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Friday, 31 January 1902


Senator O'CONNOR (New South Wales) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read the second time.

This is one of those Bills which are in a sense machinery Bills, for the purpose of bringing the Constitution of Australia into operation, and at the same time it is one which involves a very important principle, that is to say the principle of the absolute uniformity and equality of representation throughout the Commonwealth. It has been stated by some persons that it is one of those measures which might be allowed to wait until later on ; but, I think, if honorable senators will reflect upon the present condition of things in electoral matters they will Bee that it ought to be dealt with as early as possible. In the first place, in regard to the Senate itself, under the Constitution it will be necessary to hold the elections to fill the first set of vacancies somewhere in 1903.


Senator Millen - It may come earlier.


Senator O'CONNOR - I do not wish to cast any unpleasant shadows over honorable senators ; but we have to realize that under the ordinary processes of the Constitution there must be an election for the Senate somewhere in 1903. An honorable senator opposite says it may be earlier. I do not wish to anticipate anything of that kind. But that is an additional reason. We ought to be ready at any time for making an appeal to the people. In addition to that, it must be obvious that you oan never have a satisfactory representation of the people of a federation unless the basis of representation is uniform. At the present time, as we all know, in some States the only qualification for a vote is residence, and no person who is resident is, on the ground of sex or for any other reason, debarred from taking part in the choice of members to serve in the Legislature. In some States only the nien vote. In other States an undue weight is given to the possession of property, and in other States again there are various restrictions of locality. All these things go to cut down that absolute uniformity which ought to exist in the electorates in every portion of the Commonwealth. It is the desire of the Government in this measure to abolish all those anomalies, to make the electorates uniform, and to place the franchise all over- Australia on the broadest possible basis. The most important matter, therefore, to consider will be the basis of representation. The provisions in regard to that matter are contained in another measure which is before the House of Representatives, and which was rend a 'first time there in June last. The electoral machinery for carrying that representation into effect is contained in the measure now before the Senate. But as it is a necessary part of the policy of the Government, I may state at once that the franchise proposed recognises one ground, and one ground only, as giving a right to vote, and that -is residence in the Commonwealth for six months or over by any person of adult age. That franchise is the broadest possible one. There is no class of the community left out. There is no person of the full age of 21 years, and resident in Australia, who is not to have a voice in the making of its laws. I think the Commonwealth will have reason to congratulate itself when that measure is passed into law, as I have no doubt it will be, on having the most representative Parliament, according to the truest principles of democracy, which exists in the world. It is no doubt very important that the representation of the electors on so broad a franchise should be carried out in such a way as that they will be fairly represented in 'the Parliament, and the object of this measure is to insure that representation both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. In regard to the Senate, the first question that arises is as to the division of electorates. It is in the power of the Parliament to subdivide the States for the purpose of the Senate elections, but unless other provision is made in that behalf each State is to vote as one electorate. It will be noticed that although power was given in the Constitution to divide Queensland for the purpose of the Senate elections it was not exercised. o that at the present time the Constitution applies .throughout Australia, and each State as one electorate returns six senators. We see no reason to depart from that provision. And it appears to us that, having regard to the position of the Senate under the Constitution, as being specially representative of the States, the truest representation is to be obtained, not by cutting up the States into different electorates, but by taking each State as a whole. But in regard to the House of Representatives, the Government have thought that there is only one way of getting a fair representation of the people, and that is by dividing the States into single electorates. The principle of single electorates -has been so well established, and the reasons for it are so well known that I need not elaborate them. . I need only say that we have provided in this Bill' that there shall be in each State a number of electorates corresponding to the number of members who have to be returned. Now, as to the basis on which these electorates are to be divided, there is only one way in which that can be done. Honorable senators will remember that the Constitution provides that the representation of each State shall be in accordance with the quota which is to be fixed by methods therein provided: We -have adopted the same .plan in the representation of the States. Each State under the constitution is entitled to return a certain proportion of members to the House of Representatives, and we provide that the electorates which return these members are to be divided on the principle of a quota. That is to say, the whole number of the voters of the State is to be taken, their number is to be divided by the number of. members to be sent to the House of Representatives, and the result will be the quota which will return a member. In regard to the division - the local division - which is to embrace that quota, there may be some difference of opinion, but I think that reflection will show honorable senators that there-is really only one satisfactory way of delimiting the locality which is to return a member, and that is to hand over the power to a commission, which will be able to take into consideration all the various circumstances of locality, accessibility, community of interests, and special conditions of any kind which will make it right to group together the quotas of electors in certain localities. That principle is to be carried out in this way. The commissioners will be appointed, and will make the delimitation of the districts. In doing that they are to be guided by community of interests, accessibility, and other considerations of the kind. They have a right in making this division to allow a margin of 25 per cent. That is to say, they may include 25 per cent, less than the quota of electors within certain boundaries, or they may allow 25 per cent. more. It is necessary to give them that margin in view of the geographical features of localities and other circumstances connected with the division and delimitation of the 'boundaries. The commissioners having arrived at some plan of distribution, will lay their scheme before the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives by resolution approves of the division, it may be proclaimed by the Governor-General in Council, and the divisions proclaimed will become the electorates which will return members to the Federal Parliament. If, on the other hand, the House of Representatives disapproves of the scheme, it is to be sent back again for revision, and for a further report by the electoral commissioners. In a word, therefore, these commissioners are to be appointed in each State to allocate the localities in which the quotas are to be grouped, subject to the final approval of the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives does not approve of the boundaries which have been recommended by the commissioners, the commission has to reconsider its scheme and send in another report. .


Senator Clemons - Why is the matter removed from the consideration of the Senate?


