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Wednesday, 18 June 1902

Mr SPEAKER - I would remind the honorable member that the Bill is as it came from the other branch of the Legislature, and could not therefore be submitted in an altered from.

Mr GLYNN - The measure can be altered in committee.

Mr SPEAKER - But not at this stage,

Mr GLYNN - What I wish to insist on in this first session of the Parliament is that it is a bad principle for this House to be denied the opportunity to test, on the Government initiative, a vital matter of policy. The , provision to which I allude was cut out of the measure in another place, and in my opinion the proper action of a Government, who have their heart in their policy, would be to introduce the measure as originally drafted. The Bill, as introduced, and even as it now appears, is by no means perfect ; and I shall make a few suggestions for consideration before we go into committee. In the latter stage of the Bill we generally find that the Government have no time to consider suggestions, or that the draftsman is not at hand, and consequent])7 amendments are not made. Let me first refer to the proposed method of ascertaining the divisions. Under clause 16 divisions are to be fixed by ascertaining a quota, to be found, in the first instance, by dividing the number of persons ' qualified by the number of members. That is an amendment on the Bill as originally introduced. If the Bill had remained as originally drafted, we could not possibly have had divisions under possibly a year and a half, because the framing of the electoral rolls would have been necessary before the commissioners could get to work. Even now, to ascertain the quota in the way proposed imposes on the commissioners an impossible task.

Sir John Quick - I think the provision is that the number of electors, not the number of persons qualified shall be divided by the number of members.

Mr GLYNN - " Persons qualified for the first division " are the words used in the Bill, and the commissioner cannot ascertain who are qualified. He cannot, for instance, ascertain the number of lunatics, the number of convicted persons, or the number of aliens or others who are expressly disqualified under the Constitution and the Franchise Act. It would be better at once to substitute the word "adults " for " qualified persons." We have adopted adult suffrage, and the number of adults can be ascertained from the census.

Sir John Quick - All adults are not qualified.

Mr GLYNN - But the number of adults may be taken as the basis. We have given statutory recognition to adults, but what is proposed in the Bill is the task of finding who are qualified, and it is a task which cannot possibly be carried out. Several of the forms have not been provided for in the schedule ; there is no form, for instance, for the Speaker's writ, or for a change of polling place. There are several errors of substance in some of the forms, to which I shall refer in committee. As I have already mentioned, I regard the proposed method of compiling the rolls as the most expensive that can possibly be conceived. The provisions dealing with this matter are contained in clauses 34 to 51. We shall have a roll of probably 1,500,000 electors under adult suffrage. The rolls are to be compiled every three years, and the method is that written lists are to be made out. Until the roll is complete it cannot, according to clause 51, be printed. The procedure is, first, that the electoral officers of the States, and the police officers of the States, are to help the Commonwealth Returning Officer in framing the rolls. It is for those officers to suggest the persons who are to be put on the roll ; but we cannot really compel thom to act, because we have no direct .power over them. When the necessary data have been sent in to the Commonwealth officer in each State, he must make' -out a complete list, a copy of which he will hand to each divisional returning officer and to the registrar of each polling place. Besides the copy for the registrar himself, other copies have to be handed to that official for exhibition at each police station and post-office, and such other places as the returning officer may suggest. There must also be a complete copy of the roll kept by the divisional returning officer for his own use, he, as well as the registrar, being entitled to place persons on the list. Besides, before the court of revision is held, there must be a final complete list for each divisional returning officer to send to the court. All this represents a minimum of seven copies in writing of a list containing 1,500,000 names, addresses, and occupations ; iu other words, before the court of revision is started there must be over 10,000,000 names, addresses, and occupations copied out.

Mr Deakin - How can that be avoided? '

Mr GLYNN - My suggestion is that we adopt, with some modifications, the South Australian practice, which is based on the census. That practice can be adopted now, since adult suffrage is the law. The census gives the necessary data in the names, addresses, and occupations of persons, arranged according to districts.

Mr Deakin - What does the honorable and learned member mean by "the census"? It is not printed, is it ?

