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Wednesday, 25 October 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - The Government must have had some good reason in their mind for wishing to extend the distance from five to ten miles. I do not believe in indiscriminately extending the facilities for voting by post, and therefore I intend to support the amendment. Section 109 of the Electoral Act, which this clause seeks to amend, says -

Any elector -

(a)   who has reason to believe that he will on polling day be more than five miles from the polling place for which he is enrolled ; or

(b)   who being a woman believes that she will on account of ill-health be unable on polling day to attend the polling place to vote; or

(c)   who will be prevented by serious illness or infirmity from attending the polling place on polling day ; may after the issue of the writ, and before polling day make application in the form K in the schedule to the returning officer for the division in which he lives for a postal vote certificate.

I believe that the original idea in initiating this system was to convenience those persons who had reason to believe that they would be ill, or who, being sailors or commercial travellers, expected that their avocations would take them further than five miles from a polling place on election day. But the provision in the original Electoral Bill was amended to include any elector who had reason to believe that on polling day he would be more than five miles from the polling- place for which he was enrolled. In my opinion that extension of these facilities was a mistake. In submitting this clause for our consideration, the Government recognise that there is a danger in fixing the distance at five miles.I think that we might very well increase the distance to fifteen miles. Any person who was ill, or had reason to believe that he would be ill, would not come within the operation of the clause, because it would always be possible to get a postal vote certificate. Otherwise, every elector should be compelled to go to the nearest polling booth and record his vote if it was situated within a distance of fifteen miles from his home. Outside that radius he would be able to vote by post. I take it that honorable senators generally do not wish to extend the facilities for committing a fraud. We admitted that we were opening the door to fraud to some extent when we extended these facilities. But it was considered to be expedient to grant them. The Bill proposes to extend the distance from five miles to ten. I think it would be better to go further, and make the distance fifteen miles.

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