5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to acquaint the Senate that His Excellency the Governor-General has appointed the hour of 4 o’clock this afternoon as the time when he will receive, in the Parliamentary Library, the AddressinReply.
– In accordance with that announcement, I desire to state that at that hour I shall proceed to present the Address to His Excellency, and hope that as many honorable senators as can find it convenient will accompany me.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act 1903-1912.- Universal Training’. - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1914, Nos. 51, 54, 56.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906 - Land acquired under, at -
Melbourne, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act 1902-1913.- PostmasterGeneral’s Department. - Promotion of J. Varley as Postmaster, 3rd Class, Yass, Mew South Wales.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act 1911. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council, dated 2nd June (two).
– Such officers have been appointed for a considerable time. Their duty is to take off any names which should not be on the roll, and to put on everyname which ought to be enrolled. The matter, of course, is in the hands of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer.
– Do they leave cards?
– In the case of objections to enrolment being made, has the usual fee of 5s. been deposited by the objectors, and if not, why?
– I am not aware that a fee has been deposited in any case; it has not come under my notice that it has been done. If objections are sent in to any names, the objections are inquired into; but no name is struck off a roll unless strict inquiry is made as to whether it should come off or not.
– Perhaps I may be allowed to explain the nature of my question. Any person may enter an objection against another person being on theroll believing that that person has gone elsewhere; the objector should deposit a fee of 5s., and the deposit may be forfeited if the objection is found to be frivolous. Is the Minister aware of any particular instances where a fee of 5s. has been deposited, or where such deposit has been forfeited on the ground that the objection is frivolous ?
– I am not aware of any instance.
– Seeing that the Electoral Department has accepted objections without the deposit of 5s., is it the intention of the Government to bring in a Bill to make the removal of those names) from the rolls legal?
– I am not aware that any names have been illegally struck off, and, therefore, I am not prepared to say that any measure will be brought in.
– Is it not a fact that in another place the Attorney-General stated that organizations and individuals had been invited to assist in making the rolls what the Government hoped them to be, namely, that names should be removed which ought not to be there, without asking individuals or organizations to deposit the fee specified in the Act?
– I am not aware of what the Attorney-General said on the matter.
– Can the Vice- . President of the Executive Council inform the Senate whether any of the rolls on which names have been removed, and which until recently were in manuscript form, have been printed ; if so, in what States they have been printed; and, if not, when he anticipates that the rolls will be printed and made available to the public?
– No rolls have been printed yet. I anticipate that the rolls will be printed in about a month ; it may be five weeks, but I cannot say for certain’.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council aware that the police are going from door to door in New South Wales informing people that they have had instructions to strike names off the rolls, but are, under no consideration, to put any names on the rolls, or to afford electors facilities for enrolment by supplying them with enrolment cards?
– No such instructions have ever been given to the police.
– If that be so, will the honorable senator see that steps are taken at once to remedy the matter?
SenatorRUSSELL. - Seeing that the rolls now’ exhibited at post-offices and other public places are somewhat ancient, and may be misleading, inasmuch as people, seeing their names upon those rolls, may be led to believe that they will appear on the rolls for the election, though they may have since been struck off, I ask whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council will see that a placard is prominently exhibited with the rolls in all these places, intimating to the electors that wherever there is any doubt they may inspect the rolls at the Registrar’s office.
– Does the honorable senator ask that a notice should be put up with the present rolls?
– The rolls are in the charge of officials, and I have no objection whatever to advise them that they should inform people who come to look at the rolls that the rolls exhibited are not those which will be used at the elections, and that new rolls are being prepared.
– What I ask the honorable senator to do is to put up a prominent placard with the rolls, intimating that the true rolls may be inspected at theRegistrar’s office. This is necessary, because, as a rule, the officials at post-offices and other public places are too busy to attend to electors.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should appear on the placard ?
– Simply an intimation that the rolls now exhibited are not final, and that new rolls will be available later on. What I suggest would not be a costly matter, and it is necessary that the public should be given this information.
– I see no objection to what the honorable senator proposes, and I shall consult the Chief Electoral Officer on the matter.
– In view of the statements appearing recently in the public press as to the large number of names that have been removed from the rolls since the last election, I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he will promise to give the Senate some definite information to-morrow, so far as it is available, as to the number of names that have been removed from the rolls in each State?
– I have no objection to giving the Senate whatever information there may be available on the subject. It will be impossible to obtain the information from some of the more distant States for some little time.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that instructions have been given to those who are revising the rolls to place names on them, as well as to strike names off them. In view of the fact that it is notorious that some of these officials are not putting names on the rolls, will the honorable senator at once have instructions issued to them to carry out their duty?
– The matter to which the honorable senator refers is entirely under the control of the Chief Electoral Officer and his subordinates. He takes no instructions in that matter from me, but I shall convey to him what the honorable senator has said, and ask him to give it attention.
– As it is common knowledge that thousands of names have been removed from the rolls in the different States, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he will present to the Senate exact copies of the lists that are in the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department of objections sent in, and the names and addresses of all persons removed from the rolls since the last Federal elections?
– I could not answer that question, as I do not know what lists there are. Such lists have been sent in from every part of Australia, and it would be quite impossible “to get copies of them, except after a considerable time. . I shall undertake to make inquiries into the matter.
– Will the honorable senator promise the Senate that copies of the lists that are in his possession of the names of persons objected to in the different electoral divisions in each of the States - all the information on the subject in the possession of his Department - will be furnished to the Senate?
– Does the honorable senator mean lists of the individual names ?
– Yes : copies of the lists of persons objected to in the different electoral divisions of the Commonwealth.
– I cannot give the honorable senator the promise for which he asks without making inquiry. If he will give notice of his question, I shall supply him with an answer.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether it is a fact that, as reported in an interview with him in the daily press last week, he stated that the number of electors on the rolls in Victoria at the forthcoming elections would be considerably less than the number on the rolls on the 31st May, 1913, and, if the statement be correct, how does the honorable senator reconcile it with the fact that during the last twelve months, by immigration and in other ways, there has been a considerable increase in the population of this State?
– Will the honorable senator kindly intimate where he saw the statement to which he refers ? I cannot at present call it to mind.
– I will give the honorable senator the information. I saw it reported in the press last week.
– Before asking the Vice-President of the Executive Council a question, I desire to say that complaints have reached me from a place called Noggerupp, which forms a part of a timber district in Western Australia, that the names of electors are being struck off the rolls, and that when voters apply at the local post-office for enrolment cards they are informed that none is available. It is further stated that the postmaster is a Liberal partisan, and is doing everything he can to prevent the men employed in that locality from getting their names upon the rolls. Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council make inquiries into this matter with a view to ascertaining what truth is contained in these complaints ?
– I shall be glad to make inquiries.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. The issuing of notices of objection is, under the law, in the hands of the Divisional Returning Officer. If the Divisional Returning Officer for Wimmera, as stated, lodged an objection against the retention on the roll of the name of an elector on insufficient grounds, the elector should answer the objection in accordance with the requirements of the law as indicated on the notice.
The Divisional Returning Officers and Registrars are clearly and definitely instructed that an objection by an officer is to be lodged only as the result of an official inquiry.
SenatorRAE. - Arising out of the reply, is the Minister aware that the custom of sending the notice of objection to enrolment to electors whose names are objected to because they are absent, and then sending the notice of objection to the residence which they have left, is in vogue ?
– I am not aware.
– I wish, sir, to ask whether, when an honorable senator submits a question to the Minister supposed to be in charge of the Department which is concerned in the question, it is usual for another Minister to advise him what to say?
– That is a matter over which I have absolutely no control. I can take no cognisance of it.
– I have the same right as has Senator Long to break the Standing Orders and interject.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to withdraw that statement, which is a reflection on the Chair. The honorable senator has said that he has the same right as have other honorable senators to break the Standing Orders and interject. He must know that reasonable interjections are always allowed. If the honorable senator means to suggest that I have unduly relaxed that condition in order to specially favour any side, his statement is grossly out of order.
– I willingly withdraw the statement and give you, sir, my personal assurance that I had no intention whatever to reflect upon you. Honorable senators interject to each other and across the chamber, and, so long as that practice is tolerated - and you, sir, have allowed it - I ask only that I shall have the same privilege as is given to others.
Advice to Governor-General : Grant of Supply
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether the Government will furnish the terms of the GovernorGeneral’s reply to the Prime Minister with respect to a double dissolution?
– I have to inform the Senate that it is nob proposed to make public the correspondence and the conversations which took place between the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, and which are regarded as absolutely confidential in their character.
– Why should they be?
– It has never been the custom to do so in the Commonwealth, and no special reason is known for doing so now.
– There has been no double dissolution before.
– It has been done in Queensland, anyhow.
– That is the answer to the question. With the permission of the Senate, I should like to make a statement.
– The statement I propose to make to the Senate is an outline of the nature of the communications which passed between the GovernorGeneral and the Prime Minister.
– And the nature of the communications from the GovernorGeneral, too?
– The honorable senator will see from the statement what has taken place. The Prime Minister advised His Excellency, in accordance with the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution, to dissolve simultaneously the Senate and the House of Representatives, and assured him that the requirements of the Constitution had been complied with. The Prime Minister also pointed out to His Excellency the almost equal numbers in the House of Repre sentatives and the small number supporting the Government in the Senate, and that in consequence the Parliament was unworkable, that it was impossible to manage efficiently the public business, and that, in his (the Prime Minister’s) opinion, a dissolution of both Houses should be granted. His Excellency’s reply was to accede to the request, and grant an immediate simultaneous dissolution on condition that a definite assurance was given that the financial position was such that adequate provision could be made for carrying on the public service during the period of time covered by the elections.
– Ah !
– The honorable senator might wait a bit.
– I will wait till you are finished.
– The Prime Minister then reminded His Excellency that adequate provision existed for Supply to the 30th June, and that he proposed, with His Excellency’s permission, to inform Parliament of His Excellency’s decision, and to at once ask Parliament to make provision for Supply to cover the elections. He also informed His Excellency that he did not propose to invite the House to do business other than Supply, and that as soon as this was granted, he would recommend His Excellency to prorogue Parliament, and proceed at once with the elections. His Excellency gave the desired permission to inform Parliament of his decision to dissolve both Houses and to prorogue Parliament as soon as adequate provision for Supply had been made.
– Arising out of the reply given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the question asked by Senator McGregor, I wish to ask whether the Prime Minister has given His Excellency the Governor-General an assurance that he can obtain Supply ?
– I do not wish to add to the statement I have already made. I read the assurance which was given by the Prime Minister in these terms -
The Prime Minister then reminded His Excellency that adequate provision existed for Supply to the 30th June, and that he proposed, with His Excellency’s permission, to inform Parliament of His Excellency’s decision, and to at Once ask Parliament to make provision for Supply to cover the elections.
That is the assurance given.
– I ask the Minister of Defence, as representing the Government in this Chamber, in view of the fact that lie has given a fairly lengthy statement of the correspondence that has passed between the Government and His Excellency the Governor-General in respect to the double dissolution-
– Fairly brief.
– Will the honorable senator state in definite terms what are the objections to placing all the facts before the Senate and the country?
– In the statement which has been described by one honorable senator as a full statement, and by another as a brief one, I have endeavoured to submit the reasons why the Government do not propose to make public the correspondence or conversations that took place.
– Because it was never done before; the good old Tory argument for doing nothing.
– In addition to that fact, a still stronger argument is given, and that is that these matters are regarded - and I think they ought to be so regarded - as absolutely confidential between the Governor-General and his advisers.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether his attention has been called to statements published in the Melbourne press to the effect that the Government contemplate altering the Electoral Act by means of regulation, so as to restrict the exercise of the absent vote in such a way that many thousands will be practically disfranchised? The press reports affirm that at the forthcoming election absent voters, instead of being permitted to vote at the nearest polling booth, will be obliged to make application to the Registrar prior to polling day for an absent voter’s certificate. I desire to know whether any such alteration in our Electoral Act is contemplated, and, if so, what is the reason for it?
– The regulations are now under the consideration of the Government, and I merely desire to add that the Ministry will inform the Senate of any steps they propose to take in that direction.
– Arising out of that answer, I ask the Minister of Defence whether, if it is intended to issue any new regulation under the Electoral Act, he will, before the prorogation of Parliament, lay such regulation on the table of the Senate so as to give honorable senators an opportunity either of affirming or of negativing it?
– I have already stated that it is the intention of the Government to inform Parliament of any steps they intend to take in that direction.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether his attention has been directed to the fact that at the present time electors who vote outside their own subdivisions are treated as absent voters?
– That is correct.
– Then the Government require to be careful about framing regulations that will prevent a man from voting in his own electorate.
– In reply to a question by Senator McGregor last week, the Minister of Defence stated -
There are no claims for horse allowance outstanding except with regard to three warrant and non-commissioned officers, whose cases are now being considered by the Military Board.
Have tho Board yet arrived at a decision, and, if not, when are they likely to do so?
– I cannot speak f rom my own knowledge as to how the matter now stands; but if the honorable senator will repeat the question to-morrow I will endeavour, in the meantime, to ascertain whether any progress has been made.
– Seeing that the Treasurer, in speaking of the Maternity Allowance Act and of those who derive a benefit from it, affirmed last week that taxation is pretty severe, will the Minister of Defence ascertain from him whether it is his intention to relieve that taxation, and, if so, in what direction he proposes to relieve it?
– Any inquiries that the honorable senator may choose to make, I shall have very much pleasure in forwarding to the Treasurer.
Mr. King Salter’s Report
SenatorPEARCE.- I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to the fact that the Argus of Wednesday last contained an alleged report by Mr. King Salter, the manager of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, upon that establishment. I ask the Minister whether on that date he had received the report in question; if not, whether be has since received it, whether the allegations contained in it are accurate, and whether he will lay a copy of it on the table of the Senate at an early date?
– It would be almost impossible to reply to the questions put by the honorable senator in the form of more answers. As the Senate would, perhaps, like to have fuller information on this matter, I ask leave to make a statement.
