5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Printing and Publication of Rolls - Objections: Removal of Names - Numbers Enrolled
– In another place the Prime Minister was asked on Thursday last when it was expected that the Victorian, amongst other, rolls would be printed and ready for circulation, and he said it was anticipated that the Victorian rolls would be available within a month’s time. That reply means, if it means anything, that the rolls for Victoria will be printed and ready for circulation about the 20th July next. Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council state what time will be available to enable people to get on the rolls between their publication and the date of the issue of the writs ? Further, can he say what is meant by the statement of the Prime Minister that the names of the persons objected to will be printed and open for inspection - what names are referred to? Are objections to be taken after the printing and circulation of the latest rolls, or are they to be in respect of names on the old rolls?
– As regards the first portion of the question I am not aware of the dates, and in respect of the remaining questions I shall be glad if the honorable senator will give notice. I have not been in communication with the Prime Minister, and, therefore, am unable to answerthe inquiries.
– Has the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council been called by the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department to the telegram which I am about to read, and to which Mr.Farrar this morning said he would call the Minister’s attention -
Numbers electors objected to on Federal roll, including residents here since inception of field.
The reference is to Bullfinch, Western. Australia. I desire to know what steps the Minister will take in this regard when men and women who have been resident on the fields for four years have been objected to? If persons are objected to, what chance will there be to have their names reinstated prior to the issue of the writs?
– Two or three minutes ago Mr. Farrar rang me up to say that he had received a communication from the honorablesenator. All that I can say is that the Department inform me that they are making inquiries into this matter.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs state how many names in New South Wales were submitted to the electoral officials for objection by Mr. Parkhill, secretary to the Liberal party, and how many names on the rolls for the Riverina electorate were submitted to the electoral officials for objection by Mr. Parkhill? I sent a wire to the Minister yesterday, so that he might be ready with the information.
– I am not able to give the honorable senator the information he desires at present.
– Are you able to give any information at all?
– Honorable senators cannot expect me to keep up telephonic communication all over Australia, in order to be able to answer such questions.
– Did you get my wire yesterday ?
– The honorable senator sent me a wire yesterday, and I acknowledged its receipt by a wire to him at the members’ room in the Customshouse, Sydney. Inquiries are now being made.
– I desire to get a definite statement if I possibly can from the Vice-President of the Executive Council about electoral matters. Will a month elapse before the Victorian rolls are completed, so far as printing and being ready for circulation are concerned? That is a plain simple question. The honorable senator is in charge of the Electoral Office, and ought to be in a position to answer my question. Mr. Cook said on Friday night -
This time, in addition to all that has ever been done, I am going to publish the names struck off.
I want to know if I can get the information whether that is intended to be done, and, if so, whether it is to be done in respect to the names objected to on the new rolls, or on the old rolls 1
– With regard to the printing of the rolls, I was advised a few days ago that the Victorian rolls will be ready in a month. In regard to the subsequent question, I ask the honorable senator to give notice.
– As the VicePresident of the Executive Council intends to inquire into all the objections made by Mr. Parkhill, of the Liberal Association, does he at the same time intend to make inquiries into, and give the House information about, all the objections lodged by Labour leagues throughout New South Wales?
– The Department will endeavour to forward the information to honorable senators on both sides as far as they are able to do so under the present system.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council aware that in the Bourke-street post-office, Melbourne, there is an official who, when electors go to find out if their names are on the roll, advises them that it would be more convenient to go down to the rooms of the Liberal party, in Collins-street, and find out there? If that is the case, will the Minister endeavour to prevent the official from giving such advice, and, if he will not do so, will he instruct the official that rolls may also be seen at the Trades Hall and in the rooms of the Political Labour Council ?
– I am not aware that such a proceeding has taken place. I do not doubt the honorable senator’s statement, but I think that he has been misinformed on the matter, for I can scarcely think that any official would do that.
– I desire toask the Vice-President of the Executive Council a question in connexion with the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department, and, in order that it may be understood, I quote the following paragraph from a publication issued by the Liberal Union in Adelaide, South Australia -
Cleanse the Bolls. - Do not delay in sending me the names of Labour Supporters who are on the latest roll sent you and have lost their qualifications, that I may have them struck off. You have little time. The next roll published, which will appear after the writ is issued, will be the one on which the elections will be fought. There will be no supplemental rolls; so have your full strength recorded now, and do not let your opponents have any advantage over you, or any reserve strength for double voting.
Does the Minister approve of the secretary of the Liberal Union in Adelaide inviting members of his union to so act that the names of Labour supporters only may be struck off the roll ? Will the honorable senator say also whether it is a fact that there will be no supplemental roll issued previous to the coming election ?
– As the secretary of the Liberal Union in Adelaide is not in any way under my control, I have no opinion to offer upon his action. It is not, I suppose, competent for me to express approval or disapproval of what he is alleged to have done. With regard to the honorable senator’s other question, I imagine that there is sure to be a supplemental roll.
– Arising out of the Minister’s answer, I wish to ask a further question, which will be explained from the document before me -
I shall be pleased if you will report to me early any case where the local electoral officers who have charge of the conduct of polling, &c, are not men of sober habits and good character, impartial in judgment, and capable of carrying out the duties imposed upon them in a trustworthy and intelligent manner, satisfactory to the general public.
Does the Minister approve of the secretary of the Liberal Union in Adelaide calling upon electors to report to him, and not to the Minister or the Electoral Office, any shortcoming of any of the officials of the Department?
– As I advised the honorable senator before, I am not competent at present to express approval or disapproval of the action of any person over whom I have no control.
– “Will the Minister in charge of electoral matters consult his colleagues, and impress upon them the desirability of permitting at least four weeks to elapse between the date on which the rolls now being printed are open to the inspection of the public and the date of the issue of the writ for the election, in order that those whose names have been wrongly omitted from the new rolls may be given an opportunity to get their names on a supplemental roll?
– I shall be very glad to convey the honorable senator’s remarks to my colleague.
– A question was asked on 18th inst. by Senator Story regarding a man named John Bawden, who wrote to the Adelaide Herald on 17th June, complaining that he had been struck off the rolls. The following is the reply: -
Mr. Bawden has evidently been misinformed. The Commonwealth Electoral Officer reports that the names of Mr. and Mrs. Bawden have not been removed from the roll for the subdivision of Goodwood, division of Hindmarsh.
I was asked by Senator McDougall to make inquiries in the case of Patrick Gleeson, Mr. and Mrs. White, and Mrs. Dorey and family. The replies are as follow : -
The objections were lodged by the electoral officials (who are not required under the law to pay fees), and were the result of a clerical error on the part of a temporary clerk. The error was discovered, and promptly rectified, and the notices were withdrawn.
Another matter, brought forward by Senator Findley, related to the difficulty that a person named McFarlane had in getting enrolled. The following is the reply: -
Mr. McFarlane is under a misapprehension. His name is enrolled, and has been enrolled for a considerable time.
I was also asked by Senator McDougall whether 11,000 names had been struck off the rolls for the division of Cook. The reply is as follows: -
It is not a fact that 11,000 names have been struck off the roll for the division of Cook. The police have reported that that number of persons are not living in the subdivision for which they are enrolled, and inquiry is being made as to whether they are still living in the division of Cook, Objections will only be lodged in cases where the officers have reasonable ground for believing that the persons concerned have ceased to live in the division for a period of not less than one month, and are not merely temporarily absent.
– That is what I asked. I said nothing about their being struck off.
– The question asked was if it was a fact that 11,000 names had been struck off.
– No. It was asked if 11,000 names had been objected to.
– On 17th June, Senator Russell asked a question as to the numbers on the rolls. The reply is -
The number of names on the rolls at the date of the last Federal elections, and the approximate number on the rolls at the present time, are shown in the following table : -
The rolls are at the present time in an active state of re-adjustment, both as regards enrolment and removal of names, and the figures in> column 3 cannot be taken as a reliable index of the enrolment for the purposes of the election.
There has been considerable activity in regard to enrolment since the 31st May last.
