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Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

 

Extract from House of Representatives HANSARD:

Pages 965-968, 16th April 1948                Pages 1292-1304, 29th-30th April 1948

 

COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL BILL 1948

 

Bill presented by DR. EVATT, and read a first time.

SECOND READING.

Dr. EVATT (Barton - Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs) [12.38] - by leave - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the bill is to make provision for the application of proportional representation to the election of senators. Prior to 1918, senators were elected by what is usually termed the "first past the post" method. Each voter was required to place a cross in the square opposite the name of each of the candidates for whom he desired to vote, the number of crosses permitted being confined to the exact number of senators to be elected. Thus where three senators were required the three candidates with the greatest number of crosses were chosen, and as was usually the case the three elected were candidates of the same party.

In 1918, the "preferential block majority" system was introduced in respect of Senate elections. This system continued the principle of the old "first past the post" system in that under it all seats in a State generally go to the party, or combination of parties, favoured at the time by a bare, or simple, majority of the electors. It might be described as the "all or none" system, either all or none of a party's candidates being elected. The system used since 1918 may be considered an improvement on the old system only to the degree that it ensures majority representation as against possible minority representation. The great defect, from the representation aspect, of both the old "first past the post" and the more recently used "block majority" system is that at an election, generally all seats in a State are won by candidates of the one party, leaving a minority of between 40 to 50 per cent. of the electorate without any representation at all in the Senate. For many years there has been a demand that the Parliament should provide a system of electing senators which would give more equitable results and enable the electorate to be more truly represented in the Senate. The Government has given careful consideration to the matter and has closely examined alternative methods. It has decided that, in relation to the election of senators, where each State votes as one electorate, the fairest system and the one most likely to enhance the status of the Senate is that of proportional representation.

The bill sets out in detail the method of counting proposed to be adopted in respect of future elections of senators. The method is generally in accord with the practice laid down by the (UK) Proportional Representation Society. All I need say about the principle is that the name of the system indicates the result intended to be achieved, that the electors will be represented, in the number of those elected, approximately proportionately to their expression of opinion. For example, if five are to be elected and one party's candidates poll 55 per cent of the total votes, the result would be that that party would have three candidates elected, and the remaining two elected, assuming that only parties contested the poll, would be candidates of the opposing party and would represent 45 per cent of the electors. This system follows closely the provisions contained in the Proportional Representation Bill 1912 of Great Britain and the system employed in respect of municipal elections in the United Kingdom and South Africa. It is virtually identical with the method used in the election of the Parliament of Eire and is similar to the system which was employed in respect of parliamentary elections for the Legislative Assembly in New South Wales from 1920 to 1925. In principle, the method proposed is the same as that used in Tasmania although for reasons of workability and simplicity it differs slightly in its practical implementation.

It is not proposed to alter the existing style of the Senate ballot-paper or the provision that candidates may be grouped thereon with their names in such order within the group as they desire. Nor is it intended to vary the requirement that voters must indicate the order of their preference for all the candidates. Whilst this latter requirement might have the effect of continuing to produce a fairly high informal vote, it definitely precludes the possibly greater evil of exhausted votes - that is, votes which become exhausted in the process of transfer. If a voter were to indicate his preference for only three of, say, seven candidates, his vote would be effective up to the number of preferences shown on his ballot-paper and after that it would be effective no longer. At that stage, the vote would be said to be exhausted. In Tasmania, the elector need not vote for all candidates and therefore on occasions a fairly high percentage of votes become exhausted in the process of transferring the votes of a lower candidate or the surplus of a higher candidate to the next candidate in order of preference.

Mr. Thompson. - And the last candidate elected frequently does not get a quota.

Dr. EVATT. - That is so. One result of a system which does not require the electors to vote for all candidates whose names appear on the ballot-paper is that a candidate may be declared elected although the total number of votes credited to him falls short of the required quota. At the Parliamentary elections in New South Wales in 1922 and 1925, the exhausted votes, which far outnumbered the informal votes, were the cause of much dissatisfaction and disputation.

Clause 3 prescribes the manner in which it is proposed that the several vacancies shall be filled. As hitherto, the count will be carried out under the direction of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State concerned in the offices of the respective Divisional Returning Officers. For instance, in New South Wales, where there will be 47 divisions, the count will be carried out at 47 points. This will ensure completion of the count with the greatest safety, the maximum speed and the minimum cost. When the Commonwealth Electoral Officer has received the final results of the count of first preference votes from all returning officers and has totalled them, he will determine the quota by dividing the total number of first preference votes by one more than the number of candidates required to be elected and by increasing the quotient so obtained by one. That appears to be complicated, but if in New South Wales, for example, there were 1,600,000 valid votes and seven senators had to be elected, the total number would be divided, not by seven, but by eight, giving a quotient of 200,000. This would give a quota of 200,001. This formula for determining a quota, which, in effect, produces the lowest number which, when multiplied by the number of candidates to be elected, leaves a remainder of votes less that that lowest number, is the one recommended by the (UK) Proportional Representation Society and is used in Tasmania, in Eire, and generally in places in British communities where proportional representation has been applied. Any candidate who, either on the count of the first preference votes or at any subsequent stage, obtains a number of votes equal to or greater than the quota shall be elected, and until all vacancies have been filled, the surplus votes - that is, any number in excess of a quota - of each elected candidate will be transferred in the manner set out in the bill to the continuing candidates in strict proportion to the voters' next preferences.

The method of disposing of an elected candidate's surplus votes prescribed in the bill is the one recommended by the (UK) Proportional Representation Society and is precisely the same as that used in Eire and in municipal elections in Great Britain and South Africa, and it is similar to the method which was employed in connexion with the parliamentary elections in New South Wales in the early nineteen-twenties. It differs from the Tasmanian practice in that whereas in Tasmania all the votes of the elected candidate are transferred at a fractional value so that every single paper is looked at, under the proposed method only such number of votes as equals the surplus, taken in strict proportion to the preferences on the whole of the votes of the elected candidate, are transferred. No doubt that provision will require some consideration in committee.