– In anticipation that this question would present itself to-day, I have prepared a brief statement on the position which exists at Cockatoo Island. It is as follows : - Some few days ago the Argus announced that a confidential report on the condition of affairs at Cockatoo Island Dockyard had been forwarded by the manager of the yard (Mr. King Salter) to the Minister; and appended what purported to be a summary of the contents of this document. Generally, the facts set out in the press announcement have been known to me for some time. Before I took office, even, the then acting manager (Mr. Cutler) had reported upon the deficiency of labour at the establishment, and, from time to time, reports were received upon other aspects of the matter. Before taking any action in the matter, however, it seemed highly desirable, indeed necessary, that the new manager should be allowed sufficient time to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the existing state of affairs, in order that he should be in a position to speak from actual experience as to any changes that might be regarded as necessary or desirable. Mr. King Salter took up duty in early March, but since then there have been certain disputes between different unions, whose members are employed at the Dockyard, regarding the demarcation of work as between one union and the other. I considered it of paramount importance to endeavour to adjust these disputes before proceeding to the consideration of any comprehensive change in the conditions of employment at the Island. My efforts to adjust these differences met with some measure of success, but, in one case, owing to the failure of the union to observe a decision which it had previously agreed to accept, one section of the work was, and still is, held up. It was in the course of interviews with Mr. King Salter at this time that he acquainted me of the necessity for some important changes at the yard. The position of affairs disclosed was so serious and the remedy suggested such a considerable departure from existing practice, that a decision could not be arrived at without very serious consideration. Two courses appeared open to me : the first to approve of certain suggested alterations and announce them as representing the practice to be followed in future, or, secondly, confer with the men and frankly place the position before them, drawing their attention to the seriousness of the matter, its probable effect on the establishment, and on the industry of warship-huilding, and on their personal welfare as employes; and, by so doing, endeavour to enlist their co-operation in the introduction of changes necessary to the permanent efficiency of the establishment. I decided to adopt the latter course, and have only been prevented from taking the initial steps by sheer inability to find the time necessary for the undertaking. I hope before long I shall be able to take the first step in that direction. I should like to add that I am both surprised and indignant that the information contained in confidential reports has been furnished to the press. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that there has been flagrant violation of that responsibility to observe strict silence imposed upon officers in the Public Service. There has been quite a series of such leakages of official information from the Navy Department. So far, inquiries have not resulted in identifying the officer guilty of such a serious breach of confidence. I regret this, not only because until such officer is discovered it is obvious that furtherconfidential reports are liable to be made public, but for the further reason that quite a number of innocent officers are placed under suspicion through the default of one of their number.
– Is the Minister of Defence aware that a number of mechanics were sent to England by the Commonwealth Government-
– By the State Government.
– They were sent by the Commonwealth Government to gain experience in ship-building. Is the Minister also aware that the whole of these men have left the works, along with the late manager, Mr. Cutler, and are now employed in the State works under him ?
– I am quite aware that, at a farewell demonstration to Mr. Cutler,he expressed the hope that a number of those who were employed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard would make their services available at the new establishment of which he was to take charge. I am, therefore, not surprised to hear that the invitation given on that occasion has been responded to.
Punishment of Cadet: Solitary Confinement
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been drawn to the case of a lad named Roberts, who refused drill at the command of his parents, they being members of the Society of Friends? Is he aware that this lad was tried by the civil authority and sentenced to detention, and that, subsequently, he was again tried for the same offence by a court-martial, and sentenced to solitary confinement for one week at Swan Island, commencing last Saturday? Is the Minister carrying out the Defence Act in permitting any trainee guilty of an offence to be subjected to the barbarous punishment of solitary confinement? If not, what steps does he intend to take to abolish this atrocious practice, which, even in dealing with criminals, has been abandoned in most of the States?
– It is hardly possible for me to say what I have to say upon the subject in answer to a question. If the honorable senator will bring the matter up again when I move the motion for adjournment it will give me an opportunity of explaining more fully than I can do now exactly how it stands.
– I would press the Minister for a reply to the substantial part of my question. Is he prepared to re lease the lad, or order his release, from solitary confinement, and prevent that barbarous punishment being again inflicted upon offenders?
– Certainly not, upon the information that I now have to hand.
– We will upset your military system if you do not. The practice is barbarous, atrocious, and scoundrelly.
– Senator Rao helped to pass the law.
– I did not.
– Will the Minister of Defence inform me whether the fighting programme, as published in to-day’s Argus, is the official programme of the Liberal party decided upon at their Caucus meeting yesterday?
– I feel under no obligation to answer the question.
– Is the honorable senator ashamed of the programme?
– It is entirely a matter for the Minister to say whether or not he will answer a question.
– I desire leave to submit a motion with regard to the Select Committee appointed to inquire into Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract for earthworks, Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That the Select Committee of the Senate appointed to inquire and report upon Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract, Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, have leave to make a special report to the Senate.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the report ho read.
– Will this be open to discussion ?
– Certainly. It was open to any honorable senator to object to the granting of leave before the motion was put, but the motion, having been put, is open to discussion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the consideration of the report be an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– I asked you just now, sir, if this would be open for discussion. I did not use the word “report,” but I can see now that you were quite right in interpreting my words in the way in which you did. My reason for asking the question Was to ascertain if it would be possible to discuss the report, because I was anxious to make a statement regarding it, which I did not think I could do on a mere motion for printing. It seems to me that there is no opportunity for discussing the contents of the report now.
– If the motion is agreed to, the matter will become an Order of the Day for to-morrow, and may then be discussed. The Minister will not be in order in anticipating that discussion now.
– I wished to speak, because it seemed to me that the Committee has reported under a misapprehension, which I thought I might be able to remove.
– The honorable senator can ask leave to make a statement.
– I ask permission to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Before putting notice of motion No. 3 as formal busi ness, I wish to point out what seems to me a difficulty. I believe that we have already received a report that the Select Committee do not intend to proceed further with the business referred to them.
– That report has not been dealt with, sir, and circumstances might arisewhich would make it necessary for the Committee to proceed.
– Very well.
Motions (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting the House to give leave to the Honorable William Henry Kelly to attend and be examined by the Select Committee of the Senate on Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract, transcontinental railway.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Select Committee on Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract - transcontinental railway - sitting during the sittings of the Senate.
– I desire to present to the Senate the first report of the Standing Orders Committee for the year 1914, covering amendments and altera tions recommended, and ask the Clerk to read the same.
Report read, and ordered to be printed and considered in Committee.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
When is it anticipated that the cruiser Brisbane will be launched?
– No date can yet be fixed for the launching.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are - 1 and 2. The rails reached91 miles 12½ chains on 30th May, 1914.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I am informed as follows -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Reverting to my question of 1st October, 1913, and in view of the alarming and uncontradicted reports regarding the secret entry of Chinese into Queensland for the purpose of entering into banana growing, will the Government give consideration to the matter of extending the Excise and bounty system to the banana industry of the Commonwealth, with the view of making it a white man’s industry, and so, with the better quality product that might be expected to result from cultivation by white labour, enable Australian bananas to successfully compete with the black-grown bananas of Fiji?
– The answer is -
As the honorable senator’s question involves decision as to alleged facts upon which policy should be based, the matter will be referred to the Department of External Affairs for inquiry and report.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister of External
Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Twelve, of whom nine were to fill vacancies caused by resignations and three to fill newly-created positions, which were -
The services of three officers were dispensed with; in addition, two positions were abolished, the holder of one of which retired owing to effluxion of time, and the other was transferred to the Department of Trade and Customs.
Call of the Senate.
Motions (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That standing order No. 278 be suspended, so as to enable a Call of the Senate to be made without the usual twenty-one days’ notice for the third reading of the following Bills, viz.: - Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill, Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill, Constitution Alteration (Trusts) Bill, Constitution Alteration (Industrial Matters) Bill, Constitution Alteration (Railway Disputes) Bill, and Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill.
That there be a call of the Senate on Thursday, 11th June, 1914, at 3 o’clock p.m., for the purpose of considering the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (Trade and Commerce) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Corporations) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Trusts) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Industrial Matters) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Railway Disputes) Bill, and the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill.
Sitting suspended from3.52 to4.15 p.m.
– I have to acquaint the Senate that I have, accompanied by senators, this day waited on His Excellency the Governor-General, and have presented to him the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency’s predecessor, Lord Denman, on the opening of Parliament agreed to on the 3rd June, and His Excellency has been pleased to make the following reply: -
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
In receiving the Address, which has been adopted by the Senate, in reply to the speech delivered by my predecessor on the occasion of the opening of the Second Session of the Fifth Commonwealth Parliament, I desire to thank you for your expression of loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign the King.
Compulsory Training: Punishment of Cadet: Solitary Confinement - Schools of Instruction: Promotions - Electoral Rolls: Objections : Removal of Names - Absent Voting - The Treasurer and Taxation - Maternity Allowance - Presentation of Address-in-Reply : NonAttendance of Ministers.
– I move -
That thu Senate do now adjourn.
In submitting the motion, I take the opportunity to go more fully than I could have done in answering a question into the matter upon which information was sought by Senator Rae. The honorable senator referred to the case of a cadet named Roberts, at present undergoing detention at Queenscliff. I wish to give honorable senators all tho facts of the case, as they were reported to me. This lad was, as Senator Rae has stated, committed by the civil authorities for twentyone days’ detention for failure to render the -services required by the Defence Act. There was some representation made that this boy’s health was such as to render it undesirable that he should undergo the drill. When that representation was made to me I gave special instructions that every precaution should be taken in the way of a medical examination to see whether there was the slightest justification for that plea. The boy was examined by the principal medical officer here, Colonel Ryan, who distinctly stated that in his opinion Roberts was fit to serve, but, to make sure, he recommended the postponement of his going into detention for three weeks. The boy went into detention, and the report from there is that he is a strong, healthy boy. When there, he refused to do any drill or to render any service, although ho was offered the choice, usually offered in such cases, of non-combatant duties - physical drill, flag signalling, and other duties of that kind. The boy refused for reasons which, as Senator Rae has indicated, are conscientious ones. When the question is put to me as to whether I am prepared to do anything in the case, I wish, first of all, to assure honorable senators that it is not a pleasure to me in a Ministerial position -to insist upon the carrying out of a law which has disagreeable consequences to certain individuals.
– Does the honorable senator think solitary confinement harsh?
– Of course I do. I think that any punishment is harsh. But I put it to honorable senators to say whether, if Parliament wants the law relaxed to ease up the obligations upon a lad physically able to perform the duties required of. him, it is not for Parliament itself, rather than for me, to say what the relaxation shall be?
– Is it a fact that this lad is subjected to solitary confinement ?
– Yes, he is there now. For refusing to do his drill, he was given, as was done in many cases during my predecessor’s time, seven days’ solitary confinement. That may seem harsh, but it seems to me to be necessary unless we are going to make some special provision for exempting those who object to drill on conscientious grounds. There must be some provision to meet a difficulty of this kind. Quite recently some seventy-nine boys ‘ were at Queenscliff. One of them refused to do any drill. He was allowed for a day or two, until some decision in his case could be arrived at, to wander aimlessly about avoiding the drill, which the other seventy-eight boys had to do. But seventy-eight young Australians are not slow to size up a position like that. When they saw that one boy could go on strike with impunity, it would not be long before the whole seventy-eight had intimated that they also were prepared to make a picnic of it. The position at Queenscliff then became serious. When it was pointed out to the boys that very unpleasant consequences would follow if they did not immediately do their drill, there was no further trouble with regard to the seventy-eight. I want honorable senators to acquit me, at any rate, of being unnecessarily harsh in the administration of the law. But I wish them also to ask themselves what they propose to do if they allow any boy to elect for himself whether he will obey the law or not ? That is the only alternative.
– A punishment less severe than solitary confinement might be imposed.
– I make the same offer to Senator Mullan as I have already made to deputations from the Society of Friends, and other similar bodies, I have- said that I shall receive most sympathetically a ny suggestion they can make, by means of which we can ease up in the case of conscientious objectors, which does not at the same time open the door so widely to fraud as to break down the Act altogether.
– Solitary confinement is very severe. Some less severe punishment should be sufficient.
– It is all very well for Senator Mullan and others to say that this punishment is harsh.
– It is more than harsh; it is barbarous and atrocious.
– We should know what this solitary confinement is.
– The lad is put into a cell which is by no means a dungeon, and is given a ration which, I submit, in the circumstances, is an extremely liberal one. I am not finding fault with the ration prescribed by my predecessor, but I made it a little more liberal than it was in his time.
– What time is allowed for exercise ?
– Twice a day for a certain period.
– Is the lad allowed to speak to anybody ?
– Not, of course, when he is detained in the cell.
– It is simply atrocious. It is enough to drive one mad to be kept in solitary confinement for long.
– Is the cell a dark one!
– No. When honorable senators are pointing out defects in the administration of the law, I want them to show me a practicable alternative. When you have 999 boys honestly discharging their duty to the country, and one who chooses to defy the law, I wish honorable senators to see that the problem before them is whether they can ease up with the one boy without offering an open invitation and premium to the others to shirk their duties.
– I do not think that any of us knows what solitary confinement is, and. the Minister might explain it.
– That is Senator Russell’s good luck. Like the honorable senator, I have managed, fortunately, to keep out of such a place so far, and cannot speak from actual experience, but
I am assured that these cells are airy and well lighted.
– The detention at Queenscliff is totally different from prison detention.
– I know that the cells are not such as the cells in ordinary criminal gaols. I should have very great pleasure in providing all the facilities possible to enable Senator Russell, by personal experience, to understand what the conditions are.
– Would not the honorable senator like to afford the same facilities to twenty-eight of us?
– No, because I should then be left without a quorum.
– All that is done is to see that the cadet speaks to no one but the man who has charge of him.
– Except when he is allowed out, which is twice a day. I wish honorable senators to recognise the difficulty with which I am confronted. It is all very well for a boy to say that he is a conscientious objector to drill. I respect every man’s conscience as I like others to respect mine. But we have a law which places a universal obligation on the young people of this country. It is obvious that we cannot take anybody’s mere declaration of objection, or otherwise the whole Act must break down.
– And we should get back to the voluntary system.
– Exactly. I have thrown out the invitation to representatives of the Society of Friends, Seventh Day Adventists, and others on more than one occasion to bring before me a practical provision which will enable me to meet their objections without, at the same time, opening the door to fraud, and said that, if they did so, I should be prepared to take the responsibility of. submitting it to Parliament, and consulting Parliament about it. They have been candid enough to admit to me that they cannot suggest such a provision. Much as we may sympathize with them, I want the Senate to understand that unless an alternative can be suggested to the mere granting of exemptions in the case of those who decline to obey the law, we shall break down the whole system. I am sure that everybody is keenly anxious to see this law carried to a successful issue.
– Did the Minister of Defence ever hear anything of what the authorities attempted to do in New Zealand in similar circumstances?
