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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3325

Dr KLUGMAN(9.36) —The honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall) made the good point that the Opposition is considerate in allowing us to deal with all these amendments from the Senate in one go. I think the Opposition has indeed been highly considerate. In the Senate it did not dispute public funding or the question of the list system for Senate voting. All the Opposition wanted to do was to extend it. I think that is fair enough. After all, the party of the honourable member for Boothby brought in the list system. The Liberal Party recommended the list system of voting. The introduction of the two-sided, and now three-sided, system is of course due to the Opposition. The Australian Labor Party brings out only one how to vote ticket. It would suit us much better to register a single how to vote ticket.

However, in the last couple of elections the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia, at least in Queensland, ran two separate Senate teams. It was therefore felt, for example, that the Democrats, who wanted to give preferences either to the Liberal Party, the National Party or the Labor Party, should be able to register three suggested how to vote tickets. I am not enamoured of the idea of having three tickets. I think the recommendations by the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform, of a maximum of two, was a better proposition.

I now turn to the matter of the enrolment of 17-year-olds. The honourable member for Boothby referred to the great administrative difficulties which could arise. I suggest that if the amendment moved earlier by the honourable member for Boothby were passed administrative difficulties would indeed arise. I remind the Committee that the aim of that proposition is to allow those who turn 18 before the date of an election to vote. The proposition from the Opposition was that they should be able to register only during the six-day period between the announcement of the election and the closure of the rolls. That would indeed cause quite significant difficulties because of the large number of people who would have to enrol if they turned 18 in the following 28 days that elapse. We felt that it would make it less difficult if people enrolled as soon as they turned 17, if they wanted to, in case an election was called. There is no suggestion that the 17-year-olds will get a vote. It is one of the Opposition's fears which I can understand, because it is worried about the young vote, but that should not be a real fear.

On the matter of enrolling people who have no clear cut subdivision to which they belong, it is important to remember that there are people in Australia who are in that position. It is a question of itinerants. The Committee also had raised before it the question of persons who, for example, join the Navy before they turn 18. At the time of turning 18 they are not resident in a subdivision in Australia for the purposes of registration because they are on a ship. Until now, they have not been able to obtain registration. Hopefully we have helped them to do so by establishing some sort of relationship to some subdivision or next of kin.

I think that in general, even though many amendments have been found necessary in the Senate, we can still be pleased. I should like to congratulate the draftsman, the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley), the Australian Electoral Office, and to some extent our own Committee for being able to produce such a Bill. The Committee produced some 180 closely printed pages of amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1918. I would have expected many more problems to have arisen when they were examined in great detail. These amendments were all produced in a very short space of time. I think everybody connected with the legislation can be quite pleased that so few difficulties or contradictions have been found in the legislation. I have no doubt that when the legislation comes into force we will find some other problems and there will have to be some minor amendments next year, the year after, or whenever they are found. I think it is an exceptionally pleasing aspect of the legislation that we have these 187 pages of amendments to the previous Act and so few further amendments have been found necessary, either in this House or in the Senate. I commend the Minister for accepting the amendments from the Senate. I think some of them at least will improve the legislation and are reasonably fair.