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Wednesday, 2 November 1904

Mr POYNTON (Grey) - It is to be regretted that the ex- Minister of Home Affairs or some other member of the late Government is not present to reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Maranoa. The complaint as it stands is a serious reflection on the late Ministry ; but if any member of it were present he would possibly be able to give a satisfactory explanation. It is also to be regretted that the honorable member should have combined with his complaint a proposal to reduce this item by £200. If Queensland does not need the services of the officer in question, it is for her representatives to say so ; but if we carry the amendment we shall cast a reflection on the Electoral Department without securing any guarantee that a reduction will be made in the particular direction desired. The alteration which the honorable member seeks to effect should be specifically stated. We were to some extent responsible for" the confusion which arose in connexion with the conduct of the last general elections, because we reduced the term for which the first Parliament was elected by practically six months. The elections took place much sooner than was anticipated when the officers entered upon their work, and having regard to this circumstance as well as to the fact that there were some 30,000 officers under the direction of the central office in connexion with the general election, it is astonishing that the Select Committee should have been unable to discover any serious case of negligence. That anomalies existed, and blunders occurred - that some of the officers in subordinate positions did not understand the directions they received - cannot be denied; but when we remember that the system was new, so far as four States were concerned, and that in the two States in which it was known no anomalies arose, we must, recognise that the officers carried out their task fairly well. I think that we should avoid any unnecessary duplication of the work of State officials. Commonwealth offices have been piled up one by one, with the result that Federation is regarded by some persons as a very expensive luxury, and the day is not far distant when some inquiry will be necessary to discover if unnecessary duplication has .taken place. I am not prepared, on the information at my disposal, to vote for a bald proposal to reduce the item by £200..

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