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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1759 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

the voters who are visited by the electoral officer. There can certainly be no complaint about access to the booth being blocked. It does not involve booths. There can be no complaint of an individual being harassed by a party worker. In fact, this work is done by the visiting electoral officer.

Mr Speaker, I think it is worth noting, in relation to the so-called harassment of people by party booth workers, that there is a sensitivity in the Liberal Party because there was a complaint to the Electoral Commission about them and, in particular, about Mr Humphries. Another complaint was made by a young female Labor booth worker about a Liberal booth worker. I happened to witness the event that took place, and it was ugly in the extreme. Whilst that matter was drawn to the attention of the Electoral Commission and of Mrs Carnell, no action appears to have been taken. It probably accounts for the Liberals' extreme sensitivity on the matter.

Mr Speaker, in opposing clause 4 we are seeking to protect some of the rights of people who do not have wide access to political information. The information is in a very contained form in that it is totally within the control of the visiting electoral officer how this material is used. I believe that our opposition to clause 4 ought to be supported by the Assembly.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (5.08): Mr Speaker, the problem with what is suggested by Ms Follett is that the effect would be that people in hospitals and the Remand Centre would be the only people in the Territory getting access to this sort of material as they came to vote. I accept that Ms Follett believes that these people should have it on all occasions. That is fair enough, but I would have thought she would accept that some individuals being privileged enough to have it - or disadvantaged enough to have it, depending on your point of view - and others not having it is not very logical.

The suggestion that they need a how-to-vote card because they do not have access to other forms of information is a little bit hard to understand. Mrs Carnell has assured me that, despite her nefarious cutbacks in the health budget, she has not yet ripped the television sets out of wards, taken away radios or installed guard dogs at the entrance to each ward to prevent the issuing of newspapers and magazines or prevent visitors from passing on information about political parties during elections. Indeed, in my understanding, those things are generally available at the Remand Centre as well. There is no particularly strong reason why people in those places should not be able to get access to information about elections. It is simply not logical to provide the information that Ms Follett proposes. Mr Speaker, I think that there is a sound reason to treat everybody in the same fashion. We have made a decision in respect of other people. Even if you do not accept the argument I put forward, it is not logical to treat people in these two categories differently from all the rest.

Mr Speaker, there is one more important issue I want to raise, and that is the suggestion by Ms Follett about there being some harassment of booth workers at the recent election. It is a little bit difficult to have these sorts of accusations thrown around on the floor of the chamber. I do not know about the second incident to which Ms Follett refers. If Ms Follett raised it with the Electoral Commissioner - the person whose integrity and conduct she praised earlier in this debate - then I do not have the slightest doubt that the commissioner has properly assessed that complaint and taken whatever action - - -

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