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Thursday, 26 October 1911

The PRESIDENT - I did not hear the interjection ; but if Senator Vardon made the statement attributed to him it certainly was out of order, and should be withdrawn.

Senator Vardon - I withdraw the remark, sir, and ask you to request Senator de Largie to withdraw his remark that I made a proposal in which I do not believe. That is what drew out my interjection that it was not the first false statement he had made.

The PRESIDENT - If that statement was made by Senator de Largie in reference to Senator Vardon, it was out of order, and should be withdrawn. I do not know whether it was made in that connexion.

Senator de Largie - I would not hesitate for a moment, sir, to withdraw the statement if I had made it. What I did say was that it was a Democracy in which the honorable senator did not believe - an entirely different statement.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I intend to quote some figures, not with the idea of advocating this proposal, but to show the logical application of it. If it is good that the Democracy should be represented, it should not be limited by the borders of the States. The quota which I mentioned before dinner would give to New South Wales thirteen senators, Victoria twelve, Queensland four, South Australia three, Western Australia two, and Tasmania two.

Senator Vardon - You are incorrect, because, under my proposal, your quota is wrong.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I do not know whether the honorable senator has a monopoly of any particular system. I think that, as I have dropped the odd figures, even if he increases the number to thirty-seven from thirty-six, that would not give South Australia another representative. I will give the benefit of the doubt to the honorable senator if he wishes.

Senator Vardon - Then you want unequal representation.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am not advocating that, but showing that the honorable senator is advocating, in the name of Democracy, a system which he wants to limit to the borders of the States, and shirks the responsibility of advocating its application to the whole Commonwealth. I should be willing to accept the system as a sound one if it were applied to the whole of Australia, as I believe in the representation of the people and the people only. Let us take the other position. This is the democratic proposal which the honorable senator puts forward, and which he can modify a little if he likes. If we limit its application to the States, and take the number of those who voted at the last Federal election, a senator from New South Wales would represent 85,467 voters; a senator from Victoria, 78,089 voters; a senator from South Australia, 18,917 voters; a senator from Queensland, 28,439 voters; a senator from Western Australia, 13,982 voters; and a senator from Tasmania, 9,601 voters. The proposal of the honorable senator does not get over the difficulty which exists to-day, and to describe it as democratic, which means that the government is based on the supreme will of the people, is merely to make use of phrases which either are not understood, or which are used for the purpose of misleading the electors. That can be the only alternative. I want to deal now with the proposal requiring political associations, organizations, and leagues to make a return to the responsible authorities who have to look after the expenditure of their money. It is true that I find no limitation in the Bill. But from whom come the objections to the provision ? From the Opposition side of the chamber. It has been proclaimed loudly that the trade unions and political leagues are treated differently from other institutions.

Senator Vardon - I did not hear any one on this side object to the return being required. We want to extend the provision.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It seems to me that honorable senators on the other side want to be very deaf. There has never been any secrecy, and I hope there will not be any secrecy, in regard to any funds used by a Labour organization. I believe in compelling every political organization, whether it is Labour or antiLabour, to have a balance-sheet audited and published broadcast, so that the world may know where its funds come from. A few days after the vote was taken at the last referenda, I had the pleasure of stating to the press, and the statement was reported, every penny expended by the Labour party, and whence the money had come. Have the organizations on the other side, who are doing the squeaking, issued any balance-sheets? We have seen challenge after challenge that they should disclose their expenditure, not merely in connexion with the last election, but particularly in connexion with the recent referenda. From what source the money came I am not prepared to state, but I have my own opinion on that point. The challenge was made because it was impossible for the " No" campaign to be carried on in Victoria alone with anything less than £40,000. Every country electorate had its advocate, who was a paid servant of one or other of the Fusion leagues. I have been in a small country district like Kerang, where there are not more than seven or eight thousand voters at the outside, and seen from two to four organizers, in receipt of fat salaries, working and misrepresenting the case. The party which is ashamed to publish its balancesheet has something to hide. Why? Not because of the astounding number of paid advocates for the cause, but because of the astounding number of men who were deliberately paid to misrepresent the position of the Labour party and those who were supporting its proposals. This was notorious in all districts. I know of many cases, which, if necessary, I could quote, but I do not desire to name individuals who exhibited manliness and courage. I know of a case where a prominent man in Victoria was offered a large sum for a certain number of weeks to go out on a campaign of misrepresentation. He asked what would become of him afterwards. These organizations are prepared to use anybody and everybody who are in a position to help, but to leave them to find their own way out of the political quagmire after their own work has been done. Now, who provided the funds, the accounts of which they are not prepared to have audited? It is said that we have a monopoly of the funds of the trade unions. Granted, small as it is. We have a monopoly, it is said, too, of the political organizations. Will Senator St. Ledger, who smiles, say that the whole of the vast sum which was expended by the Liberal organization came from the Women's National League? The reason why they are not prepared to publish a balance-sheet, but quibble, and desire to evade this responsibility is because the money came from a source which they are ashamed of and afraid to disclose to the people.