– What they attempted to do in New Zealand was nothing, and they did it most successfully. I have it from one of the highest authorities there, that, although Parliament passed a law, that law is not being carried out, and the result is that the Dominion is drifting into a system which, as Senator Pearce has said, is very much of a voluntary system. If this Parliament desires a similar result to be brought about here, very well. But it is not right for the Commonwealth Parliament to pass a law, and then call upon the Minister to evade the consequences of it by granting exemptions. It has pained me more than once to know that these boys are placed in this position, and I shall appreciate any suggestion which will enable me, without violating the integrity of the Act, to meet such special cases.
Senator RAE (New South Wales) £4.26]. - The Minister of Defence has related some oi the facts concerning this matter, and has stated that he is in a difficulty in regard to it. I believe that, if we have a compulsory military system, we cannot allow conscientious objections to be merely a matter of statement. I am quite at one with those who urge that we cannot make exceptions in the case of persons who entertain religious objections any more than we can make exceptions in the case of persons whose conscientious objections are founded upon other grounds. But that does not free the Government, or any Government, from reproach if they allow the barbarous and mostly discarded punishment of solitary confinement to be inflicted - and inflicted in particular on a youth. I have had some gaol experience, and, therefore, I am not like my friend, Senator Russell.
– Perhaps the honorable senator was unlucky.
– No; I consider it was a great honour for me to be imprisoned.
– Why was the honorable senator in gaol ?
– I am not going into details. I merely wish to explain what I know about solitary confinement. When I had the distinguished honour of tenanting one of His Majesty’s gaols, there was a man undergoing solitary confinement in a cell specially built for that-purpose. He had been there for a fortnight when I entered the general division. : This is no laughing matter, and I am not relating it with the idea of gaining personal kudos. As honorable senators are aware, I was imprisoned because I had stood up for the rights of unionism, and by so doing had inflicted wrong on nobody. When I had been there a fortnight, the man who had been suffering solitary confinement was released. He was a big strong fellow. I believe that our present comrade, Senator Gould, was Minister of Injustice at the time.
– Injustice ?
– Yes; because all rule under the old political party was practically injustice. That man had a much more limited ration served to him than is served to prisoners now. He received one pound of bread and a jug of water every twenty-four hours. From the yard in which I was exercising I witnessed a warder, accompanied by a goodconductprisoner, visit his cell in the morning carrying a pound of bread, an iron jug containing water, and a broom. When the warder unlocked the door, the goodconduct man handed the broom to the prisoner. The prisoner swept his cell until he approached within 2 or 3 feet of the door, and then, in order that he should not be permitted to see outside, the good-conduct man ha3 to step forward and sweep out the remaining part of the cell. The prisoner undergoing solitary confinement was then handed the jug of water and a pound of white bread - the least nourishing kind of bread - and was left locked up with that amount of food to satisfy him till 8 o’clock the following morning. He saw and spoke to no one. He had no books and no light, except what crept through a narrow grating about 1 foot in depth and 2 or 3 feet in length, at the top of a very high cell. It would merely be a kind of twilight that he enjoyed, even at the best. The effect of this solitary confinement, and of being prevented from having intercourse with his fellows, was to injure his intellect to such an extent that he was never quite sane again. Similar results followed in the cases of other individuals so treated, and especially in the cases of those who were subjected to lengthy terms of solitary confinement. I know of two men who did nine months’ solitary confinement - or what was called “separate treatment,” which was practically the same thing - at the commencement of a sentence of two years for an alleged riot, and these men were never perfectly sane afterwards. I mixed with them for two years subsequently, and I can honestly make that statement.
– But that was the result of nine months’ solitary confinement.
– It was the result of what was called “ separate treatment.”
– That is very different from the punishment inflicted upon the boy.
– It is not the restricted diet which is the matter of chief concern. It is rather that a youth has to feed entirely on his own thoughts, being denied any opportunity of conversing with any fellow human being. That is an infliction which is most likely to throw anybody’s intellect off the balance. At any rate, if it does nothing else, such treatment must absolutely crush the spirit of any youth. My contention is that, if the Minister of Defence and his Department are so absolutely destitute of brains that they cannot find a better solution of the difficulty-
– Let the honorable senator suggest one.
– I will, presently. If this kind of thing is to continue, to be logical, it ought to be followed up with another sentence if, at the termination of his period of detention, a boy still steadfastly refuses to conform to the law. We have to bear in mind that this is a doubledyed system of prosecution. In the first case, the civil authority sentenced the ,ad to twenty-one days’ detention.
– Twenty-one days in which to do his drill.
– I quite admit that. Acting upon his conscientious objection, which, whether we believe in it or not, is to be admired rather than reprobated, if it be insisted upon - the lad refuses to perform even non-combatant duties. He rightly argues that there cannot be anything in the nature of non-combatant duties other than what are aids to the whole military system. He says, in effect, “If I am helping to cook the tucker for the soldiers who are going to fight, I am performing just as necessary a part of military operations as I would if I were handling a gun.”
– That is straining the Act in the case of nurses.
– These boys may do ambulance work if they like, but they decline to do that.
– Is that a part of tha drill?
– They may do training for ambulance work.
– I assert that the ambulance people are part of a voluntary service. The Society of Friends and other non-fighting sections send their nurses to assist in ambulance work for the purpose of saving life and of alleviating pain.
– They object to do ambulance work.
– They do it voluntarily, in order to alleviate human suffering, but refuse to be made a part of the military system by being compelled to do it in a military camp. And there is a broad distinction in every walk of life between what one does voluntarily and what he is compelled to do. Coming now to a consideration of the position in which the Minister finds himself, what will be the effect of the decision of this court martial which, after the lad has been sentenced by the civil authorities to twenty-one days’ detention, subjects him to solitary confinement because he still refuses military duty, not in any offensive and truculent spirit, but acting on the instructions of his parents? If the military authorities find that they cannot break down the lad’s spirit by resort to the barbarous system of solitary confinement, they should then, to be logical, resort to flogging, and, if the lad was still obstinate, end up the punishment by hanging or shooting him. If it is found that one punishment is not severe enough, and a military tribunal can by mere regulation inflict a more severe punishment, to be logical you must go to the greatest extreme possible in order to break down the opposition of any youth.
– I introduced ant amendment to limit the punishment which the present law allows.
– But the Minister has not proposed to limit the quality as well as the quantity of the punishment. I assert that there is irrefutable evidence, on the authority of medical men of the highest standing, of criminologists, and of other people who have given this subject the deepest consideration, that solitary confinement is an utterly barbarous and indefensible form of punishment. It is absolutely torture, and as such it is universally denounced.
– Will the honorable senator tell me what be would do with these boys?
– If we are going to reLain the compulsory system, I would say, in the first place, that if a youth is acting under his parents’ orders we should punish the parents, who are the instigators of his insubordination, and who are the natural protectors and teachers of the youth.
– In what way would you punish them ? The punishment you propose might be more barbarous than the one inflicted.
– I am not proposing any punishment. I am not alluding to the nature of the punishment that should be inflicted, but I am asserting that parents should certainly be held responsible for giving advice. The whole of our moral teaching in Sunday schools, churches, and day schools is that a child’s first obedience is to his parents. If we are going to teach children that obedience, and then punish them for observing it-
– What would be the nature of the punishment you would sanction ?
– If detention or imprisonment were ordered, I should make the term of definite length. I should say that refusal to do a thing is one offence, but to continue to refuse is not another, but the same, offence. I would graduate the punishment according to the degree of guilt, but I would certainly say that there should be a maximum term of imprisonment, and when that maximum term had been inflicted, the fact that the individual had endured it should be proof enough that his objection was a conscientious one. If we have a punishment for the breaking of a law, once that punishment is inflicted the offence is disposed of.
– Do you mean to say that a boy who is liable to serve from the age of fourteen years to twenty-five years, may, by undergoing twenty-one days’ detention, avoid the whole of tlie service which other boys are liable to?
– I say that there should be a maximum punishment, and once that punishment has been inflicted the offender should be regarded as having purged his offence. There is no other way of working the Act, because the alternative is that a boy, who, after release, is again put on the rack and still refuses service, is to be subjected to solitary confinement, and, possibly, still worse punishment, if that does not succeed in breaking down his objection. There is no justification in this age for an offence of this kind being met by such barbarous punishment. I do not advocate the voluntary system, which I know is one under which the friends of the Conservative party would shoot down the friends of the Democrats, and for that reason I hate it. I believe in the compulsory system, but I will lend my aid to any endeavour to wipe it out altogether if it is enforced by such a barbarous method of punishment as solitary confinement.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence a question before the Senate adjourns. In connexion with the statement made by the Federal Treasurer that taxation is pretty severe on the people of Australia, I asked the Munster what steps the Treasurer proposes to take to relieve the pressure of that taxation. The Minister’s reply was that he would forward the question to the Treasurer, but lie did not say when he would forward it. If he has done so already, I hope he will be able to give a reply to the question at the next sitting. The Treasurer was very straightforward in his statement that the public of Australia are suffering from severe taxation, and, connecting that with the number of people who are availing themselves of the Maternity Allowance Act, he stated that, on account of the severe taxation, it was right that they should seek the benefits of the maternity allowance. I am glad to know that the mothers of Australia are availing themselves of the humane provisions of that legislation, but I want to know when and how the Treasurer of the Commonwealth is going to relieve the people of Australia from the severe taxation which, he says, they are enduring. I hope that the Minister, with his usual courtesy, will, on the next day of sitting, furnish the Senate with an answer to that question. One other matter I wish to mention. You, sir, have just met the representative of the King, His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, in the Library, where you presented to him the Address-in-Reply from this
Senate. I have been a member of the Senate for something like sevenyears, and on all occasions when the Address-in-Reply was presented to the representative of His Majesty I always found present at least one representative of the Government in this chamber. That has been the usual custom during my connexion with the Senate, and I was surprised to-day that, when you, as President of the Senate, walked into the Library to present to His Excellency the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of his predecessor, there was not present one of the representatives of the Government in this Chamber.
– Do you think that the Crown will fall to pieces now?
– I do not think that the Crown will suffer much from their absence. I am not what might be termed an extreme loyalist, but nevertheless I pay the respect to the representative of His Majesty that I owe, as a representative of the people of Australia, in this Chamber, and I think that at least one Minister should have been present on the occasion to which I refer. I Know that Senator Milieu and Senator McColl are busy men.
– Busy “faking” the rolls.
– But I think at least one of them should have paid the usual courtesy to the representative of His Majesty that has hitherto been paid to him on the occasionof an AddressinReply being presented from the Senate. A departure has been made by these two gentlemen.
– By the Senate.
– By the Ministers who absolutely refused to be present when the Address-in-Reply was presented.
– They refused to have it presented.
– Senator Millen refused to move the usual motion that Mr. President should present the AddressinReply, and to-day he has proceeded further than that. I regret to say he practically insulted the representative of the King by refusing to be present when Mr. President presented the AddressinReply. Where does loyalty come in? Evidently it is lip loyalty. Even if Senator Millen and Senator McColl. were a little perturbed because the Senate in the exercise of its constitutional rights amended the Address-in-Reply, at least the Ministers might have acted as men, and gone as men to the presentation of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral. They have set an example which is not worthy of emulation, and I think that some explanation is due to honorable senators, which I trust will be given when the Minister of Defence is replying.
– In the event of the Treasurer finding it difficult to formulate a policy for lightening the load of taxation the payment of the maternity allowance is creating, I suggest that he could very materially lighten that load by foregoing the handsome pension he draws from the Government of Western Australia, namely, £500 a year. It would lighten the load of the taxpayers of that State, or it might be arranged that, instead of the money being paid to Sir John Forrest, it should be paid to a fund to supplement the maternity allowance. As he has frequently complained about the great cost of the maternity allowance and oldage pensions, would it not be well to cut down the pensions of the rich before we touch the pensions of the poor? I remind Senator Millen, who seems to have taken umbrage at the action of the Senate in amending the Address-in-Reply, that he was the first member of the Senate to move an amendment to an AddressinReply. That was during the first session of the first Federal Parliament. His little move at that time was to have immediate action taken to put an end to the employment of kanaka labour in Queensland. It was a pretty little party move for the purpose of taking advantage of a position without making a direct attack, for the purpose of inconveniencing those in power who were taking effectual steps to put an end to the kanaka traffic. The Government of the day knew that their proposals were ample, but the honorable senator wished to take direct action, if I may use the language of Syndicalists. However, the good sense of the Senate prevented it. I have been wondering whether, had the amendment then moved by Senator Millen been carried, the Government of. to-day would have acted in. the same spirit of. pique that appatently influences members of the present Ministry..
– I wish to have a few words to say on the matter brought forward by Senator Rae concerning the fact that a youth under the drastic Defence Regulations has been subjected to solitary confinement. I believe in compulsory training; I have on all occasions unhesitatingly supported the principle, because it is essential for the future welfare of Australia; but if we wish to injure it we could not do it more effectively than by those responsible for the administration of the Defence Act allowing such cases to occur as those the Minister of Defence referred to in moving the adjournment of the Senate. The Minister asks what punishment should be placed upon drill-shirkers. I maintain that we should not inflict punishments that are out of date in enlightened countries in regard to the treatment of criminals. No one should undertake fo criticise a punishment unless lie is prepared to submit an alternative. The alternative I suggest is that drill-shirkers should be compelled to do double time, and should be kept standing at attention on the parade ground while the others are at drill. It is just as easy to keep these youths at attention on the parade ground as to keep them in solitary confinement. It is merely a matter of a file of men marching them out. In the case of those who conscientiously object there would be no resistance to this punishment. Having to stand at attention on the parade ground and watch others drill would be punishment harder to bear than solitary confinement, and yet would have no serious results. Or let tlie youth be kept standing at ease or lying down on the parade ground. The ordeal of watching tlie other boys drilling would be enough. , There would be no more shirkers.
– There would be no boys to watch if the drill-shirkers were allowed to lie down at parade.
– I have a better opinion of the Australian boys. There are thousands who enjoy the training. It will always be difficult to manage the Australian youth with English officers. We should have officers who are accustomed to our youths, and understand them. I am proud that there are some boys who are prepared to undergo punishment for the sake of their consciences. They are not a bad class. Looking for something in the shape of drastic punish ment is repugnant. To introduce solitary confinement, particularly under the circumstances, is to inflict a punishment that has been discarded even in our gaols. In New South Wales the prison authorities actually issue a newspaper for theinmates; and, no doubt, Senator Millen, and others who think with him, would say that such a course must result in the whole of the people of New South Wales finding their way into gaol. Year after year, however, as more humane treatment is accorded, the gaol population is decreasing rapidly, showing that the. more enlightened system has the effect of keeping down crime. Those who would now impose seven days’ solitary confinement on a boy with pluck and spirit enough to fight against constituted authority, would, a few centuries ago, have advocated the ducking-stool or the rack.
