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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) (4:16 AM) .Some of the hyperbole that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has used in his argument has weakened the case for reducing polling hours to the period between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The honorable gentleman and his colleagues have made' up their minds. They vote in the one mould of sameness. They will vote with a common characteristic in the manner in which their party has decided. My role at this hour of the morning is not to persuade any one on the Opposition benches to support this proposal. They will do that. My endeavour will be to persuade those members on the Government side. ] am attracted to this task because, as I look to my right and to my left, I see people who are wide awake, and eager to engage in rational argument and to make a judgment on the facts. I do not ask them to make a judgment according to some prejudice or according to some petty idea that may have beset their organization or themselves.

Mr Forbes - What about the farmers?

Mr KILLEN - I shall deal with the farmers later on, I imagine to the intense satisfaction of my honorable and gallant friend. The circumstances surrounding State parliamentary and municipal elections in Queensland have been alluded to. Let no one imagine that those circumstances are something new. I have been unable since this sitting began to pursue the matter to its grass roots, but I find that polling hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. prevailed in Queensland certainly as far back as 1915. By a twist of irony, the Queensland Parliament in 1915, at this very hour, was dealing with the committee stages of its Elections Act. I recite to the committee the relevant provision in the Queensland act -

At every poll the voting shall commence at 8 o'clock in the forenoon and shall finally close at 6 o'clock in the afternoon of the same day unless adjourned by reason of riot or other interruption.

We have never had occasion in Queensland to adjourn polling because of riot or any other interruption. So for at least 46 years 6 o'clock closing, in relation to polling, has been the law. The precise arguments that have been raised, and that will undoubtedly continue to be raised, against 6 o'clock closing were raised 46 years ago. As I look to the right, I see my friend the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). He is not the representative of reaction in this Parliament. He is a man possessed of progressive ideas, ideas that are constantly on the go. I put it to the honorable gentleman, as a representative of a very small school of opposition to this proposal, that for a minimum of 46 years - I did not examine the history before 1915 - the proposed hours have worked quite satisfactorily in Queensland, in all seasons, in the winter time and in the summer time.

Honorable members who are opposed to 6 o'clock closing have said, " What about the farmers? They will work until 6 or 7 o'clock, then have a quick shower and hop into town ". As I understand the position, individuals in the western part of Queensland - I do not refer particularly to farmers - many of whom live at distances of up to 150 miles from a polling booth, consider polling day a day out. It is a day on which they come to town and meet their friends. There is no suggestion on their part that they will work until 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon, have a quick cup of tea and then go to town. I think this is a trifling and a piffling amendment. As for travelling long distances in country areas to get to the polls, I can say that I frequently used to travel 35 miles on horseback to visit a girl friend.

I put it to the committee, particularly honorable members on the Government side, that 6 o'clock closing has worked in all weathers and at all times of the year to the complete and utter satisfaction of every political party in Queensland. There is no argument of any substance that can be raised against it. The present polling hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., impose a physical strain upon many tens of thousands of people, and this committee would do well to bear that fact in mind.

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