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Friday, 27 October 1905

Senator STYLES - I have here the report of the Select Committee which was appointed to inquire into electoral matters, and was presided over by Mr. L. E. Groom, the present Minister of Home Affairs. The report is dated 28th October, 1904, and it contains the following paragraph : -

The returns of the population of the Commonwealth,upon which the determination of the number of members of the House of Representatives was made, have been questioned. Your Committee recommend that in future it should be, made certain that a uniform system for the determination of the population be adopted by the Statisticians of the States.

That report was prepared thirteen months after there had been a conference of Statisticians in Melbourne, with the object of devising a uniform basis of estimating the population.; and I think that it is only fair to assume that the Select Committee were dissatisfied with the result of that conference. Yet we now find Mr. Groom, as Minister, adopting in the Bill before us the very methods recommended by the conference. A little while ago I drew attention to the great discrepancy there was between the population of New South Wales on the 31st December, 1899, as estimated by the conference of Statisticians in February, 1900, and the actual figures as disclosed by the census of 1901. Senator Millen fell into the same mistake that was made in another place when he estimated the mistake in the figures at 12,000; because in December, 1899, the population of New South Wales, as published, was 1,356,650, whereas the census, taken fifteen months later, showed that the population of New South Wales was not so large by 1,804. A number of persons equal to the net natural increase must, in addition to the 1,804, have left the State; so, that the total loss, according tothe figures, was 30,582 in fifteen months. But I do not believe that New South Wales lost anything like that number of people; indeed, probably the State lost no population. These estimates made by conferences are very wide of the mark, and certainly not sufficiently accurate on which to alter the representation of one State, much less the representation of all the States. In regard to Victoria over the same period, the population of the State, as estimated by the same conference, and laid before the British Parliament, was 1,163,400, whereas, the figures, as disclosed by the census, were 1,201,070, or nearly 38,000 more than the conference estimate. The sum total of the errors made in the two States must, therefore, have exceeded 68,000. I have referred on two or three occasions to a long letter written by Mr. McLean, the Government Statist of Victoria, and chairman of the conference of Statisticians, which was held in 1903 for the very purpose of arriving at some uniform basis for estimating the population. Mr. McLean wrote this letter on the 4th March of this year to Sir George Turner, and in it he refers to the estimates, on which the ReidMcLean Government were going to act had they remained in power. In that letter, the "Victorian Government Statist said: -

These estimates, brought forward from the census of 10,01, to the end of 1904, although prepared on a uniform basis for each State, are not necessarily more accurate than those estimates which were published during the decennial period 1891-1901.

A uniform basis was recommended by the Select Committee presided over by Mr. Groom ; but I have just read what Mr. McLean said on the matter. The letter went on to give some figures which, to my mind, are rather curious, showing, as they do, that the population of New South Wales in 1894 was over-estimated to the extent of 12,202. I have previously pointed out that, according to the Victorian Government Statist, New South Wales, in order to possess the population she is now assumed to have, must have experienced a net increase by migration alone of 22,000 persons in three years and three-quarters, although during the whole ten years previously, from one census to another, the increase had been only 232 persons. In his letter, the Victorian Government Statist adds : -

If the population of New South Wales be over estimated only to the extent of a little more than 1,000, that State would only be entitled to twenty-six representatives.

Does any one of common sense, either in this Chamber or outside, believe that any man can estimate a population of nearly 1,500,000 within 1,000, or even 5,000 ? And this difficulty is recognised, because the estimate makes a certain allowance for unrecorded arrivals and departures by road, rail, and sea. I am now going to read a quotation which may appear to be rather against my own State, but I desire to place the question as fairly as possible before honorable senators. The Victorian Government Statist, in a second letter to Sir" George Turner on the 20th March, said: -

I do not think that any error which may have occurred will entitle Victoria to twenty-three members.

It is a curious thing that in the debate in another place these are the only lines quoted from two important letters which covered six foolscap pages of closely-typed matter, giving reasons why no alteration should be made. The letter proceeded : -

From these estimates it will be seen that Victoria is only entitled to twenty-two members, and that New" South Wales is entitled to twentyseven, although the ratio of population in the latter case to the quota is 26,512, being only 012 in excess of the number warranting an extra member. To my mind, in view of all the facts that I have placed before the honorable the Treasurer, tins is an advantage altogether too small to justify the change contemplated.

Senator 'Millen,in speaking on the Electoral Bill this morning, referred to the number of electors that each member ought to represent. I am perfectly well aware that in the Constitution the number of electors is not considered at all, and that is rather curious, because, when there is an outcry about a distribution, it is because one member has to represent a great many more, not people, but electors, than appears reasonable. I shall not discuss the question whether or not population or electors ought to form the basis, but merely point out that New South Wales seems to have a weakness for over-estimating. I believe in one vote one value as a proper principle. The enrolment of electors in New South Wales in 1903 was 687,049 ; the police canvass in 1904 showed 669,425, or a decrease of 17,624; while the Revision Court proceedings this year showed 665,978 electors, or a further decrease of 3,447 - a total decrease of 21,071.

