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Friday, 27 October 1911

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) . - With all the honorable senator's aspirations for the purity of elections, and the perfection of our electoral law, I think that every honorable senator is in sympathy. But the more we consider this measure, the more strongly we are confirmed in the opinion that it has been introduced in the interests of one political party, and is directed against another. Senator Givens was, I think, the first honorable senator on the other side who endeavoured to give us concrete cases of what he considers wrongdoing under the operations of the postal voting provisions of the existing Act.

Senator Givens - I am sure that the instances I cited have the honorable senator's condemnation as well as mine.

Senator McCOLL - I should not be prepared to condone the action of any one who infringes the electoral law. I hold, as does Senator Givens, that it is the very foundation, not only of our politics, but of our liberty and good government. I should be strongly opposed to any one who would set aside the principles which ought to govern elections. J do not think that the honorable senator was as successful as he supposes he was in proving his case. He said that he did not know why the amendment was moved.

Senator Givens - I was wrong, if I said that. I know that it was moved to enable Senator McColl, and other honorable senators opposite, to talk again.

Senator McCOLL - I think that the honorable senator who moved the amendment was well-advised in doing so, because it gives us an opportunity to concentrate our attention upon the chief blot on the Bill. We do not say that the Bill as a whole is bad, but we do say that those clauses of it which would abolish voting by post are directed against classes in the community who ought to be protected rather than attacked, and that they will work great harm and injustice. Senator Givens argued that the Bill is intended to secure the purity of elections. Portions of it may be required for that purpose ; but, most certainly, the whole of the Bill is not required for any such purpose. The honorable senator gave us instances from Queensland which he said were a public scandal. .He mentioned the case of the Townsville election, at which he told us one-third of the votes recorded were postal votes. That may be a glaring case of abuse of the postal provisions; but I am not acquainted with the facts. But when the honorable senator further told us that mining managers have gone around striking fear into the hearts of the wives and female relatives of miners, I think he was belittling the miners of Queensland and their women folk. I do not think" the miners would allow themselves to be so dominated ; and I believe their women folk would resent very strongly any attempt to force them to vote in a way they did not desire. I think a good deal of that statement may be taken as mere gossip. Senator Givens was scarcely fair in speaking of these cases, inasmuch as he did not tell us what had taken place afterwards. I have learned, since the honorable senator spoke, that the cases to which he referred were the subject of a judicial inquiry.

Senator O'Keefe - I rise to a. point of order. For the guidance of others who may desire to speak to the amendment, I should like your ruling, sir, as to whether it is competent for an honorable senator who has already spoken on the main question, to traverse the general provisions of the Bill in debating the amendment?

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