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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - 1 was rather surprised at the bitter attack made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) on honorable members on this side. He seems to be of the opinion that we of the Opposition are not free to say what we think. If ever the time comes when I am not free to say what I think about any matter, I shall cease to be a member of this Parliament. He implied that we have to obey exactly the dictates of caucus. I can only say that the honorable member is drawing heavily on his imagination. Let me ask him how many times he has voted against the decision of his party on any matter.

Mr Bird - Never.

Mr THOMPSON - He has never voted against the decision of his party. Let me point out to him that when a decision is made by the Labour Party, whether it be on an electoral bill or anything else, every member of the party has a free vote. The honorable member for Hume, and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), however, support measures decided upon not by a meeting of their party but by a Minister or the Government. They simply follow decisions by a Minister or the Government, willy-nilly.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I ask the honorable member not to get too far away from a discussion of the bill before the House.

Mr THOMPSON - Let me now deal with the bill. Much has been said about the position of a candidate's name on the ballot-paper. There is no doubt that the position on the ballot-paper does play a big part in elections. Let me state what happened in South Australia on one occasion when a large number of candidates stood for election. On that occasion, two men from Sydney nominated for election to the Senate to represent South Australia. They nominated as a group. They did not go to South Australia, nor did they hold any meetings. They did not have anybody handing out " how-to-vote cards " for them. When the positions on the ballot-paper were allotted, these two men occupied the first two positions. Five or six groups of candidates and quite a few independents stood for that election. Although the two men had done no organizing, and nothing whatever had been done on their behalf, theirs was about the last group to be eliminated at the counting because they benefited from occupying the first positions on the ballot-paper, many voters automatically giving them first preference votes.

In investigating how the transfer of votes worked, I went to the Electoral Office and, during my investigations, discovered that invariably a voter who gave first and second preferences to candidates whose names appeared on the right-hand side of the ballot-paper automatically cast the balance of his votes for the candidates grouped on the opposite side of the paper in the order in which they appeared. If the group at the top of the paper on the side opposite that on which the elector wishes to record his primary vote, is small, then invariably it benefits greatly from the preferential votes of the opposite party.

I have had a good deal of experience in conducting ballots for my party in South Australia, and years ago" I advocated that a change in the system be made. I pointed out that when twenty or more candidates were standing for election those whose names appeared at the top of the ballot-paper held a distinct advantage over those whose names were nearer the bottom of the paper, because many people cast their votes indifferently and simply started at the top, irrespective of who the. candidate might be. In this way, those whose names appeared at the top might benefit from five or six times the number of preference votes recorded for those who appeared lower on the ballotpaper. I recommended to my own party that the alphabetical system should be abandoned and that candidates should draw lots for positions on the ballot-paper. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) quoted many figures to-day to prove the extent of the advantage enjoyed by a candidate whose name appears first on the ballot-paper. He quoted the benefit gained by the Communist Party in particular.

Let me deal now with informal votes. The most remarkable, experience I had in this connexion was an occasion when the only candidate opposing me was a Communist. I had no Liberal Party or Democratic Labour Party opponent. On that occasion there was only one part of my electorate in which the Liberals enjoyed a greater majority than I did, but in that part where I had only a Communist candidate - it was considered an elite area in which the Liberal Party enjoyed a strong vote - the Communist candidate was given more of the Liberal votes than I obtained. At that election, many of the votes in that area were informal and the electoral figures indicated conclusively to me that many of the informal votes were deliberately made informal. For example, in that area where there were 41,000 electors, there were 2,906 informal votes despite the fact that there were only two candidates standing for election. If the electors had put the figure " 1 " opposite the name of either of those candidates the vote would have been formal. Therefore, it cannot be said that the high number of informal votes was due to the fact that the electors could not remember the numbers or that there were so many candidates that some voters had inadvertently put down the same number twice. All the indications were that many of the informal votes were deliberately made informal. We often hear honorable members of the Liberal Party in this Parliament saying that the Communists or their off-siders have polled heavily at a particular election. I have figures relating to the election to which I have referred which show that in group A the Senate candidates supported by the Liberal Party polled 2,656 votes, whereas, in group B they polled 9,391 votes, while the Communist group polled 731 votes. I repeat that 731 votes went to the Communist group on that occasion when the leader of that party was Dr. Finger, the greatest Communist then in Adelaide and the greatest vote-getter for his party that one could find. He got 731 votes for that group and yet at that same election, the same voters cast 5,918 votes for the Communist candidate for the House of Representatives. Why was that? It was simply because the Liberals would not vote for me, but would sooner vote for the Communist candidate. Yet we have all this talk here about Labour supporters voting for the Communists and giving them preference No. 2 on the ballot-paper! When there was only a Labour candidate and a Communist candidate, 5,900 electors voted for the Communist, because there was no Liberal to vote for; but where there was a Liberal group to vote for in the Senate election the Communist candidate received only about 700 votes.

