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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr DALY (Grayndler) .- Tonight is the first occasion that I can recollect when I have agreed in entirety with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and to a limited extent with the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). I agree that the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) would, if adopted, introduce a necessary reform. I cannot agree that the Opposition's amendment would require too many officials to put it into practice. The story that too many officials would be required is the usual story put out by departmental officers as a reason why beneficial reforms cannot be introduced. It should be possible every three years to provide the men and women necessary to visit hospitals and operate the mobile polling booths. Under the New South Wales law, there is no stipulation as to the number of patients a hospital must have before a mobile booth will be provided. The hospital may be a large one or it may bc a small one; the matter fs left to the discretion of the returning officer. If a similar provision were inserted in the Commonwealth legislation it would overcome many of the matters associated with voting in' hospitals which are repugnant to the average campaigner. If a candidate or a party is supported by the people running a hospital, it would be only human for that candidate or party to receive concessions from that hospital, either because of friendship or for other reasons. Some candidates are denied access to certain hospitals on technical grounds. The person in charge of a hospital may say that he or she does not want the patients to be disturbed. A nurse may be told to collect postal votes in a hospital, and although patients may trust her, they may in fact inadvertently vote for a candidate other than the one of their choice. Things of that kind happen and the inmate is not able to cast a vote according to his inclinations. Many people in hospitals have very few friends to visit them and help them to record their votes, and in many cases those inmates are denied the right of recording their votes. The hospitals under the control of the various State instrumentalities should be investigated by the electoral officer in order to decide whether mobile polling booths should be set up in those hospitals. If mobile booths were set up the patients would be happy because their votes would be recorded. The mobile booths would relieve matrons of any responsibility and a charge could not be made that votes had been manipulated or obtained contrary to the intentions of the voters.

I am delighted to know that two members of the Liberal Party have decided to support the amendment, and I sincerely trust that the Minister will agree to the proposal. So far he has advanced only one reason why the amendment should not be agreed to. That is the implementation of the proposal embodied in -t would require the services of too many people. As I and other honorable members have said, that argument does not hold water, and there- seems to be no reason at all why this amendment should not be carried. T support it sincerely and T hope that it will be agreed to, because I believe that it would be a forward step in bringing the act up to date.

Members of the Australian Country Party, a number of whom have been interjecting, no doubt do not care what happens to the- electors'. Those honorable members have an' opportunity to speak on this amendment, just as I have.. I think that an honorable member is entitled to air his views on these matters. It is still quite early in' the session and I am not in any hurry to get home. The responsibility rests on the Government.

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