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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
Program 4-AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION
Subprogram 3.5-Overseas Property Services
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
Program 4-AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION
MR DE ZILVA
- Sub program
Subprogram 3.5-Overseas Property Services
- System Id
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Table Of ContentsPrevious Fragment Next Fragment
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
(SENATE-Thursday, 13 September 1990)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
Program 1-PROPERTY SERVICES
- Subprogram 1.1-Australian Property Group
- Subprogram 1.2-Australian Construction Services-Project Services
- Subprogram 1.5-Australian Valuation Office
- Subprogram 1.6-Program coordination and marketing
Program 2-SALES AND SERVICES
- Subprogram 2.1-Transport and storage
- Sub-Program 2.2-Purchasing and Sales Group
- Subprogram 2.2-Purchasing and Sales Group
- Subprogram 2.3-Purchasing Reform Group
- Subprogram 2.6-Australian Government Publishing Service
Program 3-GOVERNMENT AND CORPORATE SERVICES
- Subprogram 3.1-Corporate management
- Subprogram 3.2-Ionospheric prediction service
- Subprogram 3.3-Special enquiries (Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody)
- Subprogram 3.6-Parliamentary and ministerial services
- Program 6-PARLIAMENT HOUSE CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY
Program 4-AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION
- Subprogram 4.1-Parliamentary Elections and Referendums
- Subprogram 3.5-Overseas Property Services
- Subprogram 4.2-Industrial and analogous elections
- SENATOR PARER
- DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE D
DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES
Program 4-AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION
Subprogram 3.5-Overseas Property Services
SENATOR TEAGUE -There does not appear to be any explicit reference to developments in Islamabad. There is land very happily set aside there, and in my view there is a need for an upgraded High Commission. Six months ago I asked, first, why there had not been a start. Secondly, I urged that the present buildings in Islamabad be retained on the ground that I did not think we would get full value in recompense if they were sold. What is the situation in Islamabad, and why do we have no notice of action being begun?
DR DAHLBERG -We have an application with the Department of Finance for referral to the Joint Committee on Public Works. Once we hear from the Department of Finance we will approach the Minister for a referral.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Is it to be expected that this time next year we will have a fully completed proposal for development in Islamabad?
DR DAHLBERG -That is dependent on the recommendation from the Public Works Committee and other financial aspects.
SENATOR TEAGUE -My second question relates to Japan. Up until 27 June this year $122m was spent on 43 staff apartments, a recreational centre, a new four -storey chancery and an official residence in Tokyo. How does this total amount compare with the compensation we received for the sale of some of the land that Australia held?
DR DAHLBERG -The actual cost of the construction was 11 billion yen, which, at the current exchange rate, would be somewhat less than $122m. But no money changed hands. We swapped the title for an apartment block we owned across the road in Mita Avenue for the cost of the construction of the chancellery and the other works on the Mita Avenue site. The return to the budget from the sale of 6,000 square metres of land was something over $600m. More recently, there was a sale of 900 square metres to allow road widening, which brought in about $59.7m. So the net return is about $660m.
SENATOR TEAGUE -That is the confirmation I was expecting. Thirdly, I would like to ask about Pohnpei in Micronesia. Is there any provision for the three residences related to the defence cooperation program?
DR DAHLBERG -Yes. The three residences for the Defence cooperation have been completed with funds provided by the Department of Defence under the cooperation program.
SENATOR TEAGUE -What about the ambassador's residence, the chancery and so on?
DR DAHLBERG -No. We are still finishing the negotiations to obtain the site for the head of mission residence. The chancery is in leased premises, has been fitted out and has been occupied. I meant to say that the negotiations are just being completed for land for the official residence and one other residence.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Finally, I refer to developments in Beijing. I have been able to read the draft annual report of the Department, which was circulated to some members of parliament. On pages 250 and 251 there is already an account that expands upon that given here, that initially progress on the project was slow. I wish to ask on the record: Is our new embassy expected to be opened by the middle of next year?
DR DAHLBERG -I think that would be a little hopeful; we would say in the second half of 1991. Maybe it would be October; not earlier than that. It is very much dependent on the work that the Chinese construction company is doing under our direction and mechanical electrical services.
SENATOR TEAGUE -It has gone out a little in time. Is it on budget?
DR DAHLBERG -It is very close to the authorisation of $73m for construction and $18m for consultants' fees. It is slightly over $90m.
Sitting suspended from 6.38 to 8 p.m.
SENATOR KEMP -Madam Chair, before the dinner break I asked a question of a departmental officer in relation to an AEIS field officer, and I quoted from page 23 of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. The departmental officer indicated that the quotation was inaccurate. I have compared my brief with the actual quote in the report I referred to. It is clear that the quotation was incorrectly transcribed in my brief. I have the correct quotation here to set the record straight. I seek leave to incorporate it.
The document read as follows-
Now, an AEIS field officer has one vehicle and does not have all of that tortoiseshell to carry around with him. They still have the same number of educational tools, perhaps more, but they do not have to use them all themselves; they leave them in a community.</INC.DOC>
SENATOR PARER -In answer to a question from Senator Loosley prior to the dinner break, the comment was made that the problem of duplicate enrolments identified by the automated search procedures was fairly minor. Can the Commission give an undertaking to forward details of the number of cases identified so analysis can be made of how serious the problem really is, if it is, and what further measures may be necessary to combat it?
MR FARRELL -It is very difficult to give an exact number of current duplicates because as we find them we fix them. There are not very many. As background, every enrolment form that we receive is checked now against the national database and we find a very large number of those people previously enrolled in other places. The national database that we now have and have had for some 18 months now, because it searches across State boundaries, is much more effective in picking up a duplicate enrolment in Perth when one gets on the roll in Brisbane. In our annual report, which some of you may have, it indicates that the interstate movement in the close of roll period from 16 February to 26 February, when the election was announced, some 38,000 people crossed State boundaries and got on the roll in new States. These are people who formerly would have been picked up by manual processes only and probably not have come off the rolls prior to 18 months ago until quite some time later . It is these sorts of issues I am talking about, but to give you fine detail would be enormously complicated and would I suggest that it gets us very little further.
The number of new enrolments that we received in that same period Australiawide were 150,000 out of a total number of new enrolment forms of 430 ,000 which were processed in the close of rolls period. Our aim is to search our database better and to reduce these percentages of people whom we regard as new because we have actually detected them in some way. But we are well down in the figures, under a fraction of 1 per cent, in doing that. The other process that we are going through is to match these people with previous enrolments, if we cannot match them with current ones, and verify their identity.