Senator O'CONNOR - I will deal with that point presently. I think it must be quite obvious "that the method adopted in many of the States, of fixing by schedule to the Act the limits of the boundaries of electorates, certainly would not work well in connexion with federal representation. In the first place, we all know that in the States where the plan has been tried localities have changed in population, so that in a few years the population of a locality which might have had a quota, or a little more than a quota, at tlie time the Act was passed, has fallen below it, and a locality which might have had much less than a quota gets a great deal more than a quota. In other words, it is quite impossible, considering the unsettled nature of Australia, the shifting character of the population, and the way in which the prosperity of districts goes up and down, to fixin any satisfactory manner by Act of Parliament certain limits as comprising the locality which is to contain the quota of electors. In New South Wales that was our experience. The first remedy adopted there was to have an elastic system, by which there was a periodical increase of members corresponding with the increase of population. But we found that did not work at all, and no other plan has been so satisfactory there as the one I have indicated, which has been adopted, and has been in use in New South Wales for some time. Honorable senators representing Queensland and Western Australia in particular., will no doubt realise at once that it would be still more impossible to fix for those States, by Act of Parliament, definite boundaries within which a certain quota of electors could always be allotted. The result would be that every time a quota had altered, and when it was necessary to make a redistribution, it would be essential to come to Parliament to have the boundaries refixed, unless some such scheme as that proposed in this Bill were adopted.


Senator Millen - It might be necessary to alter the boundaries with each census.


Senator O'CONNOR - Exactly ; it might be. There is another reason, and that is that I believe it to be highly undesirable that Parliament itself should have the fixing of the localities to contain these quotas. We all know that, notwithstanding the very best possible intentions in the world, there may be a tendency to cany out what has. been known as gerrymandering, and to fix electorates more with regard to the exigencies of parties or governments, or even individuals, than with regard to the true needs of the community. So that whatever experience the members of the Senate may ! have had before 'in the different States repre-- ;sented here, I think they will come to the.

I conclusion that in. the representation .of the.

States, in the House of Representatives especially - when it is remembered that the basis of the whole representation is a quota fixed with regard to the whole population of the Commonwealth - the only fair and convenient way of dividing these electorates is by the system I have mentioned, which is perfectly elastic, and which enables us at any time, when it becomes necessary, to call upon the commissioners to make a new delimitation.


Senator Best - Will the commissioners do it of their own volition ?


Senator O'CONNOR - The commissioners will not act of their own volition. It will be within the power of the Commonwealth Government at any time to put the commissioners in motion, and to order a new delimitation of districts. But, as that has to come before the House of Representatives, I think it may be taken as almost certain that no alteration of the boundaries will be made unless it is necessary. The question has been asked why it is that Parliament is not by this Bill to have the right to decide the boundaries of these electorates, and why it is to be approved by one House only. But I think that if honorable senators will reflect for a moment they will see that even if Parliament had the decision of the matter, instead of the House of Representatives only, the power taken by the Senate would, under all the circumstances, be merely a formal one. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which the House of Representatives, in fixing the boundaries of its own electorates, having taken a particular course, this Senate would take upon itself to alter the scheme or set it aside, or interfere with it in any way. It has been one of the best known principles in the working of two Houses of Parliament, as we have known them to work in Great Britain, and throughout the British Empire, that in matters affecting the representation especially of one House, the other House should not interfere. So that in placing this matter in the hands of the House of Representatives only, as the Bill does, honorable senators will see that, if the Senate is deprived of a voice, itis merely a formal matter, because the power to alter such a scheme is not one that the Senate would exercise. Therefore it is very much better in dealing with a matterof this kind todeal with realities as far as possible ; and if the real source of approval and of authority is the House of Representatives, it is better to let that be apparent on the face of the measure itself, and to give no opportunity for the choice of the House of Representatives in the fixing of. the electorates which return its members to be interfered with in some unconstitutional or irregular way by the Senate.


Senator Higgs - The Senate would not care for the House of Representatives to interfere with it.


Senator O'CONNOR - Exactly ; the honorable senator has just put a strong illustration of the converse of the position. I take it that it would be highly improbable if we came to the conclusion that the electorates for the Senate should be divided, that the House of Representatives would reverse the decision. Whichever way we put the point, it does seem to me that we must recognise the principle that the House of Representatives ought to be the judge, and the sole judge, of the division of the electorates which are to return its members.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Does not section 29 of the Constitution contemplate that Parliament should do it?


Senator O'CONNOR - I do not think so.


Senator Sir John Downer - It is the one case in which we should insist on the rights of the Senate.


Senator O'CONNOR - I am now explaining the measure, and I have no doubt that my reasons for what is proposed will commend themselves to the majority of honorable senators. It may be that those who have not been accustomed to this idea of the division of electorates by an authority outside Parliament may have some difficulty in reconciling themselves to a new principle. But in some of the States we have had experience of this principle, and have found it to work perfectly well. I say, in addition to that, that members of each House should control the electoral matters concerning that House, and that, if that principle is right, this power of delimiting the boundaries for the House of Representatives should be left to that House.


Senator Dobson - It is one thing not to exercise the power and quite another thing to have that power taken away from us.


Senator O'CONNOR - The honorable and learned senator seems to me to make a mistake when he suggests that any power is taken away. There is no power now with regard to the boundaries of the electorates for the Senate. At the present time each constituency returns its members in accordance with a division made by the States. Neither House of the Parliament has had anything to do with it. So that it is a mistake to suppose that we are taking away a right which the Senate possesses.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That is by the Constitution.


