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Thursday, 31 May 1928

Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) . - I cannot understand why the original provision relating to absentee votes was struck out of the act.

Mr Marr - The Government is giving effect to the report of the royal commission.

Mr FENTON - I cannot recollect anything in that report against that method of voting. At my first election in 1910, we had to wait some time before the declaration of the poll, because one vote had been recorded for me as far away as Camooweal, in Queensland. Why should there be any objections to the absent vote, being recorded at any booth on election day, in the presence of properly qualified persons whose duty it is to superintend the poll?

Mr McGrath - It is a secret vote.

Mr FENTON - Tes. That vote is sent to the divisional returning officer of the electorate in which the voter is enrolled. The absent vote is one of the finest things in the Electoral Act, and is particularly needed in a far-flung country like Australia, in which people are travelling enormous distances daily. It is impossible for all the people to vote in their own electorates. A person resident in Melbourne may happen to be in Perth or Brisbane on the day of election, and what would be more convenient for him than to apply to a polling booth in the city in which he is staying for the requisite form to enable him to record an absent vote.

Mr McGrath - Many persons lose their votes because they are under the impression that they can record an absent vote when out of their own State.

Mr FENTON - That ia so. They walk into a polling booth in another State and ask for an absent vote form and, to their astonishment, are informed that that method of voting is not permitted.

Mr Brennan - Does not the absent vote still stand in the State itself?

Mr FENTON - Yes, but not outside the. State. There is a large number of commercial travellers and workers continually on the move throughout Australia, and it is only fair to them that they should be permitted to record an absent vote. This provision was in the original act, passed when the Labour party wai in a minority. Surely the then Government had some idea of the electoral requirements of Australia. Before the bill is passed the Government would be wise to restore the original provision. The absent vote can be recorded with the same secrecy and under the same supervision as an ordinary vote.

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