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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Mr McCOLL (Echuca) - I am surprised that the Government have accepted the amendment. I have never heard of a man or woman being refused by his employer the right to vote, and, in the past, as an employe, I have always been willingly afforded every facility to record my vote. It seems to me that every facility is given to townspeople to vote, and every obstacle placed in the way of the voting of country people. The limit for postal voting has been extended from five to ten miles,, thus depriving thousands of country persons of the opportunity to vote, and unreasonably extending a privilege to persons in towns and in closely settled districts. I should like to know who is to be the judge as to whether inconvenience or danger will result from the absence of an employ^? I suppose the employer must determine that, though nothing is said on the subject.

Mr. CHANTER(Riverina).- The honorable member for Echuca sees great danger in the proposed new clause; but all it provides is that an employe" may take two hours off to record his vote. Notwithstanding what the honorable member has said about his experience, I know that on many large stations in my division, although men are not told that they cannot go to the poll, they are sent to distant parts of the runs to work there, and it is thus made impossible for them to vote.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They should not let it be known how they, are going to vote.

Mr CHANTER - Honest men do not hide their intentions. Surely the provision is a just one;, because an employe cannot be absent from his duties for more than two hours, and provision is made to meet the cases of those in positions of responsibility. Although I have given only one instance of the manner in which men are prevented from voting, I could give scores of other instances.

Mr. HUTCHISON(Hindmarsh).- Apparently the honorable member for Echuca was not present when an honorable member mentioned the fact that hundreds of smelters at Port Pirie were unable to vote, because they could go to the poll only at the time of the changing of ths shifts, and the returning officer could not then supply all who presented themselves with ballot papers. I also know of a case in which a publican refused to allow a female servant to go to the poll, because he thought that she would vote for a Labour candidate, and I am glad to say that she left his employment the same day. Furthermore, it must be remembered that the polling booths are not opened until 8 o'clock in the morning^., when hundreds of men and women have to be at work, and these people do not leave their employment until after polling hours, or at a time when the polling booths are inconveniently crowded, especially for women. Those facts should convince honorable members that the proposal is a fair one.

Mr. BRUCESMITH (Parkes).- I am satisfied that there are cases in connexion with which a provision of this kind may Le necessary, but the Minister should have more respect for his Bill than to allow such a badly-drafted provision to be inserted in it. I am sure that, in view of the complications, no discreet employe" would take the risk of absenting himself from work under- its protection ; and it is certainly a provision which will give occupation to the lawyers.

Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.

Progress reported.

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