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Wednesday, 30 July 1902

Mr E SOLOMON (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I think that some discretionary power should be given to the returning officer as provided for in the amendment. I remember a case in which a man who hadremoved from one street to another after the rolls had been compiled, but who still resided in the same electoral district, was refused the right to vote on the ground that he did not reside in the street named in the roll.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Postponed clause 190, and postponed clauses 198 to 209, negatived.

Postponed clause 210 (Effect of decision).

Mr. GLYNN(South Australia). - I do not think we are proceeding in a proper way. Before we agree to strike out clauses i n this way, we should know what it is in- tended to put in their places. We are shackling ourselves by omitting all these clauses, and a number of them would fit in with the appointment of a political committee. As a matter of fact, they are framed chiefly on the South Australian practice.

Sir William Lyne - The South Australian practice is not the same as the Committee of Elections and Qualifications, which was asked for last night.

Mr GLYNN - So many opinions have been expressed that I do not know what has been asked for. In South Australia, we make provision for a presiding judge to assist members of the Parliamentary Committee, so far as the law is concerned, and that system has worked admirably.

Sir John Quick - We have said that we do not want that.

Mr GLYNN - I have risen merely to say that I think it is a great mistake to allow these clauses to be dropped out before we know what is going to be put in their places.

Clause negatived.

Postponed clause 211 negatived.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I propose now to move the insertion of a number of clauses which have been drafted to give effect to the decision resulting from the discussion which took place last night. They are somewhat lengthy, and are taken from theVictorian and New South Wales Acts, and founded upon the practice in those States. I presume that they will meet with the acceptance of the committee. It would be useless for me to read the whole of them now, and expect the committee to deal with them. What I propose to do is to ask the committee to agree to the insertion of these clauses, and so have them printed and circulated, and I shall then have them recommitted for consideration, after allowing time to elapse within which honorable members will be able to see them.

Mr Glynn - Could not the honorable gentleman tell us the principle proposed without going into details?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - What is proposed is the nomination of a Paliamentary Committee. It is proposed that at the commencement of each session of Parliament the Speaker should issue his warrant, nominating seven members of an Elections and Qualifications Committee. The warrant will be laid upon the table, and if within three days exception is not taken to it the committee will be appointed. There are, of course, consequential clauses to cover details included in the clauses which we have struck out.

Sir Edward Braddon - No new principle or practice is introduced?

SirWILLIAM LYNE.- No ; I am adhering to what I understand to be the wish of the committee as expressed last night. I really have not had an opportunity of carefully reading these new clauses myself. I wish to have them printed and circulated, and if it is the wish of honorable members I shall have them recommitted for consideration before the Bill leaves this Chamber.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think the honorable gentleman should pledge himself to have them recommitted.

SirWILLIAM LYNE.- I shall do so, because I recognise that it is not fair to the committee that the Bill should be sent back to the Senate without honorable members having an opportunity of discussing these clauses in detail. I move -

That the following new clauses be inserted : -

Part XVII. - Committee of Elections and Qualifications. 197a. (1) In every session of the Senate and of the House of Representatives respectively, as soon as conveniently may be after the commencement of the session, the President or Speaker, as the case may be, shall, by warrant under his hand, appoint seven members of the House, against whose return no petition is then pending, and none of whom is a party to any petition complaining of any election or return, to be members of the Committee of Elections and Qualifications (hereinafter called the committee).

(2)   Every such warrant shall be laid on the table of the Senate or House ofRepresentatives, as the case maybe, and if not disapproved by the House in the course of the three next following days on which the House meets for the despatch of business, shall take effect as an appointment of the committee.

(3)   Every member who becomes a party to any petition complaining of an undue election or return, or respecting whose return, qualification, or disqualification an inquiry is pending, shall, for the time, be disqualified to serve on the committee, and the President or Speaker, as the case may be, shall name another member in his stead. 197b. If the Senate or House of Representatives disapproves of any such warrant, the President or Speaker shall, on or before the third day on which the House meets after such disapproval, lay upon the table of the House a new warrant for the appointment of seven members qualified as aforesaid, and so from time to time until seven members have been appointed by warrant not disapproved of by the House.

