10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m. and read prayers.
SenatorFINDLEY. - Yesterday I was informed by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Sir “William Glasgow) that the salary of the High Commissioner had not been increased. _ I now desire to ask if the Government intends to increase the salary of theHigh Commissioner ?
– In view of the statement of the Minister for Defence (Sir William Glasgow) yesterday, regarding the position of trainees who attended a parade in Perth on the occasion of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York, I ask the Minister if he will instruct the base commandant to pay all trainees who attended that parade-, which was, according to the wording of the order, regarded by them as a compulsory one, although the Defence authorities said it was not, and refused to pay them?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.I shall have inquiries made and - advise the honorable senator of the position.
Chinese Traders at Rabaul.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories - .
Are Europeans debarred fromtrading within China Town,Rabaul?
How many trading licences were issued last year to Chinese to trade inRabaul.
How many Chinese traders were therein Rabaul at the end of the German- regime.
Were these Chinese traders licensed by the Germans,
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The information ^required by the honorablesenator is being obtained-, and! he will be advised as soonas it is available-.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) agreed to -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted, to Senator Sir George Pearce on account of urgent public business.
Motion (by Senator Foll) agreed to -
That one month’s leave of absence be granted to -SenatorAbbott on accountof urgent public business.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
[11.5]. - I move -
That so much- of the- standing and sessional orders be suspended, as would prevent the bill being passed” through all its stages without delay.
If the motion is agreed to it is my intention to move the second reading of the bill to-day, and then to agree to an adjournment of the debate if so’ desired. I have adopted! this course as’ it is necessary that the bill should- be passed by the Senate as soon as possible.
. -In view of the Ministers statement that his intention in submitting the motion is to enable- him to- move- the second1 reading of the bill, and then; to grant an adjournment of the debate until Wednesday next, I offer no objection. In the meantime honorable- senators- will have an opportunity to study the’ bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir WilliamGlasgow) read a first time.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence). [11.7].- I more-
That the bill be now read a second time
In order to meet expenditure in respect of works and other services chargeable to loan funds during the first’ three months of this- financial year,. Loan Bill (No.. 1) authorizing expenditure amounting to £2,000,000,. was passed by Parliament in March last. Reference to the Budget will show that the proposed programme for loan works and services for the current year totals £9,000,000.. Last year the programme submitted- with the Budget was for an expenditure of £10,000,000, but the actual expenditure was only £7,748,417. The decrease in expenditure for that year compared- with the- estimate was chiefly due to postal works and. Commonwealth railways. The construction of new Commonwealth railways in South Australia was not advanced’ as rapidly as was expected, and in the case of the postal works, the decrease was due partly to the delay in delivery of ma- terial and partly to the requirements being less than were anticipated. After the proposals of the various departments had been carefully scrutinized and reduced- where practicable, the programme for the present year was fixed at £9,000,000. The following table gives a comparison of the proposed expenditure for this year and the actual expenditure during last year
The bill now submitted- provides for the appropriation of £7,217,696. This amount is necessary to meet the full works programme for the year and also to provide for sundry redemptions amounting to £14,388. The financial position may be summarized thus: -
This includes £9,000,000 for works and services and £14,388 for redemptions. No provision is made in this bill for loans to be raised for the States for development and migration under the migration agreements or for loans to be raised for. the Federal Capital Commission. Authority has already been given by Parliament under other acts for these services. Clause 2 of the bill provides for authority to borrow £7,600,000. The difference between, that amount and the amount to be appropriated by . this bill, £7,217,696, is required to cover expenses of borrowing.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6th October, (vide page 279) on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. - Yesterday I was dealing with an amendment in the bill which provides for a reduction of the hours during which polling is conducted from 8 p.m: to 7 p.m. I do not agree with the proposed amendment, which if adopted will place an unnecessary restriction upon a large number of electors. Honorable senators may say that as polling day is usuallyon a Saturday, when work finishes at 1 p.m., electors should be able to record their votes by 7 p.m. But those engaged in restaurants, at matinee performances at theatres, on football fields and other sports grounds are employed up to 6 p.m. As voting is now compulsory, we should increase rather than decrease the polling facilities. In Queensland polling ceases at 6 p.m. ami in Western Australia at 7 p.m. The. object, of the committee in recommending that the hours of polling in connexion with Commonwealth elections should be from 8 a.m. ‘to 7 p.m., was to bring about uniformity. I would have preferred to see the hours of polling at State elections extended in order to bring them into line with the Commonwealth law.
– Why not have polling booths open for a week as they were in the good old days in the old land?
– They were bad old days in the old land when such conditions obtained. The bill proposes also to alter the existing provisions with regard to postal voting by reducing the distance from 10 miles to 5 miles; that is to say., the intention is to permit- an elector whose place of residence is five miles from a polling booth, to vote by post. At present the minimum is ten miles. I do not object so much to the shortening of the distance as to the principle itself. When the law was amended some years ago, I advocated the abolition of postal voting provisions, and for a time they were done away with. But subsequently they were reenacted and now greater facilities are to be provided. My objection is that, with postal voting, no matter how careful the administration may be, it is extremely difficult to preserve inviolate the secrecy of the ballot. Most honorable senators are aware that the principle has been abused in the past. For this reason I would have preferred to sue a recommendation by the committee in favour of the abolition of postal voting altogether, except in’ extraordinary circumstances.
– What about sick people ?
SenatorNEEDHAM.- I realize that, without an opportunity to vote by post, electors who . were ill at election time would be disfranchised; but in most cases sick people prefer not to be bothered with voting at all. Indeed it is a very sad spectacle to see authorized witnesses helping sick persons to vote and in some cases guiding the hand of a dying person in order that his vote may be recorded. The electoral system would be all the better if the principle were abolished, because then we should be able to preserve more effectively the secrecy of the ballot. Another provision to which I direct attention is contained in a proposed new sub-section 150a, which reads as follows: - (1.) No Member of the Parliament shall offer, promise or give directly or indirectly any gift, donation or prize to or for any club or other association or institution:
Provided that it shall not be a contravention of this section for a Member of Parliament to contribute, . or to offer or promise to contribute, to the funds of a hospital, a charitable body, an educational institution, a pastoral, agricultural. or horticultural society, a memorial, or a church of which he is a member, or to contribute to church collections.
Penalty: Ten pounds. “ (2) No proceedings shall be taken for a contravention of this section except within throe months after the act complained c f . “
– I am with the honorable senator against that provision.