– By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has wrongly put the statement made by me. I said that 11,000 electors* had been noted by the police as having left their residences. I did not say that their names had been struck off the rolls. I said that notices of objection had been sent out to them. I would further point out that the number is not now 11,000,. but has increased to 16,000.
– The Hansard report reads -
– I wish to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council if he wil> communicate with the electoral officer for the division of Cook, New South Wales, asking him. if it is a fact that 11,000 names have been, struck off the roll for that division, thus imposing upon him the necessity of sending out. 11,000 notices?
– You have it wrong. I did not say anything of the sort.
– I have not ifr. wrong, anyhow.
– In view of theanswer given by the Vice-President of theExecutive Council to certain questions concerning the printing of supplemental rolls, I ask him if he can give me a straight-out assurance that a supplemental roll will he issued.
– So far as it is humanly possible to do so, I can.
– I ask the Minister of Defence if there is any likelihood of the Australian Fleet being outside Australian waters between now and the 5th September, when the elections are likely to take place, and, if so, whether any facilities will be afforded the officers and men to record their votes?
– Subject to any unforeseen contingency, I think I can say that the Fleet will be within Australian waters on the date named.
– If not?
– I can assure the Senate that the itinerary of the vessels - unless something happens which we cannot foresee, as, for instance, an international complication, which I do not anticipate, the vessels will be on the Australian coast on the date specified.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the following memorandum which has been sent by the Commonwealth Electoral Registrar for the subdivision of Port Lincoln to Mr. John Biscoby, Wirrila Siding, viz. : - “I enclose card. You are already on the roll ; your name was given in by Liberal Union organizers as having left division. You will not be struck off as you still live in division. No need to make a fresh claim. (Sgd.) W. G. Brennan, 4th June, 1914-“ will the Minister inform the Senate whether the Liberal organizer referred to deposited the sum of 5s. required by the Electoral Act, and, if so, has the deposit been forfeited?
– The answer is -
The Liberal organizer in question did not lodge an ob jection against the retention on the roll of the name of Mr. Biscoby.
The objection was lodged by the Registrar for the subdivision of Port Lincoln, after he had made personal inquiry, and had failed to locate Mr. Biscoby.
The notice of objection issued by the Divisional Returning Officer duly reached Mr. Biscoby at what is described as an out-of-the-way siding. Mr. Biscoby replied to it, and was informed that his name would be retained on the roll.
– Another blank cartridge!
– Arising out of the reply, is the Minister prepared to deal with the Electoral Registrar for making a false statement, because both cannot be true ?
– It does not seem to me that a wrong statement has been made by the Electoral Registrar.
– The Registrar, in his own handwriting, says, “Your name was given in by Liberal Union organizers.”
– The answer is -
The Liberal organizer in question did not lodge an objection against the retention on the roll of the name of Mr. Biscoby.
– That is an allegation that he said so in the paper in your hand.
– No; it is the official letter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Arising out of the answer, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, in view of thatstatment, he and Mr. Cook will apologize for having stated that the 75,000 mentioned in the circular headed “ Cook’s Latest “ was a Labour lie? Will they kindly withdraw that base imputation?
– You ought to withdraw the circular.
– The Prime Minister is reported to have stated at Tamworth, on Monday evening, in justification of the letting of a contract to Teesdale Smith, without tenders being called, that the previous Administration led by Mr. Fisher had entered into a contractfor the supply of wireless and the erection of wireless stations by a certain firm in New South Wales without calling for tenders. Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council call the Prime Minister’s attention to the inaccuracy of his statement, and also inform him that the contract was entered into between the Fisher Government and that particular manufacturing company because it was the only company of the kind in Australia capable of undertaking that class of work ? Will the Minister be good enough to convey this information to the Prime Minister so that he may not fall into the error again ?
– A nice little speech.
– I will refer the honorable senator’s remarks to the Prime Minister.
– A few days ago I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council a question in regard to the purchase of certain vessels for use in the lighthouse service on the Queensland coast, and I shall be glad if he can give me the desired information to-day.
– I have been furnished with the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether his attention has been drawn to a paragraph appearing in the Melbourne newspapers this morning, in which it is stated that a certain line of steamers propose to bring out a daily newspaper on. the ocean? Will the Postmaster General take into consideration the desirableness of supplying, by means of wireless telegraphy, all steamers within range of wireless stations in Australia with daily news concerning Australia, say, between 11.30 and 12 midnight, or between 12 noon and 12.30 p.m.
– Political news?
– A socialistic news service.
– Not political or socialistic news, but news concerning events in the world, so that Australia may be advertised in this way and brought into line with other communities doing work of the kind.
– Order ! The honorable senator should not argue the matter in asking a question.
– I saw the paragraph referred to by the honorable senator, but I have not had an opportunity of seeing the Postmaster-General since. I shall be pleased to bring it under the honorable gentleman’s notice, and also the remarks made by Senator Keating.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence a question, without notice, following upon a question I addressed to him last Thursday, in connexion with the recent shipwreck off Point Nepean. The captain of the wrecked vessel stated in an interview with a representative of the press that an officer at the fort had treated some shipwrecked sailors in a very unkind way. I asked the question in justice to the officer at the fort, and the Minister promised to make inquiries into the matter. I wish to know now whether he is in a position to give me a reply to the question?
– I have made the inquiry, and obtained a reply. It is in the nature of a statement, and I think that in justice to the officer concerned the Senate should accord me permission to read it.
– The statement supplied is as follows: -
The officer referred to by Senator Needham is a young bombardier, viz., Bombardier Hennessy.
This non-commissioned officer was in charge of the picquet at the entrance gate, Fort Queenscliff, on the night of the wreck. At 12 midnight the light over the gate was extinguished as usual. Some time after this, a knock came at the gate, and Bombardier Hennessy went to the gate, and, looking through the iron grating, could not see any one at first, and no one answered his query as to who was there for some time. A man he could just barely see, owing to the extreme darkness of the night, commenced to mumble in a strange tongue. Bombardier Hennessy thought that either a practical joke was being played on him, or the man was a drunken tramp. He did not recognise the fact that the man was speaking in a foreign tongue, but thought it was “ put on.” The idea of shipwreck did not cross the mind of Bombardier Hennessy, and there was nothing to suggest it. The darkness prevented his seeing how the man was dressed, as he could only just discern the outline of a man through the grating. He opened the wicket gate to look, but still thought the man was a practical joker, or drunk, and told him to go away. He then shut the gate. Had he known that the man was one of a party of shipwrecked Bailors, be would immediately have taken steps to relieve their distress.
– Will the Minister of Defence have any objection to the whole of the papers in connexion with the Liverpool camp disturbance of last year being laid on the table of the Senate? If not, will he give publicity to the statements made by Colonel Cook and Colonel Antill who were concerned in the matter ?
– The papers, so far as they related to the board of inquiry, were tabled in the other House. With regard to subsequent proceedings, as they are still in progress, I do not think it desirable that the papers should be published at the present time.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer have inquiries made whether there is any truth in the statement that the Commonwealth Bank is financing a loan for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company?
– I shall have inquiries made, and if the honorable senator will repeat his question at the next sitting, I hope to be able to answer it.
– Has the Honorary Minister noticed a statement appearing in the press relative to the increase of steam-ship freights from Tasmania to the mainland ? Has he also noticed that on every route between Tasmania and the mainland freights have been increased except on those covered by the terms of the mail contract? Will he inform the Senate if any overtures have been made by the steam-ship companies for increasing the freights and fares in connexion with the routes covered by the mail contract?
– I have noticed the matters to which the honorable senator has referred, and also that the proposal to increase freights is largely on those lines of communication between Tasmaniaand the mainland which are not covered by any mail contract. I cannot say whether any overtures have been made by the company, but have no hesitation in assuring the Senate that, so far as I have anything to do with the mail contract, in no circumstances whatever will it be broken. One of the most important conditions of the contract was that there should be no increase in fares or freights during its continuance without the consent of the Postmaster-General. I cannot pledge the Postmaster-General, but am prepared to pledge myself, for all that I can do, and any influence that I can bring to bear, to see that no alteration is made with my consent.