Senator O'CONNOR - Of course it is, but I am talking of what our rights are. The Senate has no right at all ; and the question is whether we should give the Senate any right to interfere in the division of electorates for the House of Representatives, or should leave the matter solely in the hands of the House of Representatives. There is another matter of some importance in dealing with the machinery for the distribution of voters, which I think I ought to refer to before I come to the system of voting. As honorable senators are aware, there are different systems in the different States regarding the collection of votes, the place of voting, and vouching for the right to vote at an election. For instance, in New South Wales, we have a system of electors' rights - a very elaborate system - under which every elector must have a piece of paper, a document, which is his title to vote. He may be on the roll, he may possess every qualification that it is possible to possess, and he may be known to the electoral officer; but if he has not his elector's right, and cannot produce it, he is not entitled to vote. In Victoria there is, I understand, a mixed system - a system of ratepayers' votes and a system involving the production of electors' rights. In other States there is no system of electors' rights, but simply a reference- to lists and rolls. If the voter satisfies the returning officer that he is on the roll, he is entitled to vote. After considering all these methods, we have come to the conclusion that experience has shown beyond all doubt that the system of electors' rights is clumsy, unworkable, and unnecessary.


Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - And not reliable.


Senator O'CONNOR - And not reliable. As a means of vouching for the identification of the electors, it is really no better than the system of rolls in force in the other States. Of course it is necessary to have some system by which the voter will be as nearly as possible.identifiable when he attends to record his vote. No doubt, the most convenient practice- would be to allow 27 l an elector to vote in any part of his electorate, but it is obvious that under no system would it be possible to allow a voter to do that with any prospect of reasonable identification " on the part of the returning officer or person in charge of the polling booth.


Senator Walker - Except by means of electors' rights.


Senator O'CONNOR - Which, as I have said, is quite impossible. Under the system we propose, polling places ave to be provided for at which electors will record their votes according to the rolls ; the names on the rolls are to be arranged according to the polling places, and, as a general rule, every elector will have to vote at his own polling place. In order to overcome difficulties which may arise owing to the inability of a voter to attend his own polling place, we have provided that an elector may obtain at any time after the issue of a writ, and up to within three days of polling, a voter's certificate, enabling him to vote anywhere in the electorate.


Senator Charleston - Absent voters 1


Senator O'CONNOR - Not necessarily absent voters, although they may be absentminded voters. "A man who cannot attend at his own polling place must obtain a voter's certificate to enable him to vote at some other place within the electorate. The object really aimed at in this provision is that all voters who cannot attend at their own polling places on the day of election and who, under ordinary circumstances, would be entitled to vote, shall be provided for. By giving a certificate we think that every safe-guard is adopted that is necessary, and by requiring an elector to present that certificate we do away with any danger in allowing him to vote in any part of his electorate. There is another provision in the Bill which enables votes to be given in a convenient way - I refer to the system of voting by post. That system enables an elector who resides more than 10 miles from a polling place, or who anticipates that on the day of election be will be away from his polling place, to go through certain forms and vote by post. I will refer to the details of that system later on. Under this system of voting by post any vote which arrives at the polling place before the actual counting of votes takes place will be accepted. I have referred to these matters for the purpose of showing the way in which the Government have arranged for the electoral rolls. Shortly put, the system is this : After the division has been settled, as I have pointed out, certain polling places will be arranged. The roll in respect of those polling places will then be prepared. Every voter must vote at his own polling place as a general rule, but facilities are provided to enable electors to obtain voters' certificates or to vote by post. In the case of a man using a voter's certificate he must vote personally somewhere within the electorate, but where the system of voting by post is resorted to the elector may vote anywhere, and his vote is counted provided that it arrives at the polling booth in time. There are certain matters connected with voting by post which will have to be referred to, and there are some defects in the Bill, as at present drawn, which the Government may deem it necessary to remedy. I see no reason for referring to them at the present time. Now I come to what is perhaps more important than any of the matters with which I have been dealing, and that is the method of voting. The method of voting provided for in regard to elections for the House of Representatives is somewhat different from that which .applies to elections for the Senate. I 'will deal first with the system of voting to be observed in elections for the House of Representatives. In the first place we have adopted the form of ballot-paper which is used in a place from which a great many good things come - South Australia. We have adopted a ballot-paper with a little square opposite the name of each candidate. I take it that the object of every electoral system is to make the work of the elector as simple as possible, because the more complicated the duties which are put upon the elector are the more likely are we to have informal votes, and the more informal votes we have, the greater must be the defects of our representative system. I shall have occasion to refer by-and-bye to the voting at the New South Wales election for the Senate ; but I merely wish to mention now, in order to show the extent to which irregularity and informality may be carried, that something like 22 per cent, of the votes polled in, New South Wales during that election were informal, and therefore were not counted. Out of the total votes polled there, something like 38,000 were informal. That perhaps stands as the highest 1-6001x1 of informality which has taken place in connexion with any election throughout Australia. It was not because of any want of intelligence on the part of the electors that it occurred, but because of the complexity of the ballotpaper which they had to use. There were a large number of candidates.


Senator Major Gould - Fifty-four.


Senator Walker - No, fifty.


Senator O'CONNOR - Let us say that there were fifty. The elector had to record his vote by striking out the names of those for whom he did not wish to vote. The possibility of mistake under a system of that kind must be perfectly obvious.


Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - There was no right of plumping.


Senator O'CONNOR - That is so. The electors had to leave only 6 names out of 50 on the ballot-paper, so that the difficulty which they experienced must be obvious. Difficulties of that kind will be overcome by the adoption of the form of ballot-paper which has a square opposite the name of each candidate, and which requires some mark to be made in that square in order to make the vote formal. The only thing which is necessary in the use of this ballotpaper at an election for the House of Representatives is that a number shall be put opposite the name of one candidate. The first choice is marked "1," but power is given to an elector to record also what is called a contingent vote, by marking the figures "2," "3," "4," "5," opposite the names of the different candidates according to the wish of the voter. This is an adaptation of what is known as the Queensland system of "contingent voting." It is a modification of the Queensland practice, and, as we think, an improvement upon it. The principle on which the votes are counted may be explained briefly. All that an elector has to do is to make his first choice by writing the figure " 1 " opposite the name of a candidate. After he has done that, he may make a contingent choice of as many candidates as he pleases.


