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Thursday, 26 October 1911

Senator SAYERS (QUEENSLAND) - In Queensland 1 have known a Labour candidate to be reported as fully in a newspaper as his opponent ; in fact, I have known a Labour candidate to get. a ha If -column more in his report than did his opponent.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) ---It was paid for.

Senator SAYERS - It was not paid for on either side. We are told that newspapers get a lot of money out of elections. To my knowledge they Jose. Practically the only money which they get - and it is easily earned - is the payment for the Government advertisement which comes from the Returning Officer. That they get, no matter what their political opinions are. I am speaking of a newspaper which represents not the Labour party only, but the whole of the community ; and I have known fuller reports to be given to the Labour candidate than to his opponent. That is not done every day, though, because' it would not pay them to do so. Surely the Minister in charge of this Bill can see that there are various anomalies in connexion with the voting. A candidate in Tasmania is allowed the same amount for expenses as a candidate in Western Australia or Queensland.Is it fair to allow to a candidate in New South Wales or South Australia the same amount for expenses as is allowed to a candidate in a State which can be travelled over in a day like Tasmania and Victoria? That is an anomaly in the Act which ought to be rectified by this Bill. Wherever we go we have to pay for the display of posters and the rent of halls. We have to twist and turn to see how we can keep our expenses below the allowance of . £250. It is simply absurd to allow the same amount for candidates' expenses in Western Australia and Queensland as in Tasmania and Victoria. A candidate is practically asked to break the law. I do not know what is the experience of honorable senators generally, but I find that it is very hard indeed to keep within the allowance. One has to give a man, perhaps, less than he deserves ; in fact, one has to sweat him in order to conduct his election within the allowance ; but in this measure the Minister is making no attempt to doaway with this sweating. He is making it illegal for a candidate to pay a fair amount. Why does he not increase the allowance to the candidates in the larger States by £50, and reduce the allowance to candidates in the smaller States? Why do the Government not seek to find out the existing abuses, and try to rectify them? We have been told that at the last referendum vast sums were expended by some individuals.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And never accounted for.

Senator SAYERS - That is like other statements which emanate from the opposite side. Without the slightest tittle of justification, they throw sneers and slurs across the floor of the chamber, but not one of them is man enough to rise and prove them. In connexion with the referendum, I travelled through the north Of Queensland, and was up as far as Mareba, Atherton, and other places, but I never received from any association or person the small sum of a farthing. I paid my own expenses from the time I left Melbourne until I returned. I do not like to hear these wild accusations thrown across the floor. I am aware that money had to be found for certain purposes, such as the hiring of halls, and I take it that the Labour party do not get the use of halls for nothing.

Senator Millen - They get them for less.

Senator SAYERS - Yes, I believe they do sometimes. We pay the current rates for the halls which we engage, and we never dispute the charges, though, of course, we have not the same facilities for addressing the electors as are provided in Victoria. If a man applies to the Shire Council, he has to pay £11s. or £2 2s. for the use of the shire hall. He does not expect, or ask, to get the use of a hall for nothing.

Senator Millen - He does if he is a member of the Labour party.

Senator SAYERS - Never have I had the free use of a hall. I have paid the bill-sticker, and the newspaper which published my advertisement. A Labour candidate may stop in an hotel for three or four weeks, and he is charged nothing. I have never been in that position, because I do not care to accept charity. When I am canvassing, I am always prepared to pay the current rates at hotels. The things I have mentioned have been done, but not accounted for in the return of expenses. Perhaps Senator Pearce is one of those who have had such things done for them. I know such things are done in Western Australia and are not included in the return of expenses, whatever may be done afterwards. The candidates are taken to the hotels as guests.

Senator Henderson - Do you ever pay your hotel expenses?

Senator SAYERS - Sometimes.

Senator Henderson - Never.

Senator SAYERS - Oh, yes, I have done so. A man may drive me in his trap for 8 or 100 miles, and not charge anything. That should go down in my expenses, but it does not; but when I hire a vehicle to drive me, I have to include the charge in my expenses.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The wealthy squatters will drive you about.

Senator SAYERS - No wealthy squatter has ever driven me a yard, so that my honorable friend is barking up the wrong tree again.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - You are driven for pure love and affection.

Senator SAYERS - Yes; but, according to my honorable friend, Labour men have no wealthy squatters who will drive them for pure love and affection.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, we have a few.

Senator SAYERS - If. it is desired to improve the Electoral Act and secure a better voting system, it will be necessary for the Minister to materially alter this measure: It should be framed a little more in the interests of the electors, instead of in the interests of party. To my mind, the interests of party weighed with Ministers in drafting the Bill from first to. last, and that opinion is shared by members of the Labour party, because, outside, they have said that it is not a fair deal. I feel sure that if the Minister forces the Bill through the House, as he can do with his numbers, he will find that it will react against the Labour party. There is an old saying that a man who becomes a tyrant makes enemies. The Ministry, in bringing down this Bill, will make enemies. The opinion is gaining ground, even amongst their friends, that they are little bits of tyrants, who are not prepared to give fair play to the electors of the Commonwealth as a whole.

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