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Friday, 30 July 1920

Mr TUDOR (Tarra) .- It is not a new thing to hear in this Parliament complaints made against the Federation by the representatives of a particular State. New South Wales is now complaining that she has not received fair treatment, but the same complaint has come from Tasmania ; from Western Australia, where not so long ago there was a secession movement; and from Queensland - when our white labour legislation' was enforced; from South Australia; and from Victoria. That every State has in turn complained is, to my mind, proof that the Federation has dealt fairly with all of. them.

I have risen to refer to a matter which is of importance to all honorable members, the judgment of Mr. Justice Isaacs in the recent Ballarat election case. Let me read a portion of the Argus report of the case, which appeared on the 3rd June -

Mr. JusticeIsaacs scathingly criticised some of the official methods in the conduct of the election, which took place on December 13, 1919...... Mr. Justice Isaacs, in the course of his judgment, said that the case raised several extremely important points of electoral law, and revealed a great number of official errors, causing disfranchisement of electors. In some cases these errors were due to almost incredible carelessness on the part of local presiding officers. He agreed that two of the votes had been properly allowed, and went on to refer to a number of cases in which, the petitioner alleged, persons had been wrongly ^refused a vote. Petitioner claimed that these and other votes refused vitiated the election.

Speaking of a Mrs.. Franklin, Mr. Justice Isaacs said. -

Clearly she was deprived of her vote by official error. Alfred Season, enrolled for Ballarat East, and Alfred Crowther, enrolled for Buninyong, went to Duverney polling booth outside the electorate to vote as absentees. They were told that no blank absentee ballot-papers were left. The presiding officer was asked to alter some ballot-papers he had, but the suggestion was not acceded to, and the men, after waiting a considerable time, left without voting. Seven persons, duly qualified to vote, were, by official error, prevented from voting. There could not he any doubt that, but for that official error in omitting the surname of McGrath, that vote would have made the numbers equal. In such case the D.R.O. would have been called on to decide by his casting vote. The official errors appearing in the Ballarat section of the case placed the matter beyond question. It was clearly proved that they affected the result, and it was the duty of the Court, in compliance with the. Act, to declare that Edwin Thomas John Kerby was not duly elected for Ballarat, and that the election was absolutely void.

No costs were allowed. After the 1903 election, two petitions were lodged - Dr. Maloney petitioning against the return ofSir Malcolm McEacharn for Melbourne, and Mr. Chanter against the return of Mr. Blackwood for Riverina. Subsequently, in an Appropriation Act - No. 21 of 1905- Parliament voted £100 each to all four gentlemen as an allowance towards their expenses, and in 1913 a grant of £250 was made to Mr. Chanter. In regard to neither of those elections did the presiding Judge make such a pronouncement against the electoral officials as was made the other day by Mr. Justice Isaacs in regard to the conduct of 'the Ballarat election. -In all probability official errors have been made in connexion with the return of practically every member of the House, but the voting is not generally so close as it was in the Ballarat division. Probably, were the difference between the candidates only five votes, almost any election could be upset on that score. But when an election is upset through no fault of the candidates,they should not bepenalized. I understand that an applicationhas been made on behalf of Mr. Kerby that, as the election was declared to be invalid because of the mistakes made by officials, he should not 'be required to pay the expenses incurred in contesting it. I have also seen the MinisterforHome and Territories(Mr.

Poynton) on the subject, and on the 1st of June wrote this letter to him -

Melbourne, 12th June, 1920.

Dear Sir,

With reference to my interview with you on the 5th instant, regarding the petition for the Ballarat seat, I have to request that the question of the Electoral Office paying the costs of this suit on both sides be favorably considered.

As you know, many difficult points in connexion with electoral law have now been settled.

According to the judgment of Judge Isaacs, the voiding of the election was due to mistakes made by electoral officers, and not to either party or candidate.

The Judge ordered, that a shorthand writer be appointed to take notes of the evidence. This cost each side £60. In my opinion, the Department should pay for this.

Section 197 of the Electoral Act provides that no counsel or solicitor should appear unless the parties consent, or the Judge orders this to be done. Mr. J. Kean, who appeared for Mr. McGrath, would not consent to this. The other side applied to the Court, and Mr. Justice Starke ordered that the parties be represented by solicitor and counsel.

I shall be glad if you will favorably consider this matter.

Mr Maxwell - Have you received a reply to that letter?

Mr Poynton - I have told the honorable member that the request has been referred to the Crown Law Department. We are entirely in sympathy with the application.

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