– If there are no other offenders, what would the honorable senator do with the one boy?
– I am not advocating any punishment at ail.
– But what would the honorable senator do ?
– I am now speaking of punishing people for something that in itself is not an offence. Punishment must always be commensurate with the offence, or we shall provoke opposition to our system of compulsory training. Here we actually have a boy sentenced to seven days’ solitary confinement for acting on conscientious beliefs which he has learned at his mother’s knee; and such a punishment is1, in my opinion, out of the question. Of course, a boy who refuses to drill should not be put in a better position than that of his fellows, but, as I have already suggested, he should be compelled to remain on the parade ground for double the time if thought necessary. Solitary confinement under the most luxurious circumstances is a very severe punishment; and I do not believe there is one senator who does not, in his heart, feel a little respect for a youth- who is prepared to suffer for conscience sake. I recognise that these lads are difficult to handle, but a great deal of the difficulty arises from the abrupt and gruff methods adopted by men who are accustomed to treat one portion of tlie people as in no way their equal.
– This boy is not rebelling for any reason of that kind.
– He is rebelling for conscientious reasons, and that makes the punishment all the more severe. We have a system of compulsory training, and if we do not succeed in carrying it out, we shall certainly lose Australia; but, at the same time, we have no right to inflict harsh, drastic, or unreasonable punishments. The system has not been adopted very long, and what surprises me is that there are not very many more objectors. It has worked very well, and will work all the better if we do not hear of such sentences.
– The subject before us is no doubt very important. I have listened with great interest to the Minister, and to Senators Rae and Gardiner, and I must confess that we have not had much light or leading from any of them. No doubt, the position is a difficult one, but, in my opinion, sympathy with young lads who refuse to take part in this training is largely misplaced.
– There is no sympathy with the lads, but denunciation of barbarous punishment.
– We have had much talk about “ barbarous punishment,” and, perhaps, solitary confinement is out of date; but what is to be done with these lads ? If I had my way, I would take them down to Port Melbourne, or some other port, put them on a steamer, and send them to another country. If they are not prepared to take part in the work of defence, Australia ought to have no room for them. If there were a dozen men cast adrift in an open boat, and one, though able and willing, refused, on conscientious grounds, to do any rowing or other work, the others would be perfectly justified in dropping him into the sea.
– They could stop his rations.
– There might be no rations; we have all read of cases where even the men thmselves had to form part of the rations. If lads are allowed to shirk, there is a possibility of the canker eating into the very heart of our national system of defence. If ninety-nine boys see that the hundredth boy is permitted to escape training, they very reasonably will ask themselves why he is allowed to sit in the shade while they are drilling in the sun.
– We are not proposing to allow any to sit in the shade.
– I do not know what honorable senators are proposing; but they have expressed great dissatisfaction at the action of the Government. Senator Gardiner offers an alternative which might be tried. I have no desire that these lads should be punished harshly, but something must be done to make them see that it is right and proper for them to bear their part in preparing for the defence of the country. With regard to those who profess conscientious objections to fighting in defence of their property, I have this to say, that I have known such apostles of peace and harmony to be the most rabid defenders of proprietary rights in the Law Courts. To be logical, they ought, when struck on the one cheek, to turn the other, but they do not do so, and their conscientious objections to fighting apply only when they think that their skins are likely to be in danger. I have no sympathy with such persons. The best thing to do with them, if it were possible, would be to send them all to some other country, if one could be found, where their ideas would be more appreciated.
– I understood Senator Rae to say that a lad who had been sentenced by a Civil Court was afterwards tried by court martial, and condemned to solitary confinement. The Minister did not say whether he had ascertained that that was so.
– I said nothing about a court martial.
– I should be surprised to hear that there had been a court martial. I think that, under the circumstances, a court martial would be illegal.
– I have been informed on good authority that three officers tried the lad for refusing to drill during his period of detention, and that then he was put into the cells for seven days.
– I do not think that the Defence Act allows courts martial in regard to cadets, and there are very narrow limitations to the holding of them, even so far as soldiers in the Citizen Forces are concerned.
– The Minister knows all about it, because the Postmaster-General waited on him to ascertain if the boy could not be relieved.
– That does not prove that there was a court martial.
– I suggest that the Minister should ascertain how the sentence of solitary confinement came to be imposed. Senator Rae drew a terrible picture of solitary confinement, but I am confident that cadets are not treated in the manner described.
– You ought never to be too sure of these things.
– I can speak of what I saw when Minister. I then made it my business to visit places where lads were undergoing detention. At Queenscliff they were then being detained in tents. I know of no case in which a lad was detained in a cell there.
– This lad is in a cell.
– At Glanville, in South Australia, a lad underwent detention in what might be called a cell, but on inquiring into ithe circumstances I found that he was placed in the gunners’ quarters, adjoining the caretaker’s cottage, in an old fort, which is now out of service. He was placed in a room in which the gunners on duty at the fort used to sleep. Yet his confinement was alluded to in leaflets distributed throughout the State as solitary confinement in a cell.
– He was locked in.
– At night time. How, otherwise, could he have been prevented from escaping?
– I understand that the lad to whose case I have drawn attention is locked up for twenty-four hours consecutively.
– The Minister has said that he is allowed out twice a day for exercise. At Queenscliff there are cells which are used for permanent soldiers who have merited confinement, and they are similar to the ordinary police cells, but before I left office, such cells had not been used for cadets.
– I understand that this lad is confined on Swan Island.
– Some lads under detention escaped, and on being recaptured were sent to Swan Island, from which they could not escape. I think that they there slept, not in cells, but in the ordinary sleeping quarters of the soldiers who are guarding the island. There should be no brutality or barbarous treatment in the punishment of offences under the Act, nor should the punishment be such as could injure the moral or physical health of those to whom it is applied. What the Department has aimed at, and I hope is still aiming at, is to get the lads to do their drill. If a lad will not do his drill in the ordinary way, he is made to undergo a period of detention ordered by a magistrate, and during the twenty-one days for which he is detained, he goes through the drill for the year, and some extra drill by way of penalty. But what about the boy who, when under detention, says, “I will not drill”? All that the law has behind it is force, and the penalties for the infraction of any law must in the last resort be enforced. In this case, the penalty is exceedingly humane. It cannot be said that detention and drill - healthy physical exercise - is inhuman. Those who are detained are given a liberal diet, and, in many cases, live in tents. I visited Fremantle to see a lad who was there undergoing detention, and found that he occupied the same quarters as the permanent soldiers, and there are now in the permanent garrison artillery at Fremantle three men who, after they had served a period of detention, enlisted in the regular forces. Evidently they did not consider their treatment inhuman. I do not think any of us would say that a Tad should be confined under the conditions pictured by Senator Rae as those of solitary confinement in our gaols. But there must be some form of punishment. While the Act remains on the statute-book I shall support its proper administration. If we are going to say that the time has arrived when we should not enforce it, then we ought to be honest enough to move at once for its repeal. Its administration, of course, should be characterized by justice, tempered with mercy. Youths should not he treated as criminals. They should not be subjected to treatment calculated to make criminals of them, and solitary confinement of the character referred to by the honorable senator would undoubtedly make criminals of many. I hope that the Minister will make an investigation, and let us know the facts leading up to the sentence and whether the sentence was imposed by court martial.
– It was not.
– I hope that the Minister will let us know by what authority it was carried out, and whether or not the boy was placed in a healthy, well-ventilated cell. If he would not drill, it would have been absurd to allow him to remain with the other boys, and to sit still while they went out to do their drill. The effect would have been demoralizing. The other boys would have said at once: “We have only to say that we will not drill, and we, too, shall be allowed to remain idle.” When this boy refused to drill, he was separated from the other detainees, put in a cell, we are told, and taken out for an hour’s exercise twice a day. Could that be said to be solitary confinement such as takes place under our penal laws? It is something totally different. If honorable senators are going to say that lads who refuse to drill should not be separated from the detainees who are prepared to drill, then they should tell us what ought to be done with them.
– What power should inflict the punishment?
– It should be the civil power; the military authorities should not be permitted to impose it. A boy, having been ordered into detention by a magistrate, the military authorities should not have power to send him into solitary confinement if, while suffering that detention, he refuses to drill. When he refuses to drill, he should be brought once more before the magistrate, and the magistrate, after hearing the facts, should state in open Court what further punishment should be imposed. Those who raise conscientious objections to drill are taking up an attitude reconcilable only with the immediate repeal of the Act. Nothing short of that will satisfy them. I said to those who interviewed m<? on the subject, “ You will agree that it is a good thing that a large section of the community should be trained how to render first aid - how to deal with accidents or cases of sudden sickness. In the ambulance corps that instruction can be given, and where there is conscientious objection, to a lad carrying amis, we a re prepared to train him only in respect of ambulance work in the ambulance corps.” Their reply to that was, “ We object to that just as strongly as we do to the use of arms.”
– It is pure laziness.
– Such an attitude is utterly irreconcilable with the Defence Act. The Act can be reconciled with the views of these people only by wiping it out altogether. Many of the placards which are being circulated all over the country, and also overseas, are being put out by people who take up the attitude I have just detailed. Most of the cases have been exaggerated. I am prepared to go as far as any one in securing the humane treatment of detainees, but whilst the Act is on the statute-book it will have my support. I see no reason for its repeal ; but nothing short of its repeal would satisfy those who are now organizing a campaign against universal service.
– I was anticipated by Senator Pearce, who has just said much that I had intended to put before the Senate. We have to realize that the solitary confinement ordered in these cases is something totally different from that which was so graphically described by Senator Rae.
– Does the honorable senator defend its use in this connexion?
– No. I have had some experience of the attitude which certain persons have taken up towards this Act, as mentioned by Senator Pearce, and of their desire to escape from their duties and obligations. Conscientious objections for refusing to drill are sometimes put forward, and these one has to accept; but I have discovered in certain instances that there has not been anything in the nature of a conscientious objection to the service. I have also discovered, when punishment has followed, that in its quality and character that punishment has been entirely misrepresented. It fell to my lot, on the very first day of the present session, to ask the Minister of Defence if steps would be taken throughout the Commonwealth to coordinate the action of the civil power - that is, the action of the magistrates - where persons were proceeded against for noncompliance with their public responsibilities under the Defence Act. Apart from that, I had been going into the matter with the object of securing the fullest information as to what was taking place in the Commonwealth. I discovered that it had been arranged, by Senator Pearce, I think, that sentences imposed upon youths for non-fulfilment of their obligations as trainees should not be served by them at ordinary gaols or prisons, and that ‘‘detention “ rather than “ imprisonment “ was the proper word to describe their treatment. In Victoria, this detention, I understand, is carried out at Queenscliff.
– It means a trip to the seaside.
– I have heard that said, and have also heard it stated that some of the youths appreciate the detention there.
– Some boys have announced their intention of refraining from doing any drill throughout the year in order that they may do the whole of it at the one time in the detention camp.
– Senator Pearce’s statement that two lads who underwent detention at Fremantle barracks afterwards became members of the permanent Defence Forces goes to bear out that statement. I hope that the Minister will make it abundantly clear that there is nothing in the nature of barbarous treatment or torture such as that referred to by Senator Rae in connexion with any punishment for evasion or alleged evasion of the Defence Act.
.- I do not think that solitary confinement should be meted out to lads for non-compliance with the requirements of the law as to drill. If it has been done, it is a wrong perpetrated by the officers who have sentenced him to this punishment. There is a lot to be said for the argument of Senator Pearce that there should be a special tribunal to deal with these cases. A number of questions have been asked about the interference with the electoral rolls which has resulted in bond fide electors being deprived of the privilege of exercising the franchise. The Government have stated their intention of having a clean roll. I am sure that we are all in favour of a clean roll, but, unfortunately, the Government’s idea and mine as to what constitutes such a roll are very different. Their idea of a clean roll is to leave out as many Labour voters as possible; mine is to give everybody an opportunity of recording a vote at the forthcoming election. It would be very wrong for me to say this if I were not prepared to prove it. I am prepared to prove that in one electorate in New South Wales a candidate at the last election had been a paid canvasser of the Liberal party for, I believe, two years, and is again the selected candidate. He has been in the electorate every day, and his sole duty has been to clean as many names of Labour voters off the roll as possible. He has succeeded to such an extent that it is possible for him to wipe out the deficiency of votes by which he was defeated at the last election. That is grossly unfairand unjust to the people of New South Wales. This is a farming electorate, which the Liberal party think should not be held by Labour, but it has been held by Labour for many years. In it there are a number of men whose duty it is to travel long distances in order to support their wives and families. During their absence, notices have been sent to them to show cause why they should not be struck off the roll. The latter has been unopened by their wives, or perhaps lefti in the boardinghouse, and they have returned from their employment to find themselves too late to appeal against being struck off the roll. I do not think any man with an idea of political honesty or fair dealing would lend himself to that sort of practice, but it has been done with the full knowledge and approval of the Liberal party of New South Wales. Any Government that will hurry on an election, and stand by an organization whose hands are soiled by those practices, deserves the severest censure of the people. The Minister, in giving replies to certain questions, I have no doubt gave them to the best of his ability. He said the police in New South Wales had no instruction but to put people on the rolls who were entitled to vote, and to put off those who were not entitled to vote. I know, as a fact, that the police who called at my house told me that they had instructions only to verify the rolls. They have gone to places that I could name in the city of Sydney, and to one in particular in the electorate of Wentworth, where an unfortunate widow, who is compelled to go out to work to keep her children, has been struck off the roll, although she has been living in the house for a great number of years. She received a notice, and understood it, and had her name placed on the roll as she should be, and yet she had been struck off. These tricks are detrimental to any country, and unworthy of any party.
– They are scoundrelly.
– They are worse than scandalous. There is no doubt that the party behind the Government today have plenty of money to pay these organizers and canvassers to go round and do work of this description, which, in any other place, would be called dirty work. I do not say it is, but I say that the man who would accept payment from any association to do work of this description can never have clean hands. I am sorry to have to draw the attention of the Senate to this scandalous state of affairs, but I have enough faith in the honesty of the Government to believe that, even at this late hour, they will do something to retrieve their lost laurels so far as honest intentions in the administration of the Electoral Act are concerned.