It irritates me when I hear members opposite talking about us cavorting, as it were, with the Communists and trying to get their support. I say definitely that the Government supporters are not too concerned-

Mr Anderson - I would vote for you in those circumstances.

Mr THOMPSON - You might. Some of the Liberals voted for me, but there was a big number who did not. I come now to the question of the positions occupied by the candidates' names on the ballot-paper. I have a great honour. Up to the last election, in every election in which I stood as a candidate for the federal House I received the biggest vote in Australia. The letter " T " is right at the bottom of the ballot-paper, yet 1 was able to get the votes, even on the occasion when Liberal Party supporters voted for the other fellow and against me. That was because I, as an individual, have become known to the people in my electorate. They do not need to ask whether " Thompson " stands for Labour, Communist or Liberal. They know the position in my electorate. But if I had to stand as a candidate in a district where the majority for a candidate might be about 1,000, swinging one way or the other, and if my name were placed at the bottom of the ballot-paper, I would certainly go west in that election.

Years ago in Senate elections, the first letter of the surname of a candidate in a group determined the position on the ballotpaper of the three who stood in the group. Political parties began to select as candidates men whose surnames began with " A ". Nobody can tell me that any political party in any State could pick three candidates for the Senate, all of whose surnames started with the letter " A ", as the best candidates in that State. It simply could not be done. It is just not common sense, but that is what happened on one occasion. As has been pointed out, that system was altered.

From time to time in close contests the man whose name is at the top of the ballotpaper has a distinct advantage. I put this proposition to the Minister and to the Government: Suppose in an electorate the voting is likely to be very close. If there is a Labour candidate whose surname starts with the letter " W ", members of the Government would say, " If we can get a candidate whose name will be near the top of the ballot-paper and secure all the ' uneducated ' votes of those who vote for candidates in the order in which their names appear on the ballot-paper, we will get our candidate in." In such circumstances, the Government picks a candidate whose name will be near the top of the ballotpaper because for political purposes it wants to get him to run. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) shakes his head. If any one goes through the figures over the years he will know that, as in my own case, if the candidate is a well-known man there is no need to worry so much about him; but if he is some one who has not been in public life the opposing candidate, who is placed at the top of the ballot-paper, will have a very big win.

I remind the Minister for the Interior, who is a Liberal Party member, that on occasions in recent years there has been a Country Party candidate opposing a Liberal Party man at an election. In such circumstances, if the vote was likely to be very close, I would like to be the man whose surname was higher than that of his opponent on the ballot-paper, because I know what it would mean to me. I have referred from time to time to a candidate for the Senate election in South Australia and what happened there. However, that has been pretty well thrashed out.

There is one other amendment proposed by the Minister, which I hope he will not pursue. It is that which relates to the entrance to a polling booth. In many places the polling booth is a hall in a city street, with only one entrance to it. The entrance is from the street and those who are handing out how-to-vote cards have to keep 20 or 30 feet - whatever distance is determined - away from that entrance. If members of the Liberal Party thought that how-to-vote cards were no good they would not pay out the money they do to man every polling booth.

Mr Hulme - We do not pay. You pay.

Mr THOMPSON - Three or four years ago a man at a polling booth came to me and said, " I am living at an institution. I was told, ' Here is a job for you. You can get 30s. for it '." That was in my own district, and that man was told to go down to the polling booth and hand out howtovote cards. He told me that he felt that if he refused to do so he would lose the place where he was sleeping. This man was not concerned about giving out too many howtovote cards. He said to me, "I am a Labour supporter ". Then there is the other chap, whom members of the Liberal Party say they do not pay. I can remember when I was working for the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) when he was the member for Hindmarsh, I saw a man hand ing out how-to-vote cards. I had made representations on his behalf to the honorable member for Bonython, who had done everything he could to secure an invalid pension for him. This man came to me, and, calling me by name, said, " Bert, I am not doing this to put the other fellow in. He cannot get elected here, but I am getting £1 to hand out these cards and so I am handing them out." It is no use honorable members opposite saying that they do not pay people. We know that they get young people connected with the schools to hand out how-to-vote cards. I have known of such people going out and working for the Liberal Party and being paid for it. But 1 do not want to argue that part of the matter. I have never had to pay anybody one penny to work for me or my party at an election.

