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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2618

Mr RUDDOCK(5.54) —I thought long and hard about this clause, because, like the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall), I was worried about what is meant by a 'formal defect'.

Dr Klugman —They probably put the wrong subdivision in.

Mr RUDDOCK —That is exactly what I said. I said to my colleagues: 'That is what they had in mind; people do not know the name of their subdivision, they put down the wrong subdivision or somebody has changed the subdivision'. I thought that if that is what the formal defect is, maybe that is what we should say. It was not my business to try to draft the legislation for the Government. What is a formal defect? Is a formal defect created when somebody forgets to put his signature on a postal vote application? I do not know, but I suspect that that is not really quite what the Government has in mind. Is a formal defect created when a person does not know his own address? Should the officers fill in that information for him? I do not know whether that is what the Government has in mind.

The Government should have given some attention to this matter and defined formal defect and provided that when those alterations were being made scrutineers should see what was being done to satisfy themselves as to whether forms were being filled in correctly. I have a great deal of faith in the returning officer in my electorate; I regard him as a man of great integrity. But it rankles a little when we can put a man, no matter how highly we regard him, in a room on his own to add something to somebody's form so that his vote will be counted. I think it is very important in relation to such matters that we specify the formal defects and what we have in mind. Perhaps we can look at this provision later. We do not want to be unreasonable. I thought the easiest approach was to move the amendment we have moved. If the Government has something else in mind that could define what is a formal defect it can tell us and we can consider it.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 75 to 77-by leave-taken together, and agreed to.

Clause 78.