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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr MAHON (Coolgardie) - I notice that it is the privilege of any person to lodge an objection to any name on the roll, provided that he deposits the sum of 5s. in respect to every objection; but this proviso does not apply to returning officers and registrars. Returning officers, I presume, will be Government officials, but it may happen that the registrars will not be; and, in any case, some of them may not be, above temptation to abuse their positions. They have the privilege of objecting to any name without lodging a deposit of 5s., and it does not appear to me that it is necessary for them to put their objection into writing. Under the principal Act, an individual objecting to a name on a roll is obliged to state the grounds of his objection, but it is not clear to me that the same obligation rests upon returning officers or registrars. Apparently, one of them might merely say, "I object to such and such a name being on the roll," without giving any grounds whatever for the objection. I suggest to the Minister that he should apply to returning officers and registrars the same rule as is applied to ordinary individuals.

Mr Fisher - Except as to lodging a deposit.

Mr MAHON - Yes. If the Minister thinks that form D of the schedule to the principal Act must be used by returning officers and registrars, then, apparently, there is some defect in the drafting of the measure. To make assurance doubly sure. I should like to move the insertion after the word "roll," at the end of proposed substituted clause 69, the words -

The grounds for each objection shall be in writing, and shall be transmitted to the Chief Electoral Officer on the completion of any roll.

Mr Groom - Why should they be transmitted to the Chief Electoral Officer?

Mr MAHON - That they may be retained as records, so as to be accessible to any person whose name has been improperly removed from the roll.

Mr Groom - The objection should be kept in the office of the divisional returning officer.

Mr MAHON - I wish him to be compelled to state, in writing, the grounds of his objection, and I want that statement to be accessible to any person whose name has been improperly removed.

Mr Robinson - Why not strike out the words "or make," after "lodge," in proposed substituted clause 69?

Mr MAHON - I am not wedded to my amendment, and will not press it if the Minister can show me that the obligation rests on returning officers and registrars to state the grounds of their objections in writing in such a way that they will be accessible to those who feel aggrieved by their actions.

Mr. GROOM(Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - The practice has always been, whenever an objection is made, whether by an officer or private person, to forward a statement of it in writing to the person objected to, though, if the honorable memberthinks that the meaning of the clause is not clear, I have no objection to making it clearer. We can expressly makeform D of the principal Act apply to both private persons objecting and to the divisional returning officers. The intention of these provisions isto do what the honorable member says should be done. However, to make the meaning clearer, and to remove the honorable member's doubts, I move-

That after the word " objection," in proposed substituted clause 69, the words " in writing, setting forth the grounds of such objection," be inserted.

Mr Mahon - Will the statement of objection be accessible?

Mr GROOM - Yes. It must be filed, and a notice of it sent to the person objected to.

Mr Hutchison - Those notices seldom reach the persons to whom they are add res scd

Mr GROOM - That is the fault of the Postmaster-General's Department.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. BATCHELOR(Boothby).- I desire to move this further amendment -

That the following new substituted clause be added : - " 72A. If any objection is held by the returning officer to be frivolous, the person objected to shall be entitled to a reasonable allowance, not exceeding ^5, and the returning officer shall award such sum to be pa-id by the objector, and in default of payment, such sum may be recovered in any civil Court as a de°bt due by the objector."

Section 83 of the principal Act provides that if any objection is not established, the Court may award to the person objected to a sum not exceeding £5 for costs, but no costs are to be awarded if the Court is satisfied that in objecting the objector acted in good faith, and on reasonable grounds. In the case of a frivolous objection being lodged by a person other than an officer, the Court has power under section 84 to inflict a fine up to the sum of £5. Both these provisions have been left out of the new clause. As a rule, perhaps, the fine inflicted would not be so much as £5, but where electors have been called upon to meet frivolous objections, their expenses ought 10 be reimbursed. In the case of unreasonable objections being lodged by subordinate officers, the returning officer would always be in a position to deal with those persons, either bv dismissal or by reprimand.

Mr Groom - I am not quite so sure that the new clause is not wide enough to cover those cases.

Mr BATCHELOR - There is no reason why costs should not be granted against private persons who may be held to have lodged frivolous objections.

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