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Friday, 3 November 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I am not at all surprised at the line of argument adopted by the Minister of Defence, but I direct attention to the fact that he has given the whole case away in the effort to defend it. The honorable senator asked, first of all : " How are we to enforce compulsory enrolment?" The answer is : How do we enforce other provisions of the law? We are continually passing laws, and attaching penalties to any breaches of them. How do we enforce the provisions of those laws? Certainly not in this way. We adopt the ordinary procedure of making a complaint and establishing it in Court. When we are asked how we are to enforce this law, the answer is that we should enforce it just as we enforce every other law, with some exceptions, to which reference has been made. I do not think that the Minister of Defence could have heard the speech made by Senator Findley earlier in the debate, because he has given a complete answer to it. Senator Findley said that the Electoral Department was not likely to move unless it had clear proof that an offence had been committed. The Minister of Defence says thatthe Government want this proposed new section in order that the Department may, without proof, enter upon an exploring expedition.

Senator Pearce - I never said anything of the kind.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator asked the Committee how the Department is to prosecute these charges unless we agree to this provision.

Senator Pearce - There is a difference between having proof and having cast upon one the onus of proof.

Senator MILLEN - Senator Findley distinctly assured the Committee that, before the Department proceeded in these cases, it would have definite knowledge of the fact that an offence had been committed.

Senator Pearce - Hear, hear. I say the same.

Senator MILLEN - Then what does the Minister of Defence mean by the picture he drew of the enormous difficulty with which the Department would be faced in proving offences, the proof of which they have already in their possession? Either the Department will have substantial proof of an offence before it launches a prosecution, or it will not. Now, which is it to be? Is the Department going on the blind - on a mere game of bluff?

Senator Givens - That is a poker expression.

Senator MILLEN - I was sure that Senator Givens would understand where it came from, and if ever we were engaged in a game of political poker, it is on the present occasion. I want now to " call " the Minister. I will "call" if he will " show." I ask the honorable senator definitely : Does he pretend that the Department will proceed to take legal action against any person unless it has what may be considered reasonable proof of an offence ?

Senator Findley - Why are you putting these queries to me now?

Senator MILLEN - I admit, at once, that it is folly to put any query to the Minister with the hope of eliciting information. We may take it for granted that, before the Department launches a prosecution, it will have made itself reasonably certain that a breach of the Act has been committed. All that we ask fs that, when the Department has that information in its possession, iti shall he disclosed in the Court before the man is asked to answer the charge. The Minister of Defence has talked of the difficulty to which the Department will be put in hunting up certificates and getting other evidence. It will have to do that anyhow, and do it before it takes out a summons. Otherwise it will take out a summons on the blind or "on spec." Is it going to plead guilty to seeking the power to issue summonses broadcast in order to save itself the trouble of looking into matters ? It must have in its possession such proof which is sufficient to make out a prima facie case. It is only in accordance with ordinary procedure that, when a case under this Act is called on in a Court, the plaintiff shall state the grounds of his plaint. That is all we seek to secure. We are reminded of the amount of trouble which our suggestion,if adopted, will throw on the Department. Are not the electors entitled to consideration?

Senator Findley - They get it, too.

Senator McGregor - Electors do not want any consideration, because they have complied with the Act. It is wanted by those who refuse to put themselves in the position of electors.

Senator MILLEN -I do not propose to refine words on that point. If our proposal will involve the Department in a tremendous amount of trouble in a prosecution of this kind, does not the provision put an individual to the same amount of trouble? Take, for instance, the proof of residence. The Department ought to make itself clear as to how long a man has been resident in a district before -it takes out a summons against him. The man has to call evidence to prove that he has not resided in the district for a certain time. It is he who has to prove the. negative. The Department, by its averment, declares that he has lived in the district for a certain period. On what did it make its declaration? In the language of Senator Pearce, the officers say, " It is too much trouble to us to prove the facts." According to the honorable senator we must not venture to ask the Department to go to. any trouble before it launches a prosecution. That would be too great a crime for serious consideration by a democratic assembly. That public servants should be asked to secure their proofs before they venture to launch a prosecution is, according to Senator Pearce, asking too much. We are to throw all these burdens on the citizen, but the public servant must not be inconvenienced. It is beneath his dignity that he should have to go round and make inquiries to build up a case against a man who, he thinks, has done a wrong. Or, if he has that proof, if "he hasmade preliminary inquiries, and built up a case, what possible objection can there be to him stepping into the witness-box and relating that experience for the benefit of the magistrate? What we ask has nothing whatever to do with compulsory enrolment. I have not heard any objection to compulsory enrolment from this side, except so far as it is incomplete. All we ask, I repeat, is that the Department, having its proof sufficiently pronounced to justify an action, shall do with persons charged with breaking the Electoral Act, exactly what is done with persons who are alleged to have broken other Acts, and, that is, that the officers shall go into the witness-box, and explain and elaborate the charge which the elector is called upon to answer. Is that asking anything very serious? Does it affect at all the principle of compulsory enrolment? For the Minister to say, and to give the authority of the Attorney-General for the statement, that there is no other way in which compulsory enrolment can be enforced, is, I think, to speak under a misapprehension. I decline to believe that the Attorney-General's Department has laid it down that in no other way can this principle be enforced. There are dozens of ways in which it could be done. We could give greater powers to the officers. We could, for instance, give them the power to arrest a man, who was not enrolled, and take off his head straight away. I would remind Senator 'McGregor that, in a country with a large nomadic population, thousands of persons will be unable to attend the Courts, and, therefore, will have verdicts given against them. What does the Department propose to do in such cases?

Senator McGregor - The Department will have to catch the men.

Senator MILLEN - Exactly. Does the Minister mean to say that the Government will not make ah effort to collect the fines, and that the whole Act is to be allowed to break down?

Senator McGregor - I am not troubling about them.

Senator MILLEN - I know that the Minister is not troubling about them, but I am.

Senator McGregor - It is very recently that you began to trouble about them.

Senator MILLEN - Whenever the Minister is called upon to say anything here all that he can appeal to is either class or party prejudice. He has never attempted to seriously argue any point. What he always does is to fall back on some more or less imaginary evils committed by his opponents. Can he, or any one else here, point to a time since I have taken an active interest in public affairs when I have been anything else but an ardent advocate of adult suffrage? We have already approved of the principle that there shall be a fine inflicted, and the only way in which we can make enrolment compulsory is by having a penalty. The fine may be small, or it may amount to £2. What is to happen if men do not appear to meet the charge, and the Court fines them 5s. each? Will the Department let the verdict stand, or send somebody to find the men? Suppose that there is default in payment, what is to happen? What the Government are going to do if they have anticipated the position at all is to say, " We will ignore that portion of the Act." I venture to predict that, in such circumstances, no Government will attempt to enforce the provision. If it is intended to carry out the brutal tyranny which is being set up, the Government will have to follow a man, no matter what the cost may be to the country, to compel obedience to this provision, or, practically, to proclaim to the electors at large that they need not bother about the matter at all, as there is no intention to enforce the penal provisions. Since Ministers have referred to the Attorney-General, and obtained his definite opinion, and also that of his officers, that there is no other way of enforcing this principle, I want them to put to that Department this proposition : " When a judgment has been given against an elector, and there is every reason to believe that he is still in Australia, what is it going to do?" That is, I think, a problem which ought to be answered before we proceed any further with the provision.

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