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Friday, 7 October 1927

Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) . - I was pleased to hear the Minister who brought down the bill (Senator Glasgow) eulogise the work of the select committee that investigated the working of the Commonwealth electoral law; but I should have been better pleased if the Government, had not rejected some of the recommendations made by that body. I refer particularly to the retention of enrolment for a period of three months after an elector has left his sub-division. Careful consideration was given to the matter. There were two aspects, one of which was the removal of the name of an elector when he had been absent from his usual' place of abode for a period of one month. That provision has given rise to a 'great deal of trouble throughput the Commonwealth. The suggestion which went furthest towards a solution of the difficulty was to make the period uniform with that required for enrolment - three months. The department said that a period of ten weeks usually elapsed before a name was removed, and that that was a sufficient protection. I am not convinced that it is. In Queensland the names of large numbers of men have been known to be transferred from some electorates to others to suit the convenience of certain people. It is not desirable that such gerrymandering tactics should be adopted in the Federal arena.. .The Minister urged as an objection against the proposal the fact that three of the States are working under a joint roll, and that they would be obliged to pass amending legislation so as to keep in line with the Commonwealth. Such an argument has no force. There would be no breach of faith on our part. The conclusions of the committee were arrived at as the result of evidence taken in every part of Australia from men of all shades of political opinion as well as from the Divisional Returning Officers. I value the opinion of the head of the department., but it ought not to be accepted in preference to that of the committee. Another recommendation that has' not been - adopted is that the titles of the political parties should be placed on the ballot-paper opposite the names of the candidates. That would have been merely one step further than the present system of grouping parties. We held the view that it would lead to a reduction in the number of informal votes cast. I hope that we may be able to induce the Minister to accept an amendment along those lines in committee. I do not agree with the sentiments that have' been expressed by Senator Needham in regard to postal voting. If I happen to be absent from my electorate on polling- day, surely I ought not to be deprived of the right to record a vote. The sick, the aged, and other persons also have to be considered. I believe that the postal ballot is absolutely secret. Secrecy can be destroyed only if an elector indicates the manner in which he or she has voted. I defy any person to prove that there is not secrecy under the ordinary procedure for the recording of a vote by post. The time limit has been reduced from the seven days recommended by the committee to four days. That recommendation was made after very close consideration and on the advice of persons who live at a long distance from a Divisional Returning Officer. I ask that it be restored in committee. A number of suggestions were made concerning matters of administration. It would afford great relief if we were assured that they would be given effect to in the department. They were advanced with a full knowledge of all the circumstances, and- we believe that, they would lead to greater efficiency. The standard which has been attained in the Federal arena is very much higher than that in the States, but it could be made more nearly perfect by the adoption of the recommendations of the committee:

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