7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence if he is yet in a position to make a statement in connexion with the trouble that occurred on the Bahia Castillo, which I understand, arrived in Melbourne to-day? Will an inquiry he held into the disturbance? If so, what will be its nature? Will it be a public inquiry ? Can the Minister give the personnel of the Commission appointed to make the inquiry, and will evidence be taken on oath ?
– A Royal Commission was appointed yesterday, because it was considered necessary that the members of it should meet the boat on its arrival in Melbourne. The Commission is to be, presided over by Police Magistrate Cohen, of this city. I have not the terms of the reference to the Commission, but on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate this evening I shall make an announcement as to tha scope of the inquiry and thepersonnel of the Commission, which ‘began its investigations yesterday upon the arrival of the vessel.
– Has the Acting Minister for Defence noticed a statement in to-day’s press to the effect that Mr. Walker, of Lindley, Walker and Company, has altered his sworn statement, ‘ and now says that the £6,000 commission paid to his firm was paid by John Darling. I’ wish to know if the Wheat Board paid this commission to Mr. Walker through Mr. Darling.
– I want to say distinctly that the Australian Wheat Board paid no money for any purpose to Lindley, Walker and Company.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether, before Parliament rises, he will make a statement showing how much commission has been paid to persons in connexion with the Wheat Pool.
– I shall obtain the information. I think I can readily undertake to comply with the honorable senator’s request.
Leave to Members Enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether he can now make a statement in reply to’ the question I asked yesterday with regard to the accrued leave of employees of the Federal . Government “who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force?
– I am. not in a position to make a statement on the subject. Inquiries are being made, and I shall give the honorable senator an answer to his question as soon as possible.
– Is the Acting Minister for Defence in a position to make a statement as to the minimum business which must be brought before the Senate before Parliament is prorogued, and ultimately dissolved. Will he say what time there will be available in which to do that business? If the time, is not ample, will the Minister take into consideration the advisability df the Senate meeting in the daytime, instead of sitting during all hours of the night?
– I shall make a statement on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate this evening in regard to the business which the Government hope to put before honorable senators. The statement is nearly completed. In the meantime, I ask honorable senators to co-operate with the Government during the day-time so as to avoid night sittings.
Disturbance at Darwin.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence if . the Government are in possession of any later information regarding the unsettled condition of affairs in the Northern Territory ?
– I regret to say that I have no further information. I shall ascertain the latest information available at the time for the adjournment of the Senate, when I will make a statement on the subject.
Printing ofrolls: Closing of Supplementary Rolls.
-Yesterday I asked a question of the Acting Minister for Defence with regard to what seems to me the unreasonable delay which is taking place in connexion with the printing of the electoral rolls. The Minister promised that he would later on give the Senate some information on the subject, and I ask whether he is now in a position to supply that information, and whether the printing of the rolls will be expedited?
-I can give honorable senators an assurance that the printing of the Tolls will be expedited. The Government are anxious that they shall be printed at the earliest possible moment. I shall have inquiries made, and will make an official statement on the subject on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
– As it hasbeen announced that the general election is to be held on the 13th December next, will the Acting Minister for Defence inform the Senate as to the latest date on which it will be possible to have names inserted in the supplementary rolls?
– I hope to be able to let the honorable senator know at a later hour of the day. I am not too sure that the 13th December has been definitely fixed as the date of the election, but the information will be based on that assumption.
– In view of the amount of information which the Acting Minister for Defence has promised to give honorable senators on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, will he take into consideration the necessity of proposing sufficiently . early that the Senate should adjourn to enable him to give honorable senators all the information, he has promised ?
Question not replied to.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence, in view of the statement which appears in the Melbourne press this morning with regard tothe subscriptions to the Peace Loan, and the steps to be taken to make up the amount of the loan, whether he will inform the Senate as to the exact proposal made to complete the loan?
– I understand that the Peace Loan was short subscribed approximately by £2,500,000. Arrangements have been made with the banks to complete the loan without a further appeal to the public for subscriptions.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether he will give private members of the Senate an opportunity this evening to deal with some of the important motions which appear on the business-paper in their names ?
– I regret that I cannot give any such promise. On the completion of what is regarded as essential public business, I will take into consideration the desire of honorable senators Who may wish to continue the sittings of the Senate to deal with the business of private members.
– Is there any objection to laying on the table of the Senate the correspondence with the proprietors of imported sheep dips with respect to the prohibition of their sale in the Commonwealth ?
– I understand that these papers have been laid on the table of Parliament several times. However, I will confer with the Minister concerned in regard to the request of the honorable senator.
War Gratuity - Preference in Public Service - Army Pay Corps Leave.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence, in connexion with the proposed gratuity to returned soldiers, whether it is the intention of the Government to make that gratuity as an Executive Act, or whether the granting of it will be discussed and determined upon by Parliament?
– The whole question of the war gratuity to returned soldiers is still under consideration, and, so far, no decision has been come to upon it.
– In connexion with the distribution- of ‘the sum of £25,000,000 to soldiers, is it intended that that gratuity shall be distributed in proportion to the amount of pay received by the soldiers on active service, or that each individual shall receive the same amount for each day during- which he was absent from the Commonwealth?
– I am not in a position to answer that question.
– Is it the intention of the Government to- distribute the gratuity to the soldiers, or merely to promise it? . a
Question not replied to.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– This matter is still under consideration.
asked the. Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are-
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government is negotiating for the sale of the ships in question, but no advice has yet been received that the contracts of sale have actually been concluded.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for .the Navy, upon notice -
– The information is not immediately available, but will be obtained for the honorable senator.
asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The existing New South Wales State award rate for sailmakers is £318s., and, -so far as I am aware, no alteration has been made in the award -consequent . upon the . recent pronouncement of the Board of Trade regarding the . basic wage. The policy of the Government, is to observe awards, and.until the award is varied no alteration can be miade in the pay of . temporary sailmakers. employed in the Defence Department.
asked . the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Isit -in accordance with ‘the practice of the Defence Department, or the . law governing . such procedure, thatcadets itra-velling to drill -in country . parts of Tasmania should be compelled to pay railway fares?
– The regulations do notprovide for the payment . of fares of cadets travelling to drill. Cadets residing over 5 miles from a training centre are exempt. Military commandants have powerto ‘exempt cadets for one year if attendance would involve great hardship.
Proceedingsfor Evasion of Duty
asked the Minis-, ter representing the Minister . for Trade andCustoms, upon notice-
SenatorRUSSELL. - The answers lare - 1.Yes.
The . following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act1911. -
Orders, dated 3rd October., 1019, of -the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents, “in connexion with awards or variations of awards, in the following -cases : -
Australian ‘Commonwealth ‘Public Service Clerical Association.
Commonwealth Temporary Clerks Association.
Bill . received from the ‘House . of Representatives ; Standing . and . Sessional Order3 suspended, . and -Bill read . a . first . time.
In Committee (‘Consideration . resumed from 15th October,, vide . page 13347) :
Clause ; 3 -
After section . 72 of . the principal Act ithe following section is inserted: - 72a. -( 1 ) -Candidates nominated for election -to . the Senate . may claim to have their names . grouped in’ . the ballot-papers -in . the manner prescribed . in this Act.
A group of candidates shall not be formed unless each of the members of the proposed -group notifies -the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State in the ‘prescribed manner after he has been nominated, and ntft later -than 12o’clock noon on . the . day of -nomination,that he desires to have this name included in that group with the names . of the other (candidates in that proposed group, and with thosenames only…..
– I expressed the opinion yesterday thart if -this measure is agreed to in. the form in -which it has been printed it will intensify the domination under which the elector is how jplaced in connexion with our -electoira’l machinery. That may or may not : be an ‘advantage, according to the point of view of the candidate concerned. Another -and imjpor.tant aspect of proposed new section 7;2a is that it will be practically impossible for all the candidates in one interest to group themselves together, except by mutual arrangement. The proposals which are embodied in it will work out in a way that will be quite unexpected, and will certainly constitute a precedent, so far as the form of balloting is concerned, in any part of the British Empire. I admit that the Bill possesses many excellent features, and that, in the absence of complete electoral reform, it will mark a distinct step forward, inasmuch as it will absolutely prevent minorities from electing members to this Chamber. But, in addition to providing that the names of candidates shall be placed in alphabetical order upon the ballot papers, and that the electors shall vote for them in the order of their choice, it is proposed in the schedule that the letters A, B, or C, as the case may be, shall be placed opposite the names of the candidates who have been grouped by mutual consent. In this provision, therefore, we are going a very long way towards the setting up of machine elections. I regard the . provision with very great apprehension. I have no objection to the schedule-
– Order ! The schedule is not now before the Committee.
– I was about to use an illustration for the purpose of showing why this clause should not be passed.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing the schedule at this stage.
– I submit that t am in order in referring to it by way of illustration. The schedule is connected with the clause under discussion, inasmuch as it provides for the block vote, and for placing upon the ballot papers the names of candidates in their alphabetical order. I regard the provision for lettering with very great apprehension, because it will . add to an otherwise simple ballot-paper, and will develop All sorts of difficulties in connexion with canvassing and voting on polling day.
– But the clause does not contain a” mandate.
– I . am. quite aware of that. The fact remains that it originates the idea of the grouping of candidates, which is carried out in the schedule where provision is made, not merely for placing on the ballot-papers the names of candidates in their alphabetical order, but for putting certain letters alongside grouped names. I cannot support a provision which will ma’ke for machine domination of the free choice of the electors. These proposals go farther in the direction I have indicated than legislation in any other portion of the British Empire has gone. All our electoral reforms, from open voting to secret balloting, have had for their object the granting to the elector of an unfettered choice of the candidates for his suffrage.
– Is it wrong for us to do something which no other portion of the British community has . done?
– My argument is that this is a retrograde proposal. It is an innovation which marks a step backward instead of forward. We all know that the ideal of electoral reform is that the elector shall have absolute freedom of choice.
– There is nothing about freedom of choice in this provision.
– Theoretically the elector has freedom of choice, -but in actual practice this grouping system will mean that the cards will come out inscribed “Vote for A” or “Vote for B,” as the case may be. I desire to knock out this A and B idea, because it tends to restrict the freedom of choice of the electors. It is an electoral anomaly which is calculated to prejudice the chances of independent candidates. Wo ought not to adopt any method of voting which is likely to impair the chances of any candidate. The innovation which is now . proposed was used at the last Federal elections in connexion with the voting of our troops overseas. How it operated my honorable friends opposite know. I hope that some amendment will be introduced which will result in the elimination of the grouping of candidates. Surely the average elector is sufficiently intelligent to vote the party ticket without having the way pointed to him on his ballotpaper.
Senator GRANT (New SouthWales) [3.28. - The provision to which exception has been . taken is, to my mind, one which ought to meet with our approval. It is a -complete misrepresentation to suggest, as Senator Pratten has done, that this proposal really constitutes an interference with the rights of the . electors. As a matter of fact, when an elector enters a polling booth, nobody is quite sure as to how he votes. There is nothing to prevent him from voting for any candidate that he pleases. His freedom of choice is absolutely unrestricted. All that this provision seeks is to indicate to’ the elector the candidates of the party to which he himself belongs. I regret that it has not been made even more distinctive than it is. I should like to see some provision inserted whereby in front of the names of say, Gardiner, Grant, and McDougall there should appear at the forthcoming elections words intimating that) these candidates are the) selected candidates of the Australian Labour party. If the parties were clearly shown on the ballot-paper, the electors would know exactly what to do. I do not see that we have any need to slavishly follow Great Britain, as suggested by Senator Pratten. It may be good policy on some matters, but surelyno one in this Chamber would think of following Great Britain in the matter of electoral reform. There are millions of men and women in Great Britain who are absolutely disfranchised, and it- is ridiculous to make any comparison between the electoral practice there and that in vogue in Australia. The Bill has many advantages, and, inmy opinion, its provisions are an improvement on the present system.
– Order! The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the Bill. Clause 3 is under consideration.
– There are many improvements embodied in the measure, but clause 3 is its redeeming feature. If the Bill, when it becomes law, will be the means of effecting the return of- the candidates who ‘have secured a majority of the votes, it has a good deal to commend it. Whatever may be done, I hope the Senate will not countenance Senator Pratten’s suggestion, and adhere to what he alleges to be the free and untrammelled rights of the electors.
– If Senator Pratten will read the clause carefully he will see that no groups shall be formed unless the candidates who are to form, them are agreeable. That is surely common sense. We know that in, all political work the candidates are grouped by the different parties, and every ticket issued by a party shows ite own particular candi dates in a grouped form. Was not the name of Senator Pratten grouped with the names of the other candidates of the party he represented ? Was he not returned as a member of this Chamber as a result of the grouping system ? Notwithstanding this, the honorable senator now refers to the grouping system as a retrograde step.
– It is the grouping of candidates on the ballot-paper to which I object.
– It was the group- . ing . system that enabled the honorable senator to be elected.
– The names of party candidates were not grouped on the ballotpaper. .
– Not on the paper given to the elector on polling day, but on the party tickets supplied to the electors showing them how to vote.
– I am contending for the freedom of the ballot.
– Every elector is free to act ‘as he desires, and he may disregard the grouping system if he so wishes.
– Then what is the advantage of grouping ?
– The honorable senator is apparently convinced that there is some advantage.
– There is a great disadvantage, and I am asking the honorable senator to point out the advantages.
– For the intelligent elector who carries the atmosphere of the committee-room into the polling booth there is no necessity to have the candidates grouped, but for the elector who has to be told the exact position in which the candidates he is supporting are placed, a system of grouping would be very useful. All sorts of devices are adopted to enable an elector to vote effectively.
– Canvassers are required to keep some distance from the polling booth’.
– I admit that. We all know that, unless under special circumstances, an elector is not allowed to be assisted when recording his vote. Senator Bakhap knows that he has employed committees all over the little island he represents to group the candidates of his iparty, so that mistakes in. voting might not occur. ‘
– I have never employed any committees.
– I am surprised that honorable senators should raise any objection to a practical and common-sense proposal.
– You cannot say that any benefit will” accrue from what has not been tried. Candidates have never been grouped on a ballot-paper.
– No; but honorable senators must admit that the system of grouping by political committees has its advantages, and it cannot be a retrograde step to carry the practice further and’ group the candidates on the ballot-paper to assist the elector.
– Why not carry it still further and stipulate that a committeeman shall have the right to go into the booth to see that an elector records his vote accurately?
– I am not suggesting anything of the kind, and such a step would be contrary to the spirit of the law. In connexion with my last Senate election, one of my comrades., secured votes that were omitted from an entirely different group. That shows clearly that an elector can vote for whomsoever he pleases. There are certain individuals who refrain from voting for candidates in one group and support those in another group.
– Would the honorable senator favour issuing a family ballot-paper ?
– There is no need for that.
– Why not allow a family of electors to vote on the one paper ?
– I am not suggesting anything of the kind. We have found by experience that the grouping system has many advantages. It does not bind an elector to vote for every candidate in a particular group. We now propose to obtain the consent of candidates in the matter of grouping. If they are grouped in the manner provided for in this Bill, how is the freedom of the elector being interfered with ? I am astonished that some honorable senators, who are usually so intelligent in Committee, appear now to think that by this innovation the British Constitution is going to be undermined, and the whole system of parliamentary government dissolved at one blow.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [3.41]. - This clause appears to me to be one of the few common-sense provisions of the Bill. It is too late now for Senator Pratten to rail at the party system. We have it, and, I think, whether for good or ill, it is going to remain with us. The clause, I imagine, has been inserted entirely for the convenience of electors, because at” present candidates are grouped on party tickets during an election campaign, and I assume that, at the forthcoming election, the Labour party, the Nationalist party, and the Fanners Union party, if they run three candidates each, will advise electors to mark their ballot-papers in some order of preference for their respective nominees. This clause will prevent some confusion and difficulty on the part of electors when going through the list of candidates, because the official ballot-paper will indicate the party candidates, whose consent has first been obtained for the grouping. Senator Pratten said there is no precedent for this clause. Well, that is no argument against it. There ia no precedent for the Bill. It is entirely a leap in the dark. As a matter of fact, there is, as I. have shown, some precedent for the grouping system, but for other principles embodied in the Bill there is none.
