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Thursday, 15 August 1912

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) .- This Bill, I understand, has nothing to do -with the actual matters which are to be submitted in the referendum, but merely provides the machinery by which that referendum shall be taken. s Consequently, it is not of a very important character. It embodies no new principles, but merely affirms those principles which were given effect to in the Electoral Act of last year. I have no desire to discuss that Act ; but there are certain sections of it to which I am strongly opposed. I refer more particularly to the abolition of postal voting, which, I fear, will permit of an open door to corruption. The abolition of the postal vote inflicted a great wrong upon many people in this country. At the last general election, nearly 30,000 electors availed themselves of that privilege; and while some of them will doubtless exercise the franchise under the new Electoral Act, a great many will be deprived of it. I know of a number of persons who have assisted to build up this country and who will be robbed of the franchise under that Act ©wing to their inability to leave their dwellings. I imagine that the Government would have been better pleased if it had not been necessary for them to take another referendum upon the questions which were submitted to the electors last year. After the crushing defeat which they then sustained, one would have thought that they would have been content to move along smoothly rather than to run the risk of marching to that Sedan which has been prophesied for them by one of their own party. However, the forces behind them have signified their desire that the questions shall again be submitted to the electors, and the Government have agreed to adopt that course. We have been told that on the last occasion the people did not understand the questions which were remitted to them for their decision. Probably, with the changes which have been made in the Electoral Act, and which the Government doubtless consider to be in their favour, they imagine that they will win the next referendum. But, to do that, they will need to get a very large vote indeed, seeing that on the last occasion their proposals were rejected by a majority of 259,000. I affirm that they will experience very great difficulty in inducing the electors to change their minds. The statement that the people did not understand the questions submitted to them is a reflection upon their intelligence. I think that they understood them only too well, and probably they will understand them better at the next referendum.

Senator Findley - What about the Werriwa election?

Senator McCOLL - The Honorary Minister has referred to the Werriwa election, and there are one or two features in connexion with that election to which 1 should like to direct attention. The most important of these is the very long period that elapsed between the occurrence of the vacancy and the issue of the writ.

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