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Friday, 17 November 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I do not wish to delay the passing of this Bill, but I cannot allow its major proposal to be approved without uttering a final, though brief, protest against it. I do not intend to again traverse the grounds of my opposition to it. I shall content myself with saying that, for quite insufficient reason, and upon some wild, unsupported allegations of corrupt practices - allegations which remain unproved, notwithstanding that there have been frequent demands made for proof - the Government are seeking to destroy a privilege which has hitherto been enjoyed by the electors of this country. In support of my statement that the charges made against the system of postal voting have not been substantiated, I would direct attention to the return which has been presented to the Senate, and which sets out the number of convictions secured in connexion with the last elections for electoral offences. These total 20.

Senator Findley - Plenty of robberies are committed, and we do not find the culprit.

Senator MILLEN - But when a robbery is committed, even if we cannot find the thief, we can generally find some person who says, " I have lost my property." It should have been possible for the Minister to give us some proof of these alleged corrupt practices. But- of the twenty convictions which were secured in connexion with the last elections, not more than three offences can have been in any way associated 'with postal voting. For instance, there was a conviction for dual voting. Obviously, that had nothing to do with voting by post. Then another conviction was recorded for taking papers out of the polling booth. That, top, had nothing to do with postal voting. The only offences which can have had any connexion with that system were one for a breach of duty as an authorized witness, and another for the exercise of undue influence. These were the only cases which could have had any relation to the postal vote. I place these facts in contrast to the vehement assertions that corruption has been rampant in connexion with that vote. We should require stronger evidence before we deny to electors who, because of their infirmity or old age, are unable to attend the polling booths, the right to record their votes. «

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Or intimidation.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator cannot object to intimidation. Intimidation is to be practised for the purpose of compelling a person to abstain from voting, or to vote wrongly. The honorable senator is standing over unfortunate women, and saying to them, " Because of your motherhood, you shall not vote."

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If it were according to the practice of this Chamber, I should reply to that statement by the use of a short word.

Senator MILLEN - I do not mind what the honorable senator does. He has never observed the practice of the Senate when it did not suit him to do so, and he is not likely to do so now.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What does Senator McColl know about the question?

Senator MILLEN - I quite admit that he Cannot know as much about it as South Australians, with their roll-stuffing proclivities. I confess that we are mere babes compared with them.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - A cursed political slaughter-house is the Legislative Council.

Senator MILLEN - I should be the last to reflect upon South Australia as a State.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator's party prohibits two-thirds of the people there from having a vote for the Legislative Council.

Senator MILLEN - Is that a justification for the honorable senator's political brothers stuffing the rolls?

Senator Pearce - It is only political opponents who say that they do that.

Senator MILLEN - I regret that these interjections have drawn me from the course which I had originally mapped out for myself. I had intended to make only a few remarks, but I should not have liked the clause to go through without uttering a final protest against a proposition which is absolutely unjust to an unfortunate section of the community - to those who, by reason of ill-health or infirmity, temporary or otherwise, or because of remoteness from a polling-place, are to be denied their right to participate in an election in thiscountry. The only reason for the proposed change is that the majority of these postal votes have hitherto" been cast against the party which, having a majority in Parliament to-day, is evidently determined to shape our electoral law to suit its own purposes.

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