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Thursday, 13 October 1927

Senator THOMPSON (Queensland) . - For some considerable time the number of informalities in the votes cast for the Senate has been simply appalling. This is one of the subjects to which the Electoral Committee devoted close attention. It took a mass of evidence from men of all shades of political opinion. Informal voting has in recent years shown a decrease, which is a proof that the electors are becoming educated up to the requirements and that the group system is having a beneficial effect. The committee decided that one way of reducing informality was to have the names of the parties printed opposite each group. I therefore move -

That the following new clause be .inserted, after Clause 12a : - 12b. After section 100 of the principal act the following section is inserted - 106a. - Upon receipt within the prescribed time of a request in the prescribed form signed by a candidate or by all the members of u group of candidates and corroborated in such manner as is prescribed, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer may cause to be printed on the ballot paper against the name of the candidate or group of candidates, the name of the political party represented by the candidate or group of candidates.

In support of my contention that that provision would lead to a reduction in the number of informal votes cast, to an extent previously unknown, I 3hall quote from the report of the committee, which reads as follows : -

It was suggested in evidence that in order to reduce the number of informalities in elections, and to enable an elector more readily to carry out his own intention, the names of the parties to which the candidates belong, if any, should be shown on the ballot paper.

Many witnesses were questioned upon this point, including official representatives of political associations and private citizens. In practically all cases the witnesses assured the committee that this innovation would result in much more accurate voting, and would conduce to a reduction in informal voting.

The committee believes that with proper safeguards to prevent the use of unauthorised or inappropriate party names, this procedure would have the result indicated in the evidence, and that it would materially assist the electors in voting in accordance with their desires, and would reduce the number of informal votes.

It is pointed out that the principle has been partly accepted in the system now in use in Senate elections of grouping the candidates, which hus resulted in an appreciable reduction in the number of informal votes.

The only difficulty which was brought to the notice of the committee was a possible confusion of parties. It is perfectly true that an. independent candidate may seek election. Such a candidate would have no clear, definite party, and in the circumstances his name would appear on the ballot-paper without any notation alongside it. The Minister would be very well advised to accept this amendment. It transgresses no principle of the electoral law.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [5.36]. - If the Committee agrees to the proposed new clause, it will he necessary to provide machinery for the registration not only of the various political parties, but also of the officers of those parties who are expected to determine the right of candidates to have the names of the parties opposite their names on the ballotpapers.

Senator Thompson - Each candidate will declare his own party.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is nothing to prevent any one from calling himself Labour or Nationalist.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.Exactly. Unless the parties are registered, and also the officers, upon whose authority the officers of the Electoral Department group the candidates, there will be nothing to prevent any man from claiming the right to be regarded as belonging to a particular political party.

Senator Thompson - At the present time an independent candidate can stand for election.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.If three candidates belonging to an organization supporting the present Labour party are desirous of seeking election, what is there to prevent them from grouping themselves as Labour on the ballot-paper?

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are now two Labour parties in New South Wales.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.As a matter of fact there are two Labour parties throughout the Commonwealth. Are they to be grouped on the ballotpapers as Labour No. 1 and Labour No. 2?

Senator Thompson - No. A candidate will declare himself Labour or Nationalist as the case may be.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.But to what groups will the candidates of the two Labour parties belong?

Senator Thompson - To Labour, of course.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.Candidates of the official Labour party would not be very pleased to have the representatives of the other Labour wing grouped with them under the name of Labour. I ask the committee not to agree to the amendment.

Senator NEEDHAM(Western Australia [5.40]. - The Minister seems determined to have the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill. The Committee must not dot an " i " or cross a " t." I thought that the Minister would adduce some solid argument against Senator Thompson's proposal. No difficulty need be feared on the allegation that there are two Labour parties in Australia. There are some people who call themselves the National Labour party; but they are not members of the Labour party. There is only one Labour party in Australia, and that is the Australian Labour party.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - Would the honorable senator prevent any group of persons from calling themselves Labour if they thought that they were entitled to do so?

Senator NEEDHAM - They shouldbe penalized for making a false statement. The grouping system now in existence is a recognition of the respective political parties. If Senator Thompson had not done so, I intended to move that the name of the party to which a group of candidates belonged should be placed on the ballot-paper. That could be done by agreement.

Senator McLachlan - But by whose authority?

Senator NEEDHAM - By the authority and with the consent of the organization that endorses the candidate, and also by arrangement among the candidates themselves. We have already gone a long way on the road to Senator Thompson's proposal by having the grouping system on ballot-papers, and by designating the groups A, B, C and so on. As a matter of fact when the provision in this respect was debated in the Senate it was regarded as a compromise. If we went a little further and placed the names of the parties on the ballot papers it would be of great assistance to the electors.

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