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Wednesday, 18 June 1902

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - If this clause is agreed to there will be in each State an electoral officer directly responsible to the Federal Government for the administration of electoral affairs. Matters of detail relating to the preparation of the rolls will have to be dealt with at a later stage. We do not wish to rush into any extravagance in connexion with the appointment of deputyregistrars or to maintain a staff of permanent officers for the purpose of attending to the federal election matters of each of the States. We may leave all these minor details to be attended to by the State officers who will be under the direction of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth.

Mr. THOMSON(North Sydney).- It is desirable that the committee should be furnished with some information as to the intentions of the Government. In this and the next few clauses provision is made for the appointment of something over 1,000 officers, and we should be informed as to the terms on which they are to be appointed, and whether they are to be permanent or temporary officers of the Commonwealth. We are not dealing with the appointment of only one person in each State, and if we are not careful we shall probably find ourselves committed to a scheme which will involve the employment of large staffs of officers in each of the States. We should . avoid duplicating the work which is now performed by State officials, and we should avail ourselves as far as possible of existing organization and machinery. It appears to me that we are asked to pass this Bill without absolutely knowing anything about the cost which the Commonwealth will incur under it.

Sir JOHNQUICK (Bendigo).- I do not think we can expect the remuneration of the various electoral officers to be provided for in this Bill. This is not an Appropriation Bill ; it is practically a machinery measure. It is better, therefore, that the expenditure should be provided for in the annual Appropriation Act.

Sir William McMillan - What the honorable member for North Sydney asked for was a general statement as to the way in which the department is to administered.

Sir JOHN QUICK - I am coming to that point. I merely say that the Bill is properly shaped, and ought not to contain items of proposed expenditure. I agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that it is advisable that the Minister should give us some indication of the way in which the divisional Returning Officers are to be remunerated. In Victoria at the present time many of these officers are honorary officers. The Federal Electoral Officer should be exclusively in the service of the Commonwealth Government. He should be a thoroughly independent officer, who is in sympathy with the principles of our Federal Act. At the same time I do not see why some of the other officers, such as electoral registrars, should be exclusively federal officers, or for the matter of that, exclusively State officers. They may be paid by fees. At the present moment there are a large number of electoral registrars who are performing work for the States Governments and whose services under this .'Bil] could be utilized by the Commonwealth Government. I would strongly urge the Ministry to insist upon the remuneration, of these officers being reasonable.

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