– Senator O’Loghlin said just now that the justification of this proposal was to be found in the convenient of . the electors on polling-day. I contend, however, that not the convenience of the electors, but rather the convenience to the party machine or organization, is being considered. Does Senator O’Loghlin or Senator Senior pretend for a moment that when electors go to the poll they do not know who is who upon the ballotpaper, and what principles or programme each candidate stands for?
– Have yon never known an elector to take a marked ballotpaper into the ballot-box?
– Of course, I have. And I have known an elector to throw it down and leave it there. Is it to be pretended that when an elector goes to a polling-booth to discharge this solemn obligation, to perform . this sacred duty of voting, he does not know the political views of the various candidates? If this is the belief, then all I can say is that honorable senators place the electors’ intelligence on a lower level than that of the punter on a race-course. I can quite understand a certain class of punter, if he loses a marked card, and has forgotten the names of the horses, asking a friend to mark the card for him, because he does not know the performances of the various horses, or their weights in comparison with weights carried in some previous events; but to imply that an elector does not know what he is doing, and cannot discharge bis duty unless assisted, is, to my mind, an insult to him.
We say that every elector should have a free choice, and that it should be competent for every elector to offer his services to his country as a representative of the people. Suppose we have five candidates for three vacancies, all, generally speaking, advocating the same platfonn and looking to the same voters for support. If three of those candidates were grouped they would be damaging the chance!5 of the other two candidates, for by their grouping they would intimate to the public that the other two candidates were npt of the orthodox party at all. To. that extent, they would be conspiring against all candidates of the same political thought who were not in the group- Let us assume that there were four candidates of the same political thought standing for three vacancies, and that three of them decided to be grouped. The fourth might come along and say, “ I want to join this group “ ; but under this clause they would have authority to say to’ him, “ No ; you keep outside.” And by thus grouping themselves and excluding the other candidate, they would represent themselves to the electors as the three true-blue candidates of the party, while the other candidate would be impliedly one who had not subscribed to the principles of the party.
– That would be under the old system.
– But we are instituting a new system, and we ought to be logical, and say that if there are five, six, or seven candidates of a particular political thought, they should have a right to be grouped. There is, of course, nothing to prevent their being grouped ; but the tendency will be to confine any group to the exact number of vacancies, so that three men may combine, in effect, to damage the chances of a fourth by being grouped on the ballot-paper as the authorized candidates of a particular party. To that extent the people’s rights will- be interfered with, because the tendency will be to concentrate votes, as far as possible, upon a group of the. number of candidates actually required.
. - I was going to suggest to Senator Pratten that, as this is a deliberative assembly, based on the party system, I hope the discussion will be confined to the principle at stake. Senator Keating, in the course of his remarks, said that the electors should have freedom of choice. I have no objection to that, but I point out that we are trying to perfect the machinery of the party system.
– We are doing nothing of the sort.
– Is that the Minister’s interpretation of the Bill?
– Of what use is it for honorable senators to try to disguise the fact that government in . Australia is carried on under the party system? We as a Government are asked to prepare an electoral measure to facilitate elections under the system which has been adopted throughout the British Empire. Under this proposal the- different political parties contesting an election will become known as “A party” or “B party,” according as their candidates are grouped on the ballot-paper.’ Honorable senators may object to the party system, but I do not think that there is any member of the Committee who has ever objected to being grouped with other candidates of hu party for the purpose of an election. I nan imagine Senator Keating, with impassioned eloquence, asking the electors of Tasmania to vote for his two colleagues and himself, and I should prefer the influence of the honorable senator’s recommendation as a colleague of mine in an election to a special designation on a ballot-paper.’ We know that electors who might be confused in recording their vote never enter a polling booth without a copy of their party ticket showing how they should vote if they wish to support that party. I am not an enthusiastic party man, and do not claim that the party system is perfect, but we have to consider this Bill in view of our adoption of the system under which people are governed in practically every part of the British Empire. I will go so far with Senator Keating as to admit that many things might be done legitimately outside which could not be tolerated in a polling booth. The ballot-paper under this clause will not offer an inducement to electors to vote for group A any more than for group B.
– The grouping is designed for the purpose of inducing the block vote.
– The ballot-paper will be perfectly neutral. I am satisfied that at least 80 per cent, of the electors will desire to vote upon a party ticket; and this proposal will facilitate their attainment of that desire. I think that it will be -found to make an enormous difference in the despatch of work in the polling booths, especially in the closing hours of the poll. I can remember that I recorded my first vote for the members of the . Federal Convention, and, though I think 1” may claim to have more nerve than the average elector, I did not leave the polling booth without some doubt as_ to whether, after all, I had voted for the candidates whom I desire-3 to support.
Senator Keating has said that if a man desired to stand as a Labourite or a Liberal we should not forbid him to doso. I remind honorable senators of the case of ex-Senator Trenwith. He had a dispute with his party,’ but at an election for the Senate he still stood as a Labour man according to his own label. If a political party desires to group its candidates to distinguish them from other candidates, it should have the right to do so. A fourth candidate standing in the same interest should not have the right to force himself into a party group without the consent of that party, as the result might be to confuse the electors, to the disadvantage of that party. On the occasion to which .1 referred, ex-Senator Trenwith was the fourth candidate standing professedly in the interests of Labour, and, though he was not included in the Labour group, he topped the poll, because the electors riveted their attention upon his personality. Other instances of the same kind might be quoted, but it is clear that in the great majority of cases the proposal of this clause will facilitate the recording of their votes by the electors. We know that, under the existing system, candidates issue thousands of cards showing their names, in groups, with crosses against them, to inform the electors how they should vote. The newspapers’ also group the candidates at an election, and those who are loyal to a party appeal to the electors on behalf of all the candidates included in a group. I should be sorry to think that Senator Pratten did not appeal to the electors on behalf of his two colleagues when he stood for election.
– I did, and will again, but outside the polling booth.
– If there were to be anything printed, on the ballot-paper to induce electors to vote for one party rather than another, I should be absolutely against that, because it would destroy the neutrality of the ballot-paper. Nothing of that kind is. possible under this clause, which merely provides effective machinery for carrying on the party system of government.
Senator Needham. Will not the letter “A” indicate a party?
– Yes, distinctly.
– Then why not make it more distinct by printing on the ballot-paper the name of the party?
– I believe that the Labour party candidates in Victoria at the next election will be grouped under the letter “A,” and that before the campaign has been carried on for three days the grouping of the Labour candidates under group “ A “ . on the ballot-paper will become known throughout the State, and Labour supporters will be told to vote for the “ three A’s.” There is nothing wrong about that. The candidates of other parties will, in the same way, become known as the “three B’s,” the “ three C’s,” and so on. I am asked why we should not attach the name of the party for which they stand to each group of candidates; but I do not see why. we should compel a man who wishes to call himself a Liberal to describe himself as a Labour man.
– He need not include his name in the group.
– Will he not be described as “Miscellaneous”?
– I know that if Senator Needham desired. to call himself a Labour man, and found himself described on the ballot-paper as “miscellaneous,” no one would make a greater row about it. It would be tyrannous to say. that a man who wishes to describe himself in one way should be compelled to accept a different description. Under this clause a candidate will be able to describe himself as he pleases; but, for the convenience of voting, candidates will be allowed to group themselves by mutual arrangement. I agree with Senator Keating that it is not’ at all likely that there will be four candidates included in any group; but the proposal embodied in the clause will not interfere in any way with the neutrality of the polling booth or of the ballot-paper.
I admit that this is an experiment which has not been tried in any other part of the Empire; but there is no reason why Australia should not lead in this matter. We did lead in the adoption of the ballot. Honorable senators will remember the circumstances of the old Wicklow election recorded in Handy Andy, where a voter took considerable risk in going to the poll at all. ‘ We have improved upon that condition of things, and it should still be possible for us to lead in the matter of improved electoral systems.
– This i3 a clumsy copy from the practice in the United States of America.
– I do not claim that this Bill provides for a perfect system, and because it does not, I hope that it will not. be permanent. There is a growing tendency in Australia to give better representation to minorities, and I realize that there is a good deal to be said for that. Majority rule may, in some cases, be abused? and British constitutional law is specially directed to the preservation of the rights of minorities. As it is imperative that the Bill should be passed at the- earliest possible moment, 1 ask honorable senators to come to a decision upon the clause, and let the Bill go through.
– I favour the proposed grouping system, mainly in the interests of the electors, to whom it will be a very great convenience. A large number of electors in Australia vote informally. Senator Keating has spoken of the great intelligence of the ‘electors, and I take it, from what he has said, that there are very few, if any, in Tasmania who vote informally. But on the mainland of Australia a very large number of electors vote informally at every election for the Senate. I should be very pleased if this Bill contained a provision requiring the electoral authorities, after an election, to set out the reasons why people had voted informally. When I was a member of the House of Representatives I endeavoured to ascertain why it was that so many persons recorded informal votes. The Chief Electoral Officer explained that 70 or 80 per cent, of those who voted informally did so by voting for too few or too many candidates in a Senate election. That was not the only cause of informal voting, but it was the chief cause. If so many informal votes were recorded when people were required to vote for three candidates, and no more than three, it is likely that a greater number of informal votes will be recorded under this Bill when the electors are required to vote for at least seven candidates. The grouping system will obviate that to some extent, but not altogether. It will be necessary to impress the people with the fact that they must vote differently from the manner in which they have been accustomed to do. The trouble is, however, that, no matter how earnestly we may set out to educate the people, there will be some who cannot be reached. The overwhelming majority of the people believe in parties, and vote for parties ; they do not vote for individuals. How many honorable senators, present were returned to this Chamber on their individuality - on their transcendental abilities? We were sent here because we advocated certain policies. I polled about 500,000 votes at the last elections. If my name had not been on the party ticket, even though I had independently advocated all those policies which I did advocate, I would have received fewer than 1,000 votes. Senator Pratten would have secured a few more - say, 1,500 - for the reason that he was given 640 more votes than were placed in my name. Senator Millen would have secured still more as an independent, because he is better known than either Senator Pratten or myself; but I doubt if he would have gained more than 5,000 or 6,000 votes. Sir Josiah Symon was a giant among giants when he adorned this Chamber. There is no one in New South Wales who holds a relatively higher position in th© esteem of the public than did Sir Josiah Symon in South Australia. The late senator stood on a party ticket, and was returned at the head of the poll. A few years later he entered upon a campaign outside of party, and then Senator Shannon beat Sir Josiah Symon hands down. The latter gained only about 17,000 votes; he was at the bottom of the poll; he lost his deposit. The late Mr. Tom Playford was in his day also a leading light in this Chamber. His reputation was as high in the Senate as in his native State, where he had been Premier. He was known from one end to the other of South Australia. When he stood on the party ticket he polled second only to Sir Josiah Symon. Later, Mr. Playford stood “on his own”; he figured at the bottom of the poll, and lost his deposit. The people want policies, and do not bother much about individuals. Australia naturally desires to choose as her political representatives men of honesty and some capacity. But they desire, first of all, policies, and not men; programmes, and not individuals. Be it said to the credit of Labour, the introduction of the party system is due to it. There was a time when people did not bother so much about policies; when candidates were returned because they kissed babies’, or happened to be members . of some friendly society or other.
– Then, how did the giants get into this place?
– They were sent here on a party nomination.
– Did they get into the Federal Convention on a party ticket ?
– Numbers of them got in on newspaper tickets. Who bad a chance in Victoria unless he was backed by the newspaper ticket? And who had a chance in New South Wales ?
– Was not Mr. Trenwith elected to the Convention?
– He was, on the Age ticket.
– He was a Labourite.
– That does not matter; he was on the ticket.
– Did you . say that Sir Josiah Symon and Mr. Playford originally entered the Senate on a party ticket ?
– I think they did. They were certainly run by a party organization.
– But they were opposed, to each other in their political views.
– It was a ticket, that sent them here. They were elected to this Chamber on a ticket. All the advantages that we possess politically are due to parties. Yet this Bill does not prevent any one from standing as an independent. Any person who can raise £25, and can . cajole six people into nominating him - six from among the whole of the population of Australia - may woo the electors. His election campaign need not cost him a penny, over and above the original £25 deposit.
– Who paid your expenses?
– That is not the point. A candidate need spend nothing. Of course, he may spend £200. He need not advertise. He may address meetings in the open air; he may walk instead of riding in motor cars. Probably, he would have little chance of being returned under such circumstances. Mr. Trenwith offered himself for election “on ‘ one occasion, following upon some little difference within the Labour party. It was considered that he had been unfairly treated by the Age. I do not think he spent 5s. on his campaign; yet he won by about 100,000 votes. He was returned at the head of the poll.
– Because the newspapers would not take his advertisements.
– He got in without spending any money. Some people assert that, owing to the system of pre- “selection, intending candidates are prevented from offering themselves. Of course, a man who has an organization at his back has a better chance than an independent. But, so long as there are principles to be fought for, there will be party organizations. It is far better that we should contest elections upon great principles than that we should revert to the old-time quarrels over personalities. I arn of opinion that the grouping system will cause many more people to vote formally than has been the case in the past.
– But they cannot vote the ticket under this system.
– Of course they can, and will. Party machines can be broken by the people if they desire to wreck them; but current experience suggests that more parties rather than fewer will be concerned in the forthcoming election. Mr. Carmichael, in New South Wales, had no machine behind him when he lost the Paddington by-election. He said he had been beaten because he had not the assistance of a machine, and that it would be necessary for him next time to build one up. He has taken his lesson to heart.
I shall support any system of election which tends to make it easier for the people to record their vote6 as they, desire. That is what this grouping system will do.
. - I have been struck by the remark of Senator Keating that we are estimating the intelligence of the electors at a level below that of the race-course punter. I favour the grouping system, but I do not like the idea of branding groups with the letters A, B, and. C. Candidates should be grouped under the names with which they register themselves with the Returning Officer. There are the Labour party, the National party, the Socialist party, and others. Honorable senators’, by the way, need not worry about Labour and Socialism being unable to agree upon a name. I know that there will be some difficulties when the Nationalists desire to change their names. Confusion will be caused, because some will prefer to be known as National Labourites, while others will want the title of National Liberals. All such difficulties as those, however, will vanish at the polls: No matter what various groups may call themselves, the people, will know who they are; they will know whom they intend to vote for. ‘ I have before me the record of an election held in New South Wales in 1914. I have here the official return, which shows that the successful candidates, and the votes which they polled, were as follows : - Gardiner, 344,151; McDougall, 342,482; and Grant, 341,934. My honorable friend, Senator Pratten, who was not elected on that occasion, polled 322,076. Honorable senators may ask why I have quoted these figures. My explanation is that some time ago Senator Pratten called attention to the fact that he had defeated our party, and I then promised that I would on some future occasion quote the actual votes polled with a view to showing him what the results were when we met. So far as New South Wales is concerned, there has never been a senator returned for that State, under the old block system of voting, who has not represented a majority of the electors. The successful candidates have always secured more than 50 per cent, of the votes polled.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - The same result has been obtained in South Australia.
– In regard to the proposed grouping of the names of candidates, not only would I adopt that system, but I would go further, and attach to the names of the grouped candidates the distinctive political designation of the parties to which they belong. I would also provide little squares in which the colours of the different parties could be shown. This would certainly aid the electors to distinguish the particular candidates for whom they desired to vote. Of course I know that there is a section “in this Chamber whose members do not believe in the pre-selection of candidates. Senator Bakhap. - For a free Parliament there should be no such thing as a pre-selection of candidates.
– Senator Bakhap and others who share his views hold the opinion that order, regulation, and system are not consistent with freedom. My own view is that the system of preselection has done much to secure in all our Parliaments more efficient representation than could have been obtained by means of a general scramble.
– The honorable senator desires a general scramble. That is why a Bill for preferential voting has been submitted.
– I do not object to persons holding the opinion that there are disadvantages attached to the system of the representation of parties. But to the party system in Parliament we owe all that’ is best in the government of this country. To those who believe there is a better system- ‘
– A free Parliament would De infinitely better.
– No doubt, Senator Mulcahy also believes that order, regulation, and system are not consistent with liberty. My own idea is that an organized Opposition is conducive to good legislation. The ‘constituencies outside, as well as this Parliament, have approved of the system of party government, and the Vice-President of .the Executive Council has assured us that the intention of this Bill is to make it easier for the electors to vote for the particular candidates whom they favour. If that be so, why should we not go a step further, and brand the candidates of the respective political parties ? ‘Surely we can have a system under which the general Returning Officer may receive the registration of the names of those parties. Priority of use should determine questions in regard to the title of any party to a particular name.
