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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr WIGHT (Lilley) .- I cannot agree with the part of the amendment that states that the returning officer shall provide at least two polling booths. That provision would apply to every convalescent home, hospital or similar institution.

Mr Whitlam - Which is a polling place.

Mr WIGHT - Yes. There are a number of such places that are very small and where it would not be necessary to provide two polling booths. I suggest that the word " may " be substituted for the word " shall ". That would give the electoral officer a discretion.

I cannot accept the contention that it needs a big staff to man these mobile booths. From experience T know that it is possible, at the Eventide Home in any event, for the women's section to be closed for voting by about lunch time because by then every female inmate of the home has cast her vote and there is no longer any need for the officers to remain with a ballot-box waiting for votes to be cast. Those officers are able to spend the rest of the afternoon moving through the wards in which patients are hospitalized. All that is required is for an officer appointed by the electoral officer to go round with two scrutineers, one from each party. They could so through the hospital, stop at the foot of each bed and allow the patient to cast his or her vote. That would take no more than five minutes for each patient.

The Minister has said that he will give consideration to this matter. It must be remembered that we will have another election in December, or whenever the Government decides - at least within a matter of months. T feel very strongly about the amount of distress that has been caused to patients in the Eventide Home year after year at election time. I feel, in all conscience, that I must support the amendment, but I do ask that the word " may " be substituted for the word " shall ". I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) will agree that it would not be essential for a mobile booth to be provided in every convalsecent home.

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