– I strongly object to it. Why should members of Parliament put . a ring fence around themselves and, by passing this provision, say that they must not contribute to ft number of public institutions? I supposewe are all bombarded at times with requests for contributions and donations to various organizations, many of which are deserving of every support, and frequently it is difficult . for members of Parliament to keep pace financially with such requests. For my own part I do not try to’ do so. I realized at the outset of my public: life, that it would be impossible for me to contribute to all societies and organizations within my State. This matter should be left to the discretion of individual members of Parliament. Each man should be the arbiter of his own destiny and be at liberty to . please himself whether or . not he gives contributions or donations to any organizations within his electoral division. We should not seek to make ourselves sacrosanct as regards such requests. I hope, therefore, that the proposed new sub-section will not be passed, because whilst a member of Parliament will, if this new provision be inserted in the act, be prevented from making contributions to certain bodies, other persons who may be aspirants for his place in public life, will have full liberty to do, a good deal of useful propaganda work by making donations. I admit that for a period prior to election day, as the principal act provides, candidates should, not be allowed to make donations to public bodies, and members of Parliament should be placed in the same category for that period of time only. .
– That is the law today.
– And I have no objection to it; what I object to is this attempt to protect members of Parliament during the whole period of their membership. From time to time . we are informed, owing no doubt to the public position which we occupy, that we have been elected president or vice-president of certain organizations within our electoral divisions, and we should be at liberty, if we feelso inclined, to acknowledge the courtesy in the usual way. The proviso of the proposed new sub-section exempts contributions to the funds of hospitals, charitable and educational, institutions, pastoral, agricultural and horticultural societies, memorials, or churches of which we may bc members. I could mention quite a number of other worthy institutions which we should be at liberty to help. For instance, why should we not be allowed to make contributions towards the erection of a Trades Hall? That certainly is a very worthy object. I intend to vote, against the proposed new sub-section, as well as the others which I have mentioned.
– I was pleased to hear the Minister who brought down the bill (Senator Glasgow) eulogise the work of the select committee that investigated the working of the Commonwealth electoral law; but I should have been better pleased if the Government, had not rejected some of the recommendations made by that body. I refer particularly to the retention of enrolment for a period of three months after an elector has left his sub-division. Careful consideration was given to the matter. There were two aspects, one of which was the removal of the name of an elector when he had been absent from his usual’ place of abode for a period of one month. That provision has given rise to a ‘great deal of trouble throughput the Commonwealth. The suggestion which went furthest towards a solution of the difficulty was to make the period uniform with that required for enrolment - three months. The department said that a period of ten weeks usually elapsed before a name was removed, and that that was a sufficient protection. I am not convinced that it is. In Queensland the names of large numbers of men have been known to be transferred from some electorates to others to suit the convenience of certain people. It is not desirable that such gerrymandering tactics should be adopted in the Federal arena.. .The Minister urged as an objection against the proposal the fact that three of the States are working under a joint roll, and that they would be obliged to pass amending legislation so as to keep in line with the Commonwealth. Such an argument has no force. There would be no breach of faith on our part. The conclusions of the committee were arrived at as the result of evidence taken in every part of Australia from men of all shades of political opinion as well as from the Divisional Returning Officers. I value the opinion of the head of the department., but it ought not to be accepted in preference to that of the committee. Another recommendation that has’ not been - adopted is that the titles of the political parties should be placed on the ballot-paper opposite the names of the candidates. That would have been merely one step further than the present system of grouping parties. We held the view that it would lead to a reduction in the number of informal votes cast. I hope that we may be able to induce the Minister to accept an amendment along those lines in committee. I do not agree with the sentiments that have’ been expressed by Senator Needham in regard to postal voting. If I happen to be absent from my electorate on polling- day, surely I ought not to be deprived of the right to record a vote. The sick, the aged, and other persons also have to be considered. I believe that the postal ballot is absolutely secret. Secrecy can be destroyed only if an elector indicates the manner in which he or she has voted. I defy any person to prove that there is not secrecy under the ordinary procedure for the recording of a vote by post. The time limit has been reduced from the seven days recommended by the committee to four days. That recommendation was made after very close consideration and on the advice of persons who live at a long distance from a Divisional Returning Officer. I ask that it be restored in committee. A number of suggestions were made concerning matters of administration. It would afford great relief if we were assured that they would be given effect to in the department. They were advanced with a full knowledge of all the circumstances, and- we believe that, they would lead to greater efficiency. The standard which has been attained in the Federal arena is very much higher than that in the States, but it could be made more nearly perfect by the adoption of the recommendations of the committee:
– This bill is the outcome of the appointment of a select committee to inquire into electoral law and procedure.. Having perused the report and recommendations which were submitted to Parliament by that committee, and read portion of the evidence, 1 have no hesitation in asserting that its appointment waa unwarranted and an unjustifiable waste of money, although the committee did its work conscientiously and well. Upon its appointment we were led to believe that it would delve into matters of major importance to the people. Possibly the Government had in view the likelihood of gaining some party political advantage. Opponents of the party to which I belonghare said on many occasions that the age of miracles is not yet passed ; that we have succeeded in resurrecting the dead and securing their votes. The charge has also been made that supporters of the Labour party frequently act on the advice which was tended to electors in another part of the universe, to vote early and often. I can recall an historic election that was held in Ballarat, when the candidates were Mr. McGrath, the present member, and Mr. McKay. The charges then made against the Labour party by its opponents were of such a serious nature that the Government appointed a royal commission to investigate them. It was said that proof could be furnished of some men having voted nineteen times.
The commission’s inquiries, however, demonstrated that the wild statements which emanated from those opposed to the Labour party’s platform, were groundless. It is true that one person claimed to have voted nineteen times that day, but when his claim was investigated it was found that the only foundation for it was that he had placed nineteen crosses on his ballot -papers ! At the election electors had the opportunity to vote for a considerable number of candidates for the Senate, two or more candidates for the Ballaarat constituency, and also some referendum proposals. I am glad that the committee has expressed the unanimous opinion that the allegations and rumours as to the wide-spread practice of impersonation and duplication are without foundation, and that such instances are practically negligible throughout Australia. I hope that we shall hear no more of the charge that the Labour party has been guilty of. nefarious practices in connexion with elections.
– The report makes the position clear so far as Federal elections are concerned, but not in regard to State elections. - “ -
– The committee investigated electoral reform only as affecting the Commonwealth. I thought that it would make some reference to the practice of canvassing, which, in my opinion, should be abolished. No one who believes in voting by ballot can justify ‘ canvassing. ‘The system is a violation of the secrecy of the ballot.
– It is impossible’ to prevent canvassing.
– In view of the struggles of the past to establish the principle of voting by ballot, I cannot understand why a system- which enables armies of paid canvassers to go from door to door, pleading for votes for this or that candidate, is tolerated in Australia.
– “Would the honorable senator prevent the newspapers from publishing anything connected with elections?
