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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3159

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(6.05) —I will not unduly prolong this debate because it is now being steadily reduced to bathos. The main points have been made out. However, the short point can be made that if an application for a postal vote can be made under the present law by someone in the circumstances described in section 85 who anticipates that at the day of polling he will be unable to vote, equally that kind of reasoning is available in relation to the provision in proposed new section 85 (1) (cc). A person will be unable to have his vote taken. What I am saying is that if the sauce is there for the goose it is there for the gander. If one can construe the clause one way in the context of the exception to the mobile booth provision, equally, one can construe it that way in relation to the existing postal vote application provisions.

Senator Sir John Carrick —Is that the advice from the Electoral Office to you now?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am not saying what the advice from the Electoral Office is. It may be a matter for argument as a matter of law which interpretation applies-the liberal one, which the honourable senator applies, or the illiberal one.

Senator Sir John Carrick —You are stating adamantly that there is no argument.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The advice I am receiving is that, if one can anticipate or predict with a reasonable degree of precision that it is likely to be a fact that one is going to be unable to vote when the booth comes around, one would satisfy the description of not being able to vote. In other words, the same kinds of criteria would apply as are presently applied in terms of infirm people applying for a postal vote. If someone knows he is going to be seriously ill within the meaning of the present provision he will be granted a postal vote even if he is not seriously ill at the time.

I do not think this debate is going to prove terribly productive if it is further prolonged. It is a matter of interpretation for construction. But the point that I have been making all along still holds; people in the kind of condition that Senator Sir John Carrick is referring to would be entitled to apply for a postal vote and to do so with about as much chance of success of getting it as they do, on my reading, under the existing law.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Senator Peter Baume's amendment) be omitted.