Senator Playford - Is he compelled to do so ?


Senator O'CONNOR - No. All that is necessary is for the elector to mark the figure " 1 " opposite the name of a candidate. He may, if he chooses, mark the figures " 2," " 3," " 4," and so on, opposite the names of other candidates, as contingent votes, which are counted under circumstances which I will indicate in a moment. If an elector marks " 1 " opposite the name of a candidate, his voting-paper is valid. If he marks the figures " 2," " 3," " 4," or " 5," and so on, opposite the names of candidates, then his vote will be counted in the contingent vote. There is no compulsion on the elector to do more than mark " 1 " opposite one name, and that is an important fact to remember.


Senator Best - Is it correct, to say that this is the Queensland system?


Senator O'CONNOR - I said it was a modification of the Queensland system.


Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - A very great modification of it.


Senator O'CONNOR - The system adopted in the counting of votes is that in the first instance a count is made of the total number of votes marked " 1." If any candidate has an absolute majority of those votes, he is declared to be elected ; but if no candidate has an absolute majority of those votes a second count is made, the candidate lowest on the list is dropped out, and his votes are then distributed among the remaining candidates according to the second preferences marked on his papers. If after that distribution there is another count, and no one has an absolute majority, then the candidate at the bottom of the list is dropped out, and his votes are distributed, until by this process of exhaustion and distribution of the votes a candidate has an absolute majority, and is declared elected.


Senator Pearce - Do these secondary votes have full value? Do they count " 1 "?


Senator O'CONNOR - Absolutely. I am dealing with the system to be followed in elections for the House of Representatives. It seems to me that the process I have described is calculated to bring out in the most certain way possible the choice of the majority of the electors. The combinations in elections conducted under the ordinary method frequently result in the election of a person who is the choice, not of the majority, but really of the minority. He happens to be chosen because the division of the majority of voters in small combinations makes the election of a representative of them impossible. Therefore, without referring f urther to this system, which seems to me to be a very simple process, I have only to say that with single electorates, and the method of arriving at the will of the majority provided for in the Bill, we have a system which will give to the people of the Commonwealth representation in the House of Representatives as fair as can well be attained.

I come now to the elections for the Senate. In the elections for the Senate, as I have said already, a State will be polled as one electorate. Hitherto there has been but one system in force, namely, voting on what is called the block system.


Senator Clemons - Except in Tasmania.


Senator O'CONNOR - Yes. There is a worthy and notable exception in the case of Tasmania, which has been so enlightened as to adopt the Hare-Clark system.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It has dropped it again.


Senator O'CONNOR - Pardon me, it has not. Except in the case of Tasmania, the voting for the Senate in all the States is under the old system. I appeal to the experience of every honorable senator as to whether the old system, and the result of it, are not absolutely uncertain. We may of course secure as our representatives the choice of the majority. But we may get the choice of the minority, and have more than half the electors disfranchised. The aim of the system is to secure the choice of the majority, but the majority of votes polled in that way may give us no true representation in Parliament of the opinion of the whole electorate, but a representation of the opinion of the majority only. I should like to refer to the experience of New South Wales in this matter. Honorable senators will be able to multiply instances for themselves, and I might dig out from the vast heap of literature on the subject innumerable instances of the results of what is called the blockvote system. Over and over again, in different places, while there has been a majority of a certain party outside the Legislature, the result of an election has been to send into the Legislature a minority to represent that party. I propose to give a concrete instance which will bring the matter more directly home to honorable senators than any illustrations taken from the experience of other places. In the case of the New South Wales Senate election, as will be remembered, we had the free-trade and protection parties more distinctly defined, perhaps, than in any of the other States. The question was discussed in the other States, and was made a party question, but, in New South Wales more than in any of the other States, the issue by the time the voting took place had become very sharply defined. I propose to show how closely the party vote was followed. I take the actual numbers of votes polled, and I find that in New South Wales my honorable friend Senator Walker received 79,800 votes ; Senator Millen, 75,010 ; Senator Gould, 74,253 ; Senator O'Connor, 72,000 - and he had no right to be in that position on party principles at all - Senator Neild, 70,563 ; and Senator Pulsford, 70,468. Then I take the protectionists, beginning with Manning, who received 48,000 votes ; Kidd received 44,000 odd ; Mackay, 41,000 o.dd ; Waddell, 32,000 odd ; and Hammond, 32,252. In that election there were " bunches " chosen for the free-trade and protectionist parties, and the result of the voting, with the exception of my own case, was that the members of the party seem to have adhered very well to the party vote. That is to say, both free-trade and protectionist candidates had their supporters giving much the same amount of support to each of them.


Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - A fiscal, not a federal, vote.


Senator O'CONNOR - Exactly as the honorable senator says. It is, of course, a difficult matter to fix, with any accuracy, how many of these were free-trade, and how many protectionist votes. I do not pretend to have fixed them in any accurate way ; but, making the best calculation one can, and looking through the votes given for the whole of the candidates, taking those who were advertised as protectionist and freetrade candidates, and those who identified themselves with these " bunches," I estimate that the free-trade vote represented 75,000 voters, the protectionist vote 60,000, and the labour vote 30,000, while there were 17,000 voters who might be classed as independent. These figures give a total of 182,000 voters. If the representation of New South Wales was to have been a fair representation in accordance with the opinion of the people of New South Wales, one would suppose that the protectionists and the labour party would certainly have had representation as well as theree-traders. However, the result was that there were five free-traders returned, one protectionist, and no labour representative. With regard to the protectionist - myself - it was generally admitted, and I am only stating now what is a matter of history, that if it had not been for special circumstances connected with my position in federal politics, which gave me a number of votes from the free-trade party, there would have been no protectionist returned, and the whole of the representatives returned for New South Wales would have been free-traders.


Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Why differentiate from the labour party ?


Senator O'CONNOR - I am not differentiating from any party. Surely I may give an illustration without being accused of differentiating one party from another. The result of the vote was that, out of 182,000 voters 75,000 returned five representatives, and if their organization had been more perfect, they would have returned the whole six, while 107,000 voters would have been absolutely unrepresented.


Senator Millen - Would the honorable and learned senator allow rae to interpose A great many of the men who were unrepresented voluntarily disfranchised themselves by adopting the only form of plumping possible, giving one vote to a likely candidate rather than throwing away votes upon wasters.


Senator O'CONNOR - That is one of the evils of this block system of voting - it encourages men to throw away their rights of representation. Whatever calculations may be made in detail with regard to this vote in New South Wales, every one will admit that the result of it has often been, in elections conducted on the blockvote system, that the majority has the absolute power of securing the representation of its own opinion only, and a large number of the electors are unrepresented altogether.


Senator Clemons - And the honorable and learned senator does not believe in majority rule in the Senate 1


Senator O'CONNOR - That is a different thing altogether. I am coming in a moment to the principle on which I think this representation ought to be founded, but the inference to be drawn from the figures that I have quoted is that it is not the majority that is represented here under the block system, but the minority. If we take the whole of the electorates of New South Wales together, the representation here is not a representation of the electorates of New South Wales according to their numbers. I have taken only this illustration, but it may be multiplied a hundred fold by the experience of other States and other countries. The result is to show how absolutely unreliable this method of election is in making the Legislature a picture of the opinion in the country which is supposed to be represented there. After all what is the object of representation ? Surely the object is to represent fairly the opinion of the community of voters. It is altogether a confusion of ideas to suppose that we want in our representation a representation of the majority only. It is quite true that the majority in decision must rule. It is quite true that when we have our Legislature chosen, the decision must be the decision of the majority ; but I say it is altogether a mistake to suppose that the representation should be the representation of the majority only. The only fair way to get a true representation of the community is to have a representation proportionate to the opinion of the community, and then when the representatives have met together the majority of those representatives must decide. It is by losing sight of that principle, it seems to me, that a great deal of confusion has taken place in regard to this question of the rule of the majority. It is said that we must have the rule of the majority in elections. What does the rule of the majority in elections mean ? It means that a large portion of our voters are not represented at all. When we come to think of what government by the people, a true democracy is, we see that it is altogether opposed to any such principle. A better way perhaps to illustrate this matter than by any arithmetical methods is to take an example which will at once show the principles upon which representation ought to take place and the principle of this proportional vote. I will assume for a moment that we have a community which has just passed out of the stage of purest democracy. I say the purest democracy would be where the people can directly and individually take part in all the deliberations regarding the affairs of the community. I take a case in which I assume that the people have got beyond that stage, and have got to a stage at which those entitled to take part in the management of the community are so numerous that that cannot be done, and they have met to elect an assembly to carry on the business of their country. I will assume that this ideal democracy consists of 6,000 voters, and that they wish to elect a representative body. Supposing this body of persons had to determine upon the best principle on which they could be represented, I will undertake to say that they would never dream of adopting the principle of the block vote. This system of block voting has come to us with a number of traditions which have grown gradually, traditions giving splendid testimony of -the pluck, endurance, and love of freedom of our own people in times gone by. But there is a number of principles handed down to us under the British Constitution, and invested with a certain amount of sacredness, which, I- venture to say, are altogether unsuited to modern times, and this is one of them. I assume that this ideal democracy is anxious to choose the best system by which it may be represented by a body of six representatives. I say it would not adopt the block system, because it would be seen at once that a vote on these principles would result in the six members elected representing little more than one-half of the people. And therefore a little less than one-half of the people would not be represented. If this representation was to be on ordinary principles nobody would dream of adopting it. What system would they adopt1! Surely they would adopt the system of every elector choosing a member to represent him 1 That is to say, there would be six. members to bo chosen, and every 6,000 electors would have a right to choose a member to represent them.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - But suppose that there are twelve different sections of opinion 1


Senator O'CONNOR - If ever mind about that at the present time. I am dealing with the matter by giving an illustration. It must be dealt with in the simplest form' of illustration in order to show honorable senators what the system is, and I hope that I shall be allowed to carry on my own illustration. I take it, therefore, that the most obvious way of this community being represented would be by the return of a member for every 6,000 persons.


Senator Clemons - Six thousand to be a quota.


Senator O'CONNOR - That is the simplest form of quota, but it works perfectly well in the illustration I am about to give. I shall assume that the voting will be carried out in the simplest way possible. The community will assemble itself under its president or head officer, with his secretaries about him, there will be open voting, and the voters will file past and have their votes recorded. Imagine that that process has been carried out, and that 1,000 votes have been cast for A. He is declared elected. If, after A is declared elected, a voter files past and is asked for whom he votes, and he says, " I vote for A," he is told - "Your vote is not wanted for A, because he is elected. Who is the next man whom you would like to vote for?" He says, " B is the man I select," and his vote is recorded for B. The voters keep on trooping through. I assume that B gets his 1,000 votes and is declared elected. Some voter comes along, and when he is asked as to his vote he says, " I vote for A." He is told that A is elected, and he says, " My vote is for B." Then he is told that B is elected, and asked, "Who is your next choice?" He says, " I vote for C." His vote is given to C, and so on, until you find that, by every voter voting, the six are elected, and they represent in that way the choice of the people of that community of 6,000 persons. Under that system every voter is represented. No vote is thrown away, and you have an ideal representation of the community. That is the principle of proportional representation. That is the principle which we would carry out under the system in this Bill. The nearer any system approaches to that, the truer will your representation be. If honorable senators will follow out that illustration they will find that it exactly states all the principles which are embodied in the proposed system of proportional voting.


