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Tuesday, 29 May 1984
Page: 2004

Senator McINTOSH —Has the Attorney-General seen a report in today's Sydney Morning Herald that April 1985 would be the latest possible date for a Federal election? Can the Attorney-General indicate whether or not that report is accurate?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As I saw the report in the Sydney Morning Herald, and indeed in a couple of other papers, the suggestion was that April 1985 was the latest possible date for a half Senate election if the new senators were to be able to take their seats on 1 July. There are two reasons, as I understand it from the material I have been able to obtain from the Special Minister of State, why the Senate count is expected to take rather longer than in the past: First, some votes which in the past would not have been admitted to the count will be counted, for example, postal and absentee votes and votes by persons whose names should be on the roll but are not for some reason; and secondly, amendments to the legislation which have adopted the Hare-Clark system with some modifications . Under the system adopted in amendments to the legislation as they now stand I am told that the number of counts required to exclude a candidate has increased substantially. Whereas in New South Wales, for example, 40 or 50 distributions of preferences were required, the number is about 1,000 under the new system.

Senator Chipp —That's progress!

Senator GARETH EVANS —I suggest that the case for computerisation and pulling levers is rather overripe. Be that as it may, as the Act stands the count will in fact take rather longer than the figures I have mentioned, but the amendments now before Parliament to centralise the conduct of the count are expected to improve the situation substantially. The argument is based simply on the time that it will take to run the count, suggesting that it is quite impracticable for a half Senate election to be held at any time, as has been suggested in some quarters, right up until 30 June or certainly as late as the month of May.