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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr OSBORNE (Evans) (Minister for Repatriation) . - The alteration to the system of postal voting that is suggested in the amendment is substantially in line with the system that has been in operation for some years in New South Wales. Experience in that State indicates that the amendment should be rejected emphatically.

If the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) had seen the large-scale disfranchisement of ill people and people who were absent in New South Wales--

Mr Whitlam - This provision would not disfranchise absent people.

Mr OSBORNE - I mean ill people. If he had seen it he would have less enthusiasm for the amendment. In order to bolster up a bad case, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) made the most fantastic charges of widespread abuse of the present postal voting system. He was circumstantial about it and alleged, quite wrongly, that all of us knew about it. It may occur in his electorate; it certainly does not occur in mine. He said that when an application is made for a postal vote it becomes known who has made the application and by devious means the vote is improperly examined. He alleged that, if the ballot paper has been marked in pencil, some one acting in the interests of one party or the other will alter it; that if it has been marked in ink, it may be defaced so as to be made informal; and that if the envelope has been properly sealed, it will be destroyed or defaced in such a way as to render the vote invalid. A simple test can be applied to ascertain whether there is any substance in the fantastic story that has been put up by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. This is the test: If his story is true, the percentage of informal votes cast by postal voters would be higher than the percentage of informal votes cast in the ordinary way. In fact, the position is quite the reverse; the percentage of informal votes cast by postal voters is lower, on the average.

Mr Daly - How do you know that?

Mr OSBORNE - I have inquired about it. You could do the same, because the figures are available to you. I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should check the facts. If he does so, he will find that the percentage of informal votes cast by postal voters is lower than the percentage for ordinary recorded votes. When submitted to that test, the honorable gentleman's fantastic story falls down.

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