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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2938

Senator WOOD (Queensland) -This is an important measure. There is no question about the fact that there are some aspects of this legislation which honourable senators must treat with suspicion. One matter that has been featured quite a lot is optional preferences. I do not think this has been introduced with the idea of getting the best result, so far as the people are concerned. That system of voting has been tried before and it has been given away. If I remember rightly, it was tried in Queensland in the 1930s but it does not exist today. It was changed but not by a party of my own political thinking. Compulsory preference voting is something that was brought about to get the ultimate decision of the people. It clearly works in this way. If the majority of the people do not want a person and indicate that they want somebody else they are given a chance to get somebody else. I think that ultimately it is the best way of finding out the expression of the people. That should be our aim when we introduce electoral laws.

People get airy fairy ideas about this matter and speak about optional preferences. If we want to get the best result from the people I am convinced that the best way is the system of compulsory preference voting. The people who advocate optional preferences argue that we must have compulsory voting in many cases. Why do we have compulsory voting? We have it to try to make sure that everybody in Australia records their opinion by voting for a Party which they want to lead this country and which they think will be of benefit to the people. If we want compulsory voting, why do we stop at compulsory preferences? It is rather interesting that this legislation should be introduced now. I am convinced that if the Government felt that it was going to get the best deal on compulsory preferences we would not have this legislation before us now.

I make no bones about saying that the Labor Party, over a number of years, has never been averse to acting quickly and doing something which it believes is to its advantage. As a matter of fact, the very creation of the system that we have in the Senate today was brought about by a Labor government. It was not brought about with the idea of making sure that everybody had an equal go. That was not in the mind of the Labor Government at that time. I well remember at that time that those who were prominent in the Labor movement were talking of it then as something that would ensure that Labor would have control of this chamber for many years.

Senator Missen - It succeeded for 2 years, too.

Senator WOOD - But it has not succeeded much since. That was really the basis of it.

Senator Primmer - Honourable senators opposite must have fiddled the books or something.

Senator WOOD -No. We did not fiddle the books. We have been very honest about it. By the process of elimination, on the working of the preferences, we have got the ultimate result. I believe that this system is the best way to get the ultimate decision of the people. We should want a government that represents what the people ultimately would prefer more than anything else.

There are many other aspects of this Bill. I do not propose to talk much longer because I understand there is a load of legislation to come before the Senate. Senator Hall mentioned the matter of State parliamentarians not being able to stand for election to another House. This is something I have never considered to be right. I agree with Senator Hall. If a person is a member of a State chamber why should he have to resign from that chamber in order to stand for the Federal Parliament? 1 think that one should have the right to stand for Federal Parliament. I think a member of any parliament should be able to transfer to the Federal Parliament. If a person is a successful candidate at a Federal election he could then submit his resignation to the State House.

Great play has been made on postal voting and the infringement of the electoral legislation at various elections. But I do not think that members of this Government and their supporters have been altogether lily-white in the practices they have indulged in during various elections. I can recall many malpractices occurring in order to secure votes. In my area of Mackay if it came to awarding a prize to the person who was the fastest racehorse in the malpractices stakes we in the Liberal Party would not be in the race. That puts it very simply and might make honourable senators realise who is the champion in this respect.

The attitude has been brought forth that we should go through this Bill and amend it. Senator Hall at times has indicated that the Government of the day has the right to do this and that in respect of certain aspects under government control. Continuing in that vein, I take the view that it is not the responsibility of the Opposition to take this legislation and knock it into shape for the Government. So far as I am concerned, the quickest way for us to fix this Bill is to throw it out neck and crop.

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