Mr GLYNN - The census officers of the State can allow the Commonwealth officers to make the necessary copies. If my method be adopted, there will be only one writing required, namely, a copy of the census returns. This is not a suggestion of my own, but one which I have considered with Mr. Boothby, the returning officer in South Australia, who, with all duc deference to others, is perhaps the principal authority on electoral matters in Australia. Mr. Boothby has had vast experience, and, as the father of the Ballot Act, he has taken a deep interest in electoral questions for the last 30 or 40 years. The names, addresses, and occupations of all adults may be taken from the census returns, each written on a separate slip of paper or card-board. These can be tied up, or grouped in boxes, according to the polling places, and sent to the printingoffice. . * '

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable and learned member is going into such detail that I feel bound to call his attention to a ruling given in May, page 445, to the effect-

The second reading is the most important stage through which the Bill is required to pass ; for its whole principle is then at issue, and is affirmed or denied by a vote of the House, though it is not regular on this occasion to discuss, in detail, its several clauses.

I am afraid the honorable and learned member is discussing in detail several clauses of the Bill, which cannot be done on the second reading, but which finds its proper place in committee.

Mr GLYNN - With all respect to you, sir, I am not at present discussing the details of clauses of the Bill, but suggesting an alternative to details of the Bill, with which I have already dealt.

Mr SPEAKER - That is discussing detail.

Mr GLYNN - I suggest that it is not discussing detail. Surely, sir, you will not rule that where we have a Bill affirming a certain method of doing a thing, it is not proper for an honorable member to suggest another method in lieu of several clauses ? In committee, I cannot turn from one clause to the other, and, therefore, can deal with my present point only on the second reading.

Mr SPEAKER - My ruling is to the effect that on the second reading the principles of the Bill must be discussed, and that details cannot properly be referred to except incidentally. The discussion of details is work proper to the committee stage and not to this stage.

Mr GLYNN - I recognise that ruling so far as it appertains to a particular clause ; but I ask you to allow the latitude which is always allowed, I believe, in the Imperial Parliament, of discussing a principle by grouping clauses.

Mr SPEAKER - If the honorable and learned member does that, he will be quite in order.

Mr GLYNN - I am afraid I did not make myself clear. I was dealing, by way of grouping certain clauses, with the method of compiling the rolls, and as I say, I could not in committee refer from one clause to the other. My only opportunity is at the present time, and I am dealing with the effect of clauses 34 to 51.

Mr SPEAKER - What I called the attention of the honorable and learned member to was the fact that he was discussing what copies had to be written, and whether the names should appear on separate pieces of paper, and be grouped together and put in boxes.. That appears to me essentially detail, and I must ask him not to continue in that way. So long as the honorable and learned member confines himself to general principles I shall not interpose.

Mr GLYNN - I shall endeavour to do so ; but it is impossible to suggest a different method without showing how it should be carried out. If you, sir, decide against me, I shall say no more. I have, however, given . an indication of the method which I suggest, and I can refer to it again in committee, which stage the House appears anxious to reach as soon as possible, whether the Bill be good or bad. Whatever lists are to be exhibited at polling places can be printed copies of a list which has been once made. If the States are really in earnest in the matter of economy, and we wish to attain true simplicity and uniformity, we ought, as soon as possible, to make a bold attempt to have adult suffrage in the States as well as in the Federation, and have one roll for both the Commonwealth and the States, the States rolls being simply parts of the Commonwealth roll.

Mr Deakin - That rests with the States.

Mr GLYNN - With us also to some extent.

Mr Deakin - We should be happy to help the States.

Mr GLYNN - It should also be possible . to make the electoral divisions of the Commonwealth multiples of the divisions for States purposes.

Mr O'Malley - That is done in South Australia.

Mr GLYNN - State rolls canbe used because we have adult suffrage there, and it can be done wherever that principle is in operation. The sooner we bring about a state of affairs that will enable us to have one roll and one method of divisions, for both Commonwealth and States, the better it will be for true electoral reform. Under this Bill, as was pointed out by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, there is really a duplication of officers. There will be a chief electoral officer for the Commonwealth,an electoral officer for each State, returning and assistant returning officers for each division, and electoral registrars, which will make the present confusion worse confounded, and increase the present expense. I do not wish to say much in regard to the details of the Bill, but I should like to point out to the Attorney-General that whereas clause 90 provides for the fixing of the time and place of elections, and applies to elections for the Senate as well as to elections for the House of Representatives, section 9 of the Constitution provides that -

The Parliament of a State may make laws for determining the times and places of elections of Senators for the State.

