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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr McCOLM (Bowman) (3:50 AM) . - This subject always raises a lot of discussion - sometimes very lively discussion - no matter where it is considered. On odd occasions I have heard within the organization to which I belong and in a number of other organizations discussion about whether a certain position on the ballot-paper gives an advantage to the person concerned. I have noted with interest that, after such a discussion has been held, there has been a change-over to the holding of a ballot for a position on the ballotpaper. As honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber know, that system works equally as well within our own organization as it does in other organizations. There is not the slightest doubt that a candidate whose name is in the No. 1 position on the ballot-paper in a House of Representatives election enjoys an advantage of between 2i and 4 per cent. That is an established fact against which I do not think anybody could argue.

I was rather amazed to hear the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) cite some figures which he said had been furnished by the Minister for the Interior. The Minister himself cited some of those figures again to-night. In actual fact, they are quite irrelevant to the argument, which is that the No. 1 position on the ballot-paper attracts an extra percentage of votes. It could be said that the attraction of those extra votes is a result of the stupidity or ignorance of a percentage of the electors who are uneducated in electoral matters or who are not sufficiently interested in the outcome of the election. While we have compulsory voting, that situation is bound to arise. So this state of affairs will be with us for a long time. To my mind, the only sensible and fair thing to do is to have a ballot for positions on the ballot-paper. I have advocated that for years. It is not unnatural that I should have done so. My name was last on the ballot-paper on one occasion out of five and usually it has been in the middle. When one sees a candidate whose name is at the top of the ballotpaper attracting votes which he would not ordinarily attract because of his party membership, with the result that a completely false impression of the strength of that party in the particular electorate is given, one feels that it would be a good thing to have one's own name at the top of the ballot-papery and that one could do just as well in those circumstances.

The honorable member for Farrer made a very sensible suggestion the other day. I am surprised that there has not been a lot more reference to it. He suggested that beside the name of the candidate on the ballot-paper there should be an indication of the party to which he belongs. That would do a lot to help the elector who may not be taking as great an interest in these matters as we would hope. I trust the Government will bear this suggestion in mind when it is next considering legislation of this kind. Perhaps it is not too late for consideration to be given to it now and for an appropriate provision to be introduced in another place so that it will be in time for the next election.

I wholeheartedly support this idea of balloting for positions on the ballot-paper. I have not yet heard any argument that such a provision would not be logical or fair.

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