They are rather a long distance away to be described as “ suburbs.” They are 50 miles from Newcastle.
– But look at the distance that they are from Mudgee and Scone.
– In addition to that, there is no communication between Gosford and any of the other large centres, but there is between them an uninhabited ‘ mountainous chain which is almost impassable, and the means of communication from Mudgee to the coastal portion of this electorate, as designed by the Commissioners, is from Mudgee to Sydney by train, a couple of hundred miles, and from Sydney to Gosford by train, a distance of 50 miles. If this strip of 50 miles were added, the Newcastle electorate would certainly be less of a handy pocket electorate. But it would make the Robertson electorate more compact. It will be said, “ Where is the population to come from?” The Robertson electorate could be run across, taking in Maitland and the Kurri Kurri districts, though that would not give a community of industrial interest, which has been shown to be absolutely impossible in subdividing the States.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - You want them to be bought as close together as possible.
– That would be the effect, and it would give a combination of interests. I really think that in that respect the Commissioners paid too much attention to making Newcastle purely a city electorate, and that in their desire to leave Newcastle very small, they left the Robertson electorate, not only large, but unwieldy, and rendered it almost impossible for any one man to fairly represent the diverse interests. By no stretch of imagination could it be said that there is a community of interest between Gosford and Wyong and other portions of the Robertson electorate. There is no community of interest in pursuits or means of communication. Therefore, in that respect, the Commissioners seem to have gone out of their way to create an anomaly. To my mind, that part of the Robertson electorate could be easily cut off and added to the Newcastle electorate. We could take from the Newcastle electorate that portion which is now taken from the Hunter electorate. The portion of the Hunter electorate which is now changed could be removed from the Newcastle ‘electorate and given back to the electorate to which it has been transferred.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Surely West Wallsend ought to go with Newcastle.
– I think that it went with the old Newcastle electorate. At present it is in the Hunter electorate, and is proposed to be transferred to the Newcastle electorate.
– Why should not Kurri Kurri and those places go with the Newcastle electorate?
– Simply because it would make the electorate too big.
– To my mind there could be an alteration of this scheme which would improve each electorate, except Newcastle, which would be increased iia size, but would not be unwieldy. The only population on the line from Newcastle down would be represented by the member for Newcastle, who, if he lived in the electorate, would pass through the whole of it at each week-end: It is difficult now for the member for Robertson to get round his electorate, but if we attach te the electorate a population which is isolated by impassable mountains, then, in order to visit his electorate, he will have to go to two centres in different parts of the State. His electorate runs from Mudgee to Scone, and through to Singleton, and all those places.,
There are main coach roads, if there are not railways running, and there is largely a community of interest. But to go down to Gosford and Wyong, in the Robertson electorate, is to shut out anything like a community of interest. To my mind, the change has been made in order to reduce the size of the Newcastle electorate. There seems to have been a reluctance on the part of the Commissioners to enlarge its boundaries.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Yet Newcastle has 35,000 electors, or more than the quota.
– That strengthens my argument, because the Commissioners have taken a dense portion of the population from the Hunter electorate’, and added it to the Newcastle electorate. If the honorable senator will give attention to that fact he will recognise that that population could well be left with ‘ the Hunter electorate, and Newcastle could take the more sparsely-populated portions down the line. That difference in the population would relieve the Hunter electorate from running up into the dairying districts.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - The Hunter electorate has only had added to it Cowper and Forster, a population of 1,643.
– I recognise that the Hunter electorate has had added to it Cowper and Forster, which I admit are a good distance from’ dense centres of population in the division. There is another aspect of this question, and that is the one with which Senator Millen dealt very ably on a previous occasion. I propose to place before the Senate some of the views which he then expressed. Speaking on the 23rd October, he said, on page 4493-
I do not know -enough of the local circumstances to refer to the scheme apart from the matter of numbers.
– Order ! I understand that the honorable senator is quoting from the Hansard report of a debate on another matter brought up this session.
– It is a debate on electoral divisions.
– Not on this motion.
– No, sir, on the electoral divisions of Queensland.
– The honorable senator is out of order in quoting from the debate.
– I regret that I am unable to quote the concise language used by Senator Millen, because he put with great clearness the view that the Commissioners had no right to alter a principle which Parliament had laid down, and that was the principle of one vote one value, or each vote equal value. I remember well, when, somewhere about 1 89 1, the New South Wales Parliament was dealing with the question of one man one vote. The logical sequence is one vote one value. No matter what hardships may ‘accrue to the country in giving effect to a logical proposition of that kind, there is no getting away from the fact that if we approve of the principle of one adult one vote, it follows that we should approve of the principle of one vote one value. Senator Millen pointed out ‘to the Senate on a previous occasion, that although it might be debatable whether, in the interests of the country, a change from that system should be made, yet if a change were made it should be made by the Parliament and not by the Commissioners. That is, I think, a proposition which can well be indorsed by honorable senators on this side. We may differ amongst ourselves’ as to whether one vote one value is practicable, owing to the fact that the cities are becoming .daily more congested, and carrying a population altogether out of proportion to the country electorates. It was under the system of one vote one value that we were each elected, and it was by a Parliament thus elected that the Commissioners’ were given certain powers. The margin in excess of the quota was not given to the Commissioners to enable them to introduce a new system, as Senator Millen pointed out most clearly in his recent speech. But it was given to them with a knowledge of the difficulties with which they would have to contend in adjusting the numbers and the interests with which they would have to deal.
– It was a permission, not a direction.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - And a necessary permission in order to work out a scheme.
– The provision was necessary in order to enable the Commissioners to carry out a most difficult undertaking. But it has been used in this case to give the country electorates a lesser number of electors than metropolitan electorates. To my mind the Commissioners, in doing that, did what the Parliament never intended they should do.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - But they only followed an example set to them by the previous Commissioners.
– That strengthens my contention that we should refer the scheme back to the Commissioners. It would be an intimation to them and to all succeeding Commissioners that when a change in principle is to be made Parliament alone will be responsible for the making of it.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Parliament has approved of this on a previous occasion.
– That makes it all the more incumbent upon us not to approve of it on this occasion, because if we do it will become a precedent, and next time the Commissioners will say that different Parliaments have approved of the change.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Why does not Parliament provide by Bill that the Commissioners shall not do this thing ?
– I suppose- that the reason why Parliament has not dealt with the matter by Bill is that each of its members is returned with the view that each vote was to have an equal value. Even if any one complained that the country was not sufficiently represented, or that most of the members living in the cities were virtually representatives of the cities, that is a very debatable matter. I do not think that there is a sufficiently strong conviction in the mind of any senator or member of the other House to put up a fight for an alteration of the principle. The principle seems to be part of the political belief of every party. I admit that in every party there is quite a number of members who disagree with the principle, but their disagreement has never reached the stage of leading them to say that they will alter it. It has never reached the stage of compelling them to say that it is not logical to continue the principle. If that is the position we are in to-day, and I hold that it is, then this scheme may well be referred back to the Commissioners with an intimation that the margin was provided to enable them to make it practicable and possible for them to change electorates, and not to enable them to set up a new condition of things as regards inequality of votes.
– That is Senator Millen’s own argument.
– I am really sorry that I was not allowed to quote the arguments put forward by Senator Millen on a previous occasion.