It is thought that the Tasmanian system, while suitable where the number of votes is comparatively small and all such votes are concentrated at one centre, is not readily capable of being efficiently worked by too remote a control. In order to employ that system in a Senate election, it would first be necessary to assemble the whole of the ballot-papers for the State at one centre. Not only would that delay completion, involve risks of loss in transit, and increase costs heavily, but also in the larger States the Commonwealth Electoral Officer would be faced with the almost insuperable task of securing for a period of several weeks the extensive accommodation, equipment and staff needed. Whilst it may be claimed that the Tasmanian system is mathematically more exact, tests that have been made reveal that a similar result is obtained by the employment of the method proposed. As an illustration, I shall state a hypothetical case in New South Wales and for this purpose I shall assume for the moment that a Labour candidate has received 900,000 votes of the total number of 1,600,000. The quota being 200,000, he has a surplus of 700,000 votes for distribution. This would usually result in three full quotas being obtained for other candidates on the list. The proposal embodied in the bill is that the officers will not look at all of the votes. They will take the surplus available and will assume that the No. 2 vote, which would be the effective vote in the first instance, would reproduce a proportion in respect of the surplus of 700,000 that would be true of the total of 900,000. Tests have shown that the result would be the same as if all of the 900,000 votes were scrutinized.

Questioned as to the likelihood of difference, eminent mathematicians advised the Proportional Representation Society of England that "Whenever a considerable number of votes is in play the element of chance involved is so small as to be negligible". Dealing with the point in its comprehensive report on electoral systems, the United Kingdom royal commission of 1908 said, "The chance of the result being affected is too small to be seriously considered. We agree with the (UK) Proportional Representation Society that the additional labour involved (in the Tasmanian system) is greater than it is worth". In a report furnished in 1913, a committee consisting of Mr. H.E. Packer, Chief Electoral Officer for Tasmania, Mr. E.L. Piesse, LL.B., and Mr. J.F. Daly stated inter alia, "We are justified in saying that in each district at each of the three elections - fifteen contests in all - the result would have been the same with the English rules as with the Tasmanian rules ... We therefore recommend that if the form of the rules should again be considered by Parliament the English rules be adopted". Thus it will be observed that a responsible local committee reported in favour of the adoption in Tasmania of the time-saving method of dealing with surplus votes proposed in this bill.

The bill further provides that if after the count of the first preference votes or after the transfer of the surplus votes of an elected candidate at any stage, no candidate or less than the number required to be elected has or have obtained the quota, then the candidate with the fewest votes shall be excluded and the whole of his ballot-papers transferred to the continuing candidates; and if thereupon no candidate has yet reached the quota, the process of excluding the candidate with the fewest votes and the transferring of his ballot-papers will continue until a continuing candidate has received a number of votes equal to the quota or in respect of the last vacancy a majority of the votes.

Where candidates are elected at the same time, the order of their election shall be determined by the extent of their surplus votes. The candidate with the largest surplus shall be the first elected and so on. The same principle will apply in relation to the transfer of surplus votes. The largest surplus will be transferred first and so on. If on any count two or more candidates have an equal number of votes and one of them has to be excluded the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall decide the candidate to be excluded, or if two or more candidates are elected with an equal number of votes the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall decide the order of their election and the transfer of their votes, or if in the final count for the filling of the last vacancy two candidates have an equal number of votes, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer will decide which shall be elected but that except as so provided the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall not vote at the election. That is really the last resort. The chances against its happening at a Senate election are enormous.

Mr. BARNARD. - About a million to one.

Dr. EVATT. - That is a gross understatement. Probably millions of millions would be nearer the mark. The result of the system is clear. There will be two major groups of political parties, and seven senators will be elected, in the absence of any casual vacancies, in each State. The party which secures 53 per cent or 55 per cent of the aggregate votes will, provided the party ticket is followed, have four of the seven candidates to be returned. The three remaining seats will be filled by the candidates from the other party which secured 47 per cent of the votes. That is certain.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - I desire to ask the Attorney-General one important question. Will he inform me whether any other country has an electoral law under which votes are taken from a pool to fill a vacancy at random?

Dr. EVATT. - I have already mentioned the countries in which that system operates.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - What are they?

Dr. EVATT. - It operates in municipal elections in the United Kingdom and South Africa, and in the national elections in Eire. It also operated in elections held in New South Wales between 1920 and 1925. However this matter is somewhat complex and difficult, and I do not desire to elaborate now. In Tasmania every vote is examined, and the proportion is attached to the number 2 preference in each case. I shall explain the reason why the alternative method is proposed for Senate elections. Let us suppose that the leading candidate in New South Wales has 900,000 No. 1 votes. Then 700,000 votes would be available for distribution on the assumption which I mentioned.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - I understand that part.

Dr. EVATT. - That is the only part in which the selection will be taken. Instead of selecting all the surplus ballot-papers and applying to each a fractional transfer value, the electoral officers will select at random that number of surplus ballot-papers which is ascertained by multiplying the total number of surplus ballot-papers by the fraction. In 98 per cent or 99 per cent of instances the electors will vote the party ticket. The honorable member is aware of that.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - I thought that the Attorney-General was trying to popularize the lottery.

Dr. EVATT. - It is not a lottery in that sense at all. The lottery factor has been excluded.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - When a lottery is drawn, marbles are taken out of the barrel at random.

Dr. EVATT. - It is not a matter of chance in that respect. The ballot-paper will already have been marked, so the element of chance will have been excluded by the elector. That is the only sense in which there is any element of chance.

Mr. MCEWEN. - The position is quite clear.

Dr. EVATT. - I am sure that it is clear to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). Like most other people, he will probably be more interested in the result than in the method by which the result is reached.

Debate (on motion by Mr. MENZIES) adjourned.

* * * * * * * * * *

House of Representatives HANSARD:

Pages 1292-1304, 29th-30th April 1948

COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL BILL 1948

SECOND READING.

Debate resumed from the 16th April (vide page 968), on motion by Dr. EVATT -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Dr. EVATT (Barton - Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs)

[10.36]. - in reply - I have nothing to add to what I said in reply to the debate on the Representation Bill.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - Is the Attorney-General closing the debate?

Dr. EVATT. - Yes.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J.S.Rosevear). - A clear understanding was reached that both bills were to be taken together, and that when the Attorney-General replied he would close the debate. That arrangement ought not to be departed from.

Mr. LANG. - I want to make some remarks on the second reading. I want to move an amendment.

