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Thursday, 26 October 1911

In the police court to-day, before Mr. Williams, P.M., Louis Lesser, J. P., of Coleraine, was charged with several offences under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Mr. Morley, instructed by Mr. Westacott, appeared for the Crown Solicitor, and conducted the prosecution. Defendant was represented by Mr. E. Silvester and Mr. Walker.

The first case concerned a voter named Selina Campbell. The first charge was that defendant as an unauthorised witness had witnessed signatures to an application for a postal ballot-paper without being personally acquainted with the facts, and without satisfying himself by inquiry that the statements were true. The second charge was that he had induced the woman Campbell to make a false statement that she was ill and would be unable to attend a polling place en polling day. The third charge was that defend, ant had influenced her vote.

Selina Campbell stated that defendant had visited her and had asked if she would like to vote. On receiving an affirmative reply, he gave her a paper which she signed. Defendant did not ask her any questions. This was on 22nd April, a few days before the Referendum poll. On 25th April defendant returned and gave her a paper. He did not say anything, and he did not see where she put the cross She had made a statement previously to Constable Harrington, but she was so excited at the time that she did not know what she said.

The statement was read over to witness. She said she did not remember having said that defendant had told her where to put the cross in the square. As a fact she was not ill at the time.

A lengthy legal argument took place on various technical points, which were noted by the bench.

The magistrate found that there was no evidence as to inducement or influence, but found defendant guilty on the first charge of not making proper inquiry. On this charge defendand was fined ^5, with ^5 5s. costs.

In two other cases in which similar charges had been laid in relation to defendant, defendant pleaded guilty to not making proper inquiries, and was fined ^5.

I was told by a friend who had personal knowledge of the case that in their arguments counsel stated that it was quite common for this thing to be done all over Victoria. In other words, the postal vote, was used to an unfair extent by men who travelled round the country, and he claimed on that ground that his client should not be fined. I do not think that honorable senators on the other side are serious when they state that postal voting has not been abused very greatly.

I desire to bring before the Minister in charge of this Bill paragraph a of section 1 80 of the Act -

In addition to bribery and undue influence, the following shall be illegal practices : -

(a)   Any publication of any electoral advertisement hand-bill or pamphlet or any issue of any electoral notice (other than the announcement by advertisement in a newspaper of the holding of a meeting) without at the end thereof the name and address of the person authorizing the same.

It would appear that under that provision it is punishable by fine for a political party to circulate unauthorized hand-bills.

Senator Findley - It is punishable for any person to publish hand-bills without the printer's name thereon.

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