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Thursday, 26 October 1905

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) - Two errors have crept into the speeches delivered by honorable senators during this debate. We have been constantly referred to the title of the Bill. I thought that the first ruling given by the President in connexion with this Bill would have convinced honorable senators that there is nothing in the contention with respect to the title of the Bill. It is, of course, very often an important factor, because it is necessary that the various clauses of a Bill shall come within the scope of the title. But we have nothing to do with that now. The purport of the Bill, is evident from what is disclosed on the face of the Bill itself. On the face of this Bill I see nothing whatever but a number of clauses proposing alterations of the machinery of the principal Act. We are now being asked to accept as a relevant amendment a proposal which" deals with an important and vital principle of our electoral law. The other error to .which I refer is that into which Senator Best has fallen. The honorable and learned senator seems to think thai, because this Bill, when it becomes an Act, is to be read together with the principal Act, the whole of the clauses, sections, and all the vital principles, of that Act are before us. Senator. Best could not possibly have considered what that argument would lead to. I have before me a copy of the Senate Elections Act 1903, in which there is a provision that-

This Act shall be incorporated and read as one with the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902.

To be logical, Senator Best would be bound to contend that, if we had before us a Bill to amend the Senate Elections Act of 1903, we could amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act in all its provisions, simply because the Bill to amend the Senate Elections Act would, when it became an Act, be incorporated and read as one with the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The arguments used by Senator Pearce were put very ably indeed. The honorable senator and the Chairman of Committees gave us a kind of analysis' of the Bill, but I defy any honorable senator to refer to one clause in this Bill which proposes a departure from a vital principle of the original Act. The President's ruling on the motion moved by Senator Mulcahy that the Committee should be instructed to consider the HareSpence system of voting, was to the effect that such an instruction could not be given. Senator O'Keefe has not adopted that procedure, but has simply endeavoured to move that the plumping system shall be introduced, thereby altering a vital principle of the original Act. If that can be done at all - and I am inclined to think it' cannot - surely it cannot be done without an instruction from the Senate to the Committee. When we -debate the motion for the second reading of a Bill, we are always told that we should deal only with its principles. We did so in this case, and it seems idle for Senator Pearce to contend that, because his proposal was mentioned in the debate on the second reading, Tt was therefore discussed at that stage.

Senator O'Keefe - What would the honorable senator call discussion? In what other way could a proposal be discussed?

Senator DOBSON - We were not called upon to discuss it, and, according to the ruling given, we could not discuss it. I contend that for all practical purposes we did not discuss it.

Senator O'Keefe - The President did not seek to prevent the discussions of it.

Senator DOBSON - When we read this Bill a second time, we were prepared to agree to the consideration- of certain alterations of the machinery clauses of the principal Act, with such amendments as might be relevant thereto. We did not affirm that we were prepared to consider amendments involving an alteration of vital principles of the Act which were never mentioned in the Bill. I understand that that is what we cannot do. It is time we considered what really is the meaning of the Senate giving a Committee instructions upon a Bill. If there is any force in such a provision, I think that, if ever there was an occasion on which it should have been brought into operation, it was in connexion with the amendment sought to be moved by Senator O'Keefe. The President having ruled out of order the motion moved by Senator Mulcahy, for leave to give the Committee an instruction to consider an alteration in the method of voting, and the Senate having agreed to that ruling, as a matter of fairness it is hardly right that the Senate should now give leave to Senator O'Keefe to submit an amendment proposing quite as radical an alteration of a vital principle of the original Act as the introduction of the HareSpence system would have done?

Senator O'Keefe - There is a big difference between the two proposals

Senator DOBSON - So there is; but both proposals contain a vital alteration of principle. Does the honorable senator mean to contend that if an elector be allowed to plump for one candidate at the next election, instead, of. voting for. three candidates, that would not be a vital alteration? If that alteration were made in the law it might affect the election of one senator in each State. In my speech on the second, reading of the Bill. I did not discuss this matter, because it was not present to my mind. I examined the Bill in conjunction with the Act, and marked the various alterations in the law which it proposed to make, but. I did not bother my head about other matters. I contend that, having affirmed that the machinery part of the Electoral Act should be amended in certain particulars, we have no right to deal with a vital principle. I think, sir, that the Senate should uphold your ruling, first, because it is right, and, secondly, because one amendment has already been shut out. If the ruling is not upheld we shall have one rule one week and another -rule next week.

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