SENATOR PARER -On that question of enrolments, does the Commission have anything in mind about the ease or correcting the ease with which people can enrol on the rolls, quite falsely? Do you have any problems with the number of false names that might be on the rolls?
MR FARRELL -No. We strive to get a roll that is proof or avoids this sort of thing occurring. The searching facility is one of the major parts of that. Searching the previous histories of electors is a very important part of it. As we get better automation and better computerisation and we search that database, I would hope to be able to come back to the Committee in three or four years time and say that we have reduced that 142,000 close of rolls to a very small fraction indeed, so that of the people regarded as new enrolments, we could then say that the vast majority-we would hope 98 per cent or 99 per cent-would be people who would have a history over one or more years, maybe five or six years. By giving them a traceable history back through various addresses and keeping track of them, we are in fact providing a security insulation in the roll system itself.
SENATOR PARER -In answer to a question I asked on notice of the Minister, he kindly replied that the results of the AEC survey of newly enrolled electors in 60 electorates will be finalised shortly. That was the response. Are there any preliminary results available to indicate whether any weaknesses in enrolment procedures have been identified and what remedial action may be required?
MR COX -There are no preliminary results yet.
SENATOR PARER -There was a total of 330,000 enrolments added to the rolls in the 10 days prior to the election-I think that is the correct figure. Does this indicate that the rolls were out of date at the time the election was called?
MR FARRELL -Rolls are always out of date; if they are 24 hours old they are out of date. In a 12 month period, 20 per cent of Australian electors move and present enrolment forms. That means that out of, say, 10 million electors we have two million enrolment forms. So in six months we have one million. In a month-you can do your own maths. An average divisional enrolment annually, without an election or a door knocking electoral roll review, processes in excess of 13,500 enrolment forms. In fact, what we have achieved-the enrolment that was received in the close of rolls period was somewhat lower than expected, indicating that the roll was cleaner than perhaps we have had before .
This is supported by the fact that the actual voting turn-out against the number of people enrolled was the highest ever nationally, and the number of non-voters, therefore, was the lowest ever, and the number of return to sender notices that we have received from non-voters, which is also an indicator, although we have not got final figures yet, also seems to be the lowest ever.
SENATOR PARER -What was the number of people removed form the rolls after the 1990 election as a result of the objection processes?
MR FARRELL -We would have to take that on notice because final figures are not in.
SENATOR PARER -I refer to reports that 91 cases of apparent multiple voting at the 1990 elections are being investigated by the Federal police. What was the total number of apparent cases of multiple voting and what procedures are used to identify those cases warranting police investigation? I point out that , in the 1987 election, of the nearly 11,500 cases of apparent multiple voting investigated only 45 were referred to police investigation.
MR FARRELL -We would have to take on notice the number of apparent non-voting cases or multiple voting cases. We could provide you with those figures. We would be happy to provide the Committee with the full set of procedures that we employ to investigate those cases.
SENATOR PARER -Senator Maguire earlier was referring to the enrolment system within Queensland in the State and Federal arena. At the last Estimates Committee I raised the question of the lack of information on the Federal roll . For instance, I understand that on Queensland rolls the information available includes for instance occupation, age or birth date and date enrolled.
MR FARRELL -No. It may be available to members of Parliament but it is not on the printed roll at elections.
SENATOR PARER -Occupation is definitely on the Queensland roll.
MR FARRELL -Yes it is, and date of enrolment I am advised.
SENATOR PARER -I am asking this question because this business of multiple voting comes in up every election. It is perennial-or triennial-depending on how often elections are called. Yet the returning officer with the roll looks up and has no idea from looking at the roll whether the person seeking to vote is aged 18 or 90. We raised the question-with Mr Cox, I think-at the last hearing whether he would consider providing the additional information. Under the legislation there may be a problem.
That information is provided on the initial form. Often, we get pieces of paper saying that a person is a new enrolee and the only address given is at a Post Office. Of course, when we write to those people and say, 'Welcome to the electorate', the letter is returned to us. That is the only information members of parliament get. I am asking whether any investigation or any thought has been given by the AEC to providing on the rolls information that enables the returning officer to have at least some idea whether someone is multiple voting.
MR SKINNER -The returning officer has that information because it is on the official roll the returning officer uses.
SENATOR PARER -The one he crosses out?
MR SKINNER -It is not on the publicly available roll. It is on the microfiche roll used in the Divisional Office.
SENATOR PARER -It is not the one which the officer at the polling place rules out when someone votes?
MR SKINNER -No, it is not. Those factors are taken into consideration by the returning officer when investigating multiple voting, as I said before.
SENATOR PARER -It is too late then, is it not?
MR FARRELL -Yes, but the ratio of apparent multiple voters to those who are investigated is very great. Very few end up either admitting it or being proven guilty. A great majority of cases result from people having similar names which are close to each other on the certified list, perhaps with slight spelling differences, and the polling official marking off the wrong name. We send a non-voter notice from the Commission to each person for not voting and a multiple voting letter to inquire into what may have occurred to the other person. They both turn up at our doorstep quite irate. They cancel each other out. But that does not mean that we do not regard them as possible multiple voters and we check that out. That applies to the vast majority of them.
SENATOR PARER -At the last Estimates Committee hearing the question was raised as to what can show up in members' or senators' offices as apparent irregularities. I am still uncertain from reading the last Estimates transcript as to what was done. I raise it again. When apparent irregularities or anomalies are drawn to the attention of the Divisional Returning Officer or whoever by parliamentarians advising of the failure or return to sender of letters addressed to enrolled voters at the registered address, what steps are taken to have follow-up investigations made automatically. When we raised this previously we got different answers such as, 'No we don't' and, 'Yes we do'. I would like your view. Do you follow up those irregularities when we send the envelopes to you?
MR COX -As you say, this matter was aired last time. I think that the burden of our answer was that the follow-up action is essentially a matter for the Divisional Returning Officer in each case and that, to one extent or another, the Divisional Returning Officer follows up these letters when they come in. He checks against the roll, checks that addresses are right, and so on. It is true to say that there has not been a national policy on this.
It has been noted by us that the matter is becoming of increasing concern to members and senators. We have taken a good deal of note of what has been said. One very recent action that has just been put into effect is that the date of enrolment of the new enrolee is put onto the address labels for these new arrivals in the electorate that we send to members and senators.
