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Friday, 27 October 1911

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - There are one or two points which I notice particularly in regard to postal voting, and which I intended to emphasize in my speech the other day. In the Act we endeavoured to provide that the system of postal voting should be carried out properly, and especially that postal votes should be open to the inspection of the scrutineers who had to count the votes. Section 119 reads -

At the scrutiny the returning officer shall produce all applications for postal vote certificates and postal ballot-papers, and shall produce unopened all envelopes containing postal votes received up to the close of the poll, and shall proceed as follows : -

(a)   he shall compare the signature of the elector on each postal vote certificate with the signature of the same elector on the application for the certificate, and shall allow the scrutineers to inspect both signatures;

(b)   if he is not satisfied that the signature on the certificate is that of the elector who signed the application for the certificate, and that the signature purports to be witnessed by an authorized witness, he shall disallow the ballot-paper without opening it or separating it from the certificate, but if he is so satisfied he shall accept the ballot-paper for further scrutiny ;

(c)   he shall separate all postal ballot-papers accepted for further scrutiny from the postal vote certificates, and without unfolding the ballot-papers shall place them in a ballot-box by themselves.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I think that the honorable senator is now going into the details of the measure.

Senator Vardon - No, sir.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator has already spoken to the main question. The amendment refers purely to postal voting, but the honorable senator appears to be going- into details of the measure as regards the. counting, and the submission of postal votes to scrutineers at the time of the count. I think he is out of order.

Senator VARDON - I do not wish to transgress the rules in any way. What I want to say, and what I intended to say the other day was, that there is nothing in this measure which will give the same security as regards the identification of signatures as does the principal Act. When the Ministry propose to repeal postal voting they are called upon, I think, to show that they are substituting something which will efficiently take the place of the present system. To-day we have heard a great deal about the abuse of postal voting, and the statement was not backed up by actual proof. I want to know whether the Ministry do not think that any provisions which they may make in this measure ought to safeguard as fully and as surely the interest of the electors and the purity of elections, as do the provisions for postal voting which they desire to repeal. I think, sir, that I am within my rights if I make a point of that particular fact, because, although it is said that the system of postal voting is being replaced by a more comprehensive system of another kind, the Bill does not contain the same safeguards as exist in the Act. Probably the Minister will be willing to admit that.

Senator Findley - I think we shall be able to satisfy you that there will be greater safeguards.

Senator Millen - Why have you not informed us of that? That is the whole point.

Senator McGregor - We have not come to the time yet.

Senator Findley - It will be done by regulation all right.

Senator VARDON - Here in the Act we have a provision for the signature on the application to be compared with the signature on the certificate.

Senator Long - But suppose that it was not the elector who made the application, where is the safeguard?

Senator VARDON - The elector must make the application.

Senator Long - In hundreds of instances it is not made by the elector, but on his behalf, and you know that.

Senator VARDON - The honorable senator does not touch my point.

Question - That the Senate do now adjourn - put under sessional order, and resolved in the affirmative.

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