Senator Pulsford - That was the result of corrections in the case of people who had moved to new electorates, and had not had their names taken off the roll for their old electorate.

Senator STYLES - And that is how population is over-estimated, and has to be reduced. In Victoria the enrolment of electors in 1903 showed 612,472 and the result of the police canvass in 1904 was 617,120, or an increase of 4,648. When the Revision Courts were held in Victoria this year it was found that the enrolment was 614,732, or a decrease of 2,388; but the net increase on the 1903 rolls was 2,260, as against 21,071 names which had to be removed from the rolls in New South Wales. If New South Wales were to have twenty-seven members, each member under this Bill would represent 24,666 electors, while in Victoria each member would represent 27,942. At present in Victoria each member represents 26,727 electors, while in New South Wales each member represents 25,612, showing that in Victoria each member represents 1,116 more electors than does each member in New South Wales. But if the alteration in the law is sanctioned by Parliament, each member in Victoria will represent 3,276 electors more than will each member in New South Wales. Surely one vote one value ought to have some weight, if that has to be our guiding principle.

Senator Drake - The distribution between States is on a population basis.

Senator STYLES - I think I have made it quite clear that I understand that point.

Senator Drake - Then surely there is nothing in the honorable senator's argument ?

Senator STYLES - It seems to me that the electors ought to be considered, although, perhaps, strictly speaking, from a legal point of view, that is not the position. At any rate, the " man in the street " regards divisions as being mapped out, not on a basis of population, but on the basis of the number of electors. However, what I desire to emphasize is that there must have been a large bungle in New South Wales, where the population was over-estimated in 1900 to the extent of 30,582, as contrasted with the bungle in Victoria, where there was an underestimation,' to the extent of 37,676. In the two States, the error amounted in the aggregate to 68,000 names. I propose to lay before honorable senators some warnings which have been given by the men who have prepared these figures, and who have advised that they should not be accepted as accurate. I shall, however, first read a passage from Quick and Garran -

The only reliable basis of population is a census ; and it may be presumed that the Parliament will provide for a periodical - probably a decennial - census, and will require that after each census the number of members of each State shall be determined afresh.

That seems to me to be sound, commonsense and fair play, and anything short of that is not. Now we shall hear what- the chairman of the 1903 conference of Statisticians has to say. I commend these warn ings to honorable senators who do not care about dealing with figures. Of course I could not deal with the matter to which I have addressed myself in any other way, and I admit freely that figures are usually considered very dry and uninteresting, except by persons like Senator Pulsford, who revels in all sorts of intricate calculations. The Victorian Government Statist, in the letter to Sir George Turner, dated 4th March. 19,05. makes the following observation - and this is another matter which has not been made generally public. I trust the press will publish the two letters to which I have referred -

Under the circumstances can estimates, which are as liable to error at the present time as they have been in the past, be accepted as the statistics of the Commonwealth, under section 24 of the Constitution Act, for the purpose of determining so important a point as the number of representatives of a State? Estimates are simply estimates more or less inaccurate ; statistics of population are, I take it, ascertained numerical facts, which can only be procured by a census enumeration.

I shall now give honorable senators the benefit of the statement made by a Statistician who tells us in effect that we should not accept his figures, or those pf any one else. This gentleman was a prominent member of the Statisticians' Conference of 1903. I refer to Mr. Coghlan. He warns us against accepting even his figures. Surely nothing, could be much stronger than that. I apprehend that the gentlemen I am quoting, the chairman of the Statisticians' Conference, and Mr. Coghlan, who is, if not the leading Statist, one of the leading Statists, of Australia, will be admitted to have been leading men at the conference. Mr. Coghlan says -

In any case it would seem desirable that the representation of the States should not depend upon mere estimates of population, however carefully such estimates may have been made. A more scientific basis of representation would doubtless be obtained from a census taken under the authority of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Coghlan'sestimates were, no doubt, as carefully prepared as they could be, but he warns us that we ought not to take his estimates, or those of any one else. If the Senate is determined that the representation of the States shall be altered, I believe it will not consent to any alteration on any less sure foundation than an actual count of the people. The references 1 have given honorable senators are all accessible to any one who cares to look into the matter, and they should be sufficient to convince the Senate, which is the States'. House, that no alteration should be made unless on an actual count of the people, as is done, and has been done, in America for the last no or 120 years, and as is done and has been done in Canada since the Provinces of the Dominion federated. I do not care two straws when the census is taken, whether every three, live, or ten years. All I contend is that no other method of ascertaining the population of the various States is sufficiently accurate to justify any alteration of the representation of any State. Nothing short of that will satisfy me.

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