No power is reserved to this Parliament to fix the time and place for the election of senators, and therefore the provision to which I have drawn attention will have no effect. The Bill provides for the creation of single electorates for the election of members of the House of Representatives, and for a block vote in each State for the election of senators. W e have been told that it is the desire of the Government to retain the divisions already in existence in the larger States. I know, however, that in South Australia there is no apparent desire for the division of the State into electorates, and therefore there is no necessity for the appointment of commissioners to subdivide that State.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that the Bill is intended to bring about uniformity of administration.

Mr GLYNN - That question is not affected by the matter to which I am referring, and it is easy to show that the proposedsubdivision of the States cannot secure uniformity of representation, inasmuch as, so long as a minimum representation of five is given to certain States, and their population remains too small to allow them to secure that or a larger representation on the population basis, there cannot be uniformity. In Tasmania and Western Australia, for instance, the quota at the present time is about 35,000, whereas the quota in the other States is about 52,000. I think that for federal elections the electorates should be large, even if they do not embrace a whole State, so that the representation should be as national as possible.

Mr Wilks - Large electorates require large banking accounts.

Mr GLYNN - That does not necessarily follow. If I had contested some of the small State electorates in South Australia, I should have had to spend a much larger sum than I was required to spend to secure my return by the whole State. All I spent was about £30.

Mr Wilks - That was for the first election.

Mr GLYNN - I believe that in future elections I shall have to spend less. The small coterie who are open to pressure, or who require particular methods of canvassing, are not powerful in large electorates. The opinions of 1,000 or 2,000 electors make very little difference when a candidate has 35,000 or 40,000 electors behind him, but in an electorate numbering only 3,000 or 4,000 electors, the coterie I speak of tends to become all-powerful, and methods of canvassing which are not often confessed to have to be adopted. With large electorates the representation is upon a much more national basis than with small electorates. I do not believe in the principle of single electorates. The principle of the Bill is to have single electorates and majority rule, meaning thereby, not only majority decision, but majority representation. But surely the true principle of government is that all leading lines of effective opinions - that is, opinions held by such large numbers of persons that they are entitled to be considered forces in current politics - shall be represented? The principle adopted in the Bill will crush out minority representation, although it is minorities which generally lead in matters of radical reform. The Bill will be useful only to the extent to which in its working it departs from the principle upon which it is framed. If majorities and minorities are so grouped that in some of the divisions the majorities are congested, there may be some chance for minority representation. That is what I think is known as jerrymandering in America. The influence of a majority is wasted by putting into an electorate more voters than are required to turn the scale in that electorate in a certain direction, and thus an opportunity is given for the representation of a minority in some other electorate. It is only where irregularities exist that we shall have some minority representation under the Bill, and then by chance, not by law. Surely honorable members should not be in too great a hurry to affirm a principle which is open to those objections ? The contingent vote provision amounts to this : That the Government want the majority to be the party in every case to return the member elected. I agree with the principle of the contingent vote, but it marks the ideas of the framers of the Bill. . In every district the dominant party is to return- the member elected, and, as far as possible, the majority in each State shall represent the national majority. This arrangement will, as I have shown, exclude the probability of fair representation of the opinions of the minority. Honorable members may say that such a thing is not possible, but I can show that it has actually occurred. I had the honour of being the first person to be elected in Australia under adult suffrage. At that' time there were in South Australia 27 electoral districts, in only one of which - that represented by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O'Malley - were women voters in the majority. If an issue had arisen then upon which the men and women voters were absolutely divided, the men could have returned 26 out of the 27 candidates elected. In regard to what has actually occurred under the single electorate system, let me quote the results of the Imperial elections for 1S95. The liberal votes then totalled 1,800,.000, and the conservative and liberal unionist votes 1,775,000. The true representation of the parties would therefore have been 242 liberals, and 239 conservatives and liberal unionists ; but the actual representation was 202 liberals and 279 conservatives and liberal unionists. In other words, the conservatives and unionists had a majority of 77, when, with true representation, the liberals would have had a majority of three. Then, again, in the elections held in 1900, I find, according to the Times, that 2,360,000 unionist votes returned 380 members, while 2,055,000 liberal votes returned only 187, a most unequal representation. Now let us deal with the block vote. Honorable members see clearly that if the block vote accomplishes what is intended by it the majority will always rule. That occurred, I believe, during the convention elections. There was not a single labour member returned for South Australia, whereas in Victoria the Age ticket secured the return of the ten candidates whose names were upon it. Does not that show that a newspaper commanding similar influence would be able by the block vote to secure the whole representation of a State? But let us take a case in which the block vote and the single electorate system worked together - as they did in the Belgian elections down to 1S99. The block vote was taken in the larger towns - Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Liege- and the single electorate system was applied to the country, and to a few small towns. I say that this instance proves conclusively that under the block-voting system a compact party can secure the whole of the representation.