This will give us information in respect of letters that are returned to members and senators unclaimed. When the members and senators pass them onto a Divisional Office, it will give us an accurate indication of the time lapse between the original enrolment and the time of sending out the letter. As we mentioned before it quite often happens that, for whatever reason, some months go by between new enrolments and information being received by members and senators when they are sending out welcome letters. That will give us management information that we will be able employ.
The other thing that I have mentioned to the Committee is that the matter has also been aired in the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which met this morning. We have put a suggestion to that Committee for its consideration that the Electoral Act be amended to require a Divisional Office to object officially to an elector's enrolment whenever the member for the division or the senator for the State or Territory concerned presents, to the Divisional Returning Officer, a letter from a senator or member to the elector , which has been returned with an annotation that the elector in question does not reside at that address.
That is something that I hope that Committee will address and consider and will make a recommendation on one way or the other. I mention that, if that procedure were to be put into legislation and followed, the objection action would involve the Electoral Commission writing to the person concerned and enabling that person to say, 'Yes, I am here. There is no problem'. If it still falls between the cracks, the person would still have the opportunity of a declaration vote at an election, had he or she been taken off the roll and the matter can be fixed up then.
SENATOR PARER -Given that, half way through the life of the current redistribution, less than 50 per cent of the electorates were within target of a 2 per cent tolerance variation from the average, what procedure does the Commission propose for the 1991 redistribution to ensure a more accurate outcome?
MR COX -The primary step will be the habitation review process which is to commence at one date or another, depending on the State, but over the course of the next month. That is the doorknock process that you know about. That process and all the follow-up action will carry on from about the beginning of October through until, from recollection, probably April or May next year.
In addition to that there is the ongoing review activity of the kind that Mr Farrell has referred to and the improved computer capacity that we have to keep the rolls cleaner, we think, than they have been before.
SENATOR PARER -I asked the Minister a question on population projections, to which he has replied. But he has referred it really to the Commission. The question I asked him on 22 August was:
Given that population projections play such a critical part in the redistribution process, can the Minister give an assurance that the AEC's research paper providing enrolment projections will be released in sufficient time to allow for independent scrutiny and, if necessary, for underlying assumptions to be challenged?
In his response he said, and I am paraphrasing it, that the AEC is completely independent of the Government and is carrying out the redistribution process from working material. What working material they release and when will be for those bodies to determine. Does the AEC intend to release that information for scrutiny in good time for the thing to be studied?
MR COX -The processes that will be followed will be a matter for the distribution committees that have yet to be established and the research papers and the whole exercise are something for the future. I am not in a position to say just what research papers will be produced and what the time scale is. Therefore, I really cannot give any undertakings one way or the other. But I certainly can undertake to take notice of your interest in the matter.
SENATOR PARER -It is simply the sort of work that will determine the enrolment projections.
MR COX -I understand that. But how it will be done and when it will be done is something that I am not in a position to forecast. But I certainly recall your question and will keep it in mind.
SENATOR PARER -I would like to ask a question on industrial and analogous elections.
CHAIRMAN -We are not up to that. We are still on 4.1.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I have in front of me the explanatory notes contained on pages 214 and 215, which set out the resource table for various Electoral Commission programs, the summation of which has more than $9m difference in the actual spending last financial year compared with the appropriation and, of course, that has repercussions in this financial year. For example, in respect of public funding, $13m-odd was appropriated, $11.9m was spent and we have an estimate this year in these appropriations of another $1m. They are obviously interconnected. I want to ask you a general question about the $9m that was appropriated but not spent last financial year. These two pages set out quite explicitly where the differences lie. I would like to ask in turn why is there that $1m carry-over to this financial year in public funding, when public funding is based on a formula that was well known before the last election.
MR DE ZILVA -The $1.015m is the amount that is carried to this financial year, which was budgeted last financial year. They are the claims that political parties and candidates that qualify for public funding submit this financial year. In other words, that forms part of the $12.9m which will be paid to qualified--
SENATOR TEAGUE -Yes, I understand. Can you give me an example of a claim that was made this financial year that was not known to those parties prior to 30 June?
MR DE ZILVA -Political parties and candidates who qualify are entitled to submit up to three claims for public funding. That $1m relates to claims that come in after 1 July which are supported by invoices which the parties submit this financial year.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Yes, I see. Even though the formula is well known before 24 March.
MR DE ZILVA -Yes. It is just that when the claims come in, they are paid. That $1m carried forward is what has been worked out and is then paid to them when the invoice is actually sent in.
SENATOR TEAGUE -With regard to salaries and related running costs, there was $ 0.8m less spent last financial year, yet we had an election in that period. What is the reason for that?
MR SKINNER -As you know, when an election is on we employ a large number of casual staff and consequently a large number of the activities are staffed in divisional offices using this casual staff. They are picked up under a different part, which is the cost of the election. If I can refer you to page 217 you will see that we are carrying over there the balance of the election money, which is $4.5m. So for that reason, of course, there is a shortfall in the number of people we would normally engage for permanent activities. We are picking it up in temporary staff at the election time.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So those persons are being paid this financial year?
MR SKINNER -No. What I am saying is that because of the election period, a lot of our activity is being undertaken using casual staff. Those casual staff are picked up under the figure down below-the cost of the election. You made reference before to the difference. If I can take you to page 217 you will see there is a $4.5m carry over which is cost of the election.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I see. Thank you. With regard to enrolment expenditure, you were $1.7m short. What is the explanation for that? That is $10.7m compared with $8.99m.
MR COX -It is basically the same reason as Mr Skinner gave. During the election period quite a lot of our enrolment processing can be legitimately charged to the election, which we get funded for for that particular year.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I see. All right.
MR COX -So that has been picked up under the election expenditure, which is in that total of $42.4m.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So when there is an election period it breaks the normal continuity of appropriation and estimate?
MR COX -That is right.
SENATOR TEAGUE -It seemed that there was a regular factor affecting all of these items. I suppose the same holds good for Commonwealth elections, referendums and industrial ballots in a period in which there was not a Commonwealth election. You are $4.7m down on what was appropriated and what was actually spent.
MR COX -It is actually $4.5m.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Does that relate to the item you mentioned earlier?
