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Thursday, 3 October 1912

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - Iread with a little interest the statements in the press regarding this matter, but I understand that at present it is receiving attention at the hands of those who ought to be best able to deal with it, because, after all, it is purely a matter for the Statisticians. The fact which Senator Millen has brought forward, that in two States we have more persons on the rolls than the estimated adult population, is a very serious matter. It seems to me that we have a perfect piece of machinery, as far as the enrolling of people is concerned, but, unfortunately, there are many weaknesses for which I do not think that any of the officers can be held responsible, because, unhappily, it has to be worked by human beings. I do not know whether the fault lies with the Electoral Office or the postal officials. With the divided control, it is only too true that a very large percentage of the persons in charge of postoffices do not attend to their electoral duties as they should do. In fact, in some cases they are absolutely ignorant of their duties. It has been my business to call in and ask whether they had exhibited the rolls, but I found that they did not know that there was such a regulation. Again, in regard to forms, they will ask, " If people come to me for a transfer, which form shall I give them?" These officers are loaded up with State and Federal forms, and when a person asks for information, unfortunately in many cases he cannot get it. It would be a great advantage if the State or the Commonwealth took the trouble to see that every individual in a post-office who handles forms is competent to give reliable information. The complicated or differingsystems lead to a lot of trouble. I heard a man, quite openly, ask another man how he could get on the roll. When he was asked, " Where were you when you were last enrolled ?" he replied, " I am not quite sure," and then he was advised to send in a new application right off. These men had no desire to do anything wrong; they merely thought that they could leave it to the electoral authorities to strike off the man's name from the old roll. The trouble was that he did not know the exact spot where he was residing when he was previously enrolled. I have no doubt that the electoral authorities will be able to tell us that there are thousands of such cases. In the cases of New South Wales and Tasmania, it is possible that the rolls and the signatures on the cards sent in have not yet been compared.

It may be that the Commonwealth electoral officers still have thousands of names to strike off. There will be duplicated applications, and will not indicate any intention to commit fraud. The question of getting our rolls into a perfect state is quite above party considerations. We want to know that we are getting a fair deal when we go into an election. Those who have charge of this inquiry at present have been conferring about it ; and I trust that the whole question will be gone into fully. In the end, everybody should be satisfied that things are above-board. I have no doubt that there is really nothing which investigation will not clear up. But if there is anything wrong with our rolls cr methods, we cannot have too much inquiry. As one who is going into an election next year, I am bound to say that the purer the rolls are the better it will be for all of us.

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