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Wednesday, 1 November 1911

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) .-' The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has made some wild and whirling statements as to some very, nefarious doings in some constituency iriTasmania, and he has not brought forward one atom of proof.

Senator Givens - Could you find anylegal proof that, the sun will rise tomorrow ?

Senator McCOLL - Senator Long: started off by saying that he would bringbefore the Senate proof as to the way in which postal votes had been manipulated,, but he has not brought forward any proof.

Senator Long - The honorable senatorhas been overwhelmed with proof, but it has been wasted on him.

Senator McCOLL - We have had noproof at all. The honorable senator said tha* some hundreds of postal ballot-papers were signed, and were sent to the Divisional Returning Officer, but that they had not beensigned by the persons by whom they purported to have been signed. He said that those people went to the poll, not having received their postal ballot-papers, and found that their postal ballot-papers hadbeen voted on, and that, their names having been struck off, they were unable torecord their votes. Is not that the statement of the honorable senator ?

Senator Long - Yes.

Senator McCOLL - If is an extraordinary statement, and it is an extraordinary thing that the whole Commonwealth did not ring with such a doing as that.

Senator Long - It was not my fault that it did not.

Senator McCOLL - It is the fault of some one that the Commonwealth did not ring with it, and the fault of some one that the people who acted in that way were not punished.

Senator Long - It was the fault of the defective system, for which the honorable senator is in a measure responsible.

Senator McCOLL - I do not say there is any defective system. We have in the Act the most stringent regulations for the conduct of elections in regard to voting by post, and very severe penalties can be imposed. The honorable senator says that legal advice was taken, and the opinion was given that no case would stand. Is not that a proof that there was no case, and that what he has been telling us tonight is really not correct? We find that there is a proper mode of procedure by which the postal votes can be checked. It is provided in the Act that an authorized witness shall not witness the signature of any applicant for a postal voting ballotpaper unless, first of all, he has satisfied himself as to the identity of the applicant, has seen the applicant sign the application in his own handwriting, and is personally acquainted with the facts, or has satisfied himself by inquiry from the applicant that the statements contained in the application are true. Under that provision, there is a penalty of £50, or one month's imprisonment. Does the honorable senator mean to say that no effort was made to sheet the charges home and to endeavour to trace who had signed these papers and witnessed the signatures? It is also provided that -

All applications for postal votes certificates and postal ballot-papers received by a returning officer shall be kept by him, and shall be open to public inspection at all convenient times during office hours until the election can be no longer questioned.

Was not that done in the case the honorable senator mentioned? Was there no one on the honorable senator's side checking, and looking after these things? The applications and certificates have to be numbered, and the Returning Officer has to testify as to the number issued. Explicit directions are also given as to the manner in which an elector must record his vote. What the honorable sena tor has told us is astonishing to me, and I can. hardly believe it to be true.

Senator Long - It is true, none the less.

Senator McCOLL - Then some one should have been brought to book and severely punished. I shall be pleased if the honorable senator moves that all the papers be laid before the Senate, in order that we may find out if these practices have been going on. If they have, I, for one, will join in putting a stop to such a state of affairs.

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