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Wednesday, 8 November 1911

Senator SAYERS (QUEENSLAND) - This Bill is not applicable to the Northern Territory, because, so far, it has no Parliamentary representation. No harm can result from adopting the proposal of Senator St. Ledger.

Senator Guthrie - Why not apply it to Melbourne and Sydney, where justices of 1he peace are as thick as mulberries?" Senator SAYERS. - T do not desire to apply it to large centres, where justices of the peace are as thick as mulberries. I merely ask the Honorary Minister to consent to widen the scope of the clause, so as to permit a defendant to make a statutory declaration if he wishes to do so. I desire to meet the cases of those persons who find it impossible to secure the services of a justice of the peace.

Senator Guthrie - Then why not confine it to them?

Senator SAYERS - I cannot do so. No harm can result from allowing a man to supply a written statement of the 'reasons why his name does not appear on the electoral roll. There are many parts of the country in which he might have to walk several miles in order to get a pen and ink, much less to secure his enrolment. I do not think that we need apprehend that any man or woman will furnish false statements. But where the services of a justice of the peace cannot be requisitioned, persons who are not enrolled should be afforded an opportunity of protecting themselves in some way or another. I do not know whether Senator Guthrie has read the Bill, but, if so, he will find that it is a very drastic measure indeed. In the absence of the amendment suggested by Senator St. Ledger, a defendant whose name does not appear upon the rolls will be immediately punishable. I wish to give such an individual a chance to prove his innocence. We wish to compel enrolment on the part of those who are able to enroll, but we fail to see why others who cannot be reached even by letter should be penalized for their neglect to do so. Even under our Defence Act, which provides for compulsory military training, exemptions have been provided for. There are whole districts which are not brought under the scope of that Statute, merely because of the impossibility of reaching the residents of such areas. But, under this Bill, there are to be no exemptions. I wish to give a man who has not enrolled a chance of defending himself, even if it be merely by letter.

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