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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) . - I point out to the last speaker that in. this Bill it is not proposed to take advantage of the opportunity te which he refers. It is not a Bill to provide for voting by machinery, but merely a proposal that Parliament may at another time consider such a measure.

Senator Pearce - It says that Parliament mav approve of a particular machine. I do not? think that the honorable senator can have read the Bill.

Senator TRENWITH - The Bill doesnot enjoin upon Parliament the necessity of considering the question of using thesemachines. It says nothing but that, by resolution at some subsequent stage, both Houses of Parliament may agree to theadoption of a voting machine. Our statutebooks are unnecessarily heavily loaded. It is always a misfortune when new Statutesare added to the number of those with which our citizens require to be acquainted.. That is a misfortune even where the new Statutes are necessary, but it is a greatermisfortune if they are unnecessary. Without expressing any opinion on the merits, or demerits of voting machines, because I do not know enough on the subject, I think it is highly probable that the amount which would be required to purchase one of thesemachines would involve an interest chargeas great as the expense of the periodicalprinting of ballot-papers which is at present necessary.

Senator Croft - The information wehave does not show that.

Senator TRENWITH - We have no very complete information on the subject. After all, the printing of ballot-papers is comparatively inexpensive, and if we are to conduct elections over a very large area bv machinery the first cost of thenecessary machines will be very great.

Senator Croft - Under the Bill voting, machines need not . necessarily be used inevery electoral division.

Senator TRENWITH - That is rather an objection than a merit in the Bill. If it is desirable to vote by machinery, it seems to me that it is desirable that thevoting should be entirely by machinery. We are being asked to discuss the question without sufficient information from thehonorable senator who has introduced the Bill, or from any one else, and we are being asked to add to the Statutes of the Commonwealth, which are already very numerous, one which I think is entirely unnecessary.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The object of the Bill is to say that Parliament may hereafter discuss something.

Senator TRENWITH - I have said so. Senator Pearce is proposing, quite unnecessarily, that Parliament may do something by-and-bv if it chooses. That, I think, goes without saying.

Senator Findley - The Constitution provides for it.

Senator TRENWITH - Having said it in the Constitution, it is not necessary that we should say it again in a specific Statute. With the greatest possible regard for Senator Pearce, and with very great respect for his industry arid ability, I shall be called upon to vote against what is, to my mind, an entirely unnecessary measure.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [3.29]- - It is an exceedingly difficult thing to imagine that there will ever be constructed a machine so perfect that it will give satisfaction to all parties concerned in so delicate a matter as the conduct of public elections. I direct the attention of Senator Pearce, and honorable senators who support the Bill, to the fact that at the present time, in the capital of a neighbouring State, there is a condition of great turmoil existing in connexion with a widely extended tramway system, over the working of a brake, which is supposed to be as absolutely perfect a piece of machinery as any that human ingenuity has ever devised. But the persons who are working the brake declare that it is anything but perfect.

Senator Findley - Do not their opinions count ?

Senator Col NEILD - I am not discussing whether their opinions count or not.

Senator Millen - The objection of those who work the brake is that when it fails they cannot detect the failure. In the case of the voting machine, however, the failure could be detected at once.

Senator Trenwith - The Bill does nol provide for that.

Senator Col NEILD - I am pointing out that, while an electrically-worked' machine which has been in use on both sides of the world for many years, and is supposed to be absolutely perfect, is denounced as imperfect and unreliable, we are now asked by Senator Pearce, without the safeguards which surround the passing of a Bill through its many stages - by a hurryscurry kind of process, very 'likely by a snatch division - to authorize the use at a future date of some undefined, and, up to the present, undiscovered machine, which, when it was put into operation, would no doubt be found to be quite as unreliable as was the electrical brake. I am quite sure that those who support the Bill will not see anything in my past life as a Member of Parliament, to warrant the supposition that I am opposed to the introduction of new ideas. I think that the statute-book of my State will furnish a convincing reply to' any accusation of that kind. But, if we are going to have an innovation qf the kind proposed, I would prefer that it should be brought about by Bill. There should be the fullest discussion,' without the possibility of a snap division, before we authorize the introduction of a system which, if it did not work with unfailing accuracy, might produce the most unjust and serious consequences.

Senator Trenwith - It might put us out. Look at that.

Senator Col NEILD - I did not know that with the" majority which the honorable senator and I had we need imagine that the adoption of a voting machine would work sufficiently wrongfully to put us out.

Senator Trenwith - We do not know what machines can do.

Senator Col NEILD - I have never been a creature of a political machine, and I am not very well up in political machinery.

Senator Henderson - The honorable senator did very well at the last election.

Senator Col/ NEILD - I did not know anything about any political machine at the last election, or at any other time.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator was on a good printing machine last time. The Sydney Morning Herald was his machine.

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