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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr BRYANT (Wills) (12:17 PM) .- I thought that the remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) were right on the ball. He was in error, however, in suggesting that the present Prime Minister will appoint the next Minister for the Interior. I have no doubt that that will be the prerogative of the Australian Labour Party. It seems to me that the Minister's explanation, while satisfactory to us here, is not sufficiently explicit. Elections are our concern principally and we ought to lay down the principles on which they should be carried out. So far as I can recollect, the occasions on which I have been in polling booths returning officers are always asked, " Can we have as many scrutineers as ballot-boxes? " After some indecision on their part, agreement is reached.

In my electorate I suppose there is one of the largest polling booths in the Commonwealth. Some 6,000 or 7,000 people record their votes there. I have seen no evidence of a milling throng or an army of scrutineers which could confuse the ballot. I agree with the honorable member for Batman that we cannot be too careful about this matter. There must be somebody present to scrutinize at every place where counting is going on, and the requisite decision ought to be made by the Parliament and incorporated in the law.

I am sure that the position could be covered in a more explicit way. It is better to have too many scrutineers than too few.

Honorable members opposite were inclined to scoff at the suggestion that ballot-papers might get into the wrong bundle. In Victoria, during an election in 1950, a bundle of 25 votes was put on the wrong pile. The result was that the anti-Labour candidate was almost declared elected. Eventually our man won by three votes. Had there been no scrutineer actively engaged in scrutinizing the count, the result would have been different. The conduct of elections is one of the most important aspects of community life. Scrutineers do not cost the country anything. An explicit direction from this Parliament as to the exact number of scrutineers to which we think candidates are entitled should be included in the act. The matter should not beleft in the indefinite state to which the honorable member for Batman has referred. Therefore, I urge honorable members opposite to support the Opposition amendment.

Question put -

That the sub-sections proposed to be omitted (Mr. Whitlam's amendment) stand part of the clause.

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