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Friday, 27 October 1905

Senator STYLES (Victoria) -.! wish to compliment Senator Millen on having covered a great deal of ground in connexion with this Bill. For ray part, I shall devote my whole attention to showing that the population returns submitted are absolutely unreliable, and that the men who have prepared them say that they axe, and have advised Parliament not to accept them. That is rather a sweeping statement.

Senator Dobson - They have been ac- 1cepted as Commonwealth statistics for the purpose of apportioning expenditure.

Senator STYLES - I am well aware that that has been stated time after time. Let me say that I hope honorable senators will accept my assurance that if Queensland were in the same position as Victoria is in to-day in regard to this matter, I should take the same stand. Let me add that Queensland will be in the same position as Victoria is in to-day within another year or so.

Senator Millen - Queensland will gain in population.

Senator STYLES - If honorable senators are going to contradict me, I may as well give them the exact figures. I point out how the matter stands with' reference to Queensland. Any one can test it for himself. The last figures, ascertained by the census, showed that Queensland had a population that would give her 9.48, or close upon ten representatives. I have here the Gazette published on the 29th April last, which shows that she is entitled only to 9.09, or slightly over nine representatives. That is an enormous difference shown by the return. The census is, of course, an actual count. That is one distinction to be borne in mind. I mention the matter only to show that the question may yet be raised as to whether Queensland should have nine members. South Australia, I find, is gravitating in the same direction. As this Bill affects States rights, I think it is a matter for regret that it was not introduced in the States' House. Members of the Senate could have discussed it dispassionately, and without being open to the charge of looking after their own seats. It does not affect the Senate directly, and this would have been the proper place in which to have the Bill threshed out. At the same time, the Government, in my opinion, are deserving of credit for bringing the measure before Parliament, instead of dealing with the question by an Executive act. I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill, and I shall give honorable senators my reasons. It has become almost a confirmed belief with many that Victoria has never been entitled to twenty-three members, and that New South' Wales has always been entitled to more than twenty- six members. That has been constantly repeated to the public of Australia, in season and out of season. The Right Honorable G. H. Reid, with that astuteness for which I give him credit, delivered a policy speech at Hawthorn on the 22nd July last - a perfectly proper thing, no doubt, for a Prime Minister to do. His words carried great weight; they were addressed not merely to the people assembled an the Town Hall at Hawthorn, or to Victoria, but to all Australia. His references to this question were published in most of the principal newspapers of the Commonwealth, and were accepted as gospel. This is what the right honorable gentleman said -

At the first division Victoria had 1,100 over the half quota -

Of course, the right honorable gentleman meant " under " - for which it got a full member.

There is "no necessity to comment upon that. He went on to say -

In 1903 it had 2,200 over the half, for which it got the same extra member.

What the right honorable gentleman meant, of course, was that Victoria had 2,200 " under " the half quota. He further said -

New South Wales had always had the population for twenty-six members. They did not get a member because they had over half a quota, but because they had the full number for twenty-six.

Senator Pulsford - New South Wales has always been entitled to twenty-six.

Senator STYLES - I propose to deal with Senator Pulsford presently. I could not let the honorable senator pass, and no doubt he knows what is coming. The peculiar thing about Mr. Reid's remarks is that he does not make the slightest reference to the census. He jumps from his first division, by which he says Victoria had not a sufficient population to justify twenty-three members by 1,100. At one jump he passed on to the second conference of Statisticians which was held in September, 1903. The figures referring to the "first division" were framed by a conference held specially for the purpose, tout that fact he did- not prefer to. No advocates of this change will mention where the figures have come from ; they were so discredited bv the census that thev have disappeared from all works issued since that time. These conferences were not worth a rush. I do not desire to reflect upon the Statisticians, whom I believe to be very capable men, but they cannot do impossibilities. The Victorian Year Book for 1902 contains this record - 1900, February 22nd. Conference of statisticians of the six Federating States in Sydney to estimate on a uniform basis the population of the different States, so as to decide the number of members of the House of Representatives to be allotted to each State in the first Federal Parliament.

That was a very proper thing to do. These are the figures, to which Mr. Reid referred, which were sent to England, and on which the first allotment of members was made. The fact of the matter is that New South Wales was shown to have a population equal to returning 26.21 members, while Victoria was shown to have a population equal to returning 22.48 members, or 1,133 persons less than the half-quota. These figures were published in Coghlan's Seven Colonies, issued in December, 1900, that is, within three and a half months from the" taking of the census, but they have never appeared in any work published since that time. The explanation is very simple.

Senator Pulsford - The facts were obtained afterwards, and I suppose replaced the estimates.

Senator STYLES - Having these figures before him, and being desirous of showing that Victoria - a protectionist State - was over-represented, the honorable senator asked for a. return, which was such a curious document that I could not help keeping it. Within eleven weeks from the swearing-in of the first Parliament, he asked for this return. Perhaps I might have done the same thing if I had been a free-trader and mad on free-trade. He wanted, of course, to see that New South Wales got as many representatives as possible.

Senator Walker - Was the honorable senatora free-trader once?

