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Tuesday, 31 October 1905

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) - I view the introduction of voting machines with a great deal of suspicion, because I never yet knew a machine which it would not be possible to fi fake." The ingenuity which can invent a machine^ automatic, and sufficiently accurate to meet with the approval of Parliament, would prove equal to de vising some means of " faking" that machine. It is quite time to make a provision of this kind when we are satisfied that there is an absolutely reliable machine at our disposal. Why should we lay down laws for a future Parliament, which will be quite able to look after its own interests, and those of the country? Senator Keating said he had no objection to this clause, and pointed out that if an efficient voting machine were invented it would be a great convenience, and result in much saving in the larger centres. But the pamphlet which was sent round to honorable senators pointed out that the saving would be effected in small and sparsely-populated centres. What is wrong with the present system? There is ample- time for everybody to vote, and ample means for insuring accuracy.

Senator Guthrie - There is great delay in the counting.

Senator GIVENS - Because there is a delay of a few hours Senator Guthrie cannot possess his soul in patience.

Senator Guthrie - There is a delay of a day sometimes.

Senator GIVENS - This impatience is more like that of a man who has a fortune staked on the Melbourne Cup, and wants the result at the earliest moment. If a voting machine were " faked," there would be no voting papers or any other record by which a check could be exercised. This clause really asks us to take a plunge in the dark, and I regard it as a dangerous innovation. I do not see why we should empower a future Parliament to legislate without those formalities and safeguards which have ever been deemed necessary-.

Proposed new clause negatived.

Senator CLEMONS(Tasmania).- The matter to which I wish to refer may not be very important, but I desire to avail myself of the present opportunity to lay it before honorable senators. Section 170 of the principal Act provides for certain authorized expenses, but makes no- reference to the cost a candidate may incur in regard to cab hire. Section 176, however, is as follows : - .

Without limiting the effect of the general words in the preceding section, " bribery " particularly includes the supply of meat, drink, or entertainment, 'after the nomination has been officially declared, or horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from" the poll, with a view to influence the vote of an elector.

I do not propose to alter that last section, but merely draw attention to it in order to intimate that the amendment I shall submit is not intended to enable a candidate to bribe or do anything to influence the vote of an elector. I shall, however, propose that horse or carriage hire shall be included amongst the expenses that are allowed. At present no candidate may employ cabs. I do not say that no candidate does so, because I know to the contrary, but it is unfortunate to have the law so lax that some candidates do employ cabs, while others are deferred by section 176. Wealthy men, who have carriages and motor cars, may employ these to any extent, and may thereby influence the vote of an elector. Many candidates have no such advantage, and I see no reason why if one may use his motor car for the purpose another may not hire a cabman - and cabmen in most of our cities are not so well off that we need hesitate - to take electors to the poll, not in order to induce them to vote for him, but to offer facilities in the conduct of an election in the cities. From personal experience, I am able to say that it is possible for a candidate to go to the expense of providing cabs to carry voters to the poll, and to find that they have carried voters to vote for his opponent. That has happened in my own case, and I am perfectly certain it has happened also in innumerable other cases, and it will be seen at once that the danger of these cabs being used in such a way as to wrongfully influence a voter is very small indeed. The provision would, of course, be safeguarded also by section 176 of the principal Act, which I do not propose to alter in any way. In the circumstances, if we allow a candidate to count amongsthis electioneering expenses horse and carriage hire, he will still be prevented from expending money in this way for improper purposes, as under section 176 if he does so with a view to influence the vote of any voter he will be guilty of bribery. We know that it has been the custom for many years to permit the owners of cabs and public vehicles to look forward to election day as an opportunity for earning a little money, and I think we might allow candidates to openly expend money for horse and carriage hire at an election. Honorable senators will recollect that there is a limitation on the total expenditure with which I do not propose to interfere. If I thought that my proposal would lead to any sort of bribery or corruption, I should not make it. I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - "45A. Section 170 of the principal Act is amended by adding the following paragraph : -

(7)   'Horse or carriage hire.' "

Senator KEATING(Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I see no objection to the insertion of such a clause, but I am not certain that the words proposed to be used will best meet the case. I think it is necessary to state for what purpose horse and carriage hire is to be allowed, and the words " for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll " should be added to the proposed new clause. Otherwise the clause might be construed so as to permit of vehicles being hired for the purpose of driving voters about an electorate.

Senator Clemons - I have no objection to the suggested amendment.

Proposed new clause amended accordingly.

Senator DELARGIE (Western Australia). - I am not in favour of the amendment. Sufficient facilities are afforded at the present time for the spending of money at elections without adding to their number. In my opinion we should endeavour to reduce the expenditure upon elections as much as possible.

Senator Clemons - There is a limitation of the total expenditure to , £100 for the House of Representatives and£250 for the Senate.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is true that certain limitations have been provided, but if further opportunities are afforded for expenditure at election time, it is possible that the total sum will be increased, although that may not appear in the returns sent in by the candidates. In elections for the Senate, candidates have to canvass the whole of a State, and we need not add to the opportunities for expenditure. I know of no reason whatever for the amendment. So far the Senate elections have been conducted without any apparent necessity for such a provision, and I intend to vote against it.

Senator PULSFORD(New South Wales). - I should like Senator Clemons to reconsider the amendment. If we put in the words suggested, " horse or carriage hire for any voter whilst going to or returning from the poll," it appears to me that we shall provide that while it will be legal to 'convey voters to and from the poll on the polling day, it will be illegal for the candidate to use a horse and vehicle for the purpose of attending his own committee meetings on other days.

Senator Clemons - He may do that now.

Senator PULSFORD - It appears to me that the new clause, if agreed to, would forbid it, as it would limit the use of horse and carriage hire to the taking of voters to and from the poll on election day

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