MR COX -Yes, it does. It is the same. We were actually appropriated in the previous financial year $43m for the election. Department of Finance gave us a cap of $45m. Two million dollars plus the unspent component from 1989-90 has been carried over, and that is that balance of $4.5m that you see on page 217.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Maybe I have missed something in program budgeting but it seems to me a nonsense to have set out a column that relates to the completed financial year in which there was appropriation for various items that we can begin to understand. Yet, because the election was held and you have a capped amount made available for that election, the program is not integrated so that we get a total picture in the way that one would assume is trying to be presented by what is set out on pages 214 and 215?
MR SKINNER -That figure on page 214, which is $47m, includes not only the costs of the 1990 election; it includes ongoing election costs plus industrial ballot costs. That figure of $47m is not just costs of the 1990 election.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I think I have got a general answer, which is the bizarre one that, because an election was actually held, it blows out all your figures such that the matter cannot be easily summarised.
MR DACEY -It is also complicated by the fact that it crosses a financial year.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I ask you to think again about the presentation of program budgeting so that it is more intelligible and less dissected into special and ordinary or continuing over the election period. I will leave the matter there . I go on to the next page, which leads to a provision for this financial year explicitly of $1m set aside as partial funding for the 1990 redistribution. First, is that redistribution really a 1990-91 redistribution?
MR DACEY -Yes, 1990-91.
SENATOR TEAGUE -This is partial in that it is the 1990 element and there is to be a 1991-92 element as well?
MR DACEY -If you look at page 217, you will see that there is supplementary funding for that redistribution of a further $1m.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So it is partial in that it comes to about $2m?
MR DACEY -Yes, on current estimates.
SENATOR TEAGUE -That in itself is likely to be supplemented by an amount next financial year as well?
MR DACEY -That is right. There could well be redistribution requirements next financial year.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I understand that now. What is the progress with preparations for that redistribution? Can you remind me of the key dates in terms of the population statistics?
MR COX -Broadly in terms of key dates we are required to take a first step effectively next March. We can provide you with a table.
SENATOR BOLKUS -I suggest that we take the matter on notice and present the Committee with a table of appropriate dates.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I would like the key dates because it relates to the next question.
MR COX -You would like those dates now?
SENATOR TEAGUE -Yes.
MR COX -We make a determination under section 48 in the month beginning 9 February. That is a determination which will establish the number of House of Representatives seats for each State. If some States gain or lose a member from then, we will have to proceed to a redistribution. If not all States are so affected, then for the remaining States other than Victoria and Western Australia we will then get into the second stage referred to in section 59, which is the seven year trigger. That comes in progressively commencing in August next year.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Those earlier dates are sufficiently close now for you to have an estimate as to those States in which you expect there to be a redistribution. Which States are they?
MR COX -We are dependent on figures that are to be provided by the Australian Statistician later. We have been watching where the population is going, but it is the figures we have to get later in time for the February determination which are the ones that count. We would not want to get into speculation at this stage.
SENATOR TEAGUE -You do not have expectations as to where there will be redistributions?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I do not know whether it is fair to guess. It is a guessing game.
MR COX -It is a guessing game.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Let me ask you about the annual report, which refers to redistributions and the census collector districts. You have spent some money and developed some expertise in a system that you say in the report 'will be used in the next federal redistribution' in handling collector district information. Can you describe how that system will be used in the next Federal redistribution?
MR COX -It is a highly complex system to describe. If you or any member of the Committee would like to observe the system, we would be very happy to show it to you if you would like to come to our offices. Essentially it has on it a database of populations based on censor collector districts. This elector base is continuously updated on the basis of our rolls. The essence of the system is that by moving lines on the system electronically we are able to observe the relative population changes or voter number changes in the adjoining electoral districts. It is an electronic tool.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Are you concerned only with population when lines change? To what extent are you using this procedure for what is meant by community of interest?
MR COX -It has topographic information on it.
MR DACEY -It certainly has topographic information available and there are certain social and demographic data from census available as well. It is, as Mr Cox pointed out, a very complicated system to describe. It takes into account as far as we can the community of interest. It is only a tool. It will not make the final decisions for us but it will assist in making those decisions.
SENATOR TEAGUE -My question, based on the annual report, is whether you are to use this tool both with regard to population estimates when lines are changed and with regard to community of interest.
MR DACEY -As far as it is possible with community of interest. But we are pointing out that it is only a tool. Certainly it will help in making decisions, but there are other factors, particularly with community of interest, which will assist in making the final decisions.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I do not want to go on too long about it, but most of us are very familiar with collector districts and with the range of census questions. We are used to all sorts of coloured and shaded maps and ranges of per cent hours of one characteristic or another in a collector district, and indeed over a wider area. Because you intend to use this as a tool in terms of community of interest, I want to know more specifically which factors you will be taking into account. It is the first time that you would have done this in any redistribution.
MR MALEY -The concept of community of interest is not defined in the Act and it is one which different participants in the political process have viewed in different ways. The particular view of community of interest which the redistribution committees and the augmented Electoral Commission which will be doing the redistribution will take is up to those bodies.
The purpose of this system is more to have detailed information available down at the micro level, with a number of demographic indicators. If questions arise relating to particular demographic or other characteristics which might be seen to capture community of interest concepts of particular proposed divisions it will be possible to evaluate those sorts of questions rather easily and rapidly. At the last redistribution in Tasmania there were discussions as to whether community of interest had been violated because the proportion of pig farmers in one division was different from the proportion of pig farmers in another division. I do not know whether the census data go right down to pig farmer proportions, but it gives some sort of indication of the particular factors people look at when defining community of interest.
We are in a better position to do that than we have been in the past because we are moving onto a database which is linked to the standard Australian Bureau of Statistics information on particular pieces of geography. But it is not for any of us sitting at this table to say what we mean by community of interests; it is for the redistribution bodies to come to some sort of view on that once they are constituted.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I agree with all of that. You are saying it is a tool that can be used if a question in the mind of the redistribution commissioner is asked ?
MR MALEY -Yes.
SENATOR TEAGUE -It is the first time that tool will be used?
MR MALEY -Yes, certainly in the form of this computer system. These sorts of issues have come up in the past but they have had to be evaluated in an ad hoc way, and as you would know, there has been great discussion over the years as to what is meant by community of interests. It is one of those ill-defined topics. Back in 1985 the Commission sponsored a one-day seminar on the concept of community of interests, which was attended by the members of the Parliament, demographers, sociologists and the like, which resulted in a research paper which was published at the time.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I think that senators besides myself would be interested in due course, after redistribution, to find out how specifically useful this tool is both on the population front and on the community of interests front. Perhaps I will ask some questions then.