– At the time the contract preventing an increase in freights and fares in the lines covered by the mail contract was signed, was it not in the Honorary Minister’s mind that the prevention of any increase also applied to all lines of communication between Tasmania and the mainland owned by the specific combine with which the contract was entered into?
– It was not. At the time the contract for the carriage of mails between the mainland and Launceston and Burnie was entered into, I made inquiries and endeavoured to ascertain if, in order to prevent any increase in fares and freights, it would he worth while, for that purpose only, to obtain other contracts, say, between Hobart and Sydney, my one idea being then that, if we had a mail contract, we could stop any increase of fares and freights between any port in Tasmania and the mainland.
– That is what you ought to have done.
– I endeavoured to do it, but I learned that under the existing conditions of mail delivery between Sydney and Hobart it was impossible to arrange a contract for that purpose.
– If the Cabinet sanctions the increase in fares and freights under the contract, will the Honorary Minister resign from the Government?
– I do not think that is a question that I ought to answer, but I am prepared to leave it. to the Sena te as to whether, if that thing happens, I take the right course or not.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act 1901-1912. - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1913-14 - dated 17th June, 1914.
Defence Act 1903-1912. - Military ForcesFinancial and Allowance Regulation amended - Statutory Rules 1914, No. 62.
Electoral Act 1902-1911, and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act, 1906-1912.- Regulation amended. - Statutory Rules 1914, No. 74.
Lands Acquisition Act 1906. - Land acquired under at -
Nuriootpa, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Sydney, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Northern Territory: Reports of the Royal Commission on Railways and Ports.
Public Service Act 1902-1913 - Appointments. - Postmaster-General’s Department -
– On 4th June, Senator Ready asked -
What steps have the Department taken with reference to the petition to the PostmasterGeneral from the residents of Gray, Tasmania, asking for telegraphic or telephonic connexion with St. Marys?
The official reply is -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Hobart, reports that a telephone line from St. Marys to Gray can be erected without guarantee, and if the postmistress at Gray, who has been communicated with in the matter, is willing to conduct the telephone office at scale rate of payment, the telephone service will be established there probably by the end of September.
Punishment of a Cadet : Solitary Confinement.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether he recollects having informed the Senate about a week ago that he expected within two or three days to have regulations framed providing for the substitution of some other form of punishment for that of solitary confinement which has been inflicted upon trainees in some notable cases. I desire to know whether he has yet framed the intended regulation, and, if not, has he determined to abolish that particular form of punishment.
– I ask the Minister if he will furnish us with the name of the Government which passed the regulation providing for solitary confinement.
– Senator Rae has, I think, correctly stated the assurance which I gave to the Senate last week. But no decision has been arrived at by me other than that, pending a final decision as to the form the new regulation shall take, I have issued instructions that no further separate confinement is to be awarded a cadet for the breach of the universal training regulations. In reply to Senator Oakes, I may say that it is well known that the regulation to which he has directed attention was in existence before I went to the Defence Department.
– I ask the Minister of Defence which regulation was in existence when he went to the Defence Department? Was there any regulation providing for solitary confinement when he went there, or was he referring to the general regulation which provides for detention in a military place?
– There were two regulations in force when I went to the Department, and it is under those regulations that the recent case, of which so much has been heard in this chamber, occurred. In the first place, there is in the Defence Act itself a provision that defaulters may be ordered to “ prescribed places” of detention. Senator Pearce, who was Minister at the time, made Queenscliff and other military barracks “ prescribed places “ for the purpose of that section. These places were under a set of rules and regulations, and every cadet who went into them was subject to the rules and regulations which Senator Pearce had prescribed.
– Has the VicePresident of the Executive Council any information to impart to the Senate in reference to the conditions under which persons in the post and telegraphic service are employed - information for which I asked about a fortnight ago ?
– The matter has not yet been brought under my notice, but I will make inquiries and inform the honorable senator of the result of them.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether he can reply to the question which I put to him a few days ago as to the strength of the various navies in the Pacific?
– I think I informed the honorable senator on a previous occasion that a return is being prepared. It is being prepared with some regard for detail, and its preparation is occupying longer than I originally anticipated. I hope, however, to be able to put it before the honorable senator this week.
– I ask the Minister of Defence when it is the intention of the Government to resume operations in connexion with the construction of the Naval Base at Cockbum Sound. Are the Government still awaiting the report of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, and, if so, when is it likely to be to hand?
– It is not possible for me to give the honorable senator any more information than he already possesses. The Government are waiting the definite report of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, and in the meanwhile do not feel themselves in a position to proceed with more than preliminary work at Cockburn Sound. Cables have been sent to Sir Maurice asking him to expedite his report in every possible way.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he will see if it is not possible to get a few more public telephones installed at the Spencer-street Railway Station ? It is generally understood that before a person can get a message through from that station he can either take the tram, or walk, to the address of the individual with whom he desires to communicate.
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Department.
Address to the Governor- General.
– I have to inform the Senate that I have received the following reply from] His Excellency the Governor-General to the address adopted by the Senate on the 17th inst., praying for the publication of the communications between His Excellency and His Excellency’s Advisers relative to the simultaneous dissolution of both Houses of Parliament: -
I have submitted to my Advisers the Address which you, acting on behalf of the Senate of the Commonwealth, presented to me yesterday. I am advised by them that the request therein contained for publication of the reasons given to mo in support of the advice tendered by the Prime Minister, on which J decided to dissolve simultaneously both Houses of Parliament, and of all correspondence relating thereto, is one the compliance with which would not only be contrary to the usual practice, but would involve a breach of the confidential relations which should always exist in this as in all other matters between the representative of the Crown and his Constitutional Ministers.
I am advised further that to accede to the request contained in your Address would imply a recognition of a right in the Senate to make the Ministers of State for the Commonwealth directly responsible to that Chamber for ad- . vice tendered to the Governor-General in relation to the exercise of an Executive power vested in him by the terms of the Constitution, and that such a recognition would not be in accordance with the accepted principles of responsible government.
Without, however, conceding the existence of any Constitutional obligation to reply to the request contained in your Address, I desire to add for your information, and with the concurrence of my Ministers, that the grounds on which I decided to dissolve both Houses of Parliament simultaneously appear from the communication already made by the Prime Minister with my permission and by my authority to the House of Representatives.
Address to Governor-General.
– I have to inform the Senate that on Friday last I waited upon His Excellency the GovernorGeneral and presented to him the Address adopted by the Senate on the 18th inst., praying that, in accordance with section 128 of the Constitution Act, he would be pleased to submit to the electors, on the date to be fixed for taking the poll for the election of senators and members of the House of Representatives for the next Parliament, the six proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution, duly passed on two occasions, with a statutory interval, by the Senate, and not passed by the House of Representatives, and that I have since received the following reply from His Excellency -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Governor-General, 20th June, 1914.
I have perused the Address which you, on behalf of the Senate, presented to me on the 19th of June, in which the Senate requests me to exercise the power vested, under certain conditions, in the Governor-General, by section 12S of the Constitution, to submit to the electors the six proposed laws for the amendment of the Constitution, which are annexed to the Address.
Following the established usage of responsible government, I have consulted my Ministers, who by the express terms of the Constitu tion are appointed to advise me in the government of the Commonwealth, and have submitted the Senate’s Address and accompanying documents to them.
They, having taken the matter into their consideration, are unable to advise me to comply with the request contained in the Address of the Senate. I accept their advice, and am unable to grant the request of the Senate.
Mk. Teesdale Smith’s Contract - Carriage of Sleepers
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 and 2. The honorable senator’s attention is drawn to Mr. Teesdale Smith’s letter dated 30th March, 1914, copy of which has been) laid upon the table and printed.
I have the paper here, which the honorable senator may see if he likes.
– I am not at all satisfied with an answer of that kind. I ask the Minister, in all fairness, whether he considers that it is an answer to my questions. I want to know whether he will reply definitely to them, and not refer me to a paper which is somewhere about the chamber ?
