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Thursday, 9 May 1901

Senator O'CONNOR (New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council) - I would remind the Senate that the time has arrived for electing a President, and, as I understand that there is not likely to be a unanimous choice in the first insance, I think it would be well if we were to lay down at once a method of procedure by which in the end the will of the majority might prevail. As honorable members are aware, the House ofCommons' practice would guide a body of this kind in the absence of express direction by ourselves. I think it will be evident that, in the event of there being more than two candidates, the putting of several motions successively would very likely result in the election of a President who would not' be the choice of the majority of the House. The experience, I think, of all of us who have had much to do with deliberative bodies is that, in these circumstances, there is only one way of ascertaining the choice of the majority, and that is by the system of what is called exhaustive ballot. I propose therefore that, inasmuch as under the circumstances which are likely to arise, it is necessary to have some other procedure than that of the House of Commons, the Senate should lay down for itself a form of procedure to be adopted during this election of President. I put my proposal in the form . of a motion, which I ask the consent of the Senate to submit without notice. It is as follows : -

That if no more than two candidates are proposed, the House ofCommons,' practice be adopted ; that if more than two candidates are proposed, the Senate proceed to ballot ; that all candidates except the two highest on the first ballot drop out ; that if on the first ballot any candidate has an absolute majority of the votes given, he shall be declared elected President ; but if no candidate has such absolute majority, a second ballot be then taken, and that the candidate then obtaining the highest number of votes be declared elected President.

That, I think, will commend itself to honorable members as a method by which we can, in a most certain way, elect a President who shall be the choice of the majority of the members of the Senate. I would like also to make a suggestion. I do not intend to put it in any formal way. Considering the nature of the office and the duties of President, and considering also the qualifications, the well-known character, and ability of the gentlemen who are likely to be nominated, it would be very much better for honorable members to content themselves by simply moving and seconding the candidates that they propose. I need not enlarge on the reasons which I think will commend that course to the Senate. I make that suggestion in the hope that honorable members will see that it will be conducive, perhaps, to good results, if that procedure be followed. I propose the motion I have read in order that the Senate may have the procedure settled for the purpose of this first election of a President.

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