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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 3917


Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (10:20): This has been an active committee, and I commend the chair on the points that he has made in tabling this report on electronic voting. There has not been much disagreement in this committee. There have mainly been refinements of each other's views. We know that electronic voting has been discussed in this House since 1970, when the planning for this building determined that provision should be made 'in the new Parliament House' for the necessary conduits to be installed. In 1970, they thought of the prospective internet, electronic voting and the world we live in now: the digital age.

Through the 1990s and 2000s, the Procedure Committee and others have endorsed the idea of electronic voting but failed to make any firm recommendations. I think this report is excellent. I commend the chair and secretariat for helping the committee refine its ideas. As the chair said, there is no suggestion that we would abandon the traditional divide to the left and right of the chair. Electronic voting should be implemented provided that the voting occurs in this chamber. There is no prospect of us doing what is done in other countries, where voting is conducted by noting one's vote on a computer but not necessarily attending the chamber. Tellers would continue to be appointed under our recommendations to ensure proxy votes for nursing mothers and as a backup in the event of a technology failure.

The issue of a swipe card has been investigated as the option for allowing members to vote from anywhere within the chamber. It is a good idea. Voting from anywhere within the chamber is an important suggestion, because we know what happens during divisions: it is a useful opportunity for backbench members to catch up with ministers or shadow ministers and, therefore, they do not want to sit in their seats. Having people have to swipe their cards in their actual seats would be something that might be difficult because people would prefer not to be in their seats, quite understandably. I think it is an important custom of the House that should not be interfered with by new procedures.

Just as the screens we have inside and outside the front door tell us what the actual vote and adjournment is, it is recommended that the results of divisions be displayed in the chamber. I think that would, again, make it more involving for the public, and even the press gallery, to actually be able to see what we know. It is all rumbling in the background when the Speaker announces—I am not criticising you, Mr Speaker, far from it—that the votes are such and such. Everything that makes this chamber more democratic and makes the decisions more clear and transparent is all a very good idea. I commend this report, the chair, the secretariat and these conclusions to the House.