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Thursday, 31 May 1928

Mr McGRATH (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) - This amendment will not give a vote to them.

Mr JACKSON - It will. Let me tell honorable members what happened in connexion with the State election yesterday. The vessel that serves Flinders Island, or which ought to serve the island, is at present in dock with a broken tail shaft. Consequently there has not been a steamer service to the island for some weeks. As I have pointed out on more than one occasion, the waters of Bass Strait can be very rough at times; consequently the smaller ste'amers are sometimes weatherbound either in the Tamar River or at one of the islands in the Furneaux group. There have been times when there has not been a steamer service to Flinders Island for six weeks. As soon as a writ is issued for an election, Flinders Island electors wishing to vote by post, can lodge their applications with the district returning officer at Launceston, and receive a voting paper, but the vessel that takes the ballot box back to Launceston leaves the island on the day following the elections. So that under existing arrangements the postal voting papers do not reach the divisional returning officer in time. There is no other mail service.

Mr McGrath - To whom should the elector deliver the ballot-paper?

Mr JACKSON - To the presiding officer at any polling place. The amendment will benefit electors who are sick, because they cannot go to the polling booth, and also those living at a long distance. In this bill the Government is extending the privileges of postal . voters so far as distance is concerned. It provides that electors living five miles from a polling place may make application for a vote; but, strangely enough, the Minister refuses to take the short step which will make possible, if the amendment is accepted, the permitting of electors to record a postal vote by delivering it to the presiding officer.

Mr Blakeley - There are people in Australia who can never have a vote.

Mr JACKSON - I agree with the honorable member. But as in the Electoral Act there is provision for compulsory voting, so we should see to it that those who are eligible can record a valid vote. I suggest that consideration of the clause be postponed with a view to arriving at some solution of the difficulty. I feel sure that it is the wish of the committee that some proposal on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Macquarie should be inserted in the bill.

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