– I was referring to house-to-house canvassing, by which the party with the biggest purse gains a decided advantage. That, however^ is not the only reason for my opposition to the system ; I desire to make that clear.
– Has the honorable senator read in the newspapers/this week what the licensed victuallers have dona in New South “Wales?
– With its almost inexhaustible financial resources, the National party before each election engages thousands of canvassers at .good salaries to canvass for its candidates. This practice should not be permitted. At one time elections were decided by open voting. Honorable senators are familiar’ with what took place in those days. The man with the biggest purse, who was able to engage professional pugilists and boxers to intimidate electors, or worse, always won the election. The voting was by show of hands. Woe betide any elector in those days who held up his hand for a candidate opposed to the one who had employed these bruisers ! The system of canvassing achieves the’ same result, but in a more respectable way. T.f it was wrong in. those”’ days to brow-beat electors into voting in a certain way, it is wrong today for canvassers to go from door to door trying to make people promise to vote for certain candidates. Some canvassers will not leave the door until they get a definite answer “ Yes “ or “ No “. I consider that it is an inpertinence for any person to visit the home- of an elector to ask him how he intends to vote. Why should electors practically be. compelled to tell canvassers how they propose to exercise the franchise? I regret that the committee has not dealt with this question, and that there is no reference to it in the bill.
– How could canvassing be prevented?
– It could be made an offence for any political party to engage canvassers, or for persons to go from door to door urging electors to vote in a certain way.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that no person should ask another privately how he intends to vote?
– Legislation prohibiting canvassing would not’ entirely abolish private canvassing; but it would minimize a growing evil.
– Has the honorable senator never, asked an elector how he proposed to vote ?
– I have never asked a person for a vote, nor has, I believe, any Labour candidate. Supporters of Labour vote for the party, not for individuals. There is nothing wrong in candidates at meetings urging electors to vote for the candidates supported by a particular political party; but I protest against the system of engaging paid canvassers.
– Would the honorable senator’s objection be removed if the canvassers were not paid?
– The canvassers should be required to prove that they are not paid. House-to-house canvassing should be prohibited. That would not be difficult.
One of the committee’s recommendations refers to signed articles. For a number of years. I have been associated with various newspapers. I know something of newspaper life, and of the men who day by day supply the public . with . well-written articles on various subjects. I subscribe to the principle that during a certain period prior to an election the writers of political articles published in the newspapers of the Commonwealth should be obliged to attach their - signatures to them. I am satisfied that the existing legislation requiring articles on political subjects to be signed has been in’ the interests of candidates, tie newspapers and. their writers, and the general public. Writers and publishers of articles are more careful if they know the name of the writer must be attached.. In my opinion the day is not far distant when literary men will be proud to attach their names to the articles they write. Books and magazines containing the writings of well-known authors find a more ready sale than do books and magazines containing articles written by anonymous writers. I have before me an article from a newspaper published in one of our large cities It is a veritable tonic to me to read it. It is stimulating to find a writer so well off the old beaten track, and I have made inquiries as to his name. If, on the approach of an election, he is still engaged iu his present sphere and if he writes similar articles in the same or in any other paper, his name will bo attached to them and he will become better known and perhaps better established than he is to-day. The average man should ‘ not hesitate to attach his name to his articles. In the main it is the newspapers and not so much the journalists who are the objectors to the signing of articles during election campaigns. Not the slightest reason has been advanced for the discontinuance of the practice.
In regard to the proposal to reduce the hours of polling, our aim should be to place every facility in the way of voters and not to inconvenience them. The people of Australia have been educated to the present Commonwealth polling hours. It is before them every time an election approaches, that the booths are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It takes some little time to educate the electors, speaking of them as a whole, but to-day the people of Australia are fully acquainted with the Commonwealth polling hours, and unless substantial reasons are advanced for making any departure from the present practice, it is not right to alter the system. We know- that when the preferential system of voting was first introduced into Commonwealth elections many voters were not thoroughly educated up to it and as a result thousands of informal votes were recorded. The probabilities are that those informalities will become less and less with every new election. Those who watch events in connexion with federal elections know that the busiest time in the polling booths is from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
– Why should that be so on Saturday, which is usually a half holiday ?
– To many housewives Saturday is the busiest day of the week. They are fully engaged in shopping and domestic work, and in all the many tasks incidental to housekeeping. There are thousands of men who, knowing that the polling booths do not close until S o’clock, choose the time between 6 o’clock and 8 o’clock as the most convenient for the recording of their votes.
– Many organizers of the honorable senator’s party recommend that ‘ the polling booths should be closed at 7 o’clock.
– The average Australian is a sport and engages in different fields of sport. During the cricket season thousands play cricket or attend cricket matches. I suppose that more people play cricket in Australia than in any other part of the world. There are also, probably, more footballers in Australia in proportion to the population than there are in any, other part of the world. Thousands play tennis, golf, croquet or bowls. Thousands also follow the slow or the fleet-footed quadruped. In the spring and the summer the last race is usually run a little after 0 o’clock, and the means of communication, in Sydney are not as up to date or as speedy as those in Melbourne. World travellers have said that in no place in the world is race traffic handled as expeditiously as it is at Flemington, Victoria. Take, for instance, Randwick, which I visited last ,week. As in the field of politics, so at that famous race-course. there are consistent and inconsistent performers; out-and-outers and inandouters. The out-and-outers are those who can, like the Labour party, always be relied on. If you support candidates standing on behalf of Labour in any political contest, you can always depend on getting a fair and square run for your money. The in-and-outers and inconsistent performers invariably belong to the Nationalist party.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator is wandering from the bill.
– I am incidentally drawing attention to the fact that because of the means of communication at Randwick, the person who attends a race meeting there takes a much longer time to get into Sydney than does one who attends a race meeting at Flemington and wishes to get into the city of Melbourne.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator is telling us too ‘ much about Randwick and too little about the bill.
– The point I wish to elaborate is that it would probably be necessary for many people to leave the Randwick race-course before the last race in order to record a vote if the poll closed at 7 p.m., as now proposed. When I was at Randwick on Saturday last, I was told that it would probably take me about two hours to get’ back to Sydney. I said that I would follow the example of many, others, and leave before the last race. The average sport, however, does not leave before the last race. It would be inconvenient not only for the followers of horse racing, but also for thousands of others engaged in different kinds of sport, to have to record their votes before 7 o’clock at night. Of course, I am aware that the majority of the people finish their
Work at 1 o’clock on Saturday, and that some people think that when a manfinishes his work, he should immediately proceed to a polling booth. But when the average man leaves his place of employment at 1 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon he goes home changes into, his sporting clothes - cricket, football, tennis, or golf - has his lunch and makes haste to get to his destination. When the game is over he goes home. For him the present hours of poll ings - from 8 o’clock to 8 o’clock - are a boon. I am not concerned about the systems operating in the different States. They are not the concern of the Commonwealth. ‘ If honorable senators will peruse the evidence given before the joint select committee, they will see that all the Labour representatives- who gave evidence were opposed to the limitation of the hours of polling to 7 o’clock.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– The hour of closing in Queensland is 6 o’clock and it has always been 6 o’clock, although Labourgovernments have been in power for years.
