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Wednesday, 23 July 1902

Mr WATSON (Bland) - I should be the last to impute motives to honorable members because of the attitude they assume. I am much obliged to the honorable member for Robertson for his assurance that "Codlin is our friend, not Short," but I do not know that the remarks of the honorable member have any particular bearing on the subject at issue. Democrats exist in both fiscal camps, and I hope that will continue to the end. As to compelling men in organizations, of whatever political complexion, to vote for particular men to the exclusion of others, the honorable member for North Sydney must, on reflection, see that most of the candidates within an organization, whether it be in a freetrade, protection, or labour organization, hold exactly the same set of opinions as those which govern the members. There is, therefore, no sacrifice in their agreeing to sink individual liking of the candidates, and voting for those selected by the majority. That applies to organizations formed for the purpose of carrying out certain sets of political principles, but it does not apply to the case of a number of candidates at a general election. In that case there are a number of men with whom the electors agree on one point, but with whom they disagree on every other; and there is, therefore, a much wider range for the expression of different opinions than is the case in an organization. The two cases are not parallel, and the argument is hardly fair.

Mr Thomson - The organization selects the three as well as the one.

Mr WATSON - It is outside the organization of which we are speaking in this connexion. There are two aspects of the matter which have not been referred to. There are four States exit of the six whose representatives in the Senate were elected under the plumping system, and the result in the States where the block system prevailed was the absolute obliteration of the country vote. That was the case in both Victoria and New South Wales.

Mr Henry Willis - The honorable member does not believe in majority rule.

Mr WATSON - I do; but I do not necessarily disbelieve in minority representation. I allow the minority to have its voice, but the majority must rule if we are to have any progress.

Mr Henry Willis - Then why not support the Bill ?

Mr WATSON - Because even if the majority is to rule, the minority is entitled to have its voice 'heard.

Mr Henry Willis - We are considering the representation of the States, not of one State.

Mr WATSON - Prom my point of view that makes the position all the worse.

Mr Henry Willis - In Victoria there was one free-trader out of the six senators returned.

Mr WATSON -- I did not know there were any free-traders returned in Victoria, judging from election promises ; but I believe since then one or two senators have been moving in a halting fashion in the direction of that policy. I do not share to the fullest extent the fear of some honorable members that if the clause is carried the! labour party will be wiped out in the Senate. That may be the result in some States, but at any rate, the Bill will be the means of enabling the labour party " to wipe the board " in Queensland.

Mr Henry Willis - The labour party would be represented in that way.

Mr WATSON - That would be good as a compensation, but it would not be a result which we could hail with any degree of delight. It would be much better to have a reasonable degree of representation in each of the States. Whether the matter particularly concerns this Chamber or the Senate, I do not see why we, as a Parliament, should not have a voice in deciding the question of how the Commonwealth is to be represented. The Constitution allows- us full power, and it would be foolish to divest ourselves of that power, and let the senators look after their affairs and we after ours. Each' Chamber should be consulted, and have a voice in the election of Parliament. I trust the committee will see the necessity of giving minorities some degree of representation, and preventing unfair compulsion on electors to either vote for men they do not want, or to run " dummy" candidates.

Mr. HENRYWILLIS (Robertson).The honorable member for Bland has proved to the hilt the contention of the Government. All the honorable member's followers were, I think, unanimous in saying that under the clause there would be no representation of 'the minority, but the honorable member for Bland expressed the opinion that the labour party would " wipe the board " in Queensland. The honorable member showed that in New South Wales there were returned five free-traders to one protectionist, and in Victoria five protectionist to one free-trader while, according to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Batchelor, the representation of the two parties was equal in his State. It would appear, therefore, that the parties are equally represented, and that the proposal of the Government is one which the committee should adopt.

Mr. BROWN(Canobolas).- The honorable member for North Sydney made some special reference to myself, and seemed to claim that there had been some inconsistency on my part. I fail, however, to see that the analogy which that honorable member drew proves any inconsistency. "Under the Bil], a man who claims his right of choice is disfranchised* No one can see what a man -does in the ballot-box, and the organizations are simply a combination of voters of like political views, who desire the return of candidates in favour of those views. Such organizations are common to all parties, and if a traitor be found in any he is simply " passed out " of the camp. There is no .analogy between disfranchising a man because he exercises his right of choice, and the action of an organization in removing a man with whose political views it is not in sympathy.

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