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Tuesday, 14 October 1975
Page: 2080

Mr YOUNG (Port Adelaide) -There are a couple of very important features of the Electoral Bill (No. 5) on which I wish to comment, not the least of which is the question of drawing for positions on the ballot paper. The system which we have at the moment is such that there are members who have served in this Parliament in the past, members who are serving here at the moment and members who will serve in the future not because they have the enormous support that some of us, with our egos, think that we command from the electorate, but rather because the positions of those members' names on the ballot papers are determined by the initial letters of their surnames. There are honourable members who have experienced that type of outcome. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) and the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) have both been subjected to OUtcomes brought about by what we term in politics the donkey vote.

In using the term 'donkey' I am not referring to the people who cast such votes. It is simply a fact of "life, accepted by all of us, that some people going to the booths to vote will vote straight down the ballot paper. In the. infamous days of the late 1950s and 1960s the Democratic Labor Party of Australia, when it was contesting elections, went out of its way at both Federal and State elections to have on ballot papers the names of people whose names began with either A, B or C. In a Federal election that lifted the Party's percentage of the national vote to such an extent that it thought it was a decent, acceptable and some sort of major political party.

How can the Opposition attempt to justify such a- system? How can it say that when nominations ' have been called for the House of Representatives the honourable member for Curtin, whose name happens to be Garland, should appear on the ballot paper before me because my name happens to be Young? If we stood for the Senate for our respective teams we would, according to custom, draw for positions. That should also be the custom for the House of Representatives. Appearing at the top of the ballot paper can mean a substantial vote in some of the electorates now held by my colleagues in the Australian Labor Party where we are being gerrymandered and where we find 80 000 or 90 000 voters in a single Labor electorate. The position at the top of the ballot paper can be worth between 700 and 1400 votes.

We recall quite vividly a very great member of the Australian Labor Party, Reg Pollard, who was the honourable member for Lalor, losing his position in 1966 not because the people of Lalor consciously did not vote for rum. He received thousands more primary votes than any of the other candidates, of whom there were twelve or thirteen if my memory serves me correctly. He lost his position because his name was eighth or ninth on the ballot paper. He ended up being beaten for the want of 1 per cent of the vote. It does not matter whether a candidate appears first, second, third or fourth on the ballot paper. He still gets the so-called donkey vote if he happens to appear above his major opponent. As I will point out, the Opposition Parties, who were given the idea by their great friends, the DLP, as to how to manipulate the system, intend to take advantage from this situation.

One would think from listening to the Opposition spokesman, the honourable member for Curtin, that each of us comes here because of our enormous contribution in our own little electorate, that everybody in the electorate knows us and at least 50 per cent plus one vote for us. Quite the opposite is true. We are all here because in one way or another through the various conventions and councils of our respective parties we have been able to win endorsement from our political party. So we are here as Labor Party representatives, Liberal Party representatives or representatives of whatever the crowd in the corner call themselves, and for no other reason. Not one honourable member out of the 127 who serve in this chamber is here for any reason other than that he was endorsed by his political party. That ought to be faced up to. The second thing that ought to be faced up to is that is it is good enough to draw for positions on the Senate ballot paper it should be acceptable to draw for positions for the House of Representatives. We have had the experience in marginal seats of not only political parties nominating candidates whose names begin with A or B but also of people changing their names so that they can gain top position. In some cases the top position may be worth more than the 1 per cent which I have stated. It certainly is in State elections.

Let us look at what has been our experience in Australia. At the House of Representatives 1974 elections, for example, the Opposition parties chose their candidates so as to gain maximum exploitation of the alphabetical system in those divisions where the result was likely to be close. At those elections, in 26 out of the 37 divisions which could be said to be marginal- that is, where the wirining margin, after allowing for either actual or notional distribution of preferences, was under 5 per cent- candidates sponsored by the Opposition parties were placed higher on the ballot paper than were candidates sponsored by the Australian Labor Party. At the 1972 House of Representatives elections candidates sponsored by the Opposition parties were ranked ahead of ALP candidates on the ballot paper in 26 of the 32 divisions. The divisions in NSW where the Opposition- quite accidentally, I am sure- were placed ahead of their ALP opponents were Cook, Eden-Monaro, Evans, Hughes, Lowe, Lyne, Parramatta, Paterson, Phillip. In Victoria the seats involved were Ballaarat, Bendigo, Bruce, Casey, Deakin, Diamond Valley and McMillan; in Queensland, Brisbane, Griffith, Herbert, Lilley, Petrie- every marginal electorate; in Western Australia, Forrest, Stirling, Swan and Tangney. In almost all of these seats which we would describe as being marginal electorates we find the Opposition party candidates, if not at the top of the ballot paper, certainly ahead of the position of the Australian Labor Party candidate.

