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Wednesday, 23 July 1902

Mr FOWLER (Perth) - I have no hesitation in recording my vote for an amendment of the clause, because I consider that I was sent here to represent my electors in regard ¬ęto the determination of the conditions which shall prevail in the election of senators as well as in regard to other matters. As I understand the meaning of the term "plumping," it is something quite different from what certain honorable members have in their minds. In the old country, it is customary at certain elections to give the electors as many votes as there are candidates to be elected, and they can vote for the full number of candidates, or give the whole of their votes to one candidate, or dispose of them in any other way. But the system suggested by the honorable member for Darling Downs is. something quite different. It simply gives each elector the right to exercise his judgment in regard to the various candidates, and allows him to vote for one or more as he thinks right. Although I have heard many objections to this so-called plumping system, I have heard no satisfactory reason why it should not be adopted. There seems to be a good deal of objection to it in the minds of many honorable members and persons outside, because of the possibility it affords of allowing electors to cast all their influence for the return of certain candidates, and it is urged that it is likely to be exercised largely on behalf of labour representation. In my opinion, however, it is more likely to be used against labour representation than in favour of it. Amongst the working classes there are more electors prepared to give votes to other than labour candidates than there are electors among the other classes who are prepared to give votes to labour candidates. We are told that the system will prevent the verdict of the people being obtained upon any definite issue, because electors will be influenced by considerations other than those actually placed before them. But. if a man wishes to practically disfranchise himself weshould let him do so. It might happen that an elector who was called upon to decide between the free-trade and the protectionist partiesmight say that he was a protectionist, but would not support a Catholic. He might discover that therewere two or three candidateswhowere both Protestants and protectionists, and he might then decide to still further limit his selection by saying that hewould vote only for an ardent teetotaller. In that way, he might cut down his privileges, and even disfranchise himself, and, if he chooses to do so, I do not suppose the country will be much the worse. Parliament would not be justified in compelling any elector to vote for candidates of whom he did not approve. It wouldbe immoral to do so. Instead ofgetting nearer to the preferential system, when we compel the electors to vote for the full number of candidates required we are getting further away from it, by preventing them fromexercising any reasonable choice, since if a man has to vote for six candidates he may have to vote for several to whom he has the strongest political and even personal antipathy.

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