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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .I want to query one of the arguments advanced by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) to show conclusively that he does not know very much about his subject. The Minister said that unless electors mark every square on a ballot-paper, ex hausted votes could affect the result of the poll. Of course they could! But 1 take it that the ballot is for the purpose of ascertaining the exact will of the electors. Why should an elector be obliged to vote for a candidate of whom he has no knowledge or whom he does not prefer? After an elector has voted for the candidate of his choice it should be optional whether he records a vote for other candidates. A true reflection of the elector's opinion is not obtained if he puts a number alongside every name on the ballot-paper without knowing the candidate's qualifications. By this system, we advocate, an entirely different result could be obtained from that which might be regarded as reflecting the will of the electorate.

The Minister has advanced an extraordinary argument. Anybody would imagine that he was not concerned about what the people desire. I have always been of the opinion, as have greater authorities than I on these matters, that the registering of preference votes should be optional at any election. A well-known public figure in the sphere of electoral matters, Mr. A. G. Huie, has always favoured optional preferential voting. He has made a life study of systems of voting. I imagine that the Minister is not well advanced in this subject or in any other subject. I suggest that he examine this matter again and consider the arguments that have been advanced. We have heard every member of this committee say, at some time, that he believes in democracy. The intention at an election should be to ascertain the will of the people. If you compel them to vote for people in whom they have no interest and of whom they have no knowledge you do not get an expression of the true will of the electorate.

Question put -

That the new clauses proposed to be inserted (Mr. Whitlam's amendment) be so inserted.

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