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Thursday, 13 October 1927

Senator GRANT (New SouthWales) . - Throughout Australia the names of the candidates at municipal and State elections are invariably placed on the ballot-papers in alphabetical order. So far as I know, in no State election are the names of the candidates divided into groups. Since the establishment of the Commonwealth, the names of candidates for election to another place have always been placed in alphabetical order on the ballot-paper. That also was the practice for some years in connexion with Senate elections ; but on account of the large number of informal votes, or for some other reason, it was decided later to divide the candidates into groups according to the political parties to which they belonged, placing their names in alphabetical order in each group. The object was to make it easier for the electors to identify the candidates belonging to the party they supported. The number of informal votes cast in connexion with Senate elections has not decreased because of the alteration in the system of placing the names of candidates on the ballotpapers. I believe that the number runs into a good many thousands in some of the States?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In New South Wales at the last elections it was 73,000.

Senator GRANT - That is probably about 8 per cent. or 9 per cent. of the total number of votes cast. It is extraordinary that in a country which has compulsory education, and where practically every person can read and write, such a large number of adults fail to mark their ballot-papers as required and in accordance with their real desires. I do not know what are the principal causes of informality. An elector has merely to mark his or her ballot-paper in the order of preference. That should not be beyond the ability of the average elector. A wrangle occurred in the ranks of the Nationalist party prior to an election, at which the late Senator E. D. Millen, ex-Senator Garling and Senator Thomas were the candidates of that party for the Senate. The controllers of the party decided that the order of preference should be " Garling (1), Millen (2), Thomas (3)." Whilst Garling was absent from headquarters another caucus meeting was held, and, rightly or wrongly, Millen was placed first in order of preference. I believe, although I am not quite sure, that the others were placed " Thomas (2), Garling (3)." That was the official ticket throughout the State, and electors had merely to follow the orderset out on the " How to vote cards that were placed in their hands on election day. We must all admit that every possible care is taken and no expense is spared, at least by the Nationalist party, to inculcate in the minds of the electors the order of preference they wish to have observed. Senator Thomas appears to think that it would make an enormous difference to have the names arranged not only in groups, but also in the order decided upon by the head-quarters of the different parties. That might or might not have made a difference at the election to which I have referred. I do not consider that Senator Thomas has made- out a case sufficiently strong to justify the committee in accepting his proposal. I doubt whether the number of informal votes has been reduced as a result of the adoption of the existing system, under which the names of candidates are arranged in alphabetical order. The election of a man to the Senate is dependent upon a number of factors which are quite distinct from that mentioned by Senator Thomas. I cannot support the amendment.

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