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Friday, 17 November 1911

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - I should like to know who has complained of the present nomination form. I am not aware of anybody having urged that it is indefinite in character, or that it does not set out the required particulars clearly enough. The Minister has given us no information on the subject. All he has said is that the Department desires the proposed change. But if the wishes of the Department are to be con- suited in every instance, ' why not abolish Ministers and Parliament entirely, and hand everything over to the Departments? I have heard of a member of the Govern-, ment in another place -declaring that Ministers were rubber stamps, and it certainly looks as if they were. It seems as if the Honorary Minister has no opinion of his own. An officer of the Department has merely to say, " We want this," and he at once replies, " Yes, you shall have it," without inquiring the reason why it is required. The form of nomination for the position of a senator is set out in schedule I. of the principal Act, and I would ask the Minister whether he can urge any objection to it? What is wrong with that form? Why take it out of the Act unless there be something wrong with it?

Senator Findley - I do not think anything that I could say would influence the honorable senator.

Senator VARDON - The Minister ought not to make reflections of that character. If the form of nomination be clearly set out in the Act any elector will be able to make a copy of it. But if it is to be prescribed by regulation, and alterations made in it, persons living in remote parts of Australia, who may desire to nominate candidates for the Senate, may not be able to secure a copy of the regulations in time to enable them to do so. Under this clause they will be subjected to great inconvenience. I am surprised at such an exhibition of Ministerial inefficiency. When the Minister is asked for information on this matter, his only reply is that the Department says that the present form of nomination does not suit it. Is the Department, or is the Parliament to rule . this country ? Are we to frame Acts for the guidance of the people, or is the Department to do it? The less regulations we have for administering an Act of Parliament the better. I am indeed surprised that the Minister should submit this proposal without offering one valid reason why the change sought should be made, and that he should obstinately refuse to recognise that that change must impose great inconvenience on the public.

Senator FINDLEY(Victoria - Hon one occasion during the discussion of this Bill members of the Opposition have affirmed that some of its provisions havebeen framed in the interests of the Department, and of departmental officers,, and that the Government have been moved' by some occult influence to insert those provisions. Such statements emanating as they do from honorable senators who are responsible for their utterances were quite unworthy of them. "

Senator Keating - It is the Minister's own statement in reference to this clause.

Senator FINDLEY - I said that a change in the form, of nomination was required for the public convenience as well as for departmental convenience. I would ask those honorable senators who are opposing the clause whether it is not much easier for departmental officers to do their work when it is clearly set out in an Act of Parliament than it is for them to perform it when they have to draft regulations in order to efficiently administer the Act. Under which of these conditions would any honorable senator prefer to work?

Senator Millen - Why do all Departmental heads strive to get as much power under regulation as possible?

Senator FINDLEY - What power will departmental officers possess by prescribing the form of nomination in respect of candidates either for the House of Representatives or the Senate? What man, other than one who is possessed of strong imaginative powers, can believe for a moment that departmental officers are thirsting for an alteration of that form in order that they may occupy themselves in drafting a new regulation The thing is so absurd that I can hardly understand why so much time should be occupied with the discussion of it. What is proposed is not in the interests of the departmental officers. It is quite as much in the interests of candidates, and of those who sign nomination papers in their behalf. Senator Keating has raised a legal point.. The average man who nominates for a constituency never worries about consulting the Act.

Senator Millen - That is the first thing that he does.

Senator FINDLEY - The average candidate when he obtains a nomination form does not trouble about the particular Actthat prescribes that form. He takes it for granted that the form is correct

Senator Chataway - Does the Minister take it for granted^ then, that the candidate carries round the nomination form himself ?

Senator FINDLEY - The candidate and his nominees read the form carefully, and if they have any doubt with respect to it they ' probably, as Senator Keating says, consult the Act.

Senator Keating - Where does the candidate get the form?

Senator FINDLEY - He obtains it where he obtains the copy of the Act and of the regulations.

Senator Keating - He may not.

Senator FINDLEY - Wherever he can get a copy of the Act he can get a copy of the regulations and of the nomination form.

Senator Chataway - Where would he get a copy of the regulations at Thursday Island ?

Senator FINDLEY - Oh, where would he get one on the planet Mars !

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Cameron. - When do the Government propose that these nomination forms shall be available?

Senator FINDLEY - I should say that the regulations with respect to this Bill will be ready as soon as copies of the measure itself are ready.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Cameron. - The forms may be available as soon as the Act is passed, but the regulations may not be available to many candidates until it is too late. Senator Millen. - More than that, the Government will alter the regulations as soon as it suits them.

Senator FINDLEY - The regulations will be altered whenever it suits the convenience, not of the Government, but of candidates and of the public. What other object can we have?

Senator Millen - The Government's view as to what suits the convenience of the public may not be that of their political opponents.

Senator FINDLEY - There is no desire to do anything unfair with regard to nomination papers at any rate.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Cameron. - There should be no possibility of doing anything unfair.

Senator FINDLEY - There will not be the slightest desire to do anything of the kind towards any section of the community with respect 'to this measure and the regulations that will be prescribed under it.

Senator Chataway - Do the Government propose to put preference to unionists in the nomination paper?

Senator FINDLEY - Proposed new section 99 simply provides that nominations in the prescribed form shall name the candidate, his place of residence, and occupation, and shall be signed by not less than six persons entitled to vote at the election for which the candidate is nominated. Section 102 of the principal Act says -

No nomination shall be rejected by reason of any formal defect or error therein if the Commonwealth Electoral Officer or Divisional Returning Officer receiving the nomination is satisfied that the provisions of this Act have been substantially complied with.

Senator Millen - It is all the "officer."

Senator FINDLEY - The conditions regarding nomination will be "substantially complied with " if the name of the candidate, his place of residence, and occupation are stated, and the paper is signed by not less than six persons entitled to vote at the election.

Senator Millen - Put that in the schedule.

Senator FINDLEY - We do not desire to put it in the schedule.

Senator Sayers - The Government do not desire anything that is fair.

Senator Millen - Now tell us what the real reason for altering the practice is.

Senator FINDLEY - I have already told the Committee. The schedules have been amended four times.

Senator Sayers - To meet new requirements.

Senator FINDLEY - They have been amended for the purpose of striking out petty details that are not worthy of serious consideration ; and, in order to avoid the necessity for amending the law in future, we desire that the forms shall be prescribed by regulation.

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