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Thursday, 16 November 1911

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - Personally, I find no fault with Saturday as polling day. Many persons find it to be a more convenient day than any other. But, at the same time, we must consider the convictions of those persons who object to Saturday voting. We ought not to disfranchise those who feel that they cannot, on religious grounds, go to the poll on that day.

Senator de Largie - How will Saturday suit the farmers?

Senator VARDON - In many country places in South Australia the weekly halfholiday is on Wednesday. In other places it is on Saturday. I should like to read to the Senate the petition which was presented to-day from two prominent representatives of the Jewish religion. The document is as follows -

To the Honorable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled :

The humble Petition of Jacob Lenzer, of 225 Victoria-parade, East Melbourne, in the State of Victoria, Minister of the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, and Jacob Danglow, of St. Leonard's-avenue, St. Kilda, in the said State, Minister of the St. ICilda Hebrew Congregation

Sheweth -

1.   That a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1902-1909 is now under consideration by yourHonorable House.

2.   That it is provided in the said Bill that in elections of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives the day fixed for the polling shall be a Saturday.

3.   That it is contrary to the principles and practice of the Jewish religion for its followers to vote on the Saturday, which is their Sabbath, the proceedings involved in such voting being a violation of the Sabbath according to Jewish law.

4.   That the effect of fixing the elections to take place on Saturday would be to disfranchise the large number of Jews who faithfully adhere to the tenets of their faith.

5.   That the Jewish population of the Commonwealth greatly value their privileges, and are anxious and eager to discharge their duties as citizens, andthey would keenly feel the hardship and injustice of being placed in the position of either violating their conscientious convictions, or of being deprived of the power of exercising their rights as electors.

6.   That your petitioners speak in behalf and in the name of the whole Jewish population of the Commonwealth.

7.   That exigencies of time made it impossible for this petition to be signed by other ministers of all theJewish communities of the Commonwealth, but your petitioners have received telegrams from Rabbi F. L. Cohen, of Sydney, the Rev. A. T. Boas, of Adelaide, the Rev. A. Levy, of Brisbane, the Rev. D. I. Freedman, of Perth, and the Rev. B. Lenzer, of Ballarat, expressing full concurrence with the statements and objects of this petition.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that it may please your Honorable House to introduce such amendments into the said Bill as will avoid the threatened serious conflict between the religious and civic obligations of the Jewish citizens of the Commonwealth.

Andyour petitioners will ever pray, &c.

Dated at Melbourne, the 16th day of November, 191 1. (Sgd.) Jacob Lenzer. (Sgd.) Jacob Danglow, M.A.

These people value the right to vote, and are anxious to exercise it ; but if they are called upon to vote on the Saturday, that will involve a violation of their conscientious convictions. I think they should be given some consideration. It may suit a very large majority of the people to have Saturday fixed as polling day; but we might tell these people that we are prepared to consider their conscientious scruples, and to provide some means by which they may record their votes without having to go to the poll on the Saturday. I believe that there are something like 18,000 Jewish voters in the Commonwealth.

Senator Barker - I am informed that the number is 27,000.

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