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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (3:18 AM) .I move -

That the following new clause be inserted in the bill:- " 11 d. Section one hundred and six of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraphs (a) and . (b) and inserting in their stead the following paragraph: -

(a)   the names of all candidates duly nominated shall be printed in the order determined as follows: -

(i)   The Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall, at the place of nomination, immediately after the close of nominations and before all persons present make out in respect of each candidate a slip bearing the name of the candidate, enclose the respective slips in separate blank envelopes of exact similarity and deposit the several envelopes in a locked ballot-box;

(ii)   The Commonwealth Electoral Officer shall then shake and rotate the ballot-box and shall permit any other person present, if he so desires, to do the same;

(iii)   The ballot-box shall then be unlocked and an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service, other than the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, shall take out and open the envelopes therefrom one by one; and

(iv)   The candidate whose name appears onthe slip enclosed in the envelope first taken from the ballotbox shall be placed first on the ballot-papers, the candidate whose name appears on the slip enclosed in , the envelope next taken from the ballot-box shall be placed next on the ballotpapers and so on until the placing of all the candidates has been determined;'.".

This amendment provides for the determination of the position on the ballot-paper of the names of candidates for the House of Representatives by the same method as has been used for the last twenty years without complaint and, in fact, with universal support, in determining positions on the ballotpaper in elections for the other place.

This afternoon the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) stated the arguments which he had adduced from the figures of voting in New South Wales at the last federal general election. A good statistical coverage can be obtained in a State like New South Wales. The honorable member mentioned the position of the D.L.P., which contested 40 out of the 46 seats in that State. In the seats in which the D.L.P. candidate was placed first on the ballotpaper, that party achieved results very different from those achieved in the seats in which its candidate's name was in another position on the ballot-paper. In fifteen of the 40 seats which the party contested the name of its candidate was at the top of the ballot-paper, and in those seats that party obtained an average of 4 per cent, more of the votes cast. There was, as I have said, a good statistical coverage, and one cannot minimize the significance of the results as shown by that coverage. He also quoted the position of the Communist Party which, however, contested fewer seats. Following the honorable member's investigations, which he gave to the House during the debate in 1959 on the Estimates for the Department of the Interior, I extended the investigation into the basis of the general election figures and gave them to the House in the debate on the Estimates for that department last year.

In New South Wales in 1958, Liberal candidates were placed first on the ballot paper in seventeen House of Representatives' electorates and secured 43.8 per cent, of the votes. In twenty other electorates where they were not first on the ballot paper they secured 39.3 per cent, of the formal votes. In Victoria, in thirteen electorates, the Labour candidates were placed first on the ballot paper and secured an average of 45 per cent, of the formal votes. In the other twenty seats the average Labour vote was 36.1 per cent. The D.L.P. candidates secured first position on the ballot paper in twelve Victorian electorates and polled an average of 16.9 per cent., whilst in the other 21 electorates they secured an average of 13.3 per cent, of the formal votes.

A similar advantage can be seen clearly in respect of the Senate elections in 1958. In Victoria and Queensland the Labour candidates secured the first position or group on the Senate ballot paper. In twenty seats in Victoria, the Labour candidate was not first on the House of Representatives ballot paper. A.L.P. candidates secured 40.9 per cent, of the votes for the Senate - where they were first - and 36.1 per cent, of the votes for the House of Representatives when they were not first. In Queensland the A.L.P. candidates were also first on the Senate ballot papers. In fifteen seats where the A.L.P. candidates were not first on the House of Representatives ballot paper in that State, the Senate candidates secured 41.3 per cent, of the votes and the House of Representatives candidates 37.3 per cent, of the votes.

I submit that it is quite plain there is an advantage of up to 4 per cent, if a candidate is first on the ballot paper for the Senate or for the House of Representatives. I have taken seats where there is a large cover, where there can be no possibility of mere chance or fluke. At the second-reading stage of this bill I pointed out that whereas the Senate members were evenly divided alphabetically, the members of this chamber were divided as to 95 with surnames beginning from A to M and 29 with surnames beginning from N to Z. It is quite clear, Sir, that there is the same advantage in being on the top of the House of Representatives ballot paper as the Parliament recognized twenty years ago when it decided that the position on the Senate ballot paper should no longer be determined alphabetically but by lot.

At the last general elections there were several seats which changed their party allegiance by a narrow vote, and in each case the alphabetical factor was the determining one. The alphabetical accidents were as follows: In Braddon, Mr. Davies beat Mr. Luck; in Kalgoorlie, Mr. Brown beat Mr. Collard; in Stirling, Mr. Cash beat Mr. Webb; in Griffith, Mr. Chresby beat Mr. Coutts; and in St. George Mr. Clay beat Mr. Graham. There were two other seats where the party allegiance was changed. One was Herbert where the sitting candidate was incapacitated throughout the campaign, and the other was one where the Labour candidate received a smaller number of votes than the Liberal and Country Party candidates, and his preferences changed the Government representation of that seat. I could go through all the general elections - 1954, 1955, as well as 1958. The clear pattern emerges that the great majority of seats which have changed their political allegiance one way or another at these, three general elections have changed them in favour of the candidate whose name happened, alphabetically, to be above that of the sitting member.

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