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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Mr HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh) . - The honorable and learned member for Angas has delivered a speech more in condemnation of the one-member system than of the Bill itself. What he contends for is not majority representation, as, it is said, would be secured bv this Bill, but for minority representation.

Mr Glynn - No ; I contend for both.

Mr HUTCHISON - The proportional system of voting means the representation of minorities - it does not mean that minority representation shall prevail. I believe just as firmly as do the Government in majority representation ; but I hold that we shall not secure it bv passing this Bill. I wish to test the feeling of the House by moving am amendment. I should be very pleased if I were sent here as the representative of the majority of the electors in my constituency, and I think it is time we took action to bring about such a desirable state of affairs in relation to all the electorates of the Commonwealth. For reasons that I shall briefly give, I am opposed to the Bill ; but should the second reading be agreed to I shall move in Committee the insertion, of a new clause, to the effect that any elector who fails without just cause or excuse to vote at an election shall be fined 5s. It is unnecessary to provide a severe penalty ; but I do think that it is the duty of every citizen to take an interest in the candidature of those who, if successful, will have to make the laws under which he lives. A very small penalty would be sufficient to insure a large vote at every election.

Mr Page - Why spring the amendment on the House at this stage?

Mr HUTCHISON - Because I wish honorable members to have an opportunity to consider its effect. I have just as strong an objection to important amendments being suddenly proposed in Committee as I have to the introduction of a measure of this kind in the last weeks of the session. It has been suggested by the Minister of Home Affairs that the Bill was not introduced because of party considerations. Whom is it intended to assist ? So far as I can see, it would probably have the effect of causing the rejection of several labour candidates.

Mr Groom - It is intended to assist the electors.

Mr HUTCHISON - I. was very much amused by the illustrations of the working of the system which were given last week by the Age and the Argus. In no illustration was it shown that a labour candidate could succeed.

Mr Groom - Prophecies are not always accurate.

Mr Page - But in this case the wish was father to the thought.

Mr HUTCHISON - Quite so, and I think I shall be able to show that the illustrations given by those newspapers correctly indicate what is likely to be the effect of the system. The Age stated that there would be a possibility of a tie in some cases, and that the candidates in that event would draw lots ; but I notice that, even in such circumstances, the labour candidates, in the illustration, lost. To my mind, this shows precisely how the system would work. What would be the result of an election in which we had a labour candidate, a liberal-protectionist candidate, and a free-trade candidate? Under the contingent voting system, the supporters of the protectionist candidate would vote anti-Socialism, and would exercise their second choice in favour of the freetrade candidate. Although the labour candidate might be leading on the first count, and his supporters might have exercised their contingent vote, the supporters of the other two would not give a contingent vote for him, so that, if he failed to secure an absolute majority on the first count, he would necessarily be superseded by one of the other candidates. Is it reasonable to assume that if the system were optional I should cast my second vote for one of the other candidates in the circumstances to which I have referred? I do not wish to record a vote for any one with whose views I am not in sympathy. If the system is to be adopted, it certainly must be compulsory in order to be effective. In Queensland it has not been compulsory. The Minister said that in only five cases during the last fourteen years had it affected any election. I wish that the honor able and learned gentleman had mentioned them specifically, for I was under the impression that it had affected only two electorates.

Mr Groom - I have the official statement that it has affected five.

Mr HUTCHISON - It would be most interesting to look up the cases in question, and to ascertain the effect of the voting. The illustration which the Minister drew from the Queensland system was not a happy one. There is another point worthy of consideration. Under the. Bill contingent voting is not to be compulsory, and I should like to know what will be the position if in any electorate very few contingent votes are polled, and no candidate secures an absolute majority?

Mr Groom - Even then the relative majority in the end will count.

Mr HUTCHISON - We are approaching this proposed vital change in our electoral system far too hurriedly. It is, moreover, in my opinion, a mistake to make it partial by applying it to the elections for one House only. We should, above all things, try to secure uniformity in our electoral methods, and apply the same system to the election of the two Houses. The statements which have been made as to what would happen if the provisions of the Bill were in force are very misleading. In today's Age an attempt is made to show that a Labour representative would have been elected for Corangamite had the proposed system been in force at the time of the last election. But its illustration is, however, incomplete. There were four candidates for Corangamite. The successful candidate, who now represents the electorate here, was returned because of the support of 4,600 votes. The next candidate, Dunne, who, the Age says, was a Labour candidate-


Mr HUTCHISON - I will assume, for the purposes of my argument, that the Age is right for once. Dunne polled 4,036 votes, Woods, the third candidate, who was said to be running on practically the same ticket as Dunne, 1,484 votes; and Wynne, the fourth candidate, 2,968 votes. The Age comes to the conclusion that Dunne would have been returned under the preferential system, because Woods' votes would have been added to his. Nothing, however, is said of Wynne's votes, which would probably have gone to the candidate at the head of the poll, giving him a large majority-over the combined second and third votes. In my opinion, the measure does not provide for majority representation, though it is possible to secure it, or something nearly approaching it, by the adoption of my amendment, if the Ministry are in earnest in regard to this matter, and will apply the same system to the elections for both; the Senate and the House of Representatives. I cannot support the amendment of the honorable member for Dalley, because it affirms that it is not expedient to proceed further with the Bill during the present session, while, in my opinion, it is not expedient to proceed with it at all. I wish to see a straight-out vote taken on the proposal of the Government. If I were a Ministerialist I should support the Bill, because that party has everything to gain from it, while the Labour Party has everything to lose where a Government and a Labour candidate are running for the same constituency. But, while I do not blame the Ministry for doing what they can in the interests of their, party, I should blame the Labour Party if they did not do all they could in their own interests. Before makin up my mind definitely as to my action regarding the second and third reading, I shall listen further to the discussion which may be expected to take place on the motion. , .

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