– I am going to launch a new party which will be called the ram-rod party - the straight party.
– I believe that Senator Bakhap would effectively and ably lead such a party. The only fault I have to find with the party system is that it is impossible to get the members of any party to recognise their real leaders. There are always better men to be found criticising them. I have, no doubt that there would ‘be nothing wrong with the party system if Senator Bakhap and Senator Pratten were the leaders of a party.
– It would be all right then.
– I believe that it is all right now, because I am at the head of a party. Why can we not provide in this Bill that upon the ballotpapers to be used at any election the name’s of the candidates may be bunched, and the figures 1, 2, and 3 placed before the nominees! of each political party, and why should not the first, second, and third votes recorded in favour of the nominees of any party be regarded as primary votes?
– The Government will not do that.
– Why not? If the system be a fair one, why should not the Senate adopt it? I know that Mr. Glynn has said that we cannot amend this Bill.
– He has already given notice of some amendments himself.
– I am rather pleased to hear that, because I strongly resent the statement of a Minister in another -chamber that it is not possible for the Senate to make amendments in the Bill.
– What authority has thehonorable senatorfor ‘that statement ?
– Either the Melbourne Agc or the Argus of Wednesday morning.
– I have never discussed the Bill with Mr Glynn, not a comma of it. .
– I was present at the deputation which waited upon Mr. Glynn in regard to proportional voting, and I do not think that the report mentioned by Senator Gardiner accurately represents what he said.
– That is a most extraordinary statement, seeing that I read the newspaper report to the Senate.
– The report does not accurately represent what the Minister for Home and Territories said.
– Then I would have been very pleased to have had it corrected; but when its accuracy was not questioned, it was fair to assume that it was correct.
– I have not seen the paragraph, and consequently could not contradict it.
– But I read it to the Senate..
– I am not questioning the honorable senator’s honesty in the matter at all.
– As the newspapers do’ not go very much out of their way to make clear what one says, it is fortunate that I have the “clipping with me now. It is headed in black letters, “Voting for the Senate.” “Bill Not to be Amended,” and its concluding portion attributes the following statement to Mr. Glynn: -
The system has been adopted for this particular election. There was now not the slightest chance of the Bill being amended.
I take exception to the statement.
– That statement has reference to the principal features of theBill.
– It has no reference to this Senate, but refers only to the question of whether the ‘Government were prepared to alter the measure.
SenatorGARDINER. - Mr. Glynn is fortunate in having so many honorable senators who ; can interpret his composite mind. I have quoted exactly the press report of Mr. Glynn’s statement, namely -
There -was now not the slightest chance of the Bill ‘being amended.
I resented that statement yesterday, and I am now pleased to know that there is a chance of an amendment submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council being accepted. But if the honorable gentleman is . willing to agree to the names of candidates being grouped, and also to them being labelled A, B, and C, why is he not prepared to go a little further and allow them to be identified with the political parties to which they belong ?
– I intend to move an amendment to that effect.
– I do not know how the different parties could be defined.
– Take the approaching elections for the Senate in New South Wales. The party nominees will be Labour candidates, Nationalist candidates, Socialist candidates, and Soldier candidates.
– And the candidates of- the Catholic Federation.
– That body has announced its intention of running candidates for the State Parliament, and it is quite possible that it will nominate candidates to contest seats in this Parliament. It has as much right to do so as has any other section of the community. But, if it does run candidates for parliamentary honours, it will inevitably bring its opponents into ‘ the political arena.
– Then we shall have the publicans and teetotallers nominating their candidates.
– Then we may expect to hear some members of Parliament asking, “Who fears to speak of 98 ? “ and others inquiring, “ Who dares io speak of 68?”
– Order !. The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I utterly repudiate the statement which has been made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) in regard to’ political parties. I maintain that our electoral machinery should not even, colourably indicate anything which savours of party.
– Hear, hear! I made that point quite clear. A polling booth should be a neutral place.
– Of course it -.should be neutral, but in this Bill there is an endeavour made to carry the atmosphere of party politics into the polling booths. I shall presently show how the very specimen ballot-paper illustrative of this proposal indicates a preference to groups.
– That is what it is for.
– I am very glad to learn that Senator Reid is callous enough to suggest that this provision is intended to indicate party preferences on the ballot-paper.
– I did not say “ party preferences.” I spoke of the groups.
– Senator Gardiner referred to liberty, and that brings to my mind a statement that fell from the lips of that great man, Edmund Burke, who said, “ Very few people have a correct idea of liberty, and fewer still have any love for it.”
– What happened to Sir Josiah Symon ?
– The reputation of Edmund Burke will outlive the reputation of Sir Josiah Symon or of any one who is, or has been, a member of this Senate. There are many acts that are permissible outside a polling booth that are not allowed within its walls. We know there are frequently altercations down the street in connexion with parties, but all political strife must cease the moment electors are inside the booth. There are members who wish to destroy a remarkably fine electoral ideal, and hanker after some means of placing a mark on the ballot-paper to indicate the parties to which the candidates belong. Let us see how this ballot-paper will work. Ordinarily, the names are placed on the ballot-paper in their proper alphabetical order.
– Is not an elector entitled to know whom he is voting for ?
– If he is not sufficiently intelligent to know it without an indication being placed on the ballot-paper, his vote is of no value, and he should not have a voice in determining our national destiny. On the suggested ballotpaper the candidates who are placed in groups of three are to be given precedence over those in groups of two, or all the groups are placed before those candidates who are running independently.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Shannon). Order ! The honorable senator is departing from the clause, and is now discussing the schedule of the Bill.
– I am referring to the iniquitous principle contained in clause 3, and the specimen ballot-paper in the schedule has a direct bearing on the clause under discussion. A candidate standing as an independent, who represents some particular phase of public opinion, is relegated to the bottom of the paper, regardless of alphabetical order. Is that right? Why should groups of three have preference over groups of two, and all groups over single candidates, regardless of alphabetical order? Is not that indicative of preference and differential treatment on the ballot-paper ?
– Order ! I again remind the honorable senator that the Committee is discussing clause 3, and not the specimen ballot-paper in the schedule.
– It deals with the grouping system, and has a direct bearing on clause 3.
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity of discussing the schedule when it is before the Committee.
– By that’ time, clause 3 will have been passed or rejected.
– The honoroable senator is not in order in discussing the schedule.
– Very well; I will merely state that’ any indication of party on the ballot-paper which controverts the ordinary practice observed in regard to voting is iniquitous, and will have my strongest opposition. The clause, if it is not amended, will be opposed by me. This Bill has never been discussed by the party to which I belong. The introduction of this principle is one that has never been fully considered by the National party, and the Bill is thrown down to us here with a provision relating to grouping that has never been fully considered. The Minister admits that he has not even discussed the Bill with Mr. Glynn. Whose opinion does the Bill contain ? Has it been placed here at the wish of the National party? There has been ‘ no public request for anything of this nature. There has been no party request, and the grouping principle has been, embodied in the Bill without reference to the members of my party.
SenatorFoll. - That shows that we on this side have a free hand.
– I would cease to be a member of any party that restricted my actions in any way.
– Is it correct to say that this measure has not been considered by the party?
– This Bill was never before any party meeting at which I was present.
– The two main principles were considered.
– What are the main principles?
– The grouping system is one of them.
– There has keen no discussion of the grouping system. This is very important, because it attacks the secrecy and purity of the ballot. I feel fully justified in putting the position before the Committee, because we shall be told, that, as members of the National party, we decided upon the adoption of the principle embodied in the Bill. Nothing of the sort took place. This is an adventitious insertion in the measure of a principle singularly vicious ‘ in its character. Senator Thomas referred to Sir Josiah Symon, but his position was brought about by the Tigidity of the electoral system we have been remodelling. We have been remodelling it, not in the direction of limiting the electors’ choice in regard to candidates, but by enlarging their liberties and facilities. We favour the right of an individual to come forward as a candidate unfettered by the limitations imposed by some coterie alleged to be representative of a party. Here we find the insidious provision to perpetuate the domination of the machine, and to increase the domination of party. The Constitution recognises no party, nor does the Electoral Act, and the ballot-paper should not recognise parties. The grouping of names, irrespective of alphabetical order, is the thin edge of the wedge inserting in. the ballot-paper a clear indication of the party the candidate represents. That is subversive of the principles of electoral freedom. Would I be permitted to go to the booth with my wife and eldest daughter, and, for con-, venience sake, record their votes? Would that be entertained for a moment? I know it would not. If one of the grouped candidates who was elected was compelled to resign his seatj would it mean that those who were grouped with him would also have to resign? Senator Pratten, for instance, is not responsible for my actions; nor is Senator Foll.I am responsible to the electors for whatever I do, therefore my name should be placed on the ballot-paper in accordance with the principles of equity. I will do all I can to make this a lesser indication of preference than it already is. I favour giving every candidate the same chance on the ballot-paper irrespective of the fact that the initial letter of his surname gives him alphabetical preference. Why should Quick and Russell be given precedence over Thomas, who ordinarily would follow in alphabetical order? Yet certain candidates are to be relegated to the tail end of the ballot-paper because they are standing alone, according to the specimen ballot-paper.
– Would that make any difference?
– Why should a man named Zachariah.be placed at the bottom of the paper?
– Exactly. I would give a man named Zachariah the same chance to be at the top of the paper as a . man whose surname commenced with, say, A or B. I believe that Senator O’ Keefe has indicated his intention to move an amendment to alter , the present practice of arranging the names alphabetically, and if he does I will support him, because I believe in equality. But why should the candidates in groups of three be given preference over groups of two, and all in groups over those who stand singly?
– The only way to overcome that difficulty is to draw lots for places.
– I am moving in’ that direction.
– I am not going to further debate the question, because my views are clear, and Senator Gardiner has already explained the position somewhat fully. I regret that such an innovation should have- been introduced, and that there should be a tendency to put on to the ballot-paper anything subversive of the principles of liberty, which have always been embodied in our electoral machinery.
– The discussion of this feature of the Bill has been very interesting, and
Senator Bakhap has treated the clause in his usual energetic fashion. I can quite appreciate his attitude. On a previous occasion he sought to substitute for the principle in the Bill a proportional system, which meant the recognition of parties ad finem. I could not follow his reasoning then, but I can now. Previously he sought the recognition of parties great and small, but now he will not allow the recognition of parties of any description.
– I favour the recognition of quotas.
– One object of the proposal is to’ enlighten public opinion, but it is a crude way of accomplishing this object, particularly -in a country where we are so enlightened, and where we have compulsory education. If the electors in this country cannot make an intelligent choice from among seven, eight, ten, or twelve candidates for the Senate, it is a reflection upon the political enlightenment of the people. If it is considered that political ignorance is such -that the Bill is needed to enlighten the electors, I say that the measure is altogether unjustifiable. That is my reason for opposing this feature of the Bill. I may be asked, what is wrong with the party system? I believe that so long as representative government lasts, the party system will be one of its inherent and incurable evils. But, while I make that admission, I am equally ready to . say that so long as the party system lasts it- will be wise, and in the interests of the nation, to discourage any slavish respect for it, because I believe that the public welfare, which, of course, is above all other considerations, has, in the past, been jeopardized by this slavish respect for party interests. The Minister tells us that this proposal is an experiment. I hope it will not find favour in this Chamber. I hope we will progress along those lines which have forced keen political students in other countries to admire the many admirable features of our electoral system. There is no need to educate the people on the party system, but, if there is, I do not think this education can be given to them by compulsory means. Anyway, it is not the duty of this Parliament to enlighten electors on the issue. It is wrong to make the machinery of government and the machinery of our electoral system subservient to the party system. I believe that the national interest has, in the past, suffered too much owing to this unreasoning and beslavering respect for party considerations which, in my opinion, should always be subservient to the national welfare. If we allow grouping on; the ballot-papers, the impression conveyed , to the elector will be’ that it is the first official recognition of the party system. This will be an unwarranted exaltation of the party system above the public interest. The party system is, as I have said, an incurable evil of our form of representative . government; and I shall not be one to ask the people to bow down, in a figurative sense, to adore it. The system has run riot in America, where candidates are officially labelled as Republicans, Democrats, and so on. We do not want to copy American methods in Australia. I am not going to vote for the proposal, believing that the instrumentalities of our electoral system should be unquestionably neutral. John Smith, Bill Brown, and Patrick Murphy should be equal, as candidates, in the eyes of all electors. The point referred to by Senator Bakhap should be kept in mind. It is the right of a candidate who does not belong to any party, and is of an independent turn of mind - and sneh men, I say, are the salt of our political life - to have a fair chance. -He should not be placed at any possible disadvantage by the introduction of this grouping of candidates. The proposal will, in effect, penalize every independent minded man who dares to say, “ A plague on your party system.” I do not want our electoral machinery to arrive at that point, for I have seen too many instances of the public interest being jeopardized by this strict respect for party welfare. Proposals from the Government benches have, on occasion, been turned down simply because the other party could not” have credit for their initiation. While the party system is an incurable evil of our present form of government, we should do what we can to check it, and hot raise it to a higher level in the eyes of the people.
SenatorLt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.59]. - While Senator Gardiner was speaking, I mentioned that I proposed to move an amendment,so that in the grouping of candidates we could really do what “ is intended . to be done, namely, indicate the parties that the respective candidates may represent. I recognise that the adoption of my proposal will necessitate- certain consequential amendments elsewhere in the clause and in the schedule. I move -
That after the words “ ballot-papers,” line 5, the words “in the name of the political party to which they belong” be inserted.
The paragraph will thenread -
Candidates nominated for election to the Senate may claim to have their names grouped in the ballot-papers in the name of- the political party to which they belong in the manner prescribed in this Act.
When speaking earlier this afternoon I said that the grouping system had been introduced mainly forthe convenience of electors, and I think my amendment will make the position much clearer, because electors will then have the names of the respective parties to which candidates belong printed in the ballot-paper, instead of the algebraical system of lettering A, B, and C. In other words, instead of Labour candidates being grouped under the letter “A,” which’ I understand will be their group letter, they will have the words “Labour party” printed opposite their names; likewise, if candidates under group “ B “ are Nationalist candidates, the word “Nationalist” will be printed opposite their names; and, if Farmers Union candidates are under group “ 0,” the party name will be shown in the same manner. Surely no candidate need be ashamed to be grouped under the name of his party.
– There might be more candidates under the name of one party than the number required.
– No candidate will be grouped unless he first agrees. I also direct the attention of- the Minister to the proposed . new subsection 2, which states -
I understand that nominations close at noon on a certain day, and that no candidates are legally nominated until’ that hour, so I fail to understand how . a man can indicate under what group he proposes to stand if he must do so before 12 o’clock.
– A candidate can indicate his group -when the nomination paper is lodged with the Returning Officer, and nominations may be handed in prior to the day fixed.
– I do not think there is a very great deal in the matter under discussion. I feel sure that the intention of the Government, in framing the proposed new sub-section, was to oblige the electors, as much as possible, by making the system of voting as simple as possible. I am surprised -that our friends opposite should be so keenly in favour of it, because I have always been . under the impression that the Labour party supporters take a much greater interest in, and know far more about, political candidates than Nationalist electors, so I remind the Government that it is as well to beware of the Greeks when they bring gifts. I am inclined to think that there is more in this proposed amendment than appears on the surface. I give the Government every credit for endeavouring to help the electors, but I think that a great deal may be said for the argument that we should not differentiate on the ballotpaper itself. It is right . that every citizen should have an equal chance, so I think the Government would be well ad- ‘ vised to drop the clause. It is not very important after all, because the electors will have those party tickets which are always prepared for distribution. If one is not accustomed to voting, it is not such a simple matter to go into a booth and select a number of candidates. I have had a long political experience, and I must admit that I shall feel a little uneasy when I have to go into a booth to choose from about twenty names the three men -who I think will suit me best, and then have to show my preference for others.
– That is where the group system would help you.
– It is right to assist the electors in recording their votes, but we should not go so far as to differentiate on a ballot-paper between candidates, and give one an advantage over another. Senator O’Loghlin’s proposal is entirely unreasonable. If we are to put the name of a party opposite’ the names of candidates standing in the interests of that party, why should we not also print on the ballot-papers the political programmes of the candidates?