– 1 shall be in order later, I think, in repeating them.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish, sir, to direct your attention to standing order No. 408, in connexion with the ruling you have given that Senator Gardiner is not at liberty to quote from a previous debate. I should like to ask 3’ou whether under that standing order it is not competent for the honorable senator to quote from a previous debate on the question now under discussion?
-Colonel- Sir Albert Gould. - It was not the same question.
– In the first place, the point of order should have been raised at the time the ruling was given. But, apart from that, I would remind the honorable senator that standing order No. 408 provides that -
No senator shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the Senate, for personal explanation.
– What about standing order No. 409?
– Standing order No. 409 is necessary to enable debate to be carried on satisfactorily. A secondreading debate, for instance, may extend over a number of days, and honorable senators, having the Hansard report of the debate in their hands, are able to quote from it, and from no other source, references previously made to the question under consideration. An honorable senator, for instance, speaks on the second reading of a Bill ; the Bill subsequently goes through Committee, and is again debated on the third reading. The same matter practically is dealt with, and in such cases honorable senators are at liberty to quote from Hansard opinions previously expressed during the same session in connexion with the consideration of the same Bill. The practice always followed in connexion with this matter in the Senate is referred to at page 30 of his decisions by the late President, Sir Richard Baker. He says -
It is not in order to refer to any debate of the same session in the other House, or to a debate on any question in the same session in the Senate.
When Senator Millen made the speech from which Senator Gardiner wished to quote it was on another question dealing with the redistribution of electorates of the State of Queensland. As that was a different question from that which we are considering to-day I ruled that Senator Gardiner could not quote from the Hansard report of the debate on that question. Senator Gardiner has recognised that that was a correct ruling.
– I do not wish to press for leave to quote from Senator Millen’s speech, or to quote it from memory, further than to say that, generally, the position he took up on the occasion referred to was to advocate the principle that each vote should have a fairly equal value. I am not misrepresenting the honorable senator when I say that that was his contention. He further urged that if a change of that principle was to be made it should be made by Parliament, and not by the Commissioners. I should like to add that I think it is rather a pity that the Standing Orders have precluded a quotation from Senator Millen’s speech on the subject, because the honorable senator and I are so rarely of one mind that it is a matter for regret that the Senate and the country should not have their attention called to the occasions on which we do agree on political questions. I hold views identical with those which Senator Millen expressed on this matter. In the circumstances I intend to record my vote to refer the proposed redistribution back, to the Commissioners, and I have no desire to occupy any further time in discussing the motion.
– It is not my intention to speak on this motion, but I wish to say that I recognise that it is impossible to have one vote one value under our present electoral system. The only way in which we could bring it about would be to regard a State as one constituency, and use the HareSpence system of election. As we cannot expect to attain perfection in this matter, I think that if we are men of business we shall accept the scheme of redistribution which is now before us. If we send the scheme back to the Commissioners they may not have time to submit a revised scheme, or, if they have, it might be debated at length in another place, and we do not know when we should be able to consider it. My opinion is that, in the circumstances, we had better make the best of the position and accept this scheme.:
– I am not at all sorry that Senator Gardiner should have done me the honour to make reference to the remarks which I previously addressed to the Senate. He sought to anticipate the course which I proposed to take myself. Without a reference to previous debates, I may today enunciate the views which I expressed on the occasion referred to. It is true that the occasions upon which Senator Gardiner and I agree are very rare, but whilst we do agree upon certain principles, in this connexion we evidently disagree as to the way in which they should be applied, or as to their effect in the circumstances with which we are now dealing. Some reference has been made to the interpretation which may be placed upon the action of Parliament in rejecting the scheme proposed by the Commissioners, and I wish to say that I dissent altogether from the proposition that to negative a motion such as that now before the Senate will cast any reflection whatever upon those gentlemen. I have a personal knowledge of the Commissioners for the redistribution of New South Wales, and am prepared to indorse all the remarks made as to their capacity and integrity. Having said that, I see no reason why Parliament should be prepared to indorse their report, or to run the risk if it rejects it of suggesting any reflection upon the Commissioners. By the Act itself we have reserved to Parliament the right to review and veto the work of these Commissioners. When we did that it was surely with the idea that Parliament should retain the right to the final word upon these redistribution schemes.
– Does anyone question that?
– It seemed to me that Senators Rae and Gardiner were under some impression that it was necesary to excuse a vote in opposition to the scheme of redistribution proposed by the Commissioners.
– I did not intend to suggest that.
– I do not subscribe to the doctrine that the rejection of the work of the Commissioners indicates any reflection upon their capacity, integrity, or impartiality. There are two standards by which we should judge the work of the
Commissioners. The first is the standard of what may be summarized as local conditions, and the second which I hold to be over-riding and imperative, is the quota which fixes the equality of numbers in the different electorates. Apart from any previous consideration of the matter, one could not have listened to the debate without coming to the conclusion that there is an inescapable conflict between these two requirements. In proportion, as an attempt is made to study local interests, community and diversity of interests, means of communication, and so on, there must be a departure from a recognition of the imperative demands of the quota. On the other hand, the more closely we adhere to the quota, the more sharply we shall depart from the other consideration set out in the Act. Senator Rae has admitted that in electorates such as the Federal electorates generally it is quite impossible, owing to their area, to have a close regard of community of interest.
– We can have regard to a combination of interests in the sense of sections between which there is intercommunication.
– The honorable senator refers to means of communication. I am pointing out that the two standards are largely in conflict, and there are only two ways I know of to reconcile the demand for equality of voting power with a close regard to local conditions. The first would involve a very great increase in the number of members and multiplication of the existing number of electorates. In proportion as the electorates are made smaller we can secure to a greater extent regard to community of interest. The other plan is that suggested by Senator Walker, of making each State not necessarily one electorate, but four or five large electorates, each returning a number of members elected on the Hare-Spence system, in the same way as elections for the State Parliament are conducted in the State of Tasmania.
– I am not arguing in favour of the adoption of that system, but am mentioning the ways in which I think an attempt could be made to reconcile considerations of local interest with the demand for equality of voting power.
– That is the only way in which a man with a fad can get into Parliament.
– I do not know that that is so. My honorable friend managed to get here without that scheme. I recognise the very serious disabilities in the way of applying such a scheme to large States like New South Wales, Western Australia, and Queensland. The area to be traversed would make it practically impossible for candidates to become personally known, or to make their views known to a considerable section of the electors, and in the circumstances one shrinks from the adoption of that alternative.
It is necessary to bear in mind that the directions in the Act in regard to local conditions are entirely subsidiary to the main question of equality of voting power. Something has been said here to-day that would suggest that the two considerations are of equal importance, and it has been stated that we should approach the consideration of a redistribution scheme from the standpoint of local conditions rather than from the stand-point of the quota .0 We must go back to the Act to discover the purpose of Parliament, and we shall find that the quota was intended to be the real standard, that is, equality of voting power. Senators Gardiner “and Rae have attacked this scheme on the ground that it violates the principle of equality of voting power, and further, does not pay due regard to local interests. I think I shall be able to show from Senator Gardiner’s speech how easy it is to attack a scheme of this kind without being prepared to suggest anything better in its place. No more apt illustration of this could be given than Senator Gardiner’s reference to the proposed new electorate of Newcastle. He said that he would undertake to re-adjust the three electorates of Robertson, Hunter, and Newcastle, and submit a better scheme than that before us. He suggested that Wyong and Gosford should be included in the Newcastle electorate instead of the Robertson electorate, and immediately he did so Senator Rae interjected, “ Why not add Kurri Kurri.” This shows at once the difficulties which confronted the Commissioners. Senator Rae would put Kurri Kurri, which is a mining centre, into the Newcastle electorate because Newcastle is a mining electorate.
