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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) . - I intend to vote against the amendment, because it is intended to kill the Bill. At the same time, I am absolutely opposed to the contingent voting system. Some fourteen or fifteen years ago that system was introduced into Queensland by the Honorable A. H. Barlow, the present Minister of Education in that State. The object was to "dish" the Labour Party; but the Act failed to achieve its purpose. The Labour Party in Queensland urged the voters not to have anything to do with the system, and that advice has been religiously followed. I see no reason why the ballot should be complicated in the manner proposed. It seems to me that the Bill is intended to add to the bewilderment of the electors. The contingent voting system was used in Queensland for the first time in 1893. The Honorable

A.   H. Barlow, who was then a member of the Mcllwraith Ministry, urged his supporters to avail themselves of the preferential vote, but they did not do so. In one or two instances the new system operated to bring about the defeat of the Government candidate. The honorable member for Oxley, who for the first time submitted himself for election in South Brisbane, was, through the operation of the contingent voting system, defeated by a labour candidate. Therefore, instead of operating to the disadvantage of the Labour Party, as it was intended to do, the system, in that particular case, conferred an advantage upon them. I believe in majority rule in connexion with this Parliament and everywhere else. I see no reason why we should not follow the example of France, and have a second ballot. The system adopted in that country appears to me to be the simplest in the world.

Mr Liddell - The proportion of votes recorded at the second ballot is generally very small.

Mr Groom - All the candidates submit themselves at the second ballot.

Mr PAGE - I do not! see anything in that to object to. Under the contingent voting system, it would be possible for one man who registered 500 votes out of 1,000 to be defeated upon the second or third count by one of three other candidates who had polled only 500 first votes between them. Therefore, the will of the majority would not be asserted. The man who polled 500 primary votes might, upon the third or fourth count, be rejected because no contingent votes were recorded in his favour. That has happened in some cases.

Mr Johnson - That would practically establish minority rule.

Mr PAGE - Exactly. The honorable member for Hindmarsh put the matter very clearly. The Age worked the whole thing out very nicely, but their calculations reminded me of the Irishman who insisted that he was still 5s. short in his wages, although he was assured that he had received a rise in his salary. I notice that, according to the Age calculations, the Labour Party are defeated every time. That, in itself, would have been sufficient to show me that the whole scheme was .wrong. I will put another case. Suppose that in my electorate there were three candidates - myself, a free-trader, and a protectionist. I should certainly poll every labour vote, but I should not receive the support of any boodler or squatter in the electorate.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is a squatter himself.

Mr PAGE - That does not matter. I am a Labour man first. I believe in the masses - nob in the classes. I have had the good luck to rise a little bit out of the ruck, but I have not forgotten, and I never shall forget the time when I went through the mill. The electors know very well that, whilst I am representing them, I shall do the best I can for them, and that no one will be able to accuse me of giving a class vote. I have received letters from my constituents conveying thanks for the votes I have given in various matters, and expressing the opinion that I am looking after the interests of the constituency, and not studying those of any particular class. If a protectionist and a free-trader were to contest my electorate against me, the free-traders would give their second preferences to the protectionist candidate, and the protectionists would give their second preferences to the free-trader, in order to defeat the labour man.

Mr Fuller - If there were a combination of that kind at the next elections the honorable member and his party would have a very bad time.

Mr PAGE - I do not know about that. The honorable members for Macquarie, Parramatta, Lang, and Hunter, when they attend tea-and-bun fights, and address the women electors, urge them that, whatever they do, whether they are free-traders or protectionists, to vote against the Labour Party. They tell them that it is the Labour Party of whom they have to be afraid. I do not blame them for that, because I tell the electors to do their best to down the George Reid faction and the Deakin faction, and to vote for the labour man every time.

Mr Liddell - Then why is the honorable member supporting the present Government ?

Mr PAGE - Because I consider that it is a better one than could be formed by members of the Opposition.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The reason the honorable member supports the present Government is that he is obliged to do so.

Mr PAGE - That is not correct.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In my opinion, the honorable member would not support the present Government for a month if he were not obliged to do so.

Mr PAGE - Never mind what the honorablemember's opinion may be - he is not right. So far as my fiscal views are con.cerned, I candidly say that I should prefer to see the right honorable member for East Sydney in the position of Prime Minister. My opinions, so far as that is concerned,, have not changed in the slightest degree, but under present conditions, I must support the present Government. Members of the Opposition are travelling about the country fighting us as hard as they can. Thev are after our blood. They talk about cutting the claws of the tiger. I am sure that the claws of the tiger would be cut, if the contingent vote were introduced.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Tt is the octopus, and not the tiger that we have to deal with.

Mr PAGE - I do not know what the honorable member means. The only octopus of which I have any knowledge is the anti- Socialistic party, and if they desire the system of contingent voting, whydo they not. declare in a straightforward manner, " We want to rule by means of the majority."

Mr Johnson - The Bill does not provide for that.

Mr PAGE - The Government affirm that it will secure majority rule, and honorable members. I suppose, must trust the Government. At every meeting which I have heard honorable members opposite address, they have clamoured for majority rule. Personally, I am of opinion that, instead of the Bill safeguarding majority rule, it would have the effect of complicating the conduct of elections. If it would benefit the electors of Australia, I would support it, but my experience as an electioneering agent - and I have done a little bit of work in that capacity in my time - leads me to believe that it would not. I engineered things well enough to secure a seat in this House-

Mr Groom - The honorable member was returned upon his merits.

Mr PAGE - No; I was returned by the aid of a powerful organization which was behind me. That organization has not been a bit sorry for mv return.

Mr Liddell - - It was the honorable member's oratorical powers which secured his election.

Mr PAGE - No; it was my medical skill. I only hope that the honorable member's medical skill will secure his re-election for the Hunter. Indeed, I should like to see all the present . members of the House re-elected. The main reason why I cannot support the Bill is that it would have the effect of complicating, instead of simplifying, the conduct of elections.

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