MR COX -Just to finish off that with a word, the proof of it which be in the experience which we have yet to have.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I now ask about the tally room and the references that were made in the Estimates last time and that are in the annual report now in front of us, and the resources that are available in the figures mentioned just a few minutes ago that relate to the progress with the election count last 24 March.
SENATOR BOLKUS -Senator, I think before you joined us late afternoon these questions were covered by Senator Parer, I think.
CHAIRMAN -I am not sure that they were specifically. Maybe if Senator Teague asks the question and we will see then.
SENATOR TEAGUE -At the last Estimates I asked questions about the progress of the Senate count on election night, and the question was taken on notice, and I have here the answer that was then supplied in relation to progress in each State with the Senate count. Briefly, two-thirds of the Senate primary count was achieved which 2.00 a.m. on election night, or the next morning. The information that you have supplied to this Committee shows that in New South Wales at the end of the count at 1.30 a.m. only 50 per cent had been counted, whereas in other states it was closer to 70 and 80 per cent. In my own State of South Australia it was 82.4percent by midnight. I gave a clear indication of the burden of my interests in this matter in the questions I asked at the last Estimates, and actually in the declaration of the Senate poll in South Australia. I remain totally dissatisfied with the ability of the tally room count-that is, the Commission's integration of the counting as far as the Senate votes are concerned-to indicate to the Australian public through the media any kind of result in the Senate on the day of the election.
Whilst I have received this answer from you following the last Estimates, I am yet to be convinced that we had the right amount of resources to gain in each State the kind of progress with the count that we have in South Australia ; and that even where we had it in South Australia, that was not disclosed to the public, and I have yet to be convinced that it was even disclosed to the media. I remain dissatisfied. Rather than ask a whole series of individual questions, I ask: What attention have you given, since my raising these matters earlier this year, to there being greater resources so that we can have a greater progress with the Senate count on the day of an election?
MR COX -Senator, the first point I would make on that is that the figures that you have there are figures that reflect input or display. In terms of the count itself, all the Senate votes were counted in the States that were available to be counted. There was a full count of the votes cast on the day. These figures relate to the stage at which they were displayed-or in the case of New South Wales, not displayed. I can only assure you that the Commission's objective on election night is that all ordinary votes are counted and, furthermore, that the outcome should be displayed on election night and on our information systems. That did not happen in some States, as you have indicated. The matter certainly is something that we must attend to. Part of the problem, as I mentioned in an earlier comment today, arose from the clog up arising from our systems and software problems arising originally from the blackout--
SENATOR TEAGUE -I have read about the blackout and the software problems.
MR COX -You were not here, so just very briefly: We had a blackout and when it was fixed up that lead to a congestion in the system and problems with input. The objective, as I said at the beginning of my response to you, is to assure you that all the Senate ordinary votes were counted. The objective is to have them input and displayed, and as a matter of record that did not happen fully in New South Wales, for example. It will certainly be our objective not to have a repeat of that next time.
CHAIRMAN -Flowing from that, are you saying the figures were available but not on the tally board?
MR COX -The count had been done but because of the congestion it did not get through onto the tally board.
CHAIRMAN -Would they have been available somewhere else, say, to the press, so that people could get results even though there was some difficulty in getting them physically onto the tally board, which is where the press normally gets them from?
MR COX -Yes, they could have got the information from divisional offices and head offices.
CHAIRMAN -Were they aware of that?
MR COX -I could not say.
MR WILLSON -The figures in the table you are referring to indicate the percentages through the evening of the results that were actually not just counted but input, and therefore available for public display in the national tally room. There was for all results on the evening a 35-second delay in the transfer from our system to the five media outlets, the television networks that were available. You will understand that what happens in terms of display or focus upon those results once we have delivered them to their computers is something that is out of our control. But the figures indicated in that table are the percentages that were in fact input and were displayed by us.
SENATOR TEAGUE -That shows that in New South Wales at midnight 3.2 per cent of the count was displayed, which is a meaningless amount politically.
MR WILLSON -The figures for New South Wales are clearly very poor.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Nationally though at midnight it was only 23.1. The burden of what I am saying is that this is the worst progress with the Senate count I had seen for 20 years, and I am wanting to ensure that it is going to be remedied in good time for the next election. Because again, politically and psychologically to the Australian nation that night there might not have been a Senate election. If you have not got the material to discuss a Senate outcome, the whole nation is focused upon a very important and, I would even acknowledge, a priority result in the House of Representatives.
MR WILLSON -That is right.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I only mention priority in terms of the government of the day being determined in the House of Representatives. If I were talking about priority in terms of attention to legislation and debate, scrutiny of government and its reports, I would have to say that the priority is with the Senate. We are misleading the nation by not giving proper attention to this matter and, when the whole nation is focused upon the result of the election, by making no material of any significance available to the public on the Senate result. Commissioner, I am actually more heartened by what you have said today than I was six months ago.
MR COX -Let me just make two very short observations, and I hope reassuring ones. The second observation is a reassuring one. The first one is that under the Act we are required to count the House of Representatives vote first. We do that. As you know that gets posted through and we then turn our attention to the Senate and count all the ordinary Senate votes. I agree with you that the input result for the Senate was unsatisfactory. It is our clear objective not to have a repeat of that.
CHAIRMAN -On my observations, another stage of that unsatisfactory result is happening in the polling booths. What instructions are given to the officer in charge of the polling booth about starting the Senate count? The tendency is often to do everything, down to the closing of the last envelope on the House of Representatives, before the officers start on the Senate count, unless you really push them. Are they given any instructions about speed and beginning the Senate count?
MR DACEY -Yes, they are. They are instructed that even before the House of Representatives count is completed, once that count is at the stage where some people can go to the Senate, the polling staff have to start the Senate count , or start to open the ballot boxes and unfold the ballot papers, as people become available from the House of Representatives count as that slows down.
CHAIRMAN -From my experience, that instruction needs to be reinforced.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I take the gist of all your answers that these remedies will be in place for the next election as far as humanly possible. I want to know the estimate of resources required, if there is a resource problem, so that we can criticise the estimates in an election year and make sure that sufficient resources are available to achieve the goals that you have already summarised as being ones which will completely remedy all the defects that we have drawn attention to.
