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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) (4:10 AM) .I rise only to refute the allegation of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) that this amendment is proposed for the convenience of party organizations. A much more important consideration is the fact that unnecessarily throughout the Commonwealth on election days we seriously overwork and inconvenience the very efficient people who staff the polling booths. They must be at the booths by about 7 a.m. They have to get all their papers in order and assemble their organization. The poll does not close until 8 p.m. The count has to be made and it is midnight or later before their day's work is completed. In this age and generation, when shorter hours are the order of the day, some consideration ought to be shown to the people who staff these booths. That is an important aspect. Most of them are temporary employees - school teachers, clerks, labourers, and all sorts of other people - who do this work for a not very generous fee. Since the closing hour of 8 p.m. was fixed, Saturday morning work has been virtually eliminated throughout Australia.

Mr Cash - Nonsense.

Mr POLLARD - The honorable member should not be so utterly stupid and ignorant. It is correct that Saturday work has been virtually eliminated.

Mr Forbes - And you are a farmer!

Mr POLLARD - The honorable gentleman is trying to lead the committee to believe that farmers normally work 60, 70 or 80 hours a week. They do nothing of the sort. Farms are mechanized, and there is no difficulty whatsoever in this respect in the great majority of farming communities. After all, working farm proprietors in the Commonwealth number a mere, but very important 250,000. Compare that number with the rest of the voting population. Whilst there may be an element of truth in the suggestion that a reduction of polling hours may inconvenience a small segment of the farming population who may be in the midst of important harvesting operations on polling day, it is also true that if the Government does not agree to this reform it will continue to inconvenience millions of voters engaged in other types of industry.

Mr Turnbull - They can vote whenever they like.

Mr POLLARD - The Government will be encouraging them to keep polling staffs at work for unduly long hours. Surely the Government should bring itself up to date. The plain fact is that Government supporters are adopting an attitude identical with that which they have adopted to every reform in the way of reduction of hours that has ever been advocated. One has only to look through our political and economic history. When the 48-hour week was advocated people of the same political complexion as honorable members opposite opposed it. Similarly, they opposed the 44- hour week and the 40-hour week.

The CHAIRMAN - Order!

Mr POLLARD - And they would oppose an extension of my time to speak.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The reduction of working hours has nothing to do with the amendment that is before the committee.

Mr POLLARD - The amendment, of its very nature, affects the hours of staff. In addition, under present conditions people are encouraged to dilly-dally. We stand for efficiency. There is no need to encourage late arrival at the booths and that sort of thing. It is true that some consideration has been given to party organizations, but the proposal is not party-political. I stand outside booths with representatives of the Liberal Party and the Country Party, distributing how-to-vote cards. It is plain madness that the staff inside should have to sit in cold unheated rooms, having their meals brought in to them, while voluntary party workers outside have frequently to stand in most adverse weather conditions, especially when elections take place in the middle of winter. It is surely up to this Parliament to set an example that will be followed ultimately in all parliamentary and municipal elections.

I appeal to the common sense and humanitarian instincts of honorable members. In particular, I ask Government supporters to bring themselves up to date and to introduce a reform which will have no political advantages for any party. This is a step that is required in order that this country might march in line with modern developments.

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