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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2486


Senator ROBERT RAY(12.43) —I do not think there is much chance of pre-poll votes going astray. They are delivered to an electoral office. They are usually made to the same electorate. There is already a cut-off point for postal votes which this legislation extends by three days. I suppose one could say that if there has to be a cut-off point we are going in the right direction. The problem with absentee votes is that if there is no time limit, is it open-ended? I think there are votes still missing from the United States for the 1984 election-however, I could be wrong-which have just never turned up. One of the key factors will be administration. Last time diplomats at overseas missions were instructed to use a courier service and not the diplomatic bag but, being diplomats, they ignored the direction. They had better not do so again otherwise they might find themselves before the Public Service Board. It is essential that those votes come in. However, we need a cut-off point. I have a lot of sympathy for what Senator Sir John Carrick said today. If possible, I would like to see a compromise on this matter. I do not think the choice should be simply between having an open-ended system or a cut-off point.


Senator Sir John Carrick —I did not put that.


Senator ROBERT RAY —Unfortunately, as I understand it, there is nothing else before us in terms of an alternative cut-off point. There is a failsafe mechanism-the Court of Disputed Returns. The honourable senator should remember that the legislation allows disputed votes to be counted. So, if at the one election for each Federal Parliament at best, deferred votes were going to influence the result, the court could definitely rectify the situation.


Senator Sir John Carrick —But why go to the courts, with all the costs and everything else?


Senator ROBERT RAY —The point is: What happens if the votes come in eight months later? We cannot leave a seat unrepresented in this Parliament, which is what could happen. That is the problem, as indicated by Justice Stark in the Nunawading case. He pointed out that the legislation had no cut-off point at all.

Progress reported.