– The Labour representatives in Victoria were emphatic in their opposition to any alteration. Mr. McNamara, the general secretary of the Labour party in Victoria, was against any limitation, and so far as I can follow the evidence, the representatives of Labour throughout Australia, were emphatic in their support of the present hours of polling. ‘
– The closing hour inWestern Australia is 7 o’clock.
– I am not concerned, about that. The present hour of closing the booths during Commonwealth elections should be retained.
I - have always been opposed to postal voting, because it is open to corrupt practices. An election in the electorate of Melbourne was once won by thelate Sir Malcolm McEachern, and the present member, Dr. Maloney, was defeated. On that occasion an exhaustive investigation was conducted, and as it was proved that very. many postal votes ‘ recorded should not have been allowed a new election was held, with the result that Dr. Maloney was returned with a substantial majority.
– The regulations governing postal voting in those days were not in” any way comparable with those at present in force.
– I know they are more restrictive to-day, I -shall not support a . provision to make postal voting easier by reducing the minimum distance from ten to five ‘miles. If the proposed reduction is made the distance will probably be reduced laterto two miles, and then it may subsequently be possible for every elector to vote by post. There is nothing in the bill which commends it. to me; on the contrary it contains certain clauses which I shall oppose in committee. For the reasons given, I intend to oppose the second reading if a division is . taken.
– I commend the committee which enquired into our electoral law arid procedure for the excellent work it accomplished and for the valuable report submitted to the Government. I do not think, however, that sufficient attention was given to the method of conducting Senate elections. I anticipated that it would obtain evidence “ in favour of simplifying the present method of , electing honorable senators. I am’ pleased to see that the bill provides for dispensing with an official witness to applications for, and the actual marking of, postal ballot-papers which entails a considerable amount of work and inconvenience. I contend that it would be sufficient if the elector made a written application for the ballot-paper, which could be returned by post. I do not know whether the committee gave attention to the manner in which postal ballot papers are sent in large numbers to one address, which, in some cases, is not the address at which the applicant resides. Postal ballot-papers should be returned direct to the person making the application - and to the’ address from which the application was made. That would assist in minimizing corruption and irregularities at elections. I am surprised to find members of the Labour party opposed to postal ballotpapers being issued to sick persons. One would think, from the opinions some have expressed, that it is a crime to be indisposed. Sick persons should not be disfranchised, but should be provided with every facility for voting. In four of the States polling booths at State elections are closed at 7 o’clock, or earlier. There has been a strong agitation throughout the Commonwealth during recent months for a reduction in working hours, and it is surprising to find that members of the Labour party are opposed to a reduction in the number of . hours during which electoral officials should work. If the polling booths were closed at 7 o’clock - it is 6 o’clock in Queensland - instead of 8 o’clock as is the law at present ‘no one would be inconvenienced. It is unreasonable to expect electoral officials to work at high pressure for twelve hours.
– If the hour of closing were made 7 o’clock the count could commence much earlier.
– Yes, and the re- suits would be known sooner. Although provision is made for electors to reside for at least one month in the electorate in which they are to record their votes, it would be wise to increase the period to three months, because the present system leads to a good deal of duplicate enrolment. An elector’s name frequently appears on an original roll and also on a supplementary roll.
– That’ is not so.
– I have been an election agent for over 30 years and know that such is the case.
– An elector’s name is removed from the official roll before it is placed on a supplementary roll.
– There is not always time to do that. Sometimes the original rolls have been printed, and the name of an elector who has removed to another electorate has not been struck off. The use of one roll for two or three subdivisions also leads to plural voting. There should be a separate roll for each subdivision, and an elector should be compelled to record his vote in the subdivision for which he is’ enrolled. I am glad to learn that honorable senators opposite are opposed to canvassing, since that is a practice in which they are past masters. I once contested an election in which the representatives of the Labour party had the electorate divided into sections, and motor car drivers deputed to canvass every street. I could’ not say who met the cost of all this work; but. notwithstanding the energy displayed by the representatives of the Labour party, I was defeated by only seventeen votes in a very big poll. I support the bill.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [12.30]. - The honorable senator who preceded me complimented the select committee upon its good work. I regret that I cannot join with him, because in my opinion the information furnished to. Parliament by the committee could have been obtained quite as easily and at much less expenditure from the electoral officers throughout the Commonwealth.
Senaor Thompson. - Evidently the honorable senator has not read the evidence.
SenatorREID. - The expenditure incurred by the committee was, in my judgment, so much money thrown away, since practically all the information gained by that body was obtained from departmental officials.
-Much the same criticism could be directed at other, commissions and committees that have presented reports to Parliament.
SenatorREID. - I am satisfied that had electoral officers been asked by the Government to furnish reports as to the working of the Electoral Act, the information given by them would have been just as complete as that contained in the report of the committee. I entirely approve of the proposal to close polling booths at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. In the earlier days of our industrial development when so many people had to work late on a Saturday afternoon, and when shops did not close until 8 o’clock or later, the majority of working people had no opportunity to vote during the day; but the position is different now. In most factories and retailshops work ceases at 12.30 or even earlier, so there is no need to keep polling booths open until 8 o’clock. Indeed, I would prefer polling to cease at 6 o’clock. In these days when motor cars make transport conditions easy for all, and when men work short hours, it is an injustice to require returning officers to remain cooped up in polling booths from 8 o’clock in the morning until 8 o’clock at night. At some country sub-divisions where there are only a dozen or so electors, the whole of the votes are recorded before mid-day, but still the presiding officer and other officials are compelled to remain in the booth until 8 o’clock at night. At such places where there is a limited number of electors; I would favour closing the poll at 4 o’clock.
– Does the honorable senator forget that farmers have to work their farms?
SenatorREID. -Not at all; most farmers, like other people, have improved means of transport at their disposal, and as a general rule they vote early in the day to avoid travelling long distances at night.
– On a Saturday afternoon people like to attend horse races, or football and cricket matches. If the polling booths in country districts closed at 4 o’clock, many might be disfranchised.
