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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr STORRER (Bass) - I am surprised that a labour man should bring forward a proposal to do away with voting by post. If any one is convenienced by such a system it is the working man. There are builders in my constituency who have contracts for the erection of buildings in different parts of the State, and although I do not say that anything of the kind would be done, if the proposal now made were agreed to it would be possible for those builders to send numbers of their men out of the town during the week in which an election was held, and those men would be disfranchised if they could not record their votes by post. At the last election, some men were ordered to work at a place forty miles from the city, and told me that they would rather lose two or three days' work than lose their right to vote, but that they would prefer to vote by post. They went to the post-office and made the necessaryarrangements to vote by post, and then went away to their work. They would have had to lose two or three days' work and pav if they had remained in the city to record their votes. On the other hand, the "boodleiers," of whom the honorable member for Darwin speaks, would have no difficulty about losing a day, as they could vote when and where they pleased. In my own district, there are some zoo voters in Bass's Strait, and they get a mail only once in three weeks, and only then when the weather is favorable. One man went sixty miles in a sailing-boat to collect a number of voting papers and bring them back in time for the election, but the winds being contrary. he was blown away, and those votes were never recorded. In this way, people living iri a British community, and as much entitled to vote as I am myself, were deprived of their votes. The honorable member for Darwin has some islands in his constituency, and at the last election a special steamer was sent there, and the people were thus given an opportunity to exercise the franchise. The right 0 to vote by post has been advocated by members of the Labour Party for years in Australia, and surely they are not now going to give it up. If they do, people may say that after trying hard to obtain a particular concession, they despise it when it is obtained. To deprive electors of the right to vote bypost will inflict very great injustice on men who are working in mines, and in the outside districts, and on commercial travellers. I agree that we should punish those who obtain postal votes by false pretences, as was done at the last Melbourne election. I believe that paid canvassers were the transgressors on that occasion, and such persons should be severely punished when they are detected.

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