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Tuesday, 14 October 1975
Page: 2066

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Wilmot will stop interjecting and I suggest that the honourable member for Gwydir debate the Bill.

Mr HUNT - It will cost people a great deal to vote. It will not facilitate their ability to cast a vote. Let us look at the proposal which is before us, for printing party identification of each candidate on the ballot paper. These proposals are not new. They have come up from time to time and former governments have examined them and found them to be almost unworkable. Political parties have never been officially recognised in our electoral laws or within the precincts of polling places. Although the inclusion of political affiliations of the candidates on the ballot papers may assist voters who may be unaware of those affiliations when voting, the adoption of the proposal would necessitate official recognition of political parties within the electoral system. Recognition in the sense of adding the political affiliations of the candidates to ballot papers would indicate a candidate's adherence to a particular political party and could perhaps be taken as an indication of some contractual obligation upon the candidate to vote in the Parliament in accordance with that party's directions rather than as an individual member representing the interests of the electorate.

Of course there are a great number of administrative problems in trying to make that sort of proposal work. The Bill clearly shows us the difficulty that the Electoral Office will have in trying to administer this legislation. Let us go to the definition or interpretation of a political party. The definition of a political party is: . . . body or organisation, incorporated or unincorporated! having as one of its objects or activities the promotion of the election of a candidate or candidates endorsed by it or by a body or organisation of which it forms a part;

Proposed new section 58d ( 1 ) states:

For the purposes of paragraph (c) of subsection ( 1 ) of section 58c, a party qualifies in respect of an election only if-

(a)   in the case of an election of a Member of the House of Representatives for a Division in a State to be held at a general election of Members of that House-the number of candidates endorsed by the party in respect of elections for the Divisions in the State (including the first-mentioned election) is not less than one-quarter of the whole number of Divisions in that State;

Of course that discriminates against smaller parties. It discriminates against those groups in society that might wish to form a new party. Why should we not have in a democratic society an ability for a party to grow from a small nucleus to perhaps something really worthwhile? It advantages larger parties. It certainly advantages the Labor, Liberal and National Country Parties, but it does not advantage the Australia Party, the Democratic Labor Party or a whole host of other smaller parties which believe that they should have a right to contest certain electorates to try to push forward views that they think are necessary to better society. That is what democracy is all about.

Let us not take it for granted that the whole point and purpose of this legislation is to facilitate easier voting procedures for the people. We live in a very sophisticated and well educated society and I think it is quite insulting to the intellect of the Australian people to believe that they do not know for whom they are voting and for what they are voting. I would perhaps go along with the proposal if I thought it was going to be administratively feasible. I can see that the Chief Australian Electoral Officer would have a tremendous job. As the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) pointed out, that officer becomes the sole arbiter to try to adjudicate in disputes on this matter; and there would be many disputes over this very issue. I think it would tend to complicate and confuse the electoral processes in Australia because clearly the processes that are laid down under this legislation are complicated and would not be easy. For instance, leaders of political parties have to register with the Chief Australian Electoral Officer which will throw a tremendous weight upon the system, upon parties, upon party leaders and particularly upon the smaller parties that are struggling perhaps to get a footing in the Australian political scene. I wish to draw attention to proposed new section 5 8P( 1 ) which states:

Subject to section S8Q, if, of his own motion, or upon the written application of any person, it appears to the Chief Australian Electoral Officer that-

(a)   the registration of a name in respect of a party was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation;

(b)   a registered party has ceased to exist, whether by amalgamation with another party or otherwise; or

(c)   one of the matters referred to in paragraphs (a) to (i), inclusive, of subsection (1) of section S8L is applicable, he shall give the person shown on the register as the leader of the party at least 1 month's notice in writing, calling upon that person to show cause, at a time and place specified in the notice, why the registration of the name in respect of the party should not be cancelled for that reason.

This matter is so complex and there are so many reasons and possibilities, many of which are covered in the terms of this legislation, that it indicates to me and to the Opposition that great complexities could arise in trying to register party political names and to ensure that parties do not try to defraud or cheat the Chief Australian Electoral Officer. I think this legislation would do the opposite of making it easier for political parties and for the people. I will not buy the argument that this legislation is trying to make voting easier when a government, at the stroke of a pen, can abolish 900 polling places throughout Australia thus making it more difficult for people, particularly in isolated locations, to cast a vote at all.

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