.- I recognise that we have to secure finality in regard to the training of boys and dealing with those who will not train, but I have never been over enthusiastic in regard to military affairs. My experience has been that what ought to be a good and effective system of compulsory training is being made unpopular, not altogether by what is done so much as by some of the terms that are used. For instance, we have had a discussion to-day about solitary confinement. I believe that the bulk of the public and most modern reformers are absolutely against this form of punishment, but the discussion to-day is only another illustration of the fact that we use here expressions which have absolutely no application to the facts. Generally speaking, the boys in Victoria who fail to do their drill have -the opportunity of going to Queenscliff, and it is quite a joke amongst a considerable number of them to talk about their annual seaside trip at the expense of the Government. They rather enjoy it. To show that the administration of the Act generally is too harsh, I will give an instance that came under my own notice. I have a young brother, who grew about a foot last year into a fine type of young Australian. He was provided with a uniform, and continually applied for a new one, but could not get it. The sleeves of the old uniform gradually worked up to his elbows and the trousers to about his knees, and naturally he could not stand what is called the “ chyacking “ of his pals in the regiment. The next thing that happened was that he. went on strike. He became a rebel, and turned up at drill without any uniform at all. Consequently he was faced with the alterantive of putting in two days’ drill at the High School near this building, in lieu of his one day’s drill, or going to Queenscliff. He did his two days, not wanting to be fined, although he was undoubtedly innocent. He simply objected to walking about the streets with his pants up to his knees and his coat sleeves up to his elbows.
– You could have told him that he need not attend drills in uniform.
– He was made to do two days’ drill, and did it in uniform. My idea is that the area officers are not competent to administer the law, or are administering it too harshly, or not using sufficient tact in dealing with the boys. I know that an area officer is not made in a day. I do trust that a general instruction will be given to the Area Officers to use as much tact as possible, and not to strain the law merely to make the boys do certain things. I hope that no system of confinement will be resorted to. We are lacking in intelligence if we cannot devise a reasonable system of punishment. Any confinement to a youth is bad, both mentally and physically. I object to such treatment, and will not give it the slightest support. In the first place, a boy has to put in twenty-one days’ drill. He probably earns from £1 to 25s. a week. That makes the equivalent of a minimum fine of £3. I think that the difficulty can be got over. For instance, if a boy will not do the training outside, let him be detained for double the length of time inside.
– If he will not do it, what then?
– Let him be detained for twice the time. I admit that a monetary fine would be of no use, because the parent of the wealthy boy would simply pay the fine. Take the case of a poor working boy, who says that he has conscientious scruples. If he will not drill, he will not, and that is an end of the matter, as far as he is concerned; but if he were detained inside for double the time, the fine would be equivalent to £5 or £6 in wages. He would lose the time, and the system would not enable the rich boy to get out of his obligation.
– That is to say, you would penalize the State to maintain in idleness a boy who would not do his duty ?
– The State is not a tyrant that is always looking for the last pound of flesh, surely? My conception of the State is that it exists for the purpose of co-operating with the people for their benefit, and I do not think that any citizen desires revenge upon a boy. If revenge is the object of the Minister, give the boy full solitary confinement.
– Who spoke about revenge ?
– The Minister spoke about a twopenny-halfpenny penalty to the State, and said that the State would have to buy for the boy a few loaves of bread. In my opinion, the State would gladly buy the bread. We recognise, of course, that there must be some restraints put on a boy. I desire to ask the Minister a question on another subject as nicely as I can. For a long time Australians have been penalized in regard to certain schools of instruction which they had to go through prior to getting promotion. I understand that a little time ago the Minister informed the Senate that he intended, and very correctly, in my opinion, to abolish these instructional schools, for the purpose of putting the Australians competent to fill the positions on exactly the same footing as the men who have come from the Imperial Forces. The result has been that a number of ambitious Australians, who are duly qualified, have made application rather early, and have been informed that they are not eligible. I understand, too, that in connexion with the impending change there is a possibility that these men will not be eligible for a number of months. Seeing that under the Act the Australians are disqualified, and that it is to meet a temporary difficulty, will the Minister, for the present, refrain, as far as ^possible, from making these appointments, so that eligible Australians will not be merely paying a penalty because they are Australians? I understand that the amending Defence Rill is to be dropped, and I hope that some action may be taken to find a practical way out of the difficulty.
– While the main discussion on this motion has centred round a boy who, according to Senator Rae, has been harshly and outrageously treated at Queenscliff by the military authorities, and whilst the case is important and interesting to all of us, a matter of more serious moment, I think, is to ascertain, if possible, what tho intentions of the Government are in respect to tho printing and publishing of the rolls on which the next elections are to be conducted, and their attitude in regard to the statement in a newspaper to-day that they intend to amend a regulation to prohibit persons from voting as absent voters in the way they did at the last general election. After that event, the Vice-President of the Executive Council made, at Fitzroy, outrageous statements which he afterwards withdrew.
– You are wrong, I never withdrew them.
– The honorable senator says that he did not withdraw the statement that “ they had resurrected the dead,” meaning thereby that the Labour party had resurrected all and sundry to bring about their success by corrupt and dishonest means.
– I never said that.
– If the honorable senator did not say that lie meant it, and he meant nothing else.
– There is nothing in that interjection. A dog could say “ ah “ on dark nights and moonlight nights. The honorable senator made this statement at Fitzroy : “ With clean rolls, fair play, and fine weather, we arc sure to be victorious on the next occasion.” By the term “ clean rolls,” he meant, if he meant anything, that the last rolls were not clean, but corrupt, and that is the impression he has tried to create in the minds of the citizens of Australia ever since that occasion. He sticks to the statement to-day that the last rolls were corrupt.
– That they were inflated.
– That is a toning down of the term used at Fitzroy. All along the honorable senator spoke of “clean rolls.” What does a man mean by “clean” in that sense? He means that the existing rolls are unclean and corrupt.
– I would not call you clean when you bring up these slanders over and over again.
– They will be brought up on every platform I occupy throughout Victoria, because they are slanders on the people of Australia.
– Diabolical slanders.
– The honorable senator withdrew them.
– And then he had the boiler-plated audacity three or four days ago to get up here and try to get out of the difficulty in which he found himself. He said, “ To prove the statement that I made at Fitzroy, I have three cases of dead men being voted on at the last election.” When he was asked to give the names and addresses of the three allegedly dead men he refused then, as he does now, but he fastens the statement on to the Labour party that, although he alleges, and is prepared to prove that the names of three dead men were voted on, these votes were given to and used by the Labour party in order to bring about a victory. Of all the men in the Cabinet I should say that he was the last Minister who should have been picked by the Government to take charge of the Electoral Department. I am satisfied that he is such a violent partisan, and hates and detests Labour to such an extent that he would not stop at anything in order to bring victory to his side.
– It would not matter if he stopped at the truth.
– The honorable senator would not stop at anything. I am absolutely suspicious of him since he has been intrusted with the conduct of the Electoral Department. It is common knowledge that thousands of names have been removed from the roll. It is common knowledge, too, that party organizations have been invited to send in objections to names being on the rolls.
– Who removed the names?
– First the Government have been privy to a contravention of the Act by permitting objections to be lodged against names being on the roll without the deposit of 5s. being lodged.
– Those names had no business to be on the roll, then.
– The Act is clear, definite, and specific that 5s. must be lodged with every objection to the appearance of a name on the roll. The Government have contravened the Act. They have invited party organizations to lodge objections, not against anti-Labour electors, but against Labour electors. In Melbourne there is a Constitutional Union that has been in existence for a considerable time, and has made special appeals to its financial friends–
– In and out of Australia.
– Yes, they have appealed to their financial friends in and out of Australia, and have been enabled to build up such a fund that they have, from time to time, employed armies of men and women to do nothing else but go to the doors of houses, ascertain who lives there, and how long they have been living there. They do not inquire where people have gone when they find that they have changed their residence, but at once lodge an objection to the appearance of their names on the roll.
– That is under the Act which honorable senators opposite passed, and of which they are so proud.
– The Act makes it mandatory upon any person lodging an objection to a name on an electoral roll to deposit 5s. with his objection.
– The Act makes it mandatory that if a person leaves his place of residence for a month, his name must go off the roll.
– The Act provides that a man who removes from one part of an electorate to another must, after a month has expired, make application for a transfer; but the organizations to which I have referred do not wait for that. There are many men who follow migratory occupations, and are away from their homes for three or four weeks, and sometimes for months. It was never intended that the Act should apply to them, and that they should be called upon to make application” for transfers in every electorate to which they go for employment. What I am concerned about is that the coming elections will not be contested on the old rolls. There are new rolls in course of preparation. Many of them are in the hands of the Government Printers of the different States. I want an assurance from the Government that, when the new rolls are printed, they will be open for inspection for at least three or four weeks, in order that the thousands of people whose names have been removed from the old rolls will have an opportunity of seeing whether they are to be disfranchised or not.
– The Opposition have command of the Senate, and can see that that is done. ,
– People who inspect the old rolls, and find their names on them, have no guarantee that they will not be disfranchised on the day of election. If it is found that they are disfranchised on the day of election, those responsible for it will go down politically; but it will be too late to deal with them at the coming contest. The Government should be as anxious as are the Opposition that every citizen of Australia over the age of twenty-one years, and outside the walls of a gaol or lunatic asylum, shall have an opportunity to record a vote at the coming elections. That should be the desire of every fair-minded man on either side in this chamber.
– I said that to-day myself.
– But what is the honorable senator doing? He is indirectly assisting party organizations that are not concerned about having every citizen ‘enfranchised, but are concerned about having every citizen who is not of their political faith, and is not disposed to vote their way, disfranchised. In order that people whose names have been wrongfully and, I say, illegally, removed from the rolls-
– There are thousands of them.
– The honorable senator will make the number millions before lie is done.
– We know that over 3,000 names have been removed from the rolls for one portion of the Ballarat division alone.
– Does the honorable senator say that they have been illegally removed ?
– I do not know anything about Ballarat, but I know that money galore has been spent in Ballarat for some time past, and was spent there at the last Federal election.
– The honorable senator ought to know, because it was his party that spent it.
– Our party have never had any money to spend for dishonest purposes, and, as compared with the Liberal party, they are comparatively poor.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is it dishonest to canvass for votes?
– It is dishonest, according to the Electoral Act, for can didates to spend more than a certain amount upon their candidature, and it is as certain as that night follows day that more than the amount fixed by the Act was spent in Ballarat at tlie last election. It is impossible to get an army of men and women to work for the so-called Liberals unless they are paid, and well paid, and it is equally impossible to have a hundred and one motor-cars running here, there, and everywhere without making some recompense to the people who supply those cars. I am not concerned with that for the moment, but with the state of the rolls. I wish to get from the Government a definite statement that the citizens of Australia will be given the fullest opportunity to record their votes. I want to get from them a promise that when the rolls are printed every citizen shall have an opportunity to see whether his name is on the newly-printed rolls, and if it is not, shall be given an opportunity to become enfranchised. When the attention of the Leader of the Government was called to a proposal to amend a certain regulation to prohibit absent voting he said that the Government had the matter under consideration, and he would later inform honorable members in another place of the intentions of the Government in respect to that regulation. I am not so much concerned as to how honorable members in another place will be informed, but I wish Senator Millen, as Leader of the Government in this Chamber, to make a definite statement that the Government will submit the amended regulation to Parliament.
– Whilst Parliament is sitting; we want no trickery afterwards.
– Yes’, whilst Parliament is sitting, so that we may have an opportunity if we consider it necessary to disallow the amended regulation. Having mentioned these few points, I hope that the Minister of Defence will do me the courtesy of replying to them.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.55].- I am sure that honorable senators’ agree with Senator Findley that every person who is entitled to a vote should have an opportunity of ascertaining whether his name is on the roll or not. I am satisfied that every member of the Government is desirous that that should be so. Whatever our political opinions may be, we all recognise that, under our electoral system, the majority of the people have the right to say what the policy of the country shall be.
– That is denied by the double dissolution. The majority on one side have to go out to please the minority on the other side.
– The double dissolution will give the people an opportunity to say whether the Cook party should be returned with a majority or with a minority.
– If the people are on the rolls.
– It is the duty of every member of either House to be prepared to go before the electors whenever the emergency arises. We know perfectly well that Parliament is absolutely unworkable. I quite agree with the statement that every elector should be afforded an opportunity of recording his vote, and every adult should have a chance of seeing that his or her name is upon the roll. But as the law renders it incumbent upon every man and woman in the community to become enrolled, it is obviously his or her duty to look after his or her interests in that respect. If an objection be lodged to any person’s name appearing on the roll, a notice is forwarded to him.
– Very often he does not get it.
– A bitter attack has been made upon the Vice-President of the Executive Council by Senator Findley. Over and over again he has made a similar attack-
– His statement is true, and the honorable senator knows it. It is the honorable senator’s villainous organizers that do the mischief, and the honorable senator winks at them while they take his money.
– I must ask honorable senators to maintain order. Senator Gould has a right to be heard in silence. Of course, there is no objection to reasonable interjections, but during the honorable senator’s speech there have been far too many interjections.
– I have no objection to reasonable interjections, but it is playing the game very low down when an interjector says that an honorable senator is stating what is a lie, and that he knows it. I give the lie back to Senator Rae.
– I did not hear Senator Rae say what the honorable senator has attributed to him; otherwise I would have ordered him to withdraw it. If Senator Rae did make a statement of that sort I ask him to withdraw it.
– I did not make it. I did not impute untruthfulness to Senator Gould. I merely said that the statement of Senator Findley was true, that Senator Gould knew it, and that it was the Liberal party’s villainous organizers, who take that party’s money, who do the mischief.
– As Senator Gould said that he gave the lie back to Senator Rae, I must ask him to withdraw that statement.
– Of course, after the explanation by Senator Rae I withdraw it. I was under the impression that Senator Rae made the statement which I attributed to him. When an attack is being made on the Minister in control of the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department, an imputation is cast upon every officer of that branch. How can the VicePresident of the Executive Council take the name of any man off, or put the name of any man on, the roll ?
– We do not blame the Minister.
– Senator Findley has attacked the Vice-President of the Executive Council over and over again on this matter. When he does that, I submit that he is attacking the Electoral Officers and every one connected with the administration of the law.
– Oh, no; I have at very good opinion of the Electoral Officers.
– If that be so, I ask why the honorable senator attacks the Minister who has no power under the law unless he has power to corrupt the electoral officials 1
– He was not a Minister when he made the statement.
– I do not care for that. He is a Minister to-day. When Senator Findley attacks the Vice-President of the Executive Council he exhibits a gross desire to injure him politically, or else - but I do not like to put the alternative. When honorable senators opposite do not respect their opponents, they do not respect themselves. When an honorable senator charges the Minister with corruption it is his duty to prove the truth of his charge. If Senator Findley’s statement in regard to the Vice-President of the Executive Council be true, every Commonwealth officer holding an important position must have allowed himself to be corrupted.
