15th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - I desire to make a short statement regarding a frontpage article published in the Sydney
Daily Telegraph of to-day. The article begins as follows: -
£195,008 SPENT ON DUKE’S RESIDENCES.
Preparing the residences at Canberra and Sydney for the Duke and Duchess of Kent cost the Commonwealth Government £195,008.
Mr. Perkins, Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, said this in the House of Representatives to-day.
Then the newspaper detailed the amounts expended at Yarralumla House and at Admiralty House, Sydney. This statement is quite inaccurate,
– Were the figures obtained from the Department’ of Information?
SenatorFOLL. - No ; if they had been the report would have been correct. Several questions were addressed in the House of Representatives to my colleague, Mr. Perkins, regarding the total sum expended on the remodelling of Yarralumla House and on certain extensions to Admiralty House, Sydney; the total expenditure on both establishments to date; and the cost of upkeep of each in 1938-39. The total expenditure does amount to £195,008; but the expenditure by the Government in extensions to Yarralumla House in order to accommodate the Duke of Kent and in removing some of the very dilapidated servants’ quarters at Admiralty House and replacing them with suitable quarters, which should have been built many years ago, was as follows: - At Yarralumla House, £42,867, and at Sydney, £5,005 ; making a total of £47,872. I hope that this correction will receive as much publicity as was given to the article to which I have referred.
– Owing . to the most extravagant governmental expenditure in preparing Yarralumla House-
– Order ! The honorable senator may not make a statement in asking a question.
– Will the Minister for the Interior be good enough to give details of the extravagant expenditure at Yarralumla House in preparing it as a residence for the Duke of Kent?
SenatorFOLL.- I shall be glad to supply any details of that expenditure, but I inform the honorable senator that it was not extravagant.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That Standing Order68 be suspended during the remaining period of this session for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
– Is the Assistant
Minister for Commerce aware that great dissatisfaction is felt, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, in relation to the control of the prices of hides, as great dislocation is being caused in several important directions ? In view of the fact that the British Government relinquishedsuchcontrol during the last war, does he not think that the Commonwealth Government would be well advised to do likewise ? Is he aware that a substantial body of competent opinion in the industries concerned is that price-fixing is unnecessary, and is likely to result in unnecessary difficulty?
– I have had complaints from certain interests in Sydney regarding the fixation of the prices of. hides and skins, but I am also of the opinion that when the Hide and Leather Industries Board begins to function- I understand that it is now making arrangements to operate during next week - a great deal of the dissatisfaction now felt will disappear. If the honorable senator will bring specific instances of hardship under my notice, I shall be pleased to make inquiries regarding them. 2nd AUSTRALIAN IMPERIAL FORCE.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army state whether the 2nd Australian Imperial Force,when abroad, will be paid in Australian or in British currency?
– That matter is now under the consideration of the Government.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army to the following report which appeared in the Sydney S’un -
A report on conditions in garrison battalion camps adopted by the State Executive of the Returned Soldiers League last night, listed the following complaints: -
Shortage of military clothing and serious delays in issuing it.
Inferior quality military boots; some pairs lasting only five weeks.
Men wearing civilian boots while awaiting repairs and no arrangement for repairs.
No sign of promised refund to men who brought their own clothing to camp.
Cooks working in civilian clothes - not issued with working dress.
Long hours for cooks - 15 to 16 a day for private’s pay of 5s.
Will the Minister have investigations made concerning these complaints and advise the Senate what action is to be taken to remedy them?
– The paragraph mentioned by the honorable senator will be brought under the notice of the Minister for the Army, if that has not already been done.
Report by the Director of Mines.
– by leave - Honorable senators may have noticed a statement in the press by Mr. Cutlack concerning a visit made by him to an aboriginal reserve in the Northern Territory in an endeavour to locate what was alleged to be Lasseter’s Reef. I desire to give the Senate details of the inspection which was carried out with my permission by Mr. Cutlack who was accompanied by Mr. Hughes, the Director of Mines in the Northern Territory, and Mr. Sneddon, an inspector of mines, both of whom are members of the administrative staff. For some time Mr. Cutlack has represented to the Department of the Interior that he knew the location of a gold reef which he considered would possibly be well worth developing. As the alleged field was in an area set aside as an aboriginal reserve, and the Government’s policy has always been definitely opposed to development in such reserves, Mr. Cutlack had been unable to exploit the field which he said existed. I was approached by Mr. Cutlack, who asked for permission to enter the reserve, and permission was granted on the understanding that he took with him the Director of Mines in the Northern Territory and another officer in order that the Director of Mines could carry out an investigation and submit to the Administrator of the Northern Territory, a report which would afterwards be forwarded to me. In sections of the press reports have appeared suggesting that during the search a very rich gold-field was discovered, and in order that the public may not be misled in this matter I now lay on the table of the Senate the report of the Director of Mines in the Northern Territory giving the result of that inspection.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on Thursday last I asked the Minister for Commerce whether he would make a statement on the marketing of apples and pears. I now desire to ask when such a statement will be made, , because a good deal of misunderstanding appears to exist?
– When I met a deputation on the subject this week one section asked that the pear-growers should be excluded from Commonwealth acquisition, and another section asked that they be included. Those requests are receiving the careful consideration of the Government as are other problems associated with the acquisition scheme. The Government is making further inquiries into the matter of shipping, and I hope to be in a position to make a full statement on the subject next week.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army state when the Government proposes to commence operations in connexion with the establishment of a seaplane base at Rathmines, as it is desirable that men who are now unemployed should secure work before Christmas?
– I understood that the operations had already commenced. I shall communicate with the department immediately and ascertain if the work can be expedited.
– On the 22nd November I asked the Leader of the Senate the following question-
Has the Government made any provision for the supervision and auditing of accounts of committees or persons who are collecting or running functions in aid of red cross funds, and, if so, will he explain what they are?
The Minister informed me that the matter was receiving consideration. I now desire to ask whether he can furnish a reply to that question.
– The information desired by the honorable senator is not yet to hand.
– Can the Minister for Commerce explain what is meant by the “ Scholfield Wheat Plan “, as reported in the Melbourne Herald on the 24th November last? When was the scheme evolved and by whom? In what way did it affect the final decision with regard to the amount of assistance to be granted to the wheat-growing industry, as announced by the Minister yesterday?
- Mr. Scholfield was a member of a deputation which waited on the Prime Minister and myself and requested the Commonwealth Government to increase the proposed advance to wheat-growers. He suggested an amount of 2s. 6d., and that subsequently became known outside as the “ Scholfield Plan.”
Station 4LG Longreach.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What measures have been taken, if any, to secure and assure supplies of cardiazol necessary for the treatment of mental disorders?
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
The control of supplies of essential drugs is in the hands of a committee appointed by the Minister for the Army. This committee is sitting this week and it is understood that the supply of cardiazol is being considered.
Debate resumed from the 23rd November (vide page 1509) on motion by Senator Foll -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As this bill is essentially a measure for discussion in committee, I do not propose to debate it at length at this juncture. I am of opinion that, of the long series of unwise acts committed by the Government, this proposal is the most unfortunate. Perhaps the Government does not seriously intend to proceed with it, and will delay its progress after it has been passed by this chamber.
– The Government is quite serious about it.
– The longer the bill is delayed in its present form, the better it will suit the Opposition.
– Why should the Government delay the progress of the bill?
– The reason is obvious. Within twelve months the Government must face its masters and give them an opportunity to pass judgment on its stewardship.
– That does not apply to the Senate.
– The customary electoral procedure must be followedtowards the end of next year, when onehalf of the members of the Senate will go to the country. Fortunately the majority of the retiring senators sit opposite. To put it mildly, I consider that it is politically indecent for the Government to introduce a bill to amend the electoral law in several most important respects when it will presently ask the electors to pass judgment upon its administration. At present the British Empire is engaged in a life and death struggle with a powerful enemy, and the Government has not informed honorable senators whether the position is improving or growing worse. In the circumstances, the time is not appropriate for the Govern ment to attempt radically to amend electoral procedure.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition consider that the act requires amending?
– Various governments of the same political colour as the present one have been in office since 1916, but for a very obvious and sufficient reason no attempt has been made until this juncture to amend the law.
– There was also a Scullin Government.
– The Scullin Government was never really in control of the treasury bench. The honorable senator knows that his interjection is false. For the reasons which I have submitted and for others which I shall urge, I desire to assist the Government to extricate itself from the difficulty and assume the mantle of political decency. I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the bill be referred to a joint committee to inquire into and report upon such recommendations and amendments to the principal act as it thinks fit for the improvement of the law and procedure in relation thereto, and that a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting its concurrence in the appointment of such joint committee.”
– Does not the honorable senator think that he is competent to legislate in such a matter ?
– I do not know whether the honorable senator intends that question to apply to me as an individual senator or to the party which I have the honour to lead in this chamber. If it is intended to apply to me personally I prefer to leave others to supply the answer. If, however, it is intended to apply to my party, I say that we are perfectly competent to legislate.
– Then why refer this matter to a joint committee?
– Because we doubt the competence of Government supporters to deal with it.
– My colleague has very fittingly supplied the answer. I do not doubt the competence of Senator Wilson and his colleagues to legislate, but I doubt their capacity to estimate the difference between doing a particular job at the proper time and doing it in circumstances such as those which exist at this moment. They were satisfied with the electoral law so long as there were in this chamber three members sitting in Opposition and 33 on the other side supporting the Government. While that state of affairs continued, Ministers and their supporters evinced no desire to alter the electoral law.
– Some of us did;
– But when the electors revolted against that situation and returned Labour in greater strength to this chamber, the Government came to the conclusion that the business of the Senate could not be carried on efficiently without an effective Opposition. This idea of altering the electoral law dates from the 1st July, 1938, when Labour senators in increased strength took their seats here.From that day until now the ministerial dovecotes have been fluttering excitedly and Ministers have given thought to the devising of means to avert the debacle which they know awaits them when next they face the electors.
– This proposal was initiated three years ago.
- Senator Dein ought to be an authority on the difficulties regarding this, to Government supporters, very serious problem, because f ormerly he was a member of the House of Representatives. When he discovered that the pace there was getting too hot. for him to hold his seat any longer, he decided to transfer his allegiance to this branch of the legislature. He realized, no doubt, that in the wider electorate the electors would not know him so well as the electors of the House of Representatives division did. Many there knew him personally, and knew where he stood.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I am interested to know that the hounds are in full cry. I hasten to add that I use that word without disrespect; hounds are very decent animals. However, I wish to deal with this measure in more serious vein. The Government has decided upon this alteration of the law because it does not wish to cling so precariously to its majority in this chamber. The bill is a very cleverly devised instrument to avert the debacle which Ministers and their supporters very much fear is about to overwhelm them. I suggest, however, that there is such a thing as fleeing, hut unavailingly, from the wrath to come. I doubt very much whether anything which the Government can do in connexion with this proposed alteration of the electoral law will stave off defeat. “Why has this proposal to alter the law been introduced at this stage ? The present law has never been of advantage to the Opposition.
– The Leader of the Opposition would not have been here if the electoral law had not given him some advantage.
– There are very good reasons why I am in this chamber. The fact that I am here seems to annoy Senator Dein and those who think with him, especially now there are fifteen other Labour senators, instead of the two or three who formerly occupied these benches.
– They are all accidents.
– If the presence of Labour senators in this chamber is an accident, all I can say is that the presence of ‘Senator Dein is the greatest political tragedy that has ever befallen this Parliament. The honorable gentleman’s outburst last night confirmed my previous opinion that his presence here is not only a tragedy, as far as the electors are concerned, but is also detrimental to the interests of the political party with which he is associated.
But I am digressing and I would impress on honorable senators that the Opposition is serious in submitting this amendment. We declare that introduction of the bill at this stage in our history is an act of gross political indecency. Is it wise to let the world know that in order to scramble back to office at the next election the Government is attempting to obtain a. political advantage over its opponents by altering the electoral law? In view of all that Parliament is called upon to do, when the newspapers of this country as well as the Department of External Affairs and the new Department of Information are impressing upon the people of this country the seriousness of the world situation, is it wise or right to introduce a bill to alter the electoral law? War measures, yes; defence proposals, yes; budget proposals, yes. All of these are essential to the prosecution of the war and the successful discharge of the obligations that confront us, in order to ensure victory in the conflict, and in order that we may save from annihilation the democratic institutions which we prize so highly. And, by the way, despite all of the more important matters awaiting our attention, the Government is determined that Parliament shall go into recess to-morrow week. The introduction of this measure at this juncture is a mistake in political judgment and sagacity. I ask honorable sena- tors generally, without regard to party, to ignore any issue other than those which I have raised, and to support the amendment, which simply proposes that the Government should do now ‘what it was asked in the House of Representatives to do when it first indicated its intention to go on with something of this kind.
– It promised to do so;
– Yes ; and we are asking it to-day to redeem that promise by appointing a committee representative of all parties in both Houses in order that this matter may be debated coolly and calmly.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that it cannot be debated coolly and calmly in the Senate ?
– No ; but the appointment of a committee would be a better method than the throwing of this proposal into the parliamentary arena at the present juncture.
– Why not refer to a committee every proposal which comes before us?
– I should not object to referring Senator Wilson to the other House ; he would be a fair exchange for Senator Dein. This measure is a party measure. The only fair way to surmount the difficulties involved in it is to refer it to a committee representative of all parties in the Parliament. It should not be approached with the idea of discovering the best way to defeat this or that party. Our sole object should be to establish an equitable electoral law for the Commonwealth, by means of which the political balance will be held fairly, and the electors will be given a chance to express their just will.
– I second the motion.
– At this juncture I merely say that the Government cannot accept the amendment. As I shall reply later to the debate, I do not propose to deal with the matters just raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The Government gave this matter the fullest consideration ; it discussed the proposals in it with the officers responsible for the administration of the electoral law. It does not regard this measure in any way as a party measure, but as one designed to give to all political parties and candidates at elections equal opportunities at the ballotbox. For that reason, the Government feels justified in asking Parliament to agree to the bill and to reject the amendment.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON (Western
Australia) [3.45]. - I listened carefully to the speech made by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) when he moved the second reading, and I have since had an opportunity to examine the bill itself. The proposals embodied in it are fair, just and equitable - equitable to candidates at parliamentary elections, fair to the different parties who may submit candidates, and just to the electors. I intend to support the bill. I also listened attentively to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in propos-ing his amendment. I was surprised to find that he desired to defer consideration of this measure. He referred to the period in which the Labour party had only three representatives in this chamber. I admit that the representation was not just, having regard to the number of votes polled by Labour candidates. However, I also recall that when the election which reduced the Labour party’s representation in this chamber to three senators was held about five years ago, the late Prime Minister, speaking in Adelaide, said that the result of the voting for the Senate did not seem to be fair to the Labour party, and that he would ask Parliament to reform the electoral law in respect of voting for the Senate. By introducing this measure today, the present Government is carrying out the promise made by the late Mr. Lyons. Most honorable senators on this side regret that this measure was not introduced at a much earlier date in the life of this Parliament. However, we are not to blame in any way for that delay. The main object of this measure is merely to devise a fair means of allocating the position of candidates’ names and party groups on the ballot-papers. At present this is decided merely by accident, and candidates whose surnames commence with any of the early letters of the alphabet enjoy a considerable advantage in this respect. One result of this system is that the surnames of a large number of ‘ honorable senators commence with one of the early letters of the alphabet. I cannot be included in that class. It seems extraordinary that a candidate who happens to bear a surname commencing with A, B or C, automatically becomes entitled to an advantageous position on the ballot-paper. I fail to see why any candidate should be placed at a disadvantage in seeking election to this chamber merely because his name happens to commence with J. K, P, or any of the latter letters of the alphabet. Under this system the merits of candidates are entirely overlooked. The Minister has convinced us that a considerable advantage is enjoyed by candidates whose names appear on the top of the ballotpaper. -If that be so, we should give to every candidate an equal chance to have his name appear in that position. I recall that our Standing Orders provide that, if there is an equal vote in this chamber for one of the highest positions in the Commonwealth, the position shall be decided by lot. There seems to be nothing incongruous in saying that the position of a’ candidate on the ballotpaper shall be decided by drawing lots. I am encouraged in the belief that this is the proper thing to do by the example that has been set by at least one of the democratic political parties in a democratic State, in conducting its plebiscites for the selection of candidates for this chamber. In Western
Australia, At the last elections, our colleagues opposite were successful, and it followed, perhaps as the result of that success, that on this occasion there are no fewer than 27 candidates offering their services to the Labour movement in Western Australia as candidates. for the Senate at the next elections. I have friends in the Trades Hall in Perth and I am assured that the’ movement in Western Australia decided that it would not be fair to arrange the names on the plebiscite ballot-paper alphabetically. My friends opposite will correct me if I am wrong. I am informed that the whole of the 27 names were subjected to a draw for positions on the plebiscite paper, that the team is now in process of being selected by ballot, ‘that Mr. Trainor, a brother of a trade union official of high repute and honour, was the first selected by ballot out of the 27 candidates, and that the advantage of being at the top of the list of candidates in the Labour plebiscite was won purely by ballot, as is proposed under this measure. It appears to me that the party cannot reasonably object to the adoption for Senate teams of the ballot system, which I am assured is adopted for their own plebiscite for Labour endorsement in the democratic State of Western Australia. I read in the press with a great deal of interest the list of the members who are well ahead of the others in the plebiscite, which is not yet completed. I noticed that Mr. Trainor, Miss Tangey and others whose names are low in alphabetical order are leading at the present time, whilst alphabetical advantages do not obtain in the plebiscite. Therefore, the system proposed by the Government is being operated by the Labour party in Western Australia for its Senate plebiscite.
– That is not strictly accurate,
– I am not in a position to have official information on the matter, but what I have said is substantially correct. Whether this method was used by the Labour movement in Western Australia or not, I think that the Government’s proposals are fair and reasonable, and in accordance with the promise made five years ago.
I see no advantage in referring this bill to a joint committee. As a matter of fact, the main amendments provided for in this measure affect the Senate alone. It ‘ is proposed that the two or three candidates who usually contest seats for the House of Representatives may also ballot; but that is a very simple matter. If the members of the House of Representatives do not desire that alteration, nobody in this chamber should object to their rejection of the amendment; but, since the horizontal ballot-paper, the balloting for the teams, and the balloting for positions in the teams, affect the Senate.only, I strongly object to referring such legislation to the judgment of a select committee consisting, in part, of members of the House of Representatives. For that reason, I propose to vote against the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, and to support the bill..
– I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). This bill, if agreed to, would put an end to a practice that has always been observed of arranging names on the ballot-paper alphabetically. In postal directories the names of persons and streets are printed alphabetically, and a similar arrangement is observed in telephone directories. The electoral rolls are alphabetically arranged in regard to both the sub-divisions and the names of electors. Et was stated by Senator ‘ Johnston that if the House of Representatives did not approve of the introduction of the ballot system, the Senate should not object. That, however, is a matter which should be investigated by the proposed select committee.
– The honorable senator desires that this matter shall be postponed.
– Seventeen honorable senators on the other side of the chamber must soon face the electors, and I assure the Minister that, after the next elections, a Labour government will be in office and will have a majority in both branches of the legislature. It will then alter the Electoral Act, introducing a better system than that now in operation. At elections in connexion with municipal and shire councils throughout the Commonwealth, the names of candidates are placed alphabetically on the ballot-papers; but, for the National Parliament, the Goernment proposes to have a’ higgledypiggledy arrangement. There is nothing in this bill to suggest that the ballotpaper will make provision for triangular contests. If the Government desires a ballot-paper of that character the proposed committee could consider its preparation.
It is proposed in the bill to accept postal votes seven days after the ballot has taken place, if the post-mark on the envelope is plain. I submit that the circumstances surrounding postal ballotpapers are such that unscrupulous persons might not be desirous of leaving the date stamp clear. They might even smudge or blur it. If that occurred, the postal vote would, under this bill, be invalid. There are some people who do not worry much about the way in which they handle ballot-papers, and the period of seven days after the election would give unscrupulous persons ample opportunity to interfere with the ballot-papers. They would be aware of the way in which the result of the voting was tending, and something could be done to marshal the postal votes. I submit that this bill should be referred to the proposed committee for that purpose alone. There is nothing to prevent a date stamp showing the 15th December from being altered to the 20th or the 25th December.
– How could a select committee deal with that?
– It could consider the matter. The bill provides that, if the date stamp be blurred, the vote shall be informal.
– That is not so.
– The bill provides that the date stamp on a postal vote, must be clear, otherwise the vote may be regarded as informal, which suggests that if there is any doubt as to the date, the vote will be treated as informal. Some honorable senators opposite believe that if the present system be scrapped and the names of the candidates be drawn in order to determine their positions on the ballot-paper, the Government nomi nees may gain an advantage. There is no need to dispense with the alphabetical system.
– We have a peculiar system at present.
– That provided in the bill is worse. The Government has become panicky, and in an endeavour to check the rising tide of Labour is trying to confuse the people by introducing a new system, which can result only in chaos. A majority of the electors can record their votes honestly and intelligently under the present system.
– Labour candidates could not >win the Barton or Macquarie elections for the House of Representatives.
– The votes I received in those electorates were greater than those obtained by the candidates of the United Australia party. In 1931 the Labour party was represented in New South Wales by Mr. Arthur, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Barker, and although their names appeared at the top of the ballotpapers they were not elected. Senator Brand, whose name was not at the’ top of the Victorian ballot-paper, was elected.
– Then why is the honorable senator objecting?
– I am not objecting; I am stressing the inadvisability of altering a system which the people understand. It is difficult to imagine why at a time when there are 250,000 unemployed, and when urgent defence and other works are awaiting attention, the Government should ask the Senate to consider this unnecessary measure.
– The honorable senator is the only one who is showing any sign of worry.
– The Minister is worried about his prospects and is anxious to get a shuffle at the names in his party, so that his name will appear above those of his colleagues, Senators Cooper and Crawford. Senator Johnston referred to a plebiscite conducted in Western Australia in which the name of Mr.. Trainor appeared at the bottom of the ballot-paper.
– No; it was at the top.
– A ballot was taken in order to determine the position! of the candidates.
– That is what this bill provides.
– This measure provides that a returning officer shall have the power to draw the names of the candidates and that the names -shall appear on the ballot-paper in the order in which they are drawn. I trust that the Government will agree to the appointment of a select committee representative of both branches of the legislature to examine the bill and report to Parliament as to the amendments, if any, which should be made in the existing law.
