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Friday, 15 December 1905

Mr LEE (Cowper) - I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - "42A. - After section one hundred and fifty- three A, the following section is inserted : - 153B. - (1) Notwithstanding anything in this Act, if both Houses of the Parliament by a resolution approve of a system of voting by means of voting machines described in such resolution, the polling at any prescribed polling-places may subject to regulations be conducted by means of such voting machines instead of by ballot-papers.

(2)   After the passing of such resolution the Go vernor-General may make regulations prescribing all matters necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to the system of voting by means of such voting machines.

(3)   Such regulations shall in particular provide for-

(a)   The secrecy of the voting;

(b)   The prevention of fraud ; and

(c)   The polling-places at which the polling shall be conducted by means of the voting machines.

(4)   Regulations made in pursuance of this section shall not have any force until they have been laid before both Houses of the Parliament for. thirty days or, if within that time a resolution has been proposed in either House of the Parliament to disapprove of the regulations, until the motion for the resolution has been disposed of.

(5)   If a resolution disapproving of them is passed by either House of the Parliament the regulations shall be of no effect."

There are now gentlemen in various States who are devoting their attention to the perfecting of voting machines, and if machines are invented which will properly and expeditiously record votes, without the violation of the secrecy of the ballot, and in such a manner that fraud can be prevented, I think that we should make provision for allowing them to be used. The use of these machines is not made mandatory by the proposed new clause, and cannot take place until it has been authorized by a resolution passed by both Houses of Parliament. I understand that the Minister will accept my amendment.

Mr. GROOM(Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I am prepared to accept (he amendment if it is in order. It provides, in effect, that if, after thorough investigation by experts, and, I presume, a trial under very harsh and rigorous conditions, a machine is discovered which will fulfil the conditions essential for the proper conduct of a ballot, it may be used in an election, if its use is authorized by a resolution of Parliament.

Mr Thomas - The passing of the authorizing resolution would be equivalent to the introduction and passing of an amending Bill.

Mr GROOM - Yes. Four or five voting machines have already been submitted to the Department. They are all Australian inventions, and exceedingly ingenious, though I need not particularize their methods of working, because I think that honorable members have seen many of them. I confess that, to my mind, there are many difficulties in the way of using machines for the registration of votes. In the first place, they can be used only in large centres of population, because the Commonwealth could not afford to supply them to every outlying polling-place. This would have the effect of complicating our electoral arrangements by introducing different systems. Then, again, as has been recently shown in Victoria, machines can be manipulated, without the manipulation leaving any record by which the wrongdoer can be traced, or its being even discovered that any wrong has been done.

Mr Chanter - The human machine can be manipulated, too.

Mr GROOM - Yes; but in that case detection of the offenceis more probable. The Electoral Committee recommended that it was worth while investigating the working of voting machines. The evidence given to us on the subject was that they have been used satisfactorily in large centres in the United States, recording the votes polled accurately and expeditiously. But the Department is not yet in a position to confidently recommend the adoption of any machine here, even if the use of machines were sanctioned by Parliament. I fear tEa't the amendment is beyond the scope of the Bill, because the principal Act, which we are seeking to amend, provides for voting by means of ballot-papers, which is essentially different from the recording of votes by machines.

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