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Thursday, 23 November 1911

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) - - I am not disposed to accept any amendment of proposed new section 208. Senator Millen has asked me to point to some specific cases that justify the proposed extension of the period during which a prosecution for an electoral offence may be launched. He has declared that he would place no time limit upon prosecutions for indictable offences, but that in regard to other offences he would impose a limit. We believe that a period of three years will meet the case of all offences if they ais grouped together I would further point out that the Bill does not say that a prosecution " shall " be initiated, but that it "may" be initiated. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition desires that any person who has violated the provisions ' of the Act should escape punishment. If the provision is carried it will enable the Government, if it so wills, to prosecute within three years persons who have committed either indictable or minor offences against the Act. The Committee ought not to forget that, although no similar provision is contained in the Act, this Bill makes some radical alterations. It grants facilities to persons to exercise their votes in a manner in which they were not able to do before. In order to prevent the possibility of persons who have been guilty of fraudulent practices under the Act from escaping the punishment which they merit, we desire to have the opportunity of initiating prosecutions against them at any time within three years. A card may be filled in and duly witnessed. Three years hence an election may take place, and then it may be proved that a fraud has been committed. Will any one say that because a period of three years has elapsed no punishment should be inflicted ? The period is fixed at three years because a general election is usually held every three years.

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