– Because of community of interest.
– Senator Gould, in reply to Senator Rae, said the reason why Kurri Kurri was not included in the Newcastle electorate was because its inclusion would make that electorate too large. We have had different proposals from two honorable senators who, like myself, have a knowledge of the- country. One proposes that Kurri Kurri, on the ground of community of interest, should be taken out of the Hunter and added to the Newcastle electorate, and the other suggests that Wyong and Gosford should be added to Newcastle, not because they are mining centres, which they are not4 but because they are nearer to Newcastle than to the centre of the electorate in which they are included. It is, of course, the easiest thing in the world to say that a particular corner of an electorate would be better placed if included in another electorate, but, as Senator Rae has admitted, we cannot disturb one electorate without disturbing the whole. It is like throwing a stone into a pond - the ripples extend from the centre to the edge. I have mentioned these suggestions as showing that it is very easy to propose a Redistribution, but very much more difficult to alter electorates and boundaries in a satisfactory manner, bearing in mind the demands of the Act itself with regard to equality of voting power. We have to remember that the’ Commissioners have had these electorates before them, and have considered all the objections which have been raised, both here and in the other branch of the Legislature. Those objections were brought forward primarily by parliamentarians, who were probably themselves the best informed as to local conditions and local demands. They availed themselves of the opportunity of which the Act furnishes them of putting before the Commissioners all the objections which have been made. So that the report comes to us from the Commissioners after they have had the advantage of considering these objections as far as the local conditions are concerned. I am not aware that the Commissioners have had pointed out to them the departures made by their scheme from the principle of equal voting power, but they certainly have considered all the local objections. As to the argument used by my honorable friends opposite, that the scheme involves an unnecessarily wide de departure from the principle of equal voting power, I am willing to admit that it is so. But I yish to point out that those who argue in that way, and who are prepared to turn down this scheme because it does not approximate more closely to equality of voting power, are also asking for a distribution which would make that discrepancy greater still. In other words, the more the local objections are upheld the wider will be the departure from the principle of equality of voting power. The question arises as to whether the Commissioners have, under the circumstances, made the best balance possible between the two considerations.
I wish now to direct attention more particularly to the question of equality of voting power. I have already stated in the Senate, and need only briefly reiterate the argument now, that whatever principle is to be observed in the apportionment of electoral power in Australia, it is Parliament itself that ought to determine that matter. It ought not to be left to any set of officials, however high and capable, to determine our policy in that regard. Before dealing further with that matter, may I allude, in passing, to the suggestion which has been made here and elsewhere - and which I think has obtained a large measure of support in my own State - that in adjusting these electorates an effort should be made to embrace complete State electorates in Federal electorates? The suggestion looks simple enough until one gets to close grips with it. But I will ask my honorable friends who make that suggestion - particularly Senator Rae - first of all whether they refer to the existing State boundaries in New South Wales or to the boundaries which are proposed in the scheme which the State Parliament is how considering? There is a difficulty at the outset. We have no control over a State redistribution scheme or policy; and whilst we might adjust our Federal boundaries to meet existing State boundaries to-day, within a few weeks’ time the State boundaries might be completely altered. The next consideration is this : Suppose that Parliament laid it down as a rule that we should observe some arithmetical proportion between Federal and State electorates, what is that proportion to be? There are twenty-seven Federal electorates in New South Wales. There are ninety State electorates. That is a proportion of, roughly, three to one. The same proportion obtains in Victoria, where there are twenty-two Federal and sixty-five State electorates. In Queensland there are seventy-two electorates for the House of Assembly and only ten members in the House of Representatives. In South Australia the proportion is seven to forty, in Western Australia five to fifty, and in Tasmania five to thirty. Those figures work out in the following proportionsin New South Wales and Victoria, three to one; in South Australia, six to one; in Queensland, seven to one; in Western Australia, ten to one; in Tasmania, seven to one. Honorable senators will, therefore, see how impossible it is to lay down any hard and fast rule. All that can be done is done by the Commonwealth Electoral Act itself, which gives a general direction that, as far as possible, State boundaries shall be observed. I think that we should commit a very serious blunder if we attempted to lay down as a fixed principle that there should be a certain number of State electorates to each Federal electorate. Returning now to the matter of equality of voting power, I wish to direct attention to the Act itself. I refer particularly to sections 16 and 23. Section 16 reads -
In making any distribution of States into divisions the Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
community or diversity of interest,
means of communication,
existing boundaries of Divisions.
I have referred to those as “ local conditions,” and I propose to continue to use that term rather than repeat the four headings The section continues - and subject thereto, the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance, to be used whenever necessary.
I direct attention particularly to those words as showing that the direction with regard to the quota is that it “shall be” the basis for distribution, whilst the word “may” is used in regard to the “margin of allowance.” It is to be assumed that those two words were used for a purpose. Under the Act the quota is never to be lost sight of ; the margin of allowance is to be used whenever necessary. It seems to me, and I think every one will agree with me, that those words were not adopted in such a way as to notify the Commissioners that they should build up a scheme of differentiation between town and country electorates, but to enable them to adjust the difference between one electorate and an adjoining electorate. But we find that in this scheme, as in other schemes which have come before us, the Commissioners have invariably given the country electorates a larger share of representation than that accorded to metropolitan electorates. Although I know that the differences are within the margin allowed by the Act, yet that margin was never intended to be made the excuse for giving to one group of electors greater representation than that accorded to another group. In order to show that the Act intended that the quota was to be observed above all other considerations, I may quote section 23, which reads, in subsection 2, as follows : -
Such proclamation may be made -
Whenever an alteration is made in the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected for the State; and
whenever in one-fourth of the divisions in the State the number of electors differs from a quota ascertained in the manner provided by a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
It will be seen that there is no direction to ordera redistribution because of a change in the matter of community of interest, or a variation in means of communication, or an alteration of State boundaries. These things were not to enter into the question of redistribution. The whole thing was to hinge upon a variation from the quota. That being so, one has to ask himself how far this scheme complies with the principle of equality of voting power, and conforms to the conditions prescribed by the Act. I admit at once that the scheme does not meet all the requirements as I think it ought to do. But what are the alternatives ? The difficulty that I see is not in comparing the present proposal with an ideal one, but as to what will happen if we turn down this scheme. That is the practical difficulty of the position. I should like to know what will happen if the scheme is rejected, and the Commissioners are called upon to furnish us with a new one. Shall we be able to obtain the new one before Parliament is prorogued? One of two things will happen if we reject the scheme. Either the Commissioners will try to meet the local objections which have been raised here and elsewhere, and if that is done they will still further violate that principle of equality of voting power to which I have referred ; or if thenew scheme meets that objection by conforming more nearly to the principle of equal electorates, it will intensify the objections which have been raised for local reasons. Take the electorate of Werriwa which has been mentioned. As far as I have been able to study the scheme, it is not possible to have approximately equal electorates unless Werriwa is practically wiped off the map altogether. The member for Werriwa in another place is objecting to certain alterations in his electorate now. Is it to be supposed that he will be better pleased to have Werriwa wiped out altogether? These local objections will be voiced more vehemently and more persistently if the Commissioners venture to approach more closely to the principle of equal electorates. If, however, they listen to the local objections and meet them with a measure of success, to the extent that they do so they will disturb the due observance of the quota. I should like to ask the Minister who is in charge of this business a question which seems to be entirely pertinent. If the scheme is defeated, will the Minister give this Senate an assurance that Parliament will not be prorogued until it is afforded an opportunity of dealing with the amended scheme?
