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Thursday, 19 September 1974
Page: 1242

Senator SHEIL - I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Minister confirm or deny that the Government is considering bringing in the system of optional preference voting? Would not the introduction of such a system further erode the credibility of the Prime Minister in view of his repeated statements this year that no amendments to voting procedure would be made during the term of his Government in this Parliament? I point out that the question is of importance as optional preference voting could be the first step in establishing first past the post elections, voluntary voting and the decay or our electoral systems.

Senator MURPHY - I understand that some announcement has been made already about optional preference voting. There have been reports in the newspapers. I think I read something about the Opposition parties discussing it.

Senator Cavanagh - The Bill has been introduced in the other place.

Senator MURPHY - I am informed that the Bill is already in the other House. The honourable senator has no warrant to say, because one thing is done, that something else of an entirely different character will be done. He has no right to say that because we introduce optional preference voting- it is a preferential system- in some way that represents a step towards the abandonment of a preferential system of voting. I think that it would be better for the honourable senator to wait and see what happens and to try to assist the Government to get a system of voting which will be better than the system we all had to endure during the last election. I think that the honourable senator will have to agree that it is a very unsatisfactory system and that there is a general demand, not only in the Parliament but also from the public, for a reformation of the voting system. We cannot afford to go through all that nonsense again and have 73 people standing for election to the Senate in New South Wales alone, the conspicuous feature of this situation being that the overwhelming vote was for the Australian Labor Party.

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