Provided that the disapproval of any warrant may be either general in respect of the constitution of the whole committee, or special in respect of any particular member named in the warrant ; and the President or Speaker may, if he thinks fit, name in the second or subsequent warrant any of the members named in any former warrant whose appointment has not been specially disapproved of. 197c. After the appointment of the committee every member appointed shall continue to be a member thereof until the end of the session ; or until he ceases to be a member of the House ; or until the committee reports that he is disabled by continued illness from attending the committee ; or that he has failed to attend four consecutive meetings without the leave of the committee ; or until the committee is dissolved (as hereinafter provided) ; or until he resigns his appointment (which he may do by letter to the President or Speaker), which resignation shall not take effect until the appointment of another member in his place. 197 d. (1) If the committee at any time reports that, by reason of the continued absence of more than two of its members, or by reason of irreconcilable difference of opinion, it is unable to proceed satisfactorily in the discharge of its duties, or if the House resolves that the committee be dissolved, it shall be forthwith dissolved, and every re-appointment of the committee after its dissolution, as well also as every appointment to supply a vacancy in the committee by resignation or otherwise, shall be made by the President or Speaker by warrant under his hand laid upon the table of the House, on or before the third day on which the House meets after the dissolution of the committee, or notification of the vacancy made by the President or Speaker, as the case may be.

(2)   Such warrant shall be subject to the disapproval of the House in like manner as is hereinbefore provided in the case of the appointment of the first committee,

(3)   Upon any re-appointment of the committee the President or Speaker may, if he thinks fit, re-appoint any of the members of the former committee who are then not disqualified to serve on it.

(4)   Every such new committee or member shall have power to take up and continue the business pending at the time of the dissolution or vacancy, in the same manner as it might have been done by the committee as previously constituted and composed. 107e. The President or Speaker shall appoint the time and place of the first meeting of the committee, and the committee shall meet at the time and place so appointed, but no member shall act upon the committee until he has been sworn at the table of the House by the Clerk, well and truly to try and determine the matter of any petition or other question referred to the committee, and a true judgment to give according to the evidence, and truly and faithfully to perform the duties appertaining to a member of the committee to the best of his ability without fear or favour. 197F. (1) The committee shall have power to adjourn its sittings as it thinks proper, provided that the interval of adjournment shall not in any instance exceed seven (7) days, unless by leave first obtained from the House. In case four (4) mem - bers have not met together within one hour of the time appointed for an original or adjourned meeting, the members present may adjourn within the limits and subject to the restrictions aforesaid.

(2)   The committee shall elect its own chairman, and shall have power to regulate the form and manner of its own proceedings.

(3)   Such proceedings shall be conducted openly, except when the committee thinks it necessary to deliberate before or after hearing evidence and argument, if offered ; and all questions before the committee shall be decided by a majority of votes, and whenever the votes are equal the chairman shall have a casting vote, and no member of the committee shall refrain from voting on any question on which the committee is divided.

(4)   The committee shall be attended by one of the clerks of the House, who shall make a minute of all proceedings of the committee in such form and manner as is directed by the committee, and a copy of the minutes shall be laid from time to time before the House. 197g. (1) The committeeshall have power to inquire into and determine upon all election petitions and upon all questions which may be referred to it by the House respecting the validity of any election or return of a member to serve in the House, whether the dispute relating to the election or return arises out of an error in the return of the returning officer, or out of an allegation of bribery or corruption against any person concerned in any election, or out of any allegation calculated to affect the validity of the election or return, and also upon all questions concerning the qualification or disqualification of any person who has been returned as a member of the House.

(2)   On the trial of any such question the committee shall be guided by the real justice and good conscience of the case, without regard to legal forms and solemnities, and shall direct itself by the best evidence it can procure, or which is laid before it, whether it be such evidence as the law would require or admit in any other case or not, and the committee may receive or reject, as it deems fit, any evidence that may be tendered to it. 197h. (1) The committee shall have power to direct the attendance of witnesses, and to examine them on oath (which oath it shall be competent for any member of the committee to administer), and also to send for and examine papers, records, and other documentary evidence, and the committee may, if it thinksfit, receive affidavits or declarations relating to any of the matters referred to it taken before any Justice of the Peace (which affidavits such Justice of the Peace is hereby authorized to take).

(2)   If any person summoned by the committee disobeys the summons or refuses or neglects to produce any papers, records, or other documentary evidence relating to the matterunder investigation which has been sent for by the committee, or refuses to submit himself for examination or gives false evidence, or prevaricates, or otherwise misconducts himself in giving or refusing to give evidence, he shall be liable to be imprisoned, with or without hard labour, for any period not exceeding two (2)years.

