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Wednesday, 24 September 1902


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - This clause, as the Bill originally came to us from the Senate, provided that -

The voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.

Those words were struck out by the committee, but upon . the Bill being returned to the Senate that body insisted upon their retention. I propose to adopt the same attitude on this occasion as we did when the Bill was last before us, and therefore I move -

That the amendment omitting the words "The voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected," to which the Senate has disagreed, be insisted on. (Committee counted.)

Mr. SYDNEYSMITH (Macquarie).I hope that the committee will not insist upon its amendment. This matter has already been before us twice. On the first occasion the Minister voted against plumping. On the second occasion there was no division, but I do not know why the Government should have changed their attitude in regard to the question. There is a strong feeling in the other Chamber against any interference with the mode of elections affecting that body, and they are totally opposed to a system which will allow of plumping. We have already insisted upon several amendments to which they have disagreed, and that being so, I think we should not insist upon this amendment. It seems to be an altogether wrong principle that the minority should rule. At the time of the election of representatives to the Federal Convention, every State provided that voters should vote for the full number of candidates to be elected. It is an underlying principle of democracy that the majority shall rule. I understand that a number of honorable members are voting for the retention of the amendment because they believe in proportional representation, and consider this the next best tiling ; but, as they were unable to get the committee to agree to proportional representation, I do not think they should attempt to secure by a side wind the adoption of a system under which the minority would rule.

Mr. BROWN(Canobolas).- I hope that the committee will stand by the position which it assumed when the matter was last before us. I do not agree with the honorable member for Macquarie, that democracy requires that voters shall be compelled to vote for a certain number of candidates. It is democratic to give all men facilities for voting, but they should be allowed to exercise their judgment as to how many candidates they will vote for. To carry the contention of the honorable member for Macquarie to its logical conclusion, an elector should be disfranchised if he did not see his way to vote at all, or if he recorded his vote in such a way as to make it informal. If the amendment is carried, electors will be at liberty to vote for the full number of candidates, but they will also have the privilege of voting for a lesser number if they feel inclined to do so.

Mr. REID(East Sydney). - -I am placed in a position of considerable difficulty, because, having read the reasons which Ministers gave for doing quite the opposite to what they now propose, I was convinced by them, and the Minister for Home Affairs has given us no explanation of their change of attitude. Is it because of influence which comes from a certain part of the Chamber 1


Mr Page - The right honorable member would like to be influenced in the same way.


Mr REID - One of the advantages of my position is that I can speak my mind. If my honorable friends knew what Ministers thought of them they would be much wiser. I think them good fellows, but they sometimes exert more weight in the Chamber than they are entitled to exert. The Ministry should give us some other explanation than a' strategical reason for their change of position. Personally, it seems to me that as both Chambers will have to give way in some matters, if the Bill is to be passed, it would be more sensible for the Senate to give way in those matters which more particularly affect the House of Representatives, and for the House of Representatives to give way in those matters which more particularly affect the Senate. Whatever happens in connexion with this clause, the Ministry will have the advantage of having occupied the right position on at least one occasion. x

Mr. HIGGINS(Northern Melbourne).Any one who has represented a constituency electing more than one member is aware of the great inconvenience and injustice which arises from the system of plumping. It leads to the misrepresentation of the opinions of electors, and to the most painful recriminations between candidates and their supporters, and is not a fair way of ascertaining the real views of a constituency. At the same time, I think that the system of block voting brings with it almost as great evils, and does injustice to minorities. There is no doubt that if the opinions of the people of New South Wales were represented in the Senate in proportion to the numerical strength of political parties in that State, there would not be such a large preponderance of the representatives of one party in the Senate. Under the block-vote system, electors are compelled to vote as their party leaders tell them. It is useless for an elector to exercise his own judgment, and to vote for the man who is not supported by the party or by some newspaper, because if he does so he only throws his vote away. I shall not propose it now, because it is too late in the day, but for the Senate I should like to see a system of proportional representation which would enable considerable minorities to be given fair representation in each Parliament.


Mr Thomas - A number of honorable senators would like to see that system for the House of Representatives.







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