Senator St Ledger - If you will not publish your balance-sheet, why should we publish ours?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - We have published ours.

Senator St Ledger - No.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Whether it has been published in a form which is acceptable to the honorable senator or not it has been published.

Senator Walker - What about the Australian Workers Union? How many thousands did it spend?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - It is a case of save me from my friends. First, Senator St. Ledger says that we did not publish our balance-sheet ; then, Senator Walker asks, " What about the Australian Workers Union?" while, the other day, Senator Millen had in his hand a copy of the balance-sheet of that union. It would be better for my honorable friends to hold a Caucus meeting and arrange not to contradict each other. That large sums were supplied is admitted. The object of my remarks is to show the necessity of having balance-sheets audited and published, in the press, if necessary.

Senator St Ledger - The provision will touch our organizations, but it will not touch yours.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Why not? To-day our trade unions, from the Australian Workers Union down to some of the smallest, are proclaimed political organizations and affiliated with a political organization? Does not this provision deal with political organizations?

Senator St Ledger - The point is, will they be compelled under this Bill to publish their balance-sheets?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Of course they will be.

Senator St Ledger - I do not think so.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - That is recognised and publicly proclaimed from the house-tops. I am prepared, however, to support an amendment to make it quite clear that every political organization shall have a balance-sheet audited and open to public inspection.

Senator St Ledger - What about trade unions ?

Senator Rae - Where they are political treat them in the same way. Some are political and some are not.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The organizations which take the most active part in politics publish broadcast their balancesheets in order to show their members and the general public what is being done. The Bill prohibits the employment of paid canvassers or agents. We all admire the man who is prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of his political principles, whatever they may be - the man who will put energy and determination into a campaign for the sake of a principle which he believes will, if adopted, be in the interest of his State. Undoubtedly most of the political corruption which has disfigured contests in the past has come from the clever schemer, who is at all times anxious to ally himself with any party which is able to produce money, and who never makes the mistake of falling in with the party which has the least funds.

Senator Vardon - What is the value of the services of a man of that character. Who would trust him?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator should not ask me that question because he belonged to an organization which whipped them all up and gave them very fair salaries.

Senator Vardon - I did not.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - What occurred in Victoria at the time of the referendum campaign? Every man who had been associated in this State with every doubtful political campaign, who had always hung on to an individual who had money, irrespective of politics; the man who had been one day a Conservative, the next day an anti-Socialist, and the day after a Liberal - nearly all these men who are clever and keen were on one side, and that is the side on which the money was. And, last, but not least, the great army of paid misrepresenters in this State included the rag-tag and bob-tail who had been kicked out of our party because of their want of principle. That, I take it, represents correctly the position in the other States during that campaign. That is how the other side got all the postal votes in Victoria as far as my experience goes. This Bill, I believe, wants stiffening, because, in certain directions, it does not go quite far enough.

Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - It wants dead stiffening.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am afraid that the honorable senator will not have an opportunity of being the undertaker on this occasion. I have devoted some time and attention to the consideration of the system which the officers of the Department have brought into existence - namely, the card system. I believe that with correct and careful administration the card system as now adopted will prevent the inflation of the rolls, will give us clean rolls, and will insure that no more than the correct number of people enrolled shall register votes. I believe that this will enable us to have a better electoral machinery, and the more effectually to stamp out corrupt practices than all the other devices of the Electoral Office put together. I believe that we shall thus contribute towards making Commonwealth elections as clean as they ought to be considering that this is a Democracy. The abolition of the paid canvasser will further assist to destroy an undesirable element in our political life ; and the obligation imposed upon the press to furnish returns of the sources from which money is obtained in respect of political advertisements, and other electoral matter, will enable the people to know with reasonable certainty when the newspapers upon which they rely ave in the pay of political associations. With the additions that I have indicated, I trust that the Bill will be passed into law, and will assist to realize the ideal of clean political contests in Australia.

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