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Thursday, 19 May 1904

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman must bear in mind that I am seeking the appointment of a Commissioner, in order that we may ascertain the best lines to adopt. If we could devise any system that would reduce the number of non-voters in the Commonwealth to 6 per cent., we should secure a great national advantage. The Commissioner would obtain valuable information, not only in this direction, but in many other ways that we have not yet considered, and would be able to place before us a report that would show in a practical way the amendments which are necessary, in our electoral law. The appointment would not involve any large expenditure. An outlay of about£1,000 would be sufficient, and, if for that expenditure we could obtain this information direct from a skilful official, who had witnessed the working of various systems in other lands, we should accomplish a great work at a very moderate cost. It was once suggested in this House that, in the interests of economy, an effort should be made to obtain, by means of a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and the States, a uniform franchise, and a uniform relation between the States and Federal constituencies, so that the cost of compiling the rolls, and. to a great extent, the cost of printing them would be materially reduced. If such a scheme could be devised, the one set of expenses would cover everything, and we should secure simplicity in the mechanism necessary for conducting a general election. I do not know of any direction in which larger savings could be effected than by the adoption of some general system which would render it necessary to print only one set of rolls, and require only one set of applications to remedy defects in them. The proposition is so simple that it is surprising that intelligent Ministers have not taken action to ascertain whether it is not possible to induce the States to fall into line, and to adopt coterminous electorates, so that by the addition of three or four States electorates, a Federal district could be formed.

Mr O'Malley - That would suit both the States and Commonwealth.


Mr Maloney - We should have one set of rolls for the States and the Commonwealth.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We should thus have to incur but the one expense. It has also been suggested that, in amending the rolls, good use might be made of the registration departments in the various States. If a man dies, there is at the present time no machinery in the Electoral Department by which that fact might be ascertained, and his name removed from the roll.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member is in error in making that statement.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I beg the right honorable member's pardon. If, for example, my grandfather dies, I am not compelled to have his name removed from the rolls.

Sir John Forrest - The Department deals with that matter.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It does when it prepares a fresh roll ; but I wish to secure an automatic method of removing the names of deceased persons from the rolls, and placing on the list the names of those who from time to time attain their majority. The revision would have to be carried out every six months. There is a registration department, in which the date of every man's birth and death is recorded, and by making use of it we should be able to secure an automatic method of revising the rolls. If objections were subsequently made they could be inquired into.

Sir John Forrest - The scheme could not be worked.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If an attempt were made, it might be found that the system was much easier than the right honorable member anticipates. I am simply advocating the appointment of a Royal Commissioner who would ascertain the various systems in force in other parts of the world, and advise us whether provisions and devices cannot be introduced into our electoral machinery to save expense, friction, and trouble, and to secure for us a better national verdict than we have been able to obtain in the past.

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