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Territorian cattlemen worried postal votes wo -

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ELEANOR HALL: As Territorians prepare to go to the polls this weekend, the Northern Territory's
peak cattlemen's group is warning that hundreds of voters on remote cattle stations will not have
their ballots counted.

Stations on the Barkly Tableland near the Queensland border are often hundreds of kilometres away
from the nearest polling booth and so most people on the stations lodge postal votes instead.

But with a weekly mail plane service that has to goes via Queensland, the Cattlemen's Association
says it's concerned that many of these votes just won't make it.

Sarah Hawke reports.

SARAH HAWKE: In the Northern Territory, when you talk about the Barkly Tablelands, you immediately
think of large cattle stations often hundreds of kilometres from the nearest community.

It's also in drought and the stations are spending a lot of time looking after cattle, which means
many people can't get away.

While the Territory election is tomorrow, postal votes don't need to be back at the electoral
commission in Darwin until next Friday.

The problem on the Barkly is that some pastoralists say they're still to receive their postal vote
and with a weekly mail service that goes via Queensland, many are nervous they won't make the
deadline, which could affect up to 300 votes.

Luke Bowen is the executive director of the NT Cattlemen's Association:

LUKE BOWEN: Mailbags are dropping off some of the forms at the moment, this week and return of
those postal votes will not be possible until next week. This would be probably Thursday and Friday
of next week, at which point, a day or so later, the ballots have to be in.

Some of these mailbags are actually sent back through Queensland, Mount Isa through to Brisbane and
then onto Darwin. The reality is that a lot of votes would not even arrive in Darwin even two weeks
later.

SARAH HAWKE: Other than the actual postal system, what other options are there for pastoralists on
the ground?

LUKE BOWEN: I think there's about four mechanisms that are currently available. People can record a
pre-poll. There also have been mobile polling booths. Now, we know that there has been quite a bit
of money spent getting polling, mobile polling booths to families of five and six in some
communities.

We have ... there are very limited polling, mobile polling booths that have been able to be put out
onto stations.

Bearing in mind that some of these stations cover large areas of countries and have what is
effectively a small township. A number of these stations on the Barkly have 80 to 100 people.

SARAH HAWKE: Luke Bowen says he has written to the Northern Territory administrator to have the
deadline for postal votes extended, but protocol means that's unlikely to happen.

LUKE BOWEN: I guess the issue for us is, whether it's one vote or it is a thousand votes, the
principal about the right of everybody to be able to register a vote is what we are concerned
about.

SARAH HAWKE: Most of the stations affected are in the seat of Barkly which covers an area larger
than Tasmania and Victoria combined.

It's held by Labor with a strong margin but the popular sitting member, Elliot McAdam, is retiring.

Mick Adams is running for the Country Liberals. He believes any loss of votes may affect the
outcome.

MICK ADAMS: It is a huge, a huge concern. A lot of them are on email now and good computer set ups
and all that so, modern technology, surely they can somehow do a security vote over the internet.

Surely there is something like that they can do now rather than rely on the old postal votes which
is totally out of date and, you know, aeroplanes don't get around as much as they used to.

SARAH HAWKE: Given that the Labor candidate in that seat is retiring and therefore there is a new
set of fresh faces, how much of an issue could this play in the final result?

MICK ADAMS: My particular feeling is that it will affect my seat very much because there is a
couple of hundred votes out there and a couple of hundred votes can obviously swing a seat.

This has been a concern right from the word go and I know that the Country Liberals are in big
discussions with the ... have had some discussions with the Electoral Commission and I know the
Cattleman's Association has had discussions with them.

What the result has been I'm not sure because I have been out and about for the last couple of
days, out of phone range.

SARAH HAWKE: The Northern Territory Electoral Commission says it can't speak publicly during a
campaign, but has issued a statement saying its doing all it can to ensure the votes are counted
and is discussing arrangements with Australia Post.

ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Hawke reporting.