– I hope that I shall not be accused of endeavouring to retain any advantage which I may have enjoyed because my name has appeared at the top of the ballot-paper. In that respect I share the advantage, if any, with Senators Ashley, Armstrong, Arthur and Amour. Senator Amour suggested that some honorable senators on this side of the chamber are anxious to obtain advantage by having their names higher on the ballot-paper than they would under the alphabetical system; but I can assure honorable senators that I did not regard with too much satisfaction the vote that I received at the last Senate election, because I realized that it may have been due to a degree to the position which my name occupied on the ballot-paper. In the Darling electorate, which cannot be regarded as a stronghold of the United Australia party ov the Country party, a non-Labour candidate for the Senate, who went right through the. electorates, secured a very fair vote. Although I travelled many hundreds of miles in New South Wales, over all kinds of roads, and addressed three to five meetings a day, I was unable to visit the Darling electorate, but in that electorate I obtained 5,000 votes more than the candidate who worked the electorates so thoroughly. I am afraid that many good
Labour men unintentionally voted for me. Some contend that the alphabetical system confers an advantage on certain candidates, but I am ready to give away that advantage in the interests of fair play. I willingly surrender any advantage I may possess under the present system in order that all candidates may have an equal opportunity. When the Communist candidates’ votes were excluded, I secured, I believe, a majority of their second preferences, simply because of the position which my name occupied on the ballot-paper. That gave me the benefit of what was more or less a fluke vote. If such votes are recorded, they should be equally divided between all candidates, and should not be monopolized by those whose names happen to appear at the top of the ballot-paper. Surely honorable senators opposite will not deny that they were selected as candidates for the last Senate election in New South Wales partly because their surnames commenced with the letter A. When Senator Dein, the late Senator Courtney, who was not spared to take his seat in this chamber, and I were elected, Senator Dein received a majority of primary votes. Second on the poll was a sterling fighter for the Labour cause, ex-Senator Dunn, who obtained more than 400,000 primary votes. But, notwithstanding his value to the Labour party and the high esteem in which he was held by all who knew him for his fearlessness, ex-Senator Dunn was not returned. If it had not been for an attempt to take advantage of an accident in the electoral law by selecting candidates whose names began with A, he might now be occupying a seat in this chamber. The system is unfair and undemocratic. From time to time Senator Cameron1 speaks glibly of democracy. The British Empire and France have proclaimed that they entered the present war against Germany in order to uphold that principle.
– What is the honorable senator’s objection to the appointment of a select committee to investigate Senate election procedure?
– There is no objection, because, when the bill passes the’ second reading, honorable senators will have an opportunity in committee to exercise their rights to discuss every clause. One of the greatest advocates of democracy in history, Abraham Lincoln, defined it as “ Government of the people, by the people, for the people “. Does not that definition cast upon every honorable senator the responsibility of ascertaining the real will of the people, and not the will expressed through some trickery or accident of birth? Who can honestly declare that the system is fair? Who can honorably look his fellows in the face and say that he objects to an improvement of the system because it will enable the expression of the real will and desire of the people? The case for the bill is incontestable.
– No honorable senator on this side objects to an improvement in Senate electoral procedure.
– For a number of years,, the United Country party has urged reforms in Senate electoral procedure. Whilst we may not be able to secure proportional representation, which is a plank of our party platform, our object is to obtain the best and fairest method approaching that goal. Hence supporters of the Government will not miss this opportunity to purify Senate electoral procedure.
– I support the amendment to refer the bill to a select committee, for purposes quite different from those which have been enunciated by supporters of the Government. One of their principal contentions is that the Opposition desires to preserve the rights of persons whose surnames begin with the letter A. That is not correct. The measure, by amending the electoral law, provides for the introduction of a new method for the election of senators.
– Not a new method !
– The Senate was created for the purpose of enabling various interests within the States to be represented in this chamber, untrammelled by party ties. The function of the chamber should be to review bills passed by the House of Representatives, and also to initiate legislation. In 1919 the existing method of electing senators was introduced. Prior to that year the practice was to place the names of candidates upon the ballot-paper in alphabetical order, and no attempt was made to group them. That method afforded electors an opportunity to select from the candidates three persons to represent them in the Senate. From the beginning of federation until 1919 the personnel of the Senate was constantly changing. Sometimes one party swept the polls; on other occasions other parties whose political views were extremely diverse and varied, were represented.
The present system of election was introduced for the specific purpose of preserving to a certain coterie the right to select senators. All principles of democracy were forgotten, anc(, as a result the existing method of election is undoubtedly a negation of democracy. It gives to three persons who were successful in the party pre-selection ballot the sole right of being elected to this chamber. No candidate other than those endorsed by their respective parties has the remotest hope of being elected. The present proposal is simply to restrict still further democratic rights. It does not seek to give any advantage to a particular party. Honorable senators suggest that the Labour party is opposed to the attempt to abolish the advantage now enjoyed by candidates whose surnames begin with the letter A. I admit that the Government’s proposals are an improvement upon the existing method of election and gives a wider choice to parties. Also, I agree that the system which prompts parties to strive to secure candidates whose names will appear at the top of the ballot-paper should be discontinued. If the bill becomes law that objectionable practice will disappear. The Labour party’s object in asking for the appointment of a select committee is to enable honorable senators to examine the whole scope of the electoral law as it affects the Senate. For some time a demand has been made for a reform of the method of electing senators. Since 1919 the party whose candidate obtained slightly more than 50 per cent, of the primary votes in a State has, invariably won the two remaining seats. Although a candidate representing the Opposition party might have been within an ace of obtaining 50 per cent, of the primary votes, it has enjoyed no representation. The following table shows the percentage of primary votes recorded in favour of successful candidates for the Senate in 1919 :-
– In every instance there was a majority for the successful candidate.
– In every case the successful candidates belonged to the same party. That is my objection to the present method, because a small majority of the votes cast in favour of one candidate enables the party of which he is a member to sweep the poll.
– What does the honorable senator advocate?
– I advocate the appointment of a select committee to investigate the method of selecting senators. Honorable gentlemen opposite who assert that they stand for democracy and are in favour of giving every candidate an equal opportunity, speak with their tongues in their cheeks, and they know it. Their sole objective is to retain the existing system, plus a ballot-paper which will make confusion more confounded. The claim that has been made by my colleagues on this side whose name happens to begin with the letter A, that the Government is introducing this legislation merely in order to prevent the election of candidates whose surnames begin with the earlier letters of the alphabet, will hold good if the Government opposes the amendment for the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into the working of the electoral law. If such a committee were appointed, it might recommend the Government to revert to the old system under which electors had a free choice. That 16 to say, instead of the candidates being grouped under party designations, the choice of the elector would be quite untrammeled. If in those circumstances they elected three men of one particular party, those men would be the deliberate choice of the people.
Under the system proposed in this bill it will be impossible to get away from the block vote. The party managers will still urge their supporter* to vote the party ticket. In 1931, when I was a candidate for the Senate, in that portion of Victoria through which I travelled to address the electors, I told all Labour supporters to vote - Cameron (1), Sheehan (2), Wallis (3). They asked me why they could not give their number 1 vote to me or to Mr. Wallis, and I pointed out that under the present system it would be impossible for Mr. Wallis or me to be elected to the Senate unless Labour supporters marked their ballot-papers in the order recommended by the party. Government supporters know that this is true. They speak with their tongues in their cheeks when they say otherwise.’
– The honorable senator does not understand the system.
– I have correctly outlined its working. Party managers for a Senate election select a group of three names for each party, and the party machine that has been responsible for their selection issues “ How to vote “ cards, giving party supporters instructions to vote for the respective candidates in a given order. The theory of the system is that if the electors are regimented into two defined parties, and if they cast their votes strictly in accordance with the directions of party managers, at the conclusion1 of the first count there will be only two. candidates with any votes at all, because at that stage of the counting, only the
No. 1 preference vote is noted. These two candidates will be the No. 1 man of each party group.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– The process operating, which I have explained, is correct. I reiterate that if electors were strictly loyal to the party ticket, and if they could be strictly regimented in the way indicated by party managers, at the conclusion of the first count only the leading men of each party would have any votes at all. That is why each candidate of a particular party has to ask the people to vote for others in a given order, and that is why it is impossible for a candidate marked No. 3 in a particular group to secure election before a candidate who is marked No. 1 in the group. Yet this is called a democratic system, and the Government suggests that this hill will improve the electoral machinery. The measure simply maintains and makes more difficult the old system, concerning which many protests have been made lately because it led to the defeat of a large number of Government candidates at the last election. The plain fact is that the people revolted against this Government.
If we had in our minds a true appreciation of the value of the real functions of the Senate, and the duties allotted to it under the Constitution, we should be able to devise a better scheme than is contained in this bill. I have spoken of the broad principles of the measure. Other features of the proposal, which are more of a machinery nature, may be discussed when the bill is in committee. Government supporters are taking to themselves much credit for this alleged ‘attempt to eliminate some of the defects of the existing system. We say that, whilst we are engaged in revising the method for the election of senators, a duty is laid upon us to do the job thoroughly. A joint committee, as suggested in the amendment, would inquire into and report upon the working of the existing machinery, with a view to restoring to the people the right which they should possess, namely, of voting for candidates in a proper and conscientious manner. Under the present system candidates whose surnames begin with the letter A have their own troubles. For instance, Senator Ashley, because the second letter of his surname is well down in the alphabet, was placed fourth on the ballot-paper. If we carry this expedient to its logical conclusion, party managers should give preference to a candidate having the double A as the initial letters of his surname, such as “ Aarons “.
– That has been done.
– If the Government refuses to deal with this controversial subject as it should be handled, we can only conclude that this bill is merely a make-believe proposal, brought forward in response to an agitation that has arisen since the last federal election, and that the real intention is to hoodwink the people.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should be done?
– We suggest the appointment of a joint committee of both houses to examine the working of the electoral machinery.
– The honorable senator’s party intends to abolish the Senate.
– On the notice paper of the House ofRepresentatives there appears an order of the day for the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into this subject.
– Was not that proposal defeated ?
– No; it is still on the notice-paper of the House of Representatives, but it is well down on the list.If the Government were really sincere in its desire to amend the law, it could to-morrow place that proposal higher on the list and have the matter, dealt with. As an alternative, Senate Ministers could accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and thus give expression to the views of the Government in the House ofRepresentatives. A joint committee would then he appointed, and the position would be thoroughly examined. I support the amendment.
-The Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) stated that the Government did not regard this bill as a party measure. That may Toe true, from the point of view of the Government, but it does not necessarily follow that it is not a party measure. I feel safe in saying that it is essentially a party bill; otherwise the representatives of other parties in this Parliament would have been consulted before it was framed and introduced. The Labour party has not been approached in this matter, and I doubt very much whether any invitation was issued to members of the Country party to offer suggestions.
– The honorable senator and his colleagues are being consulted now.
– That is not a correct statement of the position. The bill has been introduced, and the Government is determined to ram it down our throats whether we like it or not.
– It has been presented in the ordinary way of Government business.
– It ha3 been introduced in a manner that requires Government supporters to vote for it irrespective of their individual opinions. Our objection is that., having regard to the reason for its introduction, the bill will not be considered on its merits. If the Government desired to do the right thing it should have taken steps to appoint a committee of both Houses on lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in his amendment. Instead, the Government, consistent with the working of machine politics, deputed a limited number of Ministers, I suppose, to consult with certain officials. Then the bill was drafted, and now it is to be rammed down our throats whether we like it or not. I repeat that it is essentially a party measure, intended to give an advantage to Government supporters. A good deal has been said with respect to the value attaching to candidates whose surnames begin with, the letter A, the implication being that the average elector has no sense and is incapable of intelligent discrimination. That is a gross exaggeration.
– It is an insult to the electors.
– It is. It also implies that candidates are possessed of super intellects compared with the people who are stupid enough to vote for them and send them to this Parliament. Interest is the strongest motive power in the individual as well as in society generally. If people are interested, even though they be illiterate, they oan and do exercise an intelligent choice. They can discriminate intelligently and they have done so in connexion with Senate ballots. We have evidence of this in their intelligent discrimination against alleged Communist candidates. Proof of that fact is also evident in the action of many people who, because of their disgust with the present system of voting, deliberately render their ballot-paper informal. The number of informal votes is increasing at every election. Thousands who deliberately record an informal vote are just as intelligent as are honorable senators, but they render their vote informal in order to protest against gerrymandering at elections.
– The honorable senator knows that that is untrue. .
-It is perfectly true. Those who render their votes informal do so mainly for one of two reasons. In many instances they are opposed to compulsory voting. They claim the right to say for themselves whether they shall vote or not. Many votes are rendered informal also as a protest against the present system of voting for the Senate which, as Senator Sheehan has pointed out, this measure is designed to perpetuate.
– What remedy does the honorable senator suggest?
– What objection has the honorable senator to the appointment of a committee representative of all parties in the Parliament with a view to arriving at a basis acceptable to all?
– That is what we are here to do now.
– No; honorable senators opposite are here to support the measure, whether they agree with it or not. When the vote is taken on it we shall find that every honorable senator opposite is solidly behind the Government, although many of them cannot possibly justify the measure.
– What alteration does the honorable senator suggest?
– I suggest, firs that the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment of b joint committee should be agreed to; secondly, that the views of all parties should be discussed on their merits; and thirdly, that the proposed committee should endeavour to arrive at an agreement which should then be submitted to Parliament in the form of a bill to be discussed on its merits by all members, including those who were not members of the committee. Methods of election, like methods of doing other things in a way which meets the view of the majority, can be devised only by intelligent discussion. But this Government does not desire to follow that course. It prefer? to thrust its opinions down the throats of every one. One honorable senator glibly said, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, that he stood for “ Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. That remark reminds me that the late John Burns once said that most people were “prisoners of phrases and slaves of shibboleths”. I have no desire to reflect personally on Senator Macartney Abbott, but, in my view, the honorable senator personifies that truism. He did not attempt to define precisely the mean* ing of democracy. To him apparently it is a figure of speech to be used for the purpose of justifying any inequity, 01 anything undemocratic. Senator Sheehan has pointed out fundamental anomalies in the existing system as reproduced in the bill now before us. The measure entirely ignores individual interests; it is concerned solely with party interests. In these circumstances it should be rejected. The Minister said, in effect, that the bill will give to all candidates an equal chance at the ballot-box. The logical inference to be drawn from his remark is that at present all candidates do not now enjoy an equal chance at the ballot-box. I suggest that they do. The Government is merely attempting to throw dust in the eyes of people who do not know better. If honorable senators opposite support this measure they will do so whether they believe in it or not, because already many anomalies contained in the bill have been pointed out to them. In view of these anomalies it cannot be said that the measure will establish a system of voting for the Senate which will prove acceptable to the majority of the people.
– This measure does not alter the existing system of voting.
– That is the point. We wish to alter the existing system in order to give to the people an opportunity to express themselves in this chamber more adequately than they can do under existing conditions. That is exactly what we wish to do. If honorable senators opposite wish to sink party interests in this matter, and are as altruistic as they would have us believe, then I suggest that they can have no legitimate objection to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. If they support it they will commit themselves only to the appointment of a committee which shall be asked to submit a recommendation to Parliament. A similar course should be followed in respect of all matters of a similar nature. The Government could have introduced a measure of this kind years ago, but it has taken action to-day because it perceives a strong swing in favour of the Labour party. That swing is the inevitable reaction of the people against the present unjust system of voting for the Senate, and the Government fears the ultimate effect of it. Non-Labour governments have had eighteen years in which to bring in a measure with the object of improving the system of voting for the Senate, but not one move has been made in that direction until now. On the face of this evidence it cannot be said that this bill is evidence of a desire on the part of the Government to do the best for the people.
– I am at a loss to understand the opposition to this measure. Labour senators opposite, who have spoken in this debate, have not proposed any amendment of the existing electoral law. They contend that this measure is purely a party measure. In moving his amendment the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that the. Government was acting unwisely in introducing a bill of this kind when so many more urgent matters must be dealt with. I fail to see why, for that reason, a matter of such great domestic importance as the system of election of members to this Parliament should not be dealt with immediately. Senator Sheehan said that the existing system of voting for the Senate was undemocratic. Surely there could be no more democratic system than the present one, under which every man and woman in Australia, who has reached the age of 21 years, is entitled to a vote. This chamber, which is a House of review, is elected on the same franchise as the House of Representatives. Every honorable senator on this side is aware of the real objections which the Labour party has to this measure. Out of sixteen honorable senators who comprise the Opposition in this chamber the surnames of thirteen commence with letters from A to F. Is that merely a coincidence ? The surnames of only six honorable senators out of twenty on this side commence with those letters.
– Does the honorable senator blame me for the fact that my name commences with A?
– I am not blaming any honorable senator opposite who comes within the category which I have mentioned. Indeed I concede that Labour organizations have shown surprising political astuteness and judgment. However, they made this discovery for themselves only at the last election. When they stumbled over the formula they thought it was pretty good, and immediately applied it. The result is, as I have already said, that the surnames of thirteen out of sixteen honorable senators opposite commence with letters from A to F. But the Opposition now complains that the Government intends to deprive it of the advantages it enjoyed in this respect at the last election. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to explain exactly in what way this measure will give to honorable senators on this side an advantage over honorable senators opposite. All of us see the nigger in the woodpile, but honorable senators opposite will not admit that the nigger is there. However, we can visualize proceedings at meetings of the Labour party. The question is asked, “Is there any man here whose name is Aaron Abbott?” The Labour party scours the countryside in search of candidates whose names commence with A. Some honorable senators opposite, even in their wildest dreams, never expected to be returned to this chamber. I do not reflect on thoi r capacity to serve as* members of the Senate, but they were fortunate in the fact that their names begin with A. I refer to Senators Armstrong, Amour, Arthur and Ashley. Senator Ashley is blushing. He knows that he would not have been returned as a senator if his name had been “ Bashley “. The real object of the Opposition is to prevent the electoral law from giving an advantage, as kiley fear it will, to supporters of the Government, but I claim that the amendments for which the bill provides would give equal opportunities to all. One place on the ballot-paper would be as good as another, irrespective of the alphabetical order of the names of the candidates. Would there be anything undemocratic in that?
If honorable senators expedite the passage of this bill, it will receive the consideration of .the committee of this Senate. What committee would be more competent to deal with it? There is no merit whatever in the amendment submitted by the Leader of .the Opposition. In view of the support which the Government has in both branches of the legislature, it could conceivably have submitted a measure which would have given it some advantage ; but no member of the Opposition has been able to show that the Government and its supporters will derive any advantage from its present proposals.
Senator Sheehan complained in a most bitter way that the bill is undemocratic. If he believes that, he cannot understand the system under which members of -this chamber are elected. When there is a ballot for three candidates, the votes are counted as if there had been three separate elections on three different dates. Exactly the same procedure is adopted for Senate elections as is followed in connexion with the House of Representatives. It is beside the point for the honorable senator, to say that the grouping system has a prejudicial effect on some political organization. There should be a clear indication to the people of the parties to which the candidates belong. Senator Sheehan complained about the grouping of names.
SenatorGibson. - That is optional.
– Quite so. At times, in Tasmania, the names of Senate candidates have not been grouped, and, so far as I am aware, there is no limit to the number of candidates who may submit their names to the ballot. It seems to me that the law could be altered with advantage by providing for the parties to which the candidates belong to be indicated on the ballot-paper. If an elector informs a presiding officer that he desires to vote Labour, and asks to be informed who are the Labour candidates, the officer should be authorized to furnish that information. If the members of any political party desire that the ballot-paper shall show the parties to which the candidates belong, we should adopt any method that would simplify the voting and obviate informality. The degree to which informal voting takes place is alarming. I think that compulsory voting is responsible in a large measure for this state of affairs. Many people object to compulsion in any form, and deliberately make their votes informal.
This bill does not provide for an alteration of the system of election of candidates.
– The Opposition desires to alter it.
– The honorable senator did not indicate in what direction he favoured an amendment of the law.
– We wish to broaden the choice of the people.
– It could not be made broader than it is at present. Does the honorable senator favour proportional representation ?
– That depends on the system.
– The only alternative to the present system is proportional representation. No sound reasons have been advanced by the Opposition to justify acceptance of the amendment.
– I understand that this is a war measure.
– Who said so?
– The President said that it is not, but judging by the nature of the debate that has already occurred, this is a political war measure.
– It is a Waterloo.
– I make no forecast as to whose Waterloo the next elections will be. The present state of world affairs is such that there may be a Waterloo for all of us, and we may see the end of parliamentary government. I support the amendment for the reasons submitted by Senators Collings and Sheehan. If the electoral law is to be altered, we should do it properly and efficiently. Under this bill, lots would be drawn for the positions of candidates on the ballot-paper. I have an idea that this measure should be called “ The Electoral Lottery Bill”, because it seems to me to resemble the Golden Casket. Before altering the act we should give to every body an opportunity to place his views before a committee, so that amendments might be made in accordance with democratic conceptions. Honorable senators opposite have waited eighteen years before proposing an alteration of the present system of voting, but as Labour swept the polls at the last elections, the Government now desires to change it.
Members of the Opposition are not afraid of the proposed alteration of the act because they feel sure that, when they face the electors again, they will be returned. Senators Ashley and Sheehan are the only members of the Opposition who will have to stand for re-election at the end of this Parliament, but they will be returned to this chamber. Senator Herbert Hays declared that certain Labour senators had been elected because their names begin with the letter A. When I submitted myself to the electors of Queensland, they did not care whether my name began with the letter B or with a letter much lower down in the alphabet; I was returned because the electors regarded me as a suitable candidate. I notice that a former member of the House of Representatives has paid a sum of money to the Government to have his name changed by deed poll from Seabrook to Ceabrook. I think that this alteration cost him £2, yet he was not returned.
– The honorable senator would have been at the bottom of the ballot-paper in Queensland, but for the death of one of the Labour senators from that State. That tragedy put Senator Brown at the top.
– I was not at the top of the ballot-paper.
– The honorable senator’s name was the first in the Labour group.
– At the end of the straight I headed the field; but I would rather be out of Parliament to-day if the late Senator J. V. MacDonald could be brought back to life. As far as the Queensland elections are concerned, it does not matter to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) or myself which places our names occupy on the ballot-paper; we shall come up smiling every time when the votes are counted. Electors experience considerable difficulty in voting for the candidates whom they wish to support.
– What does the honorable senator suggest ?
– A friend of mine favours a system of counting under which he should be allowed to count the votes until the candidate he favours is elected. The Government proposes to introduce a system under which a returning officer shall have the power to draw the order in which the names of candidates shall appear on the ballot-paper, but, if it wishes to be logical, it should allow the returning officer to draw the names of those who shall represent the States in the Senate, and in that way save the expense of an election. I agree with Senator Herbert Hays that the people should be provided with every opportunity to vote for the party they wish to support. In order to facilitate voting some have suggested that there should also be a square on the ballot-paper above the names of the various political parties in which an elector wishing to vote for all the candidates of that party could put a cross. Theoretically the present system may appear satisfactory, but in practice there would not be much chance of candidates outside the groups being elected.
– How many senators whose names have not been included in a political group have been elected to this chamber? Provision should be made whereby an elector could be allowed to record a vote for the party, as a party, if he desires, and that vote should be formal. An elector should not be compelled to vote for every candidate whose name appears on the ballot-paper, and . I understand from a statement made by the Minister, when moving the second reading of the bill, that if there should be, say, twelve candidates and an elector votes for only eleven, the vote will be formal. If I were an elector in New South Wales, I would vote for the Labour candidates, but I would object strongly to recording a vote for Senator Dein under any circumstances. If an elector records his No. 1 vote against a name of only one candidate and disregards all the others, his vote should not be informal.
SenatorFoll. - What system is used in the pre-selection ballots of the Labour party?
