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Thursday, 14 June 1928

Mr WATKINS (Newcastle) .- . It is a pity that the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) did not have the evidence of the Joint Committee on Electoral Matters before him when the discussion on interstate absent voting was taking place a few days ago. Now the Minister for Home and Territories (Sir Neville Howse) proposes to upset the decision of this committee and to take away from the workers the right when in another State to record an absent vote. The Minister has pointed out that these men should be interested enough in elections to obtain postal voting papers before leaving their States. There are people in this community who are continually travelling throughout Australia. Those engaged in the shipping on our coast are moving from one State to another, and what opportunity have they of obtaining postal voting papers before they leave their home State? It is quite likely that they may be away from their homes for weeks or months at a time. Voting is compulsory, and if they fail to vote a notice is sent requiring them to furnish an explanation for not voting, and if that is not satisfactory a fine is imposed. Our Federal electoral law should take no cognizance of State boundaries. All this talk of delay in receiving interstate absent votes is nonsense. At Senate elections interstate absent votes could be forwarded to the Divisional Returning Officer quicker than could postal votes.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The numbers could be sent in by telegram.

Mr WATKINS - That is so. In any case the votes would not be certified to until received by the returning officer of the electorate concerned. I am surprised at the Government's action, seeing that this committee unanimously agreed to accept an amendment re-instituting the interstate absent vote.

Mr Foster - Not unanimously. .

Mr Ley - The Minister accepted an amendment to that effect, subject* to inquiry.

Mr WATKINS - All the evidence given before the Electoral Committee, with the exception of that of one officer, was in favour of absent votes being recorded outside of a State.

Sir Neville Howse - The evidence of the committee is perfectly clear.

Mr WATKINS - That system was in operation . previously and was never abused. This committee would be well advised to reject the amendment of the Senate.

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