Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 7 October 1927

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) (Minister for Defence) [2.44]. - It is generally admitted that an amendment of the act is desirable to ensure clean rolls and purity in elections. Immediately after an election we hear all sorts of rumors of malpractice and impersonation of electors.

Senator Grant - Most of which are unfounded.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - It is gratifying to learn from the report of the committee that there is very little justification for these rumours. The debate has shown that, generally speaking, honorable senators are in favour of the bill. Senator Needham has objected to certain proposed amendments of the act. He is not in favour of the closing of polling places at 7 o'clock. He stressed the inconvenience that might be caused to some electors in recording their votes. The franchise is the highest privilege that the people of Australia enjoy. They are asked to exercise it only once in every three years, and the time allowed is between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The bill proposes to alter the closing hour to 7 p.m. In four of the States the poll in the case of State elections now closes at either 7 p.m. or earlier. If the Governments of those States had reason to .believe that there was a possibility of electors being disfranchised, I feel sure that they would consider the advisability of amending the law. The officials have a very strenuous time on election day. Immediately the poll closes, they have to commence the counting of the votes. No great hardship will be imposed on any elector by compelling him to vote before 7 p.m. Senator Needham also voiced an objection against postal voting. All that the bill proposes is to improve the facilities for obtaining a postal vote. ' In a country that has a universal franchise, it is essential that every elector should be enabled to record a vote. It would be a great hardship to withdraw the privilege from people who happen to be ill, or who suffer from any disability that prevents their attendance at a polling booth. There are ample safeguards against interference with 'the secrecy of the ballot. Honorable senators should recognize the wisdom of retaining the postal ballot provisions. Commercial travellers and others who are engaged in similar callings would be at a disadvantage if they were deprived of. the opporunity to vote by post. Honorable senators opposite further objected to the proposed amendment relating to the signing of articles. It is generally admitted that the opinions expressed in articles that appear in newspapers are those of the proprietors. It imposes a hardship upon the writer of an article that expresses the views of the journal by which he is employed, to insist upon his signing it. These provisions have had no effect, and it is as well to repeal them. Senator Thompson argued that the period of qualification and disqualification should be increased from one month to three months. An elector must reside in a division for one month before he can apply for a vote for that division. Under the existing provision a period of ten weeks elapses before he is entitled to record a vote. That would be increased to nineteen weeks if the qualifying period were made three months instead of one month. There is a further objection to the proposal. The Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to induce every State to adopt a joint roll. Tasmania, South Australia, and Victoria now work under a joint roll, and Western Australia contemplates the introduction of legislation to enable it to fall into line. In each of those States both the qualifying and the disqualifying period is one month. If the Commonwealth were to provide for three months, it would be necessary for them to amend their laws. Until that was done, the principle of a joint roll could not be followed. Senator Thompson also advocated the placing of the names of parties on the ballot-paper. That would be a dangerous practice. Senator Reid suggested that the poll should close at 4 p.m. in country districts where there was a limited number of electors. Such a provision would be very difficult to administer, and it might open the door to all sorts of improper practices. I understand that in earlier times in the States provision was made along those lines, and that a uniform closing hour is of comparatively recent origin. It is, however, the existing practice in every State, and I do not think that it would be wise to depart from it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Persons entitled to enrolment and to vote).

Suggest corrections