– It is the corrupt organisations behind the honorable senator’s party of which we complain.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - If there be corrupt organizations which advocate either Liberal or Labour principles, is the Minister to be blamed for that? He is not responsible for it.
– He is if he accepts their help.
– I say that those who are guilty of corrupt practices should be prosecuted. Let us suppose that a candidate offers his services to the electors. Naturally he has his friends, and his party, who desire to accord him all the support that is possible. Is the Minister to run roundthe country and say, “I want to know how you are managing this organization. I want to assure myself that everything is all right.”
– The honorable senator was making a stalking horse of the Minister just now.
.- Senator Findley has attacked Senator McColl again and again, and only to-day he declared that he intends to make a similar attack from every public platform on which he speaks. I say that that is a politically dishonest trick.
– Has not the Minister been placed in charge of the Electoral Office?
– Is he not responsible for the work done there?
– He is responsible for the administration of the Electoral Office so far as the control has been placed in his hands. But seeing that that control has been taken out of his hands, Senator
Findley can only attack the Commonwealth electoral officers.
– Senator McColl has been placed by the Cabinet in sole charge of the Electoral Branch, and he should, therefore, be held responsible for its administration.
.- If the Vice-President of the Executive Council knows that the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth has been corrupt or dishonest, the former is responsible if he does not take action.
– Nobody says that the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth has been corrupt.
– Exactly. The whole of my honorable friends opposite will repudiate any charge against the electoral officers, and yet they will make accusations against the Minister. In regard to taking names off the roll, we know perfectly well that it is the duty of the electoral officers to see thatthere are pure rolls - that is, rolls which are not unduly inflated. A roll is not clean unless it contains the name of every individual who is entitled to vote. It is not clean if it contains the names of persons who are not entitled to vote. Of course, duplications will always occur, and mistakes will always be made in regard to striking off names. But the Electoral Act provides that when an elector changes his residence it is his duty within a month of so doing to obtain a transfer. Of course, if a man follows a migratory occupation, and thus has occasion to leave his wife and family for several weeks, or even months, there is no necessity for him to obtain a transfer. In such circumstances, he should vote in the electorate in which his home is located. I should like to say one or two words in regard to the detention of cadets. I am very glad to know that the picture Senator Rae drew of the horrors of solitary detention docs not apply in any respect whatever to these cadets. And while it is all very well to make attacks and complaints, there is a difficulty, as has been pointed out by the present Minister of Defence and the exMinister of Defence, in making people observe the law if they are disinclined to do so. There must be some sort of punishment. Senator McDougall spoke as if an enormity had been perpetrated in the case of these cadets. But the honorable senator did not state how we are to enforce the law. It is easy to find fault, but when we pass a law we must take steps to see that it is observed.
– You need not torture people.
– Does the honorable senator say that these cadets are tortured ?
– I say that solitary confinement is torture.
– If the punishment were mere isolation, would the honorable senator say that that was torture? If we were to say that we would not allow one lad to mix with other lads for seven days, would that be torture ? It will be seen from all that has been said in this discussion that these boys are simply detached from others; they are kept in a well-lit cell; are given meat five times a week, and they are given very liberal rations in all other respects. That is the only thing that is done to these boys in order to punish them for not observing the law. It may be that a boy thinks that his military service is a mere bagatelle, and does not care anything about it. It has been said that before separate treatment is ordered a boy should be again brought before a magistrate. I do ask honorable senators to realize that there must be some authority to deal with these matters rapidly and expeditiously. It might be possible to have a magistrate brought in to hear the case against the boy, but even that would not suit honorable senators, because they want all such cases to be heard in open Court. It is better for the boys themselves when they disobey instructions, and refuse to fulfil their duties, that there should be some person responsible for meting out such punishment as will be commensurate with the offence, and will tend to correct it as far as possible.I suppose the Commandant determines these matters, and he would surely take care that he was not acting unfairly towards the boys. In any case, there is always the right of appeal to the Minister in the event of anything unfair taking place, and, until an abuse has been shown to have been committed, why should not that right of appeal be sufficient? I think that Senator Rae made a mountain out ofa molehill. He allowed his mind to dwell too much on what solitary con finement means in an ordinary criminal gaol, and he was under the further disadvantage of speaking of conditions which obtained many years ago. Since then many reforms have been effected in all our gaols. Whilst I approve of Senator Rae’s endeavour to make the punishment less severe, and certainly to prevent it being harmful to a boy’s body or mind, I deprecate these matters being brought up in this way when they could be dealt with either by correspondence or by personal interview. Then, if the Minister would not do anything, the honorable gentleman would be doing right in bringing them forward in this Chamber. If that course is not followed, I do say that it would be more conducive to the dignity of the Senate to allow these complaints to be dealt with outside.
.- Senator Gould asked Senator Rae this afternoon, “Do you blame the Minister for what has taken place in connexion with the electoral rolls?” I do blame a Minister. I blame the AttorneyGeneral for having made a statement in another place which practically amounted to an invitation to outside organizations - which may or may not be corrupt - to enter objections to names on the rolls, with a view to getting them removed, arid with the understanding that theAttorneyGeneral would wink at and connive at the breaking of the law.
– And he speaks for the Government.
– Yes, he speaks for the Government. The law lays it down that a deposit of 5s. shall be paid in connexion with each objection.
– The law makes the Chief Electoral Officer responsible, not the Minister.
– I am not to be drawn from my statement by a red herring of that description. My charge is, that a member of the Government gave this broadcast invitation some months ago to organizations to object to names on the rolls, and said that the organizations would not be asked to deposit the 5s. which, the Act provides, may be forfeited if an objection is found to be frivolous. It is an outrageous thing that any member of a Government should make a state- ment which practically means that he is willing to allow the law to be broken. For what reason? Is it for party purposes or not?
– Whatever it is for, the same course is open to both sides.
– That does not do away with the gravity of the charge.
– It was stated in sworn evidence before the Select Committee that the section referring to the deposit is practically a dead letter.
– And it was made a dead letter practically at the invitation of the Attorney-General. It was nothing short of a scandal that the AttorneyGeneral, tlie responsible legal adviser of the Government, should have issued such an invitation to outside organizations, and that he should have told them that they would not be asked to make the deposit. Why did not the Attorney-General and the Government have the courage to proceed with the Bill which they first introduced into another place ? And why have they not the courage to make a definite proposal in a Bill to do away with this deposit, and see if they can get that measure through both Houses of Parliament? Because they know they could not do it. I blame, not the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but the AttorneyGeneral, who is supposed to be the actual, although not the nominal, head of the Government. I desire to call attention to a reply I had from the Minister of Defence this afternoon. I asked Senator Millen if it was intended to give the Senate an opportunity of voting on the regulation, which, it is said, is to be made in connexion with absentee voting at the coming election. I was not satisfied with the answer I received, nor do I think any honorable senator was satisfied. Senator Millen said that the Senate would be informed of what it was intended to do; but this Chamber and the country have a right to know, and will know, something about the regulation which the Government intend to frame, in order to practically kill absentee voting. That is what it means. According to the evidence given by Mr. Oldham, the Chief Electoral Officer, if that regulation is framed, the provisions for absentee voting might as well be wiped out altogether. Here is
Mr. Oldham’s evidence before the Select Committee of the Senate -
I fear that there will always be difficulties under the existing absent voting system, but I think that the right to vote at any polling place, subject to regulations, is of the greatest possible advantage to the community, and that it ought not to bo withdrawn. I think a method can bc devised which would be more satisfactory to the Department, whilst at the same time giving the electors greater security than does the present one. I refer to the system of requiring the elector who desires to vote as an absent voter to make application for his form of declaration and ballot-paper after the issue of the writ and prior to the day of polling.
If that system comes into effect we might as well sweep away the absentee vote for all the use it will be in regard to allowing electors who are travelling to exercise their franchise. The very spirit of the absentee vote is that the man who is travelling, who has to leave his place of residence suddenly, and finds himself on the clay of election in another part of the country, may be able to record his vote. He may have to leave his district only a day prior to the election. If we are going to change the existing system and bring in one providing that a man who is travelling must carry with him a certificate issued by the Returning Officer, it will take away from more than half the absent electors the right to exercise the franchise on the day of election. How many thousands are there in Australia every day of the year who are travelling, wl to, perhaps, are suddenly called upon to leave their districts, and have not the opportunity to go to Returning Officers and get absent voting certificates? Wc should have the absentee vote in a form which will be. of some use to absent voters or not have it at all; and if Mr. Oldham’s evidence is to be accepted as an indication of ‘the intention of the Ministry in this regard the Senate should demand that the new regulation be laid on the table, so that honorable senators may discuss it, and see what effect it will actually have. Mr. Oldham’s evidence continues -
He could bc required to make his application in writing, and to have his signature duly attested. The Divisional Returning Officer would then, subject to regulations, issue the ballot-paper and declaration, and file the application for future reference. The elector could walk into any booth outside his own subdivision, exhibit his ballot-papers in blank, make his declaration, and vote as an absent voter in the ordinary way.
We must not lose sight of the central fact that the elector will need to have his voting paper with him. The absent voting provisions were not put in the Electoral Act with that idea. The idea was that electors who on election day find themselves away from the subdivisions for which they were enrolled should be able to record their votes. What is there wrong in that system? Despite all the talk about corruption and irregularities at the last election, nothing has been proved, practically speaking.
– It was the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that no objection was lodged against the return of a successful candidate.
– We have not heard or read of a large number of prosecutions against persons for having used the absent voting provision corruptly. What is wrong about an elector away from his subdivision who wishes to vote being able to walk into the nearest polling booth on election day, and record his rote ? Tlie idea at the back of the provision when it was adopted was that if circumstances suddenly arose which took an elector away from his subdivision, he was to have every facility to record his vote; but if we can accept the statement in the newspapers, the Government intend to alter this provision. If the alteration is on the lines laid down in Mr. Oldham’s evidence, the Government are seeking to take away from the absent voters a facility which they had at the last election, and a facility which they should have, and without which the absent voting provision is practically null and void.
.- All honorable senators were interested in the special pleading of Sir Albert Gould on behalf of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is charged with the administration of the electoral laws of the Commonwealth. The honorable senator set up an entirely new doctrine - that a Minister in this chamber must be free from criticism of a fair and open character such as that levelled at him by Senator Findley.
– It was not fair. Senator McColl. - It was blackguardism.
– It was a vicious personal attack.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council has re ferred to Senator Findley’s criticism a9 “ blackguardism.” I ask that the word be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it.
– I draw attention to the remark of Senator Millen. I think that the words “ vicious personal attack “ should be withdrawn.
– I am not prepared to rule that those words are not quite parliamentary, but if Senator Findley considers them as personally offensive, the usual course is to ask that they should be withdrawn.
– I do not consider the words offensive, but I wish to ask whether, during the time I was speaking, I was out of order in my criticism?
– The honorable senator is not entitled to ask such a question. If his remarks were not in order, I would have called him to order.
– As I understood Senator Findley, his earlier remarks, which might be termed bitter, were directed at the Honorary Minister during the time that he was a candidate.
– Subsequent to his election, Senator McColl made some very unfair statements regarding the electoral system, and the possibilities of action by the Labour party in consequence of their having charge of the electoral system for so long. However, Sir Albert Gould very skilfully - and very unfairly - turned the charge or attack from the Minister to the electoral officers. Senator Findley’s remarks could not have had any such construction placed on them.
– I never intended it. I have every respect for the electoral officers.
– And so has every member of the party, and, I hope, every honorable senator. Senator Findley distinctly made it clear that the striking of names off the rolls was invited by the AttorneyGeneral, and by prominent members of the Liberal party, and was entirely the idea of people who are interested from a party point of view, and over whom the electoral officers never had, or ever can hope to have, any control.
– Who takes off the names ?
– Gentlemen who are constantly in your pay ; who are sent from door to door to make the necessary inquiries, and then lodge an objection - and not in the manner prescribed by section 41.
– Do not wander all over the compass. Who takes off the names 1
– I am not wandering all over the compass. I make the direct reply that organizers in your permanent pay-
– Do you say that they take off the names ?
– They go from door to door.
– But who takes off the names?
– Just a moment. I cannot give you an answer as direct as you would like it.
– You do not- like it.
– I do like it. Do not be sarcastic. You have been treated with a lot of consideration in this chamber.
– Not from you.
– The honorable senator must address the Chair.
– Objections are sent in without the fee as required under section 41 of the Electoral Act of 1902; and I wish to know whether any officer of the Department has power to abrogate that section t
– Answer my question - who takes the names off the roll ?
– The officer does it illegally, on instructions from the Government.
– lt is obvious that the names are supplied to the Department by interested persons. The actual operation of striking the names off the roll is, of course, performed by an officer of the Department, and without any desire or thought of doing anything unfair or unjust. These objections are lodged too skilfully to give an officer the opportunity to judge as to their fairness or otherwise.
– The honorable senator means to say that the officer acts without any inquiry.
– The officer does it. A notice of objection may be sent to the address of a man who is 150 miles away from that address, and has not the chance to attend to answer; and I do not see how an officer of the Department can be accused of doing anything wrong, in removing the name or names, seeing that he is bound to remove the names when, according to his judgment, the Act has been complied with. The Minister ought to accept the responsibility; and I ask by whose authority this section of the Act has been violated - by what right have objections been lodged without the 5s. fee ? I hold the view, which I give for what it is worth, that every such objection is absolutely invalid, and that the person objected to is entitled to vote. Notwithstanding the special pleading of Senator Gould, the Vice-President of the Executive Council cannot shield himself under a charge, levelled against Senator Findley, of making a “ vicious personal attack.” The Vice-President of the Executive Council has accepted the responsibility, serious and grave as it may be, of administering the Act, and he ought to take full responsibility for that administration instead of trying to place the responsibility on the officials of the Department.
– Who has done that?
– The honorable senator has, and also the honorable senator who leads him.
– Have I done that?
– The honorable senator has, indirectly.
– I am sorry that the rules of the Senate will not permit me to characterize that statement as it ought to be. characterized.
– The honorable senator is at liberty to characterize the statement as he chooses. Wc are quite used to the vulgar statements that have been hurled at honorable senators on this side by both the Vice-President of the Executive Council and the gentleman who leads him, and one or two more will not make much difference.
– That is a bullying and insolent attitude!
– I can afford to ignore utterances which are more vulgar and rude than logical, and address myself to the Minister more immediately concerned, who accused Senator Findley of making statements which amount to a charge against the Government official of corrupt practices, while, as a matter of fact, Senator Findley had no idea of any such thing.
– I know the officers too well for that.