Senator STYLES - No; I have always been sane. Apparently, Senator Pulsford anticipated that the return, when produced, would create some surprise, but the only man who was surprised was, himself. On the 26th July, 1901, he moved -

That a return be prepared and laid on the table of this House, showing the population of each State as at the end of 1899,

He wanted to know whether the census would disclose that Victoria was not entitled to twenty-three members, and that

New South Wales was entitled to more than had been allotted to her, such return to be based on the census results, the natural increase for the preceding fifteen months being deducted, together with the needful allowance for increase or decrease by immigration or emigration. Such return to include a calculation showing the quota and the number of members which each State would be entitled to send to the House of Representatives on such basis.

The honorable senator has not opened his. lips about the return since it was produced.

Senator Pulsford - If the honorable senator will refer to the report of my speech in Hansard, he will find that the return I asked for, and obtained, was entirely with reference to Queensland. I expressed the opinion in the Senate that that State was really entitled to ten members, and it was on its behalf that the information I asked for was obtained. I had no thought in my mind about Victoria or New South Wales.

Senator STYLES - At the time Queensland was almost entitled to ten members ; but according tothe return for December, 1904, the Statisticians have reduced the number to the bare nine. Had her population been 2,000 more at the census, she would have been entitled to another member. But this guess-work return, prepared as for the 31st December, 1904, would reduce her representation to a fraction over nine members. I do not imply that Mr. Reid would deliberately state what he did not believe to be true. I suppose that some person - probably Senator Pulsford - prepared for him figures which were not reliable, and then, of course, he was accused of making misstatements. Instead of showing that New South Wales was better entitled to twenty-six members than was Victoria to twenty-three members, Senator Pulsford's return showed just the contrary.

Senator Millen - He has already told the honorable senator that he did not ask for the return with any object of that kind.

Senator STYLES - I accept the disclaimer; but the return is signed by Mr. Coghlan, and it shows that on the first division, and despite Mr. Reid's statement to the contrary, New South Wales had a population which entitled her to 25.96 members, while Victoria had a population which entitled her to 23.05 members, so that the position of the latter in this regard was slightly better than that of New South Wales. My only desire is to point out how unreliable these guess-work statements are. The census showed that on the first division the population of New South Wales had been over-estimated by 17,022, and the population of Victoria underestimated by 25,884. The sum total of the two errors was 42,906.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator means that Victoria had a little more than its quota, and now has a little less.

Senator STYLES - What I contend is that Victoria had more than the population to entitle her to twenty-three members, while New South Wales had not the population to entitle her to twenty-six full quotas. I was always under the impression that " statistics " meant a collection of facts. According to the wayin which the word is used in this Bill, it means a collection of facts and fictions or guesses. Like Senator Millen, Ido not care two straws whether the question of altering the representation of any of the States is considered every three, or five, or ten years. But I contend thatwe should have an accurate count of the population before any alteration is made. He took the words out of my mouth the other day when he said that forthe last 100 years, in the United States they have been guided by the census, and. nothing else. In Canada, too, there is an actual count of the people before an alteration is made. In that mighty country - the United States - the movements of population have been quite as marked as in. Australia, but it has not been thought necessaryto alter the representation between one census and another. Senator Pulsford's return, furnished by Mr. Coghlan, shows that on census day, the 31st March, 1901, New South Wales was entitled to 25.88 members, and Victoria to 22.92 members ; and a subsequent publication of Coghlan's dated December, 1902, shows that in this regard Victoria had a slight advantage over New South Wales. Senator Millen said that either the census or an estimate based on the latest statistics had to be taken before the figures were sent to England. The Statisticians took guess-work returns, and made the best job they could of them. But at that time they knew that the census would be taken within ten or twelve months, and assumed that the Commonwealth Parliament would rectify any wrong whichit might disclose. The present

Government have taken up this matter, at which they laughed when the Reid Government was in office. If I could refer to private conversations, Icould surprise honorable senators a little more; but certainlyI was never more surprised in my life than when I found that the present Government were going to deal with this question without first taking a census of the people. Mr. Reid spread this statement broadcast over Australia - I shall say in good faith, if honorable senators like- and I can easily understand that the incoming Government could hardly allow his statement to pass, because, if they had, their New South Wales supporters would have said, "If Mr. Reid had remained in power, our State would have had another member." So the Government took up the question, and the Minister of Home Affairs brought in a Bill without, so far as I can see, making the slightest reference to a census when he was moving its second reading. We have heard a great many statements about the conferences of Statisticians. There have been two conferences held, and that is why I asked Senator Millen the other day which conference he was referring, to.

Senator Millen - To that held in September, 1903.

Senator STYLES - It does not seem to be generally known that in September, 1903, a conference of Statisticians was held, not for the purpose of dealing with the census, but for the purpose of considering a uniform basis of estimating the population. The report contains these recommendations -

1.   That the census of 1901 be taken as the starting point, and future estimates of population be published from that basis.

2.   That the Registrar-Generals' returns of births and deaths, and the Customs and Railway Departments certificates of arrivals and departures be accepted for the compilations.

3.   That 10 per cent. be added to the railway returns of arrivals and departures by land for New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia, to allow for unrecorded traffic by rail and road.