– The first past the post” wins. There are many who believe in such a system for the Senate, but I do not, because had it been in operation at the last general elections I would not have been elected. The supporters of the Social Credit candidates in Queensland commenced at the top of the ballotpaper and voted from one to nine in consecutive order; consequently the Labour party candidates in that State benefited in the distribution of preferences. Many electoral reforms are needed, particularly in connexion with Senate elections, and the time of this chamber should not be wasted in discussing this bill. The Senate should, as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, appoint a select committee to investigate the present system, and it would, I believe, recommend reforms which would be acceptable to all parties. The introduction of a horizontal instead of a vertical list of candidates may possess some advantages as under such a system the first group would not obtain undue benefit. This and other similar proposals could be inquired into by a select committee, and its recommendations would be of value to this Parliament. I am merely expressing my views on the subject; but I am like the politician in New York who after speaking for two hours said, “ Those are my views but if you do not like them I will change them “. If the recommendations of a select committee proved that the opinions I hold are wrong I would be willing to be guided by the decision of a majority. It is an advantage to group candidates of political parties if they so desire, and we should give the electors the right to vote for parties as well as individuals. If my memory serves me well, there operated in Belgium a system of voting which permitted the voters to vote either for party or for the individual. Also, it was made possible, by a quota system, for the electors to choose party representatives other than the official first choice candidates of any party. Many electoral systems could be discussed; but a select committee could examine the present method of electing senators and suggest amendments to the existing law. It is incorrect for honorable senators opposite to say that we are opposed to everything in the bill because, like the curate’s egg, it is good in parts. Senator Dein, who said that we are anxious to delay the passage of the measure, should remember that it is our duty to analyse carefully the legislation which the Government introduces. Quite a number of amendments could be made if time permitted.
– The honorable senator is awaiting a direction from caucus.
– I have not consulted caucus on1 this measure. Honorable senator’s opposite should show a little of the spirit of Christian charity with which civilized man is supposed to be imbued. They should not always look on the dark and dirty side, and insinuate that members of the Labour party are the slaves of caucus.
– What is the view of caucus with regard to the Senate? Does not the Labour party advocate the abolition of this chamber,? The speaker has not the courage to answer.
– Men are only grown-up children; and I am satisfied that when Senator Dein speaks in that strain, he is like the schoolboy who dares another to do something. Frankly, I do not know what caucus determined about the bill.
– What is the Labour party’s view of the Senate?
– The Labour party advocates the abolition of the Senate. If that plank of our platform were given effect to, we should not require to worry about “A’s”, “B’s” and “C’s”, Zachariahs and Wimpoles.
– Why does the honorable senator not make a constructive suggestion?
– Like the Leader of the Opposition, I suggest that a select committee should be appointed to examine the electoral systems of other democratic countries. I advocate the adoption of a method which will eliminate any advantage that might be given to some candidates through the placing of their names in alphabetical order.
– The bill will achieve, that objective.
– I admit that the measure, like the curate’s egg, is good in parts.
– Where is it bad?
– I take exception to the proposal that candidates should draw for the positions in which their names shall appear on the ballot-paper. That practice savours of a lottery. The position of a candidate’s name should not depend on chance. However, I shall not lose any sleep about that proposal. In my opinion, the adoption of a horizontal ballot-paper would be a great improvement. Senator Dein declared that as honorable senators will have an opportunity thoroughly to discuss the bill in committee of the whole, it is unnecessary to refer it to a select committee. Such a contention merely evades the issue. Senator Dein asked, in effect, “What could be better than a committee of the Senate comprising intelligent and amiable gentlemen capable of dealing most efficiently with the matter “ ? Whilst admitting the amiability and power of analysis of honorable senators, I remind Senator Dein that in spite of the advantage which the A’s are alleged to enjoy, “ dyed-in-the-wool “ tories have been in the majority in the Senate for a number of years and they use that majority to defeat the minority, no matter how valuable are Labour’s suggestions. How then can honorable senators opposite complain with justification that the Labour party derives an advantage from the fact that in the last Senate elections the surnames of many of its candidates began with A?
– The Labour party’s policy was so bad that, notwithstanding such an advantage, it could not obtain a majority.
– That is not true. Obviously, something is radically wrong with the system of voting when, on several occasions, the Labour party has obtained a majority in the House of Representatives, but has been in the minority in the Senate. In the last Senate elections only three United Australia party candidates, from South Australia, by a lucky turn of the wheel of fortune, were returned to this chamber. The Labour party nearly swept the board. But an electoral system which allows 51 per cent, of the people in a State to be represented by three senators, while the minority of 49 per cent, has no representation is obviously defective.
– That happens when legislation is passed in the Senate. Some important bills have been carried by one vote.
– That is so; and, on occasions, legislation has been rejected because the voting was even. If honorable senators desire to grant the minority of the electors representation in this chamber, they should not be so hasty in their efforts to pass the bill. I advise them to support the amendment in order that a select committee may have an opportunity to examine Senate electoral procedure, and submit a comprehensive report to the chamber.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), when moving the amendment, contended that, in view of the seriousness of the international situation, any attempt to amend the electoral law at the present juncture would be most unwise, and he urged the Government to devote all its attention to the defence of Australia. If a discussion of the matter is now inopportune,
I cannot understand his motive in suggesting that the bill should be referred to a select committee. Inquiries undertaken by a joint committee of both Houses usually occupy a considerable period and entail great expenditure, because such a committee has authority to travel to any part of the Commonwealth in order to take evidence.
– Not necessarily so !
– A joint committee of both Houses, if it so desires, possesses the right to travel within the Commonwealth.
– Only if it secures the permission of both Houses.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.A joint committee has power to travel anywhere in Australia.
– The money would be well spent if, as a result of the committee’s report, Senate electoral procedure were substantially improved.
– The amendment does not suggest that the committee should have power to travel to any part of Australia.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That is true. I am merely pointing out what could happen if the amendment were accepted. Whilst the Leader of the Opposition declared that the time was inopportune to alter the electoral law, Senator Sheehan advocated the revision of not one portion, but the whole of the system of voting. Senator Cameron, who complained that the bill was a party measure, did so presumably because the Government did not consult the Opposition when framing it. For that matter every bill introduced by the Government is a party measure, in that it is not referred beforehand to the Opposition.
– The Minister for the Interior stated that the bill was not a party measure.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The honorable senator described it as a party measure simply because the Opposition had not been consulted with respect to its provisions. From time to time Parliament is required to revise acts or to pass legislation in order to meet new circumstances. Often bills are introduced to combat some evil which has been discovered in former legislation or to correct an anomaly. In this instance, the bill bas been introduced because it has been found possible so to manipulate the electoral law as to give to one section an advantage. . In my opinion, the system of a transferable vote in a multiple electorate is unworkable to the satisfaction of the people, and the Government would be well advised to revert to the original system of allowing electors to express their desires by placing a cross against the names of the candidates of their choice. But as that subject is not embodied in the bill, I am out of order in discussing it.
– If a select committee were appointed, the matter could be considered.
– I am not in favour of the appointment of a select committee. Even if it submitted a report, its recommendations would have to run the gauntlet of this House. A careful perusal of the bill should be sufficient to convince any unbiased critic that the present system is most unsatisfactory. Honorable senators will agree that in the election of candidates to Parliament every loophole should be closed and nothing should be left to chance. There should exist in the minds of the electors a certainty that the result of a poll is a true reflection of their will. If there is the slightest suspicion of any chance, it should be immediately removed. I am opposed to the practice of compelling persons to vote. Speaking on this subject in the House of Assembly of South Australia some years ago on a bill dealing with the transferable vote, I said that it would be to the advantage of the State if a study of the system of voting were included in the school curriculum in order to educate children in the higher grades to vote intelligently when they ultimately attained adult age. Although I am opposed to the principle of compulsory voting, I am in favour of compulsory enrolment. Every person eligible to vote should be enrolled ; but the names of men and women who fail to vote should be removed from the rolls and not restored until a satisfactory reason for their neglect was given. That would be preferable to the present method. The principal alteration of the law proposed . in this measure, or the one that has come most prominently before honorable senators, is the placing of the names of candidates on the ballotpaper. There has been much speculation about the value of this arrangement. I shall not endeavour to compute the advantage accruing to a particular candidate from the order in which the names appear on the voting-paper, but I do know that the careless or the uneducated voter who, perhaps, is forced to go to the poll, is responsible for many of the informalities that occur.
– The voters are not uneducated.
– I know that the average voter is not uneducated in the sense understood by the honorable senator, but when some electors go to a polling booth they do not know much about the candidates, so the man whose name appears at the top of the list certainly has an advantage. One Queensland senator this afternoon told us that at the last election he had advised voters who were in doubt to vote right down the ballot-paper. We know that that is done very often at Commonwealth elections, and I believe that this practice is responsible for a considerable number of informal votes. There have been numerous suggestions about the best form to be adopted for a ballot-paper. All have some merit. Some people strongly favour a circular voting-paper which would prevent the name of any candidate from being at the top of the list.
– That is the best form.
– Why not carry the amendment and allow this matter to be dealt with by a joint committee?
– Other people favour a horizontal ballotpaper. This provision is contained in the bill, and it meets with my approval. It may be a coincidence, but to me it seems significant that at the last election for the Federal Parliament, candidates for the Senate election in New South Wales included four men whose surnames began with the first letter of the alphabet. That fact suggested the adoption of a wellthoughtout plan, rather than a coincidence, and the results certainly justified it. No one could seriously object to thearrangement, because those responsible for the plan did not break any electoral law. They merely took advantage of the existing law and used the system to their advantage. I think it is a pity that the voting system was used in such a way, and, in order to prevent a repetition of this plan, the bill provides for the drawing of lots to determine the order in which names of candidates shall appear on the voting-paper. I regard that as an excellent suggestion.
– Why has the discovery been made at this late stage that candidates whose names begin with the letter A have an advantage over others ?
– It is never too late to remedy what may be regarded as a defect in the law. I think that it is desirable to make the alteration suggested in this bill. I have been in politics for many years and I have never been in favour of the present grouping system, but it is the law. I am prepared to alter the law at the first opportunity given to me. I do not think that the position on the ballot-papers matters very much to a candidate in South Australia. The electors there have some regard for the ability of candidates. The result is seen in the quality of the senators elected to this chamber for that State. I support the second reading of the measure.
– I support the amendment submitted by my leader (Senator Collings). The remarks of Senator James McLachlan might easily have been attributed to an honorable senator on this side and in favour of the amendment, because the honorable senator raised several queries relating to provisions in the bill. He said that he was in favour of some proposals and not so keen about others, fie mentioned the suggestion for a circular ballot-paper, but said that he preferred a ballot-paper giving the names of candidates horizontally. All these suggestions could, :I contend, be more advantageously discussed by a joint committee.
– We could -deal with them in the committee stage of this bill.
– They are matters which could more profitably be dealt with by a joint committee, which would make all the necessary inquiries and take evidence as to the advisability or otherwise of their adoption. I, for one, would not care to express an opinion on the merits of a circular ballot-paper because I have no knowledge of its working. Nor, I believe, has. any other honorable senator; but a joint committee would be able to go to the proper source for all information and submit worth-while recommendations for the consideration of the Parliament. In this debate Senator James McLachlan has rendered good service for the Opposition. He has raised doubts with regard to certain of the proposals contained in the bill. The best way to have these doubts resolved is to appoint a joint committee of both Houses to make a full investigation into the working of the electoral machinery. A revision of the electoral law is long overdue. The bill does not touch many matters relating to electoral law and procedure which we should like to have discussed.
– The honorable senator could move amendments in committee.
– I know, but I emphasize that a joint committee of both Houses would be in a much better position to deal with them. The suggestion for the adoption of a circular ballot-paper is new to most of us. A joint committee could obtain evidence about it from electoral authorities in countries where it has been in use. I admit frankly that I do not know if it has been adopted in any other country; but I know that in the United States of America what is known as the horizontal ballot-paper is used in some of the States. Many other matters which are dealt with in the bill could also be fully investigated by the suggested committee. Senator Foll mentioned that the provision relating to the grouping of candidates would also permit the name of a particular candidate to be placed at the head of his .group, although he might not have alphabetical priority over others in that group.’ This is another matter which, I submit, could better be dealt with by a joint committee. I do not know whether Senator Foll is thinking that when next the Senate candidates face the electors in Queensland, the prestige attaching to his name, due to publicity given to his activities as a Minister, will induce the party managers to place his name at the head of the group of
Government candidates. Perhaps he is, but it is possible that Senator Cooper and Senator Crawford may have other ideas.
– The bill will allow candidates to settle that matter among themselves.
– If. they do not agree about the order of names on the ballot-paper, the matter will be decided by ballot.
– That is consistent with the principle of the bill.
– That is a matter which I should like to have discussed by a joint committee, also the provisions relating to postal voting and the extension of time for lodging such votes. There are definitely two sides to that proposal.
When the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) was moving the second reading, I made an inquiry about the provisions relating to informal voting, and he mentioned that the scrutiny of the ballot-papers for New South Wales at the previous federal election revealed that many votes were declared to be informal because electors had not indicated their order of preference for all of the candidates. Some had voted for all candidates except one. The Minister said that a ballot-paper so marked should be accepted, because it would indicate that the candidate who had not received a preference vote occupied the last place in the order of preference. It might be argued also that the vote of an elector who omitted to vote for a particular group should likewise be regarded as formal.
– There might be six Senate candidates in a particular group.
– Yes, but that would not matter, because, if the entire group were omitted by the voter, his ballot-paper would definitely express his intention not to vote for any member of that party. This is a matter that could be more profitably dealt with by a joint committee. That is another matter which could more suitably be discussed by a joint committee. In cases in which only two candidates stand for election to the House of Representatives voters are instructed to put a figure opposite the name of each. Should the voter put a cross or the figure “ 1 “ opposite the name of one candidate and fail to put the figure “ 2 “ opposite the name of the other candidate his ballot-paper is deemed to be informal. Do honorable senators opposite suggest that in such a case the voter does not clearly indicate his intention? Such a ballot-paper, I contend, is perfectly valid. That matter also could be profitably discussed by a joint committee.
This measure should be given the fullest consideration by honorable senators on both sides. It is all very well for the Minister to skim lightly over the facts, but as previous speakers on this side have pointed out, the bill does not strike at the root of any evil in the existing system. Alphabetical prejudice, as it might be termed, is inherent in the present system, but that is not altogether an evil. It has been suggested that I and my three colleagues from New South Wales owe our party selection and our election to this chamber to the fact that each of our surnames commences with A. I deny that. Whilst I agree that a candidate whose name appears on the top of a ballot-paper enjoys a material advantage, many students of electoral law dissent from that view. Indeed, a returning officer at a central booth in Sydney said that the position of a candidate’s name on the ballot-paper makes no difference at all. I believe, however, that it is an advantage, and is worth many thousands of votes. For that reason, when I addressed branches of the Australian Labour party and trade unions in New South Wales in the course of my preselection campaign, I urged that consideration whether I myself was to be selected or not. It can be said that Senators Macartney Abbott, Courtney and Dein, as much as I and my colleagues, owed their success at the polls to this alphabetical advantage.. It is doubtful, however, whether those honorable senators possess as good a record in their party as we do in ours. If I were given carte blanche to choose my fellow candidates at an election to-morrow I should not look beyond my three colleagues in this chamber. We won our party selection against 30 candidates.
– Senator Arthur did not succeed at the plebiscite.
– He came fifth in the plebiscite, but as one of the successful candidates could not be nominated owing to ill-health, Senator Arthur was chosen to stand. That was quite fair. I feared earlier that in this debate an opportunity would be taken by honorable senators opposite to indulge in personalities in respect of honorable senators on this side who represent New South Wales, but my fears in this respect have been proved groundless. I am pleased with the tone maintained in this debate. I and my colleagues were selected purely on our record in our party, which, I believe, has not regretted our selection. That is the main consideration. The Minister was interested to know whether I thought a candidate whose name appeared on the top of the ballot-paper enjoyed an advantage over other candidates. I think he enjoys a big advantage, but if the Government merely wishes to overcome that difficulty we shall raise no objection to any proposal designed to do so. We merely suggest that a joint committee should be appointed to investigate the many anomalies which exist in the electoral law. If the Government genuinely desires to eliminate all of these anomalies, it will have no objection to the appointment of such a committee. But if it wishes merely to eliminate the alphabetical advantage, why does it not frankly say so, and let us take a vote, and accept the result clearly on that understanding? The fact is that a revulsion of feeling has arisen against this Government. This has been evidenced in every by-election which has taken place in New South Wales during the last twelve months. It has also been apparent in the reverses suffered by the Government of that State. If the Commonwealth Government believes that it can stay that wave by legislating along the lines of this measure, well and good ; but I fear that it will be like King Canute rebuking the waves. Sitting on his throne on the seashore, King Canute said to the waves, “Go no further! Stop! I am mightier than thee “. The waves, of course, kept advancing, because the power behind them was mightier than King Canute. Likewise, power behind the wave of revulsion against the Government will be so great that no legislative action which the Government may take will stay it. I repeat that if the Government were genuinely desirous of rectifying existing anomalies in the electoral law, it would readily agree to the appointment of a joint committee as proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I support the amendment.
– This measure embodies a number of amendments, but that which, to my mind, concerns the electors most has been relegated almost entirely to the background. It is the proposal to substitute a horizontal for the vertical ballot-paper. That proposal has been touched upon, but not at length. The amendment which has been most hotly debated this afternoon deals with the determination of the position of candidates upon the ballot-paper. We should quite impartially consider whether any position on the ballot-paper gives an advantage, and if it does, we should take whatever steps we deem necessary in order to prevent any candidate or party from obtaining that advantage. In the past the position of names of candidates on the ballot-paper has been determined according to alphabetical precedence. That is entirely wrong. Senator Brown gave quite an apt analogy this afternoon when he pointed out that the positions of race-horses at the barrier is determined by ballot. I presume that that method is adopted on race-courses because no fairer method has yet been discovered. The positions of horses at the start of a race are not determined according to the alphabetical order of the” first letter in the names of horses or jockeys. A man who buys a ticket in a lottery enjoys no advantage because his name happens to commence with A. I cannot understand any objection to a system which enables candidates at elections to meet their opponents on even ground. Under this measure, it is proposed to give to each candidate an equal chance, and the only way in which that can be done is by drawing lots.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 8th December, 1938 (vide volume 158, page 2975) on motion by Senator Wilson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When I obtained leave to continue my remarks in moving the second reading of this bill on the 8th December last, I had pointed cut that the object of the measure was to provide a plan for the permanent stabilization of the wheat industry. I showed that statistics over a period of 70 years, and, in fact, over any period of ten years within that 70 years, proved that if an equalization fund were set up on the basis indicated, it would be possible for that fund to guarantee to the farmer the minimum price of 3s. 8d. a bushel free on rail, out-port, or 10s. a bag at the average siding. The outbreak of war has not in any degree lessened the necessity for the permanent stabilization of the industry. Insofar as administration is concerned, imaginary difficulties, which appeared to exist in the minds of some persons when the bill was introduced last December, have now been removed owing to the fact that the Government is the sole purchaser of wheat.
-. - Are the farmers satisfied ?
– They will be when this bill is passed. It provides for the setting up of an equalization fund, which would derive its income from three sources.
In the first place, there would he a contribution from farmers of 50 per cent, of the difference between the sale price and 3s. 8d. a bushel when wheat exceeded that price. Those contributions would be collected by means of a sales tax on wheat, and separate legislation would be necessary for that purpose. The second source of income of the fund would be the proceeds of the flour tax, and for that purpose legislation would he introduced to divert the flour tax from the present basis of payment to the States to payment to the equalization fund. The third source of income would be such contribution as was made from time to time from general revenue. The passage of this bill would not involve the Government in any impossible financial responsibility. At the present time it has guaranteed the price of 2s. 10½da bushel and has also undertaken to pay handling charges. The price of 2s. 10½d., plus an estimate of 2d. a bushel to cover handling charges, means that the present guaranteed price under the proposal of the Government represents approximately 3s. i&. a bushel f.o.r. outport. To bring the price up to the figure suggested in this bill another 7-Jd. a bushel or approximately £5,000,000 would be required.
I believe that it would be very much better to reach finality Avith regard to wheat than to continue the present practice. For the last ten or fifteen years governments have been merely nibbling at the problem. Millions of pounds have been poured out to this industry, but no permanent plan has been brought forward to secure to the farmer a payable price and a standard of living which persons engaged in other industries are granted under the laws of the land. The wage-earner is assured of a minimum Australian wage, and those engaged in secondary industries are entitled to an Australian price for -their products. I suggest that the Government should be courageous, and endeavour to solve this problem once and for all, in order to secure to the farmer a payable price for his product.
– What price would the honorable senator give to him?
– Ten shillings a bag at the average siding or 3s. 8d. a bushel f.o.r. outport. The price quoted for wheat this morning in the daily press is 3s. $i. a bushel f.o.r. If we add to that 4d. for the flour tax, we can state that if the Government is able to dispose of the 1939-40 crop at the present ruling price, it will receive 3s. -Jd. a bushel for the wheat, and 4d. a bushel from the flour tax, which will require only another 3½d. a ‘bushel, or a little over £2,000,000, to provide the minimum guarantee that .the farmer has traditionally regarded as his cost of production. Ten shillings a bag at the siding is the figure that the farmer has always considered, and which I think statistics prove, to be the price that he must get to cover cost of production and the barest margin of profit.
The problem of the wheat industry has been discussed extensively in this chamber; therefore I do not propose to take up a great deal of the time of the Senate in concluding my remarks to-night. Honorable senators have the bill on their files and if they will follow it through I shall shortly explain its contents. Part 1 is purely of a machinery character, dealing with definitions and matters of that kind. In Part 2, clause 5 deals with the establishment of the Wheat Industry Board, and provides that the board shall consist of six members, two of whom shall be wheat-growers, one a wheat merchant, one a miller and the other two, nominees of the Government. Clauses 6 to 11 are machinery provisions. Clause 12 provides that the board shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession. Clauses 13 to 16 are purely machinery provisions.
Clause 17 provides that wheat-growers shall be insured or licensed. This provision is not absolutely essential, but I think it is advisable to include it under war conditions. The scheme could be worked out on a voluntary basis, but under present conditions it is probably better to make it a compulsory one. Clauses 18 to 22 deal with contributions by farmers, and provide, shortly, that when the price is over 3s. 8d. a bushel, farmers shall make contributions equal to half of the difference between the sale price and 3s. 8d. a bushel. If wheat were sold at 4s. a bushel the farmer would receive 3s. lOd. a bushel and 2d. a bushel would go into the equalization fund. Clause 23 deals with benefits. The first benefit is the right of the farmer to receive a minimum equalization price of 3s. 8d. a bushel at port. The second benefit is the right of the executors of a farmer when certain credits have been built up. After wheat had been over 3s. 8d. a bushel for several years in succession, farmers would have built up credits, and in the event of their death their executors would be entitled to withdraw those credits from the fund. Therefore the bill gives valuable insurance benefits for the wives and children of deceased farmers who have built up credits in the fund. The measure also provides for a cessation of wheat-growing benefit in order to enable farmers, when they reach old age or give up farming, to withdraw any credit standing to their name.
Clause 24 deals with the right of the farmer to withdraw from the fund, and also makes provision whereby the board can effectively control its own liability and in that way control production, if necessary. It enables the board to say, if it thinks that the farmers are overproducing, that it will pay the equalization price on, for example, only 75 per cent, of the average crop over the last five years. At the present time there is a suggestion from certain sources that there is a world over-supply of wheat. If that is the case, I think every body Will agree that it will be useless for Australian wheat-growers to go on producing a commodity that the world does not want. It may be necessary for some restriction, of production to be imposed, and the best waY to do that is to have a board, such as is suggested in this bill, that could watch the world situation from time to time, and state the size of the crop upon which it would be prepared to pay the equalization price. If the world could absorb only 80 per cent, of the present production, I believe that the farmers would readily agree to plant only 80 per cent, of the usual crop. If some farmers refused to co-operate in a scheme of that nature, they would not be able to get the guaranteed equalization price on their excess production.