– We are the party of economy, and we should like to save the Government the expense that that would involve.
– Then my honorable friends opposite must have changed mightily since the Fisher Labour Government entered upon an OTgy of expenditure.
– It was not a circumstance to the expenditure during the last two years of the present Government.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the Australian Fleet, established by the Fisher Government, saved more for Australia during the war than was involved in any excess of expenditure by that Government?
– I am afraid that my honorable friends opposite would follow the downward course begun by Mr. Fisher and his Government when the Braddon section of the Constitution ceased to operate and an enormous sum of money was placed in their hands which they thought they had to spend in some way.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the clause.
– I regret that I was drawn aside by disorderly interjections.. The intention of this clause is, no doubt, good, but I think the Government would be well advised if they dropped it. The electors’ will in any case vote upon a party ticket, because we know that the party system will continue. I think it was Napoleon who, when the great advantages of the British Constitution were pointed out to him, said, “It is all very well so long as you have two parties, but if you had three parties your system of government could not continue.” I am inclined to agree . with that opinion.
– They have thirtythree parties in France.
– They may do some things . better in France, but the French system of government is not better than ours, and that proves that Napoleon was probably right when he said that two parties would be quite sufficient. This Bill is an effort to help the electors, but the clause we are now discussing is of no real importance, and might well be dropped, as one effect of it would be to differentiate on a ballot-paper between one candidate and another, and to interfere with a man’s absolute right to stand as a candidate on his merits.
– At present the names of candidates are printed on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order, but why should not the order be decided by lot? Why should some candidates, because of the letters with which their names begin always find themselves last on the ballot-paper ?
– If the proposal that the order should be decided by lot were practicable, there might not be very much objection to it, but how could candidates for a great State like Queensland be brought together to settle such a question by lot.
– The Returning Officer could do that.
– Then the candidates would require to be represented by scrutineers when he did so. I prefer the existing system of printing the names in alphabetical order. It would be a difficult matter to draft a clause to provide for a lottery to settle the order in which the names of candidates should appear on the ballot-paper. I think it was Senator Keating who claimed that, owing to the way in which the adoption of the proportional system had educated the electors, there were fewer informal votes recorded in Tasmania than in any of the other States.
– No; I did not compare Tasmania in that respect with any of the other States.’
– One of the Tasmanian senators, I think, made the comparison. Perhaps it was Senator Bakhap.
– All my Tasmanian friends disclaim having done so, but I may inform honorable senators that at the Senate election of 1917, of the total votes recorded in New South Wales, 3.83 per cent, were informal; the percentage in Victoria was 3.21; in Queensland, 4.76 per cent.; in South Australia, 4.44 per cent. ; in Western Australia, 5.16 per cent., and in Tasmania, 3.71 per cent. These figures go to show that in the intelligent State of Victoria the lowest percentage of informal votes was recorded at that election. I appreciate the effort of the Government to assist the electors by this Bill, but the clause under consideration involves a departure from the existing system under which every citizen of Australia has an equal opportunity to submit himself as a candidate for the Senate, and as the defeat of the clause would be a matter of no importance, I repeat that, in my view, the Government would be well advised to drop it.
– In speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I contended that there would probably be more informal votes cast under it than have been recorded under the existing law. If this clause is not adopted, my prediction will be found to be true. Senator Fairbairn has spoken of obliging the electors, but we are here to assist the electors. They are under no obligation to us, but we are under obligations to them. It is our duty to make this measure so plain that it will assist the electors when . they go into the polling booth to cast their votes in the way they desire. I am supporting the amendment moved by Senator O’Loghlin, which will go further than the proposal of the Government in connexion with the grouping system. I believe in the grouping system. The Minister has admitted that the proposed alphabetical indication of groups by means of the letters A, B, C, and so on, provides to all intents and purposes for a party designation. That is the object of the grouping system. The Minister has admitted that, for instance, the letter “A” may indicate the Labour party, the letter “B” the National party, the letter “C” the National Labour party, and so on. If that be so, why not go to the full extent suggested by Senator O’Loghlin’s amendment, and print the name of a party opposite the group of candidates of that party on the ballot-paper. Why should not the groups be designated “Labour party,” “National party,” “Liberal party,” or “ Coalition party””?
– Or “Win the War party.”
– Why not, if honorable senators please? If that designation were adopted by the party opposite, it might assist the Government to win the election. The electors, when they went into the polling booth, might forget that the present Government said that they would win the war, and that they won the last election on that cry. Is there any objection to our friends opposite being known as the “W.T.W. party” - that ja to say, the “Win the War party”? No man who stands for Parliament in Australia need be ashamed of having the designation of the political party to which he belongs shown on the ballot-paper. It is well known that there will be at least three parties in the field at the next election - our friends from the Government benches, ourselves from the Opposition benches, and the Farmers’ party.
– There will be a Fourth party in New South Wales.
– There may bs five or six parties, including a returned soldiers’ party. Let the candidates indicate to which party they belong, and under the grouping system that can be made clear. The Minister urges the objection that in certain instances there may not be a. sufficient number of candidates to form a group, but that is a difficulty which might be easily overcome. No better speech could have been made in support of Senator O’Loghlin’s amendment than that which was made by Senator Thomas in discussing this clause. The honorable senator stated that if it were not for the party system he would not be here. That statement applies with equal force to every member of the Senate, and, indeed, to every member of this Parliament. There is not one of us who would ever have found his way into any Parliament in Australia were it not for the party machine he assisted in working.
– There is only one exception. I refer to Mr. Wise, the honorable member for Gippsland.
– What about Senator O’Connor?
– Or Mr. Trenwith?
– I am speaking of the present Parliament. Senator Ferricks has suggested that Mr. Wise is an exception, but that gentleman discovered that he had to join some party, and he has done so. Hie is now a member of the Government which he previously opposed. He was for a time in another place an independent man. He is not independent to-day, however, and when he woos the electors of Gippsland a few weeks hence he will do so as a member of the Government. Mr. Wise’s one-time independence has disappeared. There is not one mem ber among the 111 who constitute the Federal Parliament to-day who would have been elected to this Legislature but for the party machines. . He would be a bold as well as a foolish man who would face any election without the backing of a party and a policy. Senator Russell would be wise to adopt Senator O’Loghlin’s amendment, and not to accept the advice of Senator Fairbairn to drop the clause. If the amendment is not agreed to I shall vote for the clause as it stands. The Minister admits that the alphabetical system of group-marking suggests party designation. That being the case, why not print the proper and well-known name of the party on the ballot-paper ?
.- I appreciate the remarks of honorable senators who have expressed views which differ from my own; nevertheless, I am not convinced that their opinions are justified. When I examined the clause to provide for the grouping of candidates I was struck with its. wisdom. I considered that anything which tended to help an elector cast his vote as he desired must be good. I have known many instances where an elector has cast his vote contrary to his intentions. It is all very well to speak of the ignorance of the elector, but I predict that at the forthcoming election, unless there is a proper designation of party groups, many hundreds of electors - among them university-educated men - will not know the names of the candidates who have been selected by the parties which they favour. The ignorance of the general public is often appalling. I have frequently met people who have addressed me as Senator Guy, and have asked me what portion of Tasmania I represent in the Federal Parliament. There are actually members of Australian Legislatures who are ignorant of the forms of voting throughout the Commonwealth. No person is compelled to vote for a party. No matter how a ballot-paper may be grouped, electors are free to mark their papers as they choose. So far as grouping is concerned, the French party list system would be an improvement upon this new proposal, because it provides a column for every party. The specimen ballot-paper contained in the schedule does not make party distinctions sufficiently clear. I would like to see the groups more effectively indicated. Why should not the party groups be placed in separate columns? At the recent State elections in Tasmania, for the Division of Bass, when my son was elected, there were five candidates for the party to which he belonged. A certain section of the community printed and published a number of tickets, placing thereon the names of all the candidates for the Labour party except that of my son. Scores of canvassers were employed in distributing: those tickets; they told the people, “ This is the ticket of the Labour party.” Yet the name of one of the party’s candidates, had been struck from the list and that of another man had been inserted. The grouping of names as provided in the Bill would put an end to that sort of manipulation, for the reason that when an elector is handed his ballot-paper at the polling booth he will see at once that an effort has been made to . deceive . him ; and he will not find it difficult to vote the party group.. In the Senate election of 1914 there were two brothers . who were candidates. One of these, Mr. W. R. Shoobridge, stood in the interests of the Labour party, while Mr. L. M. Shoobridge was a Liberal candidate. Scrutineers ascertained that there were thousands of cases of voting by mistake. In one little polling booth ninety-two instances were recorded where ballot-papers had been marked for five Labour candidates and the wrong Mr. Shoobridge. They knew that a candidate named Shoobridge was a Labour nominee, but did not know which of the brothers to vote for. No one wishes an elector to vote in a manner other than he desires to do. I think the grouping system will help to indicate the true intentions of the people, and will reduce the number of informal votes cast. Men opposed to my views in politics have assured me that more informal votes are cast on their side than for Labour. That may or may not be the case; but this measure will considerably reduce the totals of informal votes. There are many people who favour the elimination of party altogether, but there are few political aspirants who would care to enter upon a campaign with that ideal for a fighting platform. Non-party government may sound captivating, but it does not appear to be practical nowadays. I shall support the amendment, and, if it is lost, I will assist the Government to secure the best system of grouping that may be devised.
– A number of helpful suggestions have been advanced, and I would like to consult officials of the Electoral Department before proceeding with this clause. Possibly, as an outcome of such discussion during the dinner adjournment, I may be able to present an amendment which will embody certain useful proposals offered this afternoon. The grouping of candidates has nothing to do with party. We all desire to perfect the electoral machine. I suggest that consideration of this clause and consequential clauses be postponed.
Clause 4 -
Section seventy-six of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: - “ 76. The deposit made by or on behalf of a candidate at a ..Senate election or at a House of Representatives election shall be . retained pending the election, and after the election shall be returned to the candidate, or to some’ person authorized by him in writing to receive it, if he is elected, or -
– I desire to submit an amendment affecting a matter of principle. I wish to see the system under which a candidate for parliamentary honours is compelled to lodge a deposit, abolished. To my mind, a deposit constitutes a property qualification. Under the existing law, if I desire to contest a seat for the Senate, and I cannot find a deposit of £25,I am prevented from doing so. I think that a man has a right to be; come a member of this Chamber even if he does not possess £25. Of course, it may be urged that the political party to which a candidate belongs iisually finds the money for him. I admit that . the party with which I am associated has frequently provided the deposit for me, and so far it has not lost it.
– Nor will it lose it next time.
– Under the provisions of this Bill I am not so sure of that. However, with a view of testing this matter, I move -
That the word “ deposit,” line 4, be left out.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That paragrapha be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new paragraph: - ” (a) In the case of a Senate election, if, in respect of the last vacancy requiring to be rilled, the number of votes received by him up to the time of his exclusion is more than one-fifth of the number of votes received, up to the time of the filling of the vacancy, by the candidate who is elected thereto; or,”
Honorable . senators will recollect that very considerable exception has been taken to the effect of paragraph a of the Bill.To meet the objections which have been urged to it, I desire to substitute the provision which I have just read. Under that provision, if . the number of votes received by a candidate be less than one-fifth of those recorded up to the time that the third vacancy is filled, he will be liable to lose his deposit. The insertion of the new paragraph will bring the clause more into harmony’ with the desire of honorable senators.
– It strikes me that the position would he made very much clearer if the new paragraph were made toread -
In the case of a Senate election, if, in respect of the last vacancy requiring to be filled, the number of votes received by him on his first, second, or third preferences, &c.
Where there are three candidates to be elected, the third preference votes should count as of equal value with the first preference votes.
– The preferences might extend to four or five.
– They might. But I have in mind a contest in which there areonly three seats to be filled.
– All the preference votes received by a candidate will count to his advantage until the third vacancy is filled.
– I believe the proposal of the Minister will work out correctly, but I think that my suggestion, if adopted, would make it absolutely clear that the whole of the votes which would give a candidate a chance of winning will be counted when the question of forfeiting his deposit arises.
– The new paragraph , which I have proposed plainly sets out that all preference votes received . by a candidate shall be counted to his credit up to the time that the last vacancy is filled. After the first candidate has been elected, the other candidates will receive additional preferences, the same thing will occur after the second candidate has been elected, and the process will be repeated until the third vacancy is filled. I recognise that the phraseology is somewhat difficult to follow, but if the new paragraph does not give effect to the intention of the Government I shall be prepared, at a later stage, to recommit the clause, and amend it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 postponed.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to. -Clause 10 -
Section 123 of the principal Act is amended (a) by omitting paragraph (a) of sub-section (1) thereof and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “ (a) Where his ballot-paper is a ballotpaper in accordance with Form E in. the schedule - he . shall vote for not less than the prescribed number of candidates by placing the number 1 in the square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he votes as his first preference, and by placing the numbers 2, 3, 4 (and so on, as the case requires) in the squares respectively opposite the names of so many other candidates as will, with the candidate for whom he votes as his first preference, complete the prescribed number. The voter may, in addition, where there are more candidates . than the prescribed number, indicate the order of his preference for as many more candidates as he pleases by placing in the squares respectively opposite their names other numbers next in numerical order after the numbers already placed by him on the ballot-paper. In this paragraph ‘the prescribed number of candidates ‘ means twice the number of the. candidates to be elected, plus one, or, if there are fewer candidates than that number, the total number of candidates”; and (b) by omitting sub-section (2) thereof.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia [5.48]. - I take exception to this clause, which governs the number of candidates for whom the elector must vote. It provides that he must vote for not less than seven.
– Double the number of candidates, plus one.
– My objection to the clause is that it will compel an elector to vote for at least seven candidates. He will be required to exhaust his preferences up to that number. But, no matter how many more candidates there may be, the elector will be at liberty to exercise, or not to exercise, his preference votes in respect of them. I have already said that this Bill is really misnamed. It is not a Preferential Voting Bill. The ‘very fact that it cuts out even, the eighth candidate will deprive the elector of the chance which it seeks to give him. We all recognise that under this measure; unless an elector exhausts his preference votes up to seven, his ballot-paper will be informal. I think it is admitted that an elector is under a penalty. Under the ordinary preferential system in vogue in connexion with the House of Representatives, and in Western Australia and Victoria, the whole of the preferences must be exhausted. If there are twenty candidates standing for a seat in the Legislative Assembly, the whole of the preferences must be worked out. If this Bill becomes law, the electors will be compelled, under the penalty of being disfranchised by rendering their ballotpaper informal, of voting for double the number of candidates required, plus oneWhy not assist the elector by making it a simple preference, and going straight on?
– Going right on would not be the means of disfranchising the elector, if the paper was properly marked.
– If this clause means what it says, the paper becomes, informal under such circumstances. It would be simpler for an elector to go into the booth and mark the paper in order of preference from one to twelve, as the case may be.
– That can be done now.
– An elector would be compelled to vote for a certain number, and stop at that. If there is any compulsion at all in the matter of marking the paper, an elector should be compelled to mark the whole number in order of preference.
– That would be more complicated for the elector.
– I think that would be a simpler method. It is one which has stood the test of time- I ask Senator Plain, who has a knowledge of the Victorian system, if it is not a simpler method to go right through the list, and mark the candidates in order of preference, say, from one to twelve!
– I think it is.
– In connexion with the selection of parties in’ some of the States, the preference system obtains. In our Western Australian pre-selection party ballots we have a preferential system of selecting candidates for the Senate. We vote three ones, and then from two to ten, according to the number of candidates. The three ones are of equal value, and we then go on until the ballot is exhausted.
– Does the honorable senator not anticipate a large number of informal votes being cast under such a system ?
– I stated in my second-reading speech, and in speaking to Senator O’Loghlin’s amendment, that there is a great danger of increasing the number of informal votes if the Bill is passed in its present form.
– An elector must vote for at least seven candidates.
– But supposing there are more than seven? I am sure Senator Earle recognises that there may be.
– There would be more informal votes under the honorable senator’s proposal.
– I do not think so. In Victoria there have been few informal votes.
– Party ballot-papers are sometimes taken home for a week.
