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Wednesday, 24 June 1914

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - It is rather a sad spectacle to find the Minister who is responsible for the working of the Electoral Branch sheltering himself against the criticism from this side behind the fact that he has nothing to do with the administration of the Electoral Act; that he is quite powerless; that he is in the hands of the electoral officers in any way - good, bad, or indifferent.

Senator McColl - With certain sections.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It will be recollected that just after the last elections extravagant charges were made against the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, that he had been interfering in every conceivable way to the detriment of the electors generally ; that the Minister was in a position to interfere with the Act, and did so interfere, according to our opponents. If that was the case,I ask the present Ministers why cannot they interfere with the Act just as well as he did ?

Senator Pearce - They have.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They have done so absolutely, as the honorable senator has pointed out. The real trouble behind this wholesale disfranchisement of the people lies in the fact that the Government have wickedly broken one of the most important sections of the Electoral Act. if the Minister were to give instructions that the fee of 5s. with every objection should be reimposed forthwith, we would hear very little indeed of further objections being lodged to the names of electors. The other day Senator Oakes worked himself into a great frenzy over a little circular that was issued by the Labour party in New South Wales. But it was not a circumstance to the circular issued by the secretary of the Liberal Union of South Australia, directly from his office, over his name, to the members of his own party.

Senator McGregor - If Senator McColl wants to see his name, I shall show a copy of the circular to him.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We do not want to bring forward trumpery charges or falsified documents. This circular is written on Liberal Union paper. It bears the Liberal Union heading, and is signed by the secretary, Mr. Freeman, of Adelaide. We are perfectly prepared to show a copy of the circular to any person. For downright wrong-doing, it easily takes first place. Senator Oakes has also said that members of the Labour party are doing the same thing as members of the Liberal party, that is, lodging informations against persons who, in their opinion, ought not to be on the rolls.

Senator Oakes - It is part of the campaign of both parties to clean the rolls.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is part of the campaign of our political opponents to purge or cleanse the rolls. To the honorable senator who interjects that it is part of the campaign of both parties I will give an instance of what the Labour party are doing in South Australia, and ask him whether it is a fair sample of what his own party are doing in other parts of the Commonwealth. At the present time the Labour party in that State have about twenty men, paid by the industrial unions, going from house to house, and putting on the rolls every person who is not enrolled. They ask no questions when they call.

Senator Oakes - Oh, get away.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator shakes his head, but it does not require very much power to shake such an empty head as he has. Standing here, I tell the honorable senator that in South Australia to-day we have twenty men, paid by the industrial unions, who are going from door to door, and are not asking a single individual to what political party he belongs.

Senator Oakes - I would be very empty-headed if I believed that statement.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator believes nothing except what he imagines. I tell him that what I say is an absolute fact. These twenty men are going from door to door, each with a roll, and asking the persons on whom they call whether their names appear on the roll - not for the house a person lives in, because Labour electors move more frequently than do others. The caller turns up the roll, and, if the person is not correctly enrolled, leaves a card, not as the Electoral Branch are doing - lodging an objection, and not leaving any means whereby the elector can become enrolled.

Senator Millen - Are these cards duly witnessed?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - When it is rendered necessary by an alteration or anything of the kind, a card is duly filled in. If it is a transfer or a new enrolment, the work is properly done, whether the elector is a Labour supporter or a Liberal supporter. There is an example of what the Labour party are doing, and it is a thing of which I can speak with some degree of truth and knowledge, because I know that it is a fact.

Senator Senior - I did the same thing last year.

Senator Rae - We can well understand Senator Oakes not believing that such a thing is possible.

Senator Oakes - I learned too many tricks from your side.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator does not need to learn any tricks from anybody, because he knows all the tricks in the political game, and how to play them. I merely rose to refute the statement made by him, and to show that all that the members of the Labour party want is a complete roll. We are not at all afraid of our Liberal opponents being on the roll; but we are afraid of the underhand practices which are being adopted. Provided that we get a fair deal, we can beat our opponents every time. What we are afraid of is the influence being brought to bear by organizations such as the Liberal Union in South Australia, Mr. Parkhill's union in New South Wales, and others of that kidney. We are afraid of underhand work, and we doubt very much whether the work which these parties are doing is as good, pure, and clean as it ought to be. My object in rising was to point out that we are no party to anything irregular in regard to purifying the rolls. We fear no purification so long as it is conducted on fair and just lines.

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