Mr. SPEAKER. - On the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), it was decided to take both bills together to the second-reading stage. Because of complications that arose during a previous debate of a similar kind, I suggested on this occasion that, when the Attorney-General replied, he would close the debate. No protest was made at the time, and it seemed to me that the House was unanimous in agreeing to the proposal. I cannot prevent the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) from moving an amendment if he wishes to do so; but I think, seeing that the House was unanimous in accepting the arrangement made, that the Minister's reply should be regarded as closing the debate.

Dr. EVATT. - The arrangement reached, at the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, was that both bills should be debated together, in the second-reading stages, subject to my right, as the Minister who introduced them, to reply generally. In my speech this afternoon I discussed both bills. I did not discuss the Electoral Bill at any length, but I touched upon the subject of proportional representation, and this is the bill which provides for proportional representation. Therefore, subject to the rights of the honorable member for Reid, I suggest that the second-reading debate ended last night, except that I had the right to reply. I should like to know what is the position now.

Mr. SPEAKER. - It has been the custom, in regard to bills dealing with closely related subjects, to take the second-reading debate together. Honorable members will recall that recently there were, on the notice-paper, three motions dealing with closely related subjects, and the House agreed to debate them together. However, there was some confusion as to whether any one of the Ministers in whose name one of the motions stood, closed the debate when he replied. Last week, the Leader of the Opposition suggested that as these two bills were so closely related they might be taken together, and the House agreed unanimously to the suggestion. I wanted to make the position of the Chair clear. If honorable members look up the Hansard report or proceedings on that occasion, they will find that I raised the question as to whether the Attorney-General, in replying to the second-reading debate, would close the discussion. However, agreements between parties do not interfere with the rights of individual members to speak, but if the honorable member for Reid re-opens the debate, I propose to give the Attorney-General the right to reply to him.

Mr. CLARK. - On the previous occasion when a somewhat similar situation arose, three separate papers had been tabled by three separate Ministers, and it was ruled that one of those Ministers could not close the debate on all three papers. On this occasion, the two bills were introduced by the same Minister, and as it was agreed that the debate on the two measures should be taken together, it follows that the Minister, having replied, has closed the debate.

Mr. Archie Cameron. - While I have no authority to speak for the Opposition, I feel sure that members of the Opposition will not want to re-open the debate after the honorable member for Reid has spoken. I point out, however, that no agreement reached by leaders of parties can be taken as binding the independent members of the House. It would be unfair to suggest that they ought to be bound by an arrangement entered into by the leaders of the parties, perhaps while they were not even present, and certainly an independent member should not, because the leaders of the parties have chosen to make an arrangement between themselves, be deprived of his right to state his views to the House. Whatever may be our opinion of individual members, I believe that every member should be assured of his right to place before the House what he believes should be said in the interests of those who elected him.

Mr. SPEAKER. - I have already ruled that the honorable member for Reid has his rights as an individual member of the House, and those rights are not affected by any arrangement between the parties.

Mr. LANG (Reid) [10.39]. - If it were possible for me to meet the wishes of the Government, and of yourself, Mr Speaker, by moving my amendment in committee, I should do so, but I believe that the amendment is of such a nature that it can be moved only at the second-reading stage. I move -

That all words after "That" be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following words: - "before proceeding with the proposed legislation, the question of the method of allocating preferences in a system of proportional representation for the Senate be referred for inquiry and immediate report to an Electoral Commission consisting of the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, and the Chief Electoral Officers of the respective States".

Mr. SHEEHY. - I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has already spoken in this debate. Is he entitled to speak again?

Mr. SPEAKER. - The honorable member is entitled to proceed. If we adhered strictly to the Standing Orders, each bill would be treated separately, but for convenience, we decided to combine the two bills and discuss the second-reading jointly. That however, does not prevent honorable members from moving amendments to the second bill.

Mr. LANG. - A commission should be appointed to ascertain whether there is a more suitable method of allocating preferences than that set out in this bill. Paragraph v of proposed new sub-section 5 of section 135 reads -

Each Divisional Returning Officer shall then, in respect of each continuing candidate forthwith take at random, from the parcel containing the ballot papers of the elected candidate which bear the next available preference for that continuing candidate, the number of ballot papers directed by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and transfer those ballot papers to the continuing candidate. When this action has been completed in respect of all the continuing candidates, the Divisional Returning Officer shall notify the Commonwealth Electoral Officer of the total number of votes then received by each continuing candidate in so far as his division is concerned.

Surely a better system than that could be devised. The commission, which I suggest should be appointed, might inquire whether the method suggested in the bill does not introduce the element of a lottery into the electoral system and fails to provide a true reflex of the votes cast. It might also consider whether the preferential voting system can be carried out satisfactorily at the next election in view of the different terms to be provided for the senators to be elected. It might be asked to report as to whether the election of a senator for a period in excess of six years, as provided for in the bill, is within the terms of the Constitution. Lastly it might consider what amendments are deemed necessary to bring the bill into line with the Hare-Clark and other recognized systems of proportional representation. This is purely a machinery bill which will not become operative for at least eighteen months, and consequently, the inquiry by a commission such as I have suggested would not delay the legislative programme of the Government. The Government has already been successful in having the principles of this measure endorsed by the House in the bill for the enlargement of Parliament. This bill deals with the system of counting votes and the allocation of preference votes. Voters should be able to understand not only the method of voting, but also the method of distributing preference votes. The method of distribution of preference votes provided for in the bill constitutes an incitement to vote manipulation. How can the representation of minorities be assured when two candidates are to be elected under one system of voting, two under another and three under still another. When the system of proportional representation was first introduced into New South Wales, in order that the rights of the minority should be preserved the minimum number that could be elected was limited to three. Now that number is to be reduced to two. No one knows who are the authors of the system that has been written into this measure. Indeed, no one seems inclined to accept responsibility for it. In order to retain the confidence of the people the system of counting votes and the allotment of preferences should not only be wholly fair and just, but should also appeal to the people as fair and just. That quality of fairness and justice does not appear to be present in the proposal now before us. I doubt whether any member of this House, including the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, clearly and fully understands the provisions in this bill relating to proportional representation. If the commission is comprised as I have suggested it will be accepted as competent by every one. No one could accuse the members I have suggested as being in any way biased. After taking evidence and considering it the commission should present its report at the earliest possible moment. If its report is favorable to the Government, all the better for the Government.

