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Thursday, 16 November 1911

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - I cannot hold out any hope that a departure will be made from the day which is set apart for polling day in this clause. In the opinion of the Government, Saturday is the most suitable day upon which to hold a general election. I am aware that from time to time there have been movements in different States which have had for their object the proclaiming of polling day as a public holiday. Many believe that if that course were adopted a larger percentage of votes would be recorded, and a keener interest would be manifested in our elections. Whether that would be so, I am not prepared to say. But the Government, even if they were favorably disposed to proclaim polling day a public holiday throughout Australia, have not the power to do so. The fact that Saturday is a partial holiday will, it is thought, result in a bigger vote being recorded than would otherwise be registered. The fixing of that day as polling day will enable hundreds of electors to take an active interest in such an important event as a general election. Of course, I am aware that there is a section of the community which entertains conscientious objections to Saturday being set apart as the polling day. While we must respect such objections, we cannot legislate for them.

Senator Millen - But we need not legislate against them.

Senator FINDLEY - For quite a number of years the general elections in South Australia have been held on a Saturday, and I have never yet heard of any very serious inconvenience having resulted from that practice. I believe, too, that, in Queensland, the elections are held on that day.

Senator St Ledger - Usually they are.

Senator FINDLEY - So that the Commonwealth is not making a new departure by declaring that Saturday shall be set apart as polling-day. I would further point out that the Government are prepared to extend the hour for the closing of the poll from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. - a course which has not yet been adopted either in Queensland or South Australia - to meet the conscientious objections of a certain section of the community.

Senator Walker - Could not the hour for closing the poll be made 9 o'clock?

Senator FINDLEY - We have no objection to the adoption of that course, although 8 o'clock is a very reasonable hour to fix.

Senator Mcgregor - In March and April, the sun sets at 6 o'clock.

Senator FINDLEY - It is very probable that the next general election will be held in either one or other of those months, and as sunset will be about 6 o'clock, the conscientious objections of the Jewish community ought, therefore, to be met.

Senator Millen - The sunset of the Ministry.

Senator FINDLEY - Our party's sun will never set. I cannot hold out any hope of any other day than Saturday being fixed as polling day.

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