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Thursday, 26 October 1905

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) - Senator Turley seems to . be labouring under a great mistake regarding this clause.

As a matter of fact, there is absolutely no distinction made between those who can afford to use vehicles and those who have to walk. There is nothing to prevent a man either walking or driving right up to the door of the polling booth, but he must cease canvassing within twenty-five yards. Two diametrically opposite arguments have been advanced against this clause. Senator Henderson, with a political experience ranging from Coolgardie to Sydney, declares that he has never seen any obstruction, or any indications of canvassing, about the door of a polling booth, whereas Senator Turley, who is familiar with the rough and tumble of politics, says that if a canvasser is worth his salt he will follow an elector right up to a polling booth.

Senator Henderson - Senator Millen is not accurately representing my views.

Senator MILLEN - It is curious that when, at the last election, I went to record my vote at a booth where I was not known, I nearly had my arms pulled off by canvassers who implored me to vote for my opponent. As Senator Turley has pointed out, the presiding officer has, at present, power to prevent any undue congestion, and to see that access to the polling booth is kept free from obstruction; and all that is proposed in the clause is to extend the returning officer's power a little further from the door. It will not be difficult for the police or attendants to indicate the limit of twenty-five yards, and I venture to say that the ordinary canvasser will respect the direction given him. From my experience of both city and country voting, I am convinced that it will be an advantage to have a neutral zone, within which importunity cannot be carried on. As a matter of fact, would it not be better for both voter and candidate if all canvassing could be stopped? I admit that we cannot go that length, but we may say that within a certain distance of the polling booth, the elector shall not be molested.

Senator Givens - Will none but electors be allowed within the zone?

Senator MILLEN - Even the iniquity of a canvasser's business does not debar him from being an elector. I intend to support the clause.

Senator DELARGIE (Western Australia). - The discussion must have served to show the difficulties which would arise were such a provision agreed to. It would be far better to provide that canvassers shall be excluded from the polling booths, as they are at the present time. I have never known the police to experience any difficulty in keeping the doorway to a polling booth clear. I move -

That the words " and within a distance of twenty-five yards from each polling-booth" be left out.

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