Senator Clemons - It is not contained in the Bill.


Senator O'CONNOR - It is contained in the Bill, but I am stating it in its simplest form, and it has to be stated in its simplest form in the first instance.


Senator Clemons - Why do the Government not carry it out in their Bill ?


Senator O'CONNOR - It is necessary to carry out this principle ; but, of course, as votes have to be given in quite a different way, and under quite different circumstances, the method cannot in all respects be followed. What do we do ? We say to the voter - " Here is your ballot-paper, and we ask you to mark on it the figure 1 opposite the name of the person whom you select as your representative. But you may put 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, as many preferences as you like, opposite the names of others whom you intend to vote for. You need not mark the preferences unless you like, but if you do, your preferences will be given effect to. If you do not, your vote will be lost altogether in the event of its not being required for the man you have chosen.." That is the position we put the voter in. Not only that ; but we say to him - "Not only need you not vote for more than one, but, if you like, we shall allow you to cross out the name of any candidate you do not wish to vote for." In other words, we give full effect to the elector's desire. If he wishes to vote for one person only, and does not bother himself about any one else, then that desire is given effect to if his vote is necessary to secure the return of the first chosen candidate. If his candidate is already chosen, then his vote is lost. We do not say to him - as the present system does - "We expect you to go through a complicated mental process, and, if you do not go through it you will render your vote informal." We make the duty of the voter as simple as possible. We get at his intention as nearly as we can. Then we come to the system of the counting of the votes. It is set out in the schedules to the Bill. I do not intend to take honorable senators through the regulations seriatim. I only intend to try and describe, as well as possible, the principle of the system. By-and-by, when we come to deal with the details, those smaller matters of method may be gone into. When honorable senators are criticising and dealing wilh the wording of the regulations, they should remember that in very many cases those regulations have to state what is the most difficult thing in the world to state, a mathematical fact or process in ordinary language. I shall now describe the process. In the first place, all the votes are examined and the informal ones are thrown out. The valid votes are then allotted to candidates, in accordance with the No. 1 votes marked on the ballot papers. Then they are counted in order that the quota may be arrived at, that is the least number of votes which can return a member. Under the system adopted in Tasmania, they simply divide the number of effective votes by the number of members to be returned, and the result is the quota called the Hare quota. That is not the quota which is adopted in this measure and which, we contend, is the true quota. It is called the Droop quota, after the name of the person who first called attention to it. How is it . arrived at? Supposing that there are six members to be returned to the Senate, you add one to that number, and you divide the whole number of votes, leaving out the informal ones by seven. You then get a quotient, to which you add one and that is the quota. I am not going into the difference between the Droop quota and the Hare quota. I shall deal with that later on. Having got the quota, you count the "No. 1 " choices, and you find out how many candidates have got that quota. Every candidate who, on that No. 1 vote, has got the quota, is declared elected. It is possible that a candidate may have got exactly the quota. In that case the whole of the papers cast for him are put on one side, and are not dealt with except under certain unusual circumstances, to which I shall refer later on. But supposing, as is much more likely, that one of the persons elected has more than the number required to elect him ; supposing that the quota is 1,000, and that 1,500 votes are cast for him, he has obtained 500 votes more than are required to elect him. What is to be done with them? Under the illustration I gave, the 500 voters who came in ready to vote for that candidate would be told to record their votes for thensecond preference, and of course we must get as near as we can to that. What we do is to distribute that surplus 500 votes amongst all the persons who are marked No. 2 on the ballot papers.


Senator Styles - Which 500 votes 1


Senator O'CONNOR - The honorable senator asks me a very pertinent question which I shall answer. I have taken the simplest form in order to illustrate this system, but, as a matter of fact, it is impossible without trusting to mere chance to distribute any particular 500 votes, and it is due to Mr. Justice Clark of Tasmania that a method has been discovered by which the element of chance in the distribution of the surplus is removed. In order to find out the value of the 500 votes in second preferences, what do we do ? As I say, you cannot distribute any block of 500 for this reason : That if you take any particular 500 in that number there may not be half the votes as second preferences for candidate B that there would be in another 500. It is almost impossible, except by leaving it to a mere matter of chance, to pick out any particular 500 and say you will distribute those. It would be perfectly easy to do it if you were sure that the whole 1,500 contained all through the same number of second preferences for the same persons. Then you could take any 500, but as you cannot be sure of that, the taking of any 500 makes it a matter of chance. Under our system you take the 1,500 votes, and you find out how the No. 2's, or second preferences, are distributed in thom, and whatever proportion of No. 2's cast for candidate B there are in the 1,500 votes there must be the same proportion in the 500 votes, which in fairness should be distributed. Supposing, for instance, that in the 1,500 votes there are 750 No. 2's cast for B : then you are entitled to say that in the 500 surplus votes, which in fairness should be distributed, there must be also cast for B the same proportion.


Senator Styles - Not necessarily.