Mr. McEWEN (Indi) [10.53]. - Without trespassing -

Dr. EVATT. - I rise to order. The honorable member for Indi has already spoken during the second-reading debate.

Mr. SPEAKER. - The honorable member for Indi is well aware of the agreement arrived at in connexion with these bills.

Mr. McEWEN. - I am well aware of the substance of the agreement arrived at. I assure the House that I have no intention of traversing the matters dealt with during the second-reading debate. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) constitutes a new proposal and honorable members should not be expected to vote silently upon it. It is surely not suggested that the agreement should obligate an honorable member to vote silently upon a proposal which was brought before the House after the agreement was made. I believe that the honorable member for Reid has made a reasonable proposal. Sufficient doubt has been cast on the procedural processes of counting and allocating votes to warrant the holding of an inquiry by a commission such as has been suggested by the honorable member. If the Government were prepared to accept the principle of an inquiry and report on this matter, but desired that some alternative commission should be established, I and the party to which I belong would be prepared to consider the alternative proposal; but in the absence of such a proposal we give our unqualified support to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Reid.

Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond) [10.55]. - I desire to make it clear that such agreement as was reached was never intended to prevent the moving of an amendment on one of the bills covered by the agreement. If the agreement were carried out in the way the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) suggests, honorable members would be precluded from moving an amendment to the bill now before the House. The agreement was made in order to shorten the discussion of the two measures. It was never intended to prevent an honorable member from moving an amendment at the second-reading stage.

Mr. SPEAKER. - I ask the honorable member to discuss the amendment.

Mr. ANTHONY. - I merely wish to emphasize that honorable members on this side of the chamber are acting in good faith. I support the amendment.

Dr. EVATT (Barton - Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs) [10.56]. - in reply - In substance the proposal of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) is that the method of allocating preferences under a system of proportional representation for the Senate should be referred for inquiry and immediate report to an electoral commission consisting of the Chief Justice, the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth and the chief electoral officers of the respective States. The system of proportional representation described in this bill is not new. It was in operation in New South Wales, as the honorable member well knows, between 1920 and 1925. The provisions covering the allocation of preferences are almost identical with those in the New South Wales legislation, which followed in principle the Tasmanian system of proportional representation which in turn was adopted from the system operating in respect of municipal elections in a number of countries including the British Isles and South Africa. The gist of the honorable member's argument is that it is not enough that the counting should be carried out under a fair and just system but that everybody should appreciate the exact system of counting. It is not easy to guarantee that state of affairs even under a system of direct preferential voting. People may exercise their preferences, but it cannot be assumed that they will understand the workings of the ordinary preferential system. It is true that there is a difference between the system described in the bill and the Tasmanian system, but the system we propose to adopt does not involve any element of lottery except in the loose sense that all elections may be regarded as lotteries. The actual method is mathematically certain to produce the same result as if the candidates' surplus votes on every ballot-paper were counted.

Mr. HOLLOWAY. - The Chief Electoral Officer would agree with that.

Dr. EVATT. - The Chief Electoral Officer will also administer it. He has prepared this bill, and has recommended it to the Government. He is familiar with the system in operation in other countries. In the circumstances, there is no need for a separate inquiry. I admit that the system, in specific application, is difficult to explain, but that is true of all systems of proportional representation.. Honorable members representing Tasmanian electorates know that that is so. But the system does produce an overall result which is completely certain. If an odd number of seats - say five or seven - are to be filled and electors vote in the normal way according to the ticket, the majority group will get the majority of seats and no more. The honorable member for Reid is well aware of that fact. One of the governments which he led was elected under the system of proportional representation. The same position prevailed then. No one disputed or could dispute the fairness of the system of counting. Every honorable member will be justified in relying upon the experience of the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the adoption of the system of proportional representation in Senate elections in future. Quite confident, in that sense of the validity of the system, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. LANG's amendment) stand part of the question.

The House divided.

(MR. SPEAKER - HON. J. S. ROSEVEAR.)

Ayes . . . . . . 35

Noes . . . . . . 23

---

Majority 12

---

AYES.

Barnard, H. C.                      Haylen, L. C.
 
Beazley, K. E.                       Holloway, L. J.
 
Blackburn, Mrs. D. A.           James, R.
 
Brennan, F.                           Johnson, H. V.
 
Burke T. P.                           Lawson, George
 
Calwell, A. A.                        Lemmon, N.
 
Chambers, C.                       Mulcahy, D.
 
Chifley, J. B.                         O'Connor, W. P.
 
Clark, J. J.                            Pollard, R. T.
 
Conelan, W. P.                     Russell, E. H. D.
 
Daly, F. M.                            Scully, W. J.
 
Dedman, J. J.                       Thompson, A. V.
 
Drakeford, A. S.                   Ward, E. J.
 
Duthie, G. W. A.                   Williams, T. F.
 
Edmonds, F. W.                    Evatt, Dr. H. V.
 
Tellers:
 
Falstein, S. M.                       Fuller, A. N.
 
Fraser, A. D.                         Sheehan, T.
 
 

NOES.

 

Abbott, J. P.                          Lang, J. T.
 
Adermann, C. F.                   Lyons, Dame Enid
 
Anthony, J. L.                       McBride, P. A.
 
Bowden, G. J.                       McEwen, J.
 
Cameron, Archie                  Menzies, R. G.
 
Falkinder, C. W. J.                               Rankin, G. J.
 
Gullett, H. B. S.                     Ryan, R. S.
 
Hamilton, L. W.                     Turnbull, W. G.
 
Harrison, E. J.                       White, T. W.
 
Holt, H. E.
 
Tellers:
 
Howse, J. B.                         Corser, Bernard
 
Hutchinson, W. J.                 McDonald, A. M.
 
 

PAIRS.

 

Riordan, W. J. F.                  Davidson, C. W.
 
Lazzarini, H. P.                     Fadden, A. W.
 
Hadley, J. W.                        Francis, J.
 
McLeod, D.                           Beale, Howard
 
Langtry, J. L.                         Spender, P. C.
 
Gaha, Dr. J. F.                      Hughes, W. M.
 
