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Tuesday, 2 October 1906

Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) - The stage that we have reached in the life of this Parliament warrants us in clearing the notice-paper as speedily as we reasonably can. Senator Clemons has in his mind the possibility of some amendment that might perhaps be of advantage, but I submit that, after all, the ballot-paper is a comparatively insignificant consideration in the taking of a referendum.

Senator Clemons - Ballot-papers which have been used in the States have contained much more information than is proposed to be given in this case.

Senator TRENWITH - Then such information has been, if I may so term it, wastefully given. Any information appearing on the face of the ballot-paper cannot be of any practical use to the elector. If he has not been sufficiently informed before the ballot-paper is placed in his hands, he will have very little time for the acquisition of knowledge afterwards. Senator Clemons complained that we had not had this Bill before us for a sufficient length of time to enable us to intelligently consider it. It has been before us for some weeks, and if honorable senators have not been able to intelligently consider it in that time, how can we expect the electors to understand it when its object is explained to them upon a ballot-paper?

Senator Clemons - We want to make the electors' path as easy as possible.

Senator TRENWITH - I submit that any information that could be conveyed by the ballot-paper would not make the understanding of the elector more clear. We must rely upon administration rather than legislation, as far as that is concerned. Provision is made for a statement with regard to the proposed alteration of the law, which is to be made as lucid as possible. Such a statement could not be printed on the ballot-paper. Senator Clemons urges that the ballot-paper should indicate clearly the question upon which the elector is asked to vote. I take it that that object can be accomplished by adopting distinguishing colours for the ballot-papers in respect to different questions submitted to the electors. We can make it clear that a ballot-paper of a certain colour relates to one particular question, and a paper of another colour to another question, and so on, and the elector will not require to read any explanation in order to enable him to understand.

Senator Drake - There may be five different ballot-pa;pers, each with a distinctive colour - could the elector be expected to identify each colour with a particular subject ?

Senator TRENWITH - Yes, I think so. I have in my mind two colours which are so deeply impressed upon the minds of the people that no special directions would be required to identify them with the questions to which they are related.

Senator Drake - It would be very unfair to choose for ballot-papers certain colours, which might unduly influence votes.

Senator TRENWITH - I think that we ought to clear the notice-paper of some of the measures that we have been discussing for days and weeks.

Senator Clemons - We have not had this Bill before us for weeks.

Senator Drake - The consideration of a Bill practically begins when the second reading is moved bv the Minister.

Senator TRENWITH - I do not think so. The honorable senator has afforded us conclusive proof that the consideration of certain Bills has, in his case, begun long before the second-reading stage has been reached.

Senator Clemons - That has not been the case with most of the measures that have been before us during the last three weeks.

Senator TRENWITH - Perhaps not. The honorable senator pointed out that there was no special urgency in connexion with this measure. But at this stage in the life of a Parliament, every measure is more or less urgent - that is to say, there is always the danger that something mayhappen to cause a Bill to be included among the slaughtered innocents. It would be disastrous if that were to happen in this case.

Senator Clemons - That cannot possibly happen, if we want to have a referendum at all.

Senator TRENWITH - If the other Bills are of such importance that thev ought to be carried, this Bill becomes as important .as any of them, for the reason that they cannot be put into operation without it. We are now within a few hours of the end of the session. At all events, I hope so: and while I have never urged that we should slum our work, but, on the contrary, have always insisted that we should do everything possible to perfect legislation, still, if the honorable senator can suggest no need for an amendment, there would appear to be no reason for delaying the Bill.

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