SenatorREID. - The majority of the farmers who vote at the smaller polling places are not interested in football, cricket or sport of any kind. As a rule they are living in newly settled areas, and are fully occupied with their daily work. My suggestion to close such polling places at 4 o’clock would not interfere in any way with the pleasures of the people. Another provision of the bill deals with donations and gifts by members of Parliament to organizations within their divisions. The bill will graciously allow , members to contribute to certain specified bodies, and will even go so far as to allow them to give donations to church funds, or to put threepence or sixpence in the collection plate on a Sunday! The whole provision is absurd.
– The honorable senator is forgetting the bazaars and * other activities connected with churches.
SenatorREID. - Such matters are not worth consideration. Members of Parliament should have full liberty to please themselves. The proposed new sub-section prohibiting members from contributing to certain clubs and organizations is a cowardly way of getting over a difficulty. Members should have sufficient moral courage’ to refuse donations to any organization if they are not in a position to meet its requests. I object entirely to any interference with my liberty in that respect. There should be no sheltering behind any restrictions such as these, which it is proposed to insert in the act. For many years I have subscribed regularly to many humanitarian movements. For instance, I contribute towards the support of children’s playgrounds, and for many years I have given donations to the Queensland ambulance brigade, which is acknowledged to be the best of its kind in Australia. If this provision is inserted in the bill I shall be prevented from doing that in future, and I object. if members only had the courage to say / “No “ to many of the blackmailing requests that come along to them, there ° would be no trouble at all, and a refusal would make no difference to their chance of re-election. I am astonished that the Government should have been so stupid as to include such a provision in the bill.
– In any case it would be unworkable because members of Parliament could give donations to clubs and organizations by deputy.
SenatorREID. - I agree with the proposal for uniform electoral rolls. We have joint rolls in three of the States already. Unfortunately Queensland will not come into line, and I regret that the Commonwealth Government has not the power to bring about uniformity in that State also. Joint rolls in all the States would save a considerable amount of expenditure, and be a great convenience to the people. As regards postal voting, I am fully aware that it has been abused on many occasions, but it is a great convenience to sick and incapacitated persons who, without this provision, would be denied the franchise. I see no reason why they should be deprived of the privilege, as was suggested by SenatorNeedham. As a safeguard against abuses I should favour the imposition of heavy penalties.
– It is very hard to avoid abuses in the administration of the postal ballot provisions of the act.
SenatorREID. - I admit that there are difficulties. I know many people who have been prevented from voting, and who would have performed the duty much more intelligently than some of those who were able to visit the polling booth. I can recall the time when workers particularly dared not let others learn of the way in which they voted, and itwas necessary to have a secret ballot . Now those conditions are altered and very fen persons care who knows how they vote. It has often been argued that the postal vote is an open one. Those who have assisted presiding officers can vouch for the fact that it is extremely difficult to induce some electors to record their vote3 in the voting boxes provided for them; the majority of electors would rather mark their papers openly. If the Government could devise additional safeguards it might be wise to have them incorporated in the act. Senator Findley expressed opposition to canvassers, and contended that any candidate who employed paid canvassers should be punished. I would not waste money on the employment of canvassers because I believe that their work is of little value. Electors nowadays will tell them anything in order to get rid of them. I do not believe it would be possible to interfere with an individual who voluntarily advocated the claims of a candidate amongst a circle of friends. When the bill is being considered in committee, I shall endeavour to have the polling hours lessened, as I consider it is a waste of time to keep the booths open until 8 o’clock at night.
– It is somewhat difficult to ascertain from the bill whether it is proposed to interfere with the existing- provision which sets out the qualifications necessary to enable an elector to have his name transferred from one roll to another after residence in the new electorate for a period of one month. I find that it is proposed to amend section 39 of the principal act by omitting the two provisos to sub-section (3) thereof and inserting in their stead ‘the following proviso -
Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled, shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division. In this proviso the words “ real place of living “ include the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.
The intention would appear to be quite clear ; but I hope that in committee we shall be given an explanation of what the amendment really means. At the present time an elector is entitled to he enrolled for a new subdivision after he has resided in it for a period of one month. I am not prepared to support an amendment which will interfere with that practice. It is most important that only those who reside in a division shall be entitled to vote in respect of it. The suggestion advanced by Senator Andrew, that an elector’s name might remain on the roll for a division he had left and at the same time appear on another roll in respect of his- new residence, is nottenable. It is the function of the registrars to remove from the roll the names of those who have left the division, simultaneously with their enrolment for a new division. If that were not so the rolls would become inflated beyond conception. The returning officers have rolls on which are carefully noted the names of electors who have left the district or who are otherwise disqualified to vote. If any elector’s name appears on such a roll as disentitled to vote, he would have very great difficulty in securing a vote. I do not want to see in the act any provision that will interfere with that practice, because I believe it is responsible for the comparative purity of the federal roll. I have not been able to ascertain why the Government agreed to the appointment df a select committee to inquire into electoral law and procedure. I find no fault with the manner in which that committee discharged its duties; but I am pleased that it did not suggest any serious alterations to the act, which has stood the test of time and requires little, if any, amendment. The amendment recommended by the committee, and endorsed by the Government, to grant additional facilities to record postal votes, ought to be very carefully scrutinized. So far adequate reasons for the departure have not been given. I agree with those who assert that it is difficult, if not impossible, to administer the postal voting provisions of the act in such a way as to place those votes above suspicion. It is easy to suspect malpractice, but when one seeks for definite proof one usually finds that although the secrecy of the ballot may have been’ interfered with to some extent, the number of votes recorded by unqualified persons is very small. It would be impossible to devise a method that would be free from some defect.
Many persons are too unwell to visit a polling booth on election day. Those who come within that category, and others who have a valid excuse for remaining away, should not be deprived of the right to record a vote. Therefore, I am not prepared to join in the sweeping condemnation of postal voting which has been indulged in by some honorable senators. Their arguments may be sound, but I am not convinced that they are. I shall await’ with interest a statement by the Government in explanation of the proposal to reduce from 10 miles to 5, the distance from a polling booth at which an elector must reside in order to be entitled to vote by post. If that explanation is satisfactory, I shall support the proposed alteration. The committee was ill-advised when it decided to recommend that certain printed articles should be excluded from the operation of the section which places upon the writer of an article the obligation of signing his name to it. The Government would do wrong to relax those provisions.
– Many Labour supporters are in agreement with the Government on that point.
