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Thursday, 29 July 1920

Mr CONSIDINE (Barrier) .- I shall vote against the motion, because it is quite futile even if carried. If the House agrees to it no attention will be paid to it by the present Government. They will simply regard it as a pious expression of opinion. According to the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) a simple alteration of the Electoral Act would meet the position far better than would the more difficult process of amending the Constitution, but the fact remains that those who support a certain Government can amend the Electoral law as it suits them, just as was done with a view to influencing a by-election in the Corangamite division; a matter which wa.s brought under our notice very forcibly during the last Parliament. It is all very well to talk about consulting the wishes of the public.

Mr Hill - I suppose they are the last that should be considered.

Mr CONSIDINE - They are the last that are considered by the various political parties who occupy the Treasury bench. No honorable member is so unsophisticated as not to know that the majority in possession of the Treasury bench will fix the election time to suit their own political purposes. They will choose the time which they deem .to be most favorable for securing their return with a majority.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The honorable member does not suggest that his party would do such- a thing ?

Mr CONSIDINE - In this regard I do not discriminate between political parties who may happen to occupy the Treasury bench. Possibly the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), as an old hand at the political game, may believe that every honorable member who rises to speak says only what he deems to be in the interests of his political party, but I am dealing with this motion on its merits, and I say that it will have no effect on the present Administration, or on any Administration. The majority will naturally choose the most opportune time for consulting the electors.

Mr Jowett - That is what I wish to prevent.

Mr CONSIDINE - Then -the honorable member might as well get out with a broom and attempt to sweep back the sea.

Mr STEWART - Are not Governments apt to make blunders occasionally?

Mr CONSIDINE - Certainly ; and I hope that when they meet the electors on the next occasion the present Government will make the biggest blunder of their lives. But the fact that Administrations make blunders does not do away with the futility of the motion which the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has already admitted is of no practical use. As it would involve an amendment of the Constitution, it will be necessary to submit it to a referendum, and secure a majority of the voters of the Commonwealth, and a majority of the various States. Here again the opportune time for submitting the question to the people will be decided by the Administration, who, if they are opposed to it, will choose the most inopportune time for securing a vote on the question.

Mr Jowett - It is my desire to take the responsibility out of the hands of any unscrupulous Government.

Mr CONSIDINE - The honorable member cannot achieve that object unless he puts out the present Government and takes their place, which he has not the slightest intention of doing. The motion is simply a piece of window dressing.. The mover, knowing that nothing can be done, and that the carrying of the motion will lead us nowhere, is simply helping the Government to monopolize the time of the House. He brings forward a complaint about the fanners - a very necessary portion of the community, but, nevertheless, not the only portion. The shearers, and others who follow a migratory calling, are also a very necessary portion of the community.

Mr Jowett - Would they be placed at any disadvantage by the adoption of the motion ?

Mr CONSIDINE - The men who leave the cities to go shearing in the country areas would be enrolled in city electorates, and they would certainly be inconvenienced by having to work in the shearing sheds during the period in which the honorable member wishes elections to be held.

Mr Jowett - They could vote by post or as absentees.

Mr CONSIDINE - The postal vote does not appeal to me. It is capable of manipulation by the party which happens to be in control of the election.

Mr Jowett - Then let the honorable member bring forward a motion to abolish it.

Mr CONSIDINE - The honorable member knows very well that when it had the opportunity to do so, the Labour party voted solidly against the inclusion of the postal vote provisions in the Electoral Bill. I do not think that the honorable member, by comparing the votes polled in May, 1917, with those polled in December, 1920, can show that any great inconvenience was occasioned to the particular section of the community whose opinions he claims to be voicing by the holding of the election in December. I do not think that statistics of the voting would prove the honorable member's case. There is a considerable apathy among the electors of Australia, but that is not due to the fact that people are engaged in farming or other occupations at election time.

Mr Jowett - Does the honorable member deny that there is any Inconvenience to the farmers by having to vote in the middle of a harvest?

Mr CONSIDINE - There would be no more inconvenience to a particular section of the community, such as the farmers, by holding an election in December, than there would be to other sections if the date of the election was at any fixed period of the year. With a fixeddate, there would always be inconvenience to one section or another, but my opinion is that the people who want to vote will go to the polls at whatever inconvenience to themselves. The fixing of the date would not make the citizens of Australia vote who have not hitherto voted.

Mr Jowett - It would help them to do so.

Mr CONSIDINE - I do not think we have ever had. a 70 per cent, vote of the people of Australia.

Mr Tudor - In Queensland, at the 1910 election, there was a poll of over 80 per cent.

Mr CONSIDINE - 1 am speaking from memory, and I do not think we have ever had such a poll for the whole of Australia. We certainly have not had it at recent elections.

Mr Stewart - The main contention of the honorable member for Grampians is not' that farmers do not record their votes, but that great inconvenience is caused to them through having to do so when they have ripe crops to be harvested.

Mr CONSIDINE - There is a considerable number of farmers in the Riverina portion of the Barrier electorate, and I have not heard any complaints from them about the inconvenience of polling day.

Mr Jowett - Perhaps they do not give their votes to the honorable member.

Mr CONSIDINE - I think I can say that the farmers in the Riverina district have supplied me with my majority .

Mr Prowse - Then the honorable member should be careful how he votes on this motion.

Mr CONSIDINE - I am not susceptible to intimidation. During the period in which I have represented the Barrier I have not received any complaints either from my working farmer constituents or from any other section in the matter of the dates on which elections have been held. Honorable members will note that I refer to working farmers.

Mr Prowse - Are you speaking as a practical farmer ?

Mr Gibson - The honorable member had too much sense to remain on the land.

Mr CONSIDINE - The possession of a certain area of land is no proof that the honorable member possesses common sense. I have never held land to work it' myself. I have worked it for the other fellow as a farm labourer. I have no quarrel with the man who takes up land and works it. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) when he remarked recently that the interests of the men who work in the workshop and the factory are identical with those of the men who work on the land. I look forward to the day when the working farmer and the man in the workshop, in the mine, and in the factory will join hands and rule this country as it should be ruled. But motions such as that at present under discussion will neither facilitate that end nor achieve any useful result. Therefore, I regard this as a pure waste of time.

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