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Tuesday, 18 October 1949

Mr JOHNSON (Kalgoorlie) (Minister for the Interior) - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purposes of this bill are, first, to clarify the provisions of section 164b of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to the prohibition of electoral posters exceeding the size prescribed, and, secondly, to provide readily applicable means of effecting the removal of any electoral poster that has been posted up or exhibited in contravention of the provisions of that section, or the obliteration of any electoral matter written, drawn or depicted contrary to that section. Clause 3 (a) of the bill is designed to remove any doubt that might have arisen as to the period of the applicability of subsections (1.) and (2.) of section 164b of the Commonwealth Electoral Act by specifically declaring that those subsections extend in relation to an election or referendum although the writ for that election or referendum has not been issued. There never was any other intention, and it is considered there is no real justification for placing on the subsections any contrary interpretation. Nevertheless, presumably because of the absence of a specific provision such as i3 contained in this bill, the extraordinary contention has been put forward that the prohibition imposed by the sub-sections applies only after the issue of a writ. Whilst it is held that there is no real substance in that contention, the declara tion embodied in this amending legislation will, if agreed to, remove any shadow of doubt whatsoever on the point.

Clause 3 (b) of the bill contains a provision expressly stating that nothing in section 164b shall prohibit the putting up or writing of a sign on or at the office or committee room of a candidate or political party indicating that the office or room is the office or committee room of the candidate or party and specifying the name of the candidate, or the names of the candidates, or the party concerned. However, any such sign must not carry any slogan or other matter soliciting support or votes for the candidate or candidates, or for the party, or in any other way advancing or attempting to advance, the claims of the candidate, the candidates, or the party. In effect, the sign must be purely informative in character, and nothing else.

Clause 4 provides for the inclusion in the electoral law of two new sections, 164ba and 164bb. The first of these sets out that an authorized person, that is a police or peace officer, may, and shall, if so directed by an electoral officer, remove an electoral poster that appears to have been posted up or exhibited in contravention of section 164b, or obliterate electoral matter that appears to have been written, drawn or depicted in contravention of the said section. The second of the proposed new sections makes provision for the granting by a court, upon application by an officer, of an injunction restraining any apprehended contravention of section 164b or directing the removal of an electoral poster posted up or exhibited, or the obliteration of electoral matter written, drawn or depicted, in contravention of that section. As I have already indicated, the purpose of those new sections is to provide machinery whereby prompt action can be taken to counter effectively any contravention or attempted contravention of the provisions of the Commonwealth law as expressly laid down in section 164b of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I commend the bill to honorable members and urge its speedy passage.

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