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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - While I confess that, so far as I know, a voting machine has not yet been invented which would, perhaps, gain our confidence, I do not see why we should not devise a means of testing a voting machine which might be invented. At all times electoral reform is a very laudable proposition, and one which Parliament should always be ready to further. We should have upon our statute-book a law whereby, if a satisfactory machine were invented, it could be tested, or its merits discussed in Parliament. That, I take it, is all that Senator Pearce proposes to do by the Bill.

Senator Trenwith - The Government can always do that by an administrative act.

Senator DE LARGIE - I do not think that the. Government would take that course so readily as they would if they had direct authority from Parliament. The Bi 11, if passed, would be an instruction to Ministers to look into these matters and try to improve upon the present cumbersome system of voting. Any one has only to visit a polling booth on election day, in a big centre, to recognise at once that it could be improved upon. The object of this measure is to encourage inventors to persevere with their discoveries, and for that reason I intend to support its second reading. I admit that it would be a mistake to adopt a voting machine before it had been proved to be trustworthy. At the same time, I think that we ought to pave the way for the adoption of an improvement upon our electoral system.

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales) [3.39]. - Even at the risk of being regarded by Senator Walker as having very conservative tendencies, I feel that it will be my duty to vote against the second reading of the Bill. It has been pointed out that all it really does is to call upon the Government to hold an inquiry into the merits of voting machines. I ask Senator Pearce to consider whether it would not be possible for him to attain his end by submitting a motion requesting the Government to hold such an inquiry, and then, if the results were satisfactory, either a Minister or a private member of Parliament could submit a proposal for the adoption of such a system of voting. It would have this advantage, that it would give the Senate an opportunity of judging how far the investigations would justify the adoption of the voting machine. It is always imperative that the utmost care should be taken to insure that votes are properly and correctly recorded. Suppose that the use of a voting machine were sanctioned. If by any chance it should fail at a polling place it would involve the electoral authorities in a great deal of trouble and difficulty. If it broke down after it had got half way through with its work it would be necessary to give the electors in. that polling district an opportunity of again recording their votes. But it might happen that some persons who had recorded their, votes on the machine had afterwards recorded their votes elsewhere, or that persons who had recorded their votes elsewhere might by some mischance, when a second poll was taken., then come in and record their votes. It would give an opportunity for double voting. I wish honorable senators to clearly understand! that I am opposed to the second reading of the Bill, not because I object to the proposed system of voting being adopted, but because I think that it would be premature to pass the Bill in the absence of the information which we ought to have before we decide to bring in a system which is entirely novel, and might not produce the beneficial results which we all desire.

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