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Friday, 17 November 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I draw the attention of the Committee to another very important reason why we should keep this schedule in the Act. If honorable senators look at the bottom of the schedule, they will find a footnote, setting out that -

The candidate's consent to the nomination may be on a separate paper and in any form, but if given on the nomination paper in the above form, its sufficiency is not to be questioned.

We are asked to strike out that safeguard, which is nowhere else provided for in the Bill before us. What is provided for in proposed new section 99 is that certain particulars concerning the candidates shall be set out in the prescribed form, and that the papers shall be signed by six persons* Section 98. of the Act provides that the consent of the person nominated shall be sufficient if he signs the form of consent set out at the foot of the nomination paper -

But* the Commonwealth Electoral Officer or Divisional Returning Officer receiving the nomination may accept any other form of consent accompanying the nomination paper or received by him from the candidate that he may deem satisfactory, and his decision shall be final.

So far, therefore, as consent upon the nomination paper is concerned, the sufficiency or otherwise of it rests entirely with the Returning Officer. But the section goes further, and provides that the sufficiency is not to be questioned by anybody. Moreover, the form of nomination paper is set' out side by side with that requirement. We know what particular .form of consent is to be considered sufficient. But if we strike out the schedule* it will be competent for the Government to institute any other form of consent they like. If there is to be any objection to the particular form of consent, let it be stated. It will be quite competent for a Government or its officials, for purely party or unworthy motives, to tamper with elections by means of these regulations. Suppose that members of this side of the Senate were in charge of the Government of the day, and they had proposed such a thing; would honorable senators opposite willingly agree to place themselves in the hands of their political opponents by giving this power to them ?

Senator Findley - There is no such power.

Senator MILLEN - Let us get down to cold facts. Senator Findley said just now that where the Act was obtainable the regulations would be. He seemed to assume that a man had nothing to do but walk off Collins-street into the Home Affairs Department, and ask a pleasant official over the counter to give him a copy of the regulations and of the Act. But Collinsstreet is not all Australia. If you go into the remote parts of this country - and a remote-living Australian has as much right to nomination as anybody else - you will find that it is not so easy to obtain copies of regulations. Even if the Act and the regulations found a place in every postoffice and police office in the country, what is going to happen when, at the last moment, for some reason or other, the Government, of the day chooses to alter the regulations? The amended regulations may not be found in the remote parts of the country. That is where the danger comes in. As it stands to-day, every political party, every individual disposed to run as? a candidate, knows what? the law requires., I have been engaged in many elections. My participation in political life extends., over a quarter of a century. The first thing I did when I took an active part in such matters was to study the Act itself.

Senator Findley - With regard to the nomination paper?

Senator MILLEN - Yes, to find out what I had to do. >

Senator Keating - I have never used a printed nomination paper yet.

Senator MILLEN - My first experience" was not to use a printed form, but to take a sheet of foolscap and draw out a nomination paper for myself. Under the proposal of the Government that facility would be denied. The Minister has given no sufficient reason for the change. Where can I get a copy of the regulations in a remote part of this country? 1

Senator Findley - Where the honorable senator can get a copy of the Act he can get a copy of the regulations and of the] nomination form.

Senator MILLEN - That is not so. More than that, the Ministry of the day can alter the regulations every week if they like. In answer to Senator Cameron just now, Senator Findley said that the regula-tions prescribing the form of nomination would be available at a very early date.' I do not hesitate to say that if they care' to do so, the departmental officers could in five minutes give us a copy of the nomi-nation form which they intend to prescribe.' They know what their intentions are. Let us see a copy of the form now, and let usput it in this Bill. When the Minister stands so tenaciously to this proposal and" solid reason for it, I am justified in suggesting that he is concealing the real object of the change.

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