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Thursday, 11 June 1914

The PRESIDENT - No ; the honorable senator will not be in order in doing so. If he desires to ask a question arising out of an answer given by the Minister he must ask his question immediately after the answer is given.

Senator Russell - The answer to my question has just been given. Am I to understand that I shall be in order in now asking a question arising out of it?

The PRESIDENT - Yes, if no other business intervenes.

Senator RUSSELL - The Minister, in replying to my question, has said that the officials are of opinion that the posting of a placard intimating that the rolls now on exhibition are not final would lead to misunderstanding. Seeing that it will be a couple of months before the new rolls are printed, it may be assumed that nearly one-half of the electors of the Commonwealth will inspect the rolls on exhibition during that time, and they will not be in a position to know definitely whether their names will be on the rolls on the day of election or not. I think that some statement of the position should be posted up in the interests of all parties.

Senator Keating - I rise to a point of order.

Senator Russell - Why raise it now?

Senator Keating - I do so only in the interests of our own Standing Orders and procedure. I should like to know first of all whether Senator McColl has placed himself in order. The honorable senator has now voluntarily given replies to questions previously asked. There is a certain stage of our proceedings set apart for notices of motion and questions, and for questions without notice. A certain stage arises when questions asked without notice must cease. Then we come to questions set down on the business-paper. Only questions on notice can then be asked, and those which arise out of the replies given to such questions.

Senator Millen - It is doubtful if they are in order.

Senator Keating - That is so. We -came to-day to the end of the questions on notice, and Senator McColl, in courtesy to the Senate and honorable senators who have asked questions previously, volunteers information in reply to those questions. I do not recollect that the honorable senator asked the leave of the Senate to do so, and the questions do not appear on the business-paper. A question of order has already been raised as to whether a further question can now be asked arising out of the answer given to a question by Senator McColl. It is just as if Senator McColl was furnishing a statement to the Senate upon a series of matters that had previously arisen. I think the whole procedure is out of order. I do not wish, that any honorable senator should be deprived of information for which he has sought, but I think that in the interests of our own procedure, and of loyalty to our Standing Orders, we should follow some recognised practice. If this kind of thing is to be allowed to continue there is no knowing where it will end. It is significant that one of the papers circulated to honorable senators today is a report from the Standing Orders Committee.

The PRESIDENT - Strictly speaking, the whole procedure initiated by Senator McColl is out of order. The honorable senator should have given his replies to the questions when notices of motion and questions were called on, at which stage it is permissible to ask questions without previous notice, and receive replies to them. However, I thought I was consulting the convenience of honorable senators in permitting Senator McColl to give his replies now to the questions which had been asked. It seemed to me to be a fairly convenient time for him to do so. Having permitted the honorable senator to take that course, I feel that I was equally justified in permitting honorable senators concerned to ask any legitimate questions properly arising out of the answers given by Senator McColl. My own opinion is that, if it be confined strictly to that, no inconvenience will arise, whilst it may be conducive to the quick despatch of business. However, if our Standing Orders are to be strictly interpreted, I shall have no . option but to rule the whole proceedings out of order.

Senator Pearce - May I, sir, be permitted to make a suggestion, through you, to the Vice-President of the Executive Council? I think that the information which is in the possession of Senator McColl is information which is not only of value to the Senate, but of interest to the country at large, and I would suggest, therefore, that he should take the usual course of asking leave to make a statement. At the same time, I would suggest to my fellow senators that, if they have any comments to make upon that statement, a convenient time to make them will be on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. But I do hope that no attempt will be made to block the giving of information for which we are all anxiously looking.

Senator McCOLL - I ask leave of the Senate to make a statement in reply to some questions that were asked yesterday.

Leave granted.

Senator McCOLL - Yesterday Senator O'Loghlin said -

The Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that instructions have been given to those who are revising the rolls to place names on them, as well as to strike names off them. In view of the fact that it is notorious that some of these officials are not putting names on the rolls, will the honorable senator at once have instructions issued to them to carry out their duty?

The reply which I gave was -

The matter to which the honorable senator refers is entirely under the control of the Chief

Electoral Officer and his subordinates. He takes no instructions in that matter from me; but I shall convey to him what the honorable senator has said, and ask him to give it attention.

I have now received the following communication from the Chief Electoral Officer : -

The police are merely engaged in assisting the Registrars, with a view to accelerating their work under the law, i.e., they are furnishing the officers with information as to the names of persons, who, as the result of their inquiries, appear to be -

(b)   qualified for enrolment, but not enrolled ;

(c)   disqualified for enrolment on the rolls for the divisions on which their names now appear, owing to removal therefrom, or other statutory cause.

Persons correctly enrolled are, of course, not required to take any action. Qualified persona who have neglected to claim enrolment in compliance with the compulsory provisions of the Electoral Act for the subdivisions in which they live, render themselves liable to prosecution. Persons whose places of living are not now in the divisions for which they are enrolled, and who have not taken the necessary steps to secure transfer of enrolment within the prescribed period, are being objected to by the Registrars under the provisions of the Act and regulations, after due inquiry.

It is not for the police to place names on the rolls. That is the business of the Registrars under the law, on the receipt of properly signed and witnessed claims, if they are satisfied that the claimants are entitled to enrolment. The police furnish the information in regard to persons assumed to be qualified for enrolment to each Registrar in the form of a list, and merely as an act of grace, as far as practicable, advise the persons concerned of their liability if they neglect to comply with the law, and inform them where they can obtain the necessary forms.

The rolls are being reviewed under the ordinary provisions of the Act, and qualified persons and electors concerned are in the same position at present as at any other time since the preparation of the new roll in 1912: I am, 'therefore, strongly of opinion (and, I think, Mr. Garran will concur) that it would be very unwise for the Administration to undertake the responsibility of leaving cards at houses where it is assumed persons qualified for enrolment or transfer are living. Such a course could not be uniformly and effectively followed throughout the Commonwealth, and would, moreover, create a false position, in that it would lead the persons concerned to believe that this duty devolved under the law upon the officers; and that, in the absence of official action, either now or hereafter, qualified persons would be absolved from complying with the requirements of the Act.

The officers have been instructed to make claim cards available to the public at all postoffices in the Commonwealth; and Divisional Returning Officers or Commonwealth Electoral Officers are always prepared to meet the requirements of political organizations requiring supplies. Every facility is afforded electors to enable them to secure enrolment, and no elector's name is removed from a roll at the instance of any person, otherwise than as the result of independent official inquiry, and then, of course, only under the usual statutory conditions.

Senator Findleysaid yesterday ;

As it is common knowledge that thousands of names have been removed from the rolls in the different States, I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he will present to the Senate exact copies of the lists that are in the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department of objections sent in, and the names and addresses of all persons removed from the rolls since the last Federal elections?

To that question I replied -

I could not answer that question, as I do not know what lists there are. Such lists have been sent in from every part of Australia, and it would be quite impossible to get copies of them, except after a considerable time. I shall undertake to make inquiries into the matter.

I have since received the following reply from the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth : -

Lists of persons objected to from time to time under the provisions of the law are available for inspection at the offices of the Electoral Registrars.

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