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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Senator STEWART (Queensland) - I do not think that the Senate ought to agree to this amendment, which will throw unnecessary obstacles in the way of people in vastly-populated districts voting by post. We have been told that the principal abuse in connexion with this system of voting occurs in the large cities where " persons in charge of post-offices " do not exist.

Senator Pearce - There are a number of contract post-offices within half-a-mile of the city of Melbourne.

Senator STEWART - In any case, the electors have access to other public servants, whereas in the back-blocks the person in charge of the post-office may be the only official within a day's journey. It has been suggested that these persons in charge of post-offices may not be respectable - that they may be more amenable to questionable influences than other public servants. If they are not respectable they should not be permitted to hold even unofficial positions in the service of the Commonwealth. The suspicious frame of mind which seems to possess certain honorable senators is, in my opinion, a real affliction. They should proceed on the assumption that every man is honest until he has been discovered in the perpetration of some dishonorable act. Instead of that, every man who has not the hall mark of the Commonwealth Public Service, and is not stamped eighteen carat as a Public Service officer, is not regarded as an honest man. This is a flagrant libel upon a large section of the citizens of the Commonwealth. What we should consider is the convenience of the people for whom this system of voting was devised, and at times a person in charge of a post-office may be the only witness available to an elector unless he is prepared to undertake a journey whichmay involve theloss of a day in hunting up a legal witness under this clause.

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