Watkins, D. O.                      Page, Sir Earle
 
 

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 -

Section one hundred and thirty-five of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-46 is amended by omitting sub-sections (5.) to (14.) (inclusive) and inserting in their stead the following sub-sections: -

"(5.) The several vacancies shall be filled in the following manner: -

(e) Unless all vacancies have been filled, the surplus votes (that is, any number in excess of the quota) of each elected candidate shall be transferred to the continuing candidates, in proportion to the voters' preferences, as follows: -

(v) Each Divisional Returning Officer shall then, in respect of each continuing candidate, forthwith take at random, from the parcel containing the ballot-papers of the elected candidate which bear the next available preference for that continuing candidate, the number of ballot-papers directed by the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and transfer those ballot-papers to the continuing candidate.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [11:18] - I move -

That in proposed new sub-section (5.), paragraph (e), sub-paragraph (v), the words "forthwith take at random" be left out.

These words are one of the really objectionable features of the bill. I claim to know the rudiments of the system of proportional representation. It is a perfectly mathematical system of counting votes, and deals even with fractions, but I cannot, in any circumstances, approve of a proposal which allows returning officers to select votes at random in order to arrive at a decision. The whole purpose of this legislation, I thought, was to improve the system of representation of the people in the Senate. I cannot believe that the incorporation of a provision of this kind will improve the method of election. According to the way in which the provision is drafted, the returning officer must first count all preferences, and place them in separate heaps. If, in what would be a ten-million-to-one contingency, a candidate obtained the exact number of votes necessary for a quota, those votes would be put aside. I do not find any fault with that, although, in my opinion, the provision is unnecessary, and would be automatically applied should that most unlikely event occur. The next step is that the returning officer must count all the second-preference votes of any candidate who has received more than the quota. He must examine those votes one by one, and classify them according to the second preferences. He must determine what percentage of the second preferences shall be transferred. He does that by determining the number of votes by which the total exceeds the quota. Next he must ascertain what those transferred votes are. The bill contains an amazing proposal as the next step. When the returning officer has found out what the votes are, they will be taken at random and placed to the credit of some other candidate. In my opinion, that is wrong. The workmanlike way of conducting a count of this description is to hold the count at the central electoral office in each State. All the votes would then all be at one centre. The idea of a count of this description being conducted in 47 or 48 sub-divisions in New South Wales is, to my mind, fantastic. When we consider the possibilities that might occur, and the taking of the votes at random in 47 or 48 centres, the system does not commend itself to me. Therefore, I strongly urge the Attorney-General to agree to the omission of the words, "forthwith take at random". This will be a test to decide whether the committee considers that this method is fair and proper.

Dr. EVATT (Barton - Attorney-General and Minister External Affairs) [11:13]. - The words, "forthwith take at random", to which the honorable member for Barker (Mr Archie Cameron) has objected, are rather confusing. They do not suggest the dangers to which the honorable member has referred. The system operates in the manner described in paragraph e, and honorable members must follow the procedure in order to understand what precedes this choice of ballot-papers from the parcel containing the ballot-papers of the elected candidates. The procedure will be to distribute the votes of an elected candidate. In ascertaining the quota for any State, every No. 1 preference vote will be reported to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. For instance, if seven candidates are to be elected, the quota will be
fixed by taking one-eighth of the total number of votes and adding one to the resulting quotient. In a system such as that to which honorable members are accustomed - that is, the system of Senate counting which has been in operation for more than twenty years - one finds that the votes of candidates for a particular party are regimented so that one candidate as a rule obtains practically the full force of the No. 1 votes. For the sake of illustration, I shall state a hypothetical case in New South Wales. Let us assume that Senator Ashley gets 800,000 votes.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - But he would not get that number under the proposed system.

Dr. EVATT. - He would get exactly the same number under the new system as under the old if voting were regimented in the same way.

Mr Archie Cameron. - The object is to get away from that.

Dr. EVATT. - The honorable member fails to realize that, if candidates go to the ballot representing a party, the party will regiment the vote in the same way as at present. There may be some exceptions, but broadly that will be true. In other words, if Senator Ashley would get 800,000 No. 1 votes under the present system, he will get approximately the same number under the proposed system. If the quota fixed is, say, 200,000 votes, Senator Ashley, having received 800,000 No. 1 votes, will have a surplus of 600,000 over and above what is necessary to elect one candidate. Therefore, 600,000 votes will be available for distribution for the purpose of electing other candidates. The same principle will apply to the candidates representing any other party. The process is described in sub-paragraph i of paragraph e, which provides that the surplus votes of each elected candidate shall be transferred to continuing candidates in proportion to the voters' preferences. In the hypothetical case I have cited, Senator Ashley's surplus of 600,000 votes will be distributed. The full number of 800,000 votes will not be distributed, because 200,000 of them will have been fully used in electing him. In effect, the surplus of 600,000 votes will be made available to the second, third and other choices of the voters.

Mr. ABBOTT. - How will the number of 600,000 votes be picked?

Dr. EVATT. - Consider the position in New South Wales, which will have 47 divisions. The Senate votes will be brought to a central point in each division. Each divisional officer will then report to the central officer at Sydney the result of the No. 1 count in his electorate. Invalid ballot-papers will have been rejected at that stage. The electoral officer will fix a quota by dividing the total number of valid votes by eight and adding one to the quotient. This will fix a quota of, say, 200,000. In the hypothetical case I have cited, with Senator Ashley receiving 800,000 No. 1 votes, there will therefore be a surplus available for distribution of 600,000. Another candidate might receive 500,000 No. 1 votes. That would leave a surplus of 300,000, and exactly the same procedure would be followed in relation to that surplus. Senator Ashley's votes will be examined -

Mr. ABBOTT. - All of them?

Dr. EVATT. - Yes, without exception. When the No. 2 votes have been examined, that result also will be reported to the central officer. Let us assume that the candidate indicated on the party ticket as the second preference to Senator Ashley is named Arnold. It will be found that the great majority of Senator Ashley's votes will indicate Arnold as second preference.

Mr. ABBOTT. - The fraction is applied there?

Dr. EVATT. - Yes. I do not want to use the word "fraction" in an inaccurate sense. I prefer to say that the proportion is applied.

Mr. ABBOTT. - "Fraction" is used in the bill. It is the right honorable member's choice, not mine.

Dr. EVATT. - Sub-paragraph i of paragraph e states -

The Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall divide the number of the elected candidate's surplus votes by the number of first-preference votes received by him and the resulting fraction shall, for the purposes of this paragraph, be the transfer value of that candidate's surplus votes.

