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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr McCOLM (Bowman) .-! think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was wrong when he said that probably all honorable members knew that this practice occurred, but I would say that any honorable members who have taken an active personal interest in postal voting would know that the great bulk of what he said was true, that this does happen, and with great regularity. For quite a long time now, I and many people in my electorate have been trying to think of some way by which this could be avoided. In the field of postal voting this kind of skulduggery does go on, more in some areas than in others, but I do not think that it actually involves a great number of votes. There is little doubt that it does happen in connexion with a percentage of the votes, and in some cases, it could have a decisive effect on an election. I remember an incident at a State election in one part of my division some time ago in Queensland, in which it was proved that some postal ballotpapers had been forged. Another election was held as a result of that finding, but the outcome of the two elections was the same. The chap in whose favour the votes had been forged won the second election. That happened comparatively recently.

One thing that causes me a great deal of concern is the fact that as these things do happen it is possible that, by accident, innocent people could be involved and suffer serious consequences. I must admit that I am inclined to favour this proposal. The only thing that makes me dubious about it is the fact that some people could be disfranchised by it. But for that, I would vote in favour of it. Anybody who has had a close association with postal voting would know that under this proposal some people could be disfranchised quite close to election time. They may not number many, but I hesitate to do anything that is likely to disfranchise even one person.

To my mind, the scheme has considerable merit. If only some way could be found of overcoming the disfranchising of anybody in the last week before an election, I would certainly support it, because at present there are practices carried out in connexion with postal voting which, I think, are completely reprehensible. There is not the slightest doubt that a tremendous amount of time, effort and expense is involved in postal voting by the supporters of the various parties. In my view, it should be the responsibility of the various returning officers to ensure that these people shall cast their votes in complete privacy and that there can be no means of tampering with the votes between the time the ballot-paper is sealed and it reaches the returning officer.

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