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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr WIGHT (Lilley) (2:50 AM) . - I want to say something on this proposed amendment particularly. I have in my electorate, at Sandgate, the Eventide Home for the Aged. When the poll is taken there about 1,000 votes are counted. A part of the old people's home is a hospital. For many years, at general election time, enthusiastic party supporters - I refer to all political parties - have almost lined up at the gate like racehorses, waiting for the time when postal voting canvassing would be permitted. Then they race through the hospital section, trying to persuade as many of the inmates as possible to sign an application form for a postal vote.

After exhausting the hospital section, they race through the other sections of the home in order to interview those who may be crippled or who may have difficulty in getting to the polling booth, in order to persuade them also to fill in applications for postal votes. 1 have protested at this method a great many times because I have felt that much undue strain is placed on sick old people in the home by these enthusiastic party supporters who are trying to do what they believe is the best for their candidates. My criticism of this action is not directed at party supporters but at those who continue the system which allows such a situation to develop. In discussions on this matter I have had a very sympathetic hearing from electoral officers.

The Queensland Government recognized that this situation caused a great deal of unnecessary distress to old people and it instituted a mobile booth system. People are now forbidden to enter the home to canvass for postal votes at State elections because everybody in the hospital section is given an opportunity of voting on polling day. The mobile booth goes around from bed to bed with the electoral officer who is taking the poll and a scrutineer from each of the political parties concerned. If an inmate has any difficulty in voting, the electoral officer, with complete impartiality, asks for whom the patient wants to vote. He then sees that a scrutineer for that candidate gives assistance in filling in the ballot paper. No trouble or problem arises.

I have felt that, in the existing Commonwealth Electoral Act, there might be provisions which would allow mobile booths to operate. I had hoped that, at the next federal elections, it would be possible to adopt at the Eventide Home the practice adopted by the Queensland Government at State elections. This has worked well to the benefit, not only of party workers, but also of people in the hospital section of the home. I for one will support to the hilt the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), even if he has not yet seen fit to stay in the chamber to obtain support for it.


Order! The amendment was moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Mr WIGHT - I am prepared to support it unless the Minister for the Interior (Mr.

Freeth) can give me an assurance that under the existing act there is nothing to prevent the mobile booth system from being implemented in hospitals such as that at the Eventide Home.

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