An Autobiography HTML version

voting, and from that time devoted herself to the cause. Early in 1897 Mrs. Young was
appointed the first honorary secretary of the league. January of the same year found us
stirred to action by the success of Sir Edward Braddon's first Bill for proportional
representation in Tasmania. Though limited in its application to the two chief cities of the
island State, the experiment was wholly successful. We had our first large public meeting
in the Co-operative Hall in January, and carried a resolution protesting against the use of
the block vote for the Federal Convention elections. A deputation to the acting Premier
(Mr.--afterwards Sir Frederick--Holder) was arranged for the next morning. But we were
disappointed in the result of our mission, for Mr. Holder pointed out that the Enabling
Act distinctly provided for every elector having 10 votes, and effective voting meant a
single transferable vote. I had written and telegraphed to the Hon. C. C. Kingston when
the Enabling Act was being drafted to beg him to consider effective voting as the basis of
election; but he did not see it then, nor did he ever see it. In spite, however, of the short
sightedness of party leaders, events began to move quickly.
Our disappointment over the maintenance of the block vote for the election of 10
delegates to the Federal Convention led to my brother John's suggestion that I should
become a candidate. Startling as the suggestion was, so many of my friends supported it
that I agreed to do so. I maintained that the fundamental necessity of a democratic
Constitution such as we hoped would evolve from the combined efforts of the ablest men
in the Australian States was a just system of representation and it was as the advocate of
effective voting that I took my stand. My personal observation in the United States and
Canada had impressed me with the dangers inseparable from the election of Federal
Legislatures by local majorities--sometimes by minorities--where money and influence
could be employed, particularly where a line in a tariff spelt a fortune to a section of the
people, in the manipulation of the floating vote. Parties may boast of their voting strength
and their compactness, but their voting strength under the present system of voting is
only as strong as its weakest link, discordant or discontented minorities, will permit it to
be. The stronger a party is in the Legislature the more is expected from it by every little
section of voters to whom it owes its victory at the polls. The impelling force of
responsibility which makes all Governments "go slow" creates the greatest discontent
among impatient followers of the rank and file, and where a few votes may turn the scale
at any general election a Government is often compelled to choose between yielding to
the demands of its more clamorous followers at the expense of the general taxpayer or
submitting to a Ministerial defeat.
As much as we may talk of democracy in Australia, we are far from realizing a truly
democratic ideal. A State in a pure democracy draws no nice and invidious distinctions
between man and man. She disclaims the right of favouring either property, education,
talent, or virtue. She conceives that all alike have an interest in good government, and
that all who form the community, of full age and untainted by crime, should have a right
to their share in the representation. She allows education to exert its legitimate power
through the press; talent in every department of business, property in its social and
material advantages; virtue and religion to influence public opinion and the public
conscience. But she views all men as politically equal, and rightly so, if the equality is to
be as real in operation as in theory. If the equality is actual in the representation of the