– Would the honorable senator keep Parliament waiting about until the new scheme came from the Commissioners ?
– That is the answer which I expected. We cannot expect Parliament to be kept waiting until the new scheme is brought forward. So that the alternatives are - either this proposal or the existing distribution. There might, under other circumstances, have been a third alternative, namely, if the present session were likely to continue longer than we may - without laying claim to any gift of prophecy - assume that it will do. We may suppose that Parliament will conclude the labours of the present session within say a month from to-day. We may expect our holidays, well-earned as they have been, to commence either a few days earlier or a few days later than that. I am, however, safe in saying that we have a month in which to do our business. Within what time is it contemplated that the Commissioners would certainly complete a new distribution? I have no idea whether the three Commissioners are in Sydney at the present moment. I know that they are all busy officials. Mr. Langwell is frequently in the western division of the State, where his duties require him to be. The SurveyorGeneral is also a man whose official duties require him to travel about a good deal. Assuming, however, that the three Commissioners are available in Sydney at once, are we safe in supposing that they would be able to consider all the objections that have been raised here and to furnish us with a new scheme this session?
If they did so it would .probably reach us at a time when the Senate will be engaged in dealing with the most important proposals that will claim our attention this session. I refer to the referenda proposals. There are other matters upon the business-paper which ‘ will have to be considered, and we must recollect that the Estimates have not yet been disposed of. It seems reasonable, therefore, to say that, after these questions have been dealt with, the Senate will have no opportunity of considering any other scheme which the Commissioners may prepare. In other words, we must either accept this scheme or face the coming elections in New South Wales on the basis of the present distribution. According to the report of the Commissioners, the quota of New South Wales to-day is 34,657, the maximum number of electors which may be included in any division is 41,588, and the minimum is 27,726. Whilst under our Electoral Act, a margin must be permitted, in my opinion that margin is at present far too great. The Act provides for a margin of 25 per cent, either above or below the quota, which really amounts to a variation of 50 per cent. If Parliament wishes to preserve the principle of equal voting power, that margin is altogether too great. One of the first things which ought to be done in amending our Electoral Act is to reduce that margin. I propose now to contrast the existing distribution of New South Wales with the proposed redistribution. Under the existing distribution, New South Wales has seven electorates, which are, so to speak, out of plumb. They constitute a violation of the Act itself. The proposed redistribution would bring all the divisions into conformity with the Act. That in itself would be a great advantage. But when we get down to figures, we shall see that there is an even more startling way of viewing this matter. In New South Wales, the electoral divisions vary from the stand-point of their voting, power, from 49,828 electors in North Sydney, to 22,264 m the Barrier - a discrepancy of 27,564. In other words, there are more than two electors in North Sydney to every elector in the Barrier. Under the proposed redistribution, this discrepancy would be reduced to 8,700. There would still be a discrepancy, but two-thirds of the existing discrepancy would be wiped out. It will be seen, therefore, that the scheme marks a tremendous stride towards the principle of equality of voting power. Now, let me take the divisions as a whole, and divide them into country and town electorates. Under the existing distribution, the metropolitan electorates average 39,841 electors, and the country divisions, 31,092 electors, a difference of 8,749. In other words, there is, on the average, an excess of 8,749 electors in the metropolitan divisions as compared with the country divisions. That means that in the metropolitan area there are 96,000 electors who may be said to be disfranchised. They are entitled to vote, and, as a matter of fact, do vote. But they vote only to secure that share of representation in this Parliament which is secured by constituencies containing 96,000 less electors. Is the present proposal an improvement upon that? 1 have shown that, upon an average, the country electorates contain 8,749 electors less than do the metropolitan divisions.
– That is only fair.
– The honorable senator says that it is fair. But I am one of those who believe in the equality of the value of a vote.
– We must bring the polling booths equally near to every elector before we can get that.
– I endeavoured to do that when I voted for the retention of the postal vote; but I am not sure that I had my honorable friend’s hearty co-operation in my effort. Senator Stewart indicates that there is a very clear divergence of opinion on this principle. I believe that the only sound basis for our electoral system is that of one adult one vote, and one vote one value.
– That is a truly democratic principle.
– I quite recognise that Senator Stewart-
– I am the only Democrat here.
– It is a new form of Democracy which, having abolished dual voting, seeks to establish a system under which the vote of one individual will be given a double value.
– Look at the distances that country electors are from polling booths.
– We cannot clothe electors with voting strength proportionate to the distance that they may be removed from a polling booth. The thing is altogether too fanciful if I may say so.
– City people always hold that view.
– I am not a city person.
– The honorable senator lives in Sydney.
– I have been associated with the country all my life, and what interests I still have are there. I do not know that even Senator Stewart can speak with greater knowledge of the disabilities and life of the average country resident than I can. But I was showing that in New South Wales, under the existing distribution, there is a discrepancy between the average voting strength of a metropolitan electorate and the average voting strength of a country electorate. If the metropolitan electors were given the same representation which is enjoyed by country electors, they would be entitled to fourteen representatives in the other branch of the Legislature instead of eleven, which they have at present. If we reversed the position, and required the country electorates to have the same voting strength as the metropolitan electorates, the representation of the country would be reduced from sixteen to thirteen. It will be seen, therefore, that the scheme which is now under consideration is a great advance upon the existing distribution, although it does not reach the ideal.
– We got very close to the ideal in Victoria.
– That is so; but the only way in which a similar approach to the ideal can be attained in New South Wales is by wiping out some of the country electorates. If we turn down this scheme, we must either wipe out certain country electorates in that State, or say that the next elections shall be conducted upon the existing distribution. I have already given the figures relating to the electorates as they exist in New South Wales to-day. Let me now give the corresponding figures for the divisions which are outlined under this scheme. The metropolitan divisions would average 37,515 electors; the country divisions, 32,691 electors; a difference of 4,824, as against a difference, under the existing distribution, of 8,749. That is to say, that under the proposed redistribution, the existing discrepancy as between town and country electorates would be reduced by one-half. Senator Gardiner will remember that, while he was speaking, I interjected that this scheme was an improvement upon the existing distribution. A moment’s reflection convinces me that it was Senator Rae who was speaking when
I made that interjection. Those two honorable senators are so much alike, that I may be pardoned for mixing them up occasionally. I have already pointed out that, under the existing distribution, there is a discrepancy of nearly 9,000 votes as between town and country electorates in New South Wales. Under the proposed redistribution, that discrepancy would be reduced by 50 per cent. So that, under this scheme, the country electors would have an over-representation of one and a half quotas. Whether they would have one or two more representatives, would depend upon the odd fractions. Correspondingly, the city ‘electorates would be entitled to one or two additional representatives. Compare these results with the only alternative which is before us.
– Why is it the only alternative?
