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Thursday, 23 October 1913

The PRESIDENT - Order ! That matter cannot properly be discussed on this motion.

Senator RAE - Then, sir, I will not attempt to enlighten the Minister, who is evidently seeking information in a strange quarter.

Senator Bakhap - Do you believe that the provision for a deposit by a person tendering to perform public services is undemocratic ?

Senator RAE - I do not think that there is any analogy between that proposition and this one.

Senator Bakhap - Is not a candidate tendering himself for public support?

Senator RAE - I decline altogether to bring politics down to such a level as that. The position is so entirely different from what I propose, that I would not care to discuss it on those lines.

Senator Bakhap - He is tendering himself as a candidate, is he not?

Senator RAE - If a deposit of £25 is necessary to prove a man's bona fides, it is a most inefficient method of doing that. A person who, in our opinion, might be the most undesirable person in the world to be a member of this or any other Parliament, might be possessed of the most means to pay the deposit. For many years we have scorned to measure worth by a monetary standard. Therefore, we should not attempt in any way to judge the suitability or otherwise of a candidate according to his ability to' find £25.

Senator Bakhap - The payment of the deposit simply proves that his candidature is not designed to be vexatious.

Senator RAE - Every man's candidature is vexatious to the sitting member. I, for one, should always prefer a walkover. If we have a right to try to prevent vexatious opposition to us, who, no doubt-, are the cream of the intellect of the nation, we should make the penalty something substantial. If that is our object let us impose a penalty of £1,000, and then we should have very few opponents, though the difficulty would be to find our own deposits. I think it. was a departure from democratic principles to impose a penalty, for the deposit is nothing more nor less than that. It restricts the choice of the electors ; it imposes a property qualification in the sense that it makes it easier for a man with money to become a candidate than for one who does not possess money. It is also objectionable from the stand-point that it fails to fulfil the purpose for which it was intended. In other words, it does not prevent candidates who have no chance of winning from putting the country to the expense of an election. I know that at the election four years ago, when my colleagues and I were returned for New South Wales, there were ten candidates. Three of them forfeited their deposits, but the possibility of the loss did not prevent their candidature. Another candidate, who polled 50,000 votes, had only a few hundred votes over the number required to save his deposit; still the provision did not prevent his candidature. I know that he spent thousands of pounds in his effort to win. He probably spent more money than did the rest of the candidates, Liberal and Labour, put together. What was the sum of £25 to such a man ? It did not prevent him from running. In fact, it had not the slightest effect.

Senator McGregor - Do you not think it would be far better to give a candidate £25 so that he could run ?

Senator RAE - It might be. I certainly think if I wanted to get to anything like ideal equality, that the sitting member ought to be deprived of his free pass, or every candidate ought to have one.

Senator Bakhap - That would mean a present of a £25 cheque to every voter.

Senator RAE - I do not attempt the impossible. I am simply trying to bring about what has already been accomplished in New South Wales, and has resulted in none of those evils that are supposed to attach to nominations without a monetary deposit.

Senator Bakhap - Do you claim that New South Wales has the best Parliament in Australia as the result of the Electoral Act requiring no deposit to be made by a candidate?

Senator RAE - That is so self-evident that I have no occasion to refer to it.

The PRESIDENT - Order 1 That matter is entirely irrelevant to this discussion.

Senator RAE - I am not responsible for it, sir.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator should not take any notice of disorderly interjections.

Senator RAE - I bow to your ruling, sir, but I hope that in future there will be no such interjections. My reason for wishing to bring forward a measure now, when it has been rumoured that we may have a more comprehensive Electoral Bill to consider at some future time, is because I think it is wise to deal with this subject by itself, and settle it on its merits, not on the question as to whether the Government of the day are going to introduce something else or not. We do not know whether the larger measure will come here or not, nor do we know, if it should come here, whether it will sur-' vive the stormy troubles of the session. My proposal is so simple that no honorable senator will have any difficulty in applying himself to it and deciding it one way or the other.

Senator Senior - You have not said anything about the other provisions of the Bill.

Senator RAE - I shall deal with them when I move the second reading of the Bill.

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