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Wednesday, 25 October 1905

The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable and learned senator pardon my interruption? As this matter will probably be discussed in the Senate, whichever way I rule, st may be as well for me to State my view now. Then the matter can be carried to the Senate if necessary..

Senator Lt Col Gould - Very well.

The CHAIRMAN - I have been thinking over this question for a few days, and I have experienced considerable difficulty in coming to a decision, especially as the President has been kind enough to give me his view as to the practice of the Senate. It is as follows : -

The principle on which the British practice is founded has not been objected to. That principle, which has been adopted by the Senate, is this - "That the relevancy of a proposed instruction or amendment must be to the objects of the Bill, as shown by the contents of the Bill." In the case of a Bill amending an Act, it has been suggested that such relevancy may be extended to the Act which it is proposed to amend ; but this would be contrary to the principle adopted by the Senate, and would lead to the most inconvenient results. For instance, on a Bill to alter the salary of the Auditor-General, the whole audit system of the Commonwealth could be opened up. On a Bill to alter some of the penalties prescribed by the Customs Act, every one of the 277 sections of that Act might be amended. On a Bill to alter the fees payable for the inspection of an award under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the whole question of Conciliation and Arbitration might be discussed, and the 'Act itself radically altered.

It appears to me that if, in discussing an amending Bill, we are only to consider the clauses contained in it, the action of the Committee is more circumscribed than would be the case in considering an original Bill. Our Standing Orders provide that an amendment may be made to any part of a Bill-, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. The subject-matter of an amending Bill includes all the principles contained in all the parts of the proposed alterations. 'If honorable senators look at the Bill before us, and observe the matters mentioned in the memorandum submitted by the Government, they will see that it is an amending Bill which proposes to alter all the parts of the original Act excepting three. It proposes to alter Part I., Preliminary; Part II., Administration; Part III., Electoral Divisions ; Part IV., Subdivisions and Polling Places; Part V., Electoral Rolls; Part VI., Additions to Rolls, Transfers and Alterations of Rolls ; Part VII., Removal of Names from Rolls; Part X., Voting by Post; Part IX., The Polling; Part XII., The Scrutiny; Part XIV., Limitation of Electoral Expenses; Part XV., Electoral Offences; Part XVI., Court of Disputed Returns; and Part XVII., Miscellaneous.

Senator Dobson - Is not that al) machinery ?

The CHAIRMAN - That is a subject for argument. For example, Part VI., . which deals with additions to rolls and transfers, may increase the number of electors.

Senator Dobson - But the clauses are machinery clauses.

The CHAIRMAN - This part of the Bill increases the voting facilities of people who are already electors, and enables men and women to keep their names on the roll. Part VII., which deals with the removal of names, may decrease the number of voters by striking; off names, and this part of the Bill also provides for appeals by persons whose names are struck off. Part X., which amends section 109 of the principal Act, is intended to restrict and safeguard the use of postal votes. Part IX. prescribes the form and construction of the ballot-box, and where and how electors may vote. Part XII. deals with the scrutiny, and makes provision for a recount. The whole of these proposed amendments cover the chapters of the principal Act, which contain the vital principles of that Act, and they all, more or less, if carried, will affect the total votes polled for the candidates, and the order in which the candidates will stand at the close of the scrutiny. Senator O'Keefe has proposed an amendment which may be held to affect the totals polled. An elector now has to vote for a number of candidates equal to the number of seats to be filled, whereas Senator O'Keefe proposes to allow him to vote for one, two, or three, as the case may be; and there is no doubt that that proposal will, if carried, affect the totals polled for the candidates, and affect the position of the candidates at the close of the scrutiny. But will this proposal, if carried, affect the total polled to a greater extent than will some of the amendments in the proposed amending Bill ? Whether the proposal does or does not affect the totals to a greater or less extent, is Senator O'Keefe's proposal not one which might be legitimately considered by a Committee dealing with an amending Bill of this character? There are cases on record in which, when an instruction has been moved to a Committee to consider certain matters in a Bill, that instruction' has been deemed to be unnecessary, because the Committee could do all that was required. Can this Committee deal with this question? If Senator O'Keefe had brought his proposal forward as an instruction before the Bill reached this stage, what would have been its fate? Would it have been ruled out of order on the ground that the Committee could deal with the question without an instruction? However, the question has been decided, and it seems to me that our practice is rather restrictive, because, if the proposal is to be ruled out of order in the same way as was the proposal made by Senator Mulcahy for an instruction to the Committee to consider the question of proportional voting, how is Senator O'Keefe, or any other member, to get a proposal like this considered bv the Committee? We are told that he will be compelled to submit a separate Bill, ls that not putting rather too great a restriction on members of the Senate and members of the Committee ?