– I have already shown that, as Parliament may reasonably expect to conclude its labours within a month, and as we have still to consider the referenda proposals, if we turn this scheme down, it does not seem possible that we shall be afforded an opportunity of considering a fresh scheme. That means that the next election in New South Wales would have to be conducted on the existing distribution, which permits of a greater departure from the principle of equality of voting power than does the proposed redistribution. I have no more to say on this matter. I wish only to emphasize what I have been endeavouring to bring before honorable senators, namely, that it is not a business-like proceeding to contrast this scheme of the Commissioners with the ideal which they may have in their minds. They cannot attain that ideal. What honorable senators have to decide is whether they will accept this proposal, or whether we shall continue under the existing distribution. As between the two, there cannot be the slightest hesitation as to which we should choose.
– The Commissioners, who have been over the ground already, can do a lot of work in a month.
– But every objection which has been urged now has already been placed before them by the parliamentary representatives who voiced those objections. That being so, the Commissioners would have to prepare an entirely new scheme, and Parliament would require some time to deal with it. Seeing that we have only a month in which to conclude our labours, it is inevitable that, if we turn down this scheme, the next election in New South Wales will have to be conducted on the basis of the existing distribution. I earnestly invite honorable senators, therefore, to consider that, if we turn down this scheme, there does not seem to be a reasonable possibility that we can have any other scheme submitted before the next election. I asked the Minister to give us an assurance that Parliament would not be prorogued until it had considered a new scheme, but he pointed out that it was impossible for him to do so.
– He would not give an assurance to us at an earlier date with regard to the Queensland redistribution. We had in consequence to swallow a very objectionable scheme.
– My honorable friend was out of the chamber, I think, when I asked for the assurance. I did not find fault with the Minister for not giving an assurance, but I put the question to him because I recognised the practical impossibility of a Minister tying himself up in that way. But, having got a statement from the Minister, with which I entirely agree, it does emphasize the point that I am trying to make, and that is that, as we have no guarantee that Parliament will be in session, or can deal with a re-adjustment scheme, we must accept this scheme or face the alternative of going to the next election on the present distribution. That being so, I ask honorable senators to support this motion. I have admitted candidly that, so far as it departs from the principle of equality of voting power, the scheme does not meet with my approval, but there it is an immense advance on the present distribution. So far as the local objections are concerned, they are entirely swept away by the major proposition. In proportion as you sail close to approximately equal electorates, to that extent you violate the local demands for local consideration. In proportion, on the other hand, as you yield to the demands for local consideration, you violate that principle of equal electorates.
– Did you not complain on a previous occasion that New South Wales was not distributed on a proper principle ?
– I have repeated the complaint to-day. I have not shifted one inch from the position I took up as a claimant that each vote should, as far as possible, have equal value. But I am trying to point out to Senator Givens that I have to accept this scheme, with its mild departure from that principle, or the existing distribution, which is a gross departure from it. This scheme, at least, does come 50 per cent, nearer to equality of voting value than does the existing distribution, and unless some guarantee can be given that Parliament will have an opportunity before it disbands of considering a new scheme, our clear and obvious duty is to save New South Wales - indeed, the whole Commonwealth - from the gross injustice which will be suffered by the 96,000 electors to whom I have referred, by the next elections in that State having to be taken on the basis of the present distribution. This redistribution, whatever may be said against it, is, at least, a vast improvement on the existing one, and for that reason I support the motion.
Motion (by Senator Chataway) negatived -
That the debate be adjourned until a later hour of the day.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [12.35].- Whether we should adopt this scheme of redistribution or send it back to the Commissioners is a matter of considerable importance. We all know that it is impossible to have a perfect scheme. The Leader of the Opposition has quoted figures to show that there are very glaring inequalities existing at present, even if there are also inequalities in connexion with the new scheme before the Senate. He has also alluded to the duty which is cast upon the Commissioners by the Electoral Act, and pointed out that the quota of the electors should be the basis of distribution, and the principal matter for consideration. I would remind honorable senators that while it is the principal matter for consideration, it is subject to certain provisions which are embodied in the same section of the Act. Under section 16, there are five matters to which due consideration has to be given by the Commissioners in dividing a State. That section reads -
In making any distribution of States into divisions the Commissioners shall give due consideration to -
community or diversity of interest,
means of communication, ,
existing boundary of divisions,
boundaries of State electorates, and, subject thereto, the quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution.
Then follows a provision to enable the Commissioners to have a margin either one way or the other, in order that they may work the distribution in harmony with those requirements. It has been shown that we have either to accept this scheme as it stands, or to run the risk of being compelled «to accept a distribution which is much more unsatisfactory to everybody.
– We were placed recently in the position that we had to accept a most unsatisfactory redistribution for Queensland.
– The New South Wales redistribution is not so unsatisfactory, if it be unsatisfactory, as the honorable senator considers the Queensland redistribution was. If it is referred back to the Commissioners, then, unless there is an opportunity given to consider another scheme at a later date, we shall have a most anomalous system applicable to the election of members for the other House. The quota of electors is, I think, 34,657, with a margin to enable the Commissioners to go up to 41,588. The enrolment for several electorates largely exceeds the maximum number of electors who may be included in a division, namely, 41,588. The enrolment for Lang is 47,353 electors; North Sydney, 49,829; Parkes, 46,274; Wentworth, 46,982 ; so that four out of the metropolitan and sub-metropolitan divisions exceed the maximum which the law allows so that the conditions prescribed in section 16 may be observed. The country electorates would not, I think, be in such a difficult position. The minimum number of electors who may be included in any division is 27,726. According to the enrolments, seven electorates are below that number. For instance, the enrolment for Barrier is 22,264 electors; Eden-Monaro, 22,712; and Macquarie, 24,244. Unless we adopt this scheme, we shall have the glaring anomaly of one electorate with an enrolment of 22,000 persons, having the same power as another electorate with an enrolment of 49,000 persons. In other words, one electorate would have a representative for one-half of the number for which another electorate would have a representative. That would be a much greater anomaly than would exist under the proposed scheme. Honorable senators have been criticising the difference in the number of electors, and pointing out the desirability of having what they term one vote one value; but they must realize that, while one vote one value may, as a principle to be observed, be all very well, we have to adopt a practicable scheme.
Every one, of course, regrets to find that there are such numbers of electors in the more crowded centres. If we were to go solely on the basis of giving an absolute quota of electors wherever they exist to various portions of the State, then the country representation would be almost set aside. In the country districts there are large interests which have to be considered. We recognise that, to a very great extent, the prosperity of the great cities is dependent upon the prosperity of the country, and that legislation giving consideration to the interests of the country is very necessary. If we were to have only the cities represented in Parliament, we should find that our legislation was often on entirely wrong lines, in consequence of the non-recognition of the importance of country interests.
– Suppose that you had only the country represented, would it not be the same thing?
