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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr FISHER (WIDE BAY, QUEENSLAND) - I say that we can. When such offences are proved, the Government which failed to reach their authors would not continue in office very long. Upon the proposal to require an elector who wishes to avail himself of the postal provisions of the Act to go before a postmaster, I am opposed to the honorable member for Boothby, for the rea. son that there are many cripples who are mentally sound, but whom it would be absolutely impossible to take to a post-office. Why should they be deprived of the right to exercise the franchise ? The honorable and learned member for Corio points out that the mere fact of another person looking at the signature of a voter is an offence. I admit that that provision is contained in the principal Act. We have yet to educate the Courts up to an appreciation of the heinous character of political offences. At the present time, many persons are prone to regard such breaches as very venial ones indeed. I hope that the time is not far distant when the Courts will regard them as offences of the first order, and will commit their perpetrators to imprisonment for a term of years.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. FRAZER(Kalgoorlie). - I am of opinion that the provision requiring an elector to be ten miles distant from the division for which he is enrolled before he is entitled to record his vote at a polling place in an adjoining division is an unreasonable one. I think that the five miles limit imposed by the principal Act is quite sufficient.

Mr McWilliams - Five miles in some parts of the country is as bad as twenty miles in other portions.

Mr FRAZER - The distance specified in the principal Act is, inmy opinion, ample to insure that this provision shall not be taken advantage of without justification.

Mr. GROOM(Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - The object of imposing a ten miles limit is to prevent the abuse of the provision by electors in the cities. It was pointed out to the Select Committee which inquired into Electoral Administration, that under the five miles limit contained in the principal Act, many persons voted by post, who ought not to do so. The provisions in regard to voting by post were primarily intended to meet the cases of residents in the outlying districts, or of persons who would be absent from the particular polling places for which they were enrolled upon the day of elections.

Mr Webster - They could vote under the absent voter's provision.

Mr GROOM - That is so. The Committee recognised that the system was open to certain abuses, and desired to restrict these as much as possible. They, therefore, recommended that some safeguards should be provided. In the absence of proper safeguards they recommended the repeal of the section. I ask the honorable member not to press the matter.

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