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Tuesday, 31 October 1905

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) - There can be no doubt that the recent vote was given under a decided misapprehension as to what expenditure it would involve. In Australia there are nearly 5,000 polling places. In New South Wales, where there are considerably over 1,000 polling places, it would be a work of immense labour to take the rolls for the State to every polling place. I do not know whether the ordinary stage coaches would be equal to taking all the rolls to some places. I believe that honorable senators will abandon the project as soon as they see an estimate of the expenditure it would entail. The advantages to be gained are most meagre, and in no way call for such a large expenditure of public money.

Senator KEATING(Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - I hope that the Committee will not agree to the amendment. It is practically making every polling place - even one which perhaps was only decided upon a day or two before the election - a centre to which a man might go and demand the right to vote, whereupon the officer would be obliged to say, " I cannot allow you to vote, because I have no means of checking your claim or ascertaining whether the name you have given corresponds with the name on the roll." Do not honorable senators see how impracticable the amendment is?

Senator Guthrie - The rolls could be sent out at the same time as the ballotboxes.

Senator KEATING - In many instances there would be no means of determining how many supplemental rolls had to be issued. A polling place can be proclaimed up to the eve of the election. Under this amendment all the forms and rolls would have to be sent to each polling place, and the chance of an elector coming in to take advantage of the provision might be as 10,000 to 1.

Senator Guthrie - We have to send the ballot-boxes.

Senator KEATING - We provide that certain polling places may be prescribed as polling places at which an elector for the Senate, when outside his division for the other House, shall be entitled to vote. No one has given an instance of the insufficiency of that provision. First, an elector may go to his own polling place and vote; secondly, he may go to any polling place in his own electoral division, and vote by the use of form Q; thirdly, he may go outside his electoral division to any polling place presided over by a divisional or assistant returning officer, and vote there by the use of form Q, under the regulation; and, fourthly, he may vote by post. How can we provide all the rolls for a State, and all the forms, in every remote portion of the State, where there is a polling place for twenty or thirty persons, in order to enable a stray elector to vote there? Surely the Committee ought to be satisfied with the enactment of a provision that the procedure which has been followed under regulations shall apply, and that, subject to the regulations, it shall be legal for a man to vote at any polling place, outsidehis own electorate if it be presided over by a divisional or assistant returning officer.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales). - If, as I am told, there are 1,650 polling places in New South Wales, this amendment would necessitate the provision of 42,900 copies of the electoral rolls for the State.

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