We know that the frontier line of New South Wales is about 1,500 miles long. Queensland also has a long border-line : and Victoria has a border line of 800 or 900 miles in length. I should like to know how the Statists are to form the slightest idea as to the number of people who travel backwards and forwards across those borders. They can ascertain the departures by rail, but I cannot understand how any one can accept such a piece of guesswork as a method of dealing with such an important subject, as is dealt with in this Bill. The document proceeds -

4.   That the following percentages on recorded departures by sea be added thereto for the unrecorded departures : - New South Wales g, Victoria g, Queensland 10, South Australia 7, Western Australia 5, Tasmania 12.5 per cent.

I should like to make it quite clear that a misunderstanding exists on the minds of a good many members of Parliament, and a good many writers, as to how the total population of Australia is arrived at. At first sight it might appear that the six Government Statists prepare a return of the total population, and that the result must be something near correct, as each of the six men checks the others. But that is not so at all. Each Statist estimates the population of his own State, and the results are simply added together, as any school boy might add them. Each Statist is responsible only for the figures relating to his own State. He gets as near to accuracy as he can. He may be nearly correct, or he may be very wide of the mark. Although they may estimate on a uniform basis, if that basis happens to be wrong the error is not multiplied six times over, but every one of the six States makes a miscalculation, and the greater the mistake in the basis the further the calculation is wrong in the end. I intend to refer to a couple of documents which have not been made public. I have to thank the Premier of Victoria for having placed at my disposal copies of these, letters, which were addressed by the Victorian Statistician, Mr. McLean, to the Commonwealth Treasurer in the Reid-McLean Government, Sir George Turner. I think that if honorable senators pay attention to these documents they will alter their opinion considerably as to the value 'of the Statists' returns. Mr. McLean was the chairman of the conference held .in Melbourne two years ago last month. The letters which he wrote to Sir George Turner have neither been published, nor have they been referred to by members of the present Government. I absolve the Government from any blame on that account. I do not suppose that they knew of the existence of the letters. But I happened to hear of 'them, and asked Mr. Bent to give me copies. I must admit that they rather surprised me. I thought there was something behind, because I noticed that an honorable member in another place referred to a small paragraph in one letter. That is the; only reference I can find to any of these letters, one of which is equal in length to a column of the Age. The chairman of the conference wrote to Sir George Turner on 4th March last, and in his letter he refers to the report of the Statists. He says -

The only direction in which serious error" can lie is in the allowance that has been made for the unrecorded arrivals and departures. This allowance for "all" the States is now on the basis of the error of estimate which occurred during the ten years 1891-1901, and it may or may not be correct ; but this cannot be ascertained until a further census is taken in all the States.

Remember that this letter is written by the chairman of the conference, who tells us that the figures may or may not be correct.

Senator Millen - They are founded on the experience of the previous ten years.

Senator STYLES - They show how unreliable these estimates are. Here is another extract from the letter. I was staggered when I saw this -

During ten years 1S91-1901 in New South Wales the excess of immigration over emigration, according to census returns, which must be taken as accurate, was only 223, and during the three and three-quarter years, 1901, 1902, igo3, and 1904, since the last census the estimated excess of immigration was 22,127.

Senator Walker - That included thousands who went to South Africa.

Senator STYLES - A printed return with Mr. Coghlan's name appended to it was furnished to the conference, which shows that, during the ten years mentioned, from one census period to another, the actual increase of the population of New South Wales by migration was only 223 persons. Yet the estimate now is that during the first three and three-quarter years since last census day, there has been an excess of immigration of over 22,000.' In order to emphasize the unreliability of these guesswork figures, the chairman of the conference, on the 20th March last, wrote -

I do not see that any guarantee can be given that, although the estimated population of all the States has been placed on a uniform basis, the liability to error has been lessened. Allowances have always been made in all the States for unrecorded departures, and speaking for Victoria, I am of opinion that our estimates for 1901-1911 will not be more free from error than those of the period 1S91-1901.

When we get a statement like that from the chairman of the conference, surely honorable senators should pause before interfering with the representation of a State. If a State is unjustly deprived of a member, a wrong is done to her. If another State gets a member apportioned to her to which she has no right, that is a wrong done, to the other five States. This appears to me to be a much more important matter than the mere apportionment of expenditure amongst the people according to population. That is not of very great consequence, and as soon as the bookkeeping period ends it will not matter what the population of the States is from that point of view. Mr. McLean, in his second letter also says -

In New South Wales the probabilities are that the allowance will be found to be too low, and the estimated population too high, and I Ease this opinion on the following grounds : - (1) The actual increase in population by migration in New South Wales in 1891-1901 was 223. (2) During the nine months ended 31st December, 1901, the estimated increased by migration was 4,058; during1902 it was 6,903; during 1903 it was 4,539 ; during 1904 it was 6,627.

Although during the ten years from census to census there was only an increase of 223 in New South Wales, or 22 per annum, according to the estimated figures there was, between the 31st March, 1901, and the end of 1904, an increase from the same cause of 22,127. Surely there must be something wrong somewhere. [Debate interrupted.]

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