– I do not think that we should be in as difficult a position if the representation were confined to the country, as we should be in if it were confined to the cities alone. We all have to recognise that both country and city must be represented, and their interests considered. What I do deprecate is the idea that we must have a hard-and-fast rule as to the number ot electors who are to be entitled to send a representative to the other House. In the cities there is concentration, there are small areas to be regarded, and the interests are much more alike than are those in large country areas. The interests of the cities are not identical with the interests of the country in the sense in which I am endeavouring to place the matter before the Senate. Speaking generally, I would sooner see a principle laid down and adopted whereby we should practically give a larger proportion of representation to country districts than to metropolitan areas. I might refer here to another objection which has been offered to this scheme. Some honorable senators have pointed out the way in which divisions have been made. I think one honorable senator remarked that there seemed to be nothing much left of some electorates except the names, so much have they been altered by the Commissioners. If this proposed redistribution be compared with its predecessor, it will be found that an entire misconstruction has been placed upon the mat ter. I take, for instance, the Cook electorate, which at present contains 35,773 electors. It is proposed to take Golden Grove, containing 5,300 electors, out of that electorate, and to add to it Botany, which is part of the South Sydney electorate, and South Annandale, which is part of the existing Parkes electorate, containing between them 7,361 electors. This alteration will not really interfere with the existing electorate in such a marked degree as has been suggested, because it will still embrace 30,000 of the electors in the existing division in the new division of Cook. It may be asked why Golden Grove should be taken from the existing division, and Botany and Annandale South added to it; but I assume that that is considered necessary to give effect to the directions to the Commissioners to have regard ‘to community of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries, and boundaries of State electorates. I take now one of the country electorates. Some objection was made to the proposed new division of Hunter. The present electorate contains 35,840 electors. It is proposed to take from the electorate West Wallsend, containing 2,061, and Boolaroo, containing 890 electors, and to add to the present division the Forster district of the existing electorate of Cowper, containing 1,643 electors, bringing the total number of electors in the proposed new division of Hunter up to 34)532- If honorable senators ask why this change should be made, the reply is that West Wallsend and Boolaroo are districts in which the mining industry is the chief industry. West Wallsend is one of the best coal -mining districts in the Hunter River district. It is quite close to Newcastle, and until the redistribution scheme of 1906 was approved of, it formed a portion of the Newcastle electorate. In that scheme it was added to the Hunter electorate, which is not primarily a mining electorate, but an agricultural and pastoral electorate. It is true that at Cessnock and Kurri Kurri there is a considerable population of coal-miners. There are some miners also at the old Greta coalfields, and at one or two other places along the railway line, but the bulk of the people of the Hunter electorate are pastoralists or agriculturists. Until the opening up of the South Greta coal-fields, no one would have suggested any community of interest between other portions of the electorate and the coal-mining district. In taking West
Wallsend from the existing Hunter division, and adding it to the Newcastle division, the Commissioners were only following the course laid down for them in the Act. The portion of Cowper to be added to the Hunter division in lieu of the portions of that division taken from it is a pastoral, agricultural, and timber district. It is clear, therefore, that the Commissioners, in this case, have merely observed the law. Senator Rae took exception to certain changes which are proposed in the division of Parramatta. It is suggested that it is a mistake, as proposed, to take Wyong and Gosford from the Parramatta division, and include them in the Robertson division. It has also been argued that Wyong and Gosford should properly be included in the Newcastle division, but those districts are not interested in the mining industry in the way that the West Wallsend district is.
– Or Kurri Kurri.
– That is so, but I recognise that the Kurri Kurri and Cessnock districts are embraced within a limited area, and should be kept together. Wyong and Gosford have no community of interest whatever with Newcastle, but being joined by rail with Newcastle it is easier to get from those places to Newcastle than it is to get from them to the centre of the district of Robertson, in which they are included in the redistribution now under consideration. Wyong is essentially a timber district, and is becoming a dairying and fruit-growing district, whilst the same thing may be said of Gosford. It would be a much greater anomaly to include those places in the Newcastle electorate than it is to include them in the Robertson electorate. They were previously included in the Parramatta district, but they are distant from Parramatta about 50 miles, because to get to them from Parramatta it is necessary first to go to Strathfield and thence to Gosford and Wyong. Exception has been taken to the removal of Wiseman’s Ferry, Windsor, Richmond, Dural, Riverstone, and Castle Hill from the Parramatta division to the proposed new division of Nepean. It should be remembered that the Parramatta and Nepean electorates are conterminous. Most of these places are on the Nepean River or the Hawkesbury River, and the Nepean River runs through, the Nepean electorate. Some objection has been taken to a division being framed in such a way that a railway line runs in and out of it, but we should not overlook the fact that railway lines are not taken in a direct course, but according to the nature of the country and the places at which traffic may be obtained. It may be urged that Castle Hill is an integral portion of the Parramatta electorate, but I fail to see any serious objection to the proposed redistribution in this regard. Some objection has been taken to the proposed new division of the Barrier. It is complained that portions of other districts have been added to it which have no means of communication with Broken Hill, except by going outside of the electorate. Broken Hill, at the present time, contains the bulk of the population of that part of New South Wales. The one great industry of the place is the mining industry, but Broken Hill is too small a place to form a Federal electorate by itself. It, therefore, becomes necessary to join other portions of the State with it to form an electorate, and the division might be extended towards Deniliquin or northwards towards the Queensland border.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– In going through the various electorates of New South Wales, honorable senators will see that any changes that have been made are absolutely justified, having regard to the necessity of conforming to .the Commonwealth Electoral Act, under which the Commissioners were called upon to deal with this matter. It must also be realized that so many considerations have to be kept in view that it would be quite impossible to submit a scheme which would be acceptable to all. No matter what scheme was brought forward, many objections could be urgedin regard to particular electorates. The Commissioners had to consider the circumstances of the whole State. Where they were unable to retain the old boundaries there was naturally some objection. I find that objections have been urged against the report of the Commissioners from a number of electors. As honorable senators are aware, as soon as Commissioners have prepared their proposals for the redistribution of a. State, opportunities are afforded for objections to be made; and, very naturally, the Commissioners take those objections into consideration to see whether an alteration of their scheme is justified. In paragraph 4 of their report, the New South Wales Commissioners say -
Objections and suggestions, in writing, relating to the proposed division pf Eden-Monaro, Lang, South Sydney, Macquarie, Nepean, Riverina, and Werriwa were received within the period required by law for the lodgment of objections or suggestions.
Then the Commissioners go on to say -
After giving the whole of the objections and suggestions most careful consideration, your Commissioners were unable to adopt any of them.
Has a single reason been urged, in the Senate or in the other Chamber, in support of objections, which the Commissioners have not already considered? They have had the whole matter under review, and having reconsidered their scheme in the light of the suggestions made did not feel justified in changing their original proposals. Say that we send this report back to them1. Has a single word been urged that would give them any assistance towards making a’ change ? Has anything been alleged that would justify us in calling on them to make a change? If not, what is the use of sending the report back to them? We cannot expect the Commissioners to say, “ Although we have had no new light in connexion with this matter, still, because Parliament is dissatisfied we will make a change.”
Senator- Givens. - Does the honorable senator think that the distribution is a really good one?
.- We know that the Queensland scheme was originally- sent back to the Commissioners appointed to divide that State, and I believe that Senator Givens is just as dissatisfied with the amended scheme as he was with the original one. Unless the Senate is in a position to indicate some clear line of action, I see no use in sending the scheme back.
– The Queensland scheme was finally accepted under pressure of time. The pressure of time is very much greater now.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Exactly.
– But the urgency is not the same in this case as it was in the case of Queensland.
– The anomalies to be rectified are greater in the case of New South Wales than have been shown to exist in any other case. Unless, therefore, the Government are prepared to keep Parlia ment sitting until there is a further opportunity of dealing with this matter, what will be the use of referring the report back to the Commissioners ? We should only be making the state of affairs very much worse than the most vigorous opponent of the present scheme can regard it as being. Do honorable senators want to send this scheme hack in order that they may have an opportunity of getting certain constituencies gerrymandered, so that they may return certain members to Parliament?
