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Thursday, 20 May 1965

Senator HENTY (Tasmania) (Minister for Civil Aviation) . - I should like to give the Senate a little more information which has just come to hand. It probably will resolve some of the doubts in the minds of honorable senators. It is to the effect that the Government has decided to make a grant of £5,000 a year for three years to the University of Tasmania to allow detailed studies to be made into Commonwealth electoral methods. The University, which has charge of the project, has arranged for Mr. Howatt to do the research. The University will receive the grant funds from the Commonwealth and will decide how the money is to be disbursed.

The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) has asked the University to arrange research initially into the following projects -

Ways and means of reducing informal voting at Senate elections;

Preferential voting - extent to which preferences should be marked;

Methods of eliminating or improving " random selection " in Senate elections.

As work on these projects proceeds, the Minister expects to propose research into a number of other subjects such as " donkey" voting, the filling of casual Senate vacancies, and other matters.

Mr. Howatthas been engaged almost exclusively for 12 years in research into aspects of the Australian electoral system. The University of Tasmania has become widely known for the electoral research undertaken under its direction by Mr. Howatt, who has completed studies for the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments and for New South Wales authorities. He has paid particular attention to the proportional representation system.

Mr. Howatthas studied electoral systems used in other countries, and is the author of a large number of published discussions on electoral systems in magazines and newspapers in the United States and Australia. He graduated with honours when he gained his B.A. degree at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and with the highest grade awarded when he gained his M.A. degree at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Before coming to Australia Mr. Howatt was lecturer in government from 1947 to 1952 at Lehigh University.

Because of Mr. Howatt's wide knowledge of Australian electoral methods and the large volume of background information he had gathered in his studies it was felt he was specially suited to undertake the research required and that it was not necessary to look further for a suitable person to do the work. I point out that electoral research is a function of the electoral branch of the Department of the Interior.

I remind honorable senators that it is the University which is receiving the grant; that it is the University which will be in charge of the project and that it is the University which will decide how the money is to be disbursed.

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