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Thursday, 26 October 1905

Senator TURLEY (Queensland) - Will this provision apply to vehicles?

Senator Best - No; vehicles cannot canvass.

Senator TURLEY - At election times, in addition to the driver of the vehicle, there is usually a person on the box seat who canvasses for votes. Would not such a canvasser be permitted to drive up to the door of the polling-booth with electors who were going to vote?

Senator Walker - A voter might be delicate, and might have* to be driven to the poll.

Senator TURLEY - If a vehicle containing a delicate person could drive up to the door of the booth surely a canvasser seated on the front of the vehicle could also drive up. A canvasser goes to a committee room and obtains information as to electors who have not yet voted. Then he takes a vehicle and collects those people. He drives with them up to the polling booth. Is that not to be permitted ?

Senator Walker - There is nothing to prevent people from driving up in their own vehicles.

Senator TURLEY - But if Senator Walker lends his carriage to a candidate and that candidate puts a canvasser in it and uses the vehicle to bring people to the poll, we have no more right to keep him away from the polling booth than to keep away a person not a canvasser, who drives up in his own carriage. I desire it to be clearly understood that returning officers will have the power to prevent canvassers going within a certain limit.

Senator Millen - There is nothing to prevent canvassers going within the limit, but they must not canvass there.

Senator TURLEY - A canvasser is of no use unless he can go right up to the polling booth, and, in my opinion, this clause is all in favour of the candidate who can get a large number of vehicles placed at his disposal. Candidates are not allowed to hire vehicles, but there have been cases in which fifteen or twenty cabmen have met and decided to place their vehicles at the disposal of a certain candidate free of charge - nothing is said as to the necessity for paying for the cabs afterwards. Canvassers are placed in these vehicles, and they pursue their work right up to the door of the polling booth; and thus the candidate, whose supporters have to go on foot, is .placed at a disadvantage. If canvassers are allowed to go within the limit, where they may easily drop a judicious word here and there, the proposed clause is absolutely worthless. Up to the present time, the returning officers, with the assistance of the police, have been able to keep canvassers at a distance from the polling booth. At the last general election, the members of the party; with which I am associated, were very backward in the matter of canvassing around the polling booth, and stood away at some distance, but those interested in the success of the other side had no such scruples. We had to get our supporters to overcome their modesty, but as soon as they drew near to the polling booth a complaint was made, and the returning officer moved the whole crowd. I do not see that this evil of canvassing at the booth can be cured if, as Senator Millen says, a canvasser is not prevented from walking along the pavement in front.

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