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Wednesday, 10 June 1914

Senator LONG (Tasmania) .- All honorable senators were interested in the special pleading of Sir Albert Gould on behalf of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is charged with the administration of the electoral laws of the Commonwealth. The honorable senator set up an entirely new doctrine - that a Minister in this chamber must be free from criticism of a fair and open character such as that levelled at him by Senator Findley.

Senator Millen - It was not fair. Senator McColl. - It was blackguardism.

Senator Millen - It was a vicious personal attack.

The PRESIDENT - The VicePresident of the Executive Council has re ferred to Senator Findley's criticism a9 " blackguardism." I ask that the word be withdrawn.

Senator McColl - I withdraw it.

Senator Needham - I draw attention to the remark of Senator Millen. I think that the words " vicious personal attack " should be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT - I am not prepared to rule that those words are not quite parliamentary, but if Senator Findley considers them as personally offensive, the usual course is to ask that they should be withdrawn.

Senator Findley - I do not consider the words offensive, but I wish to ask whether, during the time I was speaking, I was out of order in my criticism?

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is not entitled to ask such a question. If his remarks were not in order, I would have called him to order.

Senator LONG - As I understood Senator Findley, his earlier remarks, which might be termed bitter, were directed at the Honorary Minister during the time that he was a candidate.

Senator Findley - No.

Senator LONG - Subsequent to his election, Senator McColl made some very unfair statements regarding the electoral system, and the possibilities of action by the Labour party in consequence of their having charge of the electoral system for so long. However, Sir Albert Gould very skilfully - and very unfairly - turned the charge or attack from the Minister to the electoral officers. Senator Findley's remarks could not have had any such construction placed on them.

Senator Findley - I never intended it. I have every respect for the electoral officers.

Senator LONG - And so has every member of the party, and, I hope, every honorable senator. Senator Findley distinctly made it clear that the striking of names off the rolls was invited by the AttorneyGeneral, and by prominent members of the Liberal party, and was entirely the idea of people who are interested from a party point of view, and over whom the electoral officers never had, or ever can hope to have, any control.

Senator Millen - Who takes off the names ?

Senator LONG - Gentlemen who are constantly in your pay ; who are sent from door to door to make the necessary inquiries, and then lodge an objection - and not in the manner prescribed by section 41.

Senator Millen - Do not wander all over the compass. Who takes off the names 1

Senator LONG - I am not wandering all over the compass. I make the direct reply that organizers in your permanent pay-

Senator Millen - Do you say that they take off the names ?

Senator LONG - They go from door to door.

Senator Millen - But who takes off the names?

Senator LONG - Just a moment. I cannot give you an answer as direct as you would like it.

Senator Millen - You do not- like it.

Senator LONG - I do like it. Do not be sarcastic. You have been treated with a lot of consideration in this chamber.

Senator Millen - Not from you.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator must address the Chair.

Senator LONG - Objections are sent in without the fee as required under section 41 of the Electoral Act of 1902; and I wish to know whether any officer of the Department has power to abrogate that section t

Senator Millen - Answer my question - who takes the names off the roll ?

Senator Findley - The officer does it illegally, on instructions from the Government.

Senator LONG - lt is obvious that the names are supplied to the Department by interested persons. The actual operation of striking the names off the roll is, of course, performed by an officer of the Department, and without any desire or thought of doing anything unfair or unjust. These objections are lodged too skilfully to give an officer the opportunity to judge as to their fairness or otherwise.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator means to say that the officer acts without any inquiry.

Senator LONG - The officer does it. A notice of objection may be sent to the address of a man who is 150 miles away from that address, and has not the chance to attend to answer; and I do not see how an officer of the Department can be accused of doing anything wrong, in removing the name or names, seeing that he is bound to remove the names when, according to his judgment, the Act has been complied with. The Minister ought to accept the responsibility; and I ask by whose authority this section of the Act has been violated - by what right have objections been lodged without the 5s. fee ? I hold the view, which I give for what it is worth, that every such objection is absolutely invalid, and that the person objected to is entitled to vote. Notwithstanding the special pleading of Senator Gould, the Vice-President of the Executive Council cannot shield himself under a charge, levelled against Senator Findley, of making a " vicious personal attack." The Vice-President of the Executive Council has accepted the responsibility, serious and grave as it may be, of administering the Act, and he ought to take full responsibility for that administration instead of trying to place the responsibility on the officials of the Department.

Senator McColl - Who has done that?

Senator LONG - The honorable senator has, and also the honorable senator who leads him.

Senator McColl - Have I done that?

Senator LONG - The honorable senator has, indirectly.

Senator McColl - I am sorry that the rules of the Senate will not permit me to characterize that statement as it ought to be. characterized.

Senator LONG - The honorable senator is at liberty to characterize the statement as he chooses. Wc are quite used to the vulgar statements that have been hurled at honorable senators on this side by both the Vice-President of the Executive Council and the gentleman who leads him, and one or two more will not make much difference.

Senator Millen - That is a bullying and insolent attitude!

Senator LONG - I can afford to ignore utterances which are more vulgar and rude than logical, and address myself to the Minister more immediately concerned, who accused Senator Findley of making statements which amount to a charge against the Government official of corrupt practices, while, as a matter of fact, Senator Findley had no idea of any such thing.

Senator Findley - I know the officers too well for that.

Senator LONG - It was only the desire of the Vice-President of the Executive

Council to shift the responsibility on to his officers which induced him to make what I consider a mean statement. I have only now to say that this Chamber should insist on being put into possession of the regulation, an outline of which is published in the press of to-day. If any attempt is made to interfere with the conditions of absentee voting, there must be safeguards that will not impose disabilities on electors in any part of Australia.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 till 8 p.m.

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