(3)   Any person wilfully or knowingly giving false evidence before the committee or a quorum thereof, or in any such declaration or affidavit, shall be liable to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for any period not exceeding three (3) years. 197i. The committee shall have the power to inquire whether or not the petition is duly signed, and so far as rolls and voting are concerned, to inquire into the identity of persons and whether their votes were improperly admitted or rejected, assuming the roll to becorrect, but shall not have power to inquire into the correctness of any roll. 197 k. (1) The committee shall determine finally on all questions referred to it, and if it determines and reports to the House that a person returned was not duly elected, he shall cease to be a member of the House ; and if it determines and reports that any person not returned was duty elected, he may take his seat in the House accordingly; and if the committee declares any election to have been wholly void, or declares any sitting member to be unqualified or disqualified a new election shall be held.

(2)   If the committee comes to any resolution other than the determination above mentioned, it shall, if it thinks proper, report the same to the House for its opinion and decision, at the same time as it informs the House of such determination, and the House may confirm or disagree with the resolution and make such order thereon as it thinks fit. 187l. (1) Every petition complaining of the undue election or return of a member to serve in the Senate or House of Representatives, or complaining that no return has been made according to the exigency of the writ issued for the election of a member to serve in the Senate or House of Representatives, shall be subscribed by some person who voted or claimed to have the right to vote at the election to which the same relates, or by some person claiming to have had a right to be returned or elected thereat, or alleging himself to have been a candidate at the election, and shall be addressed to the House affected and presented to the Clerk of the House within thirty (30) days after the next meeting of the House, or within forty (40) days after the return of the writ to which the petition relates.

(2)   Every such petition shall be forthwith notified in the Gazette, and shall, as soon as conveniently may be after such presentation, be laid by the President or Speaker before the House, and shall by the House be referred to the committee either forthwith or as soon as the committee has been duly appointed or affirmed. 197m. The House may, upon any petition subscribed as aforesaid, and presented to the President or Speaker, refer such petition and the question thereby raised to the committee, and the House shall also have power upon the like petition to refer to the committee all questions respecting bribery or corruption alleged to have been committed at any election atany time within twelve (12) months after the election, notwithstanding that the period in either of the above cases has elapsed, for a petition against the election or return according to the provisions hereinbefore contained. 197n.Noelection shall be avoided on account of any delay in the declaration of nominations, the polling, or the return of the writ, or on account of the absence or error of any officer which shall not be proved to hove affected the result of the election. 197o. Before presenting any such petition to the President or Speaker, the person by whom it is subscribed, or some one on his behalf, shall deposit with the Clerk of the House the sum of fifty pounds (£50) as security for costs, which sum shall be payable towards the costs of the petition as hereinafter regulated, and shall be liable to be applied upon the order of the President or Speaker, either for the purpose of such payment, or for the purpose of restoring the same to the petitioner, wholly or in part, as the casemay require. 197p. All persons subscribing any suchpetition shall be deemed to be parties to the reference, and the sitting member to whose election the petition relates, or any person who voted or who had the rightto vote thereat, or any person complained against in any such petition, may within four (4) weeks after the presentation thereof, by notice in writing to the Speaker, be admitted as a party to support or oppose the same or to defend the return of the sitting member, as the case may be, and every person so admitted shall be deemed to be a party to the reference. 197q. The parties to any such reference made any time after presentation of the petition so referred to may conjointly or severally withdraw their support or opposition, as the case may be, by written notice to that effect under their hands or the hand of their agent to the President or Speaker, and also to the sitting member or his agent, and also to the adverse parties or their agent, and in such cases the parties so withdrawing shall be liable to the payment of all such costs and expenses incurred by any of the adverse parties as the committee in its discretion deems reasonable and just. 197r. The committee may determine and report to the House affected upon every petition so referred to, and may in all cases award payment of all such costs or expenses incurred by any of the parties as the committee in its discretion deems reasonable and just, and name the parties in each case who shall be liable for such payments, and the parties, if any, to whom such payments are to be made. 197s. If costs are awarded to any party against the petition, the deposit shall be applicable in payment of the sum ordered, but otherwise the deposit shall be repaid to the petitioner. 197t. All other costs awarded by the committee, including any balance above the deposit payable by the petitioner, shall be recoverable as if the order of the committee were a judgment of the High Court of Australia, and such order, certified by the committee, may be entered as a judgment of the High Court of Australia, and enforced accordingly.

Sir EDWARDBRADDON (Tasmania). - Ordinarily the practice proposed by the honorable gentleman would be highly objectionable, but, inasmuch as he proposes to carry out the wish of the committee as expressed by a very large majority last night, and as we are clearly led to understand that the new clauses involve no new principle that will militate against the decision of the committee, we may very well for the convenience of public business allow them to be introduced now, leaving it to the recommittal stage to discuss them in detail if that appear to be desirable.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - New clauses cannot be proposed at this stage.