– That is the reply submitted! to me by the Department, which, of course, I do not control. It is the only reply which I can give to the honorable senator to-day.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer is - 1 to 4. A contract was entered into with a> Australian steam-ship company on the 16tiDecember, 1913, for the carriage from Burt- bury or Busselton, Western Australia, to Port Augusta, under which the Commonwealth Government has agreed to ship a minimumof 300,000 sleepers at 25s. per load of sixteen sleepers for the first 100,000, 24s. for the second 100,000, 23s. 8d. for the third 100,000, and has the option of shipping up to a million upon a sliding scale of rates ranging down to 21s. per load.
The document contains the customary conditions, and can be perused by the honorable senator at any time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
– Arising out of the reply, is it not a fact that the work is being finished by the Department?
– The reply which I have here would seem to indicate that it is not a fact.
That the time for bringing up the report be extended to to-morrow.
Area Officers: Military Clerks
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
How many area officers are there with more than three years’ service as such?
– The answer is -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
3, 4, and 5. -
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Surely the Government, who are so anxious to get to the country, are not going to adjourn the Senate nowI We have been put in the position of appearing to hold up business, and here we are asked to adjourn. The Government have on the notice-paper a Defence Bill, and we could well go on with its consideration. We might get on, too, with some of their promises to the farmers. There are other things which could be done if the Government would only press the business. We have come all the way over from Sydney. The Government might have sent an intimation to us if they did not intend to carry on any business to-day. We could have remained away had we been notified to that effect.
– If I thought that you would have remained away on an intimation, I guarantee that I would have sent it to you.
– We have come from Sydney only to find that the Government want to adjourn so that they may enjoy their offices a little longer.
I protest against these adjournments and express regret that the Government, from the day they took office, have never shown an earnest inclination to do real work. They are perfectly satisfied to fool the people outside by pretending to do work.
– I desire to get a little information, if possible, from the Minister of Defence in connexion with the subjectmatter of one or two questions I addressed to him last week about the horse allowance to certain warrant and noncommissioned officers of the Instructional Staff in South Australia. I have received a reply containing a recommendation of the Military Board, and an intimation that the Minister has approved of the recommendation. I wish the Minister to explain what the recommendation means. If I briefly state the case, honorable senators will be better able to understand the position. I have been furnished with the following statement of the case, which is briefly a history of the question since the horse allowance was stopped during last year: -
The regulations governing the paymentof horse allowance to warrant and noncommissioned officers of the Instructional Staff prescribe that those instructors who were in receipt of horse allowance prior to the 1st November, 1910, shall, provided they are required to provide a horse, continue to draw an allowance of £30 per annum.
Other instructors, when required to be mounted, to be provided with a horse by the Department, or through a contractor, and not draw the allowance. In country districts, where no contract exists, reasonable horse hire to be refunded on production of receipts, &c.
Garrison Sergeant-Major Marshall, Warrant Officers Denniston and Read, and Staff SergeantMajor Martin, of the Instructional Staff, South Australia, were in receipt of the allowance of £30 per annum above referred to; but in June last the Commandant directed that the horse allowance for Marshall, Denniston, and Read should cease from 1st September, 1913, and in October directed that the horse allowance for Martin should cease from 1st December, 1913, on the ground that their work was chiefly administrative, and that the value of their parades at which they appeared mounted on their own horses provided at their own expense during the previous twelve months, if paid for at ordinary rates of hire, fell a good deal below the amounts paid as horse allowance.
The warrant and non-commissioned officers concerned protested against the withdrawalof the allowance as not being in accordance with the regulations.
On 21st November, 1913, Head-quarters issued a circular providing that the horse allowance of £30 per annum should, from the 1st January, 1914, only be granted to those warrant and non-commissioned officers eligible under the regulations to draw such allowance, who actually own a horse suitable for military work.
On 23rd January, 1914, the Acting Commandant, South Australia, after reviewing the matter, informed the District Paymaster that the notification stopping the payment of the allowance to the warrant and non-commissioned officers concernedshouldbe rescinded, and that the allowance should be paid as if no such notification had been issued. The District Paymaster, however, declined to pay without finance authority.
On 2nd March, 1914, the Commandant accordingly applied for finance authority.
On 21st April, 1914, in reply to a memorandum from Sec., Commandant states that the garrison sergeant-major is very rarely required to perform mounted duty, and that the expenditure of horse allowance for the garrison sergeant-major is scarcely justifiable.
He also states that Warrant Officer Denniston, since 1st July, 1913, has been mounted at three light-horse camps of eight days each - twenty-four days, one light-horse school of ten days; one squadron camp of four days, and a few ordinary parades.
I point out that that means thirty-eight days, and a few ordinary parades might mean ten or twelve, or one day every week. The statement continues -
Warrant-Officer Read, since 1st July, 1913, to 26th May, 1914, was actually mounted on nine parades.
I now come to the recommendation of the Military Board, which is so vague that it really does not recommend anything definite. It is as follows -
Financial Regulation 93 (5) (f) states -
If in receipt of such an allowance from the date of coming into force of this regulation (1st November, 1910), a warrant or non-commissioned officer of the Instructional Staff required to provide a horse shall continue to draw horse allowance at the rate of £30 per annum.
That is clear and definite enough, but it goes on to say -
The foregoing places upon the Commandant the responsibility of determining whether a warrant or non-commissioned officer will be required to provide a horse, and in the event of his deciding the question in the negative, it is clear that the warrant or non-commissioned officer is not entitled to receive the horse allowance.
In June, 1913, the then Commandant, after due consideration, determined that Staff SergeantMajor Marshall and Warrant Officers Denniston and Read, should, from the 1st September, not be required to provide a horse; and in October he similarly determined that from the 1st December following, Staff SergeantMajor Martin should also not be required to provide a horse. The names of these Instructors were accordingly removed from the list of those toreceive horse allowance.
The Board considers the Commandant was justified in this decision, unless any one of the instructors concerned could prove that he personally owned a horse, certified as fit, suitable and available, and that the ordinary duties of his position necessitated his being mounted. In such a case the Board considers that the Commandant should have determined that the men were required to provide themselves with a horse whereby they would be entitled to receive the consideration as authorized by Financial Regulation 93 (5) (/).
The Military Board do not really say definitely whether the allowance has been stopped. They do not say that these officers do not possess horses, and they give no reason why the recommendation of the present Commandant should not be acted upon or taken into consideration as well as the recommendation of the late Commandant, who, at the time he made it, was a very sick man, and died very shortly afterwards. It seems to me on the face of the papers that for some reason or another the paymaster over there is determined that these warrant and non-commissioned officers shall not be given horse allowance.
– I have shown from the statement I have read that for thirtyeight days in each year, and in addition a few ordinary parades, these men have to perform their duties, and that should be sufficient to entitle them to be supplied with horses. Whether honorable senators are military authorities or not, it must be clear to them that if an instructor is required to be mounted on parade, he should have a suitable horse. If he has a- horse of his own, it will be trained; it will know him, and will probably know the drill as well as he does himself. If he is compelled to go to a stable to hire any old crock people like to give him, he will be very much hampered in giving instruction, because the horse may be unmanageable. Many, if not all, of these drill instructors are men getting up in years, and it is not fair to ask a middle-aged man to ride any half -broken horse that the keeper of a livery stable may supply. I personally know that one of these officers - though I do not know which of them - bought a horse for which he paid £25, and in order that he might be able to look after it properly he purchased an allotment of land at a cost of £100. After incurring all this expense, this new regulation comes along, and the man finds himself debarred from receiving the horse allowance which he previously received. He very naturally objects to the allowance being taken from him when it was distinctly provided for by the military regulations operating when he joined the force. It is a downright injustice that when officers join the force under regulations having the effect of law providing for the payment of certain allowances on compliance with certain conditions, a new Minister of Defence or officer of the Department can deprive them of the allowances which they have earned by providing horses for themselves, without any recompense for the expense to which they have been put, such as in one of the cases mentioned, the purchase of a block of land on which to give the horse a run. I have some figures here showing the cost of keeping a horse in Adelaide. This is the estimate of a man who kept a horse there and knows really what it costs. - £18 per year feed; £13 for rent and stabling; £3, shoeing; clipping, &c, 7/6; rug, 12/6. That is to say that it costs £35 a year to keep a horse in Adelaide. The allowance they received was £30 a year. Officers very much prefer to incur the additional expense of keeping a horse and drawing the £30 allowance, so that they may be mounted upon suitable horses and will have no fear of being thrown, to being compelled to go to a livery stable to be mounted on horses that are entirely unsuitable. I wish the Minister to show, if he can, the justice of stopping this allowance which these officers were entitled to under the regulation in force in the service when they joined. Perhaps the honorable senator will say “why the recommendation of the present Commandant was not taken into consideration by the Military Board in arriving at their .decision.
