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Wednesday, 30 May 1928

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- I consider that this clause requires some explanation by the Minister before it is allowed to go through. In my opinion, it will act harshly upon a large number of workers, particularly those of the nomadic type. Previously the law provided that an elector had to reside in an electorate for only one month in order to qualify for a vote. Now it is proposed to eliminate two suh-sections of section 39 of the principal act with a view to inserting in their stead the following proviso : -

Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division. In this proviso the words " real place of living " include the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.

We need to consider this very carefully, as its result may he to disfranchise people who should he entitled to vote. I am very douhtful about the effect of the amendment. Apparently, a person must in future reside three months in an electorate before being entitled to have his name placed on the roll. It is well known that workers engaged in our seasonal agricultural and pastoral industries are compelled to move from place to place during the year in order to earn their livelihood. I believe that this amendment will have the effect of depriving those men of the right to vote, unless they remain in an electorate for at least three months.

Mr Jackson - Will they not be entitled to vote as absentees '?

Mr CHARLTON - I think not. Under this amendment all persons attaining the age of 21 should be given every opportunity to record their votes and to select their representatives to Parliament. Why should this special legislation be introduced, when it penalizes a large proportion of our nomadic workers?

Mr Ley - Will the honorable member point out where it is provided that those people shall lose their right to vote as absentees or by post ?

Mr CHARLTON - I should like the Minister to give an assurance that they are not to lose that right.

Mr Ley - That right is not disturbed in any way by the amending bill.

Mr CHARLTON - It seems to me that these men cannot even vote as absentees unless they qualify by a residence of three months in one locality. I shall be glad to have the Minister's explanation on the point. If this legislation is rushed through after immature consideration we shall probably be imposing a great handicap on many of our citizens. I have no objection to the clause if it can be shown that it will not affect the existing rights of voters by imposing a further limitation upon them. There must be some motive for introducing this amendment, and the only motive that I can suggest is a desire to take away from railway construction and other such workers their right to vote if they are not resident in one area for three months. As it stands the clause is very difficult to interpret, and I should like the Minister to explain it, so that we may judge whether it is justified or otherwise.

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