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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I gather from the remarks of Senator Keating and Senator Symon that, while they see no disadvantage in the Bill, they fail to see any advantage.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The only disadvantage I see is the discrimination.

Senator MILLEN - I desire to point out what appears to me to be a great disadvan tage in passing declarations of this kind. We have a regular recognised practice of legislation; and this Bill seems to be a new departure, the effect of which must be, itf the precedent be followed, to multiply the legislation on our statute-book by the addition of Acts which can have no vital force or effect until Parliament does something else. Is lit a business proposal to encumber our statute-book and records, and to occupy out time by enacting, what we know to be already the fact, that if at some future time the sovereign Parliament likes to do something it may ?

Senator Trenwith - There is also the suggested amendment of the Electoral Act.

Senator MILLEN - I am dealing with the major portion of the Bill, which relates to voting machines. I address this criticism as a firm believer in the practicability of voting machines, and as one who thinks- the time has arrived when the Government might arrange for some experiment in this connexion on an extended scale. I take it that before the people would be content to intrust to a machine the counting of the votes cast, they would desire to have some very severe test made under actual working conditions. Senator Pearce would have done better service towards the introduction of machines - in which I believe as heartily as he does - had he submitted a proposal in the form df a motion to have a voting machine, or several machines, tested. That could be done without any great difficulty at one of the ordinary elections. That is to say, there could be the ordinary booth, at which the electors could vote under the existing law, and they might then be invited to walk into an adjoining booth, and vote by machine at a mock election. No doubt a large number of citizens would oblige to that extent, and it would not be a costly experiment. At the end of the day it could be determined whether the machine had carried on its work properly and well. Although I am a firm believer in the voting machine, I should hesitate to subject a constituency to the possibility of a second election until , under such conditions as I have indicated, its efficiency had been thoroughly demonstrated. I say this to show that I am not opposing the measure owing to any want of faith in a voting machine, or because I do not approve of the object Senator Pearce has in view. My objection to the measure arises solely from the fact that, if we legislate by a declaration such as this, we might as well do so in regard to every measure, for instance, I might propose that if at any future time Parliament decided to carry a resolution in favour of free-trade, free-trade should prevail. There would be as much justification for a Bill of that kind, as for the Bill before us, which Senator Pearce must see does not help forward his idea in any way.

Senator Mulcahy - It has been a frequent practice to anticipate action being taken by resolution rather than by Bill.

Senator Trenwith - Only when it has been decided that a certain thing should be done.

Senator MILLEN - That is so; just as it frequently happens that when in a Bill a date is inserted on which it shall operate action is suspended. That, however, is entirely different from a Bill of this kind, which merely declares -that if at" some future time Parliament arrives at a certain decision, effect shall be given to that decision. Senator Pearce, having initiated the proposal, I ask him whether there is any advantage in proceeding with a Bill which neither helps nor retards the project, but leaves the Parliament as free six months or six years hence as it is to-day.

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