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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3153

Senator ROBERT RAY(5.29) —I think we have to go back to the reason why people apply for a vote by post. The reason is that they have no other method of voting. If we take Senator Peter Baume's point to its logical conclusion, everyone should be able to have a postal vote if they so desire. That seems to be the logical philosophical extension of what he said.

Senator Peter Baume —And why not be logical?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I would have thought that we declare an election day and people have to vote on that day. At the moment there are restrictions on the manner in which people are eligible to get a postal vote. The criterion is basically that one may not be able to vote on the day, for whatever reason. One may be interstate or ill. There may be maternity or religious reasons or whatever else. All those people who are in a prescribed hospital or nursing home that comes within the ambit of this Act have the opportunity to vote when the mobile polling booth comes around. I know that some people say that those people may be out playing cricket when the mobile polling booth comes around. In that case they can easily get to the normal polling booth.

To explain why mobile polling booths have been proposed, I have to go back to the basic reason: If there is one area of the electoral system in this country that can be rorted, it is the area of postal votes. I have previously expressed some examples of that and made the point in the Senate that that is probably the area that is most likely to affect an election result. I must say that not everyone in the Australian Labor Party may be happy with the particular clause that has been put in because traditionally the Liberal Party has been best at getting postal votes. In recent years in nearly every State, and notably in New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria, the Labor Party has continued to pick up and has caught up with the Liberal Party. If one wants to draw a graph one will see that we are on the way up and unfortunately the old Liberal Party postal vote machine, based on the blue rinse set, is on its way down. So in many ways maybe the Labor Party machine would be happier to have the old system of an open go on postal votes. In reality we have been complaining for so long that the Government had to fix up the electoral system and remove any potential rorts out of the system. This legislation does it. It gives every person in those nursing homes or hospitals an opportunity to vote and vote fairly with an independent person there when the mobile booth comes around. What it does prevent is a matron or other person from using undue influence to force people who cannot resist that pressure to vote in the particular direction that the matron or whoever else wants and in the way that such a person brings that undue influence to bear.