The Minister considers, for the reasons I have discussed, that it is of some value to have how-to-vote cards handed out to people whom he would like to vote Liberal because if they did not receive the cards they might make their votes informal or vote for the other candidate. Why make the position difficult in the suburbs, for instance, where the polling place may be in a school, which has a front gate, a side gate and a back gate? People can go in by any of those gates before they get to the entrance of the polling place. The Minister says now that persons handing out how-to-vote cards must keep so many feet away from any of the gates. T, like any one who has handed out how-to-vote cards, know a bit about the position. If one has to remain 30 feet down the street from the entrance to the polling place and if somebody jumps out of a motor car opposite the entrance, there is no hope of handing that person a how-to-vote card. It is not so bad where there is only one entrance to the polling place and there can be two people, one on each side of the gate, to hand out how-to-vote cards. They do not argue with voters as they approach. One says to them, " Here is a Labour ticket ", and the other says, " Here is a Liberal ticket ", and the voters take the tickets and go in to vote. But what can one do in a place where there are three or four entrances, if there must be two people at each entrance to hand out how-to-vote cards to people coming from either direction? it the Government thinks that any change in the procedure is necessary, I would rather it prevented entirely the distribution of how-to-vote cards in the vicinity of polling booths, so that we would have to deliver the cards to the homes of voters before they left for the polls. However, this provision is now in the bill, and I must voice my protest against it. I hope the Minister will not persist with this proposedchange. It will help neither the Labour Party nor the Liberal Party nor any other party. If we allow the distribution of how-to-vote cards at the front entrance to the polling place, why should we not allow persons to distribute them on either side of an entrance to the polling place? i remember on one occasion casting a vote in a federal election at a polling booth in your district, Mr. Speaker. The polling booth was a room at the back of a church. There were no fences around this church. Evidently the church authorities wanted to allow people to enter the church freely, without having to go through gates or over fences. Persons distributing howtovote cards could, therefore, stand very close to the actual entrance to the polling booth itself. If there had been a fence, and three or four gates in the fence, all parties would have needed three or four times as many assistants to distribute their how-to-vote cards.

I am not opposing this measure on the ground that it will assist the Labour Party or any other party. If people wish to cast a formal vote, knowing whom they are voting for, I think they should be given every assistance.

The other provisions in the bill are mainly machinery matters. They are of minor importance. However, we have been given an opportunity to talk about electoral matters generally, and particularly about the amendments that the Labour Party intends to propose. If it were not for the Labour Party's amendments the bill could have been disposed of in five minutes, with very little debate. I know, or at least I hope, that the Minister will accept some of our amendments. If he does so we will see improvements in the Electoral Act that I feel should have been made by the Labour Government when it was in office, but for which we have had to wait until now.

Mr Turnbull - I wish to make a persona] explanation, Mr. Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Turnbull - Yes, by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I made a speech this afternoon during the debate on the Electoral Bill, and I was followed in the debate by the honorable member for Grayndler. He quoted a passage from a speech made by the former honorable member for Barker, Mr. Archie Cameron. The honorable member for Grayndler said that the speech had been made during a debate on the Electoral Act,

Mr Whitlam - He did not say that.

Mr Turnbull - He said that the speech had been made during a debate on the Electoral Act. I repeat that. The honorable member's statement was completely untrue. I have a copy of " Hansard " before me, in which is recorded my speech on the Parliamentary Allowances Bill 1947. It appears at page 3384 of the report for 4th June, 1947. In that speech I said that I would refuse to take the additional allowance of £500 until the 1949 election. The former honorable member for Barker had some splendid qualities, as we all know, but he was a bit annoyed by my remarks in that speech, and he followed me in the debate, his speech being recorded at page 3385 of " Hansard ".

Mr SPEAKER - Order! It seems to me that this is entirely out of order.

Mr Turnbull - My speech had nothing to do with the Electoral Act, Mr. Speaker.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 3 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.

Clause 4.

Section thirty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (5.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - " (6.) An aboriginal native of Australia is not entitled to enrolment under Part VII. unless he - (a) is entitled under the law of the State in which he resides to be enrolled as an elector of that State and, upon enrolment, to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of that State or, if there is only one House of the Parliament of that State, for that House; or

(b)   is or has been a member of the Defence Force.".

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