Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 31 October 1905

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) - At the request of Senator Pearce, I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - "43A. - After section one hundred and fifty -three A, the following section is inserted : - 1 53b. - ( 1 ) Notwithstanding anything in this Act, if both Houses of the Parliament by a resolution approve of a system of voting by means of voting machines described in such resolution, the polling at any prescribed polling-places may subject to regulations be conducted by means of such voting machines instead of by ballot-papers.

(2)   After the passing of such resolution the

Governor-General may make regulations prescribing all matters necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the system of voting by means of such voting machines.

(3)   Such regulations shall in particular provide for -

(a)   The secrecy of the voting;

(b)   The prevention of fraud ; and

(c)   The polling-places at which the polling shall be conducted by means of the voting machines.

(4)   Regulations made in pursuance of this section shall not have any force until they have been laid before both Houses of the Parliament for thirty days or, if within that time a resolution has been proposed in either House of the Parliament to disapprove of the regulations, until the motion for the resolution Kas been disposed of.

(5)   If a resolution disapproving of them is passed by either House of the Parliament the regulations shall be of no effect.' "

I trust the amendment will commend itself both to the Government and to honorable senators. The proposal may be regarded as an innovation, but, after all, it is by way of innovation that steps are made to civilization. The old system of ballotting has been tried, and has been fairly successful, over a long term of years, but! it must, in process of time, give place to a more advanced method. Public attention is at the present day being directed to the necessity for some voting machine which will accurately record the votes given, and provide every possible precaution against fraud. The fact that an amending Bill is before us shows that the existing electoral methods have been found to be in some respects defective, and this amendment, which was circulated by Senator Pearce, simply proposes to go one step further than the Bill, and provide that, on a resolution by both Houses, voting by machinery may be adopted. The proposed new clause 3bes not designate any particular class of machine, nor provide that voting shall be by machinery - the whole matter is left entirely to the will of Parliament. This clause, if adopted, will obviate the necessity for fresh legislation, if at any time it is thought desirable to bring about such a reform. It is contended that voting by machinery will not only give thorough satisfaction in the way of accuracy, 'but will very materially cheapen the cost of elections to the Commonwealth. The other day, a voting machine was on exhibition within the precincts of Parliament House, and it appeared to comply with every condition, recording the votes accurately, and in such a way as apparently to make imposition impossible. We were assured by the patentee, who, I believe, hails from Western Australia, that the cost of the Commonwealth elections would be reduced by considerably over 50 per cent, by the adoption of his method.

Senator Givens - Did the patentee say what was the cost of each machine?

Senator HENDERSON - Each machine would cost £10.

Senator Givens - Then there would have to be an outlay of ,£100,000 at the start.

Senator HENDERSON - The Commonwealth, which has just been brought into existence, may, for all we know, last for 100,000 years, and df there be an election every three years, at the present cost of £45,000, we have only to do a little arithmetic in order to appreciate the value of an effective appliance of the kind to which I am referring. It has been estimated by those who take an interest in the question that a general election for the Commonwealth could, with these machines, be carried out at a cost of £13,725, as against the present cost of £45,119- I do not know how much value there is to be placed on these estimates, but the fact remains that public attention is being called to 'this question, and it is quite evident that in the near future some machine will be tried, and, if found satisfactory, will be generally adopted.-

Senator Dobson - But what could be done if a machine broke down in the middle of an election?

Senator HENDERSON - I am not an engineer, but when a machine goes .wrong it has to be put right before it can be further used. I understand that this machine is on the principle of the lock and block system in operation on our railways, and I may ask Senator Dobson what is done when anything happens to the apparatus on the railways? There is, however, a possibility of having machinery so perfect as to reduce the possibility of accident to a minimum. The new clause makes provision for regulations, and this, too, I| think, will commend itself to honorable senators.

Suggest corrections