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Friday, 29 November 1935

Senator MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - V. MacDONALD- As it is the practice of the Senate to rise at 4 o'clock on a Friday, this is the worst day on which the Government should wish to proceed with the bill.

Senator Sir George Pearce - We shall rise so soon as the honorable senator runs down.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I am not yet wound up. I ask leave to continue my remarks.

Senator Sir George Pearce - No. The . honorable senator is obviously wasting time.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I resent the statement of the Minister.

Senator Brown - I rise to a point of order. Is the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in order in stating that Senator J. V. MacDonald is obviously wasting time?

The PRESIDENT - Senator J.V. MacDonald should be more interested in the remark of the Minister than the honorable senator.

Senator Sir George Pearce - I withdraw the remark.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - If the Leader of the Senate saw the notes that I have prepared he would not say that I am wasting time. I know that some members of my own party regard this chamber as an appendage of the other chamber, and that we only wait for the bones thrown to us, which we are expected to dispose of as quickly as possible.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator should not disparage the institution of which he is a member, as in doing so he disparages himself.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I am not doing that. I am seeking to increase its importance.

The Government should consider some system under which the voting strength of Australia could be more effectively represented in this chamber and so make the debating strength of the parties more proportionate. Without going into the subject at length, I should say that a majority vote, for any party in a State should entitle that party to two out of three seats contested at an election. The minority vote thus carrying one seat.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - What does the honorable senator call the minority ?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - For instance, the Communists may start by voting for the Communist candidate, and give their preferences to the Labour candidates in the proportion of two to one. Only when the candidates with the smallest number of votes are eliminated do the effective votes become apparent, and these are divided between the candidates of the two major parties. Of these two parties the one receiving the smaller number of votes would be the minority party. I suggest that my proposal is practicable, and would overcome our present difficulties. Small sectional candidates may object to it, but broadly speaking, the election should be fought as between the policy of the Government and the policy of the Opposition, or,should so tremendous a land-slide in public opinion occur to warrant it, on the policy also of any other party which may be considered as a major party. I understand that the Government intends to introduce an electoral bill before the next federal election. If it does so, I hope it will take the opportunity to do something along the lines I have suggested. A large body of public opinion is in favour of the proposal I have described. It would go a long way to removing the farce which was witnessed in 1919-22 when the Labour party was represented in this chamber by only one honorable senator. On another occasion the Opposition in this chamber, when it consisted of members of the party now in power, was composed of only five out of 36 senators. Thus this is not a party matter.

Senator E B Johnston - Does the honorable senator believe that such a proposal would be approved by the Senate?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I think so. After all most of us realize that wo are here, as it were, only for to-day. The Leader of the Government, for instance, has seen, so many good and true men pass on from this Senate in the 34 years he has been an honorable senator, that at times he must grow melancholy.

I desire also to direct attention to another matter whichI claim to be of the greatest importance to the electors of Australia as a whole. Perhaps my two colleagues will not accept my remarks on this point wholeheartedly, but no doubt they will agree with me in principle. Under the present system the position of groups of party candidates on the ballotpaper is decided on the basis of alphabetical sequence. This should not bo so. Senators McLeay, Allan MacDonald, James McLachlan and E. B. Johnston who have just emerged successfully from an election fray, despite the fact that in alphabetical order their names appeared some distance down the ballot-paper, may not agree with me, but the worst instance in this respect was afforded in Tasmania, where the elected candidates had to survive all sorts of cross voting. Senator J. B. Hayes will bear me out in that statement. Owing to this system, many people in Queensland to-day, and I suppose it is much the same in other States, have a fixed idea that the position of their names at the top of the ballot-paper guarantees candidates from 20,000 to 30,000 votes. I do not think the advantage is as great, as that, but it constitutes a travesty on our preferential voting system, when it is possible for such things to happen.

Senator J B Hayes - What is the honorable senator's opinion in respect of a circular ballot-paper?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - It would certainly be better than the present method. It is a fixed idea that parties must secure candidates whose names start with one of the first letters of the alphabet, and this leads to special picking based on the first letter in a candidate's name.

Senator Cooper - Was there any picking in the case of Senators Crawford, Foll and myself at the last election? The three of us were previously members of this Senate.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I would not say that there was any picking in that case.

