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Wednesday, 25 October 1905

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) - I hope that the Committee will not indorse this proposal. On all sides it has been practically agreed that the provisions affecting postal voting contain inherent defects, and that it is necessary that the issue of certificates should be hedged about with safeguards. What are these people who are in charge of post-offices? Generally they are storekeepers, over whom the Commonwealth has absolutely no control, and who are in many instances strong political partisans. Some are members of my own party.

Senator Staniforth Smith - The same can be said of policemen.

Senator PEARCE - Policemen are prohibited from taking part in political organoizations. Generally speaking, the persons authorized to act as witnesses under this clause are members of the Commonwealth Public Service, or of the Public Service of a State. The reason is that such persons are prohibited from publicly taking part in political affairs. Now, however, we are asked to introduce a very dangerous element. It is a safe rule to select for this purpose persons who belong to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or of a' State. We should not go outside that class. If we include storekeepers, who happen to be in charge of post-offices, why not include any business man in a town who may be a registrar of births, deaths, and marriages? In a small country town, the persons mentioned in Senator Stewart's amendment merely distribute a few letters per week. We have no tie upon them. They are irresponsible in that sense. If we are not to permit the indiscriminate use of postal certificates, we must resist the amendment. The Select Committee that inquired into the Melbourne and other elections pointed out that the postal voting provisions were open to very grave abuse. The very clause that we are discussing is based upon a recommendation bv the Committee. It lays down a definite list of persons to whom the privilege of witnessing signatures should be conferred. We should be very illadvised if we extended the list. I trust the amendment will be rejected.

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