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Thursday, 10 November 1983
Page: 2625

Mr STEELE HALL(8.10) —by leave-I move:

(16) Clause 103, page 125, line 24, before 'numbers' insert 'consecutive'.

(17) Clause 103, page 125, proposed sub-section 133B (1), omit paragraphs (e), (f) and (g).

(18) Clause 103, page 126, line 4, omit 'other' substitute 'consecutive'.

(19) Clause 103, page 126, proposed sub-section 133B (2), omit paragraphs (e), (f) and (g).

These amendments are aimed at bringing some order into what could be a disorderly situation in the voting system whereby an error is allowed in the voting procedures of one in 10 or one if the number is below 10 in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives. From our reading of the legislation, it would seem that as long as a person had fulfilled his first vote he could cast a nonsense vote thereafter by simply repeating in every square to the required number, the number 'two' or whatever other number is put in the square as long as it is a number. There does not seem to be any requirement that it shall be a sensible choice. I suppose that one comes away from a committee study with different views from others as to what has been agreed to. I lay no blame here at all. I just say that my personal view of the decision of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform was that there would have to be a sensible vote in 90 per cent of the votes or in all but one of the House of Representatives votes . I might be mistaken. It might be quite a genuine mistake. I am not blaming anyone for that. But it is certainly my view that in allowing the voter additional errors to increase the number of formal votes, I had never intended that that would be a nonsense vote, as it could be. I believe a genuine attempt should be made by the voter up to the allowed number of errors in a form with a consecutive use of numbers.

The aim of these amendments is to ensure that the voter is not playing with the system but is making full use of the preferential system. To allow the Bill to go through as it is does strikes a significant blow, I believe, at the preferential system because as I have said, one only has to mark the ballot paper with the number '1' and the others can be a nonsense vote. I cannot see the logic of that. Again, I think we downgrade the intelligence of the electors if we think it is necessary to allow what amounts to a wholesale number of errors. We allow a limited number of omissions, but what about a wholesale number of errors?

On the situation generally of formality of votes I take a much more optimistic view than many others-obviously including Government members-on how Australians react to the challenge of voting. Whilst I deplore informality of voting, I believe it is a credit to electors that about 90 per cent of them vote properly in the Senate. I think that it is a tremendous tribute to voters that they can successfully decipher the ballot paper. Likewise, there is an increased number of formal votes in the House of Representatives because of the simpler ballot paper. I put it to the Government that the attempt to vote should be genuine and it cannot be genuine unless it attempts to make votes consecutively meaningful. I have moved the amendments in that spirit.