Senator Pearce - There would have to be a new Bill_ for every alteration we desired lo make in the main Act.

The CHAIRMAN - Honorable senators will see the obstacles in the way of a private member bringing in such a Bill. If an honorable senator did bring in a Bill, in all probability, when time, which is limited, had been afforded him, he would he met with the statement by the Government that so important a matter should be dealt with in a Government measure. However, I think that this amending Bill is of so comprehensive a character that the amendment brought forward by Senator O'Keefe is one which might well Le considered by this Committee ; and, therefore, I rule thai it is in order.

Senator Lt Col Gould - I dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, that the new clause proposed by Senator O'Keefe in the Electoral Bill is within the scope and object of such Bill, such ruling being opposed to the principles laid down in a recent ruling of the President, and also contrary to the practice of Parliament. 1 request that you leave the Chair and leport to the President.

In the Senate:

The Chairman of Committees. - Since you, Mr. President, were present in the Chamber during the discussion in Committee, I need not repeat what I said in giving my ruling. I merely wish to add that, although I expected that you would decide against me, I gave the ruling I have given in order that the Senate may be thoroughly seized of the obstacles in the way of an honorable senator who may wish to discuss a question of this kind in Committee.

Senator O'Keefe - As I submitted the amendment to which exception has been taken by Senator Gould, I should like to say a few words. I find that this is a Bill to " amend the law relating to parliamentary elections." Senator Gould takes exception to the amendment proposed by me, on the ground that it deals with a matter of vital principle. Do I understand Senator Gould to mean that the amending Bill deals only with machinery matters, and not with matters of principle? If that be the meaning of the honorable senator, I assert that we have during the greater part of to-day's sitting been dealing with a question which is essentially one of principle. We have to-day taken action which will certainly have the effect of considerably extending the facilities for postal voting, and surely Senator Gould, or any other honorable senator, will not assert that the granting of such facilities is not a principle of parliamentary elections ? If we either extend or circumscribe the facilities for postal voting we deal with a principle, because, as I submit, postal voting is the main principle of the Act. We have considered other matters which may well be regarded as involving questions of principle. I submit that the amendment moved by me is not any more a vital principle than is the question of postal voting with which we have been dealing all the afternoon. I further submit that the amending Bill seeks to alter the sections of the main Act dealing with postal voting. Senator Gould may say that the question of postal voting is placed before us in the amending Bill, and that any further amendment, besides those outlined in the Bill, is relevant to the subjectmatter. That would be a reasonable argument. But Senator Gould will also probably say that, as the subject-matter of the amendment moved by me is not mentioned in the Bill, it cannot, therefore, be considered relevant. That, of course, is a question on which, Mr. President, we shall have your ruling. I know that you have already given a ruling.

Senator Pearce - Not on the same matter.

Senator O'Keefe - You, sir, gave a ruling that Senator Mulcahy was not in order in moving that a certain instruction be gi'ven to the Committee. I submit that when a Bill is introduced to amend the main Electoral Act, not only the sections mentioned in clauses submitted in the amending Bill, but any section of the main Act, whether dealt with in the Bill or not, may be considered and amended by the Committee. The Government think that certain sections in the' Electoral Act requite amendment, and they have submitted certain proposals in this Bill ; but I contend that, as soon as a Bill- is placed before us, it becomes the property of the Senate, together with the Act which it is sought to amend. Although the Government have not thought it necessary to propose amendments in many of the sections of the original Act, it is within the power, the right, and the privilege of any honorable senator to propose amendments in any section. What is the law relating to parliamentary elections? Surely a part of the law is the principle of voting ; surely the method of voting is a very vital part of the law relating to parliamentary elections? If you, sir, rule, as Senator Gould evidently desires, that the Senate has no power to consider any section of a main \ct but those which are dealt with in an amending Bill, our action as a Senate will be very much circumscribed. The Chairman of Committees has just now read a memorandum, which I. think he said he got from you, and in which you mention the Customs Tariff Act and the Audit Act. I may be wrong in the view I take, but I submit that, if the Government were to introduce a Bill to amend, say, half-a- dozen items in the Customs Tariff Act, we should probably .find that the amendment of those items interfered with the duties on other items.

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