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Tuesday, 29 July 1902

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) - I am of opinion that the clause should be postponed. I did not gather from the Minister what he proposes to substitute for it. The honorable and learned member for Tasmania suggests that there should be one agent, for whom, the candidate should be held responsible - an excellent and sufficient arrangement if it were possible to divide the Commonwealth into electorates in which only one person could act efficiently on the candidate's behalf. It is obvious, however, that in very many electorates one agent could not act efficiently and would have to delegate his authority to others. But if we define the term " authorized agent," that should get rid of the difficulty. It is obvious that an authorized agent may not do anything which the Bill says he shall not do, and the candidate is to be responsible for his actions. Of course, if some other person chooses to commit an illegal act on behalf of the candidate, and it can be shown that, although not nominally an authorized agent, he waa in point of fact an agent, he will have to be treated as an agent ; but if the secretary to the candidate's committee, or any other person, is specifically designated by the candidate as his agent, the candidate must be held responsible for the acts of that agent, and the onus will rest upon him of proving that the agent exceeded his authority. This is an important matter, and we should have time to consider any proposal which the Minister may have to make in regard to it.

Sir William Lyne - The effect of the clause is not to make the candidate responsible unless it is clearly proved that the acts were committed with his knowledge or consent.

Mr HUGHES - If that is so, by trying to avoid Scylla we steer into Charybdis. We cannot allow a man not to be responsible for the actions of persons who are not his agents simply because he has not expressly authorized them. If we did so. a candidate would be able to do' practically what he pleased - to offer bribes, to spend a larger amount upon his candidature than is allowed by clause 173, or to do any other illegal act. All that he would have to dowould be to say - "These things were not done by my authorized agents," and the men of straw who did them would say - ""We were not Mr. So-and-so's authorized agents." The candidate should take theresponsibility that belongs to his position,, but he should not have to bear responsibility which does not naturally belong to him. Let us define what an authorized agent is how he may be appointed, what are his functions, and to what extent, if any, the candidate shall be responsible for his actions. But we cannot say that the candidate shall not be responsible for anything that he does not authorize himself, because he gives his committee certain powers, and it is absurd to say that he does not authorize certain acts simply because he 'does not specifically direct that they be done. If we define what an authorized agent is, all we need say, then, is that the candidate shall be responsible for the acts of his agents. If the candidate likes to appoint as agent a man who will exceed his authority, he must be held responsible for whatever happens. The candidate ought not to be able to say that he did not authorize his agent to perform certain acts which are afterwards proved to be illegal. Every candidate should be responsible for the acts of his agent within the scope of his authority.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Will the Minister indicate the amendments he intends to propose ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I propose to omit from clause 191 the concluding words - "except as mentioned in the last preceding section," and to recommit clause 174, with a view to insert the words " by the candidate" after the word "incurred" in the first line.

Mr HUGHES - 1 do not understand what the amendments will involve, and, therefore, I suggest that this clause should be postponed, to allow of the amendments being printed and placed before honorable members. I decline to discard my responsibility as a candidate, and I also object to assume any responsibility without knowing the extent of it. Every candidate should shoulder his proper responsibility.

Sir EDWARDBRADDON (Tasmania). - T hope that the suggestion of the honorable member for West Sydney will be adopted, so that we may he enabled to properly understand and discuss the amendments. In Tasmania, I have known two elections to be voided, one by reason of an illegal act on the part of the authorized agent of a candidate - in Tasmania a candidate ma}' not appoint more than one paid agent - and the other by reason of the candidate having been, represented by a man who was claimed to be an unauthorized agent. In both cases acts of bribery were committed, and the candidates were very properly unseated. The provision made against corrupt practices should not be a mere sham. It is desired that there shall be no bribery or corruption, or excessive expense incurred in connexion with elections, but the amendments proposed by the Minister are in the direction of leniency, and will probably permit all these illegal practices to be carried on with impunity, with the result that the man who is able to make the most liberal provision for bribing electors directly or indirectly \yill be returned.

Mr. G.B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).I do not think the amendments indicated by the Minister will meet the contention raised during the former discussion upon clauses 173, 174, and 175, that two sets of offences should be provided for - one by the candidate and another by persons acting in his interest. The Minister promised that he would meet such cases, and draft a clause to deal with Offences committed by persons other than the candidate.

Sir William Lyne - That is the object of the amendments.

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