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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister of Home Affairs) . - On looking more closely into the matter, I notice that in division1 of Part VII. of the principal Act no provision is made for granting costs. The object is to have an informal tribunal without power to award costs, and the consequent power of issuing execution, and of recovering in case of default. But where an appeal takes place against the decision of the returning officer to magistrates who sit as a Court of Appeal, costs can be ordered. I am somewhat loth to convert the returning officer into a tribunal before whom counsel and others can appear, and invest him with all the powers and jurisdiction of a Court. We might, however, consider the advisability of deal ing with the matter in another way. We might provide that where a person's name is objected to frivolously, and he is in consequence, put to expense, the person making the objection should , be penalized to a certain extent. There seems to be reason in the suggestion the honorable member makes. I do not at present know how that would harmonize with the scheme of the Bill, but it seems to me to be a just proposition that where a frivolous objection is made to the name of an elector, and the elector is, in consequence, compelled to travel some distance and incur expense in answering the objection, the person who objects should be penalized. I think that in the principal Act we provided for a penalty of £5.

Mr King O'Malley - Make it £20.

Mr GROOM - I do not care to make the penalty too severe. We ought to make the punishment fit the crime.

Mr Batchelor - To fine such a person £5 would be to let him off very lightly.

Mr GROOM - The honorable member must recognise that, as the honorable member for Maranoa has pointed out, in this matter we are dealing with very cute men who put up men of straw to object. The objector might be a man of straw who would have no property on which we could levy to recover a fine.

Mr Batchelor - We could give him three months' hard.

Mr GROOM - I think that would be converting a civil into a criminal obligation. I shall consider the honorable member's suggestion, and if I can see my way to have a clause drafted which will meet what he desires I shall submit it at a later stage.

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