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Monday, 11 December 1905

Mr McWILLIAMS (Franklin) - I hope that the Minister will give this matter his very earnest consideration. I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has made a very good point. In many parts of Tasmania, especially in the mining districts represented by the honorable members for Darwin and Bass, there are practically no roads at all, and it is as difficult to travel five miles as it is to travel twenty or twenty-five miles in districts near a metropolis. The regulations under these Acts seem to be framed by persons who know nothing of the conditions of the country districts. I would have no objection to making the distance ten miles close to the large cities, but I do not think that it should be made more than five miles in rural districts. If we increase the distance we shall practically take away the franchise from many electors.

Mr Groom - I promise to reconsider the matter, and will consult with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie in regard to it, and then recommit the Bill if necessary.

Mr. LONSDALE(New England).I see the force of the Minister's objection, and I suggest that an exception might be made in the case of country districts, where the advantage of voting by post is greatly appreciated.

Mr. BATCHELOR(Boothby).- I ask the Minister to remember that, if the distance is increased, the area of fraud is widened.

Mr Frazer - Why?

Mr BATCHELOR - It must be remembered that all that persons are asked to declare is that they believe that they will be away from home on polling day.

Mr Groom - They have to state their reasons.

Mr BATCHELOR - Does the Minister think that that stipulation will make any difference in practice?

Mr Groom - Yes.

Mr BATCHELOR - Then the honorable gentleman is very optimistic. I should prefer uniformity in this matter, though I have no great objection to a difference being made between metropolitan and country districts. The fraud which takes place in country districts under the previous provision is not so great as that which takes place in the cities. However, if I understand that the Minister has agreed only to consider the advisability of recommitting the Bill, and that he is not weakening in his position in regard to it, I shall say no more on the subject at the present time. The matter is one of very serious moment in the interests of Australia. I have had special opportunities to know that an immense amount of fraud now takes place, and that it will be very dangerous to extend these facilities.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28-

After section 109 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted : - " 109A. The following persons are authorized witnesses within the meaning of this Act : -

(a)   All Commonwealth electoral officers of States ... all Postmasters, Postmistresses, or persons in charge of postoffices;. . . all Justices of the Peace ; . . . all legally qualified medical practitioners .... all officers in charge of quarantine stations . . .

Amendments (by Mr. Groom) agreed to.

That after the word " Postmasters," line 6, the word "or" be inserted; and that the words " or persons in charge of Post-offices," lines 7 and 8, be left out.

Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -

That the words *' all Justices of the Peace," line 8, be left out.

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