– I rise to order. Is Senator Gould in order in insinuating that this scheme is being opposed in order that electorates may be gerrymandered?
– I did not understand Senator Gould to say anything on which that construction could be placed. He simply asked whether honorable senators wished this scheme sent back in order that certain electorates might be gerrymandered.
– Some honorable senators are getting so very “ touchy “ that one hardly knows how to open his mouth for fear of saying something that may be considered to be wrong. Originally, in the States, Parliament exercised supreme authority in regard to the division of electorates. It was found that, under that system, there was a strong tendency towards log-rolling and gerrymandering, in order to assist certain individuals to retain their seats in Parliament. I do not make such a charge against this Parliament, though I have heard of such a charge having been made against an earlier Parliament. Whether that charge was true or not, I do not know, and 1 am not concerned to know. But I do say that, inasmuch as such charges have been made in the political history of this country, Parliament considered, it right to devise means to prevent anything of the kind occurring in the future. Parliament wished the constituencies to be laid out on certain clear and well-defined lines, irrespective of party interests, so that it would be impossible for any one party so to work the electorates as to give them undue influence in respect to the election of members.
– Is not the honorable senator afraid that, if this distribution is rejected, Mr. Fuller will lose his seat?
.- No, I am not.
– Why, then, is the honorable senator trying to talk the motion out?
– The honorable senator is not afraid, either, that the Werriwa electorate would be wiped out if a change were made.
– I am making these remarks because I have the same right to speak on this subject as any other honorable senator ; and I ought to be able to do that without the suggestion being made that I am trying to talk out the business. I say that the object of Parliament was to devise means whereby electorates might be divided quite apart from the political influence of one party or the other. Therefore, the plan was adopted of appointing Commissioners to deal with the matter, according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament. No exception has been taken to the individuals who were appointed to act as Commissioners in New South Wales. Honorable senators opposite have admitted that the Commissioners have been actuated by the fairest possible motives, and that they have endeavoured to do their duty in accordance with the principles laid down to guide them. A provision was, however, inserted in the Act of Parliament, reserving to Parliament itself an opportunity of considering the whole question of a proposed redistribution. I recollect quite well that it was urged that, in connexion with such an important matter as the distribution of electorates for the representation of the people, it was not right that Parliament should be deprived altogether of the opportunity of criticism, lest there might be mistakes made, or misconduct committed on the part of Commissioners. But I say unhesitatingly that it was never contemplated that, without grave and sufficient reasons, a report made by Commissioners would be sent back to them. No honorable senator can absolutely shut his eyes to the effect of a scheme of distribution, and there is a natural feeling on the part of the supporters of any political party to help their party where they can do so fairly and consistently. But, unfortunately, that feeling is sometimes carried too far in regard to many of these matters. It would be far better, in the interests of the community, as long as we are satisfied that honest men are appointed as Commissioners, to allow them to carry out their work without interference by Parliament. Parliament has laid down the rules according to which a distribution is to be carried into effect, and it has taken care to see that no party feeling shall be imported into the work. No honorable senator has attempted to show that there has been any unfairness, partiality, or bias on the part of these Commissioners. They are all men occupying influential positions. They are men of integrity, and I believe that they have honestly endeavoured to comply with the law. If we send this scheme back to them, what is going to be the result? Are they likely to make any great alterations? I have already pointed out that no hew light has been given them as to any difficulty which Parliament has seen. Certain vague statements have been made, but no guidance has been offered. It has been suggested by an honorable senator that community of interest has not been sufficiently observed in some cases. It is thought that the coal-miners should, as far as possible, vote together, and that the shipping community should be directly represented. It has even been suggested that the Hare-Spence system of representation should be adopted. But what has been the history of representation of that kind? At one time there was special representation for the gold-fields in one State, and in Victoria, at a later date, the public servants were represented in Parliament by their own member. But the system was not a success. It came to be recognised that the proper principle was that there should be representation, not of individuals or sections of the community, but, rather, of the community as a whole, and that we should endeavour to take into consideration the interests of every individual in the community. The Commonwealth Parliament endeavoured to adopt a system^ under which votes would have, as nearly as possible equal value, having due regard to the variations, that must inevitably occur in connexion with any distribution scheme that may be adopted. I should like to ask a question of the Government, whether in the event of this scheme being sent back to the Commissioners, Ministers are prepared to afford us an opportunity of having any amended scheme reconsidered before this Parliament is prorogued? Can the Vice-President of the Executive Council give us an assurance that, if the present proposal is defeated, the scheme will he sent back to the Commissioners at once for reconsideration, and whether the Commissioners will be requested to regard the matter as one of urgency? I do not know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council heard the question which I put to him.
– I listened to it attentively.
.- Then I wish the honorable senator would interject an affirmative or negative reply.
– Interjections are disorderly. “
– I shall not regard them as disorderly.
– Order !
– This is not a time when we can afford to deal with this question in an irresponsible manner. Now that the Minister of Defence is present, I ask him whether, in the event of this scheme being referred back to the Commissioners, the Government will request them to deal with it as a matter of urgency, in order that we may have the new scheme dealt with before Parliament prorogues?
– The report will be sent back to the Commissioners, whose duties are defined by the law.
– Will it be sent back to them immediately, or next week, or the week after?
– It will be sent back to them when the honorable senator has finished stone-walling.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council has no right to make that remark. All I ask is that Ministers should play fair in this matter. Do they recognise that we shall have to close this Parliament within a limited period?
– I ask that the words “ play fair “ be taken down.
– If the honorable senator objects to their use, on the ground that they are personally offensive to him, they must be withdrawn; otherwise, they are not out of order.
-Sir ALBERT GOULD.- If the Vice-President of the Executive Council is so sensitive that he objects to me expressing the hope that the Ministers will play fair, I will withdraw the words.
– The honorable senator implied that Ministers will not play fair.
– Senator Needham will allow me to say what was my implication. This is a matter of such importance as to merit very serious consideration. Should the proposed redistribution be rejected, the Government should do all in their power to insure that the new scheme prepared by the Commissioners shall be dealt with by Parliament before it rises. Otherwise, they will be sanctioning the continuance in New South Wales of greater anomalies than were ever contemplated by our Electoral law, which affirms that there shall be only a certain margin either above or below the quota. At the present time, 49,000 persons in one electorate of that State, or 15,000 in excess of the quota, have only one representative in this Parliament ; while another electoral division containing 22,000 electors, or 12,000 less than the quota, also returns one representative. It is anomalies of this character which make our legislation a farce. That is one of the reasons why I urge that, when the Commissioners are called upon to prepare a “redistribution scheme, we ought to accept their recommendations, especially in view of the extreme difficulty of their task. I do not suppose there is an honorable senator in this Chamber who could map out twentyseven constituencies in New South Wales without creating many anomalies. My intention is to support the proposal of the Government. Of course, I realize that honorable senators have the right to reject the most perfect scheme imaginable, and to insist upon another scheme being submitted for their consideration. But I hope that Ministers will regard it as one of their duties to do all in their power to insure compliance with the law, so that New South Wales may secure an honest and equitable distribution under the law which they are bound to see administered.