Mr. ABBOTT. - Then, in the hypothetical case, Senator Ashley's votes will then be inspected and the second preferences reduced by the fraction in order to bring them into line with the surplus votes?

Dr. EVATT. - That will happen a little later in the count. That is where the point raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) comes in. Sub-paragraph ii states -

The Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall direct each Divisional Returning Officer to arrange in separate parcels for the continuing candidates the whole of the ballot-papers of the elected candidate according to the next available preference indicated thereon and to advise him of the number of ballot-papers in each parcel.

Therefore, every ballot-paper will be examined at that point. That sub-paragraph provides that the surplus of 600,000 votes from Senator Ashley shall be divided according to the second preferences. The resulting figures will be reported to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. Sub-paragraph iii states -

Upon receipt of advices from all the Divisional Returning Officers, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall ascertain, in respect of each continuing candidate, the total number of ballot-papers of the elected candidate which bear the next available preference for that continuing candidate and shall, by multiplying that total by the transfer value of the elected candidate's surplus votes, determine the number of votes to be transferred from the elected candidate to each continuing candidate. If, as a result of the multiplication, any fraction results, so many of those fractions, taken in the order of their magnitude, beginning with the largest, as are necessary to ensure that the number of votes transferred equals the number of the elected candidate's surplus votes shall be reckoned as of the value of unity and the remaining fractions shall be ignored.

The result of that provision might be that, in an electorate of 1,600,000 voters, there would be a small handful of votes represented by a series of fractions of less than one. Sub-paragraph iv reads -

The Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall then, as nearly as practicable in proportion to the number of ballot-papers contained int the relative parcels of the several divisions, determine the number of ballot-papers to be transferred from the elected candidate to each continuing candidate in each division and shall direct the several Divisional Returning Officers to transfer ballot-papers accordingly.

Sub-paragraph v is that to which criticism has been directed.

The situation then is that in each divisional office, the Divisional Returning Officer has these parcels. He has the No. 1 votes of the continuing candidates, and he also has those parcels of votes which show "Ashley 1, Arnold 2" in the case of Arnold, or "Ashley 1, Smith 2" in the case of Smith, or "Ashley 1, Jones 2" in the case of Jones. They would be in the Arnold, Smith or Jones' groups. Under the system of proportional representation, it is not possible simply to add the whole of those to the whole of that group and treat them as, for instance, Arnold's votes, because he would probably get 98 or 99 per cent. of the votes that Ashley has got. It must, therefore, be limited by the proportion, that is, the fraction of three-fourths. Then what takes place is the physical transference of the ballot-papers in accordance with the provision of sub-paragraph v. The fraction is worked out simply; there can be no mistake about it. It is determined not from one, but from thousands of booths all over the State. It is assessed and worked out at the central office. The officials at the central office work out the fraction and report to the Commonwealth Electoral Office in each division the number to be taken out. Under the provisions of sub-paragraph v, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer has to determine the number of ballot-papers to be transferred from the elected candidate to each continuing candidate in each division and then telegraph the number to be taken out of this very large group of ballot-papers, which I am assuming would be "Ashley 1, Arnold 2", the smaller number being "Ashley 1" and the other candidates 2. Honorable members will see that under the party system it is practically certain that 97 per cent., 98 per cent. or even 99 per cent. of the "Ashley 1" papers will follow the party line.

Dame ENID LYONS. - That is not so in Tasmania. It applies to the case of the Labour party but not to the other parties.

Dr. EVATT. - I was thinking rather of New South Wales. The number having been telegraphed, the returning officer takes from that parcel of the elected candidate the number he is told to take.

Mr. ABBOTT. - At random?

Dr. EVATT. - Yes. If there are, say, 10,000 ballot-papers in a particular division marked "Ashley 1, Arnold 2", that parcel will belong, so to speak, to Arnold. Then a message comes from the central office saying, "Take at random 7,500 of the ballot-papers marked Ashley 1, Arnold 2, as to which you have telegraphed me there are 10,000, and add them to Arnold".

Mr. ABBOTT. - Why not carry on in the same way counting the whole 10,000 out and taking the fraction?

Dr. EVATT. - It could be done in that way, but I am advised that it would lead to an enormous number of fractional calculations at later stages of the count. If it were done in the way suggested by the honourable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), instead of the result in New South Wales being determined in ten or fifteen counts it might take 150 counts. The advantage of this system is that by taking them at random from the 10,000, the 7,500 is an effective surplus for all purposes.

Mr. ABBOTT. - It is not as accurate as the other system. It cannot be.

Dr. EVATT. - Theoretically there might be a slight divergence, but the report, to which I referred in my second reading speech, from the experts of the Proportional Representation Society and the electoral officers is that, assuming there is a party system, there is one chance in 50,000,000 of the result under this system being different. So small and insignificant a possibility may be ignored.

Mr. ANTHONY. - It works out on the law of averages.

Dr. EVATT. - It is more like the law of mathematical probability under which we can be fairly certain that if the meteorologist says that the sun will rise to-morrow at 7.10 a.m. it will rise at that time and not at 7.12 a.m. If this system is not adopted, all these ballot-papers - perhaps 1,600,000 of them in one State - will have to be brought to a central office and dealt with there. The chief electoral officer says that that would impose an immense burden upon the department and that it would have to have an army of workers at the central point instead of keeping them in each division, where the safety of the papers could be assured and where the actual physical transference of the surplus could take place.

Mr. ANTHONY. - The point of this "taking at random" is that it is done in each divisional office throughout the State and not at the central office. In that way a fair cross-section would be obtained.

Dr. EVATT. - Yes. There is a physical transfer. It is not possible to take the lot, because, under the proportional system, only a fraction can be taken. Instead of taking a fraction and looking at all the votes, adding that fraction, getting fractions in other calculations, and at the next stage fractions of fractions and at the next stage fractions of fractions of fractions, you get -

Mr. WHITE. - You get a fraction.

Dr. EVATT. - You do not get any fractions. You ignore fractions at that point.

I want honorable members to see what very slight element of chance there could be under this system and what an insignificant difference there could be in the results. Assume there are 10,000 votes cast for Senator Ashley in a division. You take the 7,500 of them. If the party ticket is marked on the papers, it will be observed. In such a large number as 10,000, spread over 47 electorates, reaching a total of, I have assumed, 800,000, although it might be less, the result achieved in that way, which is more simple administratively and more assuredly safe, differs in no material respect from the result achieved by the other method of counting.

