Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 31 October 1905

Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia) - I am opposed to the amendment. It is provided under the principal Act that the use of vehicles to convey voters to the poll with the intention to influence their votes, is bribery. Senator Clemons is really asking us to permit candidates to bribe electors. That is clear from the honorable senator's own admission, because he has said that when a candidate sends his private carriage to an elector's house, he does so in the belief that the attention thus paid to the elector will induce him to record his vote in his favour. Senator Clemons is perfectly well aware that cabs engaged for an election day are not engaged for any public purpose, but to induce electors to vote for the candidate who sends a cab or a carriage to bring them to the poll. In my opinion, it would be a step in the wrong direction to recognise in any way the hire of cabs or carriages on election day.

Senator Clemons - Would the honorable senator stop it altogether?

Senator GUTHRIE - Yes ; I think it should be stopped altogether. Senator Clemons is proposing that a candidate should be allowed to include in his election expenses money spent on the hire of cabs, carriages, or motor cars, which we know will be used absolutely for the purpose of bribing voters to vote for a particular candidate. I prefer to adhere to the law as it stands in this matter.

Senator BEST.(Victoria). - It appears to me that Senator Clemons can hardly effect the object he has in view in the way he proposes: I clearly understand that it is his intention that this should be one of the items of expenditure permitted at election time, in the same way as printing, advertising, and stationery, but that it is to be included within the limit of £250 in the case of a Senate election.

Senator Clemons - Undoubtedly.

Senator BEST - That is obvious, but what I cannot understand is how the honorable and learned senator can propose the insertion of a clause of this character, and say at the same time that he does not propose to alter section 176.

Senator Clemons - I do not propose to alter that section.

Senator BEST - Then this clause will be inconsistent with it. Section 176 provides -

Without limiting the general effect of the words in the preceding section, " bribery " particularly includes the supply of meat, drink, or entertainment, after the nominations have been officially declared, or horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll, with a view to influence the vote of an elector.

What is the meaning of the words " with a view to influence the vote of an elector " ?

Senator Clemons - A candidate cannot hire a cab now.

Senator BEST - No. But I take the contingency Senator Clemons suggests, and I say that if in future candidates were to be allowed to hire cabs to carry voters to and from the poll, a conviction could not be obtained under section176, because it would not be possible to prove that that had been done " with a view to influence the vote of an elector." It would be in accordance with the spirit of the Act to assume that if a candidate hires a vehicle for the purpose of conveying electors to the poll, he does so with a view to influencing them to vote for himself. But if we provide by this new clause that it shall be competent for a candidate to hire cabs for this purpose, it will be quite impossible to obtain a conviction under section 176. The mere doing of this act, according "to the present law, is an act of bribery. It is assumed that it is done with the object of influencing the voter to vote for a particular candidate. We know that in past elections it was a great advantage to a candidate to have cabs flying about all over the place with his name on them.

Senator Keating - It often meant that that candidate's name was at the bottom of the poll.

Senator BEST - That might or might not be so. A candidate for the Senate is limitedto a total expenditure of £250, and he might say that it did not suit his purpose to expend money on printing, stationery, and such items of expenditure, and that it would suit him better to hire every horse and vehicle to be had in a large centre of population, when he would spend his £250 in that way. That is certainly not contemplated by our law, but it would be competent for a candidate to do that under the amendment. The spirit of the Act is to allow legitimate expenditure for the purchase of electoral rolls, printing, advertising, publishing, and distributing addresses by the candidate, and notices of meetings, stationery, expenses for committee rooms, for the hire of halls for public meetings, and for scrutineers. But what is here proposed cannot be said to come within the category of ordinary electioneering expenses. It would be competent for a candidate, under this amendment, to spend money up to the limit allowed on the hire of vehicles only, though that might, or might not, be a successful move. I rose chiefly to point out that if the hire of vehicles is to be included in the legitimate expenses covered by section 170, we should at once strike out section 176, because it would be totally inconsistent with what is here proposed. The amendment is totally at variance with the spirit of the principal" Act, and I think it would be a dangerous provision to insert.