– Who says that it was not?
– If it was taken into consideration, it was not acted upon.
– That is quite another matter.
– The present Commandant was distinctly in favour of warrant and commissioned officers owning their own horses if they had to appear mounted on parade.
– If that is so, then there is no trouble.
– The trouble is that the Military Board have recommended that these allowances should not be renewed.
– No, they have not.
– I may be under a wrong impression. If I am, it is due to the vague nature of the recommendation of the Military Board, and I ask the Minister to explain what it means. The fact of the matter is that the officers there are suffering under a very real grievance, having been deprived of an allowance to which they are entitled. They have been endeavouring now for nearly nine months to get to the Minister to obtain some, definite reply as to what is to be the result of their protest. The present Commandant has recommended that the men should be mounted on their own horses when it is necessary for them to have them.
– Where is that recommendation ?
– The Acting Commandant - I assume that refers to the present Commandant in South Australia - after reviewing the matter, informed the District Paymaster that the notification stopping the payment of the amount to the warrant and non-commissioned officers should be rescinded, and the allowance paid as if no such notification had been issued. The District Paymaster, however, declined to pay without finance authority. The colonel of the regiment - Colonel Rowell - protested most strongly against the action of the paymaster in first refusing to pay the allowance and then putting what he characterized as most impertinent questions to the officers, wanting to know if they had a horse, whom they bought it from, and how much it had cost. This Colonel Rowell regarded as humiliating the officers and prying into their private business, and very properly interpolates that when these questions had been answered by the officers the paymaster, in all probability, would have wanted to know where they got the money to pay for the horses from. Colonel Rowell and the present Commandant are both of opinion that officers who are required to be mounted should have their own horses, and my reading of the recommendation of the Military Board, although it is vague, is that it supports the stoppage of the allow ance. I shall be glad to hear from the Minister on the question.
.- I wish to express my displeasure and dissatisfaction with the answers given to two plain, simple questions on the noticepaper in my name to-day. I asked them of- the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, and I say emphatically that the answers he read out were not answers at all. I saw a paragraph in the paper to the effect that, in all probability, an action for some thousands of pounds’ damages would be brought by Mr. Teesdale Smith against the Government for ignoring his contract. The honorable senator, in reply, referred me to some papers which, I believe, are contained in a printed document that has been for some time before the House. If the answers are in that document, ought not the Minister, as a matter of courtesy, to have supplied me with them from it? If, then, they were not to my satisfaction, or to the satisfaction of others who are just as much interested in the matter as I am, I could have followed it up. To say the least of it, it was discourteous to treat an honorable senator in the way that I was treated. The contract has caused a good deal of comment, and will cause a good deal more during the elections. It has been said that it was let under conditions not at all creditable to the Government, and that the contractor was treated in a way different from any other contractor in any part of Australia. It is alleged that the Government, who profess to have no time to offer preference to unionists, have in this case offered preference to pals, letting this man in in a way in which they would not let other contractors in. They let the contract without calling for tenders, and it is common rumour that the price he is being paid is such that he will make an immense sum of money, although he is employing unionists under union conditions. It is contract labour, but it is day labour all the same, plus the contract profits which are going into the hands of Mr. Teesdale Smith, and other contractors in other parts of Australia were not given the same opportunity as the Government gave him. Is there any likelihood of any action being brought by Mr. Teesdale Smith against the Government? Is there in the possession of any member of the Government any document that would indicate that Mr. Teesdale Smith, although he kas done exceptionally well in respect of the contract, and . will continue to do so for the next few weeks, is, like Oliver Twist, wanting more, and bringing an action against the Government for damages for cutting out a portion of the contract which, according to what I have been told, he says he is entitled to carry out? Do the Government think that in the circumstances people will be satisfied with answers such as were given to me here to-day ? If there is nothing to hide, why try to hoodwink and blind the people? Everything in connexion with the contract should be open and above board. It was begun in darkness, and the Government are apparently anxious to cover up their tracks by withholding information of moment to every citizen. If contracts are to be let, we want to know how they are let, and what conditions are specified. If there is nothing in the possession of the Government to indicate that Mr. Teesdale Smith is dissatisfied, and if he has no intention to bring an action against them, why did not Senator McColl say so to-day? I enter my protest against these ambiguous answers to plain and simple questions. Unless more satisfactory and straightforward answers are given, I shall follow the matter up on another day.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council this afternoon read a series of answers to questions relating to the names of persons on the electoral rolls. In that connexion I would again call attention to the hand-hill headed, “ Cook’s Latest,” circulated last week in New South Wales, and containing the following statement: - “The police are taking names off the rolls, but will put none on ; 75,000 Labour voters disfranchised.” Much indignation has been expressed by honorable senators opposite with this circular, and yet I find from the answer to the question just referred to that in New South Wales there has been a considerable reduction in the total number of electors enrolled compared with 1913. In every other State there have been increases, perhaps smaller in proportion in some States than in others, but, according to the official figures, there have been over 87,000 names in New South Wales actually struck off the rolls from 1st July, 1913, to 1st May, 1914, and 88,000 names objected to during the same period. That is for only ten months of the year, leaving two months still to run. Adding the number of objections, which are likely to be much larger proportionately during those two months, it is safe to assume that there will be considerably over 100,000 objected to and probably struck off during that time. It may be said that deaths and removals justify action in a number of cases, but after making every allowance for these, it is still remarkable that in a State which has been in as flourishing and prosperous a condition as any other in the Commonwealth during the last year, remembering also that the numbers reaching the age of twenty-one and qualifying for a vote is very large each year, the number of electors enrolled, which was previously growing fast, should be actually less by 100,000 or more inside of twelve months. The fact goes to prove that we are speaking the absolute truth in saying that a concentrated effort is being made, especially in New South Wales, to disfranchise electors. No State has added to its population so quickly, and yet in no other State has there been an actual reduction in the number of electors. We have been- told with a tremendous amount of indignation by members supporting the Government in both Houses that the circular is an infamous lie, and one of the Labour party’s dirty tricks; but there is ample evidence that the only organization largely engaged in the work of raising objections in order to get names struck off the rolls is the organization behind the Government, whose general secretary is hand-and-glove with the Prime Minister. He is everlastingly raising objections to electors, and many of these he knows nothing about himself. He is supplied with lists from the most outlying portions of the State by his subordinate pimps, who are scouring the country and endeavouring by the most infamous falsehoods and accusations to seduce the people from their “Labour ideals. They are sending to Mr. Parkhill, the general secretary, lists of persons to whom they object, and he in turn is putting them in as objections without depositing the 5s. required by law. He is being openly supported in that breach of the law by the Prime Minister, who is acting as a bosom political friend of his. and consulting him whenever they have an opportunity of meeting. This is going on from week to week, and no wonder Mr. Joseph Cook finds it advisable to make as many trips to Sydney as he can to consult his chief factotum, who, together with the rest of the Government, are engaged in an infamous conspiracy to disfranchise as many Labour electors as possible.
– Instead of lodging the 5s. deposit which should accompany each objection, they are supplied with a good many 5s. for the purpose of getting names struck off the rolls.
– Precisely. We know that the party behind the Government provide much more than crowns for this sort of work. We have a perfect right to denounce the procedure which is being adopted in connexion with the rolls from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, because the only organization which is making a trade of endeavouring to get names off the rolls is that which supports the Government, and whose chiefs are in daily intercourse with Ministers. Consequently the Government cannot free themselves from responsibility for the work of this organization. They cannot say, “ It does not matter who choose to support us. We cannot help that. We are in no way responsible.” The fact is that they are part and parcel of an organization which is assisting them to make their calling and election sure, and which at the same time is engaged in the work of disfranchising as many Labour voters as possible.
