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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr COPE (Watson) (2:27 AM) .- I wish to refer to a couple of instances of malpractice of which I have knowledge in elections in years gone by. The first incident concerned a council election in my area in 1948.

Mr Freeth - A council election?

Mr COPE - The Minister should be patient. It was stated this afternoon that the circumstances in relation to postal votes in municipal elections are similar to those that obtain in respect of federal elections. Canvassing was going on, and a man was caught at the end of the voting with a sugar bag full of votes. He was taken before a Quarter Sessions court and charged. It was fortunate for us that he was caught, because if he had not been apprehended our man would have been defeated. Apparently, the person concerned had gone about canvassing. He had approached old people and said to them, " All you have to do is put a stroke here. It will save you the trouble of going to vote ".

As the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) has said, there has been a lot of abuse of the electoral system. There is nothing wrong with the electoral visitor legislation in New South Wales. The only difference is that instead of a person representing a candidate you have an electoral visitor employed by the Commonwealth. What could be fairer than that? If an elector is outside the five mile limit, he may record a vote irrespective of whether he claims the right to record an electoral visitor vote. We all trust the electoral officers to ensure that such matters are administered in accordance with the act, so that there will be no canvassing and no bribery to win votes.

Every honorable member knows that malpractices have been going on. What is wrong with the electoral visitor system? As my friend, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has stated, it certainly does not favour the Australian Labour Party. That was evidenced in the Liverpool Plains by-election that was held in New South Wales recently. The Labour candidate received only nine of 150 postal votes. We must defeat malpractice, whether it is designed to elect candidates of the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party or the Australian Labour Party. It must be stamped out. The amendment proposed by the Opposition offers a way to stamp it out. We propose to put the necessary power in the hands of a man whom we know will not canvass for any party and who will see to it that there is no malpractice oi abuse of the act.

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