Senator CLEMONS(Tasmania).- In order to clear away some little misunderstanding, I might refer to certain facts that are within my knowledge, and I believe within the knowledge of other members of the Committee. I refer to Tasmania, with great modesty and diffidence, of course; but I may inform honorable senators that elections have been conducted in Tasmania for many years with a clear understanding that each candidate is at liberty to hire cabs. And I have never heard that they were more corrupt than those conducted in the model States of the mainland. I say that the use of cabs does not necessarily lend itself to corruption and bribery. It is notorious that they are used simply in order to increase the facilities given to voters to get to the polling booths. If a cab is being driven along the street in the direction of a polling] booth any elector may get into it, and when he reaches the polling place he may vote for a candidate other than the man who has supplied the cab.

Senator Best - A conscientious man would certainly not do so.

Senator CLEMONS - At election time electors are not burdened with much conscience in this regard. In Tasmania, thousands of electors get into cabs which have been paid for by one candidate in order to vote for another candidate.

Senator Henderson - That would indicate a low standard of morality.

Senator CLEMONS - No. At one election the question of the hire of cabs was liaised, .and the three candidates met in a friendly way, and agreed to pool their cabs. No one could say that in that case there was an attempt on' the part of the candidates to bribe a voter. The candidates recognised the facilities which the use of cabs or other conveyances would give to electors to get to the poll. It has never been looked at in any other way in Tasmania, where the practice has been in vogue for a long time. No one has ever imagined that a candidate derived great benefit from the employment of cabs. As a- matter of fact, the man who put on most cabs was thought to be the biggest " softy."

Senator Millen - He ought to be encouraged.

Senator CLEMONS - He ought to be encouraged in the interest of poor, longsuffering cabmen, who are thus enabled to earn money which they do not get too many chances to obtain. At the last Commonwealth elections the cabmen were absolutely staggered to find that no candidate dared to hire a cab. In the law, there is no direct provision that a candidate may hire cabs. On one occasion, in Tasmania, a great many cabs were seen taking, electors to the poll, and inquiry elicited the fact that the cabmen had been gratuitously plying their vocation in the interest of one candidate. It was very difficult for an ordinary man to believe the assertion ; but it was made; and it may have been true. If we do not make it lawful for a. candidate to employ cabs, underhand means will be resorted to, and cabmen will be prepared to assert that they gave their services gratuitously.

Senator Pulsford - Would not the honorable and learned senator best effect his purpose by the omission of the words from section 176 ?

Senator CLEMONS - It was because I recognised that it would be utterly wrong to spend money on cabs in order to bribe the electors that I specifically mentioned section .176, and said that I would not move the amendment if those words were taken out. I have a vivid recollection that when* the proviso was originally being discussed here, Senator O'Connor said that, in his opinion, there was nothing to prevent a candidate from hiring cabs, so long as he did not fall foul of the concluding words of clause 176.

Senator Best - That could hardly be so, in view of the express terms of sections 169 and 170.

Senator CLEMONS - I remember that we purposely put words in clause 176 as a safeguard. We agreed to remain silent as to whether or not a candidate might legitimately expend money on cab hire, but we distinctly said that he must not do so for the purpose of influencing the vote of an elector.

Senator Best - I know that; but we are shut down to " electoral expense," which is defined.

Senator CLEMONS - I venture to say that in spite of the definition money has been, and will be, spent on cab hire. I prefer to do these things openly.

Senator Best - And money will be spent on meat and drink. If you put in one thing, why not the other?

Senator CLEMONS - I think that the concluding words of section 176 afford a sufficient safeguard.

Proposed new clause negatived.

Clause 46 -

Section one hundred and seventy-two of the Principal Act is amended by adding the following sub-section : - " (III.) The return and the receipted bills of particulars shall be retained by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, and shall be open to public inspection during ordinary office hours on payment of the prescribed fee."

Suggest corrections