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Friday, 28 September 1906

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) - - I desire to bring a matter of some importance under the notice of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Senator Keating is aware that in our Electoral Act we have made provision for postal voting with certain limitations. The chief limitation to which I desire to direct attention is that after the issue of the writ, and before a polling day, an application made in the form in the schedule to the Act, must be sent to the returning officer for the issue of a postal vote certificate. I direct special attention to the position of electors resident on King Island. If the interval between the issue of the . writ and the pollingday should be less than thirty days, or thereabouts, and it is very probable that at the next election it will be less, the whole value of the provisions for voting by post will be lost to the electors of King Island, because, in ordinary circumstances, it' would be quite impossible for any resident of that place to apply to the chief returning officer, who lives at' Zeehan, in Tasmania, in time to receive a postal vote certificate entitling him to vote by post.

Senator Guthrie - The same difficulty will apply in other places.

Senator CLEMONS - I have no doubt that Senator Keating will take notice of the fact. We have no power to enable the application for a postal vote certificate to be sent to any one but' the chief returning officer. If it could be sent to a deputy who might live near at hand, the difficulty would be overcome. As this cannot be done, I think that the only way in which the difficulty can be overcome, so far as King Island is concerned, is to appoint more than one polling place on the island. At the last election, only one polling place was appointed on the island, and, as it is more than 20 miles long honorable senators will recognise the difficulties that must necessarily arise. The Minister has just indicated in dealing with the Referendum Bill that it is proposed to give electors the opportunity to vote by post at the referendum in connexion with more than one important alteration of the Constitution. He will see that if the suggestion I make ought to be adopted to provide necessary facilities in connexion with an ordinary election there is an additional reason for doing what I ask is the fact that it is most desirable that we should give every elector in the Commonwealth an opportunity to vote at a referendum for an alteration of the Constitution?

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