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Wednesday, 8 November 1911

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - This is a very drastic provision. I am thoroughly in accord with any clause which aims at purifying our electoral rolls. At the present time, I believe the Commonwealth roll is stuffed from top to bottom. I do not say that it has been stuffed intentionally, but there has been no means of revising it. I have heard a good deal about the revision of State rolls, but of my own knowledge, there has been no revision of the Commonwealth roll since the inception of Federation. Does the Honorary Minister say that the system which it is proposed to inaugurate will tend to purify our rolls by removing names which ought not to be there? I confess that I do not like giving Commonwealth officers the power which the clause will confer upon them. Under the old Electoral Act of Queensland, a person objecting to an elector's name appearing upon the roll was compelled to deposit 5s., which was forfeited if his objection proved to be frivolous. But under this clause, the whole matter is to be left to the Department. Australia is a very big country, and through the negligence of an officer of the Department, the names of electors who may be removed long distances from the centres of civilization, may be struck off the electoral roll. Consequently, I say that the Department should publish a list of all those persons whose names it is proposed to remove from the roll. I know of a case in which the same surname appears on an electoral roll twenty times, although it belongs to different persons. For instance, there may be twenty John Joneses on an electoral roll. I have seen the name of Sullivan and Smith appear upon an electoral roll twenty or thirty times, and, in perhaps a dozen instances, the same Christian name appeared. But they were all bond fide electors. In such cases how is an officer to determine which name should be removed? That is not judicious. The Department should be required to publish in a newspaper circulating in the district the names of those persons which it is proposed to leave off the roll, together with the reasons for taking that course. If, after the publication of the intimation, any man concerned did not go and see that his name was not struck off, the fault would be his. He might be allowed to personally notify the Registrar of his residence in the district, or to acquaint the Court that he was still there. I have known that course to be taken in hundreds of cases by persons who had not left a district. With all due deference to the electoral officers, I know of hundreds of mistakes which they have made. I do not suppose that we are likely to have a new class of officers, and inasmuch as the present officers have made mistakes in the past, I anticipate that they will err in the future. The Minister has stated that any name that is duplicated will be struck off a roll, but 1 would remind him that, to my knowledge, the same name has appeared on a roll ten times, and even more often. He might well consider the suggestion I have made, because in Queensland the publication of an advertisement was found to be beneficial. Before the Court of Revision sat, hundreds of men used to come, and prove to the Registrar that they were still in the land of the living, and located in the district, and, of course, their names were not struck off. I prefer this power to be vested in the Court rather than in an electoral officer, because the Court is generally composed of men who are looking after the interests of all parties, and do not allow names to be struck off if the electors are living in the district. I have never heard or read of a reflection being cast on the honour of the members of a Revision Court. Unless an amendment is made, there will be no safeguards, and the Electoral Officer will have the right to say to a man, " You have left here," or "You are not the right person," and although he may not have received a communication, his name will be struck off. On one occasion, when Senator St. Ledger was a candidate, he came to me as the Returning Officer, and asked me to allow a man named Sullivan to vote. There were ten or twelve Sullivans on the roll, and I believe that the Sullivan on whose behalf he spoke to me was the right man to vote. But in compliance with an order received from the Electoral Office in Brisbane, I had erased the name from the roll. When the man went on to the Croydon roll, he had to send a notice to Charters Towers, and the notice had to be forwarded to Brisbane, and then sent to his last known place of address. The man had left the place of address, or the wrong Sullivan had got the notice, and I had no way of allowing him to vote. I think it will be found much harder to deal with the rolls of the Commonwealth than with the roll of one electorate in a State. I hope that some precaution will be taken so that persons shall not be debarred from having a vote.

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