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Friday, 17 November 1911

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I think that the Minister must realize that this is a proposition which is fraught with very grave danger, not to any political party, but to candidates and those who desire to nominate them.

Senator Findley - Will the honorable senator point out in what way?

Senator KEATING - I propose to do so as briefly as I can. Under the existing law, the Act itself sets out in a schedule the prescribed form. Everybody who wishes to consult the electoral law of the Commonwealth, will consult the Act, and it may be found in bound volumes in the different centres of all the States. If it is desired to nominate a candidate, the form of nomination is there for the guidance of those concerned. The Minister knows that it is very easy for a nomination to-be rendered invalid.

Senator Lynch - Is not the form of nomination paper always printed and available at the electoral offices?

Senator KEATING - It is available at the electoral offices, but there may not be an office of that character in a particular centre. If the form of nomination be clearly set out in the Act, any elector who may desire to become a candidate for Parliament, or who may wish to nominate some other person as a candidate, will be in a position to consult it, and, by following the form which is there laid down, will know that he is avoiding the possibility of an invalid nomination. But if the form of nomination is to be prescribed by regulation, it will be necessary for him to obtain a copy of the regulations, and that may not be as easily procurable in certain centres as are copies of the Act itself. Then again, an elector may obtain regulations and follow the form of nomination prescribed by them, nursing the conviction that he has complied with the law, only to discover subsequently that a later set of regulations, has superseded that which he consulted, and has prescribed a different form. I think that the Honorary Minister, on reflection, will see that this clause- is fraught with very great danger. If the nomination form were a variable one it would be fraught with danger in the case of a State, but it is fraught with much more danger in connexion with Commonwealth elections, because I am quite sure that in different parts of Australia the regulations which are framed under various Acts are never seen. For instance, practically the only persons who ever consult the regulations framed under our Customs Act are those whose daily work brings them into contact with the Customs Department. Similarly, regulations under our Defence Act are consulted only by those who are intimately interested in that Department.

Senator de Largie - And who, save the candidates themselves, are interested in the form of nomination?

Senator KEATING - I say that when an Electoral Act is passed, it is often consulted by intending candidates some time before an election is to take place. But it occasionally happens that almost on the eve of an election an individual is requested to offer his services to a constituency, or himself decides to come forward as a candidate. In such circumstances it is only then that he consults the , electoral law for the first time. Now, if we require him to go beyond the Act itself, and to obtain a set of regulations in order to ascertain the proper nomination form to be followed, I submit that we shall be doing an unfair thing to the community. The clause opens up the danger and possibility of invalid nominations to everybody .concerned. I submit that nothing which is essential and indispensable should be prescribed by regulations in the form of a nomination paper. If it be essential that certain particulars should be set forth in the nomination form, those particulars should be clearly specified in the Act. If the form requires to be a variable one, in order to convenience the Department, I submit that non-compliance with the regulations prescribing it ought not to invalidate a nomination. That is a point which is worthy of very serious consideration. All essential particulars, the absence of which would invalidate a nomination, should be clearly set out in the schedule of the Act.

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