– -How could that be policed ?
– It would not be necessary. The farmer would be required to make a declaration setting out his average production, say for the last five years. If he had been producing 3,000 bags a year, and the board came to the conclusion that there would have to be an all-round reduction of 10 per cent., he would be told that in the next year the equalization price would be paid on only 2,700 bags. That would provide an automatic limitation of production. The Government would purchase only a quantity equal to SO per cent, of the production calculated on the average during the preceding five years, and if farmers produced more than the quantity specified, they would have to use it for feeding stock.
– Is this scheme based on production or on acreage?
– On the average production of the last five years, in order to protect the wheat-growers against those who may have come into the industry later. There is nothing hard and fast in the measure; its provisions have been made sufficiently elastic to meet all circumstances. The situation would be watched from day ito day by a competent board which would determine the quantity which growers should produce. Owing to present world conditions, it is quite possible that within twelve months Great Britain may ask Australia to produce even a larger quantity of wheat; therefore the measure should be as flexible as possible. Clause 25 relates to benefits of farmers who have been able to build up’ credits over a number of years, and clause 26 gives to legal representatives the right to withdraw amounts standing to the credit of deceased farmers. Clause 27 provides that if in any one year the price of wheat exceeded 5s. 2d. a bushel, a rebate would be made to prevent any increase of the price of bread. The measure therefore provides not only for a stabilization of the price of wheat, but also for the stabilization of the price of flour and bread. Clause 28 empowers the board to borrow money from the Commonwealth Bank under the guarantee of the Commonwealth Government to enable the equalization scheme to be conducted.
– Would that amount be borrowed free of interest?
– The bill provides that debits and credits shall bear interest at 3$ per cent.
– If a farmer has money tied up in a reserve fund, he will be able ito get the same rate of interest as if the money had been invested in a savings bank. It will be a fund into which farmers can pay money which can be used subsequently to tide them over bad seasons. The interest would be the same as that provided for under our savings bank legislation.-
– Many farmers are paying 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, on borrowed money ; but Tinder this bill they would receive only 3£ per cent, on their credits.
– That is the rate of interest which the savings bank pays.
The interest provision is not vital, and I would not offer any objection if it were deleted. If; interest is paid on assets, itshould be paid on liabilities.
– The farmers would like the interest provision deleted.
– I would not oppose its deletion. Clauses 28 and 29 deal with the sources of the income of the board, which I have already explained. Clauses 30 to 33 inclusive are machinery provisions, and clause 34 relates to interest. Clauses 35 to 37 inclusive are also machinery provisions. Clause 38 provides that when a farmer has an amount standing to his credit, he shall be issued with a book or a certificate showing the amount at credit, but such book or certificate shall not be negotiable. The remaining clauses are of a machinery character, and can be dealt with more effectively in committee.
Prior to the introduction of the bill in December last, I pointed out that the wheat-growers are entitled to compensation to cover their disabilities suffered as a result of the tariff. Subsequently, when I supported the Government in providing compensation for those engaged in the wheat industry by the establishment of a home-consumption price, I pointed out that the establishment of such a price did not solve the real problem of permanent stability. I also said that under the legislation in operation after the imposition of the flour tax, prices. could range from a low figure to over 5s. a bushel. Honorable senators will agree that if the price of wheat were 4s. 6d. a bushel it would be absolutely stupid to pay a bounty to those engaged in the industry. I also urged the Government to introduce legislation to provide for permanent stabilization, and I introduced this measure to show the way in which it could be done. Many conferences were held and expert committees were appointed. The Commonwealth Government finally announced a policy to provide for permanent stabilization in which it adopted about 90 per cent, of the main principles embodied in this bill. Certain departures were made and the failure of the Commonwealth was in the degree to which it departed from the principles in the bill I introduced. The first departure was to reduce the proposed equalization price from 3s. 8d. to 3s. 4d. a bushel. The farmers objected because they said that 3s. 4d. a bushel at ports was too low, and far below the cost of production. The second departure made by the Commonwealth was to provide that a portion of the advance should be found by the States, and honorable senators will recall that owing to the refusal of the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, to make a very modest contribution on behalf of that State to what would have been a valuable plan, the Commonwealth scheme was lost. The third departure made by the Commonwealth was a proposal to limit the liabilities to a harvest of 140,000,000. bushels. That departure would have been acceptable to the wheat-growing industry. An examination of the two schemes discloses that the similarities are far greater than the differences. Both proposals provide for permanent stabilization. Our scheme provides for a minimum price of 3s. 8d. a bushel, whereas that of the Commonwealth provides for a minimum of 3s. 4d. a bushel. This bill provides for a farmer’s contribution of 50 per cent. of the price over 3s. 8d. a bushel, whereas the Commonwealth’s proposals were for 50 per cent. over 3s. 6d. a bushel. In other respects the plans were similar. I congratulate the Government upon the scheme it produced; we shall never get exactly what we require.
– What is the Commonwealth plan?
– It has been given great publicity in all the Australian newspapers.
– But it has been changed several times.
– A plan of permanent stabilization submitted by the Prime Minister at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Melbourne was unfortunately rejected by the Premier of Victoria. That plan would have provided a minimum price of 3s. 4d. a bushel to the farmers, the Commonwealth providing £7,000,000 per annum to enable the price to be brought up to that figure. That scheme would haveassisted the wheat industry tremendously, and I am certain that Mr. Dunstan rendered a disservice to the farmers of Australia when he rejected it.
He should have accepted it and at a later date submitted arguments or suggestions as to why it should be varied. I would have accepted that plan, but at the same time I would have pointed out the directions in which variations should be made to bring it into line with the provisions of this bill. In view of the great similarity between this proposal and the plan introduced by the Commonwealth Government, I confidently anticipate that the bill will receive the support of this chamber. As soon as the Government is able to assess the price likely to be received for this season’s harvest the position will be clarified. I am not unmindful of the difficulties facing the Government, particularly in view of the facts that there is almost a record crop of 160,000,000 bushels, that there is not a single ship to carry it overseas, and that no buyers are in the market. Ships belonging to neutral countries will not transport wheat for less than 2s. a bushel. I appreciate the statement of the Government that it is too early to indicate the amount which it can ultimately guarantee, but I think that it should take a risk and give some security to the industry. Until it knows the price which it will receive for the wheat it cannot state the guaranteed price. The initial advance of £20,000,000 is liberal at the present stage.
– The Prime Minister told the growers that their outlook was hopeless.
– He did not say anything of the kind.
– I cannot recall the Prime Minister having made that statement; but if he did make it, I am certain that he expressed an honest opinion on their prospects. I can confidently expect the Labour party to support this bill. Some months after the bill had been introduced, a deputation representing the Labour party waited on the Prime Minister and requested him to formulate a scheme of stabilization similar to the proposals contained in the bill. There were one or two minor alterations. The deputation asked for the establishment of an equalization fund; advocated that farmers should contribute 50 per cent. over the minimum guaranteed price ; and urged that the prices of bread and flour should be stabilized. But, like the Government, the Labour party made certain departures which destroyed the effectiveness of its proposals. Whilst the bill is designed to give permanent stability to the industry; the Labour party suggested that the duration of the plan should be five years. By such a suggestion, it made the industry again insecure. It also advocated that, instead of 3s. 8d. a bushel at ports, the price should be 3s. 6d. at sidings.
The deputation further urged that, whether in peace or war, a compulsory pool should he established. The advisability of creating a compulsory pool in peacetime is a matter upon which there is a wide divergence, of opinion among farmers. The bill makes the establishment of such a pool optional; it permits the farmer to decide for himself. At present, the matter is immaterial, for the simple reason that the Commonwealth Government is the only purchaser of wheat in the market; but the Labour party’s advocacy of a compulsory pool is most objectionable to the large majority of the farming community.
I ask honorable senators to consider the bill, not in the light of party politics, but as a private member’s measure, designed to give to the wheat-growing industry security and permanency. Farmers; in rendering yeoman service in the development of Australia, have worked hard enough to deserve some security in this fair land.
Debate (on motion by Senator McBbide) adjourned.
Debate resumed from page 1793.
– If candidates for the Senate were required to draw lots for the position that their names would occupy on the ballot-paper, no person or group would have an advantage at the expense of the others. Evidently, among some honorable senators opposite there is conflict of opinion in respect of the benefit derived through a candidate’s name appearing at the top of the ballot-paper. Some contended that the position offered no advantage; others considered that it gained many thousands of votes. I believe that in all States the candidate whose name appears at the top of the ballot-paper has a distinct advantage, and the more populous the State, the greater the advantage. For purposes of illustration, I propose to cite the example of New South Wales, which is the most populous State, and Tasmania, the least populous State. New South Wales returns 28 members of the House of Representatives and six senators. From the standpoint of numbers, senators are overwhelmed by 28 to six. A senator is able to cover only a fraction of his electorate and meets a very small percentage of his constituents. In consequence, senators are little known, and many people are profoundly ignorant of the functions of this chamber, and the basis upon which its members are elected.
– Also the Senate is ostracized by the press.
– Unfortunately, that is so. A federal election campaign hinges upon the contests for the House of Representatives. Rarely is the Senate mentioned. Senators, being only six in number, can play only a comparatively minor part in the campaign. Supporting speakers representing all parties almost invariably neglect this chamber. As a result, many thousands of electors, when’ entering the polling booth, expect to vote only for candidates for the House of Representatives. When they are handed a second ballot-paper for the Senate they see a number of strange names. The outcome is a tremendous “ fluke “ vote which occurs in all States, but which is much greater in New South Wales, hecause candidates for the Senate are comparatively unknown, and the campaign is fought around persons aspiring to enter the House of Representatives. Furthermore, party alinement is centred in the House of Representatives, not the Senate. Although this has never been done, I believe that a separate Senate election would not only justify the expense, but would also bring home to the electors the importance of the Senate and the’ basis upon which senators are elected. Of such facts, many are ignorant at the present time.
That the candidate whose name appears at the top of the ballot-paper enjoys a distinct advantage is borne out by statistics. In the general elections in New South Wales in 1934, Government candidates for the House of Representatives had a majority of about 96,000 over their political opponents. But the Government’s majority for the Senate was 1S5,000. Of course, that was a fictitious majority, which was achieved because the names of candidates of the United Australia party happened to appear at the top of the ballot-paper. Through occupying that position we picked up tens of thousands of “ fluke “ votes. The moment I compared the figures I knew that something was wrong. Even the electoral officers considered that something strange had occurred, because they made an analysis of the returns. To my knowledge, that had never been done before. The Senate majority was, double that for the House of Representatives, simply because the United Australia party group appeared at the top of the ballot-paper. Senator Abbott cited the instance of the Darling electorate where he polled 5,000 more votes than his party’s candidate for the House of Representatives, who had campaigned extensively there. That convinced me of the tremendous advantage, particularly in New South Wales, enjoyed by candidates whose names appear at the top of the ballot-paper. Immediately after the 1934 elections, I endeavoured to persuade the party of which I arn a member to amend the electoral procedure in order to prevent the group appearing at the top of the paper from having such an advantage. While candidates eagerly desire to be returned, they like to feel that they have been elected by fair means. But my efforts to persuade certain members that the advantage was as great as it is was unsuccessful -and nothing was done.
Being keen political students, the Labour party read the result of the 1934 elections in the same manner as I did, and, accordingly, for the next election, selected candidates whose names would assure their being placed at the top of the ballot-paper. It realized that they would reap the “fluke” vote that we obtained in 1934. Three years later the Government majority in the House of Representatives was approximately 76,000 in New South Wales, disregarding votes polled by two independent United Australia party candidates in North Sydney.
– Is the honorable . senator making allowance for uncontested seats?
– Yes. But through occupying pride of position at the top of the ballot-paper, the Labour candidates converted their minority of 185,000 in 1934 into a majority of 13,000 in 1937. No one would suggest that the result was a clear indication of party alinement. The explanation for the “ swing “ is to be found in’ the fact that on the ballot-paper the United Australia party group was placed beneath the Labour party group who picked up the tremendous “ fluke “ vote which three years before had benefited the United Australia party. Who will deny that this arrangement gives a tremendous advantage to some candidates? Again I say that the advantage or disadvantage is greater in New South Wales. Next in order comes Victoria, and last of all, Tasmania, where the electorate is smaller and where it is possible for a Senate candidate to meet a greater proportion of the electors than is possible in any other State. Tasmania sends more members to thi3 chamber than to the House of Representatives, so it is only to be expected that the doings of senators occupy the minds of electors in that State more than the doings of members in the House of Representatives.
I have given these figures to show that the candidate whose name appears at the top of the ballot-paper gets a tremendous advantage, at all events in New South Wales, because in that State voters enter the polling places without knowing much about Senate candidates, and, as we have good reason to believe, when voting for Senate candidates, many start at the top of the ballot-paper and go right down the list in the alphabetical order. This does not make for informality in voting, because it is so easy for an elector to mark his ballot-paper in that way. If only for this reason, it is fair that, in order to give every one an equal chance, a draw should be held among Senate candidates, or among groups of candidates, to determine whose name shall appear at the top of the ballot-paper. A voting-paper with the names printed in vertical order is not the best, because of the tremendous advantage which it gives to the candidate, or groups at the top. The same cannot be said of a paper containing the names in horizontal order because in the case of, say, four groups of candidates, there would be four starting points, as against only one starting place on a vertical ballot-paper. I believe that, in the interests of every body, a. ballot should bc held to determine the order in which candidates’ names shall be printed on the ballot-paper. Whatever may he our feelings as political partisans, we like to think that when we meet the electors we win or lose on our merits.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said this afternoon that the Government was introducing this amendment of the law in order to avert defeat at the next election. How can this bill do that? It will not give to Government candidates any advantage, but it will definitely prevent any candidate, whether supporting the Government or opposing it, from getting an advantage. If the tide is running against the Government–
– The honorable senator wants to make sure that he and his friends will be at no disadvantage in the election.
– Is there anything unreasonable in that? Is there anything wrong with the suggestion that Senate candidates at the next election should ballot for position on the ballot-paper? We all want to start level in that contest. It is not quite fair for the honorable senator to suggest that I am supporting this measure because I think that some advantage might come my way. There is no such thought in my mind. For all I know, this, bill, when it becomes law, may operate to my disadvantage, because the Labour party has not yet selected its candidates. But I am not interested in that aspect of the matter at the moment. I repeat, that the Leader of the exposition stated that the Governnent had introduced this bill in- the hope that it -would be able to avoid defeat at the next election. Of course the honorable gentleman had to say something, and that was one of the easiest things to say, because it was not necessary to offer any evidence ‘in support of it. The honorable senator spoke with great restraint and I found it difficult to realize that he was really the Leader of the Opposition. He did not seem to know what to talk about.
– He was staggered at the Government’s proposals.
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator was staggered at. his leader’s lack of argument. Senator Collings allowed some of his supporters to take up the cudgels on his behalf, and Senator Sheehan stepped into the breach. Throughout his speech Senator Sheehan persistently, but without saying very much of value, attacked the system. He objected that the bill proposed to make certain alterations to what he described as the electoral system. The measure does not do that. Its main provisions relate to a re-arrangement of the names on the ballot-paper. - Yet for about half an hour this afternoon, Senator Sheehan talked about the alteration of the system without offering any alternative. When the honorable gentleman sat down we knew nearly as much about what was in his mind as we did when he started. As regards systems of election for the Senate, I call to mind three wellknown methods. The existing system, with which we are familiar, namely, voting by the whole State as a single, electorate ; proportional representation ; and the proposal to divide a State into three electorates for the election of senators.
– What about . first past the post?
– I am dealing with the electoral systems, not with methods of voting, which evidently “are causing the honorable senator a certain amount of perturbation. As to methods of voting, those that come to my mind are the partial preferential method, the complete preferential vote, with which we are familiar, and a third which is ordinarily described as “ first past the post”. Senator Sheehan has expressed preference for the last-named. That method died years, ago, becarfflc-.it is undemocratic in that it often permits a hopeless minority to secure representation at. the expense of a majority.
– Not at all.
– Under the “ first past the post “ method it would be possible for one candidate to be elected on 3 votes if only 12 votes were cast. That method was rejected years ago because of its undemocratic character. It has been abandoned in almost every country and I should very much regret any attempt to re-introduce it in Australia.
SenatorFraser. - Is it not a fact that some years ago at a State election 49 per cent. of the electors voted for Labour candidates and yet Labour was wholly unrepresented?
– The fact may be as the honorable senator has stated. No doubt he has in mind the adoption of proportional representation, against which I have said nothing. Many people strongly support that system, and I am not condemning it. All I wish to say is that the framers of our Constitution did not believe in it, and the result was that they gave us a system which is as nearly perfect as it is possible for a system to be. The present Senate is almost as evenly divided as are the electors of the Commonwealth. .
Much to my surprise, Senator Sheehan also condemned pre-selection. I had never before heard a member of the Labour party criticize adversely that principle, so I could not help thinking that Senator Sheehan must have been defeated on some occasion in a pre-selection ballot, possibly because the initial letter of his surname being S, his name would be well down in the alphabetical list ofcandidated. Is it for that reason that he now condemns pre-selection, although the Labour party is 100 per cent. in favour of that principle?
The honorable senator’s attitude on this aspect of Labour’s policy is somewhat remarkable, because he is in the counsels of the party. I wonder if at any time he has raised this issue in the caucus.
SenatorKeane. - Senator Sheehan did not mention pre-selection in his speech.
– The honorable senator is wrong. Senator Sheehan definitely said he wanted a wider selection of can didates for the Senate and the House of Representatives. If that was not condemnation of the principle of pre-selection,I do not know what words mean. I do not think that he could advocate that in the Labour movement, because I know what Labour’s policy is on that issue. Senator Cameron also objected to the present system, but in no way could we induce him to say what we in his mind.
Senators Cameron, Brown . and Armstrong plaintively pleaded for the appointment of a joint committee to examine and report upon the working of the electoral machinery. Perhaps: those honorable senators thought thatthe pressure of collective wisdom would lead to an improved bill.
– For once the honorable senator is right.
– The Leader of the Opposition said definitely that collective wisdom applied to this measure would result in a better bill, and in the election of a better parliament.
– I did not say that it would result in the election of a better parliament.
– Well, if it would result in a better bill, the presumption is that it would result in the election of a better parliament. Let us see what the Labour party thinks of collective wisdom.
A few weeks ago, immediately after the outbreak of war, the Prime Minister, believing that the collective wisdom of all the parties in this Parliament would lead to the formation of a better government in this crisis, invited the leaders of the parties to forget party differences and come together for the common good of Australia. Where, then, were these Labour champions of collective wisdom? The Prime Minister wanted a government which would have the benefit of the collective wisdom of all parties in this Parliament. He believed, as I do, that such a government was most desirable. He issued an invitation to the Labour party to accept a share in the government of this country, but the Labour party scorned that invitation. If honorable senatorsopposite are sincere when they argue that this measure should be referred to the collective wisdom of all parties, surely they would have accepted the Prime Minister’s invitation, to take a share in the government of this country in order to enable us to play more effectively our part in the present war, to check profiteering, to decide for or against compulsory military training, to. determine who shall pay the taxes required to meet our additional war expenditure, and to determine our fiscal policy. But, contrary to their professed desire to obtain the collective wisdom of all parties on this bill, they were not really interested in any of those major matters of policy. Perhaps the job was too big for them. But when an insignificant bill to amend the electoral law is introduced, a bill to decide the method of placing names ou the ballot-paper, they say, “ Give use a joint committee in’ order that the collective wisdom of all parties in this Parliament may be brought to bear upon this matter “. The professions of honorable senators opposite in this debate are nothing but mere hypocrisy, because, if they value so highly the benefits of collective wisdom, they would have accepted the invitation extended by the Prime Minister to them to take a share in the government in order that we might be better able to do the one really big job that confronts us to-day.
Senator Amour opposed the bill. He pointed out that names in telephone directories appear in alphabetical order. He said that this was also the case in respect of electoral rolls, Commonwealth, State and municipal. I reply that no one whose name appears on any of those rolls gains any advantage from the alphabetical position occupied by his name. I gain no advantage from the fact that my name appears on, say page 10 of a telephone directory, and not on page 110. The alphabetical arrangement of names in such directories, however, is of convenience to any one who wishes to find my telephone number. The position in respect of ballot-papers, however, is entirely different. The honorable senator suggested that as names were arranged in alphabetical order on State and municipal ballot-papers, they should be similarly arranged on Senate ballot-papers. But surely we should not perpetuate an injustice merely for that reason. I suggest that no parallel exists. In the State of New South Wales, for instance, there are 90 State parliamentary electorates and very many local-government bodies. In relation to the election for the Senate, however, this matter assumes much greater importance. Indeed, it is of far greater importance in relation to elections for the Senate than for elections to the House of Representatives. Yet, even in a municipal election, a candidate whose name appears on the top of the ballotpaper enjoys a slight advantage because of that fact. It may only mean half a dozen votes, but it is an advantage. How much greater must be the advantage in a Senate election?
Another proposal, which I am pleased to see embodied in this measure, is the provision that a ballot-paper containing the names of several candidates shall not be rendered informal when a square opposite the name of one of the candidates is left blank and the intention of the voter is obvious. I have certain figures here which justify this amendment. In the general election of 1934, the name of the Communist candidate, Mr. Sharkey, who I understand is now a member of the Labour party, appeared last of thirteen names on the Senate ballot-paper for New South Wales. No less than 50,000 ballot-papers were rendered informal because the square opposite Mr. Sharkey’s name was left blank although the other twelve squares were filled in. The intention of the voters who filled in those ballotpapers was quite clear; yet those papers were deemed to he informal. It is strange that at present, if a voter leaves one square blank on a ballot-paper in respect of an election for the House of Representatives, that paper is not rendered informal. I submit that Senate ballotpapers should be treated in a similar manner, and I am pleased that it is proposed in this measure to do that.
The amendment, moved by the Leader of the Opposition is mere sham. It is desired to stave off what might be termed the evil day. In effect, the amendment simply proposes that this measure should be postponed. It was little wonder then that the Leader of the Opposition could not raise much enthusiasm when he was moving his amendment. His proposal is unworthy of consideration and should be rejected. The measure is fair in every respect. It will give no candidate or party -an unfair advantage. For that reason, I ask honorable senators, irrespective of party, to support it.
.; - I support the amendment. This measure concerns the method of election to both branches of the legislature. Therefore, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is on sound ground in proposing that the mattor be referred to a joint committee of both Houses. Personally, I should have preferred that the whole matter had been referred to an independent nonparliamentary tribunal before having been introduced into this chamber. That course is followed in connexion with the alteration of electoral boundaries, for the simple reason that we believe that the first consideration in these matters should be the rights of. the electors. Of course, minor alterations of the electoral law could be dealt with solely by Parliament, without the assistance of such a tribunal. Although the proposals embodied in this measure have been talked about for a considerable time, the Government has not given the matter the consideration which it deserves. The introduction of this measure has been hurried. The primary purpose of elections of representatives to Parliament is to give to the people an opportunity to govern themselves. That was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution when they provided a very simple and easy means for the election of representatives to the Commonwealth Parliament. Under that system the names of candidates appeared on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order, without grouping of any kind.
