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Wednesday, 1 November 1911

Senator WALKER (New South Wales) . - I propose to move two short amendments, not to do away with voting by post, but to so amend the clause as to make it read -

Section 2 of the Principal Act is altered so that "Part X.- Voting by Post" shall read " Voting by Post with the use of electoral rights."

In the first place, I move -

That the words " amended by omitting therefrom the words" be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " altered so that."

I am quite aware that in days gone by in New South Wales many persons mislaid or lost their electoral rights. That, I understand, was one of the commonest objections to the system. When a person got an electoral right he had to sign his signature on the butt retained in the office, but not on the right itself. The consequence was that manipulations of electoral rights took place. If a man's autograph were on the butt of the electoral right he could vote, but, if asked, he would have to write his signature to show that he was the person entitled to vote, and it could be compared there and then with the signature on the right. The electoral right, if the signature were, evidently, a forgery, could be retained and the man's name taken down, and no doubt he would be prosecuted. With regard to persons who were situated at a great distance, or who were ill, we could surely regulate the voting by post so that they could send in' their electoral rights some days before polling day, the returning officer could keep the documents in his possession, and send them voting papers in such a manner that no one but the persons entitled to them would be able to use them. How that could be done I shall explain. In the election of the directors of an institution I belong to the voting paper is sent out in an envelope, and attached to that is the person's signature, which can be detached. If my proposal were adopted for electoral purposes the signature of an elector could, if necessary, be compared, and persons who could not attend, through sickness or by reason of distance, would be able to vote by post. I know that there is a great prejudice against the use of electoral rights, because, in days gone by, in New South Wales, persons often made a wrong use of them. Under my suggestion we would have a great check on the misuse of the documents. I have no wish to press the matter, if the Government say that they are willing to postpone the clause and to consider my suggestion. I feel quite sure that public feeling will grow very greatly against a Government which ^brings in a Bill to make the innocent suffer "for the guilty, and certainly that is what will take place under this measure, if it is not amended in some such manner as I suggest. Thousands of persons, both men and women, will be unable, through illness, to vote. Why? Because other persons have misused their opportunities, and the witnesses, whoever they were, presumably lent themselves to what was very much like roguery. I do not think that in any circumstances we ought to punish the innocent for the faults of the guilty. After what we have heard from Senator Sayers and others, it is quite evident to me that there has been a great lapse or ignorance on the part of persons witnessing *postal ballot-papers. I have no wish to inconvenience the Committee, but I feel very strongly on this subject. I feel persuaded that public feeling will rise in indignation, and very rightly so, against the innocent being made to suffer for the guilty.

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