– In New South Wales alone this organization has had 100,000 names struck off the rolls.
– It has had very many more struck off the rolls by this time.
– Say half-a-million.
– We do not wish to say anything save what is the truth. No doubt honorable senators opposite would be only too willing to get half-a-million electors disfranchised. The official answer given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the effect that in the State which is enjoying unparalleled prosperity under the rule of a Labour Government, and which is increasing its population at a faster rate than is any other State, the number of electors on the rolls has so materially declined, justifies the statement that there is wholesale disfranchisement at work. In this connexion I would like to recall to honorable senators that only yesterday the newspapers contained a report of a speech delivered by the Prime Minister at Tamworth, in New South Wales, in which he said that the Electoral Act, whether it was good, bad or indifferent, was the Act of the late Fisher Government.
– Do not forget that fact.
– We are not likely to forget that it was the late Government who gave to the electors of this country advantages under that Act which had never previously been enjoyed by them, or indeed by electors in any other part of the world. But the present Government, by their administration of the Act, are depriving many electors of their rights. From the evidence given before the Electoral Commission and from the independent testimony of electoral officers from Mr. Oldham downwards, it is well known that at the last election there was less corruption, less personation and less blameworthy practices than had been associated with any previous election.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - There were only 60,000 more names on the rolls in New South Wales than there were adults in that State.
– It was the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that no petition was lodged against the return of any candidate.
– Exactly. The fact that not a single petition was lodged against the return of a candidate shows that the irregularities which occurred - let alone corruption - must have been reduced to a minimum.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Their tracks were covered up cleverly.
– That is an insinuation which comes from an honorable senator who is a supporter of a man who says that the approaching election will be a dirty one. My honorable friend set the example of throwing dirt. No doubt there will be filth used during the coming campaign, but that filth will come from the opposite side and not from us. I contend that just as much depends upon the way in which a law is administered as upon the way in which it is framed. When the Prime Minister declares that the Electoral Act was passed at the instance of the Fisher Government, we are quite willing to admit it. But his statement is just one of those half truths which he is so fond of making. It is in the administration of that Act that his party are doing all they can to break down its democratic principles and to disfranchise Labour voters, knowing, as they do, that if we have a i square and honest go we shall wipe them ]out of existence as a political party. The, only way in which they can hope to come) back to the Treasury bench is by deliberately and wickedly tampering with the electoral law of this country.
– In reply to the remarks of Senator Findley concerning the Teesdale Smith contract, I desire to say that I have given him the reply which was submitted to me by the head of the Department. The only thing I can infer from that reply is that the letter in question is the only communication which has been received in that connexion. I have no desire to hold anything back. I will make further inquiries, with a view to seeing if I cannot get more definite information. The remarks of Senator Rae are the usual fulmination against the Electoral Act. He knows perfectly well that neither the Government nor any member of it can interfere with claims for enrolment or with the striking of names i off the roll. The whole thing is in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer and , his subordinates. The charges which Senator Rae has made are simply slanders against men whom he professes to hold in high admiration. In regard to the figures which were supplied by me to-day, it is well known that, at the present time, all those figures are in a state of transition. We cannot regard any of them as being absolutely correct.
– Who has been instructed to entertain objections without the deposit of 5s. being lodged?
– Ii an objection is lodged, the deposit of’ 5s. is demanded. It will not be possible, until the new rolls have been issued, to obtain an accurate return as to the number on the rolls. The Department has given the information which I have supplied,, in order to oblige honorable senators, and that is all the information which it can give at the present time. ]
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that Senator Rae’s remarks are the usual fulmination. They may be a fulmination, but, if so, that fulmination is warranted. I intend to bring before Senator McColl the nature of our complaint against the Government. There is a procedure laid down in the Electoral Act under which names that are improperly on the rolls can be removed. The Electoral Registrars can have access to the statistics kept by the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages for the purpose of removing the names of persons who are dead. As regards persons who have left Australia, the Registrars can remove names if they have documentary evidence to that effect. Private individuals - not officials - who wish to lodge objections to a name on the roll are required to deposit the sum of 5s. with each objection. That is intended as a guarantee of good faith. If an objection is found to be frivolous, the 5s. is forfeited. That provision was inserted in the law because, in the good old days, when my honorable friends opposite were predominant, they used their organizations to get the names of persons who were entitled to vote off the rolls. Every difficulty was placed in the way of persons getting their names on the rolls, and every opportunity was afforded these organizations to get names off the rolls. The deposit of 5s. was insisted upon to prevent these organizations shooting at electors for the purpose of getting their names off the rolls, merely because of their political opinions. Ministers are sworn to administer that law, including the provision regarding the lodging of a deposit. Yet we find the Attorney-General admitting that he has invited political organizations - that is, party organizations - to assist the Government in purifying the rolls.
– He asked only one side.
– I do not think it is correct to say that he asked only one side. But he invited political organizations to assist the officials to purify the rolls. He said that, with that end in view, the Government would be prepared to receive names from these organizations, and would not insist upon the 5s. deposit being lodged, adding that the objections would be lodged by the Electoral Registrars.
– Not necessarily.
– I am referring to the statement of the Attorney-General. Now what is being done? This invitation having gone out to the world, the organizations representing my honorable friends opposite have seen a glorious opportunity of getting back to the practice which obtained years ago. They are firing in hundreds of names - which are not objections in the strict legal sense of the word - and they are not being required to deposit the 5s. fee with each of them. They are sending to the Electoral Registrars the names of hundreds of persons whom they believe are not entitled to vote. Senator McGregor has in his possession the original letter sent by the Electoral Registrar from his office, and signed by him - not a letter, as Senator Millen endeavoured to insinuate this afternoon, which was written by somebody else. It is a letter which was written by the Registrar, on official notepaper, and it states that the Liberal Union organizer supplied the information upon which an elector’s name had been objected to. That Liberal Union organizer has accepted, and is acting upon, the AttorneyGeneral’s invitation, and the Electoral Registrar is acting as the AttorneyGeneral said he would act. The Electoral Registrar knew nothing about the elector to whose name exception was taken, because that officer does not live in the district in which the elector resides. He knew nothing about the facts, and had no means of doing so. But the Liberal Union organizer wrote to him and supplied him with information - without depositing the 5s. The Electoral Registrar, who knew nothing of the facts, afterwards coolly said to the elector, “ Now that you have established your claim, your name may remain on the roll.” But suppose that the voter had been apathetic, or that he had not received the notice of objection which was forwarded to him. In that case, he would have known nothing whatever about the matter, and would have been disfranchised. The position, therefore, is like that of a man shooting at a flock of ducks. He does not need to take aim at a particular duck. He needs only to shoot into the mob.
– The honorable senator is ignoring the fact that the Registrar will not lodge any objection to an elector’s name appearing on the roll until he has made inquiry and satisfied himself.
– Did my honorable friend deal with the Electoral Registrar who lodged the objection?
– No, he did not.
– He did:
– He wrote to tell the man that he need not make a claim as his name was already on the roll.
