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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr ISAACS (lndi) - I wish to call the attention of the Government to the question of the present condition of the electoral rolls. I know that I shall be pardoned for referring to a matter of such intense importance to the whole country. I do so, because considerable comment upon it has appeared in newspapers which circulate within my own electorate, and because letters which I have received from some of my constituents convince me that a great deal yet remains to be done before the electoral rolls can be placed in a satisfactory state. Thereis no doubt thatmistakeshave occurred. Of course, I recognise that the difficulties which confronted the Department were almost insuperable. Such a tremendous change was being effected in our electoral system that it was almost impossible to avoid errors. But the time within which they can be corrected is extremely short, and therefore I deem it to be my duty to again call attention to the question. There is one matter in particular which strikes me as being capable of amendment. Under present arrangements the Revision Court for any electorate can sit in one town only. I am afraid that it will be impossible for the Revision Court sitting in any one town to deal satisfactorily with the requirements of a whole electorate. The number of anomalies which exist are great. We cannot expect men and women to travel from distant quarters of a large electorate to one town only.

Mr Tudor - They need not appear in person.

Mr ISAACS - But their claims have to be decided judicially, and I find upon reference to sections 77 and 82 of the Electoral Act that the Court must be satisfied that applicants who desire to have their names inserted upon the rolls are entitled to exercise the franchise. Certainly some information will require to be given before that tribunal can satisfy itself that the names of those who claim the right to vote at the coming elections have been improperly omitted. I do not think that the Court in a perfunctory fashion will grant all applications which may be made to it. While I am satisfied that it is not necessary for every applicant to attend in person, it is undoubtedly an obstacle that a person residing at any considerable distance from the town in which the Court meets does not know what objections may be raised to his or her claim, and is unable to answer any such objection because of the travelling that would be necessary to enable that to be done. In the past every facility has been given for the holding of Revision Courts. They have even sat at night in order that the workers might attend and see that mistakes which had been made were corrected. At present electors in the country experience very great difficulty indeed in obtaining their rights.

Sir John Forrest - I do not see where the difficulty comes in. Any one can get his name on the roll if he wishes to do so.

Mr ISAACS - If a person resides 80 miles or 100 miles from the town in which the Revision Court is held, he experiences considerable difficulty.

Sir John Forrest - If he sends in his application he can secure the insertion of his name upon the roll.

Mr ISAACS - The Act does not say that. It provides that the Court must be satisfied that his claim is a just one. Some evidence must be given in support of it, and if objections are raisedthey must be combatted. I do, not think that the Revision Court is a mere registration court which will grant the application of every person who chooses to ask for the insertion of his name upon the rolls. It is a tribunal whose function it is to mete out justice. It is possible that the names of some persons have been improperly placed upon the rolls, or that the names of others have been improperly omitted. It is a court of justice, and as such should have proper materials before it on which to arrive at a decision. I am afraid that we are, perhaps, treating the matter a little too lightly. Many great issues hang upon it, and complaints are already being made that people cannot travel the great distances - because they are great distances - between their homes and the Revision Courts, or cannot see their way to be properly represented there.

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