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Wednesday, 25 October 1905

Senator GUTHRIE - A .person has to give no reason for believing that he will be unable to get to the polling place. He simply states that he " has reason to believe. " My suggestion is to strike out those words! Any number of reasons can be given as to why a man believes that he will be unable to vote in person. It would meet Senator Smith's views if a miner or a person employed on a station were required to make an absolute declaration that he would be more than ten miles from a polling place on election day.

Senator Millen - No man can absolutely affirm anything as to what will take place ten days ahead.

Senator GUTHRIE - I think he can. A man employed on a station knows perfectly well that he will not be near a polling place on a certain day.

Senator Staniforth Smith - He can. only say so to the best of his belief.

Senator GUTHRIE - Such a declaration would not meet the case. Any man can say that, "to the best of his belief," on a certain day he will not be in Melbourne, but in Geelong.

Senator Millen - But if he wishes tocommit fraud he will take care to miss the boat.

Senator GUTHRIE - How could it be proved that it was not to the best of a man's knowledge and belief that he would be absent on a certain day ? No one could say what a man's knowledge and belief were on any subject. We should require an absolute declaration, and, therefore, I move -

That the words " has reason to believe," line S, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " makes a declaration."

Senator KEATING(Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - The whole of Senator Guthrie's argument is directed to making knowledge, and not belief, the ground of the application for an absent voter's ballot-paper. But the honorable senator must see that it is absolutely impossible, in the large number of cases we intend to meet, for an elector to say with absolute certainty that on polling day he will be absent. He may Le in a position to say that he believes, so far ashis then present arrangements are concerned, that he will be away; but there is always the possibility of something intervening toprevent his going. That may happen very easily in t'he case of persons whose business causes them to travel frequently from State to State ; and, under the amendment proposed, a statement made in these circumstances would amount, in fact, to a false declaration. A sailor may be employed on a vessel which is .timed to leave the day beforepolling day, and yet it may mot sail until a day or two afterwards; and there, again, under the amendment, the sailor, if he had' applied for a certificate, would be debarred from voting, and his declaration would be regarded as false. All we can ask an elector to do is to declare that, to the best of his knowledge and belief, he will be absent; 'and that is the present position of the law. The Select Committee which investigated this matter say, in their report, that the evidence given justified them in finding that many persons who voted by post had no reason to believe they would be more than five miles away from the polling place on the day of election, and th;at they were, in fact, within that limit on the day. To meet that difficulty, the Bill proposes that, in case of an application for a postal ballot-paper, the applicant shall state in the application the reasons for his belief that he will be away on the polling day at a distance of more than ten miles. An applicant, for instance, might give as his reason that he intended to go to Sydney on such and such a day ; and in such case there would be, df course, every opportunity to check his statement. It might be found that he made arrangements entirely inconsistent with such an intention, and thus it could be demonstrated that he had no real reason for believing he would be absent in Sydney. Then, again, if a man were to give as TiE reason that he had taken a passage for Western Australia, the accuracy of that statement could be checked. A man will be chary about making a false statement of belief when he has to set forth,' in plain1, unmistakable terms, the reasons for his alleged belief that he will be absent om the day of election. Such a person may Set the reasons down airily and lightly at the time, but his whole conduct may Le so inconsistent as to clearly show that his reasons were false.

Senator Millen - And there is- the prospect of a month's imprisonment.

Senator KEATING - The proposal in the Bill will make the provision, for postal voting more satisfactory than in the past. The public advantage of voting by post - for I consider it to be an advantage - will be utilized with all proper safeguards for the purity of elections, and the proper registration of the will of the electors.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment (by Senator de Largie) proposed -

That the word " ten," line 6, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word "fifteen."

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