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Tuesday, 26 July 1904

Mr ROBINSON (Wannon) - After having considered the proposed schemes for balloting for a site, I cannot see my way to approve of the principle of the scheme laid down by the honorable and learned' member for Corinella. Some time ago I was deputed by a society, of - which I am a member, to investigate various systems of voting, for the purpose of endeavouring to get a plan of preferential voting, which would be understandable by the voters, and yet would secure as nearly as practicable the wishes of the majority being carried out. I do not think that the system which my honorable and learned friend has proposed would, in practical working, have that effect, because it would be open to manipulation. It is idle for the honorable and learned member to say that every honorable member would give his vote in the order of preference which he had in his own mind. The natural inclination of every honorable member would be to give his first vote to the site in which he believed,, and his last vote against the site which he thought was the most dangerous rival to the one he favoured. That is the actual working of the scheme in practical politics; and that would be the actual working in this case. A branch of a friendly society was endeavouring to select a doctor - and that is a- matter in which every member is particularly interested - and this particular method of marking i, 2, 3 led within my knowledge to the selection not of the man who was most generally approved, but of a much weaker candidate. I fear that if the method proposed by the honorable and learned member were adopted a similar result would accrue.

Mr McCay - Does not the honorable and learned member see that the Government proposal would produce the same results? The Government proposal honestly followed will produce the same results as my proposal dishonestly followed.

Mr ROBINSON - The provision which says that the place getting the least number of votes on the first count shall drop out is the weak feature in the scheme of the Government, because that place, pitted against the place actually inserted in the Bill, might be able to win. But the safeguard against that is that on the recommittal or third reading of the Bill we could have a straight-out fight between the site which came out first in the ballot and the. site which would be finally adopted. I therefore think that the Government scheme is less open to objection. I shall just give an example of how the proposed scheme of the honorable and learned member may be worked. Assuming t'hat there are seventy-three effective votes in the House, and, for the sake of argument, that there are twenty members who prefer Bombala to any other site, twenty-five members who prefer Tumut or Tooma to any other site, and twentyeight members who prefer Lyndhurst to any other site. In the ballot Bombala gets twenty first votes, and its supporters divide their second and third votes equally between Tumut and 'Lyndhurst. That means that the number twenty will be placed against Bombala, the number fifty against Tumut, and the number fifty against Lyndhurst. Twenty-five members give their first vote to Tumut, but, fearing that Lyndhurst may defeat their own site, they decide to give their second vote to Bombala, and all their third votes to Lyndhurst. That means that the number twenty-five will be put against Tumut, the number fifty against Bombala, and the number seventy-five against Lyndhurst. Then we come to Lyndhurst, which has twenty-eight first votes. The members who voted for that site may decide to, so to speak, mix it in the same way as did those who voted for Bombala, which would result in seventy votes being cast against Tumut and seventy against Bombala. Bombala would thus gain in all 140 votes, Tumut 145, and Lyndhurst 153, and, the average being 146, Lyndhurst, a1, though obtaining the largest number of first votes, would, be left out on the first count.

Mr Austin Chapman - That happened last time, under the system now again proposed by the Government.

Mr ROBINSON - Yes, and it may happen again. The case I have put is purely supposititious, but it must be remembered that honorable members may be relied upon to cast their first vote for the site they most prefer, and to give the hardest knock they can to the site which they consider its most dangerous rival.

Mr McCay - In the honorable member's illustration, the result is the selection not of Bombala, but of the despised Tumut. That is the hole into which the tricksters fall.

Mr ROBINSON - All I desire is the adoption of a method which will secure, as far as practicable, the expression of the real opinions of honorable members. It is well known to those who have taken part in the conduct of elections by the members of friendly societies or other similar bodies that electors vote differently in the second and third ballots from the way in which they voted in the first ballot, and it is therefore very hard to secure the expression of their true opinions. It appears to me, however, that the Government plan is the least objectionable, because it can be secured from abuse by the means I have suggested. If Tumut be carried, although on a straight-out vote Lyndhurst would have been chosen, the advocates of the latter place can, by obtaining the recommittal of the Bill, or in some other way provided for in the Standing Orders, again test the feelings of honorable members in regard to the two sites. I think it is highly desirable that the manner in which every honorable member records his vote shall be made public for the information of the people outside.

Mr Reid - Why, not settle the matter in the ordinary way, by division ?

Mr ROBINSON - This will . secure practically the same result. If the Bill were recommitted, any one site could be pitted against any other site.

Mr Crouch - Is there anything in the method proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella which would prevent it being made known how each honorable member had voted ?

Mr ROBINSON - No ; but the system is a complicated one. It is wrapper! up in a maze of figures which would largely confuse the public. I know, from my own experience, that all these methods of preferential voting tend to confuse the public mind. What the public desire is a method of voting which they can easily understand, and it seems to me that an open vote is the best they can have. I admit that on the first trial the will of an absolute majority of honorable members may not be clearly expressed, but I believe that the forms of the House are such as Mill enable the ultimate expression of the opinion' of the majority to be obtained. While I pay the utmost respect to the mathematical genius of the honorable and learned member for

Corinella, I do not think that the reasons which he gave for the adoption of his scheme are sufficient to justify us in departing from the proposal of the Government.

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