No acceptable argument can be put forward by the Opposition parties to substantiate and justify their saying that some person should appear on these ballot papers above another person because of his surname. If people are to be representatives in this chamber and if we are to abide by the single electorate system, let the positions on the ballot paper be by chance and not by design. Perhaps some people will continue to serve in this chamber because they draw the position at the top of the ballot paper if the new system is instituted. But let it be that system and not the corrupt and manipulated system where people are endorsed by the Opposition parties merely because of their surname.

In addition to the important issue of drawing for positions on the ballot paper, I want to refer to the question of deposits. I have always been quite apprehensive about the deposits required of candidates who stand at political elections.

Experience throughout the world has been that a lot of the deposits have been required merely to keep people out. We have put forward a variety of amendments to these laws in Australia and the Opposition has found some reason to throw them out. If the Opposition had put forward acceptable suggestions or amendments to try to improve the system perhaps the idea of increasing the deposits in the manner we are now putting forward would not be necessary. We are not saying that the Government or the Electoral office have to be people who decide whether parties are being mischievous or frivolous in putting forward their candidates. Most people would decide for themselves, knowing the amount of the deposit.

We decided to move these amendments immediately after we saw the nominations that were put forward for the Senate elections in New South Wales. People deliberately set out to manipulate the system to increase the informal vote in Labor divisions and so prevent the election of Labor senators. Instead of having the normal 40 to 50 candidates in New South Wales, in 1 974, we wound up with 73 candidates. Perhaps some of those people would have decided that their quest was frivolous if the deposit had been larger. I prefer another system. I would prefer to see the optional preferential system introduced so that we would not have to have deposits at all. Deposits are not new in Australia. We have had them since federation. At the time of federation, 1902, a £25 deposit was introduced. It was quite a lot of money in those days and certainly would have kept a lot of people from nominating

As I say I am apprehensive about deposits. While the Opposition continues to insist on the system of voting to which it is adhering and while it refuses to accept the optional preferential system which is the alternative to very high deposits, it seems to me that the Government has to look at other ways of protecting the people and the system. I suggest very seriously that the Opposition parties have to look at this question. As I said earlier in the afternoon when speaking on one of the earlier electoral Bills there can be no doubt that people will set out to make the Senate system, in particular, inoperable because of the low deposit, because of the slowness of counting and because of the slowness in striking what may be the quota. The number of candidates from New South Wales and Victoria at any future Senate election may make the whole system completely inoperable.

I refer now to the question of the closing of polling booths. I know that the Opposition gets very frantic about this. As I said earlier Senator

Withers said on behalf of honourable members opposite- it is not a philosophy; it is just a state of mind- that everything we do has some scheme behind it, that what we were trying to do is to adjust the system to suit the Labor Party. I do not know how closing the polling booths earlier specifically helps the Labor party and does not help the conservative parties in this country. One honourable member from Queensland who is sitting opposite can tell the House that the Queensland polling booths close at 6 p.m. One of these days those that we employ in the electoral offices will say: 'It is just not good enough. We are not going to turn up at 7 o'clock in the morning and work till midnight. It is just beyond the human resources we have available. We intend to work a normal day. We intend to work to rule'. The whole counting process will be lengthened considerably because of the volume of work that we are placing upon those officers under the present laws.

This proposal seems to me to be just a matter of common sense. It does not seem to be a scheme to assist the Labor Party any more than the Liberal Party or the National Country Party. The honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) says that Mr Lewis, the New South Wales Premier, has changed his mind about his news release of 22 July and the amendments he intended to bring in have now been shelved. If they have not been shelved it was the intention of the New South Wales Liberal Government to introduce 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as the voting hours. It seems to me that all we are doing is taking into consideration the welfare and working conditions of those people we are employing in the polling booths and in the electoral offices throughout the country. It is for those reasons that I support the Bill.

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