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Thursday, 31 May 1928

Mr HUNTER (Maranoa) .- The amendment before the committee would certainly be of assistance in thickly settled areas, where, perhaps through sudden sickness or for some other reason, a postal vote could be recorded and handed to somebody who would take it to the nearest presiding officer; but it would not help electors in the outlying and widely-scattered districts. Beyond Thargomindah and Windorah, for instance, the mail routes extend over probably 200 or 300 miles, with stations every 40 or 50 miles. Polling booths are not to be found there at convenient distances, and, if a settler wished to record a postal vote, he would still, as under the old conditions, have to deal directly with Dalby, which is the centre. Windorah is about eight or nine days by post from Dalby, yet Dalby is the seat of the divisional returning officer, . of which Windorah is a sub-division. If we are to make the electoral law suitable for people in settled districts, where they can easily have their votes taken to the electoral office, we ought to enable people in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth to,j take full advantage of the provision* I suggest to the Minister that we allow postal votes to be forwarded not to any presiding officer, but only to the assistant returning officers, who are also postmasters. The Thargomindah postmaster is the assistant returning officer, and a Government official. Nobody would take exception to his receiving postal votes. A long time elapses before settlers on the Bulloo, or the Birdsville route, can reach Dalby; but if they could send their votes to Windorah they would save from eight to nine days. The inclusion of the words, " posted or delivered to any other divisional returning officer or assistant returning officer," would assist people in the outback places. Electors in thicklysettled areas have their needs completely met by the amended proposal of the Minister. I pointed out yesterday that it was impossible to reach any presiding officer by post unless he lived in a town that had a post office. In the outlying places in the back country, where the people are dependent entirely on the mail services for facilities for sending in their voting papers, they are often 60 or 70 miles from the nearest polling booth. I know one road in a fairly good grazing area which is 120 miles long. There is a polling booth at each end, but none in between, and the electors could not be expected to travel 60 or 70 miles for voting purposes unless they had business to transact in the towns where the polling booths would be located. If they were permitted to post their votes to the nearest assistant returning officer it would be of great convenience to them. That would meet the case of electors in the remote areas, not only in my electorate, but also in those of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) and the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott).

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