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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2777

Senator ROBERT RAY(4.49) —Senator Macklin has raised a potential problem with regard to the legislation. What we have sought to do quite clearly is to reduce the amount of informality, which averages 10 per cent throughout this country. We have done so by introducing a list system of voting and by simplifying the existing method of voting by allowing people still to vote formally. The vote will still be formal even if some 90 per cent of squares are filled out and the other 10 per cent are left vacant. Three numerical sequence mistakes are allowed. What worries me about Senator Macklin's amendment is that I do not think we have had sufficient chance-at least I and other members of the Joint Committee on Electoral Reform have not-to look through that proposal to see what the ramifications are. I think Senator Macklin may be right-that there is a potential danger that people will vote 1 on the top and begin the second row with the number 2. I do not think there is much danger for the major political parties because clearly it is in their interests just to put a number 1 in the top square and call it quits, as a way of maximising their votes. But the Australian Democrats in particular, and others, may have problems because with their renowned independence they like to jump all over the ticket and make things difficult for everyone. That is their right, and no one is trying to take it off them. But it is clear that the informal vote study of 1977 showed that the party most disadvantaged by informal votes was not the Australian Labor Party but the Australian Democrats. That is partly a function of possibly their supporters' much vaunted independence. It may be that they have not been able to hand out the how to vote cards at all the booths. There could be a lot of reasons. I would not suggest for a moment that it is because Democrat voters are stupid that this circumstance comes about.

However, as we have time to look at this question, I suggest we should send it to the Select Committee for discussion so that all parties can have an input, and through that process try to find out whether Senator Macklin's idea is valid and whether there are any objections to it. If Senator Macklin's proposal can be sustained by argument, we would have little difficulty, I would think, in putting a provision to deal with the matter in a miscellaneous law Bill in the spring session, well before any election. I do think that all angles need to be looked at before we can make a final decision on it.