MR COX -We will be investigating particularly the computer system and the processes we follow to make it more robust.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I will refer to another matter which relates to qualifications of candidates. You received certain correspondence that candidates at the last election were not qualified to stand. Is it the case that not one result was taken to the Court of Disputed Returns by those who made those allegations ?
MR COX -That is so, so far as I am aware.
SENATOR TEAGUE -I refer to funding and disclosure. There are reports in the newspaper this week that you displayed at the Electoral Commission's offices in Canberra details of public and political donations. Why is that display of such a nature that it cannot be in a report form and circulated to members of parliament?
MR DE ZILVA -We receive literally thousands of returns. They are microfilmed and made available for public inspection. That is the quickest way to make the returns and claims available for the media to inspect.
MR COX -The public availability we have is the availability that is specified in the Act.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So there is no intention to give even a summary-what I would call an intelligent summary-in a report on those donations and disclosures?
MR DE ZILVA -We are in the process of compiling figures on the amount of donations received by the various political parties. All that will be summarised in tables that will be included in a special report on the operation of the funding and disclosure scheme in the coming months.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So we are likely to have a summary report?
MR COX -There is a report made, Senator. We are required to report on that activity to the Minister, and the Minister is required under the legislation to table the report.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Nevertheless, it is displayed at the office at the moment?
MR COX -The actual documents are there for inspection.
SENATOR TEAGUE -With regard to one electorate in my own State of South Australia, and yours, Minister-the electorate of Kingston-is it correct that the Labor Party candidate spent $821,000 on his election campaign?
SENATOR BOLKUS -Never believe what you read in the newspapers, Senator.
SENATOR TEAGUE -That is why I am asking the Commission.
MR DE ZILVA -I will have to look that up.
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think it is one decimal point out.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Will the summary of that spending by our colleague in the House of Representatives Mr Bilney be in the tabled report that you referred to earlier?
MR DE ZILVA -We are in the process of reviewing the returns to ensure that we pick up the errors and rectify them. There is a lot of communication going on between the Commission and the political parties when we suspect that errors might have crept into the preparation of those returns. The example you mentioned will probably be one of them. We will get back to the State branch involved to clarify whether that figure is correct, because it is a very high figure.
SENATOR TEAGUE -The report will be detailed and will include consolidated or confirmed amounts with regard to various elements of spending and donations?
MR DE ZILVA -That is right. We will have tables on all the relevant information that is supplied by political parties, broadcasters, publishers, third parties, late returns- the lot-problems that were encountered and things that need to be implemented to streamline and make the system more efficient.
SENATOR TEAGUE -This is breaking new ground, because we have not had anything in such detail before.
MR DE ZILVA -A similar report was issued after the 1987 election.
SENATOR TEAGUE -But not with that kind of detail?
MR DE ZILVA -It did have various tables, but we have a computerised system at the moment. We hope to come up with a more comprehensive break-up of tables that present information that is more relevant and useful to the media and members of parliament.
SENATOR TEAGUE -My other question, which relates to disclosures of donations, is close to the heart of a colleague on this Committee. The Legacies and Gifts Ltd and the ALP federal headquarters at John Curtin House apparently distributed some $740,000. Do you look behind such a front as the Legacies and Gifts Ltd to find out who the actual donors were?
MR DE ZILVA -As far as it is possible we try to ascertain that the individuals and corporations that are included in returns are bona fide. In other words, if they are individuals we check to make sure that they are on the electoral roll; if they are names of solicitors we get back to the party to ascertain who the actual donor was because it might have gone to a solicitor's trust account. We do what is reasonable to ascertain the true identities of the donors. But donations that are made by corporations and organisations are just accepted at face value.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Is there a requirement in the legislation for you to ensure that professed donations are bona fide, especially in a group which is likely to have received donations from many people?
MR DE ZILVA -Not that I am aware of, no.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Have you actually looked behind Legacies and Gifts Limited to see who its individual donors were?
MR DE ZILVA -No, I have not.
SENATOR TEAGUE -May I ask the Commissioner if there is any reason why he would not do so now?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think that has already been answered. The legislation does not provide for that. Basically, there is no power. An expert like you in this area would know that the Joint Standing Committee has looked at the question of auditing and disclosure, and reported some time before the last election- the middle of last year. There will be opportunity for all players to be involved once the Government's response to that report is brought down.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Really, the purport of your answer is that if--
SENATOR BOLKUS -The purport of my answer is there is not enough power to do what you request, but we will double-check that.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So any party that wants to give individuals-and even corporations, for that matter-the opportunity not to be disclosed as to the amount of their donation or even who is making the donation, can go through such a group as Legacies and Gifts Limited, Curtin House.
SENATOR BOLKUS -It is not a revelation, Senator Teague. I think if you were to read the report of that Joint Committee you would find that political action groups, third-party organisations and so on are the sorts of issues that have been addressed by that Committee.
SENATOR TEAGUE -But the Commission has no power to look behind such a group?
SENATOR BOLKUS -That is the advice, but we are checking it.
MR COX - That is as I understand it, but we will check all that.
SENATOR TEAGUE -During these last 12 months four parties were deregistered: one sought voluntary deregistration, two had not endorsed candidates after a specific period which made them liable to be deregistered and one had ceased to be a parliamentary party. What are the names of those four?
MR DE ZILVA -I will have to take that on notice. I will get it for you.
SENATOR BOLKUS -The National Party of Victoria is one.
SENATOR TEAGUE -There are two appeals before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal at the moment; well, I understand they are still there. Have they been determined or what progress has been made with them?
MR COX -They have yet to be determined.
MR DE ZILVA -We still have to hear from the AAT as to when a date will be scheduled for those hearings.
SENATOR TEAGUE -So there is not even a scheduled date?
MR DE ZILVA -No, not yet.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Are they actually appeals by interested parties against the Commission's decisions?
MR DE ZILVA -That is right.
SENATOR WALTERS -Are you aware of the controversy surrounding His Grace, the Most Noble Duke of Avram?
MR COX - I have heard the name.
SENATOR WALTERS -Are you aware of the problems he is facing?
MR COX -Yes, we are aware of the problem.
