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Friday, 15 December 1905


Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) -^ shall support the amendment, because I recognise that it will conduce to the purity of our public life. I have known poor candidates of small means to be handicapped in an election contest by the liberal contributions made by richer opponents to charities and other institutions. I remember one case in which a rich man, who was contesting an election in New South Wales,, made a number of exceptionally large donations just prior to an election. I do not mean to say that that, by reason of these contributions, he was successful, but he won the seat. Donations of the kind described very frequently influence weak people in favour of a candidate. In years gone by, seats have been practically bought by rich men who have made handsome bequests and gifts. I frankly confess that I cannot afford to make liberal donations to public institutions, and I have absolutely refused to comply with any of the requests that have reached me. I cannot afford1 to do so. The country does not expect it of me. It should be made plain that a man is not elected to Parliament in order that he may distribute his allowance amongst his constituents. His honorarium is intended to enable him to defray his expenses whilst he is serving the people. A man who subscribes to a hospital, so far from performing an act of charity, is discharging a plain duty. Moreover, I do> not think that any great advantage is derived by candidates who devotetheir money to such purposes. But when they pander to the members of cricket clubs, race clubs, and similar institutions, they are guilty of a form of bribery. I do not think that contributions of this kind are necessary to establish a man in hisposition in Parliament. I was told by. old politicians in New South Wales that if I refused to follow the practice that had' been pursued in the past, my parliamentary, career would be a very short one; but I stated that if I had to choose between becoming impoverished, and holding my position, I should retire from public life. I put the question to the test, and I passed through the ordeal successfully. Wealthy candidates should not be placed in a position of undue advantage over their poorer opponents, and I shall therefore cordially support the amendment.

Mr. R.EDWARDS (Oxley). - Whenspeaking a few minutes ago, I was under the impression that sub-clause b, proposed by the honorable member for Darwin, was to be included as a part of the clause, and' would have prevented Members of Parliament from making- these contributionsthroughout the year. As that is not the intention, I am prepared .to support the clause. If the provision is to apply only for a limited time before an election, thereis not the same objection to it.


Mr Groom - It must not be done after a man has announced himself as a candidate.


Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I think there should be some fixed time.


Mr Groom - The man fixes the time himself, when he announces himself as a candidate.


Mr R EDWARDS (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I know that the existing Act provides for something of the kind, and I was careful not to contribute anything during the time provided for. As I now understand the matter, I am prepared to support the clause.

Mr. JOHNSON(Lang).- Although it has been implied that I had some hand inthe drafting of this provision, I can say that it bears no resemblance to any proposal that I have advocated. My idea was absolutely to prevent Members of Parliament making use of their positions as such to bribe electors by donations to institutions to which they would not subscribe as private individuals. This proposal does not touch that at all, and the previous proposal submitted dealt with that matter only to a limited extent. This will not overcome the abuses and evils that exist at the present time, and which tend to make the retention of some seats dependent not upon the merits or services of the member in a representative political capacity, but upon the length of his purse and its capacity to be drawn upon for various local purposes, private and otherwise. The difficulty is that it applies only to candidates, and while a candidate may mot give anything during his candidature, he may say to persons who make applications to him/ " Let this matter stand over until after I am elected." He might thus make an implied promise, at least, and -merely postpone carrying it out until after he is elected.


Mr King O'malley - That is done now.


Mr JOHNSON - It is; and it is- one of the evils against which we should guard. The proposal now before the Committee does not guard against it, but, on the contrary, promotes it. A man may receive fifty notifications that he has been elected patron of this or that club, and very often, even when no request is made for it directly, the notification implies that a donation to the funds is expected. If we are going to legislate in this matter at all, what i's now proposed is farcical, and will absolutely fail to achieve the object desired.







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