– It was only the desire of the Vice-President of the Executive
Council to shift the responsibility on to his officers which induced him to make what I consider a mean statement. I have only now to say that this Chamber should insist on being put into possession of the regulation, an outline of which is published in the press of to-day. If any attempt is made to interfere with the conditions of absentee voting, there must be safeguards that will not impose disabilities on electors in any part of Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 till 8 p.m.
– Senator Russell this afternoon brought up the pathetic case of a brother of his who grew about 12 inches in the course of a year. This was an excellent performance, and the honorable senator must not be surprised if it has outstripped the regulations. I know of no regulation so elastic as to keep pace with a youth who grows an inch per month. Even here Senator Russell did not quite state the whole case. There has been in the Department a very laudable practice of serving out uniforms to cadets only at certain intervals, and I suppose it never entered the heads of those who framed the regulations to have a special one for abnormal cases. I suppose young Russell grew faster than the time allowed to him to be entitled to a new uniform. Until quite lately new uniforms were issued once in two years, but it was found in quite a number of cases that even this was an unnecessary issue, as the boys used them so little that, except where they grew out of them, the uniforms were still quite good. The whole of the difficulty in this case has arisen because the conditions were entirely abnormal. I am rather surprised that Cadet Russell, having a brother a senator, did not think of the simple expedient of a note to head-quarters to draw attention to the extraordinary position in which he was placed. If that had been done I have no doubt the difficulty would have been remedied.
– He dared not do it.
– That is not so. There is scarcely a member of this Chamber who has not brought matters before me in my capacity as Minister, and I am sure that no exception has been taken by myself or any of my predecessors. Senator Russell also drew attention to one portion of the Defence Act, repre senting a disability on Australian officers seeking to join the Instructional Staff. Non-commissioned officers are required under the Act as it now stands to go through a course of education at a school of instruction before they can be appointed to the Instructional Staff, while a British officer, upon satisfying the Chief of the General Staff of his qualifications, can be appointed without going through the school of instruction. That is the law which many honorable senators helped to pass in 1910, and no fault can be found with me if the disability is there. I am not responsible for it, but it frequently ties my hands, to my disappointment, in making these appointments.
– Why not put a Bill through to alter it?
– I informed the Senate last week that in the small Bill which I was submitting I was seeking to remedy what I regarded as an injustice to Australian officers. Senator de Largie made some reference to the fact that Sir John Forrest was drawing a pension from the Imperial authorities while receiving a salary as a Minister of the Crown for the Commonwealth.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said he was drawing it from the Western Australian Government all the time that he was out of office, but not during the time that he was in office.
– The explanation of the actual facts has been so often offered that I was surprised at Senator de Largie repeating the statement. Sir John Forrest received a pension from the State Government only when not in office in the Commonwealth.
– He drew it for the three years while out of office.
– He was entitled to it.
– I am not saying that he was not. I simply suggested a better way of spending the money.
– Charity begins at home ; and if Senator de Largie wants to be charitable, a little example is a long way better than precept. If he contributed some part of his own emolument for the purpose he has in view, his suggestions to Sir John Forrest would have a great deal more weight.
– Pass me a pension of £500 a year, and I will do so.
– I should be the first to vote the honorable senator a pension if I thought himworthy of it ; but I see around me many others, including myself, much more entitled to it. Senator Needham brought up the question of the absence of Ministers from the presentation of the Address by you, sir, to the Governor-General to-day, and suggested that it might have been because Ministers were busy. I do not want to shield myself behind that excuse. I stayed away deliberately; but not out of want of respect for yourself, the Governor-General, or the Senate as an institution. The Senate, in the exercise of its undoubted right, attached to the Address-in-Reply a vote of censure on the Government, of which I am a member. I took no exception to its action in that regard.
– You did. You refused to move the ordinary formal motion.
– Undoubtedly ; but I did not challenge the right of the Senate to do what it had done. I said I could not be made a party to it. When I concede to Senator Needham the right to express his opinions in any way open’ to him, he must allow me the right to. dissociate myself from such an expression of opinion. I should have been in a false position if I had assisted to present to the Governor-General an Address in a portion of which I did not believe.
– Would you answer the case raised in regard to the amendment you yourself moved in the first Parliament ?
– There was no case. The Senate, in its want of wisdom, did not adopt my amendment. If it had, I should certainly have been there to help in presenting it.
– You resented the right of the Senate to move this amendment when you refused to move the formal motion for presentation.
– I did not. I said that the Senate, having decided to take a course with which I did not agree, could not fairly ask me to take any action to further that course.
– It was your duty as Leader of the Senate to do so.
– I did not think that I was bound, as Leader of the Senate, to assist to pass a vote of censure on myself, who was so little entitled to censure. With regard to the case of Cadet Roberts, I take no exception to the frequent expressions of sympathy we have heard today; but it is a little marvellous to me; that these sympathetic gentlemen had no sympathy during the last three years for any other cadet similarly placed. It is only now when, apparently, their friends are not in office, and when, perhaps, the shadow of a pending event is beginningto? stimulate their sympathy, that they come forward and occupy the time of the Senate to show how brutal they think the treatment meted out to Cadet Roberts.
– That is not fair. No case of solitary confinement was brought under my notice till recently.
– Several cases happened before I came into the Department, and I do. not remember that Senator Rae, Senator Gardiner, or Senator McDougall drew attention to them.
– Solitary confinement?
– I never heard of them.
– Then the honorable senator is not the careful and consistent newspaper reader that I thought he was. There were two or three cases placarded throughout Australia and throughout a large portion of Great Britain. There was a case in South Australia of two brothers named Size, and the case of a cadet named Yeo, at Broken Hill.
– Did they get solitary confinement ?
– I brought Yeo’s case up here.
– Yeo had been fined and imprisoned before I took office. It was only when he made his second appearance while I was Minister that Senator Rae found out anything about him. He was imprisoned in 1912, when Senator Pearce was Minister, and was in exactly the same position as I found him in when I came into the Department.
– The boys in South Australia were only confined in the Glanville Port in the same quarters as the caretaker. That was not solitary confinement.
– I cannot say whether the quarters in every case are of the same structure, because, as Senator Pearce pointed out, to meet cases of detention use is frequently made of existing buildings, which naturally vary considerably. I take no exception to these matters being brought up, but I point out that I have not introduced any new system, and therefore am not entitled to condemnation. All I have done has been to carry out the same system as I found in vogue when I took office, with the exception that I have made the rations a little more liberal to the boys who are awarded this punishment.
– Is this punishment what is understood as solitary confinement in ordinary penal establishments ?
– No. I propose to take action with regard to two points. One has reference to the statement made by Senator Rae, that a court martial was held with regard to Roberts. My information does not square with this, but in view of Senator Rae’s definite statement I propose to telegraph immediately in the morning to ascertain what really did happen.
– If it was not technically a court martial, but a trial by military officers, will that be taken into account?
– If two or three officers met together, and adjudicated in the case, I should regard that as fulfilling the honorable senator’s statement with regard to a court martial. I will place the result of my inquiries before the House. If an irregularity has been committed I am anxious to prevent its repetition. If any unnecessary hardship has been inflicted I shall do my best to see that it is not repeated, so as to prevent any possible complaint either in this chamber or outside. Let me now turn to many of the statements about the Electoral Office. We have heard some very wild statements here - so wild that I really must express surprise that they were uttered in this chamber, familiar as it is with statements which are not always moderate.
– Complaints are general in every State.
– I know that, but I think that there is an obligation upon honorable senators professing only a common desire to see that we have a reasonably efficient electoral system to give proof, which will enable us either to rebut the charges, or if a wrong has been done to sheet it home to the responsible individual.
– That is what you ought to do instead of insulting senators.
– I am not conscious of having insulted any honorable senator. If the honorable senator will continually thrust himself forward with remarks addressed to me, which are not conducive to an amiable frame of mind on my part, he must not be surprised if, in my humble way, I venture a retort.
– You should not complain if you get one, either.
– The honorable senator has never heard me complain very much about it.
– Yes, you do; you carry it outside the chamber, which is more regrettable.
– Order !
– Senator McDougall made a statement which I took down at the moment. He said that instructions had been given to wipe out as many Labour voters as possible. I want to know by whom the instructions were given and by whom they were received?
– The Attorney-General’s statement was an invitation.
– I do not want to be drawn off the track. Here is one definite statement which a responsible senator makes, and it is that instructions had been given to wipe out as many Labour voters as possible. When a member of the Senate makes a serious statement of that kind, and one so clear in its terms, it is fair to ask him, for his own reputation, and in order that we maymeet the charge, if true, to give us the particulars, to say by whom the instructionswere issued, and who received them.
– Are you aware of what was done at St. Arnaud and Euroa ?
– Let me deal with one thing at a time.
– I will give you specific charges.
– I do not mind Senator Russell. I will take all my honorable friends one by one. I intend to follow these statements down as they have been made here this afternoon. Senator Russell comes in now, because he wants to draw me away from pressing this point. Before Senator McDougall can expect me or anybody else to fairly attempt to answer his statement, I have a right to ask him to give me proof as to who gave the instructions, by whom the instructions were received, and if any one is acting on them?
– I told you in my speech.
– The honorable senator did not say who gave the instructions. Let us know who received them ?
– I told you.
– The honorable senator told me?
– Read the speech.
– No. The honorable senator made that statement, and went on to say what a policeman had told him in his house that his business there was not to put names on the roll but to verify the list. That does not in any way support the statement that instructions had been given to wipe off Labour voters.
– Can you deny that it is being done wholesale ?
– Yes, I can. Those who make the charge ought to give us the evidence on which the charge rests.
– I will give it outside, when I get on the platform.
– The honorable senator makes the statement here, and he will go on the platform and repeat it when I am not there to ask him for his proof.
– I will give you proof of Labour voters being struck off without receiving notice.
– I will take that point later. I do not intend to be drawn away from the statement of Senator McDougall that instructions have been given to wipe off as many Labour voters as possible. I do not hesitate to say that neither the honorable senator nor anybody else can bring forward facts to justify a statement of the kind.
– I will bring them.
– The honorable senator ought to bring the facts forward in the Senate, where the statement was made, so that we can see whether it is true or not. Let me pass on to other statements.
– What satisfaction have we received regarding our complaints as to the proceedings at St. Arnaud and Euroa, where the Registrars would not take objections from Labour men?
– The honorable senator can have, in regard to any statement he likes to bring forward, the same challenge that I am making to Senator McDougall. All that I want to bring out is that these statements are being made with the object of creating in. the public mind the idea that there is some sort of conspiracy and corruption going on. The statement is applauded here, and Senator Findley does not deny that he is trying to create the impression that something corrupt and wrong is going on. I have a perfect right to ask honorable senators who make these statements to bring forward the proof in order, if they have the proof, that we may be convicted, or, on the other hand, to give us the opportunity to which we are entitled of inquiring into these things and seeing what is going on. Let me take another statement.
-i was up at Moonta last Monday, when a case was brought under my notice.
– Before the honorable senator proceeds further, I wish to ask whether it is a case justifying the statement that instructions have been given to wipe off as many Labour voters as possible?
– I do not think that.
– As no one ventures to deal with that point, I will take the next one.
– Yes, I do.
– Give me the evidence then.
– The evidence is that the Attorney-General, in asking for a contravention of the law, is inviting it to be done, and the organizations which support your party are backing him up.
– Are you satisfied now ?
– No, I want to know where the proof is. I ask Senator McDougall, whom I have invariably found fair-minded in spite of our differences of opinion, to recognise that there is a responsibility upon him to come forward and support the statement he made with the evidence which induced himto make it.
– I will get it.
– I am satisfied when the honorable senator says that he will find the evidence. When it is brought forward I shall have a very great deal of pleasure in looking into it, and will bring the matter up in the Senate.
SenatorRussell. - I am not satisfied as to who gave the instructions to refuse objections from Labour men at St. Arnaud and Euroa.
– First of all, I do not know that such instructions were given. If the honorable senator will state definitely that instructions were given to the officials at those polling places that Labour voters were not to be enrolled-
SenatorRussell. - Do not twist my statement.
– What is it that the honorable senator is stating?
– I said that the electoral registrars there received objections from: the Liberal organizers and refused to receive them from Labour men.
– This is another statement, and we are to assume that the registrar received objections from Liberal men because they were Liberals, and refused to receive them from Labour representatives because theywere Labour ?
– That is a definite statement, which I shall consider it my duty tohave looked into. It is the one definite statement which I have got so far out of this debate. Let me get on to a statement made by Senator Findley. When he was dealing with the question of taking names off the roll, I asked who was taking them off, and he replied “ the officer does it with instructions from the Government.”
– Hear, hear!
– There is a dis tinct statement here that an officer - one officer will be sufficient, though presumably there are more - is taking names off the roll under instructions from the Government.
– Without lodging the 5s. required by the Act.
– That is not the point.
– That is my point; and I hope that the Minister will not twist it.
– Let me quote the honorable senator’s own words. When I asked, “Who takes the names off the roll?” - not who lodged objections to names on the roll - he said, “the officer does it, with instructions from the Government.”
– By violating the Act.
– The statement was that names were taken off the roll, not that objections were lodged in violation of the Act, by an officer of the Department, because of instructions he had received from the Government.
– Hear, hear!
– That is an absolute libel.
– Without the deposit of 5s., as specified by the Act.
– That has nothing to do with the matter.
– The deposit of 5s. has all to do with an inquiry after lodging an objection ; but it has nothing to do with taking names off the roll.
-They must lodge 5s. with every objection.
– I challenge the honorable senator to find me a single case where the Government have given an instruction to any officer to take a name off the roll.
– The AttorneyGeneral
– I go further and challenge the honorable senator to find an officer who has taken a name off the roll because of any instructions.
– The Government gave that invitation broadcast.
– The invitation to which the honorable senator refers was not one to take names off the roll, which, he alleges, was done under instructions; but it was an invitation to all and sundry to furnish to the Electoral Officer information on which he could institute inquiries.
– And make an objection without the deposit of 5s., as provided by law.
– What has that to do with taking a name off the roll?
– It has this to do with it, that your Government are deliberately breaking the law.
– I admire the ingenuity of my honorable friends. When any person goes to an Electoral Officer and hands in the name of some one which, he thinks, ought to be removed, that is one act in itself.
SenatorNeedham. - Should he not pay 5s. with the objection?
– Suppose, for the sake of argument, I admit that he should, what happens? That does not at all influence the assertion made by Senator Findley that names were taken off, not because of objections lodged, but because of instructions from the Government.
– Hear, hear! Without the 5s. deposit.