Senator Cooper - The honorable senator could demonstrate his point better possibly by referring to his party's choice when the three members of the present Opposition were elected.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I am referring to this matter in a general way, but am quite ready to do as the honorable senator suggests. Before the next election I may have to face a party ballot, and be defeated because of the fact that many good Labour people believe that the party will not have a chance at the polls unless its candidates, because of the initial letter in their surnames, gain for them the top place on the ballotpaper. They might, for instance, prefer to pick three men, each of whose names begin with " A ". I have brought these matters before the Senate in all seriousness. I point out that our opportunities to discuss such matters are very limited. This Opposition has not got a reputation for moving the adjournment of the Senate in order to discuss certain matters which they cannot fully debate under, ordinary circumstances. This matter will have to be faced. The position of two or three Ministers in the Senate is similar to that which I am supposed . to occupy. Farcical circumstances are developing, and unless steps are taken to rectify the position we whose names begin with a letter that is low in the alphabet will bc changing them with the idea of improving our chances of being elected, as Mr. Seabrook, of Tasmania, did when he had his name changed to Ceabrook. An article in a reputable Sydney newspaper, contributed by a gentleman who describes himself as " A Barrister ", commences with the following humorous anecdote -

A story is told of a new boy at Sunday school who was being tested in Ms knowledge of catechism by a devout teacher. He waa asked his name, and the reply was " Clarence Claude Percy ". The next question, of course was "who gave you those names?" and the dignified teacher, expecting the prayer-book reply about godfathers and godmothers being responsible, was horrified to hear the justifiable outburst, " Wouldn't I just like to know ? ".

Many of us whose names begin with a letter from D to Z would very much like to know who gave them to us. However it is assuring to know that a name may be changed fairly easily. His Majesty the King has changed his name. One. method is by deed poll, 'registered at a Supreme Court or the RegistrarGeneral's Department.

Senator E B Johnston - On a point of order, I ask whether the Standing Orders have been suspended so far as the adjournment for dinner is' concerned.

The PRESIDENT - The Standing Orders are suspended at present.

Senator E B Johnston - Are we not to have dinner to-night?

The PRESIDENT - By the grace of Senator J. V. MacDonald.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I resent that remark, following as it does upon the allegation of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that I was wasting time. If Senator Johnston must have his dinner let him go to it. The Minister has refused to grant me leave to continue my remarks. For weeks I have been preparing notes so that I might mako a contribution to this debate, and I have pertinent matters to place before the Senate. I also stood down this afternoon when Senator Sampson and other Government supporters wished to speak. The article from which I have quoted mentions methods by which a name may be changed, and then goes on to say -

But even the above methods are not necessary if a man desires to change Iiia name. Ho can merely tell his friends or advertise the fact, and that is all that is required.

When I attended school the scholars were taught something of the geography of Denmark as well as Australia and other countries. My teacher thought it remarkable, and mentioned the fact to us, that the only town in tlie world which began with two A's was Aarhus, in Denmark. I should not be astonished if a number of political candidates changed their name to Aaron so as to be placed at the top of the ballot-paper. Aarhus might also be usefully employed.

I pass now to the matter of unemployment. No measure should be discussed without reference being made to that fearful curse, which constitutes a challenge not only to our democracy but also to the high state of civilization which we are supposed to have reached. There are other ways of improving the situation apart from loans and grants to the States for the temporary absorption of some of the unemployed. Considerable relief would be afforded by the establishment of a plant for the extraction of oil from coal. This is a matter to which the Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has given quite a lot of attention. I bring to the notice of the Government the following paragraph from a letter sent to the Brisbane Daily Sandard by a returned soldier.' -

Welcome news of the success of Imperial Chemical Industries' plant at Billingham, Durham, has recently reached . Australia, and in view of our potentialities in this respect we can be forgiven for asking if this wonderful avenue will remain unexplored.

Billingham, after six months' activity, can already absorb the output of 1950 miners. Translated into Australian terms this would moan in Queensland or Victoria an increase of nearly 100 per cent. ; to Western Australia and Tasmania, with their respective figures of 782 and 371 miners, anundreamed of expansion; to New South Wales a return to its palmiest days of export and bunker tonnage which the advent of the oil-driven and motor ships has robbed her of.

Every nerve should be strained to make unnecessary the importation of foreign oil. Senator Sampson spoke for a long period in regard to defence. In the Italo-Abyssinian dispute the latest example of what is termed French hesitancy is in relation to its support of the attitude of Great Britain concerning oil supplies for Italy. It is feared that if oil is placed on the list to which sanctions apply, Italy will regard that as an act of war. One of the greatest problems confronting Australia is the provision of adequate supplies of oil fuel. I therefore ask the Minister to do his utmost to make Australia independent of outside supplies of this necessary commodity. In various parts of the Commonwealth large deposits of coal are known to exist - there are said to be 443,000,000 tons of coal at Blair Athol, in, Queensland - and if these could be converted into oil not only would the defence of this country be made more secure but also the problem of unemployment would be nearer to a solution. As in the case of the experiments, with chilled beef, the experiments at Billingham-on-Tees are not conclusive, but the success which has attended them gives rise to the hope that a wonderful new era with great prospects for more employment and prosperity in Australia is about to be ushered in.

Debate (on motion by Senator Foll) adjourned.

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