– I do not think such is the case. In Western Australia I have had a Senate ballot-paper on which thirteen names appeared, and I determined my order of preference in five minutes. This is a complicated system, and an elector will not select seven easier than, say, sixteen.
– The electors are not altogether bone’headed.
– We should endeavour to assist them. This is called a preferential system; but the clause as at present framed does not embody that principle. I am not prepared to indicate an amendment at this stage, but later on I may be able to move in the direction of providing a real preferential system. An elector has to vote for at least seven candidates - if that is not done, his paper is informal - and we ought to provide that the whole of the candidates standing should be voted for in the order of preference desired by the elector.
– That would increase the number of electors who would stay at home, and not vote at all.
– In what way ?
– By making the voting more complicated.
– I am endeavouring to suggest a means of simplifying it. If an elector is allowed to vote from, say, one to ten, and knows that by so doing his paper will not be informal it is simplifying the proposition. I suggest that the clause be amended to enable an elector to exercise his preference right through.
– The difficulty that presents itself to Senator Needham is the possibility of complication in the method of marking the papers in order to obtain the proper preference. Why should it be more complicated on the mainland than in Tasmania? At the 1913 elections 75 per cent. of the total number of electors in that State recorded their votes, and only 2.8 per cent, were informal.
– That was under the Hare system.
– Yes. The method of voting is the same, although the system of counting is different. A Tasmanian elector understands that if he places the number 1 against a particular candidate, that candidate will be regarded as his first preference, and he goes on marking the paper in order of preference to, say, nine.
– Under the Hare system is it necessary to mark the paper with numerals before the name of the candidate. ?
– The law in Tasmania is to indicate three preferences, and electors are encouraged to mark their order of preference right out. I analyzed the figures in connexion with the election in Denison when fourteen candidates were standing, ‘ and nearly every elector voted up to seven, and that is exactly what would happen under this proposal.
– Six were to be returned ?
– Yes. There were very few informal votes. I think it wise to carry out the order of preference, and if an elector considers one candidate objectionable, he can pass him over and support one whom he considers less objectionable. I do not consider the system complicated. An elector can easily mark nine or ten preferences if requested to do so. To give effect to this principle it will require seven preferences to be recorded, and for that reason seven has been embodied in the Bill. My analysis in connexion with the Denison election proves that an; elector should vote for at least seven.
– Senator Mulcahy has omitted, quite unintentionally I believe, the vital point in his explanation in connexion with the Denison election. He has stated that fourteen candidates were competing, and that most of, the electors voted for seven, and that some exercised their preference right down to the fourteenth. I understand that in nearly all cases the electors voted as far as the seventh; but I would remind Senator Mulcahy that that election was conducted on bitter party lines, and that each of the parties had seven candidates.
– There were seven candidates representing: each party.
– That makes all the difference. Under this Bill the electors will be compelled to vote for more candidates than are represented by their own particular party. In the case of the Denison election it was, of course, only to be expected that where there were seven candidates for each party every elector supporting a party would exercise his choice right down to the seventh’.
– An elector will be compelled to exercise his choice down to the seventh candidate under this Bill.
– Is it right that electors should have to continue their preference beyond their own party ?
– If that particular election had been conducted under this measure an elector would have had to mark his order of preference down to thirteen.
– That is where the Bill is palpably unjust, and if an elector is compelled to vote beyond his own party he may be supporting a candidate whose views are entirely different from his own. That is the principle in the Bill, but it is not the principle upon which Tasmanian elections are conducted. As a rule a Tasmanian elector is not obliged to vote for more than the number of candidates to be returned, whereas under this Bill an elector of the Commonwealth will be required to vote for double the number of candidates plus one. This, I think, is a rank injustice.
– My illustration has been worked out on the election of three.
– But does not the honorable senator see that under this Bill electors are called upon to vote for double the number of candidates required, plus one ?
– And Senator Needham wants the elector to be compelled to go beyond that number.
– I could not agree to that. This Bill goes beyond what are the proper functions of an electoral law by ‘compelling a man to vote for candidates with whose politics, perhaps, he totally disagrees.
– The Hare system does that, and I understand yon are in favour of the Hare system.
– It does not compel an elector to vote for any men outside his own party, provided, of course, there are sufficient candidates of that party standing at the election; and Senator Mulcahy knows that under the Hare system in Tasmania there have alwaysbeen sufficient candidates standing in the interests of each party.
– In one election for Bass there were only four Liberal candidates for six seats.
– In that case supporters of the Labour party, after they had exercised- their preference votes, were not compelled to vote for two Liberals, were they?
– Then that proves my argument.
– But the principle of compulsion is there all the same.
– Not in the sense . mentioned by this Bill.
– It has not been defended yet.
– And it will get no defence from me. Any system that compels an elector to vote for a man whose policy he disagrees with is fundamentally wrong, because the party system has developed to such an extent that in almost every case there are sufficient candidates ‘ running, in the interests of the respective parties for the various seats.
– I am afraid yon will have to study the HarerSpence system a little more.
– I am speaking of the Hare-Clark system - the single transferable vote, as used in Tasmania.
– That is the HareSpence system.
– But we know it as the Hare-Clark system in Tasmania. I never will be able to see the jhstioe of a principle that compels an elector to vote for a man that is not of his own party. We may assume that at the forthcoming election for the Senate there will be a number of independent candidates, and under this Bill a Nationalist supporter, taking that party as an illustration, after voting for the three Nationalist candidates in the order of his choice, will have to extend his preference vote to four other candidates, and possibly will have to show some preference for three Labour candidates whose . politics, perhaps, he absolutely hates. It is absurd. There is no necessity for the provision.
– I cannot agree altogetter with what my colleague has said. This Bill either establishes the preferential system or it does not. I want the preference vote to be exhausted.
– How can you have any preference for a man whose politics you do not believe in?
– If I cannot get a Labour man. returned, then I must give my second preference to somebody else who, in my opinion, is the next best. There is no getting away from this principle under the preferential system, which- is now ‘applied to the House of Representatives elections, so that when I go to the poll in Perth at the forthcoming elections I will give my No. 1 vote for a Labour candidate ; and, in order to make my vote formal, I must exhaust my preferences. The Minister has said that there is not going to be two systems of voting, but I contend that, under the Bill as it stands, there will be two systems, because, whilst an elector will be compelledto exhaust his . preference votes in the case of candidates for the House of Representatives, he will be required to exhaust only a certain number of his preference votes so far as the Senate is concerned. There is the difference. If unity is so much to be desired, then every elector should be compelled, to exhaust the whole of his preference votes. This is the principle of the preferential voting system. I want it to be uniform, and I move -
That the words “ not less than the prescribed number “of,” lines 7 and 8, be left out.
The paragraph will then read -
If this amendment iscarried, certain, other consequential alterations will have to be made.
– I want a little light On this question. Up to the present, an elector has been required to vote only for sufficient candidates to fill vacancies. I cannot see the wisdom of compelling a man to mark his preference for a candidate whose . politics are abhorrent to him. It may be said that in such circumstances a candidate would get the lowest number. I should prefer to indicate my preference by giving him something like . a thousandth place, showing that I did not prefer him at all.
– Even then he would not be farther away than last..
– An elector who intends in a Senate election to vote for three men, as a rule, does not see the others at all, and, except for the contingencywhich did arise on one occasion in South Australia - of a candidate dying between the time of nomination and . polling day, I can see no reason why any elector should be called upon to vote for more than the number actually required. If the Minister can throw some light on the clause, I shall be very glad. Senator Needham urged that an elector should be compelled to mark his preference against the names of all the candidates, but this, I think, would be a waste of time, and would lead to congestion in the polling booths, especially in city divisions.
– I think this- is an excellent clause. Without it we could not’ have preferential voting, in ‘which, I assume, Senator Senior believes. The proposal is that the minimum vote which an elector shall record is a vote for double the number of candidates required to be elected, plus one. Unless he votes in that way, we cannot have preferential voting at a Senate election. Senator Senior’s argument is, in effect, that the candidates for whom an elector votes in numerical order from one to three are sure of being returned; but I point out to him that the result of the election will depend on the aggregate preferences expressed by the whole of the electors. It is not to be assumed that either the whole of the Labour party candidates, or the whole of the National candidates, will be returned, -and the proposal in this clause will enable’ an elector to record the estimation in which he holds a candidate who differs from him politically.
– On the second reading of the Bill I said that I did not like it because it is complex and cumbersome; but as it will become law in some shape or another, I should like to see it made as simple as possible. For that reason, when Senator
Needham’s amendment nas. been dealt with, I shall submit an amendment to provide that the prescribed nnmber of candidates shall mean the number of candidates to be elected.
– Is that not already provided for by the clause?
-No ; the clause provides that the prescribed number of candidates for whom an elector is to vote shall be twice the number to be elected plus one.
– The honorable senator intends to propose that an elector should vote for six and not for seven candidates.
– No ; I propose that the elector shall be compelled to vote for three candidates, and that when he has done that he may, if he pleases, indicate his preference for any other candidate.
– Why partially destroy the principle of p reference by limiting it in the way the honorable senator proposes ?
– I am afraid that Senator Pratten does not understand the matter. An elector voting for three candidates must indicate his preference amongst those candidates.
– That is a preference only amongst the candidates of his own party.
– After the elector has indicated his preference amongst the candidates of his own party by marking them respectively 1, 2, and 3, I propose that he may, if he chooses, indicate his preference amongst other candidates if it is possible for a man to have any preference amongst a number of candidates whose politics he may hate like poison.
– The honorable senator must assume that some of those candidates may be elected.
– I object to being compelled by an Act of Parliament to mark a preference between one candidate and another if both are opposed to me politically.
– Could the honorable senator not give his preference to the candidate least objectionable to him?
– All candidates opposed to me politically will be equally objectionable to me.
– All will be objectionable, but some may be more objectionable to the honorable senator than others.
– I recognise no question of degree in the matter. I can imagine a number of candidates amongst whom no question of the degree of my objection to them could arise.
– Then the honorable senator does not believe in compulsory voting?
– I believe in compulsory voting for the candidates an elector approves of. I object to being compelled to record a vote for a candidate I do not approve of. In my view it destroys the principle of compulsory voting to compel an elector to vote for a candidate whom he does not wish to be returned.
– Suppose a voter does not approve of any of the candidates ?
– Then he can go into the booth and mark his ballot-paper in such.. a way as to make it informal. That is frequently done.
– This clause will enable one’s friends to vote to keep their enemies at the bottom of the poll.
– Even if an elector marks the name of a candidate in such a way as to put him at the bottom of the poll, his preferential vote for that candidate has some value, and it may result in his election at the final count. I have been present for days and days at the distribution and transfer of votes recorded at elections, and at the election held in Tasmania in May last for the State Parliament I saw men elected because they secured preferences marked 7, 8, or 9. If they had not received those preferences they would not have been elected.
– I voted 5 and 6 for two Labour men in the Bass election.
– Exactly. Under the clause as it stands an elector will be compelled, although he has no wish to see Mr. Thompson elected, to Tecord a vote for him. It may put him down at the bottom of the list on the electors’ ballotpaper, but it will still have some value, and may assist his election. The amendment I intend to propose will raise the question as to whether an elector should be compelled to record a vote for a candidate with whose political programme he does not agree.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– In the case of a Senate election, when three- candidates are to be returned, I desire to know whether the numbers 1, 2, and 3 will be equivalent to three No. 1 votes.
– If an elector votes 1, 2, and 3 for the same party, yes; but if he votes 1 and 2 for candidates belonging to one party group and his third vote is for a candidate outside of that group, my reply is, no.
– Another point upon which I am doubtful is whether the second votes shown on No. 1 candidate’s paper will be effective, say, for the second or third candidate.
– After one candidate’ has secured an absolute majority, his No. 2 votes become the first count.
– My desire was that after counting the votes of the second candidate he should have the value of the votes- which were on the first candidate’s paper as a second choice.
Upon examining this clause, I am inclined to think that the second vote would only be equivalent to one-half of the first vote.
– They all become No. 1 votes when the No. 1 votes themselves are exhausted.
– Yes; every vote eventually becomes a No. 1 vote.
– There is another point which may reasonably be discussed in connexion with this clause. Is there any provision in the Bill to meet the case of the demise of a candidate after nomination and before the declaration of the poll? Is there to be a recount? Or, if there is no provision in the Bill, is it intended to insert an amendment or a new clause to deal with that eventuality?
– Thereis no provision in the Bill to meet such a case.
– I do not think such provision is necessary.
– Experience has proved the necessity for meeting a possibility of that kind. I allude to the de mise of the late Senator McGregor after the date of his nomination and before, the poll was declared. Suppose there are four candidates; either grouped together or not all within one group.
-Grouping complicates the position immensely.
– I am of opinion that instead of confusing the issue it makes it clearer.
– Would it not be an extraordinary thing to attempt to put such a provision into an Electoral Act?
– I do not think so. Let us suppose that the grouping principle has been instituted, and that four candidates are nominated, either in one group or within two groups. Instead of another election becoming necessary, the fourth candidate would secure the votes cast for the deceased, and would thus occupy the third seat to be filled. There would be no need for a further election, and there would be no impairment of the principle laid down in this measure.
– Would not such a difficulty be met in this way, namely, that in such a case all the No. 1 votes given to the candidate who had died would ‘become of no effect, but that every other vote polled by hi3 supporters would be effective?
– There was an instance in connexion with an election for the South Australian Parliament. A candidate, who would have been placed at the head of the poll, died before the declaration. The outcome was that . the three candidates . who had polled the highest number of votes below the total of the deceased were declared elected. If some provision of the same character were included in the Bill the measure would be improved.
– If we adopt the preferential system of voting, and insist upon not less than seven votes being . recorded by the elector, then, in the circumstances described by Senator Senior, the situation would automatically solve itself. In the event of the death of a candidate before the votes were counted, who would have been placed at the top of the poll, all the number 1 votes recorded in his favour would be wasted ; but every number 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 vote recorded by his supporters would be of full effect. Thus the difficulty would be ‘automatically solved .
– The difficulty mentioned by Senator Senior should be provided for in the Bill. The circumstances as related by Senator Pratten are correct, providing that electors are compelled to vote for four candidates whom they do not wish to see elected. The trouble is, however, that one candidate whom an elector might not wish to see elected would be automatically declared elected. . That individual, for whom an elector did not wish to vote, would take the place of the deceased can’ didate, for whom the elector had voted. Senator Senior argued that the Bill should provide- for the circumstance of the decease of a party nominee. There is nothing, in the Bill to deal with such a situation, but there is provision by which some one else would be elected in the place of the deceased candidate.
– You are arguing that some one other than the electors should nominate the successor?
– No; I argue that there should be machinery in the Bill in the event of the death of a candidate. Elections nowadays are party fights. In the forthcoming contest there will be three Labour candidates fighting three Nationalist candidates. There may be three candidates representing another party; and still others. Under the provisions of this Bill electors will be compelled to vote for seven candidates. In the event of the demise of a party candidate the party which has nominated him can have no opportunity to make the votes cast for the deceased tell in favour of the party.
– Neither is there an opportunity in connexion with an election for the House of Representatives.
– But there should be.
– That could only be by holding another election.
– That is not so. The same situation was discussed at the time of the unfortunate incident in South Australia. It was considered that there was a way out of the difficulty. Let us suppose that a Nationalist candidate has died. The National party should have the right to place the name of another candidate on the ticket before the day- of the election, so that Nationalist supporters could vote for a complete Nationalist ticket. When a Senate ballot-paper is placed in my hands I am desirous of vot ing for the three candidates nominated’ by the party to which I adhere, and of voting for no other candidate. I want no other candidate elected to Parliament. This measure will compel me to vote for a person whom I would not have on my mind. That is one of its faults. Senator Senior holds that I, as an elector; should not be placed in such a position, but. that a party should be able to say, in the event of one of its candidates dying, that none of the effective votes cast on. the party ticket for the deceased should ‘ be permitted to count in favour of some other candidate outside of the party group. The Bill should provide for another name being rjlaced in the group instead of the name of the deceased.
– You suggest reserve candidates ?
