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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr BATCHELOR (Boothby) - We all agree, I think, with the honorable member for New England in his desire to simplify the making of claims, for registration and transfer. So far as written claims are concerned, I think it is quite a mistake to require a witness to the signature of a claimant, and I intend to move for a recommittal of clause 17, in order to delete that provision. But in the case of claims for transfer from one polling place to another polling place, or from one subdivision to another subdivision, I think it is as well to require a witness to a claimant's signature. At election time it is exceedingly annoying for a person to find unexpectedly that his name has been transferred. It does not happen very often, but still it does happen. When a representation is made, the returning officer has no means of ascertaining its bona fides unless the claimant's signature is attested by some person. That attestation does not make a very great deal of difference, but still it serves as a slight check against misrepresentation. Our aim should be to simplify as much as possible the transfers which are covered by this .clause. I think it would be just as well to leave the clause as it is. The official returning officers are very prone to insist upon all kinds of checks, and we have to be very careful to see that they do not have an opportunity to institute checks which might prevent electors from freely using the facilities provided. As a rule, it is very difficult indeed to get an elector to .notify the head office of a change from one polling place to another. It is much more likely that the elector will fail to give that intimation than that any misrepresentation will be made. In these cases it is just as well to require the signature of a witness, but in other .cases that provision could be dispensed with.

Mr. GROOM(Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - The difficulties to which the honorable member for New England has referred arose chiefly from the fact that, when the names were collected in the first instance, polling places were not assigned as conveniently to the electors as they ought to have been. But this clause is intended to enable a man who moves from one part of his electorate to another part to change his polling place. In some cases a man may remove to a distance of 300 miles, and still be in the same electorate. It is desirable to enable that man, upon making an application, to transfer to the roll of the polling place to which he has gone. This clause gives a man the right to select his own polling place, and to get his name on the corresponding roll. It does not deal with the evil to which the honorable member for New England referred.

Mr. LONSDALE(New England).- I have no objection to providing, for transfer from one subdivision to another ; but I think that difficulty will bc created in some of the country' districts if electors are required to transfer from one polling place to another in the same subdivision. An elector should be entitled to Vote at any place! within the subdivision in which he resides. If the first sub-clause were omitted, my purpose would be served. Men have to move about from place to place in order to obtain employment at such occupations as fencing and clearing, and they should be entitled to record their votes at the nearest polling place in the subdivision for which they are enrolled. If the provision be adopted a number of men will be practically disfranchised.

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