Mr. ANTHONY. - Are scrutineers to be permitted to be in attendance when the selections are made?

Dr. EVATT. - That would be necessary in order to ensure that the selections were made at random. The scrutineers will not deliberately pick out papers marked "Ashley 1, Arnold 2" and so on. In any case, assuming that party tickets operate, the chance of deviation from group voting appears to be small.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [11.37]. - The explanation given by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) does not satisfy me. However apart from that I understand that when late sittings are to be held it is the practice for agreement to be reached between leaders of the Government and the Opposition. That has not been done in this case, and I did not know that we were in for a late sitting to-night.

The CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - As one who has been a keen student of the system of proportional representation over a period of years, I cannot agree to the enactment of this clause. If electors are to be compelled to exercise their right to make preference votes, as provided by the bill in its present form, then an elector must vote for every candidate whose name is included on a ballot-paper. If there are 50 names on a ballot-paper the unfortunate elector will have to place a number against every one of those names. What is the sense of compelling a man to vote for every candidate whose name appears on the ballot-paper if the contingent votes are not to be counted? That is utterly ridiculous. No system of proportional representation will operate satisfactorily unless some freedom is allowed to the electors. I repeat that if this proposal is agreed to electors will be compelled to vote for every candidate whose name appears on the paper, yet the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) says, in effect, "In regard to a certain number of votes cast it is immaterial to whom voters allocate their preferences" -

Dr. EVATT. - No; the same procedure will obtain in respect of the first, second, third and all other preferences, and the contingent votes may be counted.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - The Attorney-General put forward a great case in favour of securing a solid party vote, but the real virtue of proportional representation lies in the fact that it enables electors to depart from party groups and to be given a choice of candidates. If any political party endorses fewer candidates than there are seats to be filled, its aim will be to constrain the electors by not giving them a free choice! From my point of view this proposal is undemocratic, and is opposed to the true principle of proportional representation, and I urge the Committee to reject it. How long would any member of the Tasmanian Parliament be tolerated who made such a suggestion? Indeed the suggestion would be sunk in the Derwent as soon as it was mentioned by the Clerk of the Tasmanian Parliament.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be left out (Mr ARCHIE CAMERON'S amendment) stand part of the clause.

The Committee divided.

(THE CHAIRMAN - Mr. J. J. Clark.)

Ayes . . . . . . 34

Noes . . . . . . 23

Majority 11

AYES.

Barnard, H. C.                      Holloway, L. J.
 
Beazley, K. E.                       James, R.
 
Blackburn, Mrs. D. A.           Johnson, H. V.
 
Brennan, F.                           Lawson, George
 
Burke T. P.                           Lemmon, N.
 
Calwell, A. A                         Mulcahy, D.
 
Chambers, C.                       O'Connor, W. P.
 
Chifley, J. B.                         Pollard, R. T.
 
Conelan, W. P.                     Russell, E. H. D.
 
Daly, F. M.                            Scully, W. J.
 
Dedman, J. J.                       Sheehy
 
Drakeford, A. S.                   Thompson, A. V.
 
Duthie, G. W. A.                   Ward, E. J.
 
Edmonds, F. W.                    Williams, T. F.
 
Evatt, Dr. H. V.                     Falstein, S. M.
 
Tellers:
 
Fraser, A. D.                         Fuller, A. N.
 
Haylen, L. C.                         Sheehan, T.
 
 

NOES.

 

Abbott, J. P.                          Lang, J. T.
 
Adermann, C. F.                   Lyons, Dame Enid
 
Anthony, J. L.                       McBride, P. A.
 
Bowden, G. J.                       McEwen, J.
 
Cameron, Archie                  Menzies, R. G.
 
Falkinder, C. W. J.                               Rankin, G. J.
 
Gullett, H. B. S.                     Ryan, R. S.
 
Hamilton, L. W.                     Turnbull, W. G.
 
Harrison, E. J.                       White, T. W.
 
Holt, H. E.                             
 
Tellers:
 
Howse, J. B.                         Corser, Bernard
 
Hutchinson, W. J.                 McDonald, A. M.
 
 

PAIRS.

 

Riordan, W. J. F.                  Davidson, C. W.
 
Lazzarini, H. P.                     Fadden, A. W.
 
Hadley, J. W.                        Francis, J.
 
McLeod, D.                           Beale, Howard
 
Langtry, J. L.                         Spender, P. C.
 
Gaha, Dr. J. F.                      Hughes, W. M.
 
Watkins, D. O.                      Page, Sir Earle
 
 

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 agreed to.

New clause.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [11.45]. - I move -

That, after clause 2, the following new clause be inserted:-

"2A. Section one hundred and twenty-three of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1946 is amended by omitting from paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) the words 'all the remaining candidates' and inserting in their stead the words 'as many candidates as there are Senate vacancies to be filled'.".

No attempt is made in the bill to amend section 23 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act , which provides that every candidate must be voted for if a formal vote is to be made. With the system of proportional representation, under which, in the majority of the States, there will be candidates from three political parties and a number of independents as well, it seems utterly futile to propose seriously that an elector should be obliged to vote for every candidate on the list in order to record a formal vote. It is hard for electors to express their preference beyond three or four candidates and to compel a man to vote for 30 or 40 candidates - for the Lord knows how many aspirants for office there will be - is to go too far. My proposal would limit the number of candidates that would have to be voted for to the seven candidates to be elected. I am sure that if the Government consults the Electoral Office or any authority on proportional representation, it will be quickly convinced that that is a sufficient number of votes to ensure a proper poll. It will lessen the number of informal votes.

Mr. WHITE (Balaclava) [11.50]. - I support the amendment because it is common sense. It is unfair to expect the electors to put a number in every square on the ballot-papers. I speak advisedly, because I made an investigation in my electorate and found that 17 per cent. of the votes were informal because the voters had not voted for all the candidates. To require electors to vote for, say, twenty candidates, will prolong the counting, and the next Senate election will be at hand before we shall know the result of the preceding one. In Tasmania, where the proportional system operates, there are long delays in the counting of the votes. Therefore, I heartily agree with the amendment.

