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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- For the purposes of this debate let us accept - though I do not accept - the thesis of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) that the travelling or absent voter is more likely to be Country Party or Liberal than Labour. I think the honorable member will agree that sickness does not fall on people according to their party affiliations. If one dissects the sick vote in an electorate, it should follow the distribution of votes in the electorate generally. The honorable member for Hume has spoken as if the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) would affect travelling and absent voters. It would not have such an effect. It deals with the sick and infirm within five miles of a polling place and it is designed to let them have a private, secret vote.

Like the honorable member for Hume, I have never heard of anybody faking a vote but a matter that did not relate to my electorate was brought to my attention because the woman concerned happened to be the mother of a boy I once taught when I was a teacher, and I was a political figure whom she felt she could approach. What happened in her case was that a party organizer had come into a Silver Chain Nursing Home in Western Australia where she was a patient and said, "This is your ballot-paper " and had filled it in for her. She saw how the ballot paper had been marked and objected, " I do not want to vote in that way ". The counterfoil had been sealed. The woman organizer said, " Oh, you do not want to vote in that way? ", and she tore the counterfoil open and marked the ballot paper in the way that the voter wanted. But the fact that the counterfoil was torn and that the vote went in in that form meant that the vote would be invalid.

I cannot see the force of the objections of the honorable member for Hume to the proposed amendment. After all, if we look at the matter from the point of view of a parliament attempting to keep the counting of the votes that determine the nature of the parliament in neutral and responsible hands, what a scandalous thing it must appear that in election advertisements, parties put three or four telephone numbers which a person can ring to ensure that he gets a sick vote. Why on earth is if impossible to prevent parties advertising these numbers in the press? It should be made quite illegal for a political party to publish telephone numbers in an advertisement appealing for sick votes. It should be mandatory upon the Commonwealth Electoral Office to advertise telephone numbers to which one can apply for a sick vote. What objection could any honorable member have to that procedure?

Mr Freeth - This has not anything to do with the amendment.

Mr BEAZLEY - No. I do not think the abuse in relation to postal voting is that there is a mass faking of votes. I rely on my own experience and what I was told by a member on the other side of the chamber. He told me that he had to stand up a supporter who had said that he knew a number of people had not voted for the member and that he was not going to allow their votes to go in. The member said that would not support that sort of thing. I have walked into the Trades Hall in Fremantle and seen piles of postal votes. If one were dishonest, it would be quite possible to ensure that those votes did not go in. The point is that the collecting of sick votes - I stress this aspect particularly - is not in neutral hands. The efficiency of a party organization lies in rounding up the votes that the organization thinks will support it and not those that it does not think will support it. I do not think that there are sufficient grounds for allowing that kind of voting to continue. I do not think it is desirable. I cannot understand why it is not possible in great institutions, such as hospitals, where it is known that there are some thousands of voters, to have an electoral officer and scrutineers charged with collecting votes. That is not the position at the present time. The lady to whom I referred earlier, who directed my attention to her preparedness to make an affadavit, was very sick. She had to fight to cast her vote in the way she wanted it cast. She felt the pressure of this partisan electoral worker. Unfair pressure takes place under the system that we have now.

Question put -

That the paragraph proposed to be inserted (Mr. Whitlam's amendment) be so inserted.

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