– A large number, of whom I am one, are not. It is a shrewd suggestion on the part of those who drafted the bill.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– It was only after considerable agitation and long de liberation that the Parliament of Australia finally decided that it was fair to all parties to insist that all articles, whether leaders, leaderettes, or reports of speeches, dealing with federal elections or federal referendums, should be signed by the writers. And on the whole I think that the Parliament of the day was fully justified in insisting on that provision. I have not heard any tangible reason for departing from it. It is highly desirable that there should be the utmost possible freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but at the same time it. is equally desirable that the public should know exactly who are writing articles which appear in the press at election time. When a person attends a public meeting he is in no doubt as to the identity of the speaker’s, and if slanderous statements are made, he has his remedy. To the same extent he has his remedy against a newspaper, but when a leading article is published the reader has no idea of the identity of the writer, unless the writer’s name is attached to it. Sometimes when we see the men who write these leading articles we find that they are most woe-begone looking specimens of humanity, and consequently we do not pay much attention to what they write. But when we do not know who they are, their writings, when effectively displayed in bold type, loom largely in the public eye. The constant reader, who happens to know a few writers on a newspaper, can tell by the phrases used who the writer ‘ of a particular article may be, but that cannot always be done with accuracy. There has been a partial evasion of the provisions of the act. I have seen leaders in important papers signed by the writers with an addendum, “Written by John Brown, after consultation with the proprietors, to express their views.” As a matter of fact it is not John Brown who writes the article. If John Brown writes his own views, his article is so cut about to express the views of his proprietors, that it is unrecognizable. It is satisfactory to every one, even to the writers, and I am sure to the readers, to know exactly who has written the articles which appear during an election campaign. I have watched a number of newspaper writers for many years, and I am able to judge correctly the value of what they write. Generally speaking, their views do not carry much weight. If any one inserts an advertisement, or issues a dodger or pamphlet during an election, he must attach his name to it; bat dodgers and pamphlets are not nearly as effective as newspaper articles; they do not get the same wide publicity. The sponsors of the bill have failed to show why this very important departure should be made. Another suggestion is that a report of a meeting need not be signed by the reporter. Clause 25 proposes to exempt : -
If we agree to this, it means that the reports of all public meetings are not to have the names of the writers attached. So far no newspaper proprietor has been able to show any good reason why this departure should be made. Ever since provision was made in the electoral law for the signing of articles, the newspaper proprietors have been opposed to it. I have read some of the evidence given by these gentlemen, but not one claim submitted by them appears to me to carry any weight. “Why is the identity of the writer not to be disclosed?
– So that he may not be victimized. I have known cases in which men have been victimized.
– I venture to say that there is no case on record of a man having been victimized for signing has name to a political article. I do not think there is any fear of anything of the kind taking place.
– The leader writer has to write’ in accordance with the views of his paper.
– Does the honorable senator imagine that a newspaper would discharge a’ man because he had written a leading article in a certain way, or that people would bring pressure to bear on the proprietor to have the writer discharged ?
– He may not be discharged, but he may be abused pretty freely.
– That is all so much empty talk. You meet the writer in the -street afterwards, and you have not the slightest animosity against him.
– What purpose does it serve to know the identity of a leader writer?
SenatorFoll. - So that he may be crucified later on.
– There is no intention of crucifying him. I have not the least objection to a man expressing any opinion he likes on any subject, at any time. I would not want to persecute or prosecute him.
– All are not like the ^honorable senator.
– I think it would be a very wrong thing to do. When a newspaper publishes an article, why should not the identity of the writer be known just as the identity of a speaker is known? If we make speeches in the Senate our remarks are embalmed in Hansard. If we speak in public anywhere and our remarks are reported in the newspapers, we have to stand up to the statements we have made. At any time supporters or opponents may dig them out and hold them up against us. In the same way why should the identity of a man who writes a leading article or makes a contribution to a newspaper remain unknown ?
– The leading article expresses the views of the paper and not of the individual writer.
– I have already referred to the fact that the leaders are very frequently “ written by John Brown after consultation with the proprietors to express the views” of the paper.
– That is done in order to comply with the provisions of the act.
– I contend that it is an evasion of the provisions of the act. It should say “ Written by John Brown “ ; or else “ Written by the proprietors to express their own views.”
– Is that fair, say, to John Brown, an employee, who writes the article?
– It is not a hard ship. At present the newspapers have sufficient liberty, and we should know thenames of the authors of political articles appearing during an election campaign.
There is no direct reference in the bill to the manner in which the Senate is to be elected. So far as I can see it is very difficult to devise a more effective method of expressing the mas vote than that now embodied in . the Elec toral Act. Some time ago electors re corded their votes by placing across opposite the names of the candidate whom they desired to support. It we discovered, however, that under the system the, votes of country candidate could not be fully utilized, and in order that the Nationalist party might have few additional organizers in the field this scheme was devised. When the country candidates are counted out their votes are transferred to other nationalist candidates. So long as we believe in a mass vote it is very difficult to devise another scheme to effectively carry out our intentions. If we were to revert to the old system of making a cross, a large number of votes would be lost, whereas under the present system every valid vote ultimately and automatically receives the value the elector desires. The party whose candidates are elected therefore get a majorityof the votes recorded at an election. Any departure from that system, as indicated by an amendment that is foreshadowed, will need to be supported by some tangible reason for its inclusion in. the bill. This is a matter to which I understand the committee did not give consideration.
The recommendations of the committee in relation to donations or gifts by members should not be seriously entertained. It provides that candidates may give donations to hospitals, educational institutions, memorials, pastoral, agricultural, or horticultural societies, a church of which the candidate is a member, or to any church. I do not see why members of Parliament should be singled out for special treatment; they are quite capable of looking after their own interests. If they wish to give donations in any direction no objection should be raised. If they desire to. pay their way into Parliament they should not be debarred from doing so, because candidates opposing them can, up to within three months of an election, spend as much as they like in the way of donations or gifts. If the act is to apply to members of Parliament it should also apply automatically to every member of the community.
– The clause to which the honorable senator is referring is merely an extension of a provision in the existing act.
– It may be, but it is not acceptable to me. There is a provision in the measure which is not of much consequence but which might be agreed to. It is clause 24, which amends section 161 of the principal act, and reads -
Section 161 of the principal act is amended by inserting after paragraph (e) the following paragraph: -
Wilfully informing any elector on polling day that he is not enrolled., or that he is not enrolled for a particular sub-division, when as a fact he is enrolled, or is enrolled for that sub-division, as the ease may be.