SENATOR WALTERS -Can you tell me why a person who was born in Australia, is an Australian citizen, had his name changed by deed poll, is now a member of the State Parliament, is on the State electoral roll for both the upper and lower houses, has an Australian passport, has now an official Australian passport because he was representing Tasmania overseas, has a Medicare card and a driver's licence all in that name, has no criminal record and yet is refused his registration on the Federal electoral roll? While he can vote for both the State lower and upper houses and is recognised as an Australian citizen, he is unable even to get a reason from the Electoral Commissioner as to why he cannot vote in the Federal Parliament elections-why he is denied admission to the electoral roll.
MR MALEY -Mr Rudge, who goes under the name in certain circles of the Duke of Avram--
SENATOR WALTERS -Can I begin by saying the gentleman of whom I speak has had his name changed by deed poll.
SENATOR BOLKUS -Senator Walters, I do not care what you want to begin by saying. You have asked the question and you are about to get an answer, so if you just hold on you will get it.
SENATOR WALTERS -It is no use if we are talking about two different people.
SENATOR BOLKUS -If it is no use, you can go. We are about to give you an answer, do you want to hold on and take it or just keep on talking?
SENATOR WALTERS -We are talking about two different people. I would like him addressed by the name to which he changed his name under deed poll.
SENATOR BOLKUS -I do not think you have got any control over the answers you get, and thank God for that.
SENATOR WALTERS -We will wait and see.
MR MALEY -The gentleman about whom we are talking has not been enrolled under the name which he wishes to adopt because we have longstanding advice from the Attorney General's Department that he is not entitled in law to adopt that name. A deed poll is not conclusive of a change of name in any State except Western Australia. His problems arise from the fact that he persists in trying to enrol under a name which he is not legally entitled to adopt. The Commonwealth Electoral Act requires enrolment claims to be in the approved form, and that requires people to show their names. His State enrolment is a matter for the State electoral authorities. We are guided on this by advice from the Attorney-General's Department.
As to his not being able to get an answer to why he is not enrolled-whenever he puts in a claim card and that claim for enrolment is rejected, the claim card is legitimately sent back to his address in the name to which he appears to take objection, although it is the only one under which he is legally entitled to enrol. He takes the view that he is not at the address and does not bother opening the envelopes. If he wishes the substantive matter to be dealt with, he has the right under the Commonwealth Electoral Act to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
SENATOR WALTERS -What you are telling me is that a person can change his or her name by deed poll in this country and it is not recognised by the Federal electoral officer?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think the answer that was given is comprehensive, accurate and precise. It is succinct enough for Senator Walters to understand. This person cannot be recognised as such under Federal law and that is it. If he does not like it, he does not have to send his messenger into these sorts of committees to run his case; he can take it to the AAT.
SENATOR WALTERS -I take umbrage at that. Let me make it perfectly clear that I am not his messenger.
SENATOR BOLKUS -It is about the only issue you have raised in the last month. What else have you raised in the last month?
SENATOR WALTERS -I have raised the question for my own interest, and I would like to know how many other people in Australia are in a similar position?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think we have answered the question. There are not too many Duke of Avrams in Australia.
SENATOR WALTERS -How many others are in a similar position?
MR MALEY -I would not wish to give a number off the top of my head. We do not encounter these people very frequently. There were various associates of the gentleman who were directed into similar difficulties but I understand some of them are now properly enrolled.
SENATOR WALTERS -Are what?
MR MALEY -They are now properly enrolled.
SENATOR WALTERS -Could you get for me the number of Australian citizens who have changed their names by deed poll and to whom you refuse to give a vote in terms of the Federal election roll?
SENATOR BOLKUS -That may be extremely difficult to get. I am not prepared to allow the use of those sorts of resources for one person's gratification unless I can be told it is very simple.
MR MALEY -No, I do not think it is.
CHAIRMAN -Perhaps we could narrow the question. Senator Walters might agree to this. It seems to me that the crux of the matter is not people who have changed their names but people who are claiming titles to which they are not entitled. Is that right?
MR MALEY -Exactly.
CHAIRMAN -Would you be able to answer Senator Walters's question in that form: the number of people who have been denied enrolment because they have put in names to which they are not entitled.
MR MALEY -The gentleman in question is the only one who springs to mind in recent years. He had various associates in Strahan who went under the names of Sir Mark Tseglakoff and the Lady Lilla Joy Tseglakoff. But I understand that either one or both of them are now enrolled.
SENATOR WALTERS -Commissioner, could you explain to me the difference between the legality of changing your name by deed poll and recognition?
MR MALEY -A deed poll, except in the case of Western Australia where there is statute law, is not conclusive of change of name; it is simply one item of evidence which a person can adduce to prove that he has changed his name. It still does not give him the right to adopt a name which is not open to him at law.
SENATOR WALTERS -So are you saying that if he had changed his name to that in Western Australia, you would have accepted it?
MR MALEY -No, that is for the purposes of State law; it does not affect it at the Commonwealth level. There is a State law in Western Australia which says, in effect, that you cannot change your name except by deed poll.
SENATOR WALTERS -Would you explain the situation in Tasmania. Say he has changed his name by deed poll and is recognised.
MR MALEY -He is recognised in some forums --
SENATOR WALTERS -No, in all forums in Tasmania.
MR MALEY -He is not recognised by the Electoral Commission in Tasmania.
SENATOR WALTERS -Not by the Federal--
MR MALEY -By the Commonwealth electoral authorities.
SENATOR WALTERS -That is better; but he is by the State Electoral Commission.
SENATOR BOLKUS -We seem to be going around in circles. The answer has been given-under Federal law he is not entitled to do what he wants to do, regardless of what he has done under Tasmania law. Senator Walters, we have gone through it three times-that is the answer.
SENATOR WALTERS -Fine. I am now inquiring about other people in similar situations. Can you tell me whether freedom of information is given to people who are not entitled to vote?
SENATOR BOLKUS -I think that that matter should be raised in the Attorney- General's estimates. That Department is responsible for the Freedom of Information Act.
SENATOR WALTERS -Okay. I will have to take it up there. Can you tell me the identification needed to put yourself on the Commonwealth roll.
MR MALEY -People enrol on the strength of an electoral enrolment form, which is verified by the signature of a witness who is an elector.
SENATOR WALTERS -Is that the only identification needed?
MR MALEY -Under the Act, yes.
SENATOR WALTERS -So they are put on the roll, so long as another elector signs , and no other identification is required.
MR MALEY -Yes.
SENATOR WALTERS -Have you found that that is accurate? How many times have you found that that is not a good enough identification?