– It is desirable that this matter should be discussed in order that it may be in the minds of honorable senators at a subsequent period when possibly we may be called upon to consider another Electoral Bill. I do not think it is fair ‘to compel an elector to register a vote in favour of any candidate whose claims for support he would not have upon his mind. The average elector knows quite well how he intends to vote. He is either upon one side of the political fence or upon the other. This result has - been brought about by the organizing work of the two great political parties which are recognised in this Parliament to-day. Those parties are recognised only because the people who are behind them have taken the trouble to make themselves fairly conversant with the affairs of this country. In my opinionthey are the only people . who are entitled to representation here. We are now arriving at a stage in our history when’ other political parties may spring into existence, but in my judgment we shall not have more than one additional party. Nevertheless, the occasion may arise to which Senator Senior has called attention, when after one candidate has dropped out of a contest, the electors who have supported him with all the machinery of their organization, may be compelled to see their votes given to another candidate whom they would not support under any conceivable circumstances. Provision should be made in the Bill to avoid that sort of thing.
– That is my argument.
SenatorBARNES. - Yet the honorable senator, has not forecast an amendment of the clause. Honorable senators know perfectly well that the possibility which I have outlined does exist, and consequently we ought to make provision for it.
– Before the adjournment for dinner I intimated my intention to move an amendment to the latter part of this clause. In order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That the word “ twice,” line 27, . be left out.
The object of my amendment is perfectly clear. In its present form the Bill will prove absolutely unfair in its operation. The object of any election is to afford the electors an opportunity to vote for the candidates in whose policy they believe. It is absolutely repugnant to the principles of a fair Electoral Act that any elector should be compelled to vote “for* a candidate in whose policy he does not believe. Yet this clause affirms that although ‘there may be only three candidates to be elected, every elector must vote for twice that number of candidates plus one. In other words, it provides that every elector must vote for seven candidates even if only three are to be elected. I am quite prepared to believe that there may be amongst honorable senators opposite a very rigid total abstainer. There may be one amongst their number to whom the smell, let alone the taste, of such a mild beverage as Abbot’s lager is absolutely objectionable.
– I always thought that the honorable senator supported the principle of proportional representation.
– And is my support of that principle inconsistent with my present attitude?
– If Senator Senior thinks so I am in no way responsible.
– But under a proportional system of voting do not the electors mark their ballot-papers in respect of every candidate?’
– Not necessarily. To allow an’ elector to vote for only the number of candidates requiring tobe returned, is not in any way inconsistent with proportional representation.
-But proportional representation cannot be effective, unless the elector indicates the order of his preference in respect of all candidates.
– Of course it can. Under a system of. proportional representation, if there are three candidates to be elected, the elector has to vote for 1,2, and 3 in the order of his preference. But he is not compelled to vote for more than the number of candidates requiring to be elected. I have seen the system operating off and on in Tasmania for the past twenty years.
– As a matter of practice do not the electors vote for more than the number of candidates to be elected ?
– As a matter of practice, they please themselves. I do not suggest that an elector should be compelled to vote for only the number of candidates requiring to be elected, but merely that it shall be optional for him to continue to exercise his preference votes beyond that number, if he so desires. Let me give an illustration of what I mean. Let us suppose that Senator Pratten is a total abstainer.
– The honorable senator is very near the truth.
– I am sorry to hear that, because the honorable senator must have missed a lot of fun.
– I do not know about that.
– I am quite prepared to believe that Senator Reid is a rigid total abstainer. At the forthcoming elections for the Senate in Queensland, there may be nine candidates whose names will figure upon the ballot-papers. Out of that number, there may be three in whom Senator Reid believes because of their general politics, and because they are total abstainers. With the other six candidates, he may not have anything in common. As there are only three candidates to be elected, it would be unfair to compel him, after he has exercised his first, second, and third preference votes, to continue to register his preferences in respect of the remaining candidates whose policy may be absolutely repugnant to him. The effect of my amendment will be to make the Bill a fair and square one, which will compel the electors to vote only for the number of candidates requiring to be elected.
– I trust that the Committee will not accept the amendment. As I pointed out during the course of my speech upon the second reading of this Bill, there is no particular virtue in numbers. The number seven, for which provision is made in this clause, is simply an arbitrary number. Senator Needham rightly pointed out that, under a perfect preferential system of voting, an elector would be bound to register his preferences in regard to all the candidates whose names appeared upon the ballot-paper. The reason why seven has been -adopted in this measure is that, at every election there are a number of nondescript candidates who cannot hope to influence the result in the slightest degree, and whose candidature simply means an unnecessary burdening of the ballot-papers.
– That is the class of candidate for which the Bill caters.
– “We do not wish to overcater for it. The number seven has been chosen, and the elector is to be obliged to vote for that number of candidates, for common-sense reasons. It is not desired to compel electors to vote for candidates who, by reason of the votes thus cast, would gain a notoriety which would not otherwise come to them. It has been shown that seven is a very safe number to adopt in connexion with elections; and, although this system may not be quite as scientific as that which has been suggested by Senator Needham, in 999 cases out of 1,000, it will produce the same result. On the other hand, I would point out that if, as Senator O’Keefe wishes, an elector is permitted to refrain from- exercising his preference votes in the case of more than three candidates, at a big party election it will mean the end of the preferential voting system. At the last elections, a mere handful of people were watching and organizing, whilst the two big political parties were fighting each other, and this small minority of electors was practically in a position , to blackmail either of those parties by threatening to swing its support to the other side. We wish to insure the recording of sufficient votes to destroy the power of a small minority. It has been shown from investigation that twice the number of candidates required, plus one, is a sound method, and gives the same results in actual working as that suggested by Senator Needham.
– Where has it been shown?
– It has been submitted to practical tests by the officials, and has given correct results. It is practically equivalent to the method suggested by Senator Needham, or that used by the Labour party. On the other hand, if the clause is amended as suggested by Senator’ O’Keefe, the position will be unaltered.
– Certainly not. If the electors desire to record their choice beyond three, they can do so ; but they should not be compelled to do so.
– When ex-Senator McGregor died, there was a wonderful instance of collective action, and a similar thing would happen again. Supposing the Labour party, or the National party, decided to give preference to their three representatives, and stopped at that, there would be no preference at all, and the present Bill would be unnecessary.
– There would be nothing wrong with that.
– There may be a nondescript,- who secured a few votes, but who could be made master of the situation. The object of making the number seven is to provide for a distribution of voting power, and prevent an outsider being elected. Supposing the National party and the Labour party were within 5,000 votes of each other, and the Farmers’ party received 15,000 votes, it would be master of the situation. The system would lead to corruption - in consequence of the insufficiency of votes to be utilized. The idea is to compel such a number of votes to operate as to make that impossible. I do not suggest that people would do anything corrupt, but the temptation would be there. . I believe that a well-managed party would in all earnestness make the best arrangements for their candidates. There is not anything miraculous about twice the number plus one, but it makes an electorate sufficiently large to prevent any by-play bei ng undertaken. If Senator O’Keefe’s amendment were adopted, we would remain in our present position, and it would be just as well to drop the Bill.
– I would like to do that.
-Colonel O’loghlin. - To what practical tests does the Minister refer?
– Practical tests have been made Dy the electoral officers; and, although I was not present, I have been informed by men sufficiently acquainted with scientific electoral methods that the tests on the system of twice the number plus one record a preferential vote in 999 out of 1,000. If honorable senators are opposed to the system embodied in the clause, they had better vote against the whole Bill.
– It is not my intention to support Senator O’Keefe’s amendment. I moved an amendment in another part of the clause.
– That was worse than the Bill in its present form, because you would make an elector vote for, perhaps, thirty candidates.
– I am endeavouring to imagine that this is a Bill to embody preference, and I believe that is in the minds of the Committee and of the Government, I tried to secure the deletion of the words “no less than the prescribed number or,” with the object of embodying the preferential system, but the Committee did. not adopt that amendment. Senator O’Keefe’s amendment would kill the system of preference. If there is to be any preference in the Bill, let the electors have an opportunity of exhausting their preferences.
– There can bepreference without exhausting it. That is where we disagree.
-Colonel O ‘Loghlin. - Senator O’Keefe does not want compulsory preference.
– I do not want compulsory . preference. If we cannot have preference right through, Senator O’Keefe’s amendment’ will not fall into line, because if the Committee strikes out the word “ twice,” it will mean that there will be no preference at all. The Bill is intended to embody the preferential system, and I am favouring the lesser of two evils. .
-Colonel O’loghlin. - There is no compulsory preference.
– If my amendment had been carried there would have been preference, and it would have been a simpler method than that indicated by Senator O’Keefe.
– If we strike out “ twice,” it means that an- elector would have to vote for four instead of seven.
– Compulsion would still remain, and if there is to be compulsion an elector should be compelled to exhaust his preference. The amendment indicated by Senator O’Keefe will not avoid compulsion.
– I do. not want to.
– Preference and compulsion are in the Bill, and if an elector is to be compelled to vote at all he should exhaust his preference for all the candidates.
– Under the Bill an elector will have to vote for twice the number of candidates, plus one. As Senator Barnes has said, the supporters of the group “A” candidates would not have the group “ B “ candidates on their mind, and the result would be that the supporters of groups “A” and “ B “ would give their surplus votes to group “ C.” That would result in the last mentioned group receiving double the number of effective votes, and groups “ A “ and “ B “ being displaced.
– That does not commend itself to- me at all.
– That would be the position.
– That would not occur if the amendment were carried.
– I am dealing with the system submitted to the Committee, and I am rather -in favour of the marking being limited, because. I can see that there is a possibility of forcing the surplus votes on to a third party. A better system would be to record the preference for every candidate on the ballotpaper rather than for twice the number, plus one.
– I was not in the chamber when the amendment was moved1, but I understand it is to compel electors to vote only fox the required number of senators..
– It is optional preference.
– It would bring us back to where we are now.
– Not at all, because an elector could vote for only three. If this amendment is carried,an elector will be able to vote for more than three, if he so wishes. Supposing there are six candidates - three Nationalists and three representatives of the Labour party - it will be- necessary under . this Bill to vote for seven. If there are only six candidates I cannot see how the three representing one party can be returned without having a majority of the votes. It would, be sufficient, I think, if the application of the principle were optional instead of compulsory. I understand that 80 per cent, of the informal votes cast at the last election were informal because the voters marked their papers for less or more than the number required.
– You might assume that with only six men running, the three successful candidates would have a majority; hut you must remember that there will be a lot of cross-voting.
– With six candidates for three vacancies the three leading candidates must have a majority.
– The best-organized party would get its candidates- in.
– Of course, that would be the result. I admit that if there were nine candidates in the field it would then be possible for a candidate representing a minority vote to be successful. But I think the optional exercise of the preference vote would be sufficient. If it is made compulsory I feel sure the tendency will be to increase the number of informal votes cast. Why should I or any other elector be compelled to vote for a candidate whose principles I do not believe in ?
– Then why not allow a man to vote f oronly one candidate ?
– Because three must be returned.
– But that is no answer to my question.
– It might happen that an elector approves of only one candidate.
– No doubt, there is something to be said for that aspect of the question. I intend to support the amendment moved by Senator O’Keefe, making the exercise of the preference votes optional, because I believe that the compulsory provision will lead to a tremendous increase in the number of informal votes at every election.
– Having ‘made one convert, I am encouraged to say a few words in reply to the Minister. In the course of his remarks the Minister suggested that corruption might ensue if my amendment were adopted, but I point out to him that we have had ‘constitutional government in Australia for a great number of years, and there has not’ been much corruption.
– I was referring to political . ‘bargaining.
– I think the Minister spoke of political bargaining as ‘being likely to lead to some form of corruption, and I repeat that we have not had any corruption up to the present. Honorable senators seem to have missed the point of my amendment. I am not against preferential voting, but I admit that I would kick the Bill into the waste-paper basket if I could. If my amendment- is carried we will have the very best kind of preferential voting, because it will be optional. Oan any honorable senator honestly declare that an elector will exercise preference wisely if it is done under compulsion ? Senator Mulcahy is one of the oldest students of proportional representation and the preferential vote, and I ask him if he thinks a man can be expected to exercise a sound preference vote if it is done against his will.
– Yes ; you give him a certain duty to perform.
– I disagree with the honorable senator. . Preference, in my opinion, should be by the free will of the elector, and not under compulsion. I believe in compelling a man to vote for the number of vacancies to be filled, but any preference beyond that number should be optional. Of course, we know that the Bill has been introduced so that after the next election the present Government will not have a new Senate as a result of a split vote.
– I thought you had some confidential information to giveus.
– Let us be candid about the matter. The Government know that they are not much in favour with a certain section of their supporters, but they believe that the Farmers Union voters, after they have given their primary votes to their own candidates, will probably mark their fourth, fifth, and sixth preferences in favour of Nationalist candidates rather than in favour of Labour nominees. If the Government are justified in the assumption that supporters of the . Farmers Union will prefer a Nationalist candidate to a Labour candidate, the adoption of my amendment will in no way affect the result of the election; but if it is carried, provision will be made for the exercise of a real preference by electors, and they will not be compelled to indicate what will not be a Teal preference by recording a vote for candidates whom they have no desire to see returned.
.- The object of the Bill seems to have been lost sight of. It is to prevent a minority vote, electing the persons to be returned to this Chamber. If the electors, as proposed by Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, are to indicate only their first three preferences, this Bill will have no advantage over the present block system.
– “We shall be just where. we are to-day.
– That is so; we shall be just where we are under the existing law. It is easy to visualize an election for the State of Victoria, which would give 300,000 first, second, and third votes for Nationalist candidates, 275,000 first, second, and third votes for Labour candidates, and 100,000 first, second, and third votes for. Farmers Union candidates. The result would be that 300,000 Nationalist electors would elect the whole of the three members of the Senate required to be elected for the. State of Victoria, and 375,000 combined Labour and Farmers Union electors would elect none. That is what this Bill is intended to avoid.
– Does the honorable senator believe that supporters of the Fanners Union will have no preference as between the Labour party and the National party?
– I have no idea as to what will occur at the next election; but I say that if the electors are to exercise a preference in the voting for candidates, they must vote for at least seven if the object of the Bill is to be achieved. I wish to emphasize one point that the Minister made, and that is that the electors should be compelled to vote for at least seven candidates, so that their preference, when exercised, will be so broad as to prevent any minority representation in the Senate. I was not surprised to hear Senator Thomas support the amendment, because the honorable senator frankly admits that he does not want proportional representation, and he does not want preferential voting.. He believes in the block vote, the first past the post, and party organization. The effect of Senator O’Keefe’s amendment may be seen if it is applied to an election for the House of Representatives. It will be clear that in that case there would be’ no necessity for preferential voting at all. I shall certainly oppose the amendment.
– Senator Pratten has compelled me to speak, for the simple reason that I gather from his remarks that he ha3 in mind a better system for securing the better representation for the people in the Senate than is the block system. I prefer to be guided by the results in actual practice of .a system we have tested rather than by speculations upon the results of a . system that has not yetbeen tried. The block system is responsible for the personnel of the present Senate, and it will be agreed that that is highly satisfactory. If honorable senators will consult the figures of the 1914 election, they will find that, with two exceptions, the senators returned to this Chamber represented an absolute majority of the votes recorded at the election. The two exceptions were ex-Senator Ready and Senator Bakhap. Ex-Senator Ready polled 49.47 ‘ of the votes recorded at the election in Tasmania, and Senator Bakhap polled 48.92 per cent, of the votes recorded in that State. The only senators who were returned at the 1914 election without an absolute majority of .the votes recorded in their State, were two representatives (of the State which we have been invited to believe is the most intellectual State in the Commonwealth. I am disposed to think that it must be’ so, because the people evidently keep their intellect in Tasmania, since they do not send it here.
– .The honorable senator must mean that they do not send it to the other side.
– I beg Senator O’Keefe’s pardon. I was speaking generally, and referring to the claim made by Tasmanian senators that the most intelligent electors in the Commonwealth are to be found in their State.
Under the block system it has been shown that majorities govern, and it has been tried and found good enough for Australian Parliaments up to the present time. I take Senator Pratten as representing those who wish for an advance upon that system, and he would like to have proportional representation and the preferential vote. I remind him that under Senator O’Keefe’s amendment the preferential vote would not be dispensed with, but electors would not be compelled to vote for more than the number of candidates required to be elected. They would have to vote for one candidate for each vacancy, and those who refrained from exercising the preferential vote beyond the first three would possibly leave to those who did exercise it the settlement of the election.
