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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Mr LONSDALE (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member said that a bootmaker told his men, on the day of election, that they would have to work overtime, with the result that they found that they would be unable to vote at their own polling places. They were, therefore, rushed into the polling booth at the Adelaide Town Hall - which, I assume, was within the electorate in which they resided, and voted on " Q " forms.

Mr Batchelor - No ; they resided in the suburbs.

Mr LONSDALE - The shadow of suspicion surrounds the whole incident. The intention is that a man who may be 500 miles away from his electorate on polling day shall not be debarred from recording his vote. It is to meet such cases that the amendment has been proposed. The honorable member for Boothby said that no impersonation took place at the last election. Can he tell us that the rolls were checked ?

Mr Fisher - We took care to do that.

Mr LONSDALE - I have never done so, and I think that very few resort to that practice. It is, to say the least, singular that the Labour Party is the only section of the House which complains of the proposal now before us. If the honorable member for Boothby wishes to do away with the practice to which he has referred, let him move an amendment providing that any one who prevents his employes from recording their votes shall be punished.

Mr Bamford - Notice has already been given of such an amendment.

Mr LONSDALE - I was not aware of that; but I believe that we have a similar provision in the New South Wales Electoral Act.

Mr Groom - Against an employer who refuses to allow his employés an opportunity to record their votes?

Mr LONSDALE - I think so. I believe it provides that employers must give their employés time off to enable them to vote.

Mr Fisher - I think the idea has originated in the honorable member's honest mind, and that there is no such provision in the New South Wales Act.

Mr LONSDALE - I believe it provides that an employer shall give his men time off to enable them to vote, and shall not make any deduction from their wages in respect of the time so lost.

Mr Fisher - That is the American system.

Mr LONSDALE - Every employer should be required to allow his employes to vote, unless some exceptional circumstances, such as a consequent break-down of machinery, would render it impossible for some of them to get. away.

Mr McDonald - Why not make polling day a public holiday throughout the Commonwealth ?

Mr LONSDALE - I should be in favour of such a proposal, although I do not think that it would altogether meet the case, because there are many men who must necessarily be employed on holidays. The proposal which the honorable member for Boothby advocates would open the door to greater fraud than is possible under the system of voting by post. Voting by post is necessary to meet the case of women and many persons in a feeble state of health, who could not travel to a polling booth. It is no argument against the system to say that it is used more largely by the rich than by the poor.

Mr Batchelor - Is the honorable member going to vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for North Sydney ?

Mr LONSDALE - Yes. And I shall also be prepared to vote for an amendment providing that employers who wilfully prevent their employes from voting shall be punished.

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