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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2620

Mr HUNT(6.09) —I wish to make a final plea on behalf of the 8 per cent of people who have availed themselves of the opportunity to cast their vote between 6 o'clock and 8 o'clock. They happen to be people of various religious faiths but, in my own electorate they happen to be people living in very remote parts of New South Wales. On wet polling days, for instance, it often takes them up to half a day to get to the polling place.

Mr Robert Brown —Come on, Ralph. There is no one who takes half a day.

Mr HUNT —The honourable member does not understand this. I ask him, please, to let me make a plea for my people. He made a plea for his electors in Hunter. I listened with great intensity to the problems of his people.

Mr Robert Brown —I know you did.

Mr HUNT —I ask him to listen with some respect to the problems of my people- people who I have some feeling for, people who live in isolation. They do not have television reception and barely are able to receive radio broadcasts. They educate their children by using the Flying Doctor Service communication system and so on. These people are living hundreds of miles from a polling place. The trend has been to close down polling places to make it easier for the polling system. I honestly believe that the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform endeavoured to give an opportunity to the maximum number of people to cast a valid vote on polling day. It was a genuine attempt. I am pleased that the Government has adopted the recommendations in respect of the mobile polling booths.

So much has been done in this legislation to make it easier for itinerants, Aboriginal people and other people to cast a vote. It is all very well to say: ' Yes, we will have a roll for those people who want a postal vote. We will do that'. But not everybody in these remote areas will use a postal vote. These people have relied on going from their place of residence to the polling place on polling day. Believe you me, on wet days or in flood times it takes them up to a day to go from A to B. This represents a small number of people, it will not make or break any political party. But I believe, as one who represents a very isolated electorate, that it was a great mistake not to maintain the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Other people have argued the case of the Seventh Day Adventists, as the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) has done, and people of the Jewish faith. But I would not be doing my duty if I did not register a protest in this chamber on behalf of the people who live in remote situations.