I have known of cases where electors have in good faith gone to record their votes and have been told by inexperienced canvassers that their names were not on the roll. This provision is to prevent persons acting illegally; but I do not know whether it is worth while amending the act for that purpose. I was amused at Senator Andrew’s reference to the 44- hour week, and his objection to the polling booths remaining open after 7 o’clock. I should like to see a uniform opening and closing time throughout the Commonwealth. In this instance, the 44- hour principle is not in any way involved. In fact, it is time that the idea of the 44-hour week was abandoned, and efforts made to secure a 40-hour week, as a working day of 8½ hours is a complete violation of the eight-hour principle. Those engaged in polling booths from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. may find the work somewhat tiresome; but they have only to perform that work once in three years. No valid reason has been given in support of a reduction in the polling hours. When the measure is in committee an opportunity will be given to show the utter futility of amending the act in-the direction proposed. It is undesirable to amend such an important measure without a good reason. All the amendments now proposed are not of sufficient importance to justify an alteration of the present system. It is proposed to fix at 10s. the minimum penalty for failing to vote. At present the maximum fine is £2. I believe that, in some cases, a fine of 2s. 6d. has been imposed. We have in force the principle of compulsory enrolment as well as compulsory voting. The majority of the people exercise the franchise when they have an opportunity to do so; I doubt, therefore, if it is wise to provide for a minimum fine of 10s. where, for some reason, a certain number are unable to attend at the polling places on election day. I shall have a further opportunity, in committee, to discuss this provision. In my opinion the act has worked fairly well, and, whilst I have every respect for the members of the committee which has made the recommendations upon which the bill is founded, I doubt if all the proposed amendments are necessary. For these reasons I intend to vote against the second reading of the bill.
– I join with other honorable senators ill congratulating members of the select committee upon the thoroughness with which . they conducted the inquiry into the working of the Electoral Act. I regret, however, that the scope of the inquiry was somewhat limited. On a former occasion in the Senate, when I attempted to discuss the probable reasons that were responsible for informal voting at Commonwealth elections, I was told by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that I would have an opportunity to go fully into that matter when the select committee was taking evidence. I found, however, that the scope of the inquiry did not permit the committee to go fully into the subject. At the last Commonwealth election there were no fewer than 209,951 informal votes cast. Senator Thompson has suggested ‘ that the informalities may be reduced if the names of the political parties to which candidates belong are printed on the ballot-paper. My suggestion is that the Chief Electoral Officer, when preparing his report on an election, should present also an analysis of the informal votes, disclosing, as far as possible, the reasons for the infomalities. This would not take a great deal of time, and would not in any way interfere with the scrutiny. It would, however, be of considerable assistance to candidates during an election campaign, because they would be able to explain to the people how to avoid casting informal votes. I am sure it would have good results, as many people would not make the same mistake twice. The total informal votes in each division would not be more than about 2,000, and the work of analyzing them could be entrusted to the returning officers for the respective subdivisions.
– What about the deliberate informalities ?
– I am afraid we cannot do anything with regard to them. Many electors, knowing that if they fail to exercise the franchise they will be fined, deliberately make their votes informal. I have been carefully examining the figures dealing with the last election, and I find that in Queensland 201,400 formal votes returned three senators for that State; in Western Australia 94,000 formal votes returned the senators for that State, and in Tasmania only 51,000 formal votes were necessary to elect the three senators for that State. The total of informal votes throughout the Commonwealth was actually four times the number of the formal . votes required to elect the three Tasmanian senators to this chamber. In South Australia 143,000 formal votes returned the three senators who came into this chamber after the last election. The informal votes for the several States were: - New South Wales, 73,000; Victoria, 69,000; Queensland, 25,000; South Australia 16,000; Western Australia, 12,000; Tasmania, 11,000.
– The grouping of candidatesshould lessen the informalities.
– I think the honorable senator is right. I am particularly anxious to have an analysis made of the informal votes cast at each election, so as to be able to explain the difficulties to the people, and to make possible a better showing at future elections.
– What the honorable senator is asking could be done by administrative action without an amendment of the act.
– If that is so, I shall be satisfied. If not, I intend, when the bill is in. committee, to move to have the act amended.
[2.44]. - It is generally admitted that an amendment of the act is desirable to ensure clean rolls and purity in elections. Immediately after an election we hear all sorts of rumors of malpractice and impersonation of electors.
– Most of which are unfounded.
– It is gratifying to learn from the report of the committee that there is very little justification for these rumours. The debate has shown that, generally speaking, honorable senators are in favour of the bill. Senator Needham has objected to certain proposed amendments of the act. He is not in favour of the closing of polling places at 7 o’clock. He stressed the inconvenience that might be caused to some electors in recording their votes. The franchise is the highest privilege that the people of Australia enjoy. They are asked to exercise it only once in every three years, and the time allowed is between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The bill proposes to alter the closing hour to 7 p.m. In four of the States the poll in the case of State elections now closes at either 7 p.m. or earlier. If the Governments of those States had reason to .believe that there was a possibility of electors being disfranchised, I feel sure that they would consider the advisability of amending the law. The officials have a very strenuous time on election day. Immediately the poll closes, they have to commence the counting of the votes. No great hardship will be imposed on any elector by compelling him to vote before 7 p.m. Senator Needham also voiced an objection against postal voting. All that the bill proposes is to improve the facilities for obtaining a postal vote. ‘ In a country that has a universal franchise, it is essential that every elector should be enabled to record a vote. It would be a great hardship to withdraw the privilege from people who happen to be ill, or who suffer from any disability that prevents their attendance at a polling booth. There are ample safeguards against interference with ‘the secrecy of the ballot. Honorable senators should recognize the wisdom of retaining the postal ballot provisions. Commercial travellers and others who are engaged in similar callings would be at a disadvantage if they were deprived of. the opporunity to vote by post. Honorable senators opposite further objected to the proposed amendment relating to the signing of articles. It is generally admitted that the opinions expressed in articles that appear in newspapers are those of the proprietors. It imposes a hardship upon the writer of an article that expresses the views of the journal by which he is employed, to insist upon his signing it. These provisions have had no effect, and it is as well to repeal them. Senator Thompson argued that the period of qualification and disqualification should be increased from one month to three months. An elector must reside in a division for one month before he can apply for a vote for that division. Under the existing provision a period of ten weeks elapses before he is entitled to record a vote. That would be increased to nineteen weeks if the qualifying period were made three months instead of one month. There is a further objection to the proposal. The Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to induce every State to adopt a joint roll. Tasmania, South Australia, and Victoria now work under a joint roll, and Western Australia contemplates the introduction of legislation to enable it to fall into line. In each of those States both the qualifying and the disqualifying period is one month. If the Commonwealth were to provide for three months, it would be necessary for them to amend their laws. Until that was done, the principle of a joint roll could not be followed. Senator Thompson also advocated the placing of the names of parties on the ballot-paper. That would be a dangerous practice. Senator Reid suggested that the poll should close at 4 p.m. in country districts where there was a limited number of electors. Such a provision would be very difficult to administer, and it might open the door to all sorts of improper practices. I understand that in earlier times in the States provision was made along those lines, and that a uniform closing hour is of comparatively recent origin. It is, however, the existing practice in every State, and I do not think that it would be wise to depart from it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Persons entitled to enrolment and to vote).