Senator O'CONNOR - That must follow absolutely. So that instead of trusting to the chance of handing over any 500 votes you may pick upon you hand over not the votes themselves, but a parcel with a certain vote value. The vote value is 250 in the illustration I have given. I have put the matter in that way, because my experience in my investigations has been that it leads to a very great deal of confusion if. you begin to try and find out the vote value, and the proportion of vote value without looking at what the main principle is. The main principle is precisely the same under that system as it is when the voters file past. When the voters are filing past the 500 voters will be told the way to vote, and they will cast their votes there and then for their second choice. The best way of doing that under our system is to take the surplus and distribute it according to the proportion of second choices j and the only way of doing ' that with any degree of accuracy at all is by the principle I have indicated, by which we ascertain the vote value of the surplus in accordance with the "No. 2's" cast for each candidate in the whole number' of the papers polled. You can ascertain then the number of second choices, and you apportion the vote values of the second choices in that way. You deal with the second, third, and fourth surpluses, if any, on the same principle. If you find, on going through the papers in that way, that there is no candidate who has obtained the quota, you proceed by exhaustion. You drop out the lowest, and you distribute his votes amongst the candidates who remain, according to preferences marked on the ballot-papers. I will assume A is elected, and his surplus distributed ; and I will assume that B, 0, D, E, and F are not elected. You hand over to B, C, D, and E the preferences indicated on the votes of F, which are distributed on F being dropped out.


Senator Harney - Must you not take a new vote value as each candidate is put out ?


Senator O'CONNOR - The vote value only arises when there is a surplus, and whenever there is a surplus you must have a vote value. But I atn dealing now with the person who drops out because he has not obtained the quota, and has secured the lowest number of first preferences. His votes will consist first of all of a bundle of first votes. They are distributed at their first vote value amongst the second and third candidates and so on, according to those for whom they are recorded.


Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - It is making a man vote for whom he does not intend to vote.


Senator O'CONNOR - No, because his votes are apportioned only according to the indications on his ballot-paper. "When you come upon a bundle of first choices, cast for a candidate who has been dropped out, they are distributed according to the absolute value. When you come across a second bundle, which is the surplus of a candidate who has obtained a quota, those votes are distributed according to their surplus vote value, and so on, right through, until the principle is fully earned out. In that way those candidates who have obtained the quota are elected, and you then go through the same process again with those that are left, making your counts, distributing, dropping out where necessary, until the whole of your candidates have got the quota. Under the Hare-Clark system, as I have mentioned before, there may be cases in which no one gets the quota. That arises largely from the fact that the quota, which has been fixed by the Hare-Clark system, is too large a quota. Taking the illustration I have given before of 6,000 electors and six candidates, the HareClark quota would be 1,000 votes. That is to say you simply divide the number of electors by the number of seats. Therefore, before a man can be elected under that system, he must get 1,000 votes. The result is, if every man votes and gives all his preferences, there is no waste at all, but if every man does not give his preferences it is impossible for every candidate to get the quota. Therefore, in fixing the quota, you have to be careful, if there are to be waste votes, not to fix it higher than is necessary. The principle of fixing the quota is to fix it in such a way that you secure a number which will return a certain number of members, and will not leave over enough votes to return another member. That is to say, still taking the illustration I have given of 6,000 electors and six members, while the Hare-Clark quota is 1,000, under this Bill the quota will be 858. So that, 858 being the quota, if you take six times that number you will have a balance of 852 left. That balance is the balance to come and go upon. It will cover the exhaust votes, and the cases of votes where the full choice is not made, or where the choice is only made of first a.nd second, or of first, second, and third ; and it will enable the electors to make their choice with the least possible waste.


Senator Dobson - If there were a great number of informal votes the system of this Bill might break down.


Senator O'CONNOR - The informal votes are not counted. Before you fix the quota you throw out the informal votes. In fact, you* do not come to the question of the quota at all until you have got rid of" the informal votes, and your quota is based upon the number of actual effective votes counted in the election. The difference, therefore, between the Hare-Clark quota, and the quota of this Bill, is the difference between 1000 and 858. And we say that experience will show, and the principles upon which elections proceed must demonstrate, that the nearer you can get to the true quota - that is the lowest number of votes necessary to return a member - the better for your representation, and the less waste there will be in the recording of votes. Now I come, to another matter. Suppose that there are six members to be elected and only four have the quota after going through these different processes. There are consequently two who have not got the quota. Or suppose that there are two to be elected and no one has the quota. Then you go through the process of a supplementary election which is stated in the last paragraph of the regulations, and which is an addition made by Professor Nanson to this system. It is, as I say, simply a process of new election. You take all the voting-papers again and you eliminate all those candidates who have been elected already. You take the candidates who are left and arrange them in their order of preference as shown upon the ballot-papers - "4," "5," "6,'' and "7," or "19," "20," and "21." You put them in accordance with their order of preference- " 1," "2," "3," "4," or whatever it may be. Having done that you conduct the election exactly in accordance with the same principle as an election for the House of Representatives. You thus find him who has got an absolute majority, and after finding him drop him out as elected. Then you proceed to conduct another election, and to make another count on the same principle. So that in the unusual event - the very unusual event under this system - of a quota not being arrived at, you may have recourse to this supplementary process.


Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - We want compulsory voting.


Senator O'CONNOR - I do not know whether the honorable senator wants that to be taken seriously. One of the advantages of this system is that there is nothing compulsory about the voting. As long as a man votes for one candidate that is all that is necessary, and you do not disqualify him because he has voted for one only.


Senator Styles - He may plump ?


