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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) - As a layman, I am troubled about the propriety of using such" a vague term as "frivolous." According to the dictionary I have consulted, it means -

Silly, trifling, trivial, petty ; given to trifling, characterized by unbecoming levity ; silly, weak.

I should like a legal member of the Committee to suggest a better term, because, in my opinion, it would be most difficult to prove that an objection was frivolous. [ am in favour of inflicting a penalty upon persons who have made objections for the purpose of disfranchising others. But I doubt whether it would be possible in one case out of a thousand to prove that an objection was frivolous. Therefore I think that it would be better to forfeit the amount of the deposit in a case in which the objection was not upheld.

Mr. HUTCHISON(Hindmarsh). - In those cases where expenses have been allowed under the State Act, I have found the greatest difficulty in getting the magistrate to see that anything further than a mistake had been made. Under this provision there would be the greatest difficulty, I think, in getting the. presiding officer to see that the case was one which merited the forfeiture of any sum of money. It would be only fair to provide that the amount of the deposit should be forfeited in every case where the objection was not upheld. In some cases it has not cost men more than the price of a tram fare to go to the Revision Court to meet an objection ; but in other cases men have had to lose a whole day or half a day. I have known the expenses to be reimbursed in some cases, but not in others. I have known electors to be obliged to put off other engagements in order to go to the Revision Court because it saf on a particular day. "Surely, if an elector has been put to inconvenience in proving that an objection lodged to his name could not be substantiated, he ought to be reimbursed his expenses"!

Mr. GROOM(Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - I did not quite catch whether the honorable member for Boothby intended his amendment to apply to officers. The returning officer has to consider his own objection, and therefore he would be called upon to decide whether it was frivolous or not. I should offer no objection to the amendment if it contained this proviso -

Provided that this section shall not apply to any objection macle by an officer.

The officers are responsible to the Department, and would not be likely to make an objection which was frivolous.

Mr. BATCHELOR(Boothby).- In my opinion, the Minister has given a reason for not accepting the addition to the clause which lie has suggested, and that is that the returning officer is not likely to declare that an objection which he had lodged was frivolous. I would remind the Minister that in most cases the objections would emanate from the registrars who are postal officials, an3 who, perhaps, might not he very well acquainted with the provisions of the Act.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But they could be removed if they did not carry out their duties properly.

Mr BATCHELOR - The honorable member does not quite see what I am aiming at, and that is to insure that a person who had been put to expense and trouble in meeting a frivolous objection should be compensated. It would not be very much satisfaction to that person to know that the objector had been dismissed from the sei vice, or reprimanded. It would not make any difference to him whether the objection had emanated from an outside person or from a subordinate official. If the returning officer has declared that the objection ought not to have been lodged because it was palpably frivolous, then the elector ought to be recouped his expenses.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the officers would be afraid to make any objections.

Mr BATCHELOR - Surely they could trust the head of their Department - the returning officer - not to deem their complaints frivolous ! He would be very unlikely to take that course, because, if he did, he would be making a reflection upon his own administration. The probability is that even in those cases where the objections were frivolous, the returning officer would, not so deem them.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has this provision ever been made in a State Act?

Mr BATCHELOR - No. Frivolous objections are almost always lodged by outside organizations. There is no reason why, in the event of a frivolous objection being lodged, whether by an officer or any one else, the person who is put to inconvenience should not be compensated.

Mr Fisher - Would it not be better to provide that where an objection is made " with malicious intent ,! the deposit shall be forfeited?

Mr BATCHELOR - No : because it would be very difficult to prove " malicious intent." The word " frivolous " has been used in a number of our Acts, and has proved sufficient to meet the case. Officers will not be prevented from sending in objections, because thev will know that the decision will rest with the divisional returning officer.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. DUGALDTHOMSON (North Sydney). - I understood that the Minister intended to move an amendment which would exempt officers from the provision as to the deposit to be made when objections were lodged.

Mr Groom - No: I asked the honorable member if he would agree to a modification of his amendment.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely tion. I am strongly opposed to placing the amendment should not be accepted unless officers are exempted from its opera- officers in such a position that they will be deterred from making objections By fear of the consequences. It seems to me that we are taking a course which will prevent the rolls from being properly purified.

Mr Mahon - The provision will merely make officers a little more careful.

Mr. LONSDALE(New England).- I do not think that officers should be placed upon the same footing as outside persons. In view of the fact that they will have a large number of names to deal with, they may make an occasional mistake, but in such an event they should not be penalized. I think that the Minister should insert some such proviso as he has indicated.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 27 -

Section one hundred and nine of the Principal Act is amended -

(a)   by omitting the whole of paragraph (a) and inserting in lieu thereof the following paragraph : - "(a) who has reason to believe that he will not on polling day be within ten miles of the polling-place for which he is enrolled, or a prescribed pollingplace for the subdivision for whichhe is enrolled ; or "

(b)   by omitting from paragraph (b) the words " believes that she " ; and

(c)   by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections : - "(2) In the case of an application under para- graph (a), the applicant shall state in the application the reason for his said belief."

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