– The only honorable senator to whom I had intended to reply was Senator Stewart, but as he is absent from the Chamber, I shall reserve my observations in this connexion till a later stage. In regard to Senator Gould’s closing remarks, I do not know why he should infer that the Government will be lax in their duty. They have taken the responsibility of submitting this redistribution scheme, and of moving the adoption of the Commissioner’s report. Should the Senate reject it, it will be at once sent back to the Commissioners. It is not for the Government to instruct them as to their duties, because these have already been laid down in an Act of Parliament.
– Should it be rejected, will it be possible, by pushing the Department, to get the scheme sent back to-day ?
– Honorable senators opposite have themselves rendered that impossible. The usual steps will be taken to return the report to the Commissioners.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I desire to give honorable senators an opportunity to consider this measure before Wednesday, when I hope that they will come prepared to deal with it as speedily as possible. Considering the magnitude of the Commonwealth, the amount of the loan is small, being only £529,526. I know that honorable senators, particularly on the other side, will be pleased in one sense, and displeased in another, that the Commonwealth Government are going in for the borrowing of a little money. From the other side we have been repeatedly urged to go to the London market, or somewhere else - to some of our relatives - to borrow money in order to carry out the requirements of the Commonwealth. But we have persisted in our objection to do anything of the kind. While we are quite willing, in certain circumstances, to borrow money for carrying out reproductive works, or works likely to be reproductive or necessary, we have set our face against borrowing money for services which are of a perishable character, and that, I hope, will still remain the policy of the party supporting us. With respect to the amount of the loan, I wish to point out that £153,000 is wanted for a new purpose, and that of the balance, £71,945 is required for the redemption of loans connected with the Northern Territory, and £304,581 for the redemption of loans raised by South Australia on account of the Port Augusta railway. We want to replace a foreign loan by a loan from the people of Australia. A sum of £153,000 is required for the acquisition of a site in Perth for a post-office and other purposes, and the balance of the £529,526 for the redemption of existing liabilities. From what I have learned regarding the first item in the schedule, I consider that the acquisition of the property in Perth is an excellent investment so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, and that not only now, but when the property is subdivided and Commonwealth buildings erected thereon, there will still be a possibility of realizing between 3½ and 4 per cent, from the investment. In addition to that, the Commonwealth will profit by the return to the State of the site of the present postoffice in Perth. That was taken over with other properties from the State: it is a transferred property, and will be returned by-and-by, and a value far in excess of what we have to pay for the new site will be saved to the people of the Commonwealth. In any circumstances, the Commonwealth Government are quite justified in borrowing the money for the purpose of this investment, and to secure a suitable site for a post-office and other Commonwealth buildings.
– Is the new site better than the present one?
– Yes, and it will be much more convenient when the land is subdivided and a street is made through it. almost opposite to the Central Railway Station. I can assure the honorable senator that it will be a very great advantage tage to the people and to the Commonwealth.
– I understand that the land, to pay for which this loan is to be floated, is more than will be required for Federal purposes.
– It is marvellous how apt the Leader of the Opposition is to indicate the very thing I was coming to. I was about to point out to some members of the Opposition, and even some members of the party that supports the Government - and they are quite justified in coming to the assumption - that the new site contains more land than may be required at present. But if we look at the history of the different States with respect to the reservations that have been made for public purposes, we see how inadequate they have been. When we recall the position in Sydney, and the position even in Melbourne itself, with respect to postal and other facilities, we recognise that, liberal as Governments may have been in the past they fell far short of what should have been done, if they had had the future destiny of these countries in view, and had had any idea of what Australia was likely to become in the near future. The present Commonwealth Government are not going to place themselves in that position with respect to the future. When we have an opportunity to profitably make’ ample provision for future development in the interests of the people of Australia, we intend to avail ourselves of’ it, and that is what we are doing here. Although the sum required for the acquisition of the property in Perth may be large, yet, seeing that it will return adequate interest, and will always be available for Commonwealth purposes, I think that every honorable senator must acknowledge that we are doing the right thing.
– It is a companypromoting prospectus - that post-office site.
– The honorable senator knows all about that sort of business, but he has not got very rich on it. This is a better speculation than any he has ever entered into, and it is in the interests of the whole of the people, not of any one individual.
– When will the loans referred to in the schedule fall due’?
– They will fall” due immediately. If it were not necessary we should not be asking Parliament at present for power to raise a loan of £539,526; we should only be asking for authority to borrow .£153,000 to pay for the Perth site, but our obligations, I hope, will always be met at the proper time. The most profitable way to deal with our creditors is to meet them whenever the money falls due, and we cannot do that unless we make provision previously. ‘ With respect to the source from which we are to get the money, the Prime Minister, as Treasurer, has indicated that there is now at the disposal of the Commonwealth in the different banks £900,000, which we have a right to consider as the people’s money. It is in trust with the Government for the people of Australia, and it is our duty, if we look to their best interests, to see that these Trust Funds are properly invested. That is what we are doing instead of going to London, or Paris, or New York, or anywhere else for the purpose of getting money. We are taking the money which belongs to the people of Australia, and paying interest on it, to their advantage. Every honorable senator must acknowledge that that is a wise and a safe thing to do.
– From what specific Trust Account do you propose to take the money ?
– Any Trust Account that is available. The honorable senator knows that there are Trust Funds in the hands of the Government.
– That is why I wanted to know which Trust Account was to be resorted to.
– Various amounts have been appropriated by Parliament and put into Trust Accounts for specific purposes.
– I do not know. I am not saying whether we are going to take any of that money. There are also Trust Funds at the disposal of the Treasurer legally on account of the note issue, and these are available. It has been possible through that kind of legislation’ to do a great deal to relieve the financial stress of different States. If we have been prepared to relieve the financial stress of the different States, it is our duty to meet our own obligations out of the same fund. In 191 1 an Inscribed Stock Bill was passed providing how that was to be done, and it is under that machinery that this sum of £529,526 is to be borrowed. It does not matter what Trust Account the amount is taken out of. It will be taken out of the Trust Account the money to the credit of which will not be required for the greatest length of time, and when it is required I hope the obligation will be met by means of other Trust Funds.
– By other borrowing.
– It is marvellous how the Trust Fund of the Commonwealth must accumulate when we End that nearly every year we shall be getting £200,000 in interest, and interest on that again and again. Before many years the Commonwealth will have so much money in the Trust Fund at its disposal that I hope it will be able, not only to carry on the greater portion of its public obligations with respect to reproductive works with trust moneys, but at the same time to gradually liquidate the debt of the Commonwealth. I have endeavoured to put the position as clearly as possible before honorable senators, and I thought that it would meet their convenience if I moved the second reading of the Bill to-day before we adjourned.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-I should like to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether the Government propose on our resuming next week to continue the consideration of the Navigation Bill, and, if not, what business they will take first. I should like to know, further, if the honorable senator will at the earliest opportunity, for the information of those who desire to discuss the Loan Bill, endeavour to place us in possession of the following information : - Particulars as to all the loans maturing in connexion with the Northern Territory and the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, the dates on which they will mature; also the area of land which is to be purchased under the Bill, and details as to the property on it, and what the Government propose to do with it ; and further, the specific Trust Account from which it is proposed to borrow the money covered by the Loan Bill.
– A great deal of the information referred to by the honorable senator is already in my possession, and available. I might have given it to the Senate, but I did not desire to occupy too long in moving the second reading of the Bill. I can assure the honorable senator that everything will be done to supply the members of the Senate with all the information necessary to enable them to discuss the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121108_SENATE_4_67/>.