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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr FREETH (Forrest) (Minister for the Interior [2.19 a.m.]. - These are two quite different propositions, although they bear some relationship to one another. Like the Deputy Leader of the OppositionMr. Whitlam) , I thought that time would be saved if we linked the two- matters and voted on them at the same time. I agree, however, that if honorable members have different views about the two propositions they should be allowed to vote separately on them. Let me answer the query of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) while it is fresh in my mind; The interpretation- of the act, as at present adopted, does not mean that the Commonwealth has power to provide for mobile boths in hospitals, but there is room for some doubt about the position. In practice, mobile booths are not used in federal elections.

As the Deputy of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has pointed, out, the electoral visitor system is an additional method of recording, a vote over and above the existing system of postal voting. The Opposition's first proposal was to cut out the provision for postal votes for people who became sick or infirm, or who were approaching maternity, and who lived within five miles of a polling booth. Since that proposal has been rejected by the committee, the Opposition has amended its subsequent proposal in. order to substitute the electoral' visitor system to make provision for those people who are to some extent disfranchised by the rejection of the right to a postal vote. The Opposition is now proposing to superimpose that system on the existing system. This method has the major defect that it does not apply to people who become ill within seven days of the polling date. That, of course, is probably the time when a great number of people who are sick or infirm suddenly realize that they do not want to go to a polling booth to record their vote. The evil that it is proposed to remedy has been enlarged on at great length by honorable members opposite, but there is no outstanding record of demands by people who have been visited by canvassers and who suggest that they might have, the right to apply for a postal vote. There is no outcry at election time that undue pressures are put on people. Party organizations - the Labour Party in particular - make all these allegations.

To load our already quite complex electoral organization with an additional organization at this stage is asking a little too much, I suggest. No great dissatisfaction has been expressed and there is no great evil to be remedied. If such an evil as that suggested by some honorable members opposite in fact existed, I point out that the act provides very strong penalties and that it would be necessary only to take action to remedy the evil. I want to make the point that in the forthcoming elections, whenever they may be held-

Mr Costa - Why not give us the date?

Mr FREETH - That would be nice to know. Whenever the elections may be held, some publicity will be given to the possible penalties for infringement of the act: I can give the committee that assurance at this stage. If there is any indication that the act is being breached, people will be made aware of the penalties. Other than strong and emphatic assertions by honorable members opposite, there is no factual evidence before the committee that there is a. real evil- to be remedied. I cannot at this stage accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition which seeks to load onto our electoral system this complicated visitor system that operates in New South Wales.


Order! I suggest the Deputy Leader of the Opposition might ask for leave to withdraw his request that proposed new clause 11c be considered with the proposed new clause 11a at present before the committee, so that the former might be dealt with separately.

Mr Whitlam - Yes, Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 ask for leave accordingly.

Leave granted.

Proposed new clause He - by leave - temporarily withdrawn.

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