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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 3323

Mr CROSS (Brisbane) - I second the motion which has been moved by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) because it is an urgent necessity to suspend the Standing Orders to give effect to the sentiments expressed in his second reading speech by the Minister for the Interior {Mr Hunt) on 31st March 1971. I draw attention to the first paragraph of the Minister's speech when, by way of apology for the late introduction of the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, he said:

During the last session of the previous Parliament, the then Minister informed the House that a review of the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Regulations thereunder had been in progress for some time, and that, although it was not possible to reach the point where amendments to the Act could be presented to the Parliament for consideration before the 1969 House of Representatives election, the Government's intention was that the review should be resumed immediately after the elections and taken to finality as soon as possible.

I emphasise the words 'as soon as possible'. The Minister continued:

This has been done and the amendments we propose are the subject of this Bill.

While certain of the proposed amendments are formal or machinery in character and need little or no explanation, other provisions of the Bill seek to bring about much needed changes in the electoral laws-

I emphasise 'much needed changes in the electoral laws' - and it is to these that I will devote most of my remarks.

I support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders because the Labor Party agrees with the urgency conveyed by the Minister in his speech on 31st March 1971. We had reached the stage where the Minister said that a review had been commenced during the previous Parliament and he was bringing in this legislation halfway during the last Parliament. Shortly we will go into recess and will return for a short Budget session. This will be followed by the Federal elections later this year. If we do not take the action which has been advocated by the honourable member for Grayndler in his motion, consideration of matters which the Government regarded as vital in March 1971, and which the Labor Party regarded as vital then and still does now, will probably not and almost certainly not be given by the Parliament until after the next elections.

The question arises whether this matter is urgent. The Government proposes to extend absent voting facilities on an Australia wide basis so that an elector can vote outside the State or Territory for which he is enrolled. The Minister in his second reading speech explained that there were anomalies and that voters were unable to exercise the franchise as was their right. Apparently the Government considered that to be urgent in March 1971 but it is not given urgent consideration today. A further proposal of the Bill - the Labor Party will support this one - is to improve voting facilities for patients and inmates of hospitals, convalescent homes and institutions, and to enable mobile booths to be established at convalescent homes and hospitals. In March 1971 the Government regarded this as urgent. The Minister in his second reading speech said that it was a matter of great importance that the law should be amended in this way. Therefore the Opposition is advocating the suspension of the Standing Orders today in order that effect might be given to the proposed amendments. The Bill also proposed to tidy up a number of other matters. They include the matter of people who lose their franchise when they are posted overseas; the removal of a person's name from the roll although he has not ceased to live permanently in the subdivision for which he is enrolled; the eligibility of a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory to nominate for election as a senator or a member of the House of Reprsentatives; and electoral expenses, a matter on which the Labor Party has some very sound and profound views.

For those reasons, for the reasons stated by the Minister in his second reading speech which was made a long time ago, in March 1971, and also because the Labor Party wishes to take an opportunity to move amendments to this Bill in line with Labor Party policy to reform the Commonwealth Electoral Act to make our franchise more democratic, to extend the franchise to 18-year-olds and to ensure that the electoral system is run as honestly and efficiently as it may be run, I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Grayndler for the suspension of Standing Orders.

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