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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 4154


Senator MINCHIN (Special Minister of State;Minister Assisting the Prime Minister) (6:13 PM) —The government has had a good look at this amendment and regrets to say that it cannot support it. I appreciate the sentiment. Our party had the most recent experience of this with the disendorsed candidate for the seat of Oxley nevertheless appearing on the ballot paper as a Liberal candidate. One of the consequences of having names of parties appearing on ballot papers—something I was not all that sure about when it was first mooted—is that you then have the situation of what happens when they are disendorsed. I am not suggesting that we should have another think about whether names or labels should be on the ballot paper, but that is one of the consequences.

We do not think it is appropriate to place the onus on the Electoral Commission to have to put up posters declaring the disendorsement all over the electorate, and indeed all over the state if we are talking about a Senate candidate. We do not think that is an appropriate responsibility to statutorily apply to the Electoral Commission. If it is mandatory, it leaves open the possibility that, if it does not occur in one or two booths or the posters are ripped down or something, it could be grounds for some sort of appeal against the result. We think it opens avenues for litigation, and it is not something that we feel very confident about.

I think the responsibility lies with the party that has taken what is a fairly drastic step—as I know because it is one that we had to take—by disendorsing a candidate in the middle of campaign. While there is an incentive on the party to ensure that voters in that electorate know that `X' is no longer the endorsed candidate of that party, it is an appropriate responsibility for the party concerned to have to carry out, but not for the authority running the election. On balance, we do not support the amendment.