Senator O'CONNOR - Yes, the elector may plump for one person. And he has the right if he does so vote to say, " I have not made up my mind about the other candidates, and am not going to take the trouble to do so. Rather than make up my mind I will lose my right to vote for the other candidates in the event of my particular candidate being elected by mine and other votes." If an elector likes to say that there is no reason why he should not. I hope honorable senators will consider that the thing to be avoided above all others is the making of this system, or any system, obligatory on the elector. We should make the duty of the elector as simple as possible, and should make the principles upon which his vote is counted fair and just, and such as will give a true representation. We may leave to the intelligence of an ordinarily well-trained clerk in the electoral office, the duty of attending to the rest of the process with the most absolute confidence and certainty. There is a great deal of testimony as to the actual working of the HareClark system in Tasmania. There is particularly the evidence of Mr. R. M. Johnston, and of Mr. Davies, who has been returningofficer under it. I do not think there is a higher authority in statistical matters in this country than Mr. Johnston, of Tasmania, and he has given the most emphatic indorsement of approval of the system, and has demonstrated that there is nothing in the counting of these votes which cannot be carried out by any ordinarily intelligent electoral clerk working under ordinarily methodical management. It is not my in1 tention to detain the Senate by going into further details as to the principles and methods of this system of proportional representation. It has been my object to show that the true and only principle of real representation is proportional representation. Because, surely if the Government or the Legislature of the country are to be under the direction of the people, we must have the people properly represented and their will accurately expressed in the Legislature. If we know, as we all know, what has been going on in connexion with legislative bodies throughout the British Empire - that for years and years phases of thought in social and political movements have had absolutely no representation whatever in the Legislature, although there are large numbers of persons who hold those opinions, we must come to the conclusion that it is essential that an alteration of our system of representation should be made, so that every shade of opinion, as far as possible, may be represented. Of course, it is impossible for every shade of opinion to be represented, and this system does not ask that any shade shall be represented unless it has attained to such dimensions that it can command a quota of the electors. If a body of opinion can command a quota of the electors, it is a denial of everything which lies at the root of true representation to say that that body shall have no representation. If we wish to have our Parliament made a true reflex of the opinion of the people, we must abandon once and for all the system of the block vote, a system which is absolutely uncertain in its operation and its results, and which leads at best to a majority only being represented. It is a system, indeed, which may result even in a compact minority alone being represented, and which leads not only to misrepresentation either by the majority or the minority, but also to all sorts of wire-pulling and log-rolling and combinations . to secure such effects. The moral aspect of the question is one with which, perhaps, we have very little to say, because, I suppose that, as long as there are elections there will be devious ways of conducting them wherever possible. But the present system often puts an elector in this position : that he is compelled to support one or the other of the two dominant parties in politics, not because he believes in either of them, but because he thinks one or other of them -will have a better chance of giving him what he wants to carry out his particular views. Is it not very much better, more honest, and more in accordance with the true representation of the people, that a person, if he belongs to. a body of opinion which can secure a quota, should have his own representative there to voice his opinions '! The effect of this proportional representation will be that we shall be able to secure the representation of the true majority; that a majority will be represented by its true value, and no more. Any minority which is large enough to have a quota will be represented, and, therefore, the Legislature will be a true reflex of opinion outside. There are other matters which are of considerable importance in this measure, but to which I intend to refer very briefly. There is a provision for cutting down election expenses. Election expenses under the Bill are restricted in the case of candidates for the Senate to £250, and in the case of candidates for the House of Representatives to £100. There are provisions which indicate in what direction that expenditure must take place, and failure to observe the regulations is made an electoral offence punishable under the Act. I hear some indications of amusement among honorable senators with regard to the insertion of this provision. It is not, however, a new one ; it exists in other countries. It has been canvassed and discussed over and over again in all the States, and it is simply because it is new that some people tell us that it cannot be carried out. If we tate the position in Great Britain as an illustration of the necessity for a provision of this kind, we find that the expenses of an election there make entry into the House of

Commons absolutely prohibitive in the case of a man who has not the command of large sums of money. That is an instructive illustration ; but the same thing applies more or less throughout the Commonwealth. If we wish to secure a true reflex of the opinions of the electors, we must have not only a system of proportional representation, but a system which will not allow the choice of the electors to be handicapped for no other reason than the inability of a candidate to find the enormous amount of money required to enable him to compete with, other candidates. There is no reason why this provision should not be carried out. Once it becomes law it will be carried out, and it will have the result of reducing very considerably the cost of elections. In doing that it will improve very much the morality of electioneering tactics, because, if there is one thing more than another at the bottom of corrupt practices in connexion with elections it is the abundant use of money. There are other provisions in the Bill to which I do not think it necessary to refer in detail at this stage.


Senator Higgs - What about voting by post 1


Senator O'CONNOR -- I have indicated our proposals in that direction, and I think the honorable senator will consider it unnecessary for me to refer to them at greater length, unless there is. some particular matter upon which he seeks information.. I leave the Bill in the hands of the Senate believing that honorable senators will realize that this system of election, in its foundation, in its franchise, is the broadest and most liberal that it is possible to have in any community. If the system of election which we have asked for in this Bill is adopted, it will be the most truly representative of any system which has been devised. It would indeed be to the credit, of. the Commonwealth, carrying out this experiment in democracy on the largest scale and under the best possible conditions, if it were able to introduce and carry into effect what has been for years the -wish of advanced political writers, and of enthusiasts like my honorable and learned friend Senator Best and others, who have striven for years and years to bring about the true aim of representative institutions. - the proper representation of the constituencies. I am sure this measure will receive the fullest consideration. I hope that the novelty of some of the proposals contained in it will not be regarded as a sufficient answer to them. I believe I am appealing now to legislators who have considered these problems over and over again, and who know the history of them in different parts of the world. That belief has made my task very much easier. I leave the Bill in the hands of the Senate, believing, although some slight modification of different portions of it may be made in committee - and I shall always be glad to listen to any suggestion which will really improve the Bill - that substantially it will pass through the Legislature, as providing a system of representation which will give the people of the Commonwealth, in their Legislature a true reflex of their own opinions, and will be worthy of the Legislature of the Commonwealth itself.

Debate (on motion by Senator Clemons) adjourned.







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