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Friday, 2 December 1983
Page: 3216

Senator ROBERT RAY(10.44) —Whilst the Government accepts these amendments, I express some disappointment that we could not come to this agreement on the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform and probably saved ourselves some drafting time and other time. There may well have been some confusion in each person's mind as to what the final agreement was. Whilst I am not critical of members of the secretariat, it did not always get the finer points of our negotiation down. Whilst we were all quite certain of what they were, they were not.

I point out some of the problems in relation to informal votes. I will be very quick. Let us take the electorate of Lalor, a western suburban seat in Melbourne . In the Senate election in 1983 13,749 people voted informally in that electorate. Of those, 958 left blank ballot papers, 224 used lines or scribble, and 848 used symbols, that is, ticks or crosses. So that is probably not such a major problem in terms of the future. When we come to ballot papers with incorrect numerical sequence-that is, either a break in sequence or a duplication of numbers-8,659 people made such mistakes. The number who left ballot papers with more than one square blank totalled 2,947. So we can see that of the 13,000 informal votes in an electorate such as Lalor probably 10,000 could be fixed up by this legislation. The effect of the Australian Democrats amendment would be that not all those 10,000 votes I mentioned would be included , but we suspect from talking to scrutineers and people with a fair degree of experience in these matters, that some 80 per cent of the people whose votes are excluded for those reasons now would be picked up by Senator Macklin's amendment . I am disappointed, though, that it will not pick up the other 20 per cent.

To conclude, when we look at where those 13,000 people in the Lalor electorate made their mistakes, some 18 per cent made a mistake at or just after No. 1. Then the figures go right through. For instance, I think there were 49 candidates on the ballot paper and at No. 10, 1.8 per cent made their mistake; at No. 20, 1.71 per cent; at No. 30, 0.95 per cent; and at No. 40, 1.7 per cent. So the effect of this legislation, as amended by the Democrats, would be to include a lot of those votes. I think it is ridiculous to exclude people's votes when they start to make mistakes at No. 40 or 45. They have obviously made a major effort to get that far. I again note that I still, in my own heart, prefer the drafting of the legislation as it exists, but I recognise the realities of this chamber and I think Senator Macklin's amendment is 80 per cent better than what we have at the moment. As such, we will accept it.