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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3155

Senator MISSEN(5.39) —I think the attitude being taken by the Government is quite outrageous. It is clear from what Senator Ray said that the clause is introduced on the basis that the Government objected in the past to the provision of postal votes because its opponents were using the system more effectively. Now that the Government is doing very much better in that regard it is grinning like a cheshire cat. It is not a grin; it is a scowl. The Government still fears that it will not do well as it hopes, so it wants to take away from people what should be their normal right of a postal vote. Why should not people be entitled to that? The Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) tried to bring in this red herring that clause 61 was going to cover the situation, but of course it does not. It enables people to apply for a postal vote when they are in a place other than a hospital which cares for a person who is seriously ill.

Senator Gareth Evans —Look at (cc).

Senator MISSEN —Yes. Clause 61 (b) (cc) states:

(cc) will- (i) throughout the hours of polling on polling day be a patient in a special hospital; and

(ii) be unable to have his vote taken at that hospital in accordance with section 113C;'';

How can people be sure that that will be so? How can they make a declaration that they will be unable to vote?

Senator Gareth Evans —If they have an operation booked, they are sure.

Senator MISSEN —Yes, but they cannot know whether, in the course of their stay in the hospital, they will he to have a further operation and be under sedation that day. They will not know whether they will be able to attend the booth. I put it to the Committee that it is outrageous not to allow people, perhaps frail people, who want to make a postal vote and take their time over it to do so. They should not be forced to totter down to a booth somewhere or even perhaps be taken out of the hospital for the day to go to a booth.

Senator Gareth Evans —Why take them out of the hospital? You are just misunderstanding the clause.

Senator MISSEN —I do not think that I am misunderstanding the clause.

Senator Gareth Evans —We are talking about a booth in the hospital. That is a precondition of the operation.

Senator Jack Evans —But the person has to be capable.

Senator MISSEN —Yes, but if people are not capable of voting at a booth they could be capable of filling in the postal ballot before the event. They may fear that they may not be recovered by voting day.

Senator Gareth Evans —We are talking about mobile booths going from bed to bed. A person would not even have to totter 10 feet.

Senator MISSEN —I know about that, but I am saying that people may not be in a position on that day actually to lodge the vote. If they have a fear in regard to this, why should they not be able to put in the vote beforehand? It is not only a matter of what they are being denied by this proposed change. Many people , particularly old people, have a very serious concern about the possibility of their not being able to vote. This legislation only adds to the fears and worries of people in this situation. They are being refused the opportunity to exercise a normal democratic right. I suggest that the attitude of the Government in this is quite outrageous.