Mr Wilks - Not a single protectionist would be returned in New South Wales.

Mr GLYNN - As a free-trader, I should object to that, because I believe in proportionate, and not in disproportionate, representation. Take the case of Brussels. With the block-voting system in operation, the clerical conservatives, representing onethird of the electors who voted, returned sixteen deputies, and the liberals and socialists,, not voting together as one party, but separately, and representing two- thirds of the voters, returned none. Take the next succeeding election. The liberals and- socialists, after the experience they had previously gained, decided to join their forces, with the result that they secured the return of the whole of the eight deputies whose positions had to be filled. It could not be more conclusively shown that under the block-voting system, if it is properly applied, the whole of the representation will go to the majority. The country single member districts during the particular elections to which I have referred gave an enormous preponderance - practically the whole of the representation - to the clerical conservatives. Now what has been done. They have grouped the single districts in the country into larger districts, and they have applied to both the cities and the country the principle of proportional representation. I do not wish to overload what I have to say with figures, but I can prove by quoting from the actual election returns that parties are now represented in Belgium almost exactly in proportion to their numbers on the electoral rolls. Wherever the block-voting system has been in existence for a time it has been abolished. It was discarded in America in 1842. It was tried in France in connexion with the elections to the Chamber of Deputies, and was abandoned after one election, because it gave too great a preponderance to the representatives of one party.

Sir John Quick - Is there responsible government in Belgium ?

Mr GLYNN - I think the Belgium Constitution hist framed was modelled upon the English Constitution, the chief difference being that one is printed and the other is not. There is not exactly responsible government, as we understand it, in Prance, but. that does not affect the question of the elections.

Sir John Quick - Under the system to which the honorable member refers, we cannot have a stable majority in Parliament.

Mr GLYNN - Does the honorable and learned member justify an erroneous representation, so long as it secures a stable majority ? If that is to be done we should always have a majority that would be in conflict with the views of a great number of the electors, and we should have to trust to chance for the efficacious working of the Parliamentary machine. I do not wish to enter more fully into this question of proportionate representation, except to say that I am exceedingly sorry that the time at our disposal will not admit of this matter being thoroughly thrashed out here.. A large number of the electors in South Australia, if not in other States, are pledged to the principle, and it is a little too much for honorable members to " pooh pooh" proportionate representation - a system which has been strongly indorsed by some of the most prominent writers of the last century. Rowan described it as one of the greatest discoveries that had been made in connexion with the principle of representation under responsible government.

Mr Ronald - And Gladstone condemned it.

