Page 1103 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 20 April 1994

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MR MOORE (5.41): There is a difficulty in interpreting a question of the nature that Mr Stevenson asked. His question was, "Do you approve of how-to-vote cards outside polling booths?". There is no "outside polling booths" as far as this particular situation goes. I would argue that his question simply does not apply because in this case there is no polling booth.

I think the other difficulty that is much more important in this case is that the visiting officer, or the electoral officer, is effectively made an agent of the parties or groups. There is another important question, a valid question, and that is whether or not we should be asking an electoral officer to fulfil this role. My own position on that is that we ought not be asking them to fulfil this role. Should these amendments fail, material taken by a visiting officer is something for us to think about at another time. Would it not be far better to have another representative go with them? I understand the difficulty of that; you cannot have 15 people accompanying a visiting officer going around a ward or a nursing home. There are difficulties. I understand that this is the way it will come out. The way to resolve those difficulties is not to ask the visiting officer to become an agent for political parties and Independents, but rather to support these amendments.

MR STEVENSON (5.43): I would be more than happy, as I previously mentioned, to support an independent government survey unit that looked at various questions in detail and actually got involved in real consultation with the people of Canberra. I would certainly support an independent survey team. I agree with Mr Humphries that people can have difficulty in answering various questions when they do not understand them. This is true of any single question we could ask. It is true of the large majority of questions that have ever been asked, from a political point of view, or that ever will be asked. If you cast a vote for the Liberal Party, or the Labor Party, or any other party, do they understand what they are voting for? Do they understand the complexities of that? One could always argue that they do not. However, people have a right to make a decision. When you ask them about something it should not be a biased question. You should not ask people, "Do you agree with fluoride?", and then say that it is going to save money and protect children's teeth. That is a biased question. Equally, it is biased to indicate that the World Health Organisation lists it as a rat poison. They are both biased.

You cannot educate either way when you are doing a survey. Everybody has a right at any time to educate people, or to make people aware. One could debate whether that is education, but it is a right to make people aware of what they feel is important on many issues. It is our responsibility and our obligation in this Assembly to make people aware of all important aspects of major issues. I suggest that we do not often do that. We pick one particular point of view that agrees with what we think, push that like mad, and do not tell people about the other side. That is not the correct role of a parliament, but that is what happens.

Mr Moore suggested that the question was about the area outside polling booths. It actually does not say that. Let me read it again. I quote:

This first question concerns how-to-vote cards being handed out to people as they approach polling booths on election day.

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