Sir William Lyne - Yes, I have dealt with the postponed clauses, and I come now to the new clauses to be proposed.

Mr Tudor - Was not clause 99 postponed for the purpose of considering the question of deposits ?

Sir William Lyne - I think not. There may have been some intention to recommit it, but it was not postponed.

New clauses agreed to.

Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -

That the following new clause be inserted: - 19a. Before reporting on the distribution of any State into divisions, the Commissioner shall invite public attention by advertisements in not more than two newspapers circulating in the State, to the maps exhibited for public information at post-offices, railway stations, State schools, police stations, town-halls, and other public buildings, showing the boundaries of the proposed divisions and the estimated number of electors therein.

Mr. V.L. SOLOMON (South Australia). - We have just passed in a haphazard, happy-go-lucky sort of way a number of new clauses proposed by the Minister, and I do not suppose there' is a member of the committee who really knows what they contain.

Sir John Quick - They are the same as the sections of the Victorian Act.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They may be one thing and they may be another, but I desire to have an assurance from the Minister that a reprint of the Bill will be submitted to us in order that these clauses may be fully discussed.

Sir WilliamLyne. I have already assured honorable members that that -will be done.

Mr. BROWN(Canobolas).- In Sydney there are two morning .and two evening newspapers, and a large proportion of the people see only one of them. If the announcement is intended for public information it should be published in the four newspapers in that city. I would strongly advise the Minister to reconsider the question of limiting the publication to two newspapers. Assuming that the announcement is intended for public information, it should be published in . as many newspapers as will give it that publicity which is necessary, and nothing short of publication in the leading newspapers -in the chief city of a State will meet that requirement.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not wish the clause to be passed without considering the suggestion which the honorable member for Canobolas has made. The same idea occurred to my mind, but the difficulty is that if we give an unlimited scope to the publication of the advertisement it will mean a very large bill, and that is why the expression " not exceeding two newspapers " has been used. If the publication is not limited - perhaps it might be better to advertise in more than two newspapers-the undoubted result will be that every newspaper in each electorate in the State will be clamouring for an order to publish the advertisement, and the advertising bill will be an enormous ohe.

Mr Brown - Could not the publication be limited to the daily newspapers in each capital 1

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - In Victoria, I presume that the two leading newspapers are the Argus and Age-

Mr Brown - Why not the evening Herald, which has a circle of readers' who possibly do not read the other newspapers 1

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The question then arises, where are we going to stop ?

Mr Tudor - Stick to the Gazette, and save expense.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If honorable members are not afraid of incurring expense, and desire to limit the publication to the leading metropolitan newspapers in a State, I do not object, but the provision was framed with the view of avoiding a very large printing bill, at the same time giving every section of the public an opportunity to protest, if it is so desired, against the proposed boundary of a division. But I do not think that the Minister should be placed in such a position that he will have to refuse the advertisement to 200 or 300 newspapers distributed all over the State. I am quite prepared to substitute the word "four" for the word " two."

Mr. WATSON(Bland).- I do not think it is necessary to go to all this expense. What is proposed to be advertised 1 It is the fact that the commissioner, in the absence of any further information, intends to divide the State into so many electorates, with certain boundaries. How many persons who frequent post-offices, State schools, and police stations will be interested in the advertising of that fact? How many of them will take any notice of the advertisement ? In the case of altering an electoral roll, every person is vitally interested ; but in the case of dividing a State into electorates there is no necessity to go to the expense of preparing a map to be exhibited at post-offices and other places. Let honorable members imagine how many copies would be required for that purpose. I do not know how many thousands of these buildings there are in the Commonwealth, but I imagine that in New SouthWales they would number 2,000 or 3,000. I do not see any necessity to exhibit the map in that fashion. It would be quite sufficient if the commissioner, by advertisement, gave the newspapers an opportunity to copy the map. When New South Wales was divided, the commissioners exhibited a map, I think, in their office, which the chief newspapers carefully photo lithographed and published for the information of the people. There is no necessity to advertise in the press, or to prepare many thousand copies of an elaborate map at a very heavy cost, merely for the sake of directing the attention of politicians and a few political organizations to the fact that certain divisions were proposed to be made. I would suggest to the Minister that it would be just as well not to insist that a map should be exhibited at the various places named in the new clause.

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