Dr. EVATT (Barton - Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs) [11.54]. - What the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) proposes is an alteration of the existing law which provides for compulsory extension of preferences over the whole number of candidates. That extension of preferences is more necessary under the proportional representation system that under the present system.

Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - The right honorable gentleman is quite wrong.

Dr. EVATT. - The honorable member says that I am wrong, but he has not studied all the aspects of the proportional representation system one of which is that candidates may have to be elected, not from the top by the distribution of surplus votes, but from the bottom by the exclusion of candidates. In that case, it may be that a vote well down the ballot-paper will have to be taken into account. If that is done we shall get what are known as exhausted votes; that is, after a certain stage is reached in the counting, a vote might have no effect, and might as well not have been polled. Therefore, there is no need to alter the existing system. On the contrary, there is every reason for retaining it for under proportional representation a very low preference may become either an effective vote when candidates are excluded from the bottom of the ballot-paper, or a fraction of an effective vote when candidates are excluded from the top of the ballot-paper. These are the reasons which have actuated the Government in retaining the present system.

Dame ENID LYONS (Darwin) [11.56]. - I do not agree that the existing method is necessary to make a system of proportional representation effective. In Tasmania, for many years, the number of compulsory votes totalled only half that of the number of candidates to be elected, and although what are known as exhausted votes were not avoided absolutely, in general electors marked the whole of the ballot-paper. At least they indicated their choice in respect of all candidates of the particular party which they supported. The argument that the present system is essential for the satisfactory working of proportional representation is unsound. It is not in accordance with the opinion which other electoral experts have expressed from time to time. In a system under which the Government has already departed from mathematical accuracy, the argument advanced by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will not bear examination. The Government has cut away complete mathematical accuracy by the insertion of the "at random" provision, yet it maintains that the proposal made by the honorable member for Barker will nullify many votes. As one who has had a wide experience of voting during the period I have exercised the franchise, I am convinced that the existing method will tend to increase the number of informal votes.

Mr. BARNARD (Bass - Minister for Repatriation) [11.58]. - Like the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Edith Lyons) I have had considerable experience of the systems to which she has referred. The Government does not propose to depart from the principle of mathematical accuracy. There is something in the contention of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that under the existing system many informal votes are recorded. However, except in a highly educated community, informal votes are inevitable particularly when a large number of candidates must be voted for. In order to obtain a true reflection of the will of the electorate it is necessary that voters record their choice in respect of all candidates. The retention of the existing system has been recommended by experts after a thorough study of votes cast at general elections during a period of many years and after testing the two methods on that basis. If the names of fourteen candidates appear on the ballot-paper and the voter is compelled to vote for only 7, the number required to be elected, they will vote for only seven and will not record any choice in respect of the remainder. In those circumstances, many votes will become exhausted votes, and thus the poll as a whole will not truly reflect the will of the electorate. We must educate the electors to vote for all candidates in the order of their choice. We have been endeavouring to do that in Tasmania for a number of years. I support the arguments advanced by the Attorney-General (Dr Evatt).

Friday, 30 April, 1948

Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond) [12.2 a.m.]. - The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has uttered a lot of nonsense. All honorable members are anxious to devise a system better than the existing system. I am prepared to accept the Government's point of view, if I can be convinced that it is preferable. However I recall that at the last two Senate elections from 15 to 20 per cent. of the votes cast were informal. Out of a total of 3,500,000 votes the number of informal votes exceeded 500,000. Therefore, it is useless for the Minister for Repatriation to say that the existing system ensures a true reflection of the electorate. The Minister also said that it is a matter of educating the people to cast their vote in a formal manner. The existing system for Senate elections has been in vogue for the past twenty years, and all parties have been endeavouring to educate their supporters to carry their preferences right down the list of candidates on the ballot-paper. Nevertheless, the percentage of informal votes cast at every election is excessive. When we are introducing a new system we should establish a method of voting which will record a fairer reflection of the intention of the electorate. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has told us of the working of the system of proportional representation in Tasmania. It has been said that it is impossible to get mathematical accuracy unless voters are compelled to vote for candidates to the number of only half the seats filled. At the next Senate election there will probably be a greater number of candidates than ever before, because seven will be required to be elected. If only the three main parties, the Australian Country party, the Australian Labour party and the Liberal party, nominate seven candidates each there will be 21 candidates, without taking into account candidates who may be nominated by other parties. There is every possibility that there will be an even greater percentage of informal votes than previously. I am anxious that a system should be adopted which will reflect the opinion of the people. I suggest that the Government defer the matter until tomorrow so that it may be examined by the electoral officers. Then if a simpler system can be devised, it should be adopted.

Mr. GULLETT (Henty) [12.6. a.m.] - I ask the Attorney-General to consider seriously the proposal contained in the suggested new clause. Our purpose should be to ensure that the maximum number of formal votes are cast. At the last Senate election in Victoria, there were nine candidates, and in my electorate 12 per cent. of the votes were informal. At the next Senate election anything from 20 to 25 candidates will be nominated by the political parties, and probably a large number of independents will nominate as well. If the elector is required to place all the candidates in the correct order it must result in an increase in the number of informal votes.

Proposed new clause negatived.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill, by leave, read a third time.

PAPERS.

The following papers were presented:-

Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Civil Aviation - R. S. Choate, F. R. Liebelt, A. J. Sutherland.

House adjourned at 12.10 a.m. (Friday).

 

 

[PRSA NOTE:  The Representation Bill 1948 was debated concurrently with the above bill. The Representation Act is a tiny formal act used to implement the provision in the third paragraph of Section 7 of the Constitution, which provides for the number of senators for each State if the Parliament legislates for more than the original six per State, and to make transitional provisions for the change. The latest version is the Representation Act 1983, which gave effect to the decision of the Parliament in 1983 to increase the numbers of senators per State to twelve.

 

There was almost nothing to debate in that tiny bill, and certainly no separate debate distinct from the major bill for PR and how the PR was to operate, as it simply fixed the new number of senators at 10 per State (the previous number was the original number of 6 senators per State), and provided uncontroversial transitional provisions. It, unlike the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1948, was not complex, nor did it contain controversial aspects of the PR implementation such as the requirement to mark all preferences for a valid vote, or the distribution of surplus papers “at random” instead of the proven Gregory Transfer long used very satisfactorily in Tasmania.