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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr DALY (Grayndler) (2:33 AM) .The honorable member for Bowman (Mr.

McColm) and honorable members on this side should have convinced the Minister that there is a lot of substance in the charges that have been made. As the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) said earlier, they are difficult to prove, and as the honorable member for Bowman has said, it is almost impossible to produce direct evidence, but these practices do exist. The Minister's statement that if these things do occur something might be done, hardly supports the expectation that much will be done about them. Earlier, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said that if there is not some advantage to be gained from collecting postal votes, why do people in all parties advertise extensively that electors should telephone such and such a number to obtain a postal vote? I think that, more than anything, these people, who are shrewd and skilled in political campaigning, realize that a postal vote is almost a bird in the hand. They realize that by getting postal votes within their grasp, they could be in a position to pick up the odd vote or the odd 20 votes as the case may be.

The fact that this practice exists must put doubt on the trend of postal votes, irrespective of the party concerned. Some supporters of the Government would imply that these changes are levelled exclusively at one party. I do not make that charge. I suppose that through the years all political parties may have been involved. We think that it is fair to say that people collecting postal votes should be above reproach and that, if we can, we should stamp out the manipulation of these votes.

I can see no reasons why this proposal should not be supported in its entirety, or with certain amendments, if the Government thinks it goes too far. There may be sound reasons for saying that the proposal to close postal voting seven days before the polling day is too wide, and that voting should close the night before polling day. I cannot agree with the Minister that it would be impossible to work this arrangement. However, differences on points of that kind are no reason why the Government should throw out a proposal designed to stamp out malpractices which unfortunately exist, no matter what might be said to the contrary.

This proposal would provide the voter with an opportunity to record a secret vote in an electoral box, under the same conditions as votes are recorded in a booth. Personally, I think the proposal should be supported, and I hope that more members on the Government side will add their support to that of the honorable member for Bowman, who has recognized that these things do happen and must be faced. The fact that there have not been numerous complaints about malpractices over the years does not mean that they do not exist. Those who have been getting away with it will not tell you, and other people probably are not interested enough to find out. What I and other members on the Opposition side have said about political parties of all colours endeavouring to get every possible postal vote indicates how much the parties value them. It suggests that there is more chance of getting a vote in this way than if the voter goes into a polling booth.

I suggest that the amendment might well be supported, or that the Minister, if he is committed by a party decision to vote against it, should assure us that there will be a complete investigation of this aspect of the electoral system so that malpractices will be stamped out in a way that will do justice to the electorate and bring credit on us as legislators.

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