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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1711 ..

MR CONNOLLY (continuing):

What you are doing here today is seeking to remove a fundamental and basic democratic right. On your own argument, it is a foolish and counterproductive thing for political parties to engage in handing out how-to-vote cards. If that be so, then leave it to the individual political parties and Independents to make up their own minds. It has worked that way for generations. It is a traditional part of the Australian democratic system. The nonsense about fear and intimidation at polling places is clearly refuted by the Electoral Commission's own study and is inconsistent with the common experience of most of us here who have engaged in this sort of process at polling places - State, territorial and Federal - for many years and know that it is regarded by the average citizen, the average voter, as just a part of the democratic process and a good-natured exercise. People take their how-to-vote cards or not, as the case may be, go into the privacy of the polling place and cast their vote. Under the Hare-Clark system they can choose to follow a party how-to-vote ticket or not.

You are seeking to use the very blunt instrument of a ban on a fundamental form of democratic expression. The Labor Party regards this as a serious issue.

Mr Humphries: You want to ban advertising material in election campaigns.

MR CONNOLLY: We think that it is much fairer to allow people to turn out with their friends and supporters. As those of us who have been around the traps for a while know, it is not uncommon for some of the smaller parties to have one person staff a polling place from opening to close, whereas the larger parties can usually stagger people on three-hour shifts, two-hour shifts, four-hour shifts or whatever. Anybody with a bit of enthusiasm can get out there and take part in the democratic process by handing out the traditional how-to-vote cards, as the Labor Party chose to do, or by handing out canvassing fliers, which I guess is what the Liberal Party chose to do, because you did not list a numbered order of candidates. You were certainly there at the polling places last time with your fliers saying "Support the Carnell Liberals".

It is a lot more equitable to allow individuals to go to polling places and do that than it is to allow individuals to buy television advertising time. It is true that every citizen in Canberra has equal access to the advertising departments of Prime, Capital and WIN to take out television advertisements at many thousands of dollars per minute. But the reality is that the cost excludes all but the major parties. The supporters of Mr Moore, Mr Osborne and the Greens probably do not have access to the fundraising expertise that the larger parties have and are disadvantaged when the democratic process becomes an exercise in purchasing time on the electronic media. How-to-vote material, canvassing material, is a fundamental part of the Australian democratic tradition. Mr Speaker, members really should be convinced that to remove it will distort the democratic process. No argument for its removal has been made today.

Debate interrupted.

Sitting suspended from 12.26 to 2.30 pm

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