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Friday, 15 December 1905

Mr WILKS (Dal ley) - I do not understand why honorable members should devote so much attention to a discussion of this character. I shall certainly support the Government proposal. Any one listening to the debate would imagine that the electors of Australia were so ignorant that they could not be relied upon to exhibit the slightest glimmering of intelligence. It will next be proposed that a guide should be appointed to conduct every elector to the poll, and show him how to vote.

Mr. MALONEY(Melbourne).- I shall support the Government proposal. I would direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that at the Riverina election, which formed the subject of inquiry before the High Court, it was shown that the honorable member for Riverina lost no less than fifty votes at one polling place on account of the cross being placed in the space between the name of the candidate and the square, instead of in the square. If the squares had been placed on the left-hand side, next the surnames of the candidates, these mistakes would not have occurred.

Mr. BATCHELOR(Boothby).- I would direct attention to the fact that at the last election the number of votes recorded in New South Wales was 282,000, of which 7,834 were informal ; in Victoria, 262,000 votes were recorded, of which 4,818 were informal; in Queensland, 115,000 votes were recorded, of which 3,057 were informal; and in South Australia, 20,122 votes were recorded, of which only 542 were informal. The officers of the Department who met to consider what alterations it would be well to make in the Act did not recommend this change, although they did recommend nearly every other alteration which has Been submitted by the Minister. Why should we make an alteration merely for the sake of doing so, especially when it will lead to the adoption of different methods in the conduct of elections in the Commonwealth and in the States? I see no reason why we should not adhere to a form which has so far given satisfaction.

Mr. TUDOR(Yarra).- The percentage of informal votes recorded at the last Federal election was less than at previous elections, but of course that does not prove that a better method might not be adopted. I point out, however, that at the second Melbourne election there was a very much smaller percentage of informal votes recorded than at the first, and that was due to the fact that voters understood the method of voting much better at the second than they did at the first election. I acted as scrutineer for the honorable member for Melbourne at the Benevolent Asylum, where the greatest percentage of informal votes might have been expected. There were only four informal votes out of a total of about 400 recorded at the Asylum, and of the number who voted, not more than eighty or ninety had to be assisted by the returning officer in recording their votes. I point out also that the majority of candidates would not be placed at the same disadvantage as one of the gentlemen who stood for Melbourne at the last election, seeing that he had three long Christian names, all of which appeared on the ballotpaper. I do not think it advisable to make the alteration proposed.

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