– After he got the notice that his name had been objected to. This man, in order to meet the objection, sent in a fresh claim. The Minister of Defence is not quite seized of the fact that this was the second interchange between the Registrar and the man. First, the. elector got a notice that his name had been objected to, though he did not know by whom; then he filled in a claim and sent it in; afterwards he wanted to know who had objected, and then he received that reply from the Electoral Registrar. That is what we object to. The only way to get back to honesty in this matter, we contend, is for the Government to say to the organizers for the Liberal Union, “ If you have legitimate objections to any names on the rolls; if you have discovered that any persons are improperly on the rolls, we wish you to object to the names,” and we, on this side, invite them to do so in accordance with the law; that is to say, we ask them to put up the fee of 5s. with each objection, and if the claim is established, the money will be returned to them. If, however, these persons are simply using the provision in the Act blindly - very much like a man shooting blindly at a number of ducks - and hoping to disfranchise some electors, it is time that the Government put a stop to the proceeding. That the section is being construed in a vicious manner is shown by the letter read by Senator Newland. There we find the secretary of the Liberal Union of South Australia sending out a circular to the secretary of every branch, asking him to take objection to the names of all Labour voters - and the expression “ Labour voters “ is underlined - who are not possessed of the necessary qualification or who may have left the district. If this was an honest desire to purify the rolls, was there any need for that specific reference to Labour voters in the circular ? If it was merely a desire to have a pure roll, surely the secretary at Adelaide would have sent round to each branch secretary an intimation in this form - “ Please lodge objections to the names of all persons appearing on the rolls who, to your knowledge, are not qualified for enrolment/’ But when the words “ Labour voters ‘ ‘ are used in the circular, the smallest intelligence can easily read between the lines. To every recipient of a circular the message is in effect - “ Use the facilities which have been placed at our disposal by the Government to get Labour voters off the roll, qualified or unqualified.” This is getting back to the old order of things. When Sir John Forrest was Premier of Western Australia, I had an experience of appearing at the Revision Court for four consecutive months. I lived in one house, and for that period I had to go to every Revision Court to establish my claim. No sooner would I put my name on the roll than it would be removed, and for four consecutive Courts I had to lose a halfday’s work and go up to establish my claim, although I had lived in the same house all the time. That was a common practice in those days, especially towards those who made themselves objectionable. Here is an invitation to reestablish the practice. The only stumbling block in the way is the fee of 5s. with each objection. It is idle for the Prime Minister to say, “ The Act is that of our predecessors.” That statement is true; but the administration of the Act is not that of their predecessors. It is their own administration. They are administering the Act neither in the spirit nor in the letter. They are deliberately evading and getting round the provision for the deposit of 5s. with an objection, and whilst that is done, we shall not have honesty or pure rolls, but a number of persons will be left off the rolls who are in every way qualified to vote at the coming elections.
– It is rather a sad spectacle to find the Minister who is responsible for the working of the Electoral Branch sheltering himself against the criticism from this side behind the fact that he has nothing to do with the administration of the Electoral Act; that he is quite powerless; that he is in the hands of the electoral officers in any way - good, bad, or indifferent.
– With certain sections.
– It will be recollected that just after the last elections extravagant charges were made against the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, that he had been interfering in every conceivable way to the detriment of the electors generally ; that the Minister was in a position to interfere with the Act, and did so interfere, according to our opponents. If that was the case,I ask the present Ministers why cannot they interfere with the Act just as well as he did ?
– They have.
– They have done so absolutely, as the honorable senator has pointed out. The real trouble behind this wholesale disfranchisement of the people lies in the fact that the Government have wickedly broken one of the most important sections of the Electoral Act. if the Minister were to give instructions that the fee of 5s. with every objection should be reimposed forthwith, we would hear very little indeed of further objections being lodged to the names of electors. The other day Senator Oakes worked himself into a great frenzy over a little circular that was issued by the Labour party in New South Wales. But it was not a circumstance to the circular issued by the secretary of the Liberal Union of South Australia, directly from his office, over his name, to the members of his own party.
– If Senator McColl wants to see his name, I shall show a copy of the circular to him.
– We do not want to bring forward trumpery charges or falsified documents. This circular is written on Liberal Union paper. It bears the Liberal Union heading, and is signed by the secretary, Mr. Freeman, of Adelaide. We are perfectly prepared to show a copy of the circular to any person. For downright wrong-doing, it easily takes first place. Senator Oakes has also said that members of the Labour party are doing the same thing as members of the Liberal party, that is, lodging informations against persons who, in their opinion, ought not to be on the rolls.
– It is part of the campaign of both parties to clean the rolls.
– It is part of the campaign of our political opponents to purge or cleanse the rolls. To the honorable senator who interjects that it is part of the campaign of both parties I will give an instance of what the Labour party are doing in South Australia, and ask him whether it is a fair sample of what his own party are doing in other parts of the Commonwealth. At the present time the Labour party in that State have about twenty men, paid by the industrial unions, going from house to house, and putting on the rolls every person who is not enrolled. They ask no questions when they call.
– Oh, get away.
– The honorable senator shakes his head, but it does not require very much power to shake such an empty head as he has. Standing here, I tell the honorable senator that in South Australia to-day we have twenty men, paid by the industrial unions, who are going from door to door, and are not asking a single individual to what political party he belongs.
– I would be very empty-headed if I believed that statement.
– The honorable senator believes nothing except what he imagines. I tell him that what I say is an absolute fact. These twenty men are going from door to door, each with a roll, and asking the persons on whom they call whether their names appear on the roll - not for the house a person lives in, because Labour electors move more frequently than do others. The caller turns up the roll, and, if the person is not correctly enrolled, leaves a card, not as the Electoral Branch are doing - lodging an objection, and not leaving any means whereby the elector can become enrolled.
– Are these cards duly witnessed?
– When it is rendered necessary by an alteration or anything of the kind, a card is duly filled in. If it is a transfer or a new enrolment, the work is properly done, whether the elector is a Labour supporter or a Liberal supporter. There is an example of what the Labour party are doing, and it is a thing of which I can speak with some degree of truth and knowledge, because I know that it is a fact.
– I did the same thing last year.
– We can well understand Senator Oakes not believing that such a thing is possible.
– I learned too many tricks from your side.
– The honorable senator does not need to learn any tricks from anybody, because he knows all the tricks in the political game, and how to play them. I merely rose to refute the statement made by him, and to show that all that the members of the Labour party want is a complete roll. We are not at all afraid of our Liberal opponents being on the roll; but we are afraid of the underhand practices which are being adopted. Provided that we get a fair deal, we can beat our opponents every time. What we are afraid of is the influence being brought to bear by organizations such as the Liberal Union in South Australia, Mr. Parkhill’s union in New South Wales, and others of that kidney. We are afraid of underhand work, and we doubt very much whether the work which these parties are doing is as good, pure, and clean as it ought to be. My object in rising was to point out that we are no party to anything irregular in regard to purifying the rolls. We fear no purification so long as it is conducted on fair and just lines.
– I listened with a very great deal of pleasure to the statements made by the senators from South Australia, and the reason for my pleasure is that, late as repentance may be, it is always welcome. I am very gratified indeed to find that there is growing up in Labour circles in South Australia such a reforming influence that it induces them to-day to send round in this altruistic spirit gentlemen to collect names from all and sundry.
– We have to combat your methods.
– When I recollect that it was the same State and the same influence - the Trades Hall influence - which not long since gave Australia the spectacle of the greatest roll-stuffing scandal it has ever witnessed, I am entitled to congratulate my honorable friends on reforming their methods.
– That statement is a direct falsehood.
– It is a lie.
– The statement is untrue.
– Order !
– It is a lie absolutely.
– I ask Senator McGregor and Senator Needham to withdraw the unparliamentary statements which they have used.
– I am not accusing the Minister, sir. I say chat the statement, wherever he got it from, is a lie.
– I say that whoever informed the Minister told him a lie.
– My source of information was the report of a Select Committee appointed by the Legislative Council of South Australia, who found that a deliberate attempt had been made to place on the rolls the names of those who had no right to be there.
– Not a single soul. ‘
– The Select Committee so found, and reported to Parliament, and the report was held to be so substantial that an effort was made to start the legal machinery by proceeding against the gentlemen who had been guilty of this fraud, and a Labour Government was in office at the time, let it be remembered. The defence taken was that the Government had delayed so long it was outside the six months stipulated in the Electoral law within which a prosecution had to commence. That is all circling around the officials of the Trades Hall.
– Every one of them was entitled to be on the State rolls.
– Evidence was given that cards which were witnessed only, and which were not signed by the persons apparently applying to be enrolled, were sent on to have the names enrolled.
– In how many cases?
