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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - Much has been said as to the efficacy or otherwise of voting by pos.t, and one would imagine that the question at issue was a most important and material one; but when we turn to the records of the last general election, we find that, with the exception of those given in the electorates of Melbourne and Riverina, the number of postal votes for the whole of Australia was insignificant. If it was difficult for electors to avail themselves of the voting by post system in 1903, how much more difficult will it be for them to take advantage of it under the restrictions now to be imposed? In order to prevent the system being abused, we are so loading it up with safeguards that it will become useless, and I, therefore, think that the honorable member for Darwin should press his proposed amendment. As it stands^ voting by post is a dangerous system, for it can be worked by those who wish to gain an advantage over their opponents. Even in the case of the electorate of Riverina, the postal votes recorded were less than 5 per cent, of the total number polled, and 33 per cent, of them were absolutely informal. This shows that the question of voting by post is not a material one. If the Minister would bring the polling booths closer together, he would secure a larger vote than is likely to be the result of the passing of these provisions. Instead of doing so, however, the Department is endeavouring to abolish polling places that have existed for years. I ask tha Minister to give some attention to the desirableness of increasing, rather than diminishing the number of polling places.

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