– No political organizations existed in those days.
– Not as we know them to-day.
– Yes ; the Labour party was then very much alive. There was also the Liberal party. The framers of the Constitution adopted a system of alphabetical arrangement of names when they sought an easy means of allowing the people to elect representatives to the Commonwealth Parliament. They also adopted the principle that the candidate first past the past should be elected. Senator Dein described that system as obsolete, and said that it had been thrown overboard in progressive countries. 1 take it that he would say that Great Britain is a progressive country; yet, strange to say, members of the British House of Commons - the- Mother of Parliaments - are elected under that system.
– Minority elections.
– But that system is in vogue in Great Britain, and the reason why it is retained there is that the British electors are desirous of electing the best candidates, irrespective of party. How often have we heard the subject of party politics referred to as the curse of government in this country ? Editorials have appeared in some of our most up-to-date and respectable newspapers, emphasizing the difficulties arising from our party system of government. That system was perpetuated when we adopted the system of grouping the names of candidates on Senate ballotpapers, and I predict that when more squares appear across our ballot-papers, that evil will be aggravated. Such a proposal gives no recognition to the rights of candidates as individuals, but has regard solely for the interest of political parties.
– Is the honorable senator stating his policy?
– I am not in favour of the grouping of candidates on ballot-papers. That system was introduced by a man who was educated in the. Labour movement and who later left the movement.
– The honorable senator does not believe in the grouping of names on the ballot-paper?
– No. The man responsible for that system - he was then Prime Minister of Australia - sought to defeat Labour; and he succeeded.
– That is the honorable senator’s opinion.
– Yes, the fact is well known to- the intelligent people of Australia. This manoeuvre on the part of a former Labour politician, who was then a Nationalist Prime Minister, was successful in achieving his purpose. I say that the grouping system was adopted for the purpose of providing a surer means of eliminating all opportunity for individual thought on the part of free and independent people.
– The preselection ballots of the Labour party did that years ago.
– It all depends on how the ballots are conducted. In the Labour party each candidate is entitled to the services of a scrutineer. Our pre-selection ballots compare more than favorably with those of our Opponents. The Opposition asks that this bill be referred to a joint committee of both branches of the legislature for the purpose of investigating the principles embodied in the measure, with the view to reporting as to their desirability and whether certain other amendments should be made for the improvement of the act.
– Full opportunities for such suggestions will be afforded when the measure reaches the committee stage.
– Before we consider the bill in committee, it is desirable to have an expression of opinion by a committee representative of both branches of the legislature. Probably this bill will be pushed through the Senate in opposition of the wishes of almost 48 per cent. of the people of Australia; yet we shall be told that we have a free democracy.
– The honorable senator has a bad case.
– A case is usually regarded by an opponent as bad if it does not suit his own purposes.
– Does the honorable senator think that this measure will assist the Government parties?
– I think that is the real object of the bill. Honorable senators on the Government side no doubt have “ the jitters “ because an election is looming. A measure such as this; should be dealt with from the point of view of the electors. Almost every honorable senator opposite has spoken of the advantages and disadvantages of the grouping system. As long as it served their purpose they were satisfied, but as soon as they got “ the jitters “ they decided to alter it.
– If the names were printed singly on the ballot-paper, would the honorable senator prefer them to be alphabetically arranged, or according to party alinements?
– I prefer the alphabetical order.
– Is that the fairer method ?
– I think it is. As a result of advice received through the press, from the public platform, and, particularly, over theair, the elector will be in a far better position in the future to make an intelligent selection than he has been in the past. He is quite competent to choose from an alphabeti- cally arranged list the candidates he desires to be elected. The alternative is to arrange the order of the names by ballot. If a candidate happens to be named “ Andrews “ that is merely an accident of birth. This matter should be dealt with most carefully in the interests of the people of Australia. I see no necessity to group the candidates according to their parties. If the electors desire to return Labour representatives they will do so in any case. They have done it in the past. Members of the Ministry’ should realize that the more we tinker at the method of conducting parliamentary elections the more impatient the people will become and the greater will be the tendency for them to cast informal votes. Unless the Government can advance more logical arguments in favour of the bill than have been placed before us we shall not be justified in passing it. Is the motiveof the Government in presenting this measure to give to the electors a fairer opportunity to elect their parliamentary representatives ?
– That is the very reason.
– I say that this bill would make confusion worse confounded. Whenever an electoral system has been altered it has caused chaos, and years have elapsed before the people haw become accustomed to the changed methods.
The amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition is fair, not only to both branches of the legislature, but also to the electors. The rights of the people must be considered, because in a democracy the will of the people should prevail. The method of election should be so simple that Parliament will truly act as the safety valve of the nation. The Government is not justified in pressing this measure through the Parliament ana asking that every facility be afforded to enable it to be passed, perhaps, to-night.
– This bill would not result in an alteration of the present method of voting.
– It would, and it would perpetuate a system with which I disagree. Although I was not a member of Parliament when the grouping plan was adopted, I have a right now to protest against it. I prefer the elasticity of the old system. In urging the passage of this bill, the Government is thinking of the chances of the candidates, because it is said that those whose surnames being with A are more likely to be returned than those whose surnames commence with a letter further down the alphabet. The people have a right to discriminate between candidates, and to 3ay whether they shall be placed at the top or at the bottom of the poll. .During the eighteen years in which the present electoral system has been in operation many parliaments have been elected, and as the present method does not appear unsatisfactory, there is no necessity to attempt to alter it so hurriedly. In the ordinary course of events a general election will not be held until next October, and there is ample time to unable the Parliament and the people to study the proposals embodied in this bill.
– The people knew that amending electoral legislation was to be introduced.
– They did not know that a bill of this nature was to be presented to Parliament, and that an effort would be made to expedite its passage. The reasonable amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition should have the support of the majority of honorable senators.
.- 1 support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) because it merely provides that a select .committee be appointed to inquire into the existing electoral system. Surely honorable senators opposite cannot object to the appointment of such a committee, when the Government which they are supporting is appointing boards and committees almost daily. If a select committee were appointed it would have an opportunity to study this bill and to suggest improvements. During . this debate various electoral systems have been mentioned, all of which could be investigated by a select committee. The electors, who have a vital interest in elections, should also be permitted to state whether Mie system’ proposed is likely to benefit them as well as candidates. Senator Dein again accused the Opposition of declining to co-operate with the Govern: ment, but he overlooked the fact that this Government is appointing numerous advisory boards and committees. Some uncomplimentary, and indeed insulting, remarks have been made by honorable senators opposite concerning the members of the Labour party in this chamber whose surnames begin with the letter A. This is also an insult to the electors. I wonder if any honorable senator has analysed the figures of the fourteen federal elections held since the inception of federation. During that period 65 candidates whose names were not at the top of the ballot-paper and 19 candidates whose names were at the top of the ballot-paper were elected. Prior to the introduction of the grouping system in 1919, seven elections for the Senate had been held in New South Wales and during that period not one candidate whose name appeared at the top of the ballotpaper was elected to the Senate. In Victoria only one candidate whose name appeared at the top of the ballot-paper was elected, whereas others whose names appeared lower in the list were successful. In Queensland three candidates whose names appeared at the top were successful, and four whose names were in other positions were elected. In South Australia candidates whose names appeared other than at the top of the ballot-paper were successful every time, and in Western Australia only one candidate at the top was returned. In Tasmania one candidate whose name appeared early in the list was successful, whereas six candidates in1 other positions were elected. It would appear from these figures that only five candidates whose names appeared at the top of the ‘ballotpaper were successful, whereas 37 whose names appeared lower down were elected. Since 1919 the figures have varied somewhat; but the names of a majority of those elected to the Senate were not at the top of the ballot-paper. I think it only right to show that those whose surnames commence with the letter A do not possess any advantage.
– Why did the late Mr. Ceabrook change his name?
– At the 1934 general election the late Mr. Ceabrook changed the initial letter of his surname from S to C in order that his name would appear at the top of the list of candidates; but he polled only 3,306 primary votes, whilst Senator Herbert Hays, whose name was further down, polled 5,270. Another candidate named Howroyd, and Senator Grant, whose names were in the middle of the list of candidates, polled 12,218 and 14,979 primary votes respectively. The late Mr. Ceabrook polled so badly that I believe he lost his deposit. When in 1937 my name appeared first on the ballot-paper, I secured 26,545 primary votes. Honorable senators opposite account for that result by suggesting that electors became illiterate during that interval of three years. The name of ex-Senator Sampson, who secured approximately 17,000 votes, was not at the top of the ballot-paper, and that supports my contention that the people voted mast intelligently.
Senator Dein’s assertion that Senator Sheehan was opposed to the practice of pre-selection is not correct. Further, he stated in general terms that all members of the Labour party are pledged to pre-selection. Evidently Senator Dein does not take the trouble to make himself conversant with the facts, about which he pretends to know everything. Whilst the Labour party hi some States has adopted pre-selection, in other States, it is not pledged to the principle. All States select their candidates purely on their merits.
– Is a pre-selection ballot conducted in Tasmania?
– No. Candidates are selected by the executive for their ability to serve their constituents. To contend that all members of the Labour party are compelled to submit themselves to pre-selection, and that only those whose surnames begin with A arc chosen,- is to descend to the ridiculous. The statistics that I quoted prove conclusively that the so-called “ accident “ - according to Senator Dein - which occurred when the Labour party almost swept the polls in the last Senate elections was not associated with the fact that the surnames of many of our candidates begin with A.
– Then why does not the honorable senator support “the bill?
– With some portions of the bill I am in complete accord. In some respects it is the lesser of two evils. Whilst disagreeing with the horizontal ballot-paper, I have no objection to the proposal that groups should draw for the positions that they will occupy on the ballot-paper and no objection to drawing for positions in the groups. If the names of candidates are placed one beneath another instead of horizontally, the number of informal votes cast might be reduced. I support the amendment because the bill does not go far enough. Greater improvements in Senate electoral procedure could be made, but, first, such proposals require mature consideration.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– Obviously the system of voting which allows 51 per cent, of the electors representation in the Senate and denies representation to the minority of 49 per cent, is defective. Surely, a more democratic system than that could be evolved ! At present the minority can obtain no representation. It is possible that, in the event of a double dissolution,’ the newly-elected Senate might comprise 36 members of the same party.
– Is not the Senate at present representative of public opinion?
– The Labour party has a fair representation now.
– But not enough yet.
– The representation of the Labour party in this chamber was strengthened at the last elections, not because the names of many Labour candidates appeared on the top of the ballotpaper, but because the- people voted intelligently. Definitely a swing occurred in our favour, although that statement has been denied by the Minister in charge of the bill, who declared that we owe our election to the fact that our names begin with A.
– I think that some of the honorable senators opposite admit that.
– I do not admit it. Statistics prove that 75 per cent. of the candidates whose names were placed at the top of the ballot-paper have been unsuccessful. When honorable senators opposite attribute our success to the fact that our surnames begin with A, they are discourteous and disrespectful to us and cast a reflection upon the intelligence of electors.
– I support the amendment, because a thorough investigation of Senate electoral procedure is long overdue. Certain events that occurred some years ago are still looked at askance by decent people. When the Labour party had a majority in the Senate it did not find it necessary, in order to achieve that position, to resort to trickery, cajolery or chicanery in amending the electoral law.
– That is rubbish.
– A reference to H asard will prove the accuracy of my statement. When the Labour Opposition went to bed one night, it had a majority in the Senate. It woke up next morning to discover that its majority had been converted into a minority. After the dinner adjournment on the 1st March, 1917, the President announced to the chamber that he had received the resignation of Senator Ready at 6.1 p.m. The Argus on the following day published this item: -
Mr. Earle Appointed.
Hobart (Tasmania), Thursday
The Premier (Mr. Lee), on his return from the mainland to-night, receiveda communication from the State Governor (Sir William Ellison-Macartney ) that Senator Ready had resigned his seat in the Senate. As it was desirable that the vacancy should be filled as soon as possible, an executive council meeting was held at Government House to-night and Mr. John Earle, M.H.A., formerly Leader of the Tasmanian Labour party, was appointed to represent Tasmania in place of Mr. Ready.
Prior to his appointment Mr. Earle handed in his resignation as the member for Franklin in the House of Assembly.
I quote that paragraph to show that the Government should appoint a select committee to examine proposals and make recommendations for improving the system of election. If our democracy is to survive, the electoral law must be made watertight. This bill proposes to delete the provision requiring notice of objection to enrolment to be forwarded to the elector whose name is to be removed. That would have a most unfortunate result. Under the law, if objection is lodged, an officer who receives the notice of objection is required to inform the elector, who then has an opportunity again to fill in an enrolment card. This is an important safeguard which should be retained in the bill. I say this because I have a clear recollection of what happened in 1925 in the electorate now represented by Sir Earle Page. At that time the Dorrigo railway line was under construction, and there was considerable movement of workers. No fewer than 700 objections were lodged in respect of electors enrolled for Coramba, Glenreagh and Dorrigo. One elector to whom objections were lodged had been living in the district for 25 years with his wife and daughter. If this provision is deleted from the act, it willbe possible for some unscrupulous person to lodge objections to bona fide electors and have their names removed from the roll. I happened to be campaigning in the Cowper electorate at the time, and when I learned of what had been done, I went to Kempsey to make inquiries. I discovered that an organizer of the Country party, a gentleman named Munro, having secured a copy of the electoral roll, sat down in his hotel, and lodged objections to any person whose enrolment indicated that he or she was a domestic or labourer. I took the matter up with Mr. Fitzgerald, the then State member for Oxley, and as the result we secured the reinstatement of over 600 names. I mention this incident in order to impress on the Senate the necessity for retaining this provision requiring notification to the elector concerned of any objection lodged to his enrolment. Could not that be described as trickery and cajolery? At the last election Labour supporters gave to Senator Amour 711,463 votes, I received 711,010 votes, Senator Ashley 708,357, and Senator Armstrong 705,280. That was the largest vote ever recorded for candidates in Australia.
– Order ! It is more, orderly to say that a statement is incorrect.
– If Senator Dein would study the official statistics on this subject he would get enlightenment. This evening, when Senator Amour was speaking, Senator Dein said that I was a Federal Labour candidate in 1931. That was wholly incorrect. I was not then a Federal Labour candidate. In this debate there has been much comment upon the method of selecting Senate candidates, and pointed reference has ‘been made to those honorable senators whose names, like mine, begin with the letter A. But we neednot flog that matter too much. Senator Dein might remember that the original Adam also had that distinction, and other great men in history have been similarly endowed; amongst them are Aristotle and two famous citizens of the United States of America, father and son, whose name I bear.
A further reason for the appointment of this proposed joint committee is the fact that the bill contains no provision for voting at Commonwealth elections by those young men soon to be sent overseas to fight in defence of this country. Government supporters would have us believe that their hearts bleed for our soldiers, but they do not hesitate to conscript them for overseas war service, and they have not thought it necessary to make provision for their voting at a Commonwealth election.
– We had the right to vote during the last war.
– Only for the referendums.
This law has had 20 years of trial. Simply because the Government and its supporters imagine that the electors may make a habit of voting for Senate candidates by marking the ballot-papers from top to bottom, it is now proposed to amend the act. The Government would do a better job if it allowed the working of the electoral machinery to be examined by a joint committee of both Houses. The provision relating to scrutineers should also be investigated, because of the many complaints that have been made. During some elections scrutineers have gone to polling places armed with the necessary authority, but because a “bouncing” United Australia party returning officer happened to be in charge, they were unable to carry out their duties properly.
– If a scrutineer has authority he must be permitted to act.
– Does the honorable senator remember what happened in Tasmania in connexion with the Earle Ready incident? I know that sometimes scrutineers are not permitted to act. During one election I noticed at a polling booth that several voting papers were protruding from the ballot-box. It would have been possible for an unscrupulous person to tamper with those papers during, say, the temporary absence of the presiding officer. At some polling places, a squatter and his jackeroo may be acting as poll clerks or returning officers. If a joint committee were appointed it would be possible to obtain evidence of improper practices on the part of poll clerks or returning officers It is no secret that at some places squatters and jackeroos have asked their employees to vote openly.
– What rubbish!
– The honorable senator is ill-informed on some aspects of election happenings. In the matter of postal votes, for instance, there is provision that secretaries of hospitals may witness applications. As a Justice of the Peace, I have had the privilege of witnessing signatures of applicants at some hospitals. On one occasion the medical officer told me that two patients were not in a fit state to sign an application for a voting paper, but ten minutes after I had left the hospital, the sisterincharge, herself a competent witness attested the signatures and, I believe influenced the votes.
– That is merely a statement; it does not prove anything.
– Any amendment of the electoral law should be in the direction of making watertight all of the provisions relating to voting. I say this because at an election for the Legislative Council of New South Wales some years ago, I found that in the division of Willoughby, people were enrolled for three vacant blocks of land and actually voted.
– What nonsense!
– Clearly Senator Dein is not very conversant with many political happenings in New South Wales. Perhaps it will interest him to learn of another incident that took place a few years’ ago at Dubbo in connexion with a State election. Dubbo, I believe, is in the Commonwealth electorate of Darling, and the State roll is used also for Commonwealth purposes. A Liberal organizer, who later became a Nationalist, and was at one time associated with the “All for Australia” party, drifted into Dubbo. and did certain things.’ The outcome was the appointment of a commissionto inquire into what Mr. Burton Smith,S.M., alleged had been done. The candidate was Mr. R. W. D. Weaver, the present Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. The evidence elicited the fact that the lady who had been appointed organizer for the Liberal party went to the local cemetery and obtained from a number of tombstones the names . of -certain persons whom she enrolled, and for whom some one voted. If a vote is posted,’ and ‘ the” date stampedonthe the envelope is legible, the returning officer may admit it if it be received not later than seven days after polling day. If honorable senators scrutinize the date stamp ontheir mail to-morrow, they will “find that on very few envelopes is it legible. Sometimes the date stamp is merely a black smudge.
– In such a case the vote would be informal.
– This matter should be made watertight. We suggest that a joint committee is a body best qualified to investigate defects of this kind.. ‘ The democracy should be given a chance to cast a vote that will not be on t he same lines as in 1919, when the existing system, was introduced and confused t he people. It was by such. means that theGovernment of the day secured an overwhelming majority, whilst only one Labour candidate was elected to the Senate. What is wrong with the present system of postal voting to warrant this provision ? Under this measure theMinister will be given power to declare certain divisions to be remote divisions. Possibly he will be empowered to say that soldiers serving overseas constitute a remote electoral division, because I notice that this measure contains no provision to enable soldiers on active service to record a vote.
It is also proposed to admit as. valid a ballot-paper on which one square has been left blank, so long as the intention of the voter is clear. That provision should be tightened, particularly in respect of ballot-papers on which four names appear. Should a voter mark such a paper “ 1, 2, 3” and leave’ the fourth square vacant, there is a danger that, in a booth of the kind to which I have referred, where a squatter is the returningofficer and his jackeroo the poll clerk, it could be tampered with by converting the “ 1 “ into a “4 “, and by placing the figure ‘“1 “ in the square left vacant by the voter. This provision should be made thoroughly watertight, particularly in respect of such ballot-papers. Another matter to which thorough consideration could be given by a joint committee is the age at: which persons become qualified to vote. The Labour party advocates avote for every person who, is eighteen years . or over, and it is quite possible that such a committee might recommend that proposal. If it is good enough to conscript for military service boys who have never had a vote, surely it is not too much to ask a committee to say whether these young men shall be entitled to vote.
A committee of the kind proposed by the Leader of the Opposition in his amendment could also investigate the unfair treatment of non-government parties in the press and over the air. This evil has been very noticeable during the last two years. On every occasion on which a Minister speaks at some guzzle, or dinner, at a privileged club, he indulges in politics, whilst night after night United Australia party propaganda isput over the air. A committee could investigate that evil, in order to ensure fair treatment of ali parties in the presentation of political news and comments in the press and on the air. It is significant that to-day the Leaders of the Opposition in this Parliament are given very little space in the press.
Reference has been made in this debate to the method by which honorable senators on this side from New South Wales were selected by the Labour party. At one stage in the United Australia party plebiscite in that State prior to the Last election the candidates selected were Aarons, Arkins, Hall and Hardy.
– The honorable senator cannot tell the truth in connexion with this matter.
– It was discovered by Mr. Hardy, who was a Country party candidate, that as four senators were to be elected, his name would appear on the bottom of the joint party group on the ballot-paper, and, consequently, if successful he would be elected for a. term of only three years. In order to consummate the United Australia party-Country party pact, Mr. Aarons was dropped, and a Mr. Hellmore was brought in, with the result that Mr. Hardy’s name appeared third in the group and Mr. Hellmore’s fourth. A further reason why Mr. Aarons was dropped was that he was a gentleman of the same mentality as Mr. Maddocks, ex-chairman of the New South Wales Transport Board. I feel sure that were a committee appointed to investigate matters of this kind, arising under our electoral law, in respect of elections of all kinds, - including those of municipal councils, evidence would be produced which would astound the people of Australia.
Senator COOPER (Queensland) flO.251. - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) -has proposed that this measure be referred to a joint committee of both Houses. Whilst the debate generally has dealt, with that proposal, T am very sorry that the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has made very grave allegations as to what goc on in certain polling booths without offering a shred of evidence in support of his statements. All of his accusations were based on hearsay. T-f T felt inc.lined. T could ma>p many accusations, based not merely on hearsay but on evidence which I could produce. For instance, at the last State election in Queensland, a very nasty position arose in the electorate of Ithaca. However, I do not desire to deal with matters of that, kind. It merely would be mud-slinging.
It has been stated that a vote has not yet been given to members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. That is correct, but I have no doubt that in due course those men will be given a vote. In the last war soldiers on active service overseas were not given a vote until 1917. Senator Amour, as a returned man, will recall that in connexion with federal elections at that time, our soldiers overseas were given ballot-papers on which they had the option of voting either for the ministerial party or the Opposition. No names appeared on those ballot-papers. I presume that a similar course will be followed on this occasion. However, it was not until as late as yesterday that we knew that a force is to be sent overseas, and, in view of the immense amount of work confronting the Government in connexion with its defence programme, we can not reasonably expect this matter has already been dealt with.
This measure effects badly needed reforms in the electoral law. This is not the first occasion on which the suggestion that the ballot-paper should be improved has been made. I have discussed this subject with many electors in Queensland during the last three years. This measure is riot an eleventh-hour 171.re to secure the return to this chamber of members of the parties supporting the Government, although it is true that the great majority of senators who will have to face their masters at the next elections are Government supporters. An alteration of the present system of voting was strongly advocated prior to the last general election. In my opinion, one of the greatest factors which- contributed to the success of Labour Senate candidates at the last election was the snorting spirit of the Australian electors. Tt was pointed out to them that 33 mem.bers of this chamber were on the Government side and only three on the Opposition. The Labour party naturally made as much political capital as possible out of that fact, and the electors, in order to spp fair play, returned Labour candidates in every State except South Australia. Had there been a general swing towards Labour, the voting for the House of Representatives would have resulted differently. I have met electors of all parties in Queensland, and they have complained that it is difficult for them to pick out the Candida tes for whom they desire to vote when they are furnished with a long alphabetical list of names as they were at the last elections.. The social credit supporters made certain of voting for their own candidates, and after that they did not trouble much as to the order in which they filled in the remaining squares.
