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Wednesday, 30 October 1912

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - The statement that almost any machine could be imitated reminded me of a remark I heard made that Krupps would undertake to manufacture to order a gun that would pierce any armour plate, and would as readily undertake to manufacture armour plate that no gun would pierce. No matter how perfect a machine was some ingeniousperson would be found who could imitate that. I object altogether to the argument which Senator Needham based on this fact, that we should not oppose this proposal. He argued that the facility with which machines could be made was a reason why the onus of proof of innocence should be cast on any accused person. There is a safe axiom that the efforts of a Government should be to make it easy to do right and difficult to do wrong. This seems to be a method of offering facilities to people to do wrong. We know on high authority that ' ' the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done." I think that this Bill bears an air of progressiveness about it in a superficial kind of way, and, as stated by other honorable senators, it does not appear that the dangers which surround it are counter-balanced by the advantages which it offers. I quite see that it would be an advantage to have a machine which could be operated by officials in the large telegraph offices where there is often a congestion of business, as delay and waste of time is caused by having to attach stamps to telegrams. But this is quite another . proposition. While I know that Ministers here can generally put up a pretty good case for any position they take up, yet I do not think thatthe skill of even Senator McGregor or Senator Findley can induce the members of the Senate to believe that it is possible to guard against all cases of fraud in the use of these machines. We have then to consider to what extent it would pay any one to indulge in fraudulent practices. Taking the risk as against the possible gain, I think it is not probable that any person engaged in a large business would find so much profit in a thing of this kind as to obtain a counterfeit machine.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - They probably would not do it.

Senator RAE - Just so.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - But it is the man who would make the machines and sell them who would do so.

Senator RAE - I do not think that there would be enough profit to induce a person in a large way of business to obtain a. machine, but I do think that it mightbe the means of enabling persons who are dishonest, and who now pilfer stamps from their employers, to make the Government a victim, in which case the employer would not be defrauded as he may now be. On the other hand, it would be a very difficult task to sheet home a case of this sort, and' even if the Department did now and againfind some person clumsily operating a machine so as to be discovered, that would not prevent the same thing going on in a hundred different quarters. In this way a very big leakage might occur, and continue to occur. So fast as one case was sheeted home it might still be considered quite easy for other persons who fancied their ingenuity to be a little greater,to manage to do the same kind of thing. If there is such a thing as a perfect machine, and also a perfect check against fraud, that should be proved to us before we areasked to pass a measure of this kind, which, after all, in its larger aspects willonly benefit a few members of the commercial class, saving them a little troublein safeguarding their own interests. I think it is wasting our time, anyhow, to deal with what I must call pettyfogging legislation. I trust that we shall devote the rest of the session to measures of a great deal more practical value to the community' than such a measure as this can be. Unless a very much stronger case can be made' out than I believe is possible, I shall join with those who oppose the third reading: of the Bill.

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