Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 26 October 1911

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - RUSSELL.- I did not make that statement.

Senator Millen - Senator Blakey did.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I have heard of some very strong cases -of the kind, and have investigated them with the co-operation of officers of the Department. I may say that many rumours, unfounded and untrue, have come even from people on our own side ; but while that is so, many of the charges which have been made have been only too true, though it is difficult to prove them. It is sufficient that there should be a suspicion in the public mind with regard to the operation of the postal voting system to justify us in endeavouring to remove that suspicion. I believe that politics are absolutely clean within Parliament, and we should do all we can to make them clean outside Parliament. I have heard it asserted, and I have every reason to believe that in some cases the statement is quite true, that more postal votes have been issued than have ever been accounted for at the poll.

Senator Millen - There are always more ballot-papers issued than are accounted for.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The postal ballot-papers that are unaccounted for have been in undue proportion. Without saying whether I believe these statements, I say that if there is a suspicion in the public mind that they are (rue, that is a strong reason for proposing the abolition of the system. I can prove that in too many cases justices of the peace, whether belonging to one side or the other, have become political partisans and canvassers for postal votes. When we come to investigate the number of persons who vote by post, I say that the number who would really require to vote by post is so comparatively small that we are bound to accept the lesser of two evils in this case. I am glad to know that there were doctors in this city who maintained the high standard of their profession. But let me inform honorable senators that from the Equitable Building, at the corner of Elizabeth and Collins streets, during the recent Referenda campaign, an organization supporting the Fusion party sent out forms of application for postal ballot-papers to every doctor in Victoria, with a covering letter asking them to influence their patients on sick beds to vote against the referendum. I am pleased to say that, to their credit, some of the doctors resented this appeal. It was certainly enough to make any decent man shudder and feel ashamed.

Senator St Ledger - Who told you that ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - As the honorable senator has not spoken, he will be in a position to give the lie direct to my statement. I am prepared to produce a covering letter if he challenges its accuracy.

Senator St Ledger - I did not challenge the statement, but simply asked a question.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) -If the only way of giving persons who are ill in bed and suffering pain an opportunity to vote is through the agency of a partisan,, whether he be on the Labour side or the anti-Labour side - if doctors are to be asked to worry patients in bed - then I say that this system is bad and rotten, and ought to be abolished. With regard to compulsory enrolment, I do not know why honorable senators opposite should want to know if it is intended to employ the Army for this purpose. I do not know whether they would like to make use of the Navy as well as the Army to enroll the people. They ask us to say how the enrolment can be carried out. But I did not hear that question asked when it was proposed to introduce compulsory military training for lads who, of course, do not read newspapers to the same extent as adults. The boys managed to make themselves acquainted with the obligations imposed upon them, and did their duty. But some honorable senators opposite say that the adults in this community will not know their duty. I hold in my hand a copy of the only official- announcement of the introduction of compulsory military training which appeared on the Hoardings throughout Australia. Owing to its size, it could not be posted on a threerail fence, but it was the only public announcement, apart, of course, from the news which was given by the daily and weekly newspapers, in regard to the duty laid upon certain boys in the future. Do honorable senators opposite mean to tell me that our newspapers will refuse to tell the people that the principle of compulsory enrolment has been enacted, and that it is their duty to enroll themselves? Certainly not. There are very large areas which are exempted from the operation of the system of compulsory military training. Of the ages of r4> iS> 16, and 17 years, there were 178,000 lads in Australia, yet 154,247 of them registered for compulsory military training. Not 1 per cent, of the lads who were covered by the Act failed to register themselves. I believe that, on a closer analysis, it will be found that not even J per cent, of them failed to respond to a simple poster of this description. Surely the parents who have been able to look after their boys and see that they registered themselves for military training, are intelligent and keen enough to look after their own interests and register their names on an electoral roll. In the very interesting address which Senator Vardon delivered, he was very anxious to emphasize the necessity of introducing a system of proportional voting. Strange to say, the Opposition fall into the error of always calling upon the Democracy - upon virtue and justice - whenever they want to do anything, no matter how vile the proposal may bie.

Senator Vardon - I am not sure that I called upon them in any way.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator called upon the Democracy.

Senator Vardon - No.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - During the course of his address, the honorable senator made the following remarks -

On the present basis of representation the Senate might be held by one party. What he desired to see in operation was a true proportional representation, which was the only sound,' scientific, and democratic principle. He foreshadowed an amendment wilh the object of introducing this principle in the measure, the only sound, scientific, and democratic principle.

What is the Democracy? Lest the honorable senator might not accept my definition,. I took, the trouble to make a copy of thedefinition given in Chamber's dictionary -

A form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people collectively, and is administered by them or by officers appointed by them.

I take it that the honorable senator will not quarrel with thai definition.

Senator Vardon - No ; it is a very good definition.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator did not make it quite clear whether he desired this system of proportional voting to apply to Australia as one electorate, or to the States. Let us assume that he intended the system to apply to the whole Commonwealth.

Senator Vardon - No. There is no proposal to alter the representation of the States in the Senate. It will still be equal representation.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - For another purpose, I wish to quote some figures. At the last election, the total number of votes recorded on 13th April, 1910, was 1,403,976, which, divided by 36, gives a quota of 38,971.

Senator Vardon - Divide the total number by thirty-seven.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That is near enough.

Senator Vardon - No ; it will make a considerable difference.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Roughly, it will do for my purpose. Taking the number of votes recorded in the respective States on the same date, it will give the following representation : - New South Wales, 13 ; Victoria, 12; Queensland, 4; South Australia, 3 ; Western Australia, 2 ; and Tasmania, 2. If the honorable senator, who called upon the Democracy, intended the rule of the people, that is the only way in which to apply proportional representation to a Democracy.

Senator Vardon - Oh. no.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Demos means the people, I think.

Senator McGregor - He only wants a part of it.

Senator Vardon - No.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I should i ike to hear Senator Vardon saying, " In the - name of Democracy, let us have the people represented in the Senate in proportion to the electors in South Australia,"

Senator Vardon - The Constitution stands in the way.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Democracy does not suit the honorable senator here. I ought to have a good deal of sympathy with his proposal, because I believe that where three candidates have to be elected, if I could manage to beat my colleagues, I could poll about a third of the votes, and I believe that the Liberal or Fusion party could Doll about a third of the votes in South Australia, so that there would be a good chance that the honorable senator and I would be able to meet here later, shake hands, and congratulate each other. At the suggestion of the Minister of Defence, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a tater hour this evening.

Leave granted; debate adjourned,

Suggest corrections