– The Government gave no instructions to any officer to remove any names from the roll, either with or without the 5s.
– Who said they did?
– Senator Findley did. Senator Long made the statement that the officer does this thing without an inquiry. I cannot say whether he does or does not, because I do not know what every officer does.
– I deny that absolutely.
– Does the honorable senator deny that he made that statement?
– I rise in explanation. The Minister pressed me on that point, and I said that, if an objection is lodged against a person who has left a district, and who is several hundred miles away, a notice of the objection is sent to that person, that the person never gets the notice, and, consequently, the objection stands good, and the official in the Department has no option but to remove that name from the roll. That is what I said.
– Very well . All that I want to say is that the statement is wrong.
– The honorable senator should accept the statement of Senator Long.
– I do accept the statement of the honorable senator, and believe that he made it in good faith; but I wish to say that it is absolutely wrong. His statement now is, as I understand it, that if an objection is lodged with an electoral officer, and there is no appearance, as it were, on the part of the man challenged, the officer has no optionbut to take the name off the roll.
– Hear, hear.
– The statement is altogether wrong.
– Do youknow that the names of my wife and myself were taken off the roll ?
– Because you are Labour.
– I do not mind saying now that my name has been taken off the roll.
– Deal with one thing at a time.
– Exactly, and it was not my fault that I was drawn away. The electoral officer has thrown upon him the responsibility of satisfying himself as to whether a man’s name ought to be taken off the roll or not, and the mere complaint by me to an electoral officer that I think that a name ought to be off the roll is not sufficient, nor does it exonerate the officer from satisfying himself on that point.
– Did you say that you had been struck off the roll?
– Yes; I shifted my residence, though only for a short while, and I found when I went back that my name had been removed from the roll. The same thing happened, if we are to go into cases of this kind, to the Speaker and his wife. Both were away from their residence for a short term, and found that their names were off the roll when they went back.
– What steps does the officer take to reach a person whose name is objected to ?
– It isnot possible for me, or any one else, to say what an individual officer would do. All that I can say is that the officers are charged with the responsibility - and I am going to assume that, in the main, they discharge their duty faithfully before they take a name off - not to listen towhat is told them, but to satisfy themselves that names ought to be removed.
– Some of them are very easily satisfied.
– That may be. I am not now concerned as to whether officers are discharging their duty efficiently or otherwise - personally, I believe that in the main they are doing their duty - but I want to say that, as the responsibility is theirs, these wild accusations that names are taken off the roll merely because some organization has lodged a protest are absolutely groundless.
– Oh, no.
– If any one will bring me the name of an officer who has taken off names in this haphazard flimsy fashion, I shall regard it as my duty to bring under the notice of my colleague the immediate urgency of removing the man from the position.
– Will you not admit that the instances which can be raked up in this small assembly - the cases of Senator McGregor and his wife, your own case, and the cases of Mr. Speaker Johnson and his wife - is a pretty fair average?
– The honorable senator has to remember that in each of the cases to which he refers there was an actual removal of the elector from the division for which he was enrolled. In my own case I did remove for a couple of months from the place where I had previously been living, and I admit that in the circumstances the Registrar had a perfect right to remove my name.
– If I had notified him that I desired as a senator to be enrolled for that division, the position would have been different. So far as the Registrar was concerned, I was an ordinary elector; since I had given no notification that I desired to be enrolled for that particular division, and having left the place for a couple of months, it had become my duty under the Act to become enrolled for another division. I did not paste up a placard to say that I would in due time come back to the place at which I had been living, and in the circumstances I could take no particular exception to the removal of my name from the roll.
– Under the regulations a member of the Federal Parliament may have his name retained on the roll for a particular division.
– Exactly; provided he notifies the Electoral Registrar of his desire. But in my case there was nothing on the roll to show that mine was the name of a senator, and the Registrar had no notification from me of my desire to be enrolled for the division. There was nothing for him to do in the circumstances but to strike my name off the roll.
– Who gave the information as to your absence from the division ?
– I presume the police.
– The police knew where to find the honorable senator.
– The difference between Senator Guthrie and myself is that I have no need to hide, and so the police always know where to find me. I have no objection to a party fight. I understand its purpose and its value. But I submit that there is such a thing as fair fighting, even between political opponents.
– We have never had that from the honorable senator’s colleague, Senator McColl.
– That is an absolute
– Say it.
– I could not say it under the Standing Orders.
– I cannot help thinking that human nature is spread as thickly to the square inch in one State as in another, and it has been impossible to avoid the conclusion that honorable senators have introduced into the discussion of this matter a personal and political element. Senator Findley has made persistent attacks upon my colleague, Senator McColl, and I venture to express the opinion that if Senator McColl were the representative of some State other than Victoria, Senator Findley would not have tinged his remarks with the bitterness which, in the existing circumstances, he has thrown into them.
– I have a perfect right to criticise Senator McColl’s incorrect statements.
– I have no objection to the honorable senator’s criticism. I am merely referring to the persistency with which the honorable senator during the whole of this session has attacked Senator McColl, and to the fact that his attacks have displayed something more than warmth and bitterness, and have approached viciousness. I feel that the fact that Senator McColl has been an opponent of the honorable senator in the past, and will probably again be a competitor of his at the next electoral contest, has influenced him in what he has had to say about that honorable senator. I say, without hesitation or equivocation, that the one desire of the present Government In this connexion is that when the next appeal is made to the people, it shall be made in such a way as to insure the fullest possible expression of public opinion. We have no desire to curtail the electoral rights of any person. We are anxious that all who are entitled to vote shall be afforded facilities for doing so, but we are also anxious that names which ought not to be there shall not appear on the electoral rolls.
– It is impossible that there should not be some inflation of the rolls.
– I am glad to have that frank admission from Senator Findley. It seems to me that, under the present system, we can never have an election, except upon inflated rolls.
– It is those on the honorable senator’s side who have never admitted that.
– For the last eighteen months I have been declaring that our rolls are inflated.
– But the honorable senator has never admitted that if all who are entitled to vote are enrolled the rolls must necessarily be inflated.
– I agree that that is so under the existing system as it has hitherto been worked.
– No, under any system. You cannot strike off the name of a man who has died within a few weeks of an election.
– When Senator de Largie deals in matters with such mathematical precision, he is probably correct, because I recognise that a voter may die on his way to the poll.
– Is it not better that there should be 200 names on the roll that ought not to be there than that twelve persons whose names ought to be on the roll are not on it ?
– I do not care to put the matter in that way. I say that we ought to try to put the twelve names on the roll that ought to be there, but we should also strike off the 200 names that ought not to be there.
– Does the honorable senator know how it is that so many names are duplicated on the roll?
– I think I do. A great deal of the duplication arises in the first place through the great ease with which any person can secure enrolment, and in the next place from the fact that a large number of people have not a clear recollection as to what they have done in the matter of the enrolment of their names.
– And to the fact that there is an immense army of people who are always on the move.
– The removal of electors from one division to another would not add to the difficulty if in all cases they recollected what they had done. It is quite a common thing when one asks a man whether his name is on the roll to receive the answer, “I think so; I do not know.” The electors are sometimes confused between the State and Federal rolls.
– And they say, “ Let us have another.”
– Yes, in order to make quite sure, they say, “ I will enroll now.” There is a great temptation for them to do so when an election is coming on. They do not wish to lose their votes, and may think that it is better to have two marbles in the ballot-box than to have none at all.
– The honorable senator will admit that there may be thousands who do that who would never think of voting twice at an election.
– 1 will admit that tens of thousands do it who would not vote twice at an election.
– Suppose an objection is lodged against Smith, and he does not attend to answer the objection, what is done ?
– His name is struck off.
– Not necessarily. The electoral officer bo whom the objection is made does not accept it as final and conclusive. He must satisfy himself that the objection is well founded before he takes the responsibility of removing the name from the roll.
– Can the honorable senator give us any idea of the steps he would take?
– Seeing that there are hundreds of these officers throughout Australia, how could I give an answer that would meet the case of them all? One has to assume that each of these officers will make an honest effort to satisfy himself that the objection is well founded.
– Will not the Registrar take the fact that the objection is not meant as conclusive that it is well founded?
– He ought not to do so.
– I think that many of them do.
– I do not know what steps any particular officer will take to satisfy himself.
– Is it not a reasonable conclusion ?
– It might be a most unreasonable conclusion. The electoral officers know quite as well as we do the keenness of party feeling in this matter, and they know that it would be unreasonable to assume that merely because they have received an objection to the name of an elector they should act upon it as conclusive evidence that the name should be removed from the roll.
– It may not be conclusive evidence, but is it not sufficient evidence if the Registrar notifies the elector of the objection to his name and receives no reply?
– I can only say what I . should do if I were in the position of a Registrar. The steps which an officer will regard as necessary to satisfy himself of the validity of an objection will differ in different cases. If I were an Electoral Registrar and Senator O’Keefe lodged with me an objection against the name of a man I knew, and who had lived next door to me, I should not bother to make other inquiry. I should know personally whether the man had left the division. But if a protest is lodged against the name of a man of whom the Electoral Registrar knows nothing, we can assume that to satisfy himself he may make inquiries of the local postmaster or police. We have a right to assume that the Electoral Registrar will be anxious to do his duty, and will obtain supplementary evidence to support the objection to the appearance of a name on the roll.
– Many of them do riot do that.
– I cannot say whether that is so. The Act throws that responsibility upon them, and I can only give honorable senators the assurance that no instructions have been given to them to act in any other way. I not only give that assurance, but I say that if any honorable senator in this Chamber brings evidence to the contrary, I shall see that it is sifted, and that we shall know what the facts are.
– Is there not a uniformity of practice adopted by the Department ?
– There cannot be uniformityof practice, though there should be uniformity of principle. We cannot lay down hard and fast rules as to the way ill which Electoral Registrars shall satisfy themselves as to the validity of objections. The Electoral Registrar must accept the responsibility as to whether the inquiries he makes to satisfy himself are sufficient Or not. It may be that some are negligent, or are easily persuaded, but the Act throws a certain responsibility upon them, and we are entitled to assume,until evidence to the contrary is submitted, that these officers are fairly carrying out the duties imposed upon them.
– Before the honorable senator sits down, he might give me a reply with respect to the questions I wish to have submitted to the Treasurer.
– I admire Senator Needham’s pertinacity very much, andI candidly admit that I have not had an Opportunity of putting his probing questions to my honorable colleague.
– Will the honorable senator do so to-morrow ?
– If Senator Needham will put the questions down on paper, there will be a better chance that they will be sent on.
– The honorable senator promised to send them on without my putting them down on paper. I will write them down now.
– Brown lodges an objection against the name of Jones. A Revision Court is held, and Jones does not appear, what happens then?
– There is no Revision Court.
– What happens if Jones does not make an answer to the objection ?
– This is going over the same ground again, and I have only to say that the electoral registrar has to satisfy himself as to the validity of the objection.
– If Jones does not appear, under the law the objection becomes a valid objection.
– The honorable senator is talking about a different class of objections altogether. A little while ago honorable senators were talking of objections sent in to electoral registrars, and suggesting that without obtaining any information at all the electoral officers act upon them.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’Loghlin.The objection that I referred to was the notice of objection sent to an elector that his name was to be struck off the roll.
– That is a notice of objection sent out by an electoral registrar. He has had some reason for supposing that the elector in question is not entitled to be on a particular roll. In such a case, an elector has only to reply saying that he is still residing at the same place, and he is entitled to remain on the roll.
– He may be away shearing.
– If he is away from his place of residence for more than a month he is entitled to beenrolled elsewhere.
– The Act makes him liable to a fine of £2 if he does not see that he is enrolled in the district to which he has removed.
– Not if his home is at the place for which he was first enrolled.
– If that is thecase there will be some one at the place who will be able to say that he still lives there. The great difficulty arises where a man goes away from his home to another district and enrolls for that other district, and it was the wholepurposeof the card system to prevent this dual enrolment. If an elector desires to have his name retained on the roll and takes the ordinary precaution for the purpose, that will debar him frombecoming enrolled for another district.
– Many electors do not wish to have their names removed from the roll for their own district.
– They should have no difficulty in securing the retention of their names on the rolls for the district in which their homes are situated.
– I can assure the honorable senator that they have difficulties. I can give the honorable senator an instance which might be multiplied by thousands. A notice was sent to me by a gentleman who was the secretary ofthe “ National Association “ that my name was objected to because my residence could not be found. I had removed from one part’ of South Sydney to another. The objection was sent to the place where I could not be found. . What the devil was the useof sending it to the place where I could not be found?
– Senator Rae is going back now to the dark ages.
– The Government are reviving the dark ages, for the same system is prevailing here.
– We are not doing anything of the kind, and I again emphasize the fact that the system which prevails now is the system which was introducedby my honorable friends opposite.
– Improve it; do not make it worse.
– We tried to bring in a better system, hut our honorable friends would not allow us to do so.
– The Government dropped it at once like a hot potato.
– No, but we dropped it when we saw the obstruction that we were up against. No amount of talking canadd to what I have said. I have soughtto be very frankin ray invitation to my honorable friends opposite to cease these general and wild statements, and to furnish the Government with specific instances of the matters of which they complain.
– There are thousands of things of which we are morally dead sure, but which it is almost impossible to prove.
– I know that there are many things of which the honorable senator is morally dead sure, but which it is quite impossible to prove. When he is dealing withthe reputations of political opponents, and of a large number of public officers, the obligation is upon him-
– Leave the officers out of the question.
– It is the officers against whom my honorable friends opposite have been -making charges.
– Surely not.
– If these instructions have been given - as Senator McDougall has said - to any officer-
– By whom did I say they were given except by theLiberal Association to its paid hirelings?
– The honorable senator must have forgottenwhat he said.
He stated that “ instructions had been given to wipe out as many Labour voters as possible.” Now Liberal organizations do not wipe out any names. It is the electoral officers who wipe them out.
– Who brings the cases under the notice of the electoral officers?
– The more cases are brought under notice, the more will be struck off the roll.
– That is to say that the electoral officers will strike names off the roll just because they are brought under their notice.
– The facts speak for themselves.
– Then the honorable senator must compose his differences with my honorable friends opposite who say that the officers are not involved in this matter. It does not signify who lodges the objection. The responsibility of taking any name off the roll rests with an electoral officer. If corrupt practices are being followed, I ask my honorable friends for specific instances. If it can be proved that the Government have instructed their officers to do a wrong thing, then the Governmentshould meet with the punishment which they merit, but if it cannot, it is up to honorable senators’ opposite to give us the necessary information to enable us to examine any particular cases thoroughly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 8.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140610_senate_5_74/>.