– It does not matter how many. It was done at the instance of the Trades Hall officials. The cards were collected in a mysterious way; they were in an equally mysterious way taken up and left on a table in the Trades Hall, without being placed in charge of any one; and they were then collected in an equally mysterious way and sent on that the names might be put on the rolls. I do not wish my honorable friends opposite to be annoyed about this. I am congratulating them upon the reform which has set in. I am delighted to think that gentlemen who, not long since, were associated with movements of this character, now see the error of their ways, and in electoral matters are trying to live as decent, honest citizens. It is not long since it was discovered in the same region, in connexion with the operation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, that a number of applications for enrolment were received in blank, except for the fact that there was a witness’s signature attached to them. When the honorable senator spoke of the efforts of his friends over there to leave cards at the houses, I interjected and asked him whether they were duly witnessed. I had in mind the incident to which I have just referred. I can only say that if my honorable friends have found out the error of their ways, Heaven forbid that I should do otherwise than extend to them a welcome now that they have entered on the path of rectitude. I am, however, a little dubious about the conversion of gentlemen who, a little while ago, were,, metaphorically, up to their necks in these nefarious practices, and now come forward with protestations that they are working upon so very high a political level. As for the other statementswhich have been made, they have recently been repeated so often in this Chamber that I should think that even those who make them should be getting tired of the frequent reiteration of vague and general statements, and of statements which, when they have been accompanied by definite details, have been refuted on the floor of this chamber.
– Not one of them.
– No, they have only been contradicted.
– Senator Pearce says that not one of these statements has. been refuted, but he should remember that one statement made by Senator Russell was withdrawn, and the honorablesenator admitted that he had made a mistake. Another statement was answered by a letter from the official who was accused of showing partiality. My honorable friend, Senator McDougall, hasclearly allowed his enthusiasm to carry him beyond the limits of accuracy. Hemade a statement which was read to-day from the Hansard report to the effect that 11,000 names had been struck off or objected to by party organizations in theCook electorate.
– I did not say that they were struck off at all.
– The honorablesenator said that they were objected to by party organizations. But the fact remains that, after inquiry, it was found that these were the names which were notified to the Registrar by the police.
– That is exactly what I said.
– According to the Hansard report which was read to-day by Senator McColl, the honorable senator did not make any statement of that kind. I say that if in the Cook electorate the police exceeded their duty the Government are not responsible. Though occasional mistakes may occur, I say that I do not believe that the police have exceeded their duty. I venture to say that every one of the 11,000 names which have been used in this chamber as evidence of corruption on the part of the Government was notified to the Registrar bond fide by the police.
– The number has been increased to over 16,000 since.
– Am I to understand that, because the police have notified objections to these names, it is evidence that we are to have an impure roll.
– No; we do not object to what the police have done.
– Objection was taken by them to the 11,000 names.
– Our complaint is about those which were objected to by the political organizations.
– In the Cook electorate 11,000 names were objected to by the police.
– Senator McDougall brought the matter up for the purpose of attacking the Government. He is not likely to bring up anything with the object of complimenting the Government. He brought it up for the purpose of launching a charge against the Government; but when it was looked into it was found that perfectly natural, right, and desirable action had been taken by the police, and that they had handed in to the Registrar the names of those who, so far as they could learn, were not living in the electorate for which they were enrolled.
– Does the honorable senator believe that 11,000 people migrated from the Cook electorate within twelve months?
– If the police have said so, I do believe it.
– Does the honorable senator honestly believe that 11,000 persons in the Cook electorate changed their residences within twelve months?
– I am astounded that such an inquiry should come from an old politician like my honorable friend Senator McDougall. If he looks at the returns presented to Parliament dealing with the redistribution of electorates, he will find that in the case of certain suburban electorates no less than 20 per cent, of the electors changed their residences in twelve months.
– This was only twelve months.
– I am not saying how long it was, but I am pointing out that these changes, so far from being quite abnormal, as is suggested, are the rule, and there is a constant flow every year of the names on and off the rolls. I do not propose this afternoon to follow the indefinite statements which have been made.
– The honorable senator is dodging the real issue all the time.
– The honorable senator has not given any definite reply to the charges made so far.
– How can any one give definite replies to indefinite charges?
– The honorable senator could give a reply to the definite question as to why the Government do not enforce the provision of the Act requiring 5s. to be deposited with each objection.
– Here again we have Senator Barnes ignoring, and I can only conclude that the honorable senator is wilfully doing so, the difference between objections lodged under the provision to which he refers and information supplied to an Electoral Registrar upon which he may act or not, as he thinks fit.
– What is the difference?
– In the case of an objection accompanied by the 5s. deposit, even though the Registrar should personally know the elector whose name is objected to, and that the objection is - invalid, it must be presented and proceeded with. But if any person furnishes information- to the Registrar raising an objection to the appearance of a name on the rolls, he is not bound to act upon it.
– If the Government insisted on the 5s. fees, they could make up their deficit with them.
– I acknowledge the compliment involved in my honorable friend’s remark. I am satisfied that honorable senators opposite can have only one object in view when they keep on reiterating these statements. They do so in the hope, no doubt, that by degrees they will come to believe them themselves, and will thus be put in a better position latex on to convince other people who may waste their time listening to them from some public platform.
– The Minister will not deny that the Government are breaking the law?
-What I deny is that anybody is being injured by what is being done to-day.
– That, is not an answer. ‘ Are not the Government breaking the law t
– I wish to turn now to the matter brought forward by Senator Story. I cannot comprehend his difficulty in understanding the document which has been placed in his hand.
– It does not say anything.
– It says, as clearly as it is possible to put into words, that the position is that the Department will pay horse allowance when an officer keeps a horse and is entitled to the allowance, but will not pay a horse allowance of JE30 a year when an officer does not keep a horse, and does not own a horse, nor will it pay the allowance when an officer, for the few hours for which he requires a horse, may secure one by hiring it at a much less sum.
– The Department has refused to pay in the case of officers who own their own horses.
– I can only tell the honorable senator that no regulation dealing with the matter has been altered since I have taken charge of the Department. I make that reference because Senator Story took exception to a change of regulation on the incoming of a new Minister. The honorable senator seemed to think that, because men enter the Service under one set of regulations, an injustice is done them if the regulations are altered during the time they are serving. If that argument were pressed to its logical conclusion, it would be impossible ever to alter a regulation. The honorable senator tried to make out that an injustice had been done to these men because an incoming Minister altered the regulation. I point out that, so far as I am concerned, the regulation remained unaltered.
– No, it has been rescinded.
– The regulation, as set out in the paper supplied to me by Senator Story, provides that the allowance shall be paid to those noncommissioned officers of the Instructional Staff who are required to provide a horse. The question which came before the Military Board was whether these particular officers were entitled to draw the allowance under that regulation. The members of the Military Board did not know whether these officers had horses or were required to use horses, so they added to their statement of the regulation the direction that under it the commanding officer, the man who ought to know, and who is in a position to know, should say whether these non-commissioned officers had horses or were required to have them. They have decided that the commanding officer must himself take the responsibility, and every one can see the necessity for this, of saying whether the claimants in such cases were required to use horses and entitled to draw the horse allowance.
– Will the Minister say what has been done in connexion with the claim for back allowance 1
– There is no allowance due to them if they do not require to have horses.
– If they had and used them, what then ?
– If they have horses and are required to use them under the regulation, they are entitled to get the horse allowance.
– They are claiming it, but they cannot get it. That is the trouble.
– Because they do not keep the horses. The trouble has arisen because some of these officers have assumed from reading the regulations that they were entitled to the horse allowance. There is no desire on my part to deprive any man of anything to which he is entitled. No man would for a moment give a decision on a case of this kind, the effect of which would be the payment to any persons from the public Treasury of sums of money to which they were not fairly entitled. In this matter there is no attempt to deprive officers of anything that is their due.
– It has been done.
– The Board will not meet the claims of these gentlemen because their claims are not good. The only thing that it is open for the Minister to do is to say that where these officers are required to keep horses and do keep horses, they will get the horse allowance, and where they are not required to keep them, they will not get it.
– When will they get it?
– When it is due.
– It is twelve months overdue.
– The answer to that is that these men are not entitled to draw the horse allowance. The only thing that is new in the matter is the decision of the Military Board that the officer in charge shall take the responsibility of saying whether certain officers are entitled to the allowance or not. If he certifies that they require to have a horse and keep one, they will be paid the horse allowance, and if he does not they will not. That is all I have to say about it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140624_senate_5_74/>.