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Thursday, 3 October 1912

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I have only one observation to make in reply to the debate. I must express very considerable regret that the Minister of Defence did not give the Senate an assurance, which I anticipated would come very readily from him, that, in view of the figures I put forward, and which he does not challenge, there is a call for some inquiry which will be made. I would even now ask the honorable senator to say whether it is not due to the Senate and to the electors that some assurance should be given that the matter will be looked into. I am not suggesting that the whole of the rolls for New South Wales shall be checked over. There are many ways known to the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department of checking the figures for certain localities in. certain divisions, and, as people purchase goods by sample, the electoral officers, by checking the figures for one block, may arrive at a fair test of the accuracy of the figures given for the whole electorate. I again urge on the Government that the matter does call for inquiry, and I ask the Minister of Defence to say whether he will communicate with the Minister immediately charged with electoral affairs to see whether it is not possible to have some experimental check of the kind I have indicated. I feel confident that Senator Clemons was very near the mark when he said that a number of people who are under twenty-one years of age are being enrolled. I have reason to believe the statement, though one cannot deduce a general practice from one's own experience, which is necessarily limited. I know of two or three households in which young people, who had not reached the age of twenty-one years, but who would have reached that age before it was anticipated that an election would take place, or even before the roll was printed, were enrolled. That is irregular under the law, and though it might not be a serious matter if an election were not precipitated, it might result in circumstances not contemplated by the electors. I have put my figures forward, and they speak for themselves. I again ask the Minister of Defence to communicate with his colleague, and see if it is not possible for the officers of the Department to institute some check. I am certain that they will not do so unless the Minister instructs them to do so. There is an inherent belief in the officers of every Department that the system for which they are responsible, and under which they work, is unimpeachable. If there were anything wrong with it, they would themselves suggest a remedy, and the fact that they have not done so is, with them, sufficient proof that the system is perfect. I submit that I have made out a case which calls for inquiry, and I again ask the Minister of Defence to communicate with the Minister of Home Affairs and see whether it is not possible to institute in the two States Ihave referred to some check to discover whether the rolls have been inflated, as the figures given suggest?

Senator Pearce - I can promise to mention the matter to the Minister of Home Affairs.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator will admit that there is a serious aspect of the matter. It is not a question of which of the Statisticians is right, but of whether the rolls are inflated. I believe that a simple inquiry into the figures for densely-populated localities would show whether the rolls are inflated in the way suggested by the figures, or not. I ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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