I was struck by the almost petulant tone in which the Minister said, “ Why not knock the Bill right out?” I am not very keen upon knocking the Bill right out, and I doubt whether the Government are very keen about passing it.
– What I wished to suggest was that the amendment, if carried, would leave us in exactly the same position as we are in under the present law.
– I believe that what is desired by the Government for the coming election is such an alteration of the electoral law as will bring the system of voting for senators into line with the system now in force for voting for members of the House of Representatives. We cannot force the hand of the Government, but I believe that if the Minister will introduce a Bill which will provide for a block vote, with the exercise of first, second, and third preference, for the Senate, it will bring our system into’ line with that adopted for the House of Representatives, and will be all that is required for the coming election. The old block system has been found satisfactory, and why should- we not continue that system ? I venture to say that when a Government have given up the responsibility of governing, and announce their intention to appeal to the country, it is not a good thing to alter the system of voting which the people are accustomed to.
– Is the honorable senator speaking on the Bill, or on the clause before the Committee?
– I am speaking on Senator O’Keefe’s amendment. I cannot speak to a proposal upon which the Bill hinges without referring to the Bill, though I can quite understand that Senator Mulcahy, coming from the intellectual State, might possibly be able to do so. Apart from what might be desired by the Government, I believe that honorable senators would be prepared to vote for the Bill, which would continue the block system of voting for the Senate, and compel the electors to exercise a first, second, and third preference where three senators require to be elected. . That would bring the system of voting for senators into line with the system adopted for the House of Representatives, and in view of the immense amount of business which remains to be done, the Minister might take into consideration the advisableness of making such a proposal.
In this Bill we are dealing with a subject upon which every member of the Senate is an expert. This, question comes home to us. Our positions depend upon it. We have a vested interest in it.
– Is the honorable senator a supporter of vested interests ?
– I venture to say that we all support our own vested interests.
SenatorBakhap. - Good old human nature !
– It is human nature. I remind honorable senators that since 5 o’clock this afternoon I have not addressed myself to this measure, believing that we would get along with its consideration. This is a question in which the interests of honorable senators are at stake. They have been elected for term after term, and are experts in a matter of this kind. On this account we may expect that every clause of the -measure will undergo full discussion, and I suggest that the Minister might agree to take a simple test vote to decide whether we shall continue the old block system for the coming election, and let the new Parliament take up the consideration of proportional representation and preferential voting. I will support Senator O’Keefe’s amendment, because I see no reason why we should compel an elector to indicate a preference for a candidate in whom he does not believe. In the case of the last Senate election in New South Wales, if I had exercised a preference for a fourth candidate it would probably have been for Senator Thomas, because he will not mind my saying that I am closely in agreement with him on the question of prohibition. If I were to exercise a fourth preference at the present time I should exercise it in favour of Senator Pratten, because it matters not whether he is behind the Government or otherwise; he is just as much in opposition to the
Government as I am. There is no occasion to compel a man to vote outside of his three preferences.
.- The design of the Bill is to do away with the present system, which does not insure that the majority will secure the return of its candidates to Parliament. If the Labour party in any State, as represented by the electors, is in a majority, it will secure the seats. Will the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) say that the Labour party is entitled to the majority of the seats if it is not in a majority ?
– Senator O’Keefe has expressed the fear that under this system he may have to vote for some one of whom he does not approve. What injustice is there in that if his party is not in a majority and is not able to insure the election of its representatives? What injustice is there in asking Senator O’Keefe to assist in making a selection from outside his party ?
– Only that all other candidates are in opposition to the Labour policy. I do not know any other candidates than the Labour selection, and do not wish to vote for any other.
– The whole object of this Bill is to do away with the very practice which Senator Gardiner is asking the Government to agree to. If the electors are simply to vote 1, 2, ana 3, and to make the individual value of their preferential votes exactly the same as though they had made three- crosses upon the ballot-paper, the position will be exactly as it is to-day. The design of this Bill is to give effect to the principle that the majority -shall rule.
– That is an excellent system.
– Yes; but the honorable senator does not want to see Government supporters secure a majority of seats even when they have a majority of the votes. Senator Gardiner is always willing to take advantage of the situation arising from an outsider coming along with the avowed purpose, not of gaining a seat, but of keeping another candidate out. I have previously quoted the results of an election, which was also referred to by Senator Gardiner. On one side there were 236000 votes, which succeeded in getting two seats, while on the other side 234,000 votes secured four seats. That is the sort of thing we are trying to correct. I would correct- it by means other than those set out in this measure. If the Government simply require electors to vote 1, 2, 3, and do not compel - them to vote for any greater number of candidates, they will fail to accomplish what the Bill sets out to secure. It will amount to this: that the minority will gain the seats.
– It is purely a party measure.
– There was Dractically no straight-out party in Australia prior to the formation of the party towhich the honorable senator belongs; it has had a - baneful exercise upon Australian politics. I would like to see a Parliament to-day wherein the best men in the land governed the country. If the Opposition has the majority of votes it is entitled to the seats - according to the principles to which the Opposition party adheres, and, under the provisions of this Bill the Opposition will gain the seats if they have the votes.
.- In standing. by the block system I claim that a review of the figures which I have already quoted will show that the block system has proved to be actually a. majority system. I quoted the case of Senator Bakhap and of exSenator Ready being returned to this Chamber.’ It will be recalled that the election results so closely approximated to an absolute majority that if either thepreferential or any other system had been in practice the ‘ same effect would have been secured as the block system brought about. If the block system has resulted in candidates who have- gained absolute majorities being returned to Parliament, why change it? I can quite understand, that an honorable senator who knows of a better svstem would be able to see the evils of the block system. Senator Mulcahy, however, has benefited by the preferential . system.
– No! The fact is that I suffered owing to the existence of a system such as this.
– It was. the compulsory vote of the Labour party which returned the honorable senator tothis Chamber. His election was due,, actually, to the combined efforts of theNationalists and the Labour party.
– Does the honorable senator desire to infer that I owe my return to the action of the Labour party in rising above sectarian feeling? If so, I acknowledge it, and have done so before.
– I merely state the facts, and do not complain. I had no desire to introduce the personal element. Suppose that I am to vote, on the 13th December next, under the preferential system. I will naturally vote for three Labour candidates. But what of my fourth vote ? Will I vote for the best man next available, or for the candidate who is least likely to be returned, and who, even if he is returned, will be the least troublesome to the Labour party?
Question - That the word “ twice “ proposed to be left out be left out (Senator O’Keefe’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
Section one hundred and thirty-five of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “ 135. In a Senate election the scrutiny shall, subject to the provisions of section one hundred and twenty-one of this Act and of the regulations relating to absent voting and to voting by post, be conducted in the manner following: -
Each Assistant Returning Officer shall, in the presence of an Assistant Presiding Officer or a poll clerk, and of such authorized scrutineers as may attend -
count the first preference votes given for each candidate on all unrejected ballot-papers;
make out and sign a statement (which may be countersigned by an Assistant Presiding Officer or a poll clerk, and, if they so desire, by such scrutineers as are present) setting out the number of first preference votes given for each candidate, and the number of informal ballot-papers, and certify by indorsement on the copy of the writ received by him the like particulars; “
– I move -
That after paragraph (d) of sub-clause 6 the following proviso be inserted: - “ Provided that in the applications of paragraphs (c) and” (d) of the last preceding sub-section,, any- reference to first preference votes shall be read as a reference to all the votes ‘counted to a candidate in pursuance of this sub-section.”
The amendment is merely a consequential one, which is designed to make the provision a little clearer.-
– I do not quite grasp the significance of the amendment, but I understand that it has reference to a matter which was raised by Senator Gardiner upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. If that be so, the Bill did not require amending.
– The amendment is intended to make it clear that after the first candidate has been elected his second preference votes shall be included in the second count.
– I understood Senator Gardiner to contend that the Bill in its original form provided that when the first candidate had been elected, the candidate with the lowest number of primary votes was to be excluded, which meant that he would be out of the pontest altogether. I pointed out at the time that the candidate with the lowest number of primary votes would only be excluded from the calculation in respect to the first vacancy. Is the amendment designed to make that point clearer?
– Then I do not think it is at all necessary. The Bill was clear enough previously. However, if Senator Gardiner is satisfied, I have no objection to offer. At the same time the amendment will make an already difficult measure still more difficult to understand.
– When I was addressing myself to the motion for the second reading of this Bill I was under a misapprehension as to the meaning of the word “ excluded.” I thought it meant that the candidate with the lowest number of primary votes was to be “ excluded,” not merely from the first count, but also from the second. However, I accepted the explanation offered by Senator Keating- at the time, although I still think that the amendment will absolutely insure that when a candidate is elected his second preference votes shall be included in the next count.-
– I protest against the undue length of certain clauses in this Bill. The particular clause under discussion covers half of page 5 of the Bill, the whole of pages 6, 7, and 8, and almost the whole of page 9. To my mind a very much more satisfactory system of draftsmanship could be adopted. The machinery which is embodied in this clause should be divided into several clauses. The measure would then be much more intelligible to honorable senators, as well as to the electors.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
The schedule to the -principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom Form E and inserting in its stead, the following form: - “ Form E.
State of [here insert name of State.]
Election of [here insert number] Senators.
Directions. - In marking his vote on ‘ this ballot-paper the voter should place in the squares respectively opposite the names of at least (here insert the number which represents twice the number of Senators to be elected plus one, or, if the number of candidates is less than that number, the total number of candidates) candidates the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, up to and inclusive of the number (here insert the number which represents twice the number of Senators to be elected plus one, or, if the number of candidates is less than that number, the total number of candidates ) , so as to indicate the order of his preference for such candidates, and may in addition indicate the order of his preference for as many more candidates as he pleases by placing in the squares respectively opposite their names other numbers next in numerical order after those already used by him.
On motion by Senator Russell the directions in Form E were amended to read as follow: -
Directions. - In marking his vote on this ballot-paper the voter must place in the squares respectively opposite the names of at least (here insert the number which represents twice the number of senators to be elected plus one, or, if the number of candidates isless than that number, the total number of candidates) candidates the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, up to and inclusive of the number (here insert the number which represents twice the number of senators to be elected plus one, or, if the number of candidates is less than that number, the total number of candidates), so as to indicate the- order of his preference for such candidates if there are any more candidates, and may, if there are any more candidates, in addition indicate the order of his preference for as many of them as he pleases by . placing in the squares respectively opposite their names other numbers next in numerical, order after those already used by him.
. -I move -
That the schedule be further amended by leaving out the ‘letters “A,” “B,” and “C” before the names of the candidates, and the footnote.
The object is to do away with the grouping system. The Bill is not a . party measure, and I regret that we have to ctb this. However, I recognise that it is the wish of the Senate, and I yield as gracefully as possible to the majority.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [9.47]. - The action of the Minister is extraordinary. The Government have been considering for several months a Bill to amend the electoral law in regard to the election of senators, and we have also been informed by the Minister that the suggested system has been satisfactorily tested by . competent electoral officers. Notwithstanding this, at the first breath of opposition from the Government supporters - because those on this side were in favour of the grouping system - -he drops the proposal. The Minister has said that it is not a party question.
– It is not a fact that I am dropping it at the first breath of opposition. I found that the numbers on both sides were against me.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.The only opposition has been from Government supporters, so it is essentially a party question. I wish the Minister to stick to the Bill. The views expressed in connexion with the grouping system’ were, I think, about equally divided. Having introduced the proposal, the Minister should have carried it out.
– I bowed to the wishes of the majority of the Senate.
.- A majority of the Senate is decided by calling for a division, and that has not been done.
– I surrendered to superior numbers. Do you doubt my word that the majority is against me?
.- Is not the Minister prepared to fight for the principles advocated by his Government?
– I took a count, and found that the numbers were against me.
– That is what I am condemning. The Minister should stick to the Bill and endeavour to uphold the principles advocated by his Government. It is cowardly of him to drop this proposal, and I am astonished at the Minister not showing a little more backbone.
– I am sorry the Minister is giving way on this point, because I believe, if the candidates are arranged in alphabetical form and not grouped in any way, it will lead to complication.
– The electors know
What they are doing. I have known electors to handle a ballot-paper containing sixteen names, and very few mistakes were made.
– And I have known cases where the names, were arranged alphabetically and the electors found it exceedingly difficult to record their vote as they wished. In some cases they marked the first or the last three. In the event of a double dissolution, there would be six candidates for each party in the Senate, and the difficulty would be accentuated. Under the Bill, as it has been amended, it will be necessary for the elector to mark at least seven candidates, and if the grouping system is dispensed with and the alphabetical order substituted, it will lead to confusion. The grouping system would have facilitated the operation of voting considerably.
– What is the use of weeping when the numbers are against me?
– I am surprised to learn that a majority of the Senate is opposed to such a simple proposition. Wo have not to consider what is good for one party or the other, but -the convenience of the electors. I am prepared to make a stand, and would like the question put- to a division. I am not viewing this matter from a party stand-point, but am endeavouring to simplify the system of voting. We have to remember that nearly half of our electors are women, who do not see a ballot-paper from one election to another. There are also others who have to be assisted in’ recording their votes, and under, the grouping system voting would be simplified. If the electors are to select their candidates from a list alphabetically arranged, all sorts of devices will have to be adopted to enable an effective vote to be recorded.
– I desire, with the leave of the Committee, to withdraw my amendment and to substitute one to provide for the names of the candidates being alphabetically arranged.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– After submitting my previous amendment I discovered that -the specimen ballotpaper was not alphabetically arranged. I now move -
That all the words after “ Candidates “ be left out, with a view to inserting the following : -
. The schedule has a bearing on clause 7, which, I understand, has been postponed, and in regard to which I have given notice of an amendment.
– We are going back, to that clause.
– I do not wish to be deprived of my right of moving the amendment.
– The honorable senator can discuss on the schedule the principle involved, and can move his amendment when clause 7 is under consideration.
– I am entirely at a loss to understand what has persuaded the Minister to depart from the grouping system, of which I cordially approve. In moving his amendment the Minister did not in- ‘ dicate his reasons for dispensing with the letters. The grouping system would assist the electors in effectively marking their ballot-papers. I favour the grouping rather than the alphabetical system. If the names are grouped it would not be of any advantage to any party, but it would be a convenience to the electors, and it is extraordinary that the Minister . should, without any discussion, move an amendment to delete the letters designating groups. . The Bill is supposed to simplify the method of election. We should do all we can to simplify the ballot-paper, especially in the interests of the older people whose sight may not be so keen, and who are so often called upon to exercise the franchise in dimly lighted polling booths. I hope the Committee will not agree to the withdrawal of the amendment. I intend to oppose it, and to get a vote, on the question, because I feel confident that during the second reading debate, a majority of the members in the Senate favoured the grouping system.
– Surely not.
– I did, at all events.
– Hear, hear!
– I have been shot from behind, and have to give way.
– I am certain no one knew how I was going to vote, so no one could have taken -my name to the Minister as one who wanted the amendment. The grouping system will not be of any particular advantage to any political party, because it will not indicate the parties which the various groups represent.
– I think a position has arisen in which we can very well meet the Minister. I do not mean that we will accept the amendment that has now been moved to strike but certain words, but I suggest that if be thinks the majority, of the Senate is against him, a test vote might be taken, in which, by arrangement, the Minister should vote with the “ Noes,” and for retaining the provision in the Bill. We will then have a fair test of opinion with regard to -the grouping system, which I think is preferable, and should be retained in the Bill,’ particularly in view of the fact that at the next election it is likely there will be a large’ number of groups. I ask the Minister to let us have a test vote, because I am of the same opinion as Senator Newland, and think that the numbers are the other way.
– The grouping system will intensify the party system in a House which is not a party House.
– I do not want to open up a debate with Senator Earle as to whether this is a party Senate or not, because whether we like it or not, the people persist in making if a party House. The Minister has not given any reason for his amendment except that, in order to save time, ‘he intends to give way to the majority which he thinks is against him. I disagree with the Minister as to where the majority is, and, in fairness to those who have upheld this Bill, I suggest that we have a division on this issue.
– I think it has been mentioned that this Bill wa3 to ‘be accepted lock, stock, and barrel.
– Who said that?
– I understood that that statement was made.
– I repudiate having made any such statement, at all events
– Senator Gardiner, I think; said something to that effect.
– I was quoting Mr. Glynn.