Mr GLYNN - I read the speech by Mr. Gladstone in which he criticised the proposal made by Mr. Leonard Courtney. Mr. Gladstone did not condemn it, but endeavoured simply to have it shelved for the time. He dealt with the whole matter in a skirmishing way, and his speech did not amount to a deliberate and carefully considered condemnation of the principle apart from party exigencies. Politicians are more or less affected by questions of temporary expediency. Not only Rowan, but Henry Fawcett, Sir John Lubbock, and Lord Rosebery have advocated the principle of proportional representation. I may mention, also, that it has been included in the platforms of the National Municipal League of the United States which has a membership far in excess of the total number of electors on the rolls of Australia. At a conference of delegates of this League, held for the purpose of framing a model charter for the cities of America, it was recommended that the principle of proportional representation should be adopted in connexion with the municipal elections, and also at elections to the constitutional conventions of the States. The Buffalo Conference, which was held about eighteen months ago, and represented all the leading political parties in America, passed resolutions' in favour of the application of the principle of proportional representation. Surely, when we find the great writers and thinkers of the age, foremost politicians, and influential political bodies advocating the principle of proportional representation/it is not for honorable members, with a few cavils or a few casual remarks, to condemn it as being unworthy of consideration. Let us see what is being done on the continent. Lowell, in his work on Continental Government, speaking of the reform in Switzerland, said : -

The object of the reform there is not to prevent politics from degenerating into a corrupttrade, but simply to give each class of opinions a fair influence in political affairs. There appears to be good grounds for believing, therefore, that proportional representation will work well in Switzerland.

As a matter of fact since 1891 several of the Swiss cantons have adopted the principle with exceedingly successful results. I have already referred to the case of Belgium, showing what results were obtained under the old system, and the success of ,the new system as manifested at the elections in 1900. With reference to the time occupied in making up the returns after the poll, I may mention that in Brussels there were 170,000 votes polled, and eighteen deputies and nine senators to be returned. There were 417 polling places, and the whole scrutiny lasted from 3 p.m. till 10 p.m. This shows that the work to be done by the electoral officers does not occupy a very great length of time. About eighteen months ago, I believe, a Japanese commissioner, who was appointed to inquire into the best system of representation, reported in favour of the system of proportional representation. It is urged that we should have mere faddists represented in Parliament under a system of proportional representation, but how would that be possible ? The quota necessary to return a member must be a large one. Two years ago it was suggested that the State of South Australia should be divided into districts for the purpose of electing representatives to the Federal Parliament. That suggestion was not adopted, and the State was polled as one district. But I desire to show what would occur under the single district system for the return of representatives, and what I believe would occur were the districts grouped with a view to proportional representation. I will take the case of three districts, one having 24,000 voters, another having 21,000 voters, and a third having 23,000 voters, giving a total of 68,000 electors. In the first district with 24,000 voters, it would be possible for 14,000 voters to return a member, and then there would be 10,000 electors disfranchised. Again, taking the next district with 21,000 electors, there might be the same parties, say protectionists numbering 12,000, and freetraders numbering 9,000. The protectionists would return a member, and the free-traders would be disfranchised. In the third district, with 23,000 voters, 14,000 votes might be polled for a protectionist representative, and 9,000 for the defeated or free-trade candidate. In other words, in the three districts the majority would total 40,000, and the defeated minorities 2S.000. One part}7 would have, the whole of the representation, and the defeated minority would have none. I ask is that a fair system of representation? Does it not occur to a greater or less extent in all elections under this system ? But supposing we grouped the districts for the purpose of proportional representation, the group quota would be at least 17,000, and with a polling force such as I have .given of 28,000, the freetrade party would be entitled to one member out of the three if under the Droop quota it polled 17,0,00 votes. That would be its true and proportional representation. Do not honorable members recognise that in such a division or grouping of the districts, the quota would be too large to permit of any representation of faddists? If 17,000 persons were united with a view to carrying out a particular policy, surely they would be entitled, not to decide upon its adoption, but to voice their principles in Parliament. That is all that we claim for proportional representation. On the other hand, let me give an instance of the working of the principle of single-member districts. This principle has been operative in most of the I States of America during the past 50 or 60 1 years. As honorable members are aware, in America the parties for polling purposes are very clearly differentiated. In 1899 in Michigan the republicans, in whose favour 222,000 votes were cast, secured only twelve seats ; whilst the democrats, who found 176,000 supporters, gained none. That fact illustrates the effect of the principle of singlemember districts. I do not wish to labour the matter, but the figures I have given are condemnatory of the principle embodied in this Bill, and I again express regret that an opportunity of adopting a better system is to be denied to this House. If the opportunity did arise, having advocated the principle in the State House, I would advocate its adoption for federal purposes. It is recommended by authority, tested by experience, and can be supported by considerations of logic and common sense.

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