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Wednesday, 25 October 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - I should like the Minister to define the word " substantially," used in this clause? What is the object of it? Does it not depart from the principle of the Bill? Should not all the regulations be observed without leaving a discretionary power?

Senator KEATING(Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - The idea in the use of the word "substantially," is that which I pointed out in connexion with a clause of this Bill considered last week in relationto the use of forms. We provided that forms " may be in the form of the schedule." With out giving too much elasticity, we must provide that when regulations of this kind are attached, so long as they adhere substantially to the form, the act done is not invalid. If we did not so provide for " substantially " observing the form, we might find that some little informality, or some omission of a detail provided for by a regulation or provision - which might be as unimportant as the dotting of an " i " or the crossing of a " t " - might be fatal, and might destroy all that was done. It is to obviate an invalidity arising from some technical omission which does not goto the merits of the matter that the word is used.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 34 to 42 agreed to.

Senator O'KEEFE(Tasmania). - I move -

That the following new clause be added : - " 42a. Section one hundred and fifty of the Principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the word's ' the voter shall vote for the full number of candidates to be elected.' "

I gave my reasons for this new clause when I spoke on the motion for the second reading. They are these: As the Electoral Act stands at present, it is compulsory on every elector to vote for the full number of candidates to be elected, whether he can find a number of candidates whose views agree with his or not. The main principle underlying the whole of our electoral machinery is that the elector shall be granted the utmost freedom. He is not compelled to vote at all. His name is on the roll, but he need not exercise the franchise unless he pleases. If he does choose to go to the ballot-box to record his vote, I submit that we should follow out the principle of freedom, and allow him to votefor one, two, or three candidates, or for the full number to be elected. I understand that exception may be taken to this proposal on the ground that it is not relevant to the Bill. But as I read the Bill, 1 submit that it is relevant. Suppose that an election hinges on the great principles of free-trade and protection, and there are three seats to be filled for the Senate. There may be a double dissolution, when there would be six seats to be filled. But whether there are three or six seats to be filled, my contention stands good. A very ardent free-trader might find that there were only three candidates who represented his views.

Senator Lt Col Gould - I may as well take a point of order at this stage. I intend to ask your ruling, sir, as to whether Senator O'Keefe's proposed new clause is in order. I am loth to stop the honorable senator, but it is a question of saving time. My point is that his proposed new clause is not within the scope of the Bill. If that point is upheld it will put an end to a debate that might be of long duration.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - I do not object to the point of order being taken now.

Senator Lt Col Gould - A proposal made last week with respect to the HareSpence system of voting, gave rise to a ruling by the President. I submit that that ruling clearly applies to the present case.

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