– This branch of the Legislature has an unchallengable right to make amendments in a measure of this nature, especially when the circumstances warrant it. I am’ one. of those who voted for the Bill, because it embodied the principle of preferential voting. I reject the proportional system as ‘applied to fine Senate for the reason that the Commonwealth is a specially constituted form of government under which ‘all the States have equal representation in the Senate. Here, now, is an attempt to recognise parties. Every honorable senator is here to voice views which he thinks are in the public interest. ‘ I believe that by retaining this clause the party to which I belong will stand to lose more than it will gain, because, as one who has gone through the mill, I know how the electors of this country are schooled. I believe, however, that we should do all we possibly can to discourage the baneful influence of party system, which; as I have previously said, is the direct product of representative government, and has been responsible for many grievous wrongs.
– And a very great deal of good.
– The good must be balanced against the evils, and I say that in the national interests the party system should be kept in check.’ Here is an attempt for the first time to elevate the party system of government. The Australian ballot has won the admiration of the most earnest students of parliamentary government in other parts of the world, and it would be a grievous mistake, in my opinion, to attempt to elevate the party system to a higher level than it should occupy. Senator Thomas sits where he does, not because of a slavish submission to party interests, but because he broke through party bonds, and said, “ No more of your party govern-: ment for me.”
– No.. The honorable senator does not say that.
– Well, I claim that I do, because I put other interests above those of party when I walked out of a party room behind Mr. Hughes.
– And the honorable senator walked into another party.
– That is quite true; but does the honorable senator say that I would slavishly follow the . party I now support if they proposed a course inimical to the public interest? I would just as soon leave this party in those circumstances as I left the other party.
– Sooner, if I am any judge.
– Senator Gardiner knows what my meaning is as well as does any other member of the Committee. An instance occurred in Western Australia which I shall never forget. A proposal was made for the purchase of a. private railway enterprise, involving an expenditure of -£1,500,000, a large sum for a small community. That proposal was made by the party in power at the time. The party in Opposition, although its members said in the lobbies of Parliament and elsewhere that the proposal was a magnificent one, opposed it, because they would not give the other side the flimsy credit of being responsible for carrying it. . They combined forces, and defeated the proposal, to the serious injury of the people of Western Australia.
– Order ! The honorable senator is getting very wide of the question.
– I ‘ am aware of that, but I give that as an instance in which slavish adherence to party proved nothing short of a curse in the western State. I will npt lend my assistance to give the seal of approval to the party system, which is often referred to by intelligent citizens as the curse of the country. We are ‘here asked to give the party system our benediction, and by a law of the country set the seal of approval upon it. I hope that honorable senators will stand by the purity of the ballot, which has raised us from a lowly position to a high one in the matter of intelligent political thinking. We should stand by the old system which has done so much for us in the past. We must preserve inviolable the neutrality of our electoral officials, and I hope that honorable senators will vote accordingly.
– I cannot refrain from expressing my opposition to the views put forward by Senator Lynch as to the defects of party government. Any one who will consider the growth and development of the party system in politics, in Great Britain particularly, with its long parliamentary history, will find that from a, system of government by persons called together by the King, and not consisting of parties, there grew with the passing of the years, a better system, under which the best set of nien in a party formed the Government, and the other party formed the Opposition. That result was a matter of slow growth, and it could not have matured as it did except with the approval of the people. Party government was not invented and discovered complete, and forced upon the acceptance of the people. It was the growth of years. It has its defects, as have all systems which have to be operated by human’ beings. Senator Lynch is blaming the system of party government for something which is not party government, and which has been even more apparent in Great Britain than it has been here. It has become an axiom in Great Britain that coalitions of parties are always absolute failures. This Bill has been introduced, not by a party government, but by a coalition of parties attempting to govern: The coalition system is a failure for the simple reason that, instead of having a definite and distinct policy, a coalition Government must pursue a compromise policy all the time. That has been the trouble with this Bill. As introduced it provided for a system of voting for groups of candidates. In the coalition party opposite it has been found that there is a strong section of members who will not have groups, and as soon as those members raised their voices the Minister, who wants groups, says, “ The majority is against me, and, therefore, I must compromise. I have no fixed policy.” The honorable senator can have no fixed policy, because he is leading two sections regarding political questions from different view-points. I am not censuring the Minister on this account, because in the position which he occupies I consider that he is doing excellently.
– What policy does the honorable senator want other than that of the majority of the members of the Senate ?
– That is what I want, and, in my opinion, if .the Government had properly interpreted the opinion of the Senate, the Minister would have adhered to the Bill. It would have been better if, before giving way on this matter, he had tested the opinion ‘ of the Senate. No Minister can express the view of honorable senators on the other side, because they hold two distinct views - one the view of the Nationalists, and the other the view of those who would probably call themselves the Nationalist Labour section.
– Cannot the Government express the composite view ?
– They endeavoured to do so in this Bill, but the Minister has given way without waiting for a division on this question. I ask the honorable senator to let the Committee go to a division on the matter, and be guided by the majority voice of honorable senators.
– We should very much like to do so.
– If honorable senators wish to go to a division I shall not delay them any longer.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria - Vice-
President of the Executive Council and Acting Minister for Defence) [10.23].- It is not my intention to go back upon the position I took up. The Government introduced this Bill in good faith, but I have said that I would not regard it as a party measure in so far as the machinery clauses giving it effect are concerned. If the question now raised were regarded by the Government as vital, my attitude upon it would be quite different. . We have determined the main principle as to whether there shall be majority rule or proportional representation, and I have endeavoured to ascertain the will of the majority of honorable senators, after reasonable discussion, as to the machinery clauses to give effect to the vital principle of the Bill. It is not a pleasant thing to have to bow to others’ opinion, but I believe that the true principle of democracy calls for it in this case, and the opinion of the majority should be respected when to respect it would in no way humiliate the Government. I am not prepared to go back upon my expressed intention to be guided by the majority of honorable senators with respect to provisions of the Bill which are not vital. I am not going to jump about now to see whether the majority are behind me. If in this matter it is found that the majority are not behind me I cannot’ help it.
-ColonelO’ Loghlin. - Why does the Minister desert his supporters ?
– I am thankful to those who supported me,’ and no one could more highly appreciate their support. I have tried to be fair to . the Committee, and I hope that the Committee will now be fair to me, and will, with me,bow to the inevitable. Some honorable senators may desire that I shall put up my back and say that I will accept no amendment, but I have tried to treat the Committee as a democrat, and I hope that the matter will be dealt with in a democratic spirit.
– Let us have a vote upon it.
– I recommend to the Committee the adoption of the amendment I have suggested.
– I wish to say a word or two on this matter. I shall go back to the question of the count. How is the elector . to differentiate between candidates if we do away with the grouping system? If the names of the candidates are to be scattered up and down, the ballot-paper it will be a mere scramble, especially for those who are not as clear headed as are honorable senators, to decide for whom they should vote. If the names are to be placed on the ballot-paper in alphabetical’ order, King’s name would appear on the ballot-paper at about the place where Quick’s name now appears, according to the schedule of the Bill. Russell’s name would appear very near the bottom of the paper. An elector, in recording his preference, will require to vote for’ one candidate whose name appears at the top of the paper and another whose name appears in the middle of it, and for a third whose name appears at the bottom of the paper. That will be an impossible task for a great many electors in Australia, and it will certainly lead to a multiplication of informal votes. If the group system did not commend itself to the Government when they introduced the Bill, why did they adopt it. The Minister says that the Committee is against it, but I question that very much. I know that a few honorable senators are against it because they think it may be manipulated in. some way. As provided for in the Bill it would facilitate elections. I am not viewing the Bill as it might affect me, but as it might affect the electors. When they have marked the three candidates whom they desire to see returned they will have to mark their preference in respect of four others whose names will be equally scattered on the ballot-paper. We are asking the electors to do what it will be impossible for a great many of them.
– They do it at . every election in Tasmania.
– I wonder when we shall hear the last of what is done in Tasmania. We are everlastingly being told what they’ do in Tasmania. Surely there is some good in Queensland, where the people have had the wisdom to avoid the adoption of the principles which has been adopted by Tasmania ! My sole endeavour is to make elections as simple as possible. Let us consider the three names which . appear in the first group on the ballot-paper set forth in the schedule, and let us disperse them alphabetically. One name will be found at the top of the paper, another about the middle, and a third right at the bottom. After an elector has discovered those three names, he must make his fourth preference, which will probably be found at the top of the paper. The fifth may be about the middle, the sixth at the bottom, and the seventh somewhere between the top and the bottom. This kind of thing will drive -hundreds of people away from the polling booths. We make it compulsory for electors to enroll. Why should we not facilitate their voting?
– I want to know why the Government originally placed a number of names in a certain order on the ballotpaper, and why there has been some understanding since arrived at regarding the amendment of the Bill. I protest against it. This Bill is an innovation. The method of marking papers is new. The system of voting for so many candidates is new. It is our duty to make the innovation as simple as possible. Only upon two occasions in the past have thepeople been called upon to vote for more than three Senate candidates at an election. The aged and infirm and the comparatively illiterate, of whom there are thousands in Australia, will find, it a tremendously difficult problem to compulsorily select from an alphabetically arranged ballot-paper seven candidates in order of preference.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out (Senator Russell’s amendment) - put.’ The Committee divided.
Majority . Ayes.
– It is my intention to move -
That the order in which the names of candidates shall be printed on the ballot-paper shall be determined by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer by drawing lots, and each candidate may be represented or be present at the drawing of lots.
Where the element of chance enters, every candidate should be given an equal chance. I have heard no reason expressed in favour of the practice of placing the names of candidates on the ballotpaper in alphabetical order. I know no reason why a man whose name begins > with the letter A, or B, or C, should.be necessarily a better politician than one whose name begins with the last letter of the alphabet. If we desire to give every candidate an equal chance of securing election, there is no reason why we should continue the old practice of arranging the names of the candidates upon; the ballot-papers in their alphabetical order.
– The honorable senator can do what he proposes if the Minister’s amendment is negatived.
Question - That the names of the candidates be arranged in alphabetical order. (Senator Russell’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment agreed to. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Postponed clause 3 (Grouping of candidates).
Amendment (by Senator O’Loghlin), by leave, withdrawn.
Clause negatived. Postponed clause 7 negatived. Title agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Russell) agreed to-
That clauses 4 and8 be reconsidered.
Clause 4 (as amended) -
Section seventy-six of the principal Act is repealed and the ‘following section inserted in its stead : - “ 76. The deposit made by or on behalf of a candidate at a Senate election or at a House of Representatives election shall bo retained pending the election and after the election shall bc returned to the candidate,’ or . to some person authorized by him in writing to receive it. if he is elected, or - “ (a.) in the case, of a Senate election, if, in respect of the last vacancy requiring to be filled, the number of votes received by him up to the time of his exclusion is more than onefifth of the number of votes received up to the time of the filling of the vacancy, by the candidate who is elected thereto ; or “
– The Committee has already amended the clause as it was originally drafted, by the insertion of words relating to the deposit required of a candidate, with a view to making its meaning perfectly clear. I have since found’ that that amendment does not meet the desire expressed by Senator Gardiner in this connexion, and consequently I move -
That paragrapha, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new paragraph: - ” (a) in the case of a Senate election, if the total number of votes polled in his favour as first preferences is more than one-tenth of the average number of first preference votes polled by the successful candidates in the election, or “.
The idea is to prevent a . candidate, if he obtains a fair poll . hut is not elected, from being unfairly penalized.
– The point which I endeavoured to make upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill was that a candidate should not be penalized if he came within measurable distance of the firstcount, because in the case of a party ticket only one candidate can. obtain a large number of primary votes. That candidate will invariably be the candidate whose name appears first in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper.
What I desire is that a man who secures a number of second or third preference votes, provided that he is sufficiently close to the candidate who is elected, shall not forfeit his deposit. But why the Minister should alter the number of votes from one-fifth to one-tenth of the average number of first preference votes polled by the successful candidates in the election, I cannot understand.
-The Minister is seeking to get back to the original form of paragraph a by making it necessary for a candidate to poll only one-half of the votes which it was formerly proposed that fie must poll.
– We have since learned that in New South Wales it would be quite possible for a candidate to poll 80,000 votes and still lose his deposit.
– The Minister is thus going half way towards the abolition of a bad principle.
– What is the use of going half-way towards the abolition of a bad principle? I do not wish the Minister to be under the impression that I asked for one-fifth instead of onetenth. I am in favour of entirely wiping out a bad principle. However, if the Committee believes it to be a good one, I can only voice my protest against it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 negatived.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [11.4]. - I did not have an opportunity of speaking on the second reading, but I would like to briefly give my reasons for opposing the Bill. Had I been present I would have supported Senator Pratten’s amendment in favour of the principle of proportional voting, as it is one which I have favoured for a number of years. It is one that is included in the platform of the South Australian Labour party; and, now that we are re-casting our electoral law, the Government have missed an opportunity of introducing a. thoroughly scientific and tried system. It would have been, decidedly better than the complicated, cumbersome, and untried system that has been adopted. I am influenced by the fact that all the senators from Tasmania, where the system has been in operation for twenty yeai’3, are unanimously in favour of it. It has been tried in various countries, and this hybrid system which we have just passed is really a leap in the dark. The’ only objection to be found in connexion with the working of the proportional system is in regard to byelections; but that objection cannot apply to Senate elections. Under the Constitution, a by-election to fill a Senate vacancy is undertaken by the two Houses of Parliament of the State affected jointly choosing a member. The system contained in this Bill perpetuates the block system, under which one party can obtain the whole of the seats at any election. One party has succeeded in doing that. As a member of the Labour party, and speaking from experience in the State I represent, I can say that this system has worked very well from a party point of view. In 1904, 1910, 1913, and in 1914, the South Australian Labour party have obtained the whole of the three Senate seats, and I have every confidence that in the forthcoming election it can do the same. That, however, does not blind me to the fact that a principle that enables any party to obtain the whole of the representation in this Senate on a small majority vote is an unjust and inequitable system, and for that reason I am opposed to the principle. In the Commonwealth at large the Labour party gained all the seats in 1910 and 1914, as did the National or Winthewar party in 1917. The actual number of votes cast for each party did not justify one party in getting the whole representation. It would only justify it in securing ten of the eighteen seats; or, in the case of a double dissolution, twenty out of thirty-six. For these reasons, I am opposed to the Bill. I think the principle is one that cannot be justified in carrying on representative government, because it ought to provide for majority rule and a minority having adequate representation.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Printing of Electoral Rolls, New South Wales - Holidays for Public Servants- Disturbance on “ Bahia Castillo.”
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Earlier in the day I promised to give some information to Senator Grant in connexion with the delay in printing electoral rolls in New South Wales. I have received the following- statement : -
The rolls for the metropolitan divisions were reprinted in May last, and ample supplies are available. Those for the remaining (country) divisions are now being reprinted, and will be completed by the 27th inst. Certain of the metropolitan division rolls may be again printed for public and official convenience at the polling. There has been no avoidable delay; but it might be mentioned that standing type for eleven divisions was recently destroyed by a fire at Messrs. Marchant’s; and that firm, being at present unable to render any assistance, the whole of the work now devolves upon the Government Printer.
In regard to the question asked concerning the date up to which names may be placed on the supplemental rolls, I wish to state that names may be added up to 6 o’clock on the date oh which the writ is issued.
With reference to the question raised by Senator Needham relating to pay for holidays to public servants who enlisted for active service, I am now able to inform the honorable senator that the rule which ha3 always been followed in Commonwealth Departments is that payment is not made in lieu of holidays accruing during an employee’s absence. It is not proposed to depart from that rule.
Senator Needham also required some information regarding the personnel of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire, into the trouble on the Bahia Castillo. The personnel is as follows: -
Phillip Cohen, Esq., Police Magistrate in in the State of Victoria, Chairman.
Captain Charles Richard Wynn Brewis, R.A.N-.; and Captain and Brevet Major (Brigadier-General A.I.F.) Herbert William Lloyd, CB., C.M.G., D.S.O.; members.
The scope of the inquiry will be to inquire into and report upon the following matters : -
Complaints made as to the- treatment received by munition workers and their dependants whilst on board the s.s. Bahia Castillo, and particularly in regard to accommodation and messing arrangements provided for them on board.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1919/19191016_SENATE_7_90/>.