The average elector is rather nervous on entering the ballot-box. Federal and State elections are held only once in three years. As they approach the booth, they arc often molested by canvassers, and when they reach the voting place they may have in their hands three or four “How to Vote “ cards. It would be an advantage to all parties to have a ballot-paper with the names arranged horizontally. Under the grouping system, the electors would be able to pick out readily the names of the candidates whom they desi reel to see returned. As the position of each group would have to be balloted for, each would have an equal chance of being placed on the extreme left. Those voters who indiscriminately numbered their ballot from left to right, irrespective of the names of the candidates, would thusgive a vote to each group instead of giving a chance vote, as at the present time, to the party whose candidates happened to be at the top of the ballot-paper. I should like to see each group named so that the elector could readily pick out the names of the candidates of the various parties. This would result in the recording of a much more intelligent vote- for the Senate than has been obtained in the past. In Queensland, the proportion of informal votes east at the last two elections was the smallest in the Commonwealth, and I should like to see the people of Australia generally taking as much interest in elections as is apparently shown by the people of Queensland. This bill is designed to reduce informal voting and to give equal chances to the parties contesting elections. I have no doubt that ii will be passed.
– I support the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The very matter that we are discussing to-night was dealt with in 1919, when an attempt was made to abandon the alphabetical system and to substitute that of determining the order of the names by lot. I am not satisfied that a candidate whose surname begins with A has any great advantage over other candidates. An analysis of the voting at many elections since 1919 fails to show that the A candidate has an advantage. An amendment was submitted in 1919 by Senator O’Keefe, who was not of the same political colour a3 the present Government, and the Government of the day refused to depart from the alphabetical system. Since 1919, no action has been taken until the present time to alter this method. It was never considered *to be an advantage for a candidate to have a surname commencing with A, B, or even D.
– Why emphasize the letter D?
– Because Senator Dein has stated definitely that the four senators from New .South Wales whose names begin with A owe their election to the fact that their names appeared at the top of the ballot-paper; but I pointout that Senator Dein’s name was also at the top of the paper, -.and. he, too,- was elected. Reference has been made to the fact’, that one candidate in Tasmania had changed his name in order to give him the right to a place at the top of the ballot-paper. I do not mind whether a candidate’s name is placed at the top or at the bottom of the list. I am strongly opposed to that portion of the bill to which Senator Arthur directed particular attention. I consider it more democratic to arrange the names of the candidates in alphabetical order than to give to the returning officer power to decide by lot the order in which the names of candidates shall appear on the ballot-paper.
– Under the proposed system every candidate will have an equal opportunity.
– Does the honorable senator, who persists in interrupting my remarks, consider the presentsystem undemocratic? Senator Johnston referred to a pre-selection ballot recently conducted at the Trades Hall in Western Australia, and, asa member of the executive of the Labour party in that State, I offer no objection to the system adopted in that instance. The members of the Labour party in Western Australia decided before the pre-selection ballot was conducted that, in fairness to all the. candidates concerned such a method should be adopted. The proposal was re-, f erred to the Western Australian branch of the Australian Labour party, which gave its approval.
– I did not suggest that it was unfair.
– It is not the recognized practice of the Labour party to conductall ballots in that manner.
SenatorMcBride. - But surely the members of the Labour party would not do anything wrong?
– If any member of that party should vote for the Assistant Minister at the next general electionhe would be doing wrong. Senator Dein asked if caucus had reached any decision with respect to pre-selection ballots, but caucus . has nothing whatever to do with such ballots, as they are controlled by the organizations: in the States concerned. I do not suggest that all the provisions of this measure are unacceptable to members of the Opposition, but there are matterssuch as those mentioned by Senator Arthurwhich should be inquired into. Senator . Cooper, who suggested that SenatorArthur should support his arguments with : f acts, will agree that a select committee should be appointed toinquire into the working of our electoral system and recommend directions in which improvements can be made and anomalies removed. Senator Dein said that weare dealing not with State Parliaments, municipalities ‘ or shires but with the method of electing senators, but I remind him that members of the House of Representative’s will bo affected by this bill.
– They need notagree to that portion which affects ‘ them.
– Senator Dein has in effect supported the appointment of a select committee, because hisremarks indicate that there is need for an investigation of certain phases of our electoral law . When an electoral bill was introduced into this Parliament some time ago, a member of the Opposition in this chamber moved to insert a provision similar to one embodied in this bill, but the government of the day opposed it. As the present system has been in operation since 1919, there is no need to rush this measure through in the way the Government desires. A select committee should be appointed to investigate the various points which have been raised by the Opposition.
– Cannot the members of this Parliament do that?
– I agree with Senator Cunningham that our electoral system should be inquired into by experts in the department who have a closer knowledge of the working of our electoral law than have members of this Parliament. Many of the anomalies which now exist have been brought about by an electoral bill passed by Parliament some time ago, and as some years have elapsed since the law has been amended in any important degree, a select committee assisted by exports could make useful recommendations which would doubtless be adopted by this Parliament. Senator Dein is supporting this measure because he wishes to serve certain interests and to gain some advantage.
– Who is to gain an advantage?
– The honorable senator is seeking an advantage
– The honorable senator should be fair. He has made a statement which he cannot support with facts.
– The honorable senator reminds me of a parrot. We have also to consider the claims of those who . are going overseas . with the 2nd Australian Imperial . Force and others who may leave Australia subsequently on active service. Iam anxious to preserve not only the rights of those who are living in Australia, but also the right’s of those who may go overseas to assist in the defence of the Empire.
– As one of the members of this chamber who urged the Government in:June, 1937to amend the Electoral Act in relationtothemethod of electing senators, I congratulate the Administration on having introduced this measure. My only regret is that it did not bring down the bill two years ago when we strongly urged it to do so. If it had done so the last general election might have shown a different result. The reason why I personally advocated the amendment was to discountenance the action of the Labour party in New South Wales iri angling for the votes of unintelligent electors by the selection of candidates whose surnames began with A to represent the party in the Senate. Although ‘for many years I had considered that the act-should be amended in various directions, it was not until that sorry exhibition occurred that I was prompted to ask the Government to take action.
The only other part of the bill to which [ desire to refer is that relating to the position of electors in remote parts of Western Australia and other States who, in the past have been prejudiced in exercising their franchise on account of the paucity of mails. In nearly the whole of the State north of the 26th parallel, mails are rare and in many places the inhabitants have not been: aware that a federal election was in progress. I am gratified that the Government has given consideration to their disability in that respect and by this bill is granting seventeen additional days in which to allow for the arrival of postal votes .from far distant parts. The act now provides that an application for. a ballotpaper shall not be admissible until the issue of the -writ. The bill amends that provision by making an application admissible ten days prior to the issue of the writ and allowing seven additional days for the receipt of the ballot-paper by the returning officer. In the Kimberleys, the additional seventeen days may mean the difference between an elector being able, and not being able to exercise his franchise. Other amendments to the bill are most desirable because they bring the act up to date.
Senator KEANE (Victoria) [11.4Q.- Whilst I consider that the bill possesses some excellent features, I shall vote for the amendment proposing the appointment of a joint committee of ‘both Houses to examine the electoral procedure of the
Senate. Ample justification exists for the appointment of such a committee, because various matters have been ventilated by honorable senators which should form the subject- of a deliberate inquiry. . During the debate I interjected that successive governments , of .lie same political colour as the present Administration have.. had eighteen years in which to correct electoral anomalies. When I discussed the matter with my colleagues, my first impression was .that the bill was “ loaded “ inasmuch as - hitherto United Australia party governments took no such action. The late Prime Minister (Mr., Lyons) in 1934 land again in 1937 made. a. strong point of the fact that a minority constituting 49 per cent. of the electors in a State might secure no representation in this chamber, and that the rectification of such a. position would be the subject of a special bill. Unfortunately such legislation was not introduced. In 1925, I was a candidate for the .Senate and the opponents of the Labour party in Victoria were retiring Senators Elliott, Guthrie, Plain and Mr. Andrews. With grave industrial disturbances, occurring month after month throughout Australia, there never- was greater need for the Labour party to be strongly represented in the Senate. Unfortunately although we polled 48$ per cent. “ of the votes, the four United Australia party candidates were returned. The minority of the electors who voted for the Labour party ‘obtained’ no representation whatever. In my opinion, a suspicious feature about the introduction of the bill is that successive United Australia party governments failed to reform the electoral laws years ago. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that while many big issues that concern all political parties are claiming the attention of the National Parliament, the time is not opportune to proceed with the bill.
A3 the measure applies to the House of . Representatives, inasmuch as” the positions on the ballot-paper of the names of candidates for that chamber are also affected, it is a powerful reason for appointing a joint committee… to examine it.
The order in which the names of candidates appear on the- ballot-paper is all important. In a Senate election in Victoria the first position on the paper is worth 25,000 votes. In New South “Wales the fortunate candidate occupying that position may reap an additional 35,000 votes, which gives him a tremendous advantage. The Government’s suggestion that candidates should draw lots for the positions in which their names will be placed on the ballot-paper does not appear to be objectionable. In my opinion, however, the horizontal ballot-paper will not be helpful, as a number of electors will place “ 1, 2 and 3 “ against the names appearing on the extreme left and ignore all others, thus increasing the number of informal votes. Australian electors have become accustomed to the vertical ballot-paper and once the probability of the unfair advantage given to the candidate whose name appears at the top of the ballot-paper is eliminated, the principal objection will be overcome. The abolition of the old order of grouping also has much to commend it.
The Labour party will continue to con- . duct pre-selection ballots and probably four candidates whose names begin with A or B will again be chosen to represent it. At the same time I remind honorable senators that their choice will represent the wish of those who participate in the selection ballot. In one such ballot in Victoria, approximately 30,000 votes were cast and the counting and checking, which was carried out by experts, occupied a month and involved a very large expenditure. But it assured the Labour movement that the three successful candidates were the elect of the party. That system will be continued.
Honorable senators, I hope, will agree that a select committee would be a fitting body to examine proposals to improve the present electoral system. Even at the moment, when honorable senators are in an amiable mood, the bill will not receive the consideration that it deserves. The amendments will have repercussions on all political parties. It is quite possible that even the able officers who advise the Minister may have overlooked some important factor, and the oversight, unless corrected, will add to the confusion that now occurs.
Senator Arthur indicated that under the present act corruption and grave abuses are possible. When I contested the Bendigo seat, a Government official who superintended the voting in one centre, told certain persons : “ For Heaven’s sake, do not support Keane. If you do you will lose your pension “. Unfortunately, my committee was ignorant of the circumstances until .too late. Members of the Womens National League in Bendigo approached old-age pensioners, who were unable to attend a polling-booth, secured their authority to obtain an authorization form, collected the form, and signed1 it.” It is futile to contend that such things do not occur, although the general administration of the Electoral Department is as efficient as that of any other governmental machine. The act could, and should, be tightened up.
The government of the day has the prerogative of appointing returning officers and poll clerks. When the Scullin Government was in office and the army of unemployed was considerable, I made desperate efforts to induce the Administration to issue instructions that while government employees, such as schoolmasters and railway nien, should continue to act as returning officers, the unemployed should fill the positions of ordinary poll clerks.
– Was not preference given to returned soldiers?
– I cannot say. The government employees drew a satisfactory fee for their services, to the disadvantage of the unemployed to whom the work would have presented no difficulty. The returning officer received £3 3s. and his assistant 30s., which would be a windfall to an unemployed man. I do not. desire to cast any reflection upon government employees who were appointed returning officers, but I know that in Victoria many have been given those positions. I also know their views about the Labour party. Some honorable senators may contend that Senator Arthur has a too suspicious mind, but every precaution should he taken to safeguard the rights of representatives, candidates and electors.
– The faults are not one-sided.
– That is true. The officers should have the fullest opportunity to see that all candidates have “ a fair go “. Senator Dein’s speech contained much merit. From his viewpoint, he propounded’ an excellent case; but it is a great pity that his capacity is wasted somewhat by his efforts continually to make political capital out of irrelevant issues. We have been asked to state the platform of the Labour party with regard to the Senate. . Honorable senators know what it is. Labour stands definitely for the abolition of the Senate, but our immediate objective is the abolition of the Ministerial party. Some day when this country gives to Labour full power in both Houses - and I’ believe that that day is not far distant - this chamber will be in jeopardy. I say this because the average citizen does not understand why measures passed in the House of Representatives, which is elected by the same people as vote for the Senate, are rejected in the Senate if the Government has not a majority in this chamber. The people look upon the Senate as an Upper House, and therefore a superfluous institution.
– Its function is to protect the interests of the smaller States.
– I am well aware of the function of the Senate under the Constitution. But the people remember that the Senate also protected certain big financial interests in the gravest crisis that’ has ever confronted this country. They do not forget that the Senate prevented the passage of legislation which would have given relief to a tremendous army of unemployed, and would also haveenabled the Government to stabilize the wheat industry, concerning which Senator Wilson spoke to-night. If the Scullin Government’s legislation had been passed, we should not have had the spectacle of the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) giving ground day after day to repeated demands by or on behalf of wheat-growers, until at the present time this Government is committed to an expenditure of £27.000,000, win, lose or draw, in respect of the wheat industry. All this would have been obviated if the Senate had not rejected the bill introduced by the Scullin Government in 1930 and passed through the House of Representatives. However, I repeat that the immediate objective .of the Labour party is the removal of the Ministerial party in this Parliament.
The provision in the bill relating to the power to be given to secretaries of hospitals in connexion with postal voting privileges is somewhat, dangerous. I say this with some knowledge of how the average hospital is run. I agree that, in general, hospitals are conducted by quite excellent people, many of whom are not of our party. But I also know that the admission of Labour patients has been seriously resisted in some hospitals. Honorable senators may say that this is a generalization. I could name one at Cheltenham, near Melbourne. Bendigo is all right; so also is Castlemaine. As a rule each political party has its organizers, who go into these institutions and do all that is necessary. This proposal relating to the secretaries of hospitals is dangerous, because usually the secretary is dependent on the managing committee for his job, and in some circumstances his position may become difficult. I believe that the Senate would be well advised to accept the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings).
Senator Herbert Hays has suggested that we can discuss in committee the many suggestions that have been offered in this debate. Some important . provisions may be overlooked unless the proposal to amend the law be referred to a joint committee. As the law has been in operation for so many years, there is no need, at this late hour, to amend it in the hope that it will be made fool-proof.
Senator Allan MacDonald spoke of the sorry result of the last election. I have no doubt that the honorable senator and his friends did think the result a sorry one, because Labour gained sixteen seats in the Senate, though perhaps he was referring more particularly to the success of the four Labour candidates in New South Wales. They were elected by a clear majority of 60,000, and whatever may be the opinion of some honorable senators as to the manner of their selection, the fact is that they are the elect of the people of New South Wales. So also are their successful colleagues from Queensland. They represent a State which for many, years has been under a Labour government that had the courage to abolish the Legislative Council, in order to pass legislation for the benefit of the whole State. The people of Queensland have good reason to be proud of their progress and financial position under Labour rule. The four Labour senators from New South Wales represent the Labour movement in that State, and they would have been elected regardless of the position of their names on the ballotpaper. They were sent to the poll with the full backing of the Labour movement iu that State and they won by 60,000 votes. I leave the matter there. I support the amendment and hope that it will be carried.
. -This evening we have learned a good deal about the method of electing members of this chamber. Until the election of Senator Aylett and myself, as representatives- of ‘Labour in Tasmania, that State had been without a Labour member for eighteen years. The figures quoted by Senator Aylett this evening proved conclusively that a candidate whose surname starts with the letter A is not always successful. I was in Sydney when the poll was declared in connexion with the last Federal election, and I recall seeing there Senator Arkins, who had just been defeated. He also was near the top of the ballot-paper; yet he was defeated, and he had a good deal to say against the method employed for the selection of the four Labour candidates. But I seem to remember that he was a Labour renegade, and I have no doubt that he got his desserts. Another unsuccessful candidate was Mr. Hall who, f believe, was another Labour renegade. Some people seem to have the impression that once they secure election to this chamber they have bought the seat, and regard it. as an outrage if the electors put others in their places. I do not take that view. The electors have a perfect right to say who shall be here and who shall not be here. Senator Dein, this evening, several times challenged statements that were made by Senator Arthur, who was merely retailing his personal experiences. He was not telling the Senate - of things that someone else had told him. Therefore, Senator Dein should not have questioned, his veracity. The bill has been fully debated, and .1. am convinced that the best course is to appoint a joint- committee-, of both Houses to examine thoroughly Commonwealth electoral machinery. The debate has disclosed that the bill- has been prepared hurriedly, and I think- thai, there is a good deal ‘in the statement that we should not have heard of it if the Government had not believed that its supporters would gain some advantage at the next election. During the whole of the time that Tasmania had no representation in this chamber, there were no complaints about the electoral law. Immediately Labour candidates won-,. an election in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania, Ministers and their supporters questioned the method of election. They should have taken their defeat in Tasmania in a better spirit, because one Tasmanian anti-Labour senator had been here for eighteen years, another for about the same period, and a third for about twelve years. They had a good innings. I hope that the Senate will accept the amendment, because I believe that the inquiry proposed will be in the interests of the electors. -
– It is significant that, although the existing law has been in operation for twenty years, the Government had not thought of altering it until Labour was so successful -at the last election. Five years ago Digger Dunn topped, the Senate poll with 416,997 primary votes, or 30,000 votes more than the number polled for Senator Dein; yet in the final count and after preferences had been distributed, Senator Dein was elected and Digger Dunn rejected. Our friends on the Government ‘bench and their supporters made no attempt then to amend the electoral law, although it was evident that the system was at fault somewhere. There have been frequent references in this debate to the fact that at the last Senate election, four Labour candidates for New South Wales having names beginning with the letter A were elected. I am one of them. The method of our election has been criticized. The Government and its supporters are not playing “ cricket “ in this matter. They have overlooked the fact that we had nothing whatever to do with the making of the electoral law under which we were elected. I would also point out that we conducted an extensive campaign in connexion with the pre-selection. ballot. I, and my colleagues, Senators Amour, Arthur, and Armstrong, travelled all over the State. I know that the campaign cost me a good deal of money, because I sent out 40,000 “ dodgers “ to Labour voters. We were selected by 30,000 of our people, and I think that the fact that we had travelled over, the State so extensively was an importantfactor in our success at the poll. I mention this fact in order to dispose of the idea that we were hand-picked, and werecertain of election merely because our surnames start with the letter A. Senator Allan MacDonald said to-night that if the Government and its supporters had taken notice of suggestions which he made in 1937, we, the “ four As”, as we are termed, would not have been here.
– He said that they might not be here.
– I regret thatI misheard the honorable senator. However, he said that if his advice had been accepted probably the “four A’s “ would not havebeen elected. Is not that admission by a supporter of the Government proof conclusive that the idea behind this measure is to defeat Labour candidates whose surnames commence with one of the early letters of the alphabet?
I agree with the proposal to set out the party groups horizontally on the ballot-paper.. That is absolutely fair. No candidate should be given an advantage over other candidates through the position which his name occupies on the ballot-paper. However, I gainedno advantage in that respect when Isucceeded at the last election. Had I borne,a surname commencing withR, of J,or any other of the later letters of the alphabet, I feel certain that-, judgedon my record in my party, I should have been just as successful at the plebiscite.I make that statement because much comment has been madein thischamber. regarding the success at the lastelections of the f our New South Walessenators on this side..’ Under this measure it is proposed to enable residents in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory to witness postal votes. If the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition be adopted, perhaps the committee proposed, in considering this point, will give consideration to the advisability of granting a vote at elections for the Senate to residents of the territories. Surely that matter is worthy of consideration. Senator Dein suggested that but for the fact that the names of the four Labour candidatesfor the Senate in New South Wales commence with A, we would have been defeated art; the last election by 100,000 votes. The inference to be drawn from that statement is that 100,000 of the voters in that State are unintelligent.
– I said nothing of the kind. Let the honorable senator explain my majority of 185,000 at the preceding elections.
– That is inexplicable.
– I suggest that the introduction of a new method of voting will tend to increase the number of informal votes. I recall that when the “ X “ method of voting was abolished many people continued to use the cross. Likewise much confusion will arise when the names of candidates appear across the ballot-paper in groups according to the party to which they belong - Labour party, United Australia party, Country party, and Communist party.
– There will not be a Communist party next time.
– Have the Communists given the honorable senator that information? I know that he is in touch with them, and I accept his word that the Communist party will not run a can; didate at the next election. I predict that, when the names appear in groups arranged across the ballot-paper many people will merely fill inthesquares opposite one group only.
I strongly object to the proposal that ballot-papers on which one squarehasbeen left vacant should be deemed valid. On this point. I agree with. Senator Arthur. Unless this provision bemade thoroughly watertightthe door,. will be opened to malpractices. From my knowledge of the careless handling of ballotpapers in booths in the country I know that abundant opportunity will be given to people so inclined to tamper with them. What instruction is to be issued to voters in order to .inform them that a ballot-paper on which one square is left vacant will be valid, so long as the inten-1 ion of the voter is made clear ?
– The instruction will simply be that the voter must place a figure opposite the name of each candidate in the order of his preference.
– I am inclined to agree with Senator Arthur’s observations on this matter.’
– The system proposed under this measure already operates in respect of the election of members of the House of Representatives.
– I support the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Colling’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. 13. Hayes.) Ayes . . . . 15
Ma jority . . .4 Ayes.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Subdivisions)
.- Will the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) explain the object of this clause? It provides for the addition of the following sub-section to section 26 of the Principal Act: -
– This clause is consequential upon clauses 8 and 9, which relate to applications for postal-vote certificates and postal ballot-papers in subdivisions declared to be remote subdivisions.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Alteration of rolls).
– Will the Minister indicate the purpose of this clause?
– It provides for the amendment of section 47 of the act by omitting the second proviso to paragraph h of sub-section 1. The proviso proposed to be omitted reads -
Provided further that where a registrar removes any such name he shall send by post to the elector whose name is so removed notice of the fact.
The proviso, which relates to names removed by reason of a Commonwealth electoral officer’s certificate that the electors concerned have secured enrolment on another roll, while now serving no useful purpose, involves considerable waste of time, labour and expense which could be profitably employed in other directions. The proviso was inserted originally as an added safeguard against the possible wrongful removal of a name through confusion of identity; but such danger is now virtually non-existent, as all except a very few twenty-year-old claims in the index bear the date and and place of birth, in addition to other particulars ensuring definite identification.
– It is not now propored to give any notice?
– It is not necessary to do so, because the particulars on the card ensure the identification of the elector.
Senator ARTHUR (New ‘South Wales) 11.52]. - 1 record my emphatic protest against this proposal to delete the proviso that where a registrar removes a name in the circumstances under consideration, he shall notify the elector of the fact’ by post.
– It may be that in some cases there is not much advantage in notification, but only recently a member of my own family found that, after being on the roll for years at the address at which he has been living for the last 20 years, his name was taken off the roll, although his wife and adult family were still enrolled. On inquiry he was informed that a notice had been posted to him, and that he had ignored it. But no such notice had reached him. If he had not discovered by accident that his name had been removed from the roll he would have known nothing about it until he attempted to exercise the franchise. A name should not be struck off the roll merely because a postal employee reports that the elector does not reside at a certain address.
