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Thursday, 13 October 1927

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I move-

That the following new clause be inserted - " 12n. Section one hundred and five a of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (b) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: -

(b)   the order in which the names in each group shall be printed shall be as follows: -

(i)   where the candidates whose names are comprised in a group agree to have their names printed in a certain order and each candidate notifies the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, in the prescribed manner, not later than twelve o'clock noon on the day of nomination, that he consents to that order - the names in the group shall be printed in that order;

(ii)   where no notification in pursuance of the last preceding paragraph is received by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer by twelve o'clock noonon the day of nomination, or if notifications are not received by him from every member of a group - the names in the group shall be printed in the alphabetical order of the surnames comprised in the group.' "

Section proposed to be amended -

In printing the ballot-papers to be used in a Senate election -

(b)   the names in each group shall be printed in the alphabetical order of the surnames comprised in that group.

I am opposed to Senator Ogden's ideas about party Houses; I strongly believe in parties. I agree with one of England's greatest statesmen, who laid it down that parliamentary government depends upon party government, and that party government has made England great, and, he hoped, would continue to keep it great.

Senator Ogden - I am not opposed to political parties.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I take it that the Senate stands for the continuance of parties, and in those circumstances it is our duty to make voting as simple as possible. Four or five years ago in the Senate I strongly urged the adoption of the system of grouping the names of candidates on Senate ballot papers. Provision for that had been made in a bill introduced by the then government, and it was supported by honorable senators of the Labour party, but Nationalist senators rejected it. I remember pointing out at the time that in the absence of grouping ex-Senator Garling, who was a Nationalist, would lose his seat at the following election because his name would appear alphabetically on the. ballot paper after that of ex-Senator Gardiner. It is problematical whether ex-Senator Garling did lose his seat on that account - exSenator Gardiner may deny it - but the fact remains that, although ex-Senator Garling was the third Nationalist in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper, he was not elected, and ex-Senator Gardiner was elected. Had the names been grouped on the ballot-papers, as I desired, I fee! certain that ex-Senator Garling would have been re-elected. However, as the outcome of that election we saw the virtue of the grouping system, and adopted it for future Senate elections. I believe that it has worked satisfactorily. Tt rnakes it easy for the people to record their votes. Many persons say that if a party is running three candidates for a Senate election, and if the supporters of the party vote 1, 2 and 3 for those three candidates, it makes no particular difference how the .names of candidates are arranged on the ballot-paper, so long as they are in one particular group. But with an electorate like New South Wales, with its 1,000,000 voters, is it possible to expect over 500,000 people to vote exactly in the way I have indicated? I understand that candidates are grouped for Tasmanian State elections, but that the Nationalist organization does not ask its supporters to vote 1, 2, 3 in any order.

Senator Herbert Hays - The candidates are not grouped on the ballot-paper as Nationalists; they are brought together in a group.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Candidates are also grouped in Western Australia. So desirous are the electors of being assisted to vote that the select committee, which has just done most excellent work, has submitted a recommendation that candidates should be grouped in Senate ballot-papers as Nationalists, Labour, Country party, or Independents. The Government. however, despite its wish to help the elector to fill in his ballot-paper, thinks that it would be rather difficult to cai-ry out the committee's recommendation. Many honorable senators do not understand the presentsystem of counting votes at elections for the Senate. When it was first adopted, I venture to say that only two of the then senators, ex-Senator Gardiner and ex-Senator Garling, understood it. Under our present system, so long as a candidate's organization votes solidly 1, 2 and 3 for its three candidates, it makes little difference whether his name appears first, second or third on the ballot-paper. But all the supporters of the party cannot be relied on to do this in the case of a very large constituency. When Senator Glasgow was first elected to the Senate, there were three candidates standing in Queensland in the interests of the Nationalist party - Mr. Adamson, Senator Givens, and the honorable senator. Their names were placed on the ballot-paper in alphabetical order, and the Nationalist organization in Queensland asked its supporters to vote Adamson 1, Givens 2, Glasgow 3. ' The three of them were returned, but until Mr. Adamson was declared elected, Senator Givens or Senator Glasgow could not be returned.

Senator Herbert Hays - That was so because each senator is elected as if he were contesting a single electorate.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so ; but if a candidate misses his first chance, he may still have another. For instance, at the last Senate election in New South Wales, ex-Senator Gardiner had five chances of being returned ; whereas Mr. Donald Grant never had a chance of being elected, because he did not come into the lead at any stage of the count.

Senator McLachlan - Senator Gardiner had no more chance of success on his second, third, fourth, or fifth opportunity than he had on the first count.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - He had not, so long as the supporters of the Nationalist candidates voted solidly for their party. But can we expect 500,000 voters all to be true to their party? We were told in New South Wales that Mr. Donald Grant, at the pre-selection, had polled more votes than ex-Senator Gardiner; but, at any rate, the executive of the Labour party very wisely, I think, put up ex-Senator Gardiner as its first candidate. There were five Nationalist candidates, and immediately it was seen that Mr. Donald Grant was put in the second position by the Labour party, we knew that he could not possibly be elected. If every elector voted the party ticket, it would make no difference where a candidate's name appeared on the ballot-paper. Under the present system the candidate whose name is below that of another is just as anxious for the candidate preceding him to secure election as he is for his own success, because he realizes that he has no chance of election until the other candidate has secured the required majority.

Senator Carroll - Not necessarily.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - At the last Senate election in New South Wales the Nationalist candidates received 400,000 votes and the Country party representatives 136,000 votes. When the scrutiny had reached the stage that necessitated the transfer of the Country party's preferences the Nationalists lost about 5,000 votes which went over to Labour; but since the Nationalists had a surplus of 70,000 votes it did not . matter very much. I think Senator Abbott and Senator Duncan each lost about 5,000 votes, and Senator Greene and myself lost about 6,000. If the votes had been given to Senator Abbott, and not to us to keep either Senator Greene or myself out, Senator Abbott himself would have been defeated. As it happened, he received 1,000 votes more than Senator Duncan, Senator Greene, or myself, but the result was not affected. If, however, the election figures had been as close as they were when the late Senator E. D. Millen secured election by only 450 votes over the late Senator McDougall, the votes that we lost in the way I have described would have been sufficient to turn the election against us and keep Senator Abbott out.

Senator McLachlan - Will the honorable senator's amendment help?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will a little,' because the ballot-paper will be arranged on more definite party lines.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [4.40]. - I hope the committee will not accept the amendment. The grouping system has been in operation for the last two elections. Friction is likely to occur if any attempt is to arrange the order in which the supporters of a party shall be .asked to vote for the several candidates. At present the names are arranged in alphabetical order within the groups. This prevents argument and the possibility of friction ; and the respective parties arrange to give the preferences to the several candidates in a certain definite order. Senator Thomas has referred to the position in Queensland. I suggest that, if he desires candidates belonging to his own party to be returned he should do nothing to alter the present system, because it has not worked to our disadvantage.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is it not probable that the fact, that the Labour party has been in power in Queensland for several years has helped Queensland Nationalist candidates at federal elections?

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The fact remains that the candidates names are arranged alphabetically, and the system has worked well. The grouping of candidates under party designations prevents confusion on the part of electors. A voter may have some knowledge of certain candidates whom he wishes to see elected, but he may not know the whole of them. The gouping system thus comes to his aid.

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