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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2618


Mr STEELE HALL(5.52) —This clause deals with the correction of errors by an officer. I am sure the Committee will agree without demur that a formal defect as simply stated here should not prevent the obtaining of a ballot paper or the admission of a ballot paper. However, there is no definition of a formal defect. It is therefore left to the officer to decide, as far as I can interpret the legislation, what the formal defect is. We would all at first blush immediately say that we would know what it is, but in the fight for postal votes and their admission in a close count there is enormous pressure in regard to what is a proper vote to admit and what is not. This provision is altogether too loose and will cause a great deal of contention about which votes should be in and which should be not. What is a formal defect? This amendment throws the onus back on the elector. It says that a formal defect is other than an error or omission by the elector. I think that is fair enough; at least it makes clear to the officer what to admit in a poll. If the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) has a better idea, I will be happy to agree to it. I am not here to support a particular wording, but unless there is some wording which defines a formal defect this clause is at fault and needs the type of amendment which I move now. I move:

(9) Clause 74, page 101, line 24, after 'error,' insert 'other than an error or omission by the elector,'.