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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3156

Senator PETER BAUME(5.49) —Senator Macklin, Senator Robert Ray and, I think, Senator Jack Evans have made some quite extraordinary assertions. Senator Macklin has suggested that whatever a vote of 85 per cent for one party is obtained it is prima facie evidence of some kind of wrongdoing. I can identify subdivisions of Sydney where the Australian Labor Party gets well over 85 per cent of the vote. Is anyone suggesting that that is prima facie evidence of any kind of wrongdoing? I can identify postal voting mechanisms in certain Aboriginal communities which return to the Labor Party votes well in excess of 90 per cent. Is anyone suggesting that that is prima facie evidence?

Senator Macklin —Yes.

Senator PETER BAUME —Senator Macklin believes it is prima facie evidence of wrongdoing. That is an interesting proposition.

Senator Gareth Evans —Nobody in his right mind would vote for you lot.

Senator PETER BAUME —Senator Macklin is asserting something else. I just think that that is at least a testable proposition. I do not think it is easy to sustain. Secondly, one goes to the report of the Joint Select Committee and looks at the chapter on postal voting to see what it had to say about all the rorts that people are talking about. It now comes out that this is some kind of mechanism prompted by a background of a paranoid belief on the part of the Australian Labor Party. Where does that appear in the report of the Joint Select Committee? A chapter has been written on postal voting but I can find no reference to, no suggestion of, any of the rorts about which honourable senators are talking. Are they telling me that they sat down all winter, examined these matters, examined postal voting, and came up with a lot of suggestions; that they were so passionate about rorts but did not write a word about it in this report? I do not believe that is credible. There is some hidden agenda which is political, which they did not want to go into the report. They could not sustain it, could not make out a case that would wash with the public, so they did not put it in the report where it would be criticised. Instead, they bring it out now in the Parliament. We are going on what is stated in the report, which we believe expresses bipartisan views.

If one goes to page 109 of the report and looks at the way in which the mobile polling booths are to operate one sees that they will not necessarily go around on polling day at all, of course. They can go around on any of the five days preceding polling day, on polling day, or on a day subsequent if polling has been adjourned. If they go around on polling day and a person is unable then to use a booth such a person will not have available the other opportunity, that of obtaining a postal vote. It is predictible that there will be occasions when people will be unable on polling day to use the mobile booth. The obvious case is that of the person who might have some kind of surgical procedure. Senator Sir John Carrick mentioned chemotherapy, where a person knows that he or she is to have it and, for many, it will knock them out for a day or so. If such a person cannot vote then that person will be unable-unless he or she knows for certain in advance of that inability to vote-to obtain a postal vote. We are not objecting to the use of mobile polling booths; we have made no objection to them at all. We accept that they will represent an advance. However, we have asked that the extra option, that of casting a postal vote, if one should so desire, should be available to people. I cannot understand the reasoning put forward by Senator Macklin. It is deficient in logic and I wonder at the hidden agenda that people have in their minds when they make the assertions that they have made in this Committee debate.