MR MALEY -We cannot really give statistics on that. When we identify cases of fraudulent enrolment or fraudulent witnessing of electoral enrolment forms, which happens relatively rarely, they are dealt with immediately.
SENATOR WALTERS -Could you get me the numbers in the last five years, or in the last election?
SENATOR BOLKUS -Once again, if you want the names of these people, it will take immense resources to do so.
SENATOR WALTERS -I do not want the names; I asked for numbers. That is a legitimate question.
MR MALEY -In recent years to my recollection there has been only one prosecution for fraudulent enrolment and that arose in the case of the false witnessing of an electoral enrolment form in Queensland.
SENATOR WALTERS -Only one in the whole of Australia?
MR MALEY -In recent years that is the only one that I can recall that has gone to court.
SENATOR WALTERS -Could you check it for me-I do not mean the name of the person; just the number. I have a couple of questions to ask on behalf of Senator Tambling.
SENATOR PARER -I would like to ask a further question on this Duke of Avram. There must be other people who change their name by deed poll in Tasmania and whom you accept on the electoral roll. Do you not accept this person because you do not like the name `Duke of Avram'?
MR MALEY -It is not because we do not like the name `Duke of Avram'; it is because we have legal advice that people do not have the legal right to adopt, as their names, titles of aristocracy.
SENATOR PARER -I suppose that if you called him Duke de Avram it would be acceptable because the name is Italian.
MR MALEY -We would have to look at that on its merits.
SENATOR WALTERS -The deed poll accepts it but the Federal Commissioner does not.
SENATOR BOLKUS -How about that!
SENATOR WALTERS -I will now ask a couple of questions on behalf of Senator Tambling. What were the final costs for the conduct of the mobile polling for the 1990 Federal election on a State by State basis?
MR DACEY -We received that question on notice this afternoon from Senator Tambling. We will take it on notice. After the last Committee hearing we did provide the answer. We will just need to check that they were in fact final figures.
SENATOR WALTERS -Good. I am not sure whether his second question is also on notice. It is: Has an assessment been made of the financial and staff resources of the Australian Electoral Commissioner for 1990 mobile polling? This little bit may not be on notice: Are the staff salary costs, et cetera, included in those final costs? If not, what were they?
MR DACEY -That again relates to the first question. We will respond to those on notice.
SENATOR WALTERS -Good. The next question is: Were voting papers received from the north-east Alice Springs mail plane after 24 March 1990? What provisions are there for postal votes being accepted where isolated situations occur?
SENATOR BOLKUS -It would not have changed the result: Snowdon romped it in.
SENATOR WALTERS -Minister, you are interested only in numbers; other people are interested in their rights.
MR DACEY -We have had reports of some problems, particularly in the Northern Territory. Our officers are currently negotiating with Australia Post to try to make arrangements for the next election.
SENATOR WALTERS -That does not answer my question.
MR DACEY -Could you repeat the question please.
SENATOR WALTERS -Were voting papers received from the north-east Alice Springs mail plane after 24 March?
MR DACEY -I would have to take that on notice. I do not know of that specific case.
SENATOR WALTERS -What provisions are there for postal votes being accepted where isolated situations occur?
MR DACEY -The current provisions are those of the Electoral Act. If the postal votes are received late or postmarked post-polling day they are not accepted. As I said, we are negotiating with Australia Post. Particular problems have been brought to our attention in the Northern Territory where, quite often, people may have voted before polling day. Because their postal votes are not collected on a mail run in isolated areas until after polling day or on polling day, we need to make arrangements with Australia Post for those votes to be identified as having been made before polling day.
SENATOR WALTERS -I will give you a run down. On Friday 2 March, a group of people-quite a number of them-received applications for postal vote. A plane came in and dropped those. On Friday 9 March, which was the first date on which a plane could send out their votes, the applications or postal votes left. On Friday 16 March they received their voting papers. On the next plane out, on Friday 23 March, they sent the completed voting papers. The mail was postmarked 25 March because it had stayed around in the post office. Therefore their votes were declared invalid.
Mr Dacey-That is the sort of situation we are trying to rectify through negotiations with Australia Post, that when those postal votes are collected before polling day they are identified as having been received before polling day.
SENATOR WALTERS -Is this the first time that this sort of thing has occurred, that negotiations have not taken place before?
MR DACEY -It is certainly the first time we have had these negotiations to my knowledge. I cannot recall any instances in my time in the Commission of these being brought to our attention. But when they are brought to our attention we certainly will investigate and try to make arrangements.
SENATOR WALTERS -When would we know? Could you let us know what negotiations are undertaken? Will you allow Senator Tambling to know what action you have undertaken to overcome the problem?
MR DACEY -Yes, we will.
SENATOR MAGUIRE -On page 217 of the explanatory notes, you refer to $10m being provided for the electoral roll review, you say in all States except Western Australia. Why is Western Australia an exception and not Victoria, given that both of them had redistributions? What is the other factor that comes into play there?
MR COX -It is just in the nature of the agreement we have with Western Australia. The Commonwealth pays one year; the State pays the next.
SENATOR MAGUIRE -In regard to the wasted vote in both the House of House of Representatives and the Senate, I note on page 221 that it is pointed out that the number of votes wasted has fallen, particularly for the Senate, to the lowest level since the present voting system was introduced in 1949. I would like to congratulate the Commission on the work it has done in helping take that wasted vote down. Obviously, not all of the credit is due to the Commission, but certainly a lot of your practices have helped. Are you doing any further research on how to get the wasted vote down from the 3.19 for the Representatives and 3.3 for the Senate? Is any research being done currently to see whether we can get that hard core down further? I certainly remember seeing the Electoral Commission papers of 10 years ago which were very pessimistic about even getting the figure down from 10 and 8 per cent to the sort of figures we have now. Do you have any views about who the people might be who are still wasting their votes?
MR WILLSON -We too are very pleased with the figures from the last election. Certainly, the drop for the House of Representatives resulted from a number of things-I think a shrewder advertising campaign and the redesign of the House of Representatives ballot paper which followed some research we had done amongst users. For example, one interesting thing that that research threw up was many people were simply not aware of the instructions on the ballot paper. It was not something they had noticed. We blew that up to about six times the previous size, so they saw that first.
It is difficult for us to judge after the event the different contributions that the various things that we have done made to the lowering of the rate. It is the Senate ballot paper that we will now be looking at in terms of a redesign. You are aware, of course, that the 10 per cent figure you were quoting for the Senate dropped considerably when