– When an objection is raised by any person against a name being on the roll, the elector concerned is notified in the usual way, but, when a returning officer has definite proof that a name appears on two rolls, he can strike the name off the roll on which it is superfluous, without notifying the individual concerned.
– What if his name is on one roll only?
– He would then be notified that an objection had been raised to his name being kept on the roll.
. -A name may appear on two rolls through an oversight. The returning officer is the person responsible for striking a name off the roll, but who is to determine the correct division for the enrolment of an elector?
– The returning officer would keep the elector on the roll for the division in which he resided, and strike his name off the roll for the d:vision for which he was no longer qualified.
– In one . case that came under my notice a name was struck off the roll owing to the similarity of the names of members of a family, although these persons had been enrolled for years.
– That does not occur.
– I know from personal experience that it does. Under the present law there is a chance of rectifying such mistakes, because notification of removal from the roll must, be sent to the individual concerned; but, under this provision, no such opportunity will be afforded.
– When an elector forwards to the Chief Electoral Officer a claim for enrolment the name of the elector is placed on the roll, and the elector is notified in the usual way that he has been enrolled. Should the Electoral Department find that the name of the elector- is on another roll his name is automatically removed so that it will appear only on one roll.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 12Ji5 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 1 December, 1989.
– Paragraph h of section 47 of the principal act, which is the only section to which this proviso relates, provides for the removal of a name from the roll by direction of the divisional returning officer upon the certificate of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, provided that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall not issue such certificate unless he is satisfied that the elector has ceased to qualify for enrolment or has secured enrolment on another roll. Notwithstanding the difficulties which Senator Sheehan visualizes tin’ elector has ample protection. The (-sifting proviso is being omitted ; it. is supererogation.
Clause agreed to. Clause 7-
After sui.-tion seventy-two a of the principal net tlie following section is inserted: - “ 72«. Candidates nominated for election to the Senate whose names are included in a group in accordance with tin; provisions of sei-.tion seventy-two a of this act may notify (In1 Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the
Suite of the order in which it is desired the ninnes of the candidates in the group shall appear in the ballot-papers, and where a notification in .pursuance of this section is received by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer from each of the candidates whose names are included in the group not later than twelve o’clock noon on the day of nomination and the names of the candidates in the group aic set out in all the notifications in . the same order, the names of the candidates in the group shall appear in the ballot-papers in that order “.
Senator WILSON (South Australia) 1 32.47 a.m.]. - I propose to move two amendments to this clause, but as one is consequential upon the other I ask leave to deal with them simultaneously. The object of the principal amendment is- to place above the names of the candidates grouped the denominations of the parties which they represent. On page 14 of the existing act the form nf the ballot-paper is set out, and candidates are placed in groups of A, B and 0 and so on. These letters mean absolutely nothing to many electors, and are really confusing. When an elector receives his ballot-paper he wonders what such letters mean. A ballot-paper should be as clear as possible, and should indicate the parties which candidates represent. Long before an election is held the newspapers publish daily the names of the candidates and the parties which they represent, and. it is only common sense that the party affiliations of candidates should also be placed on the ballot-paper. 1 move -
That the words “ section is “ be left out with a view to” insert, in lieu thereof the words sections are”; that after the word “order” last occurring the following now section be inserted:’ - “ 72c. Candidates nominated for election to the Senate whose names are included in a group ‘-in accordance with the provisions of section seventy-two a of this act may notify the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for 1 the State of the designation of the political party or parties, represented by the candidates whose mimes are- included in the group, and where a notification in pursuance of this section is received by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer from each of the candidates whose names are included in the group not later than twelve o’clock noon on the day of nomination’ and’ -the designation set out” in all the notifications .is the same, that designation, subject’ .to any- variation, addition or omission which the Commonwealth Electoral Officer thinks lit to make, shall appear in the ballotpapers’ above the narues’ of the candidates in the group.
Provided that where a notification in pursuance of this section is not received by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer from iia eli of. the candidates whose names are included in a. group not later than twelve o’clock noon on the day of nomination or where the designation set out in the notifications received from all the candidates is not the same, the designation which shall appear above the names, of. the candidates in the group shall be that determined bv the Commonwealth Electoral Officer.
The present practice is for candidates to agree amongst themselves to be grouped, and, having done so, they notify the returning officer that they wish to be included in a’ particular group. When the Labour party has pre-selected its candidates they notify . the returning officer that they desire to be grouped. In the future the same practice .will be adopted; but in notifying the ‘returning officer they will inform him that they desire to bo grouped together under the designation’ of “Labour” or ‘“Lab” or whatever abbreviation they may wish to use. Honorable senators will admit that this will simplify the ballot-paper which should be one of our objectives in amending the existing law. If this amendment be agreed to I shall move a consequential amendment when the schedule is under consideration.
“12.53 a.m.]. - As there seems to be a general desire on the part of honorable senators to support the amendment, the Government proposes to accept it. :
– I intend to oppose the amendment mainly for the reasons mentioned by Senator Cunningham in his second-reading speech! The party system has intruded into the Senate chamber, and we have come to recognize that fact in. many discussions and divisions. I should be one of the last, persons to encourage the expansion of -any party n linements here, because I desire to preserve, for its- long as possible, the original conception of the Senate,, as a States house. .. :. >:
– It is rather ,-lat.e -to attempt to restore’ that. .,( . ,;
– That is so: I oppose the amendment because it will restrict individual., candidature. If a particular group o£r three candidates is designated the official nominees of a party, other persons, possibly of the. same political beliefs as the endorsed or official candidates, will be discouraged from offering their services in. the legislature.
– Does the honor able senator know- of any division in this chamber which was not taken on party lines?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Yes; and I have participated in such divisions. I am strongly opposed to the proposal to place official party labels on- the ballot-paper for Senate elections.
– I understand that groups endorsed by the respective political parties will be designated on the ballot-paper, Labour, United Australia party and United Country party. Can Senator Wilson explain what the position will be if one independent United Australia party; and one independent Labour candidate should nominate? Will they be given a label?
: - So soon as the parties group themselves they will choose their own label and notify the electoral officer, who will proceed to place it above their names on the ballot-paper.
– Could more than one group be designated “ Country party”?
– Yes. . There could be Country party, United Australia party, Australian Country party and Independent Country party. Some persons, by misrepresentation, might endeavour to obtain a label, to which they were not entitled, but a safeguard is provided by the. amendment, which prescribes that if the electoral officer has any doubts about the matter, he may place what he considers to be the correct designation against their names.
– If the privilege of being granted a designation is not to be enjoyed by all candidates, I am not prepared to grant it to those who form a group. A person desiring to stand as an individual should have as much, right iu choose a party tag as have those in a team.
– Senator Wilson did not answer my question. I know that the groups will be labelled, but what will be the position of an independent candidate? ff he applies to the electoral officer in accordance with the prescribed procedure, will the word “Independent” be placed against his name?
– No provision is to be made for the placing of designations against the names of individual candidates. The labels will be granted only to the groups. The reason is obvious. Candidates form a group because they have a community of interest. As they stand for certain principles the elector is entitled to know what those principles are. That information can be conveyed to him by a party label.
– The amendment places on the Commonwealth electoral officer the onus of indicating on the ballot-paper that a candidate is an independent or that a group comprises three independents; but the mere fact, that a candidate is an. independent gives no indication of his principles.. Two candidates and I might be able to prove to the satisfaction of the electoral officer that .we were bona fide members of a political party, and I. for one should strongly object to being designated an independent, because the Australian elector is not very favorably disposed towards that term, particularly in Senate elections. In those circumstances, we should insist upon being designated by a party label. In the event of our winning a selective position on the ballot-paper, it might be most inconvenient because we should be not the official group of the party, but independents. I fail to understand why we should impose on the electoral officer the onus of determining the label to be placed against our names.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 8 (Application for postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper).
, - Will the Minister please explain the significance of the words “ the tenth day prior to”’$
– The object of that amendment is to extend postalvoting facilities. The royal commission of 1915 expressed the view that persons living in remote areas should be given all practicable facilities to exercise the postal vote. The amendment provides that an application for a postal vote may be made ten days prior to the issue of the writ instead of after the issue of the writ, the object being to assist electors in outback areas, where mails are infrequent, to overcome the difficulty of recording their votes.
– I understand that the object of the clause is to allow to electors in remote areas an extra ten days. I suggest that provision be made, wherever possible, for the air-mail service to be used in respect of votes cast in remote areas, such as the north-west of Western Australia, and Hall’s Creek, from which votes have to go to Perth and thence to Kalgoorlie. If the air mail could be used in such cases it would be of benefit to the electors.
.- The Chief Electoral “Officer assures me that he will take all necessary steps to ensure that wherever possible the air mail will be used to facilitate the return of ballotpapers.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Directions for postal voting).
– I should be glad if the Minister would give me some information concerning the amendments proposed in this clause.
– These amendments are consequential upon those contained in clause 16. Provision is made that the returning officer shall accept postal votes received within seven days of the close of the poll, if he is satisfied that the votes were posted prior to the closing hour for voting on polling day. In the course of the second-reading debate, an honorable senator asked how returning officers would satisfy themselves on that point. Various methods arc adopted. Instructions will be given to officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department to take special care that the date stamp on postal votes is impressed as clearly as possible. Again, if a postal vote is cast in Melbourne on a Saturday and it reaches Brisbane on the following Monday, it must obviously have been posted prior to the closing of the poll. Returning officers will use every means in their power to satisfy themselves on the point.
Senator COLLINGS (Queensland -
Leader of the Opposition) [1.15 a.m.]. - If this amendment is agreed to, votes may reach the returning officer up to seven days after the close of the poll. This means that postal votes may be floating around the country for a week. Under existing conditions that is not possible to anything like the same degree. I dislike the idea of votes floating around the country for so long after the poll has closed. It may lead to some measure of manipulation.
– The votes would not be “ floating around “. They would be in the post. That can hardly be avoided when such long distances as those referred to by Senator Allan MacDonald have to be covered. It takes a long while for votes to come from the Kimberley Ranges, and distant parts of Queensland,’ or from Thursday Island. The returning officer would still have a check upon such votes. The Joint Select Committee on Commonwealth Electoral Law and Procedure which sat in 1926-27, after considering this subject very carefully, expressed the view that postal votes should be received until seven days after the close of the poll, provided that the envelope containing them bore a clear impression of a. postal date stamp not later than polling day.
– 1 am quite satisfied.
– Paragraph / of section 92 of the principal act, which it id proposed to amend by ‘ this clause, reads .- - (/) If the elector’s sight U so impaired that he cannot vote without assistance, a person appointed by the elector shall mark the elector’s vote on the ballot-paper in the presence of the authorized witness, and shall then and there fold the ballot-paper so that the vote cannot lie seen, place it in the envelopeaddressed to the Divisional Returning Officer, fasten the envelope, and hand it to the voterwho shall forthwith post or deliver it, or cause it to be posted or delivered, to the Divisional Returning Officer :
Provided that if no person is appointed by the elector, the authorized witness, if so requested by the elector, shall take the action required by this paragraph to be taken by a person appointed by the elector.
That is all right, so far as it goes, but what means are provided for persons who are suffering from an infirmity other than impaired sight, or who are illiterate and cannot write, to record a postal vote?
– There i» no provision for the recording of a postal vote in such cases. It is felt that to widen the law to that extent might conduce to fraud. Persons who record a postal vote are required to sign the requisite form. Although there may be a few cases of hardship by reason of the limitation of this provision, I believe that the restriction is a necessary safeguard.
– It is already provided that a person, so authorized, shall mark these ballot-papers.
– That is at the ballotbox. The point here is that the voter must be able to sign the ballot-paper.
– In that case, certain people, because of illiteracy or infirmity, may be disfranchised. Why should we make it easier for certain persons to record a postal vote, and, at the same time, disfranchise others, although their names appear on the rolls? That is ray point. The proposal is altogether unfair.
– I am not clear as to what disability the people to whom the honorable senator refers are suffering. Is the honorable senator endeavouring to help illiterate person’s?
– Yes. Senator Collings.: - They are unable te sign an application.
– Why cannot they be allowed to mark their ballotpaper in the same way as illiterate people are called upon to. mark their marriage certificates ?
– Illiterate people are obliged to furnish income tax returns.
– They can record a vote, but not in this manner.
– The disability now suffered by illiterate and infirm persons should be removed, particularly when it is proposed to extend facilities foi voting’ to other classes of electors. This distinction is not just.
, - I know of persons whose names have been on “the roll for years, but who cannot sign their name because they suffer from paralysis, and, consequently, cannot qualify for a vote under the existing electoral law. Justice could be done to these people if returning officers were empowered to accept ballotpapers from them, provided they mark the papers in the presence of a Justice of the Peace. A doctor’s certificate could be obtained and attached to the vote. I do not think it is right to disfranchise these people. A person might meet with an accident just prior to the election. Provided he were able to go to. the polling-booth, even though his eyes were bandaged, he would be able to get someone else to vote for him ; but if he were confined to his bed, he would be denied a vote; Many people value their right to vote, and they should not be denied it in any circumstances. I do-not agree that illiterate people are responsible for a high percentage of informal votes. Usually, illiterate people have the assistance of some other persons in the recording of their votes, and the votes are in order. Something should be done to ensure that the right to vote is not denied those persons who ,are paralysed or bedridden.
Clause agreed to. Clauses 14 to 17 agreed to. Clause 18 (Printing of House of Representatives ballot-papers).
– I can see no reason why this clause dealing with the printing of House of Representatives ballot-papers should be included in the bill. We have passed clause 17, which provides for the grouping of names of Senate candidates, and now, by virtue of Senator Wilson’s amendment, they are not only to be grouped, but also labelled according to party affiliations. There is no suggestion tha’t there will be any scramble in connexion with elections for the House of Representatives for candidates with names beginning with A or B. Only one candidate will be elected for each division, and there would probably never be more than three or four candidates. In their case, therefore, there is no need for any system of drawing names .out of a hat in order to determine positions on the ballot-paper. If the Minister can satisfy us that there is need for this clause, we shall support it. but otherwise, we arc opposed to it.
– This provision has been inserted because it is desirable to have uniformity in our system of voting. In the case of candidates for the Senate, every man will have an equal chance of being on the top of the paper, in the centre, or at the bottom, and it is desirable that the same principle should apply to elections for the House of Representatives. There may be five or six candidates running for one seat, and the fact that only one of them is to be elected does not do away with the possibility of advantage to those who are at the top of the ballot-paper.
– But why are we seeking to interfere with the method of electing members for the House of Representatives ?
– This hill is designed to amend the electoral law in general, not only that part of it which applies to . the election of senators. All the clauses dealing with postal voting, for instance, apply to elections for the House of Representatives just as much as to elections for the Senate.
– We shall oppose1 the clause, because we think that it is unnecessary. If the bill goes to the other House, it can accept it or throw it out as it feels inclined. This matter has been given a good deal of consideration by those who have examined the proposals for the Labour party, and we must oppose the clause.
– I am not particularly interested in this clause. .It is of concern principally to the House of Representatives, but if we do not agree to it, tha other House cannot have it. Therefore, although the clause does not affect us, wc must agree to it before it can become law. Even though we agree to it, the House of Representatives may still reject it.
– I suggest to the Minister, that, if he desires this measure to become law, it would be advisable to eliminate thiB clause. The provision contained in it could be inserted in the bill in the House of Representatives, if the members of that chamber so desired ; but a great deal of discussion upon the measure, and its ultimate defeat, may be anticipated. There will be greater antagonism to this proposal in the House of Representatives than in this chamber. I am more convinced than ever that the Government is not sincere in asking that the bill be passed. The measure is so much windowdressing, to enable the Government to claim that it has honoured its promise to have the method of conducting Senate elections altered. I feel confident that this bill will not become law before the next elections.
– I realize, as Senator Dein has stated, that we must pass this measure in some form before it can be sent on to the other branch of the legislature; but it seems to me that the determination by lot of the ‘ order in which the names of candidates shall appear on the ballotpaper is unnecessary as far as the House of Representatives, is concerned. The number of candidates for. an electoral division of the House df Representatives is never large, and as the candidates would be better known to the” electors than iu the case of a Senate poll, it matters little whether their names are at the top, at the bottom, or in the middle of the list.
– Can the Minister prove that a candidate whose name appears at the top of a ballot-paper has a definite advantage over the other candidates? Can the Minister justify the proposed alteration of the law? I can point to a case in which the last by-election .was won by the candidate whose name appeared in the middle of the list.
– It is impossible for me to produce statistics to show whether a candidate would have an advantage in having his name either at the top or at the bottom of a ballot-paper, but, as a new system is being introduced, it seems wise to make it applicable to elections for both branches of the legislature.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 21 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause he inserted: - “21a. After section one hundred and eightyone of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 181a. - (1.) Any person who, without the written authority of th,e candidate (proof whereof shall lie upon that person) - («) announces or publishes, or causes to be announced or published, any matter claiming or suggesting directly or indirectly that a candidate in an election is associated with, or supports the policy or activities of, any association, league, organization or other body of persons; or lft) in any matter announced or published or caused to bc announced or published by him on behalf of any association, league, organization or other body of persons, expressly or impliedly solicits votes for n candidate, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for three months. (2.) Where any matter, the announcement or publication of which by any person without the written authority of a candidate would be an offence against sub-section (1.) of this section on the part of that person, is announced or published by or on behalf of, or with the support of, any association, league, organization or other body of persons, every person who was. an officer thereof at the time of that announcement or publication shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence against sub-section (1.) of this section. (3.) Vor the purposes of this section, where any matter purports expressly or impliedly to be announced or published by or on behalf of, or in the interests or with the support of, any association, league, organization or other body of persons, the matter shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be deemed to be announced or published by or on behalf, or with the support of, the association, league, organization or other body of persons. (4. ) Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this section shall apply to or in relation to any announcement or publication made or authorized by any bona fide political party or by. any bona fide branch thereof respecting a candidate who, by public announcement,, has declared his candidature to be a candidature on behalf of or in the interests of thai party.1 “.
I explained the reason for this amendment during my second-reading speech. It- is to safeguard the position of candidates who, without their authority, may be selected by certain organizations and advertised as their endorsed candidates. When that is done without authority it, may result iii harm to individual candidates. This amendment is submitted at the request of members of Parliament who have suffered in this way.
– If some person or organization issues a pamphlet soliciting votes for a candidate without his authority, who institutes proceedings? Is that left to the candidate?
– If an offence against the act has been committed, proceedings may be instituted by the electoral officer or by any other person.
– Very often dodger* ure printed and circulated which do not bear an imprint. To whom would fall the task of finding out the guilty person?
– I Iia ve some doubt as to the meaning of this amendment. If three Labour party candidates, three United Australia party candidates, and three Country party candidates submit themselves for election, will the Labour party, for instance, not be permitted to issue a pamphlet urging people to mark their ballot-papers “ 1, 2, and 3 “ in favour of the Labour candidates, and to mark “ 4, 5, and 6 “ against three candidates of either of the other two parties?
– The amendment Li designed to prevent an outside body from selecting three candidates and advertising their names in the press as its selected candidates without first having obtained authority to do so. “-
– The amendment goes further than that. Although we could ask the people to allot their first three preferences to the candidates of our own party, the amendment would preclude us from advising the people as to how they should allot their fourth, fifth, and sixth preferences. Sub-section 4 of proposed new section 181a gives us authority to advise the electors as to how they should vote for the members of our own party, but I am doubtful whether, if this amendment is carried, we would be able to advise the people as to how they should vote in respect of the other candidates.
– An offence is committed only when an organization solicits votes for candidates without their approval. Nothing in the amendment would prevent a political party from circulating pamphlets setting out how the people should record their preferences on the ballot-paper. As I have said, the amendment is designed to ‘ safeguard future candidates.
– I agree with Senator Leckie. In its present form this amendment is extremely dangerous and cumbersome. I agree with the object desired by the Minister, but I believe that that is already achieved by . paragraph a, sub-section 1, and, consequently, there is no necessity for the insertion of paragraph b. What we desire to prevent is a body such as a temperance or a non-temperance organization advertising that certain candidates support its policy, whereas they might never have been consulted as to whether they do so or not.
Proposed new sub-section 1 reads -
Any person who, .without the written authority of the candidate (proof, whereof shall lie upon that person) - (a.) announces or publishes, or causes to be announced or published, any matter claiming or suggesting directly or indirectly that a candidate in. an election is associated with, or supports the policy or activities of. any association, league, organization or other body of persons: or
If paragraph b be inserted it will prevent the Labour party from asking the people to allot their fourth, fifth and sixth preferences to, say, the United Australia party candidates, and conversely, it will prevent the United Australia party from asking the people to . allot their fourth, fifth and sixth preferences to the Labour candidates, because to do so would be to solicit votes. Every mention of preference, except perhaps the last, is a solicitation of a vote in priority to a vote lower down on the list. Therefore, I entirely agree with Senator Leckie that paragraph b of proposed new subsection 1 is entirely unworkable.
– I can see nothing in the proposed new section of which Senators Leckie and Wilson need be frightened. I do not know of any instance of the Labour party soliciting votes for any other party. We do not care for whom the later preferences are given provided that the Labour candidates . get the first.
– Would the Australian Labour party willingly submit electoral advertisements to the United Australia party for approval?
– That would not be necessary, because it matters little to us where the fourth, fifth and sixth votes go after the first, second and third votes have been recorded for Labour candidates
– It should matter.
– I do not think so. I do not see why the Labour party should advocate that the electors should vote 4, 5, and 6 for the United Australia party.
– The Labour party always does.
– Not always. It has happened, in order to impress upon the electors the necessity to complete the whole of the preferences, that the Labour party’s “ How to vote “ advertisements have had that effect, but it is not compulsory on the Labour party to indicate where an elector should place his remaining preferences after he has indicated his first, second and third preferences.
– We have given to this amendment serious consideration. I was satisfied after reading it, and our committee was satisfied with it, but I want to know now whether -the advisers of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) can assure him that paragraph b does not refer to “How to vote “ cards issued for the guidance of the electors at the polling booths.
– Not to cards issued by a political party.
– We shall issue “ How to vote “ cards in the ordinary way. There will probably be a dozen candidates for the Senate. They will be grouped. We shall advise the electors to vote 1, 2 and 3 for the Labour group, but we shall also tell them how to vote for the rest of the candidates. If paragraph b means that neither we nor the United Australia party can do that, the effect will be unfortunate from the points of view of the principle political parties.
– Look at proposed sub-section 4.
– I have looked at that. We are entirely in favour of the general purpose of this amendment, because if there is one party that has suffered from unauthorized use of individuals’ names it is the Labour party. For instance, the. Communist party blazons it forth “ Vote No. 1 for the Labour man and No. 2 for our candidate”. That is seized upon by our opponents to show that the Labour party is linked with the Communists, whereas is has outlived them in this and other countries. The same thing happens in respect of the temperance party to which, by the way, I belong. The temperance party sends out a questionnaire to the candidates and when it receives their replies it publishes in its journals : “ This individual’s reply is no good, this one is favorable,” and so on. The party then brings out a ticket and, immediately that happens, every one who does not believe in temperance is up against those whom the temperance party prefers. The Protestant Labour > party does the same thing. Tt tells the people to vote for certain candidates. Those candidates are immediately in trouble with electors who are not protestants. This amendment is designed . to make that sort of thing impossible, but I want to be assured that it will not prevent political parties from issuing “ How to Vote “ cards.
