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Monday, 12 November 1973
Page: 3120


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Before I speak on the main subject of my address, I should like to endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Balaarat (Mr Erwin) that the policies of the present Government are designed to turn people away from wanting to own their own homes, because the Australian Labor Party has said time and time again that home ownership is an indication of capitalism. I think it was one of the Labor Ministers in the 1940s who accused the then Chifley Government of turning Australia into a nation of capitalists. However, I shall pass from that subject.

I am glad to see in the Parliament the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is responsible for electoral matters, because I want to outline something which has concerned me since I first entered this Parliament, and, regrettably, about which nothing was properly done during the time of my own Party's administration of the country. During that time endeavours were made to alter the electoral system but we never achieved this. If the Minister is as concerned about the manner in which democracy works as he appears to be in his utterances in this Parliament, I believe that his approach to the matter I now raise will be the test. I refer to the question of postal voting in Australia.


Mr Keogh - You know all about rorts in postal votes.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The honourable member for Bowman interjects that I would know about rorts. The facts are that when I came here in 1966 I just scraped in because I received one-third of the postal votes in my electorate. I made up my mind then and there to learn about the system of postal voting so that the ALP would not exploit the system in the following election as it had in the year I managed to win. The honourable member for Bowman is known in Queensland as one of the greatest exploiters of the postal voting system who has ever walked the State.


Mr Keogh - Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise on a point of order. I am afraid that the honourable member for Griffith is confusing me with himself. He is the one who has that reputation.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I suggest also that the honourable member for Bowman cease interjecting.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman. If the honourable member for Bowman cared to go through the Hansard reports since just after I arrived here in 1966 he would find repeated pleas from myself to the Government of the day to alter the postal voting system in the name of fairness and in the name of democracy. May I recount very briefly for the Minister the manner in which postal votes are exploited and then put to him a system which I believe would be most satisfactory in the interests of all?


Mr Daly - If I might interrupt, would the honourable gentleman take his time over this because I am most inexperienced in elections.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The manner in which the Minister tried earner this year to put his electoral Bills through would indicate to the contrary. It indicates that the man who possesses the greatest expertise in exploitation and gerrymander is the Minister for Services and Property. But these interjections are taking up the time I have in which to deal with a very important subject. At the present time the postal voting system allows of exploitation by the various political parties. I do not suggest for a moment that the Labour Party is alone in this exploitation. All political parties engage in it. I believe with conviction that the exploitation of postal voting is such that it could prevent a party going out of office and ensure a party coming into power, depending upon which party is on its feet and is more agile in whizzing around and obtaining these votes. Under the present system legislation requires all persons over 18 years of age to vote. Unless they are almost beyond living this is a compulsion which applies to all over 18 years of age.

If we look at the Australian figures we see that in 1966 there were well over 100,000 postal votes. In fact there were approximately 150,000 postal votes. Possibly the number has now grown to nearly 250,000. What happens in each electorate? On the day it becomes lawful to do so, the various political parties visit the homes of the aged, sick and infirm persons with application forms and say: 'Dear, here you are. Here is an application form. Sign on the dotted line and leave it to us.' That is where the skulduggery begins. The political parties then gather together all the postal vote application forms and work their organisation in such manner. Let me say that I have never done this but I have seen it done by others.


Mr Keogh - Your organisation in Griffith has done it if you have not.


Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I deny that completely. My organisation has never done it. It was the Australian Labor Party that drew my attention to what goes on. The honourable member should lift his mind out of the gutter and recognise that I am trying to make a contribution for the betterment of all men. Let me return to what I was saying. The political parties then feed into the electoral office of the division concerned a bundle of postal votes in the morning of a particular day. They know that they will be processed that day. The last thing they have said to the person from whom they collected the application form was: 'Do not do anything until we get back.' They know that the electoral officer will post those forms that evening. So next morning they have their organisation ready, willing and able virtually to follow the postman around. When the ballot papers are delivered they make a visit and say: Well, here I am again.' The elderly, sick or infirm person says: 'What a coincidence; I have just received my ballot paper.' Then the representative from the organisation says: 'Well listen, dear. Give it to me. I will help you fill it out.' No fair minded person in this Parliament could possibly condone that practice.

I suggest for the consideration of the Minister the implementation of the following practice: Considering that the Commonwealth requires people to vote, I believe that the Government has a responsibility to make it possible for those people who are confined to bed or who are too old or ill to go to a polling booth to have easy access to a postal vote. The present system enables the electoral officer of each division to mark against the name in his master roll the name of a particular person who previously had a postal vote on the ground of being aged or infirm. We should forget about the women who are pregnant and cannot go to the polling booth. We should forget about some of the others who are able to look after themselves. These aged and sick persons are the ones for whom we should be caring. When an election or a referendum, such as we have on the horizon now, comes around I believe it is the duty of the Commonwealth Electoral Office to send to those persons with as much detail as possible already completed, an application form and an accompanying note reminding them that it is their responsibility to read carefully the terms of qualification to establish in their own minds whether they qualify. This means that an elderly person would be helped significantly.

More importantly, it would take the responsibility out of the hands of the political parties. I do not trust them whether they be members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party, the Australian 'Labor Party, the Democratic Labor Party or the Communist Party; when it comes to obtaining votes all parties are the same. They are all out to get what they can. If we adopted this procedure and made it the responsibility of the Electoral Office, we would he able to kill the malpractices which presently occur. It has always amazed me that when I came into this Parliament in 1966 I had to be the first to draw the attention of the Parliament to the fact that these malpractices occurred. Nobody else's conscience had been pricked. I think that the way the system works is a sad indictment of honourable members who up until recent years accepted these bad things. This practice has been condoned and allowed to continue.

I hope that the Minister for Services and Property will recognise the truth of what I have said - that it is up to the Government of the day, the Parliament or the electoral officer to provide this service to the aged, the sick and the needy and to take the matter out of the hands of the political parties because they are the ones who are presently exploiting what is surely meant to be a democratic process. I would hate to think that when my Party is returned to power it won power by the exploitation of a voting system. Furthermore, I have never wanted 80 per cent of the postal votes. As long as I gain my fair share of about half I reckon I am doing all right.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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