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Tuesday, 27 October 1964
Page: 1299

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) .- Prior to the suspension of the sitting the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) stated that it was the intention of the Commonwealth Electoral Office within the Department of the Interior to produce a film for the purpose of explaining the voting system that is used in Senate elections. Having had dealings with officers of the Electoral Office prior to my election to the Senate, I can only say that 1 could not have wished to deal with men who had a better understanding of their position. There was no thought of partiality. I can speak in the highest terms of their work and of their advice.

No-one could ever object to a system that achieved a larger percentage of formal votes in Senate elections. I have a vivid recollection of once moving a motion for the adjournment of the Senate in an attempt to have a committee established to look into this question. At the time, the Senate rejected my proposal. As we know, the names on Senate ballot papers are set out in groups. It would be a very good idea if the film could be shown to honorable senators either on Wednesday or Thursday evening, if it is possible, before the Senate rises for the week's recess. I think that we are entitled to have a look at it because we are interested, not only as electors of the Commonwealth, but also as candidates in the election. We want to see what the Electoral Office intends to do to cure the great evil of informal voting. I can see no reason why the film should not be shown to honorable senators.

I understand also from speaking to the Minister and to some of his officers - he kindly allowed me to have a chat with them after the suspension of the sitting - that they intend to use an extensive advertising campaign in an attempt to reduce the percentage of informal votes. I am rather anxious about the matter. Anything that is done to reduce the percentage of informal votes must be worthwhile, but I think we are entitled to have a look at the film, if that is possible. In view of the fact that the Senate election ballot papers are made out in groups, A, B, C, D, E and so on, together with independent candidates, I want to know something of the nature of the film. If one gives a demonstration of voting on a film and starts in the middle of group C or in the middle of group A, it may be that an advantage is given to that particular group. I do not think that much would be gained by showing a film unless a facsimile of the ballot paper was used, without using the correct names. From my experience of the officers of the Electoral Office, I do not doubt their impartiality, but 1 think that the Senate is entitled to have a look at the film.

Without considering the matter in detail, if the officers are to commence with a particular group on the ballot paper, I believe that that group will have some advantage over the other gro'ups. If that does happen, I realise that it will be unintentional on the part of the officers, but we have to consider how people think. A couple of Senate elections ago something like \2i per cent, of the votes were informal. I am a little concerned about the matter. I believe that such a film could influence people's minds because if it showed the actual method of voting, it would have to show the actual ballot paper with group A, group B, group C, and so on. I ask the Minister whether it would be possible even at this juncture to let honorable senators have a look at the film on either Wednesday or Thursday evening prior to the adjournment of the Senate for a week's recess.

Senator CAVANAGH(South Australia) ing that honorable senators should have a look at this film. I do not know whether I. noted a measure of suspicion in the mind of Senator Kennelly, but there is none in my mind. I do not think that the officers in the Electoral Office are partisan on the question of informal votes, but the matter could be cleared up if we had a look at the film in sufficient time to enable us to comment on it before the Senate adjourns for the week's recess.

My main reason in rising to speak on the estimates for the Department of the Interior is to refer to Division No. 314 - Acquisition of Sites and Buildings. I referred to this matter before the suspension of the sitting and complained that the estimates do not show where the proposed sites are situated and for what purpose they will be used. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) in his reply read from a document, but it was not clear to me how the Department of Civil Aviation intends to spend £248,700 in 1964-65 on the acquisition of sites and buildings. He then mentioned that this included a strip at the Adelaide airport and a site at Mount Hope. This excites my curiosity. For what purpose is the site at Mount Hope to be used and for what department is it being acquired? It is reasonable to assume that the Department is seeking the site at the Adelaide airport for additions to the airport. My complaint is similar to that made by Senator Mattner and Senator Murphy earlier in the discussion, about the difference between ordinary expenditure and capital expenditure. If the amount involved were included in capital expenditure, details would be given and we would be able to discuss it. <

I believe that the Minister gave me the necessary information about the sites to bc acquired by the Department of Civil Aviation, but a number of other departments arc acquiring sites. If these sites are in South Australia I, as a South Australian senator, might be interested in them, but I do not know whether I am, owing to the vague references in the document. Will the Minister tell me either now or at some subsequent stage what proportion of the £780,500 is to be spent in South Australia and the purpose for which any sites purchased in South Australia will be used?

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