– The Minister’s reply did not convince me of the inadvisability of making the qualifying period three months, hut as I can see little hope of obtaining support for such an amendment, I do not propose to persist with its I still believe that it is a wise provision, and should find a place in the bill.
– Some years ago when we were first dealing with the group system, I rather favoured putting the names of the political parties against the candidates’ names on ballot-papers, but there is great difficulty in doing so. Candidates may claim to be Nationalists or Labour when, as a matter of fact, they have no real claim to be so regarded. For instance, during the New South WalesState elections at the present moment, there are Labour men and Nationalists seeking election against the selected candidates of either party, and claiming to be regarded as Labour or Nationalist candidates, and not as Independent Labour or- Independent Nationalists, which they really are. If that difficulty can be overcome, I am prepared to support Senator Thompson, because in our vast Senate electorates we ought to give all the information possible to make it easy for people to record their votes correctly. Personally, I cannot see how the difficulty can be overcome. ,
– I have already explained why I do not propose to proceed with an amendment, but I omitted to mention the double-barrelled character of the select committee’s recommendation. In addition to enrolment, it mentioned the great difficulty of migratory workers in having their names removed from the rolls when absent for one month from their places of residence. After examining all avenues and all suggestions for the removal of this difficulty, the committee came to the conclusion that the name of the voter should remain on the roll for three months. I am sorry that the Government has not agreed to make that provision in the bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4. (Application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper.)
– This clause proposes to shorten the distance from a polling booth which qualifies an elector to vote by post. I hope that the committee will not agree to the amendment. When the Minister was replying on the second reading, I thought that he would advance some reasons in rebuttal of the arguments of honorable senators of the Opposition against the principles of postal voting. His reply strengthens our attitude. Ihave already said that there may be an excuse for the postal vote in the case of sickness, but I cannot see how the requirements of commercial travellers need be considered. They have means of getting about rapidly, and I do not think that they will be far from the polling booths in their subdivisions on election day. If the absent voting provisions had remained in force, there would be less need for postal voting. Under those provisions, an elector when absent from his sub-division, could vote in another subdivision. But when Labour ceased to control the Treasury bench and other people came into power, those useful provisions were struck out of the Electoral Act, and the opportunity to vote when absent from one’s sub-division is now limited to a postal vote. I shall vote against this amendment.
– (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [3.6]. - Surely those people who are unable to vote owing to sickness or some physical disability, or those who on the day of polling are away from the subdivision in which they are enrolled or are out of the State in which they reside, should be afforded an opportunity to vote. As we have a universal franchise, provision must be made to enable every one to vote, and that is why we require the postal vote. The proposal in the bill to reduce the distance from ten miles to five miles is made because we now have compulsory voting. Formerly, people who were not able to get to a polling booth need not vote, but now that all arc obliged to vote, we must make provision whereby they can do so, and those who are more than five miles away from a polling booth can do so by means of the postal vote.
– I cannot understand the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham). The party to which he belongs, and to which I once belonged, was always fighting for .the fullest franchise, for ever/ man and woman, whether it be by mea’.is of the absent vote or by means of the postal vote; and it would interest me to learn from the Leader of the Opposition why that party is now dropping the postal vote.
– For manifold reasons.
– I quite understand. Some people mistake a lot of microbes for men. I want the honorable senator to remember that hundreds of people are laid aside with sickness. “We have always been told that we can trust the intelligence of the people. I feel that we can do so. I have heard a lot of talk about fraud in connexion with postal voting, but I have not seen it. Inquiries where fraud has been alleged have shown a few inaccuracies, but that is all. Why should a woman who is about to become a mother be deprived of her vote? Why should the man who has met with a serious accident be robbed of his franchise? It would be interesting to know what lies at the back of the mind of the Labour movement in its endeavour to do away with the postal vote. I remember h /v.- we struggled to obtain it, and I am not prepared to-day to vote away what I believe to be a legitimate right of the people.
– In this matter of the postal voting provisions, I am not speaking on behalf of the Labour party. I am voicing my own opinion. The Commonwealth electoral officers are a very fine, industrious and energetic body of men; but, despite all their vigilance and diligence, the secrecy of the ballotbox is violated by the postal vote. While there may be cases of hardship if the postal vote is abolished - it was not permitted for several years - it is better to have that rather than, to have the secrecy of the ballot-box violated. Even if the proposed amendment is defeated, i’; will not abolish the postal vote. All that the clause seeks to do is to ‘ extend the facilities for giving a postal vote by reducing the distance from the polling booth from ten to five miles. I realize that I cannot succeed in abolishing the postal vote, but I do not wish to assist in extending the system. For that reason I shall vote against the clause.
– The electoral committee recommended that the time for the return of the postal ballot-paper should be extended to seven days, but the Government has seen fit to make the time four days. I should like to move an amendment to make it seven days.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [3.15]. - The Government has not adopted the recommendation of the committee in relation to the time in which postal ballot-papers are to be returned. I propose later to move an amendment to clause 9, which will meet the point raised by Senator Thompson.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Authorized witnesses).
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [3.16]. - This clause provides for the repeal of section 86, which is re-enacted in another clause, where provision is made for additional authorized witnesses.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Duty of elector witnessing application).
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for . Defence) [3.17]. - This clause is merely consequential upon the passing of paragraph (5) of clause 4.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Person claiming to vote whose name is noted under section 91).
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [3.18]. - .The existing law permits an elector to vote under the provisions of section 91 when his name has been erroneously marked, and who makes a declaration that he has not applied for or received a ballot-paper. Cases sometimes oecur where an elector applies for and does not receive a ballot-paper before polling day, owing to his movements or a miscarriage of the ballot-paper in the post office. The clause is intended to permit such persons to vote upon making a declaration. It would be impossible for two votes to be recorded, as the postal and declaration votes would be checked, and any duplication would be discovered by the returning officer conducting the scrutiny.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Authorized witnesses).
.- As justices of the peace are not appointed by the Commonwealth authorities, I should like to know if a justice of the peace in one State is entitled to witness an application for a postal vote’ in another State. No provision is made in the clause for a member of the Senate or of the House ofRepresentatives to witness applications. Surelymembers of Parliament should be included in the list of authorized witnesses.
– That would be unwise; they might be interested in the election.
– Some senators, for instance, would not be seeking re-election, and should be allowed to witness applications. As a justice of the peace I am entitled to witness applications; but as a member of the Senate I have not that right. Will the Minister give attention to that aspect of the question, and agree to an amendment in the direction I have suggested ?
– It would take some time to correctly estimate the number of groups of persons entitled to witness applications, and also to ascertain the number of persons in each group. The list of authorized witnesses appears to include many who do not possess attainments beyond the average elector.
Senate adjourned at 3.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 October 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19271007_senate_10_116/>.