Senator A. J. Mci ACUT. ATT (South Australia) [1.59 a.m.]. - This measure will have to be reviewed in the House of Representatives,. and I suggest that the clause should be passed as it stands, and that meanwhile the Crown Law authorities should look into the matters raised by honorable senators. I disagree with Senator Wilson, but there is a doubt, and the Minister could have the doubt removed by an amendment in the House of Representatives.
– That could be done here now.
– I do not think that paragraph b should be struck out. It is necessary to complete the proposed new section. If an organization desired to injure an individual or a party, unless paragraph b were in the clause, that organization, by issuing how-to-vote cards, could do the very damage that paragraph a is designed to prevent.
– What does the honorable senator- think about the proposed new sub-section 4?
– I do not think that accomplishes anything, because it says -
Nothing in thu foregoing provisions of this section shall apply to or in relation to any announcement or publication made or authorized by any bona fide political party or by any bona fide branch thereof respecting a candidate who, by public. announcement, has declared his candidature, to be a candidature on behalf of or in the interest of that party.
That is a proper exception, but it does not meet the point taken by Senator Leckie and Senator Wilson. I suggest, therefore, to the Minister that it would be a mistake to tamper with this now, and that after the Crown Law Department has examined the points raised, any necessary amendments can be effected in the House of Representatives.
– I am grateful for Senator A.’ J. McLachlan’s suggestion ; that is the most practical way of dealing with this matter. I understand that when this amendment was drafted the draftsman took the words “ Solicits votes “ to mean soliciting votes 1, 2 and 3 for Senate candidates and vote 1 for candidates for the House of Representatives. But as there is some doubt, the amendment will be re-examined. I should not -like to see the proposed . new subsection 4 left out.
– That would destroy the whole provision.
– I. impress upon the Minister the need when the Crown Law authorities are re-examining this amendment for them to make such provision as would prevent the issue of “ Vote Thus “ cards by unauthorized people, but would preserve the right of political parties to issue them, ft is of no use to prevent unauthorized advertising in newspapers and to allow unauthorized persons to be able to accomplish the damage they desire with “ Howto vote” cards. Take the case of an independent candidate with no party organization behind him who refuses to allow his name to be included on a “ vote thus “ card. His action1 would defeat the attempt to issue a “ vote thus “ card or an advertisement authorized by a bona fide political organization. Our purpose could be completely nullified by one man’s stubbornness, and untold harm done to other candidates.
. -Would the proposal before the committee prevent a newspaper such as the Labour Daily News from advocating a certain choice by electors or directing its supporters how to act? That would not be’ a “vote thus” card.
– lt would be authorized by a political party.
– Only 60 far as its own candidates were concerned. This seems to be a dangerous provision, and I do not like even the proposal that it should be investigated by the Crown Law authorities. Eather do I think that it should be omitted entirely.
– Paragraph a of sub-section 1 of the proposed new section 181a is limited to “ any association, league,, organization or other body of persons “ outside the usual political parties, which advocates the claims of certain candidates. It does not refer particularly to newspapers. Paragraph a defines the class of claim which may be made, and. paragraph lj carries it further by referring, to the- soliciting of votes for a candidate. One.- is wrapped up in the- other. It would be unwise - to omit paragraph b. We can get over the difficulty by accepting the. suggestion of Senator A. J. McLachlan. I do notthink that Senator Leckie need have any fears in the matter.
! - The proposed new section is perfectly clear. It says “ any person “ - and that means a newspaper or a political organization such as the Labour party or the United Australia party - which in any manner announces or publishes, or causes to be announced or published,- certain matter or expressly or impliedly solicits votes for a candidate, shall be guilty of an offence. Under paragraph b the Labour party could not issue a “How to vote” card without the consent of the United Australia party, nor could it insert in the Daily News an advertisement telling its supporters-how they should vote, unless it obtained the consent of all of the candidates to such advertisement. Obviously, the party would not seek the consent of opposing political parties to the matters which it proposed to insert, in the newspapers. Almost all political advertisements contain alongside the matter published “ How to vote “ instructions. Paragraph b would prohibit the publication of a “How to vote” card unless with the consent of every candidate in writing. It would be suicidal for us to leave paragraph b in. If the House, of Representatives can think of something to meet the situation without causing the damage that I have referred to, the bill can then come back to this chamber. I urge the committee to leave out paragraph b at this stage, because it would prohibit what we all think is necessary.
– In view- of the doubts that have been .expressed, I prefer to withdraw the amendment for the time being, rather than omit, paragraph 6 while retaining paragraph a* I therefore ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Leave granted; amendment withdrawn.
Clauses 22 and 23 agreed ,.te>..
– I move -
That after clause 23 the following new clause In: inserted : - “ 23a. Section two hundred and two of the Principal Act is amended by omitting subsection (2.) and inserting in its stead the following, sub-sections: - (2.) All Rules of Court made in pursuance of this section shall -
be notified in the Gazelle;
take effect from the date of notification or from a later date specified iu the Rules; and (o) be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the making of those Rules. (3.) If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution, of which notice has been given within fifteen sitting days after the Rules have been laid before the House, disallowing any Rule, that Rule shall thereupon cease to have effect.’.”
This is purely a formal clause, its purpose being to bring the provision in the Electoral Act relating to the making of rules of court into conformity with the similar provision in the Judiciary Act. An undertaking that this would be done was given during the course of the debate on the Judiciary Act 1937. The then Attorney-General said that when the Electoral Act was next before Parliament for amendment, steps would be taken to introduce into it provisions uniform with those contained in the Judiciary Act.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clause 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (The Schedule, Form E).
– I move - That clause 25 be” left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new clause: - “25. The schedule to thu principal act is amended by omitting Form E and inserting in its stead iiic .following form: -
Ballot-paper. Commonwealth of AUSTRALIA State of [here insert name of State’]. Election of [keri: inner t number] Senators. Directions. - Mark your vote on this ballotpaper by -placing, the numbers [here insert 1, 2. and so on, as the case requires] in the squares respectively opposite the names of the candidates so as to indicate tlie order of yoni preference for them.
– Under the heading of “ Directions “, the following words appear : “ Mark your vote on this ballotpaper by placing the numbers (here insert 1, 2, and so on as the case requires; in the squares respectively opposite the names of the candidates, so as to indicate the order of your preference for them If there are ten candidates why cannot all the numbers from 1 to 10 be used? The wording of this portion of the new clause appears to be confusing and unnecessary.
– Every number will bein ser ted in the manner suggested. -.Senator Collings. - If all the numbers be not used it will lead to considerable confusion and an increased number of informal votes.
– The numbers will correspond with the number of candidates.
– Should this amendment be agreed to, I propose to move . a consequential amendment to leave out the letters “A”, “B “ and “C” which appear beside the squares. These will be unnecessary in view of the fact that the designation of particular political groups will appear on the ballot-paper.
– The Opposition intends to oppose the substitution of a horizontal for a vertical ballot-paper. It has taken years for the electors to become accustomed to tho present vertical form of ballot-paper, and as it has been considerably improved by an amendment to provide that each group shall bear the designation of the political party which it represents, it is regrettable that this alteration, which will result, in an increased number of informal votes, should be proposed. Every one reads and writes from left to right, but the introduction of a ballot-paper in this form, which incidentally will be about a foot long; will lead to considerable inconvenience. AVe should adhere to the vertical paper to which the people have become accustomed .
– The proposed ballot-paper will not be of advantage to electors. Those who have acted as scrutineers at elections know the number of electors who disregard the squares and place the figures after instead of before the names of candidates. On the proposed new ballot-paper there will be squares before and after the names of the candidates, and consequently, some figures will be placed in the wrong squares. Those in front of the names of candidates in the first group will, in some instances, be disregarded, and votes will be recorded in the squares at the end of the names, which will give the vote to the wrong candidate. Numerous formal votes will be incorrectly recorded, and there will also be many informal votes. The Government is juggling with the ballot-paper in an endeavour to gain some political advantage, and I suppose it will be manipulated so that the “ Nat “ candidates will be in the best position, and those representing other parties will be at a disadvantage. Some have suggested the introduction of a triangular ballot-paper, and it has been said that Senator Dein will be re-elected only if a circular ballot-paper be used. Form E should be withdrawn and the present ballot-paper retained.
– The Government should adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and retain the existing form of ballot-paper. The Minister (Senator Foll) has already informed the committee that the object of the Government is to secure uniformity, but as provision has already been made for the present, form of ballot-paper to be retained for elections for the House of Representatives, I trust that no alteration will be made in the ballot-papers used for Senate elections. If the numbers 1, 2 and 3, and so on, are to be placed horizontally, electors will record their votes from left to right instead of from top to bottom as at present, and a number of electors will not exhaust their preferences. Having simplified the present system by providing that political parties shall be designated, no further alteration of the ballot-paper should be made.
– Ballot-papers used by Federal and State electoral authorities, municipal councils, trade unions, and societies are never horizontal but always vertical. The Minister has not declared ‘ that the alteration will reduce the number of informal votes or make for greater clarity. Hence this drastic and radical change can mean only one thing, namely, that the Government is trying to secure a political advantage from it. In my opinion, the innovation will mean a tremendous increase of the number of informal votes, because many electors will vote in horizontal sequence. A few years ago a federal returning officer stated that if ballot-papers were made much more complicated than they were, “Mr. Informal “ would poll more votes than the successful candidate.
– I support the amendment. Senator Amour declared that electors were accustomed to the present ballotpaper; but I remind him that five years ago 193,000 electors in New South Wales voted informally. Throughout the Commonwealth in that election the number of informal votes totalled nearly 500,000. In 1937 the number of informal ballotpapers in New South Wales was reduced to 135,000, but in Victoria they increased from about 125,000 in 1934 to 146,000. Yet honorable senators opposite .contend that the present form of the paper is simple and easy to comprehend.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) asserted that some electors would vote in horizontal sequence along the top of the ballot-paper. That might be of some advantage in counteracting the influence of the “ fluke voter “, who would proceed under the altered system to vote for a candidate of each party. At present he votes vertically for the three candidates whose names appear in the first group. For that reason, the Government has found it necessary to substitute a fairer ballot-paper. In 1934, Government candidates in New South Wales, whose names were placed at the top of the paper, obtained the whole of the fluke vote, f* which they were not entitled. In 1937, the position was reversed, and Labour party candidates, who were in the first group, secured the whole of that vote.
– The alteration will make confusion worse confounded.
– I desire, to eliminate the influence of the fluke voter who has never troubled to take an interest in the
Senate or the method of election, but who, in New South “Wales, determines the result of the election. It would be more equitable if he voted informally. The group that happens to be at the top of the ballot-paper is almost certain of election. That is wrong. It is idle to say that the new paper will mislead an elector into voting contrary to his intentions, because he is accustomed to placing his votes in the squares before the name of each candidate. With a vertical ballotpaper a fluke voter begins at the top and continues down the columns to the bottom of the sheet. If I were sure that my name would appear at the top of the paper and desired to take advantage of it, I should advocate the vertical ballotpaper. I believe that the number of informal votes would be reduced with the horizontal ballot-paper. We ought to make it as simple as. possible for an elector to vote for the candidates for whom he desires to vote, and I think that, with the names grouped in columns side by side, that end will be achieved. We have no need to worry about, the student of the ballot-paper, for be will make no mistake. It is the apathetic elector who, as it were, makes a stab in the dark, whom we have to consider. He will make fewer mistakes with a horizontal ballot-paper than with a vertical one, for with the vertical paper the fluke voter almost invariably starts at the top and goes straight down the list. Such voters, it appears to me, receive a little too much consideration. The Senate is too important an institution to be elected by people who are not prepared to give a few minutes’ thought to what they are about to do in voting.
– To my mind, the plot thickens. I was quite prepared to accept the grouping system, seeing that we had overcome the difficulty in regard to what has been called the “ four A’s “. The Minister’s reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) concerning the inclusion of the House of Representatives in the bill, appeared to me to be logical enough, and I was prepared to take the honorable gentleman seriously, although with possibly as many as eight candidates for a seat in the House of Representatives, I can see that there would be difficulty in classifying the names, but Senator Dein has made it clear that what is in mind is not so much uniformity as an endeavour to share in what he calls the fluke vote. I am satisfied, now, that the Government is not concerned about educating the public. Its intention, seems rather to be to confuse voters. It is possible that in an election for a. seat in the House of Representatives there might be Labour party, Country party, United Australia party, Communist party, Douglas Credit party candidates, and also independents. To provide that priority on the ballotpaper shall be determined by drawing lots seems to me to be all right; but to adopt the proposal of Senator Dein must inevitably confuse the electors. The electors are now accustomed to a perpendicular list of names, and as we have solved the problem of the “four A’s” by providing that lots shall be drawn, I cannot see any reason for proceeding any further.
Conversation being audible in the chamber,
– Order! It is necessary for me to listen to the remarks of Senator Fraser. If other honorable senators wish to converse audibly, I must ask them to leave the chamber.
– If the Minister was serious in the reply that he gave to the Leader of the Opposition, and if he really believes that uniformity is desirable, I suggest to him that this end will be attained by drawing lots to determine priority of position on the ballot-paper, and by maintaining a perpendicular list of the names of candidates. The proposed new ballot-paper will confuse the electors, with the result that the number of informal votes will be not decreased, but increased. The electors should be given every opportunity to record their votes intelligibly. Alterations of this kind merely complicate the position.
– In reply to the objection raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I point out that the groups on the ballotpaper will be. so demarcated by a thick black line as to overcome any tendency on the par’t of the voter to fill in the squares directly from left to right. The black line dividing the groups will make it clear that each group is a separate entity. Practically every honorable senator who has spoken has admitted that a candidate whose name appears on the top of the vertical ballot-paper enjoys a distinct advantage. That advantage will be eliminated by arranging the groups horizontally on the ballot-paper. Honorable senators need only consult their own experience to realize that fact. With the multiplicity of parties existing at the present time it is probable that the names of as many as twelve candidates will appear on the ballot-paper at the next election. It may be that the Labour group will appear in the centre. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that i? would be simpler for a voter, who wishes to vote “ 1, 2, 3 “ for the second group, “ 4, 5, 6 “ for .the fourth group, “ 7, 8, 9 for the first group, and “ 10, 11 12 “, for the third group, to mark a vertical ballot-paper than a horizontal ballotpaper in that order of preference?
– What a lovely job 1
– The honorable senator said that the horizontal ballot-paper had never been used in any election in this country. I am informed by Senator Wilson, with whom I have discussed the matter, that it was used in South Australia under the multiple electorate system, and was only discarded when- the single electorate system was reverted to in that State.
– The voting in the Commonwealth is really on the single electorate system.
– As three senators are to be elected, it virtually corresponds to the system which operated in New South Wales when proportional representation was in vogue in that State. The average voter is given a much greater opportunity to record a formal vote on a horizontal than on a vertical ballot-paper, and I am sure that honorable senators will come to that conclusion if they give the matter more thought. Honorable senators opposite need entertain no fear that the proposed new ballot-paper will be too broad. It need not be of greater dimensions than a vertical ballot-paper required for a similar number of candidates. The Government believes that the horizontal ballot-paper will simplify voting.
– Is that the Government’s only reason for making this alteration?
– The Government’s reason for making this change is to give to every candidate an equal chance and to reduce informal votes to a minimum. In view of the fact that the various parties will draw lots for positions on the ‘ballot-paper, what advantage can be given to Government candidates over other candidates?
– What is the need to draw for positions if the party groups are to appear horizontally on the ballotpaper ?
– It may be that the group occupying the position on the extreme left may have an advantage over other groups, or, perhaps, the group appearing in the centre may have an advantage over the groups on the extreme left and the extreme right of the ballotpaper. Parties will draw for positions in order to ensure that each group will have an equal chance. I repeat that the horizontal ballot-paper will simplify voting, and, therefore, tend to reduce the number of informal votes.
– I prefer the old ballot-paper to the horizontal ballotpaper proposed under this measure. Although their names have not always appeared at the top of the ballot-paper. Government candidates for the Senate have been successful in Western Australia for the last eighteen years. In Queensland also, candidates have succeeded irrespective of the position of their names on the ballot-paper. The success, or defeat, . of parties in the Senate elections depends really on the intelligent voting of the electors. This fact has also been apparent in State elections in Western Australia. I remember that on one occasion the swing was against me, whilst on another occasion I defeated my opponent who was an ex-Premier of the State. My successes and defeats were due not to any ‘advantage or disadvantage I may have gained from the position of my name on the ballot-paper, but simply to the swing of the pendulum of popular opinion. The horizontal ballot-paper proposed under this measure will look like a Chinese lottery ticket. I prefer the old ballot-paper, and, therefore, it should be retained, so long as the positions of party groups are decided by ballot.
– My chief concern is to reduce the number of informal votes, and it is from that aspect that I approach the consideration of the form of the ballot-paper. The Minister has said that there may be some advantage to those candidates whose groups are at the top of the paper. That may be so, or it may not. At any rate, we all write from left to right, and .even if there was an advantage in being at the top of a perpendicular list, there is a distinct advantage in being on the left of a horizontal grouping of names. The illiterate voter would naturally begin writing from the left, and then go on to the next column. Perhaps he might even leave out one column altogether, thus making his vote informal. This kind of thing might lead to the casting of hundreds of thousands of informal votes. For my part, I favour the retention of the old form. The new one resembles nothing so much as a child’s game of noughts and crosses. I cannot see that there is any justification for the proposed alteration.
– I do not think that those who are opposed to this proposal can say with any justification that the Government is trying to do anything that will benefit its supporters at the expense of other parties. Honorable senators opposite have agreed that something should be done to reduce the number of informal votes. Since the electoral law was amended to provide for compulsory voting, there has been a much higher percentage of informal votes. I cannot see how we can prevent the deliberate casting of informal votes. Though some of it is due to ignorance, a great many ballotpapers are spoiled by people who either have conscientious objections .to voting at all, or resent being compelled to vote. I cannot see how the proposed ballot-paper can make for informal voting, any more than did the old one. Honorable senators opposite have agreed that the old, perpendicular form of paper gave an advantage to those whose names headed the list, and they have agreed to an alteration of that method. I do not care much whether the list of candidates is perpendicular or horizontal, though I think there is a slight advantage in favour of the new proposal. At present, the number of informal votes at every election is a scandal, and a grave reflection upon the educational standard of the community. I believe that this experiment is worth while, and that we should give it a trial.. It will be demonstrated at the next election whether it is successful or not.
– I agree with Senator Herbert Hays that the method proposed for listing candidates will not be’ more favorable to one side than to the other. It is well known that the world hates change, and I am no different in this respect from other people. In order to make me agree to a change I must be either persuaded or compelled, and then I agree only with reluctance.
Suddenly my friends opposite have become converted to a revolutionary alteration of the method of placing the names on the ballot-paper, although, ever since elections have been held in this country the perpendicular arrangement of the names of candidates has been in use. First, the elector was required to strike out the name of the candidate for whom he desired to vote; then a cross was-placed in a square opposite the ‘ candidate’s name, and finally the preferential system was introduced.
I deplore the manner in which this discussion has been conducted. This bill was introduced for the specific purpose of eliminating the possibility of candidates whose names appear at the top of the ballot-paper having an undue advantage over those whose names appear lower on the list. Attention has been directed to the possibility of political parties securing candidates whose surnames begin with the letter A or other letters near the commencement of the alphabet. It has now been decided to overcome the clanger of such an undue advantage being gained. Those who support the proposed change still insist that, in depriving the- first group of some advantage, it would incidentally reduce the large percentage of informal votes.
Senator Dein cited two States in which the percentage of informal votes was large. He referred to the elections in New South Wales in 1934 and those in Victoria in 1937. I suggest that on both occasions the large number of informal votes was due to the fact that the name of an ungrouped candidate appeared at the bottom of the. ballot-paper, and a large number of electors failed to place any numeral opposite his name. The bill provides that if the elector records his vote for all candidates except the last one, his paper will be regarded as formal. The figures for the 1931, 1934 and 1937 elections indicate that a candidate’s advantage in having his name first on the list is very slight. In 1931, in New South Wales, the “C” group, in Victoria the “ A “ group, and in Queensland the “ A “ group were successful. In South Australia the “A” group won, but the ordinary practice of asking the electors to give the first vote to the candidate whose name appeared first on the ballot-paper was not adopted. The electors were asked to vote “ 3,’ 2, 1 “. In . Western Australia the “ B “ group was successful, and the same procedure was followed as in the case of the “ A “ group in South Australia. In Tasmania the “ A “ group won, but that group was comprised of nine candidates ; the first candidate to be elected was ninth, the second elected candidate was fifth, and the third elected candidate was sixth on the ballotpaper. At the 1934 election in New South Wales the “ A “ group won. Senator Dein was first elected, but his name appeared third on the ballot-paper. The electors had been advised by his party to vote, “ 3, 2, 1 “ for its candidates. In Victoria the “ B “ group, in Queensland the “ A “ group, in South Australia the “ B “ group, and in Western A ustralia the “ C “ group won. In Tasmania, fourteen candidates faced the electors. The only candidates who were grouped were the three Country party candidates who thus became the “ A “ group ; consequently they were placed at the top of the ballotpaper. The remaining eleven candidates, irrespective of their party alliance, were placed alphabetically on the ballotpaper. The first successful candidate was sixth, the second successful candidate was seventh, and the third successful candidate was eighth on the ballot-paper. It has been alleged by some honorable senators who support this measure that, in the elections of 1937, the “ A “ group won the contest. It is true that in Victoria and New South Wales the “A” group was successful, but in Queensland the “ B “ group won.
– But the “B” group was the Labour party, and the candidates of that party had priority over those of the United Australia party.
– I am speaking about the groups. In South Australia the “ G “ group, and in Western Australia and Tasmania the “A” groups were successful.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to lie left out (Senator FOLL’S amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause negatived. Question put -
That proposed new clause 25 be inserted.
Amendment (by Senator Foll) - by leave- agreed to -
That the words “(name of party)” be inserted at the head of each column of the ballotpaper.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 26 (The Schedule, Form F).
– Is it intended .that the form of the ballot-paper for the House of Representatives shall also be altered to provide for the words “ name of party “ to be inserted ?
– It is not intended to alter the form of the ballot-paper for the House of Representatives.
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - ‘Senator James McLachlan.)
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments. ,; Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Foll) put - That the bill .be now ‘read a third time. The Senate divided. ‘ (The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Haves.) Ayes . . . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause agreed to.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act - Butter and Cheese Acquisition Regulations - Notice fixing; date of acquisition of butter and cheese.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired at Derrimut, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
National Security Act - Wheat Acquisition Regulations - Order - Acquisition of Wheat.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations amen dod- Statutory Rules 1939, No. 156. Australian Soldiers Repatriation ActReport of the Repatriation Commission, for year 1938-39. New Guinea Act- -Ordinances of 1939 - No. 13 - Weights and Measures. No. 18- Medical.
No. 22 - Appropriation 1939-1940.
Senate adjourned at 3.35 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 November 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1939/19391130_senate_15_162/>.