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Thursday, 2 October 1913

Senator BAKHAP (Tasmania) . - I accept the practical apology of honorable senators opposite, and will take it into consideration on a date which I shall fix.

Senator Russell - The honorable senator should not start that again.

Senator Needham - Does the honorable senator want another count out?

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator desires to be made a martyr. He should not be so silly.

Senator BAKHAP - I am not going to take up any apologetic attitude in regard to this matter. You, sir, are the judge as to. whether I behaved in an unparliamentary manner or used language which an honorable senator should not use.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator was most offensive to every one.

Senator BAKHAP - Was I as offensive as the honorable senator, who has made such a fuss over this business, when lie accused the Prime Minister of being a liar, a renegade, and a traitor t Was I offensive in that sense or in a parliamentary sense? Did our worthy President call upon me to withdraw any statement of mine ? I abate not one syllable of what I said. I maintain that I was within my privileges as a senator in alluding to a statement which placed the party to which I have the honour to belong in a derogatory position.

Senator Rae - The honorable senator could not put the party in a worse position than it deserves to occupy.

Senator BAKHAP - I have yet to learn that the terms " liar " and " renegade " are used in this chamber only in a Pickwickian sense. I may be a bit of a boor and barbarian, because I do not understand these fine-drawn distinctions. When a nian calls me a liar he has to expect the ready blow to follow.

Senator Russell - Who called the honorable senator a liar ?

Senator Long - No one called public attention to the honorable senator's infirmity.

Senator BAKHAP - I direct attention to the fact that the thin-skinned honorable senator opposite, who resented a harmless and perfectly parliamentary allusion to a statement made, by one of the big guns of his party, had only a few days previously, in this chamber, called the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth a liar and a renegade. I was proceeding to deal with certain statements that had been made in connexion with the desire of the present Administration to bring about a certain measure of electoral reform, as indicated in the memorandum which has been circulated amongst honorable senators. Honorable senators opposite take up the position that because, with the largest poll on record, on the 31st May last the Liberal party was returned with a majority, and secured the reins of power, it should, therefore, be perfectly satisfied with the Electoral Act. These honorable senators believe altogether in the maxim, " Nothing succeeds like success." Notwithstanding the fact that they met with political defeat, it would not seem decorous on their part to say anything of their own legislative bantling. The Commonwealth Electoral Act, as amended by them, is absolute perfection in their eyes. They think that, because the Liberal party achieved a victory at the elections carried out under that Act, it should, be perfectly satisfied, with it. The very fact that the Liberal Administration, although it secured a victory under the Act, desire that it should be amended with the object of securing purer elections, is proof that there is nothing sinister in its intention to amend it. Honorable senators opposite have said a good deal about statements bruited abroad by Liberals in connexion with the conduct of the recent elections, and the probabilities of duplicate voting having transpired at those elections. I am not prone as an individual to believe greatly in corruption at elections. Personally, I know of only one instance in which duplicate voting has been acknowledged. Shortly after the election I met a voter in Murray-street, Hobart, who told me that he had voted in two different electorates. I do not know the man's name, and have not seen him since, but he told me that he voted in two adjoining electorates because his name happened to be on the rolls for both those electorates. He considered that the fact that his name was duplicated on the two rolls gave him a perfect right to vote twice at the election. That is a concrete instance that the inflation of the rolls by the duplication of the names of electors affords opportunities for irregularity. I told him that he had been guilty of an improper act, and urged him not to commit the offence again. I am satisfied that he acted as he did quite innocently. Honorable members know that, at one time, the idea existed that an elector was entitled to vote in every division for which he was enrolled.

Senator Russell - The honorable senator has the confidence of a funny class of people.

Senator BAKHAP - I have the confidence of people who come to me for advice, which advice is given to them quite honestly.

Senator Russell - The confidence of men who vote twice.

Senator BAKHAP - I told the man not to commit such an error again, and I do not think that he will. Whether he voted for the Liberal party or for the Labour party, I cannot say. About a week after the 31st May last, I cut out of a mainland newspaper an account of the way in which the recent elections were conducted in Western Australia. Several honorable senators representing that State have been very insistent that the allegations made by certain persons regarding irregularities committed on polling day should be made the subject of inquiry. I have never said that irregularities could be proved. I have merely stated that an inquiry should be instituted, and that if the allegations were substantiated, action should be taken. I further said that the advent of the Liberal party to the Treasury bench would insure a full, free, and impartial investigation. Such an investigation has been made, and has disclosed the fact that there were 5,000 or 6,000 apparent duplications in connexion with the recent elections. 1 will not say that in every instance such duplication is an evidence of duplicate voting. But 100 votes improperly cast may do more than decide the fate of a parliamentary candidate - it may determine an important question involving, perhaps, an alteration of the Constitution. I repeat that between 5,000 and 6,000 cases of apparent duplication have been disclosed in connexion with the recent elections. I suppose that the law of averages operates in this matter just as it operates in the matter of the number of suicides which occur yearly. Senator de Largie smiles, but undoubtedly there is a law of averages. The rate of suicides can be forecasted, by statisticians with almost unerring accuracy. In Tasmania, at the recent elections, there were, apparently, some hundreds of duplications - an average of fifty or sixty in each electorate. Had even those fifty or sixty votes been duplicated in each constituency, and duplicated corruptly, I maintain that that duplication may have had a most disastrous effect in determining the attitude of a State regarding an amendment of the Constitution.

Senator Mullan - There is no proof of duplication.

Senator BAKHAP - There is no proof of corrupt duplication.

Senator O'Keefe - Does the honorable senator mean duplication of voting or merely duplication of names?

Senator BAKHAP - The duplication of names on the rolls provides opportunity for the duplication of votes.

Senator O'Keefe - But there is no proof of that.

Senator BAKHAP - How does the honorable senator know that an inquiry will not result in proof?

Senator Mullan - Why does the honorable senator presume that it will ?

Senator BAKHAP - I say that duplication may have taken place quite innocently. But it is essential that duplicate names should be removed from the rolls.

Senator Mullan - The honorable senator has not even proved duplication of names.

Senator BAKHAP - What is the honorable senator thinking about? Has not an inquiry already disclosed that there were 5,000 cases of apparent duplication on the rolls ?

Senator Mullan - No; merely errors in ticking off names.

Senator BAKHAP - Inquiry has disclosed that 5,000 or 6,000 votes may have been cast in duplicate.

Senator O'Keefe - Will the honorable senator support the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the matter ?

Senator BAKHAP - The honorable senator's curiosity is quite pardonable, but I do not intend to gratify it. This is what I discovered in a newspaper dealing with the conduct of the recent elections in Western Australia.

Senator Senior - Why does not the honorable senator select his own State as an example?

Senator BAKHAP - Honorable senators hailing from Western Australia have been most insistent that members of the Liberal party have made statements throughout the Commonwealth regarding electoral irregularities which have not been borne out by inquiry. I intend to submit an account which I clipped from a mainland newspaper regarding the conduct of the elections in Western Australia. It reads -

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