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Friday, 11 December 1914

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) . - With regard to the statement made by Senator Grant about a campaign being initiated for the purpose of striking names off the electoral rolls, I assure the honorable senator : that nothing of the kind is being attempted by the Electoral Department. As the Minister responsible for that Department, I may say that the law is being administered in all its details by the officers without interference by the Minister, but no objection is lodged unless through the electoral officers, or unless a record of every objection is retained. If any honorable senator will mention a specific case in which an elector has . been unfairly dealt with by the electoral officers, or by any one else, I shall have the case inquired into. In this matter honorable -senators may co-operate with advantage to the Department. I invite honorable senators, when they have the time, to visit the Electoral Office and inspect the card system. I 'believe that it is the most perfect system so far devised in connexion with any Electoral Department; but there are some difficulties to be surmounted. I have come across cases of persons with similar names who have no connexion pr association with one another, and who are residents of the same district, and I have been unable to determine whether the signature in either case was that of the elector it was supposed to represent. The remarkable similarity between some of the signatures is indeed puzzling. Where it appears that a name is incorrectly on the roll it is the duty of those who have charge of the rolls to send out a notice to the persons concerned. They are given twenty-one days within which to reply to the notice of objection. In the past many persons whose names have been objected to, not understanding the matter thoroughly, have failed to reply. I have had a simplified form prepared, setting out queries by the Department, and in future persons whose names are objected to will be required only to answer "Yes" or "No" to those queries. In any cases in which the queries are answered satisfactorily the names will be retained on the rolls. When it is remembered that the rolls include millions of names, it will be agreed that of necessity there must be occasional clerical errors; but if any honorable senator will mention a specific case in which an elector is aggrieved, and will give the name and address of the elector, I undertake to supply him with the fullest information, first, as to the name of the person who objected to the name being on the roll ; next, why it was objected to; and, thirdly, the action taken by the Department upon the objection. I can assure Senator Grant that there is no campaign to remove names from the rolls, and the officers of the Department are under instructions not to strike any name off the roll unless they have reasonable assurance that it should not be on the roll. I call for the cooperation of honorable senators in this matter, as I am sure they agree with me when I say that what we want is a full roll and a clean roll. In regard to the questions submitted by Senator Needham, if it is not out of order, I should like to say that as the questions are now before me I shall make every endeavour to give the honorable senator the information 'he seeks prior to the special adjournment.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at5.8 p.m.

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