Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 27 October 1911


Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - I do not know why the amendment has been moved, or what is really the object of it, if it is not to prolong the discussion, by allowing honorable senators- who have spoken to have another go at the Bill, because, in so far as it has any meaning at all, it is a direct negative. As a matter of fact, where the amendment says that the public interest demands an increase in voting facilities rather than a curtailment, it is in exact accordance with the Bill, because the latter does provide for increased voting facilities. The amendment is one of those senseless things which one would expect from Senator St. Ledger; but why an apparently intelligent individual like Senator Keating should so far fall in as to make the mistake of seconding it is more than I can understand. Almost every speaker on the other side has bombarded this measure to the fullest possible extent. Even the unattached senator on the other side, Senator Keating, has thought fit to heave off some heavy fireworks at the measure, because, after all is said and done, one cannot characterize the alleged arguments which have been used as anything else but fireworks, since they have absolutely no basis in reason.


Senator Vardon - That is a bit strong.


Senator GIVENS - In spite of the bombardment I propose to show, if I can, that the necessity for the Bill is apparent to every reasonable man in the community. The aim, the end, and the object of an electoral law should be to preserve the purity of elections, and to insure that the verdict of the people shall be faithfully and honestly recorded without fear or favour.


Senator Vardon - This Bill does not accomplish that.


Senator GIVENS - I propose to show that it makes a very laudable attempt in that direction. The chief objections offered to the Bill have been based on the fact that it abolishes postal voting. If it had not been proved conclusively to me by the experience of several elections that it is absolutely impossible to safeguard the provisions for postal voting, I should not be in favour of abolishing the system. My experience has taught me that no matter how many safeguards are provided, the system will be availed of to render elections corrupt and to unduly influence electors. In Queensland we had an experience of postal voting for a very considerable time, and the result was so grave a public and political scandal that all parties were practically unanimous in abolishing it. I shall be able to show that, not only were the parties engaged in the conduct of elections corrupt in their actions, but they went so far as to corrupt the public servants of the country. Let me quote a case that occurred at Townsville, which was represented for so long a time, and is still represented, by a gentleman who for many years was Premier of the State of Queensland, the Honorable Robert Philp. Would it astonish honorable senators if I told them that at one election for Townsville nearly one-third of the total votes cast were postal votes of men and women who would have had no difficulty or trouble whatever in going to the poll and recording their votes in the ordinary way? Why were they so cast? It was simply because the political organizers went round and persuaded electors, against their better judgment, to record their votes by post.


Senator O'Keefe - They must have been a week-kneed lot of electors).


Senator GIVENS - If every man and woman were sufficiently independent to record their votes openly and in a straightforward way, without regard to consequences, we should abolish voting by ballot straight away. But uo one would dare to advocate for a single moment the abolition of the ballot system. We all know that its: adoption has been pf the greatest possibleadvantage to the people of every country in which it is In force by relieving then* from duress, outside pressure, and influence which would otherwise be brought tobear upon them.


Senator Findley - From losing their jobs in many cases.


Senator GIVENS - That is the duress-, under which many were previously compelled to vote. We all know that the ideal system would be for men and women tovote openly and independently in the faceof mankind and in the full light of day, but practical experience has shown that it is not possible in such a way to obtain anhonest and unbiased verdict. I was led: away by the interjection from the matter 1 had in hand, which was the conduct of. a particular election at Townsville, in which one-third of the total votes polled were postal votes. On that occasion, I go so far as to say that somebody was responsible for corrupting a Commonwealth public Department, and inducing the officers of that Department to do something which they should not have done, and which was against the law of the land. These are facts for which I can vouch from personal knowledge and observation.


Senator Vardon - The officers must have' been rather a weak lot.


Senator GIVENS - Possibly; but they were induced to lend themselves to a palpable lie. Under the Queensland Electoral Act it was provided that a postal vote should be posted on the day on which it was attested by the authorized witness, the same as under the Commonwealth Act, and it should bear the postal stamp of the date on which it was filled in and posted. What happened at the election to which 1 refer? The canvassers for the alleged Liberals - who ought to be honest enough to call themselves Conservatives and Tories of the deepest dye - went round every day and collected as many postal votes as they could. Of course, as they went round, they tried to influence people to vote for the candidate whom they favoured. After they had collected as many postal votes as they could during the day, they carried them into the organizing office of the alleged Liberal party. They were there retained until after io o'clock or later, when the meetings concluded, and after the letter-boxes had been cleared for the day by the postal officials. Then they were posted, and when, next morning, the postal officials cleared the letter-boxes, they put on one side the postal ballot-papers, which they could recognise because of the marking on the envelopes. They dien date-stamped all the other letters in the ordinary way with the date on which they were collected from the boxes, but when they came to stamp the postal voting envelopes, they changed the date-stamp to that of the previous day. That is a fact which came under my own. observation, and I reported it at the time to the PostmasterGenera I .


Senator Millen - They put on the date of the day on which the votes were actually posted.


Senator GIVENS - It was their duty to put on the date of the day on which they were collected from the boxes, as they did in the case of all the other letters collected at the same time. They had no knowledge of the date on which they were posted. They could not say that they had not been posted after midnight. As a matter of fact, they were on several occasions posted after midnight, because the meetings of this precious alleged Liberal party often extended until after midnight. No one knows, of course, what happened at those meetings, but there is a strong suspicion, and a wellgrounded suspicion, in the minds of many people that those present at the meetings examined every one of the postal votes that had. been collected, that they rejected those which were not cast in their favour, and posted only those that were in their favour.


Senator Vardon - They must be a jollybad lot in Queensland.


Senator GIVENS - There are just as bad people elsewhere. Let me mention another case to show what happened under the postal voting system. I can say from personal knowledge that, while it was in force in Queensland, on certain mining fields, while the men were at work, the managers, who were justices of the peace, used to go round to the women folk - the wives, mothers, and sisters of the miners - and terrorize them into recording votes against their convictions. This led to a .great deal of family disunion and heartburnings in many families on the mining fields in Queensland. A poor unfortunate wife, dependent upon her husband continuing in employment with the goodwill of a mining manager, would be absolutely forced by the duress of her circumstances to give her vote when asked for it in that way, though there was no reason why she should not have gone to the polling booth and recorded her vote in the ordinary way. These managers knew that the only way in which they could secure votes for alleged Liberal candidates whom they favoured was to induce such people to vote by post. Will any reasonable or fair-minded man say that a system which could lend itself to so much iniquity and corruption should be retained? What happened at the referenda in last April ? I take the State of Victoria, and let honorable senators see what the figures disclose. There was a total of 28,000 odd postal votes recorded.

Sentaor McColl. - Twenty-nine thousand.


Senator GIVENS - Not quite. I have the exact figures; but I will not quarrel with the honorable senator over 1,000 votes. A' curious thing is disclosed by the official figures. Of that 28,000 odd votes, no less than one-half, or 14,000, were recorded in Victoria, where there are greater facilities for voting in the ordinary way than in any of the other States.


Senator Vardon - Half the population were going to London for the Coronation.


Senator GIVENS - I have yet to learn that there was a greater exodus from Victoria to the Coronation than from any of the other States. One of the chief reasons, and the one which appealed more than any other to the sensibilities of people, for the adoption of the postal voting system, was that it would permit women in a delicate state of health to record their votes. Not to be too delicate in the matter" the object really was to provide for maternity cases. Let us assume for a moment that it was on account of maternity that a very large number of these postal votes were recorded at the referenda ; and are we then to suppose that there were as many maternity cases in 'Victoria, which has the lowest birth rate of any State in the Commonwealth, as there were in all the other States put together, though they have a higher birth rate than has Victoria?


Senator Millen - Now the honorable senator is actually going to take away the vote from such people.


Senator GIVENS - I would not willingly take away a vote from anybody.


Senator Millen - Is the honorable senator doing it under coercion, then ?


Senator GIVENS - I do not care a straw what may be the effect of a proposal upon any particular party. The question with which I am concerned is whether it is a right, wise, and expedient thing to do. Let me say, further, that if the vote is taken away from these people, it is the party opposite that is responsible, owing to the disgracefully corrupt way in which those associated with them used the postal voting system.


Senator Vardon - Of course we all admit that.


Senator GIVENS - I have quoted two concrete cases.


Senator Vardon - We have not heard the other side of those cases yet.


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator can satisfy himself as to the facts with regard to the corruption of post-office officials at Townsville by inquiring at the Department, because I reported the matter straight away. I am sure that he will not doubt my word when I say that I vouch from personal knowledge for the statement that certain managers on mining fields in Queensland, and particularly at Charters. Towers, went round terrorizing women, and inducing them to vote by post, when there was no earthly reason why they should not record their votes in the ordinary way. These are two of the reasons why I am in favour of that portion of the Bill which proposes the abolition, of postal voting. I believe that the logic of experience has proved that it is absolutely necessary to do so. I have said that one-half of the total postal votes cast at the referenda were recorded in Victoria, which is the most densely populated State in the Union, which has better railway facilities than any other State, and in which the people are within easy distance of the various polling centres. There was less necessity for the exercise of the postal vote in Victoria than in any other State of the Commonwealth, and yet the official figures disclose the fact that fully one-half of the total postal votes recorded at the referenda were recorded in this State.


Senator de Largie - Were those 14,000 postal votes all that were issued in Victoria. ?


Senator GIVENS - Another peculiar feature in connexion with the voting by post in Victoria at the referenda is suggested by Senator de Largie's interjection. Of the total postal votes issued in this State, no less than 1,567 were never used. If honorable senators will turn to the existing Act, they will find that under sections 11 8a and 118b it is the duty, not of the person who makes the vote, but of the authorized witness to it, to post the vote, under a penalty of £100, or three months' imprisonment. Yet in Victoria, of all the postal votes issued, no less than 1,567 were never accounted for in the ordinary way by being sent through the post as postal ballotpapers.


Senator de Largie - Or received ?


Senator GIVENS - I wish to be quite fair, and I say that I believe that about one-third of these postal ballot-papers were afterwards accounted for by being presented to the presiding officers at the polling booths, and exchanged for ordinary ballot-papers. But the damning fact remains that over 1,000 postal ballot-papers issued were never accounted for and never received. What became of them?


Senator Millen - I can tell the honorable senator what became of one in my State. I obtained it and I did not use it-


Senator GIVENS - As I would not accuse the honorable senator of making a false declaration that he would not be able to vote in the ordinary way, I must credit him with making a miscalculation, since he was under no necessity to use the postal ballot-paper issued to him. I have said that over 1,000 postal ballot-papers issued in Victoria were never accounted for. After taking the trouble to work out a little calculation, I find that in Victoria there are eleven constituencies returning members of the present Opposition party. There are ten constituencies returning Labour men, and one returning an Independent member. It is a curious fact that, of the 1,567 postal ballot-papers unaccounted for, 940 were issued in the eleven constituencies held by the alleged Liberal party, and only 640, or thereabouts, were issued in the other eleven constituencies. If the fact that those postal ballot-papers were not accounted for is due to corruption, then our friends opposite, on the figures, are 50 per cent, more corrupt that we are. In view of these facts, there cannot be a single man desirous of maintaining the purity of elections, and to see that the people are afforded an opportunity to exercise an honest vote, who will not applaud the action of the Government in proposing to abolish a system which it has been shown leads to all sorts of coercion, duress, and corruption. It has been proved over and over again that so-called influential citizens in the various electorates have gone round at election time, and, as justices of the peace and authorized witnesses of postal votes, have exercised their influence, by canvassing and otherwise, to induce people, against the law, to make use -of the postal voting provisions, because they could not otherwise be sure that the votes of these people would be in favour of the candidates they supported. I say that the people at an election should be in the position of a jury. They are asked to bring in a verdict, and they should be allowed to give their decision absolutely uninfluenced and unbiased, and without fear or duress from any person whatever. If that be so, the postal vote should be abolished, because it enables the sort of thing to which I have referred to be done.


Senator Vardon - So will the absent voters proposals of this Bill.


Senator GIVENS - I hope not. If it be shown that the methods adopted lead to the exercise of undue influence or corruption, the duty will be cast upon us to devise ways and means to prevent them. 1 think I have said enough upon the postal vote question to show that the Government have more than ample justification for the action which they have taken in that regard. I propose now to discuss one or two other points of the Bill. Our honorable friends opposite have denounced it as drastic, and as going too far in certain directions. I do not think that it is possible to go too far in trying to prevent misrepresentation and abuse of the privileges that are accorded, by arty elector or organization, in support of any party at election time. Why should people be allowed to circulate all kinds of lies and escape punishment? I am going to produce a case which is absolutely convincing upon the face of it. On the 6th September of the present year, a by-election was held at Brisbane. There were two candidates, Richard Sumner, who represented the Labour party, and Thomas Welsby, who represented the alleged Liberal party. I am going to show how honest these alleged Liberals are. I hold in my hand a copy of a card issued by the Thomas Welsby party. In Queensland, as most honorable senators are aware, the electors do not vote by placing a cross opposite the name of a candidate, but by striking out the name of the candidate for whom they do not wish to vote. I have here a dummy ballot-card, which I invite honorable senators to inspect. It reads as follows : -

SUMNER, Richard

WELSBY, Thomas.

Mark your voting paper exactly as above, or you run the risk of making your vote informal.

It will be seen that there is a thick line drawn across the name Sumner, Richard. I characterize the statement made at the bottom of the card as a base and malicious lie.


Senator Vardon - Hear, hear; quite right.


Senator GIVENS - I say that the party responsible for issuing a lying statement of that sort, which might mislead many innocent voters into believing that their votes would be informal if they voted for the Labour candidate, is sufficient to warrant putting those responsible for issuing it in gaol for six months. I do not think that Thomas Welsby, who was elected, is, under such circumstances, capable of representing any body of honest men and women anywhere. Yet this man has never repudiated the card issued in his behalf.


Senator Vardon - That is not postal voting.


Senator GIVENS - Honorable senators opposite have asked for instances of corrupt and lying statements. Here is a case produced under their very eyes. What do they think about it ? Will a single one of them justify mendacious tactics of this kind? As a matter of fact, if a person voted exactly in the opposite way to that indicated on the card, his vote would have been absolutely good and formal. It does not matter one straw to me whom this Bill Hits. If it hits our party, when they do wrong, I say well and good. If it hits honorable senators opposite, equally well and good. It is essential that we should keep our electoral machinery in such a condition that it shall afford opportunities for a faithful record of the desire and will of the people. With that end in view, false and lying statements should be rendered as dangerous as possible, and when they are discovered, the authors of them should be punished. In my opinion, the provisions of the Bill in that regard are not strong enough to deter and prevent this kind of thing.


Senator St Ledger - You can never suppress lying by Ant of Parliament.


Senator GIVENS - I would make lying so risky that I believe even the honorable senator would not like to try it. Perhaps it would be impossible to bind down lawyers, because they are so ingenious in discovering loopholes in any Act of Parliament, and can lie wholesale for the advantage of themselves and their clients.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.


Senator GIVENS - I have reviewed at some length the reasons which induce me to support the provisions of the Bill relating to the abolition of postal voting. Before I leave that aspect of the question, there are one or two points which I should like to emphasize. Whilst the ballot system, as it now exists, is not an ideal system which a free people should like to maintain as their method of election - because it would be infinitely preferable that every man and woman should be able to vote openly as he or she pleased - yet we know from experience that it is essential, if we are to maintain the independence and integrity of the voters, to preserve the ballot. But if we are to preserve it, I sayemphatically that the postal voting system cannot be maintained side by side with it. It is utterly and absolutely impossible to preserve the secrecy of the ballot along with the postal voting system. I will quote a case in point. When we had postal voting in Queensland, the ordinary votes recorded in the customary way, at a certain election at Charters Towers, placed two candidates far ahead of all the others. But before the result was officially declared, the opponents of those two men were so confident that the postal votes would count in their favour that they were able to forecast the ultimate result almost accurately, and did, in fact, wager large sums of money on it. The result showed that their forecasts were quite correct. Under those circumstances, it is absurd to contend that there was any secrecy whatever about the candidates for whom those postal votes were cast. The people who collected them evidently knew how nearly every person would use the postal vote. Therefore, I say again that if we are going to preserve the ballot system - and I maintain that it is essential until people achieve economic and political freedom - we cannot maintain side by side with it the postal voting system, which destroys the secrecy of the ballot. As long as we retain the postal system, so long shall we enable unscrupulous individuals to exercise undue influence on voters. I have pointed out how managers of mines can go round while men are at work on day or afternoon shifts, and terrorize their wives and relatives not to go to the poll, but to vote by post. Women are frightened in that way, because they realize that their own living, and their means of feeding their children, depend upon their husbands being maintained in employment. Coercion of various kinds is exercised in that way on almost every occasion when the postal vote is employed. We have known instances of influential persons making house to house canvasses trying to persuade and induce women to vote by means of postal ballot-papers, when there was no earthly or heavenly reason why they should not go to the poll. If a Royal Commission were appointed to investigate the matter, the proof obtained would be overwhelming. I venture to say that there is no one in this Senate who would be able to controvert the facts so elicited. The case in favour of the abolition of postal voting is indeed so overwhelming that I wonder at the audacity of any man who desires to see purity of elections, rising in his place in favour of the retention of the system. I am driven to believe that those who do so do not want purity of elections at all.


Senator Vardon - Rather a gratuitous assumption, I should think.


Senator GIVENS - The facts are overwhelming in support of what I say. What is an unfortunate woman going to do in such a case as I have mentioned ? Say that a miner has a wife and a family of young children. Say, that the mine manager comes along at election time, while the man is at work, bringing with him all the necessary papers, and suggesting to the woman that it will be better for her not to go to the poll, but to cast her vote by means of the postal ballot system. Suppose she demurs. She knows that if she does so she will run the risk of her husband losing his employment, which means the loss of livelihood for herself and her children.


Senator Vardon - The mining manager could not be present when she marked her paper.


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator is very innocent. I have already instanced a case in which the friends of certain candidates were able to forecast the result pf an election accurately because they knew how the postal voting would go.


Senator Millen - Does the honorable senator, with his ' knowledge of what is going on around them, suggest that working people are in fear of their employers nowadays ?


Senator GIVENS - I know that on one occasion 800 men were victimized in Charters Towers on account of their action at an election.


Senator Millen - Nowadays., it is the employer who is afraid of his men.


Senator GIVENS - An employer may sometimes have a battle royal with the organized employes, but he always has the power of victimizing individuals. Times have not always been so good in Australia as they are now. Work has not always been so plentiful. I have known times when men would do almost anything rather than run the risk of losing their employment. Senator Millen suggests that the men and women of Australia are so independent that they would resist the coercive influence of any employers. If that be so, why does he not advocate the abolition of the ballot system ? It only exists because, without it, people might be terrorized, and prevented from giving an honest verdict in accordance with their convictions, independently of any influence whatever. The abuses that have occurred under the postal voting system are so serious that this method of voting should be reprobated by every honest man and woman in every part of the Commonwealth. In Queensland, the corruption under the system was so rampant that there was scarcely a word of protest from any one when it was abolished.


Senator Vardon - There must be a very bad lot of people in Queensland.


Senator GIVENS - They are no worse than people in any other part of the Commonwealth. I am simply speaking of Queensland because it is the State of which I have the most personal knowledge. Others can speak of what has occurred in their own State. That is their business. It is my business to put the case from the point of view of the State which I represent. In this Bill it is not proposed to in any way limit opportunities for recording votes, and safeguards can be inserted to prevent hardships occurring. The main reason - indeed the most cogent reason - why postal voting was introduced at all was to allow women in maternity cases to record their votes.


Senator Millen - Also those who lived too far from a polling place to vote at the ballot-box.


Senator GIVENS - There is an easy way of dealing with them. The reason applicable to women in maternity cases appeals to everybody. Had not the abuses under the system been so glaring, I should not have advocated the abolition of postal voting now, because I desire to afford the utmost facilities to every one to exercise the franchise. I say, without any hesitation whatever, that if a woman is able to assert that on a certain, day she is likely to be so ill that she will be unable to go and vote, this Bill can give facilities to remove any disadvantage that might attach to her.


Senator Vardon - Does the Bill do it now ?


Senator GIVENS - It is a matter for amendment in Committee, and I shall not anticipate the Committee stage by suggesting an amendment at present.


Senator Millen - Would the honorable senator advocate making such an amendment in Committee?


Senator GIVENS - I would.


Senator Millen - Then the honorable . senator is not in touch with the Bill as it stands ?


Senator GIVENS - I am offering a suggestion. There are alternative means by which, in maternity cases, provision can be made. We have heard it said by honorable senators opposite that this party desires to punish womanhood by not allowing women under certain disabilities to vote.


Senator St Ledger - That is what the Bill does.


Senator GIVENS - No; but honorable senators on the other side want to punish motherhood by subjecting mothers to all sorts of coercive influences, to compel them to vote against their consciences, as they have done frequently.


Senator Walker - That is a mere assertion.


Senator GIVENS - It is an absolute fact. Honorable senators opposite get up with the most righteous and pious indignation to pose as the defenders of, to quote Senator Walker, "lovely woman." But what was their attitude about twenty years ago, when we began to agitate for the enfranchisement of woman?


Senator Walker - I have always been in favour of it.


Senator GIVENS - I know that every member of that party was strenuously opposed, to it. There has been enough malpractice in connexion with election contests to render any one almost speechless with indignation ; or, if he can find his tongue at all, to make him so excited with animosity against the people who would be guilty of such barefaced acts as to voice his indignation.


Senator Millen - Not even indignation could make you speechless.


Senator GIVENS - I am struck almost dumb at the audacity of honorable senators on the opposite side. I do not think I need say anything more in justification of the proposal of the Government to abolish postal votingt which has lent itself to many abuses.


Senator Millen - Do you not see that what you have said is not in support of the Government proposal, but in denunciation of it?


Senator GIVENS - I have not denounced the Government at all, but suggested, in reply to criticisms which have proceeded from -the Opposition, a way by which maternity cases can be provided for, altogether apart from postal voting.


Senator Millen - I am glad to hear you say so, because it looks like a modification of the Government Bill.


Senator GIVENS -The honorable senator knows me so well that he need not be told that I am not wedded to every detail of a Bill which is brought in by a Government that I support. If I believe that a principle is right, I advocate it, and try to get it enacted whether the Government are in favour of it or not. I think that the Government will offer every facility to honorable senators on both sides to provide such reasonable opportunities for voting, and at the same time do away with opportunities for corruption, as will make the measure an invaluable, addition to our electoral law.


Senator St Ledger - That is exactly what my amendment says.


Senator GIVENS - No; it is a mere asinine, roundabout way of calling a negative to the Bill. The honorable senator is opposed to the abolition of postal voting, but nine-tenths of the people are opposed to its retention. It must be borne in mind that opposition to the system is not confined to the members of the Labour party. Any number of the supporters of the Fusion party have been struck almost speechless with indignation at the way in which the system has been used. Look at the case I quoted where, instead of posting the postal ballot-papers, the parties took them into a committee-room to count them-, and at 11 or 12 o'clock at night posted them, getting the Postal Department to change the date and so falsify the return to the post-office, in order to make them comply with the Act. Will the honorable senator defend that sort of thing?


Senator Vardon - Nobody would.


Senator GIVENS - Yet that is a thing which has happened.


Senator Vardon - The honorable senator wants to punish a large number of persons, simply because a few persons did wrong.


Senator GIVENS - I do not want to punish anybody, nor is it proposed in this Bill to do so. On the contrary, it provides machinery and facilities which, as far as it is humanly possible, will enable everybody to record their votes in such an honest and independent way as will preserve the secrecy of the ballot, and also secure the absolute purity of elections, which is the great desideratum.


Senator St Ledger - It may allow worse abuses than those whichyou allege against postal voting.


Senator GIVENS - I am not going to say that. The ingenuity of our honorable friends opposite, and the legal talent which they are able to retain with the money-bags at their disposal, is such that they may be able to baffle almost any Parliament in its endeavours to provide effective means to make them act- with common decency and honesty. If they are ingenious in that way, we shall have to endeavour to be equally ingenious in devising means to check them-. I do not say that the Bill will prove to be perfect- The history of Parliamentary government is that it is almost impossible to make any measure perfect. Three-fourths of the work of the Parliament of a country which is constitutionally governed is represented, not by new legislation, but by amendments of Acts which experience has proved to be defective. Possibly that will be the case with this measure. At any rate, I am convinced that it is an honest attempt to make our electoral law a little better and purer, and to provide more effective checks and safeguards against those corrupt and wrong practices which have been anything but creditable to the Commonwealth. There is another provision which has excited a great deal of opposition from our honorable friends opposite, but which, I must confess, commends itself to me with a great deal of force, and that is that, at election time, there shall be as little misrepresentation as possible. It is sought to provide that every statement issued shall be issued by somebody who will take the responsibility for its publication; and if that statement, or that action, whatever it may be, is such as to be a contravention of the electoral law, we shall be able to place our hands on the contravener and punish him accordingly.


Senator Vardon - Nobody has opposed that here.


Senator GIVENS - The provision is opposed by honorable senators opposite.


Senator St Ledger - It does not touch that.


Senator GIVENS - In his lengthy and denunciatory speech a little while ago, Senator St. Ledger tried to point out that, whilst the provision will affect the organizations, the newspapers, and the supporters of his party, it will not affect our organizations, our supporters and our press.


Senator Vardon - You cannot object to that.


Senator GIVENS - This will be like every other law. It will be a law passed irrespective of persons, corporations, or newspapers. It will be a law which^ on the face of it, applies to every individual alike. I do not care a straw who is the offender - whether it is a Liberal, a Tory, a Labour, a Socialist, or any other newspaper. Anybody who offends against the law should be held up to public execration, and submitted to condign punishment immediately. The highest and most important function which we, as a free people, have to perform, is that of governing ourselves. The only opportunity which the people have of exercising that function is at election times ; and any person, corporation, newspaper, organization, or society which does anything to subvert that law strikes at the root of selfgovernment, and consequently is guilty of the gravest crime against the State. It is for that reason that I support the provisions which are designed to restrict action of that kind.


Senator St Ledger - There is nothing in this Bill to stop that : it does not touch it.


Senator GIVENS - The Bill is now the property of the Senate, and not the pro perty of Senator Findley, or the Government, or anybody else. If it does not contain the provisions which we want, and the Standing Orders will permit us to do so, we shall try our utmost to put them in. A little while ago Senator St. Ledger, in the highest and most indignant tones, asked for proof of any misrepresentation which had occurred during an election. Senator McDougall very kindly said that he would provide the honorable senator with a specific instance, and brought in an election poster, or dodger. It is, I venture to say, worthy of the most artful dodger the world has ever produced. Senator McDougall brought in this dodger, which had been used in New South Wales at the referenda. It was circulated broadcast by members of the organization of which honorable senators opposite are the representatives here.


Senator St Ledger - That is not the point. There is no evidence as to who did it.


Senator GIVENS - When Mr. Gregory Wade, the famous New South Wales statesman, was going to address a meeting, his Committee, or his supporters, put a copy of the dodger on every seat. I hardly know the right word with which to describe the document: It is so infamous that it almost pollutes a man to refer to it, or touch it.


Senator St Ledger - What is wrong with the cartoon?


Senator GIVENS - If the honorable senator's moral sense is so blunted that he cannot see anything wrong in it, I have nothing but the utmost compassion for him. In the first place, it is on the face of it an audacious lie. The cartoon, which is printed in red, black, and white, represents the two parties fighting strenuously at the referenda, while underneath is a picture showing a festive: table laid out with all the dainties of the season, including the most expensive cigars, and the choicest wines. Mr. Fisher, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and Mr. McGowen, the Premier of New South Wales, are shown to be drinking champagne in company with a lady - represented here as " Miss Coronation," but who, by the way she is depicted, would be a more fitting representative of the demi-monde of London or elsewhere.


Senator St Ledger - In the Worker, on the other side, I have seen dozens of cartoons exactly like that.


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator is sufficient of a lawyer to know that if I murder a person to-day, that is no justification for him to murder a person tomorrow.


Senator St Ledger - You admit that the Worker was a species of murderer?


Senator GIVENS - I do not admit that ; but, as usual, the honorable senator's reasoning is absolutely faulty. This dodger is an audacious lie, because there is no man, either in the Senate or in Australia, who will dare to say a word derogatory to the moral or private character of either Mr. Fisher or Mr. McGowen.


Senator St Ledger - No one did.


Senator GIVENS - This infamous dodger, distributed broadcast by the Liberal party in New South Wales, did.


Senator St Ledger - It is your diseased imagination which leads you to say that.


Senator GIVENS - Like all lawyers, the honorable senator seems to have his moral sense so blunted that he cannot see "the outrageous and audacious indecency, -and the lying vituperation, contained in this -dodger.


Senator St Ledger - Some persons will cover up the legs of their pianos, so fine is their sense of morality.


Senator GIVENS - That is why the ; honorable senator departed from the practice of his forefathers. He took to "trousers instead of knee breeches, in order to hide his bad legs.


Senator St Ledger - I object nowYou are becoming personal to my legs.


Senator GIVENS - Surely I can have a joke as well as the honorable senator. I feel quite certain that there is no individual, perhaps with the exception of Senator St. Ledger, on the other side, who will dare to defend this audacious dodger. It is the most disgraceful document which I have ever seen. There is no man or. woman in Australia, I venture to say, but will not readily admit that two men of a higher moral character, or of a purer or better private life, do not exist in this country than Mr. Fisher and Mr. McGowen.


Senator Findley - Both men are nondrinkers and non-smokers.


Senator GIVENS - I was coming to that. This dodger depicts, these two honorable gentlemen as drinking champagne, although they have been total abstainers all their lives. Could misrepresentation possibly go further than that? This dodger was not issued when a personal contest was proceeding. It was dragged in when the contest was absolutely impersonal, and it was done to discredit these two honorable gentlemen by making it appear that they were carousing and enjoying themselves in doubtful company in London.


Senator Walker - Not doubtful.


Senator GIVENS - Undoubtedly.


Senator Ready - Do you know that under the present Act there is "no means of checking these dodgers?


Senator GIVENS - Of course I do, and that is why this Bill seeks to remedy that state of affairs.


Senator Ready - It does not touch it, so tar.


Senator GIVENS - I want to further point out that if Mr. Fisher and Mr. McGowen had not gone to the Imperial Conference and the Coronation they would have been charged with disloyalty and with wanting to disrupt the Empire. Our opponents would have been howling that Australia was being ruined and degraded because of the reprehensible conduct of those two gentlemen.


Senator St Ledger - I think that their personal honour is so high that they need no one to defend it.


Senator GIVENS - I am not defending it, but pointing out the disgraceful misrepresentations contained in the degraded document I have before me.


Senator St Ledger - I could show you some dodgers issued on your side which were just as bad.


Senator GIVENS - I have pointed out before that the honorable senator is lawyer enough to know that that defence will not hold water anywhere.


Senator St Ledger - I admit that.


Senator GIVENS - Senator Vardonhas a perfect right, if he can find such dodgers, to bring them along. I produced a dummy ballot-paper which, I venture to say, no one on the other side will have the audacity to defend for a moment. It was a barefaced lying document.


Senator Vardon - I am glad that you admit that.


Senator GIVENS - I feel, perfectly sure that, neither in a public nor in a private capacity, will the honorable senator defend a thing like that for a second.


Senator St Ledger - They are worse than bad ; they are stupid.


Senator O'Keefe - Help us to penalize them.


Senator St Ledger - Your Bill does not touch these things.


Senator GIVENS - I am now dealing with the broad features of the Bill, and not with its details ; but if the details do not provide for these matters, there is a ready means by which we can do so. lt should be our duty, and our pleasure, to take that course. Everybody knows that at the time of an election newspapers, which are mostly violent partisans - I do not blame them for that - indulge in misrepresentation of all kinds ; and in doing so they speak with an air of authority under the pseudonym of the mighty eternal " we." I have no objection to a newspaper making any comments it likes, provided that they are brought within the bounds of fairness and decency. .1 consider that every newspaper has a perfect right to comment on every public affair which concerns the general interest, and every public man with regard to every one of his public actions. What I do object to is that newspapers misstate the facts, or quote alleged facts which have no existence, except in their own imaginations, and then proceed to comment on the alleged facts as if they existed. They put into the mouths of Labour men statements which were never uttered, and then proceed to condemn those persons as if they had uttered such things from the house-tops. I have no objection even to newspapers indulging in all sorts of misrepresentations, provided that each writer shall give his name and -address, so that we may know where to find him, and saddle him with the responsibility. But when the general public are faced -with this eternal editorial " we," we are up against a difficulty which it is impossible to combat. Most persons seem to think, in the innocence of their hearts, that a thing must be true because they saw it in print. I think that most politicians have got beyond that stage, and know that every comment in a newspaper is written by some man or other, and that very often it is not even the opinion of that man, but something which was written to order, and in which little or no trust or. confidence can be placed. But the general public do not know that. When the newspapers speak to the general public every morning at breakfast, or every afternoon at tea, with an air of authority, through this mighty editorial " we," the readers are inclined to attach undue importance to what they read. I should* not try to restrict newspapers as to what they published ; but I should provide that if, in connexion with an election, comments are indulged in, the name and address of the writer of the article should be published, so that the general public may be in a position to place its true value upon it, and saddle the author with responsibility for it.


Senator Vardon - The proprietors of newspapers are liable now ; and they can reveal the identity of the writer of an article if they please.


Senator GIVENS - Suppose, in connexion with the coming State elections in Victoria, the Argus were to publish an outrageously condemnatory leading article on some candidate standing for the constituency of Melbourne - because I do not believe its influence extends very far outside Melbourne - it would be read by almost every voter in the constituency, and the electors might be inclined to attach undue importance to it They would say, ' This is the opinion of a great newspaper ; an authoritative statement for which it is responsible." But, if attached to the article there were the name and address- of the writer, those who read it would be able to estimate it at its true value. They would probably say, " This is only the opinion o f so-and-so, the penny-a-liner."


Senator McGregor - Of Walpole.


Senator GIVENS - Of Walpole of the Employers Federation. By the way, it is a notorious fact that the Employers Federation, and other political organizations of the kind, have furnished the press with articles to order, and the press, in some instances, have published them. The public -have a right to know where these alleged authoritative statements come from. They should know who are the authors of them, so that they may understand what reliance is to be placed upon them. Only a few days ago, I think, each of the leading newspapers in Melbourne was summoned before a Court and heavily fined for contempt in connexion with a certain trial. I do not think that any one believes that that was an unfair deal, because there were great issues at stake in the case, and it was essential that the jury should enter upon its consideration absolutely unbiased, and should consider nothing but the evidence of facts put before them at the trial. If the trial of a private individual, even though his life should be at stake, is important, I say that when the fate of a nation hangs in the balance, as it may do at the time of a general election, the results of which might be disastrous to the nation should a wrong decision be arrived at, it is equally important that the jury should be protected from misrepresentation and fraud. After all is said and done, the electors at the time of the general election occupy, to a certain extent, the position of a jury. It is theirs to weigh the facts and the evidence, and to bring in the verdict. If the evidence is tainted, and savours of misrepresentation or fraud, we cannot expect a clear and honest verdict, such as we might otherwise anticipate.


Senator Millen - There is nothing in this Bill to prevent the publication of a lie.


Senator GIVENS - I hope that before the Bill leaves the Senate there will be something in it which, though it may not prevent men from telling lies at the time of an election, will enable us to punish those who do so. There is nothing in our civil or criminal law to prevent a man committing murder, but there is a great deal in our law to deter men from doing so, and to punish them if they do commit murder. That is the kind of provision I desire to see made in this Bill, to cope with the lying misrepresentations, false statements, and travesties of alleged facts which are frequently published by interested organizations during a general election. I do not care to what party the newspapers belong that make use of these objectionable methods. I say, let us, by all means, have our elections as pure as possible.


Senator Millen - Is the honorable senator suggesting something in the nature of a censorship of matter published at election times?


Senator GIVENS - I told the honorable senator, only just now, that I have no objection to newspapers publishing anything within the bounds of decency ; but I would devise ways and means to saddle the authors of newspaper comments and articles with the responsibility for them, so that if they transgress proper bounds, they can be brought to book.


Senator Millen - They are saddled with it now under our libel law.


Senator GIVENS - Nothing of the sort. There is such a thing as libelling something which is so indefinite that one could not find a plaintiff to bring the matter into Court. The honorable senator must know that as well as I do. There is such a thing as making a libel so general in its terms that no individual could bring an action because of it. Senator Millen has been connected with newspapers, and he should, as I do, possess a fair knowledge of what the libel law is. I venture to say, from my experience as a newspaper proprietor, that I could publish anything I pleased about any individual without laying myself open to the law of libel. While owning and running a newspaper myself, I used to write pretty strongly, just as I speak pretty strongly in the Senate sometimes, and I do not think that the newspaper I conducted had any need to be ashamed because of a lack of plain speaking, or fire in attack when the occasion demanded it. Yet I was hauled up for libel once only, and then unsuccessfully, because I won the case. But directly I left the office, and some one else was placed in charge, I found I was always in hot water and threatened with insolvency, because he was always up against the law. It is not so much the libel as the way in which it is stated, that is important.


Senator Millen - The honorable senator is offering a premium to successful libellers.


Senator GIVENS - I am advocating that where the issues are often entirely impersonal, as they were at the referendum, we should, under this Bill, provide that, as far as possible, the jury who will have to bring in the verdict shall be enabled to do so with a full knowledge of all the facts, and without any misrepresentation or lying statements being placed before them as alleged evidence. Senator Millen says that

I wish to establish a censorship of the press. I do not wish to do anything of the sort. I believe that the newspapers should be absolutely free to publish anything they please, but the public should be placed in such a position as to be able to saddle the responsibility for a particular article on the individual who wrote it ; and if he has been guilty of some contravention of the' law, to bring him to book for it. I have spoken at considerable length upon the two main principles of the Bill. There are only one or two other aspects of the measure to which I should like to refer briefly. It provides for compulsory enrolment. I am happy to say that I believe that proposal meets with almost universal approval. I think that almost all our friends opposite have said that tb.pv are in favour of it. Compulsory enrolment would provide a remedy for many of the defects of our present haphazard system. I am in favour of compulsory en- .rolment ; but our friends opposite wish to go a little further than I am prepared to go. They advocate a system of compulsory voting as well as compulsory enrolment.


Senator St Ledger - The honorable senator can leave me out. I was against that.


Senator GIVENS - The moral sense of honorable senators must have become very much blunted if they can support a system of compulsory voting. I say that if any law came into existence which would compel me to "vote for some person with whom I totally disagreed, and whose political principles I detested, I should regard it as of so immoral a nature that I should feel more than justified in repudiating and breaking it. Why should I be compelled to vote for some one whom I utterly detest as a politician? There could be only one justification for a system of compulsory voting, and that would be the adoption of a system under which every elector would be given the widest possible scope to vote for any qualified person in the Commonwealth as the candidate of his choice.


Senator St Ledger - Or the vote might be counted negatively against each candidate.


Senator GIVENS - Compulsory voting of that kind would be a farce.


Senator St Ledger - It would get over the honorable senator's difficulty.


Senator GIVENS - I could overcome that difficulty much more easily by making my vote informal. I say that any law which would compel me to vote for a man whose political principles I entirely repudiated, or whose administration, it might be, I detested, would be so base and immoral in its nature that I should be more than justified in absolutely repudiating it. I defy any Government to pass a law which would compel me to vote for a person in whom I did not believe.


Senator Sayers - I have seen ballotpapers on. which all the names were crossed out.


Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator has been supporting a system of compulsory voting.


Senator Sayers - No such thing. What I said was that, if compulsory enrolment is fair, compulsory voting is fair.


Senator GIVENS - Nothing of the kind. If that is what the honorable senator said, he must accept the responsibility for it ; but, thank goodness," I am not responsible for the expression of such an opinion.


Senator Sayers - No one asked the honorable senator to be responsible for it.


Senator GIVENS - A good deal has been said about the preferential system of voting, and other voting theories and fads. I shall not be led .away from the discussion of this Bill to the consideration of such matters. I hold very strong opinions about them ; and whenever such proposals come within the range of practical politics, if I occupy a seat in the Senate, I shall be prepared to express my opinion upon . them. But they are not included in this Bill ; and, as I do not desire to see them included in it, I shall not discuss them how. I heartily approve of the Bill, so far as it goes; but I hope that, before it leaves the Senate, we shall be able so to improve it as to render our elections very much purer in the future than they have been in the past. I hope we shall be able to make it so hard as to be almost impossible, for the electors, at any election or referendum, to be gulled and deluded as they were recently by certain parties and party organizations. I hope we shall be able to make the measure so perfect as to enable the electors, in the interests of the Commonwealth, and of the future of themselves and their children, to exercise an independent vote. I hope that, under the measure, we shall be able to afford the men and women of Australia the utmost facilities, consistent with the secrecy of the ballot,, to cast an independent vote at every referendum or election to be held in the? future, with an absolute consciousness that they will be free to do their duty and their best as good citizens for the country in which they live. I thank honorable senators for the patience with which they have listened to me, and I hope that when the Bill reaches Committee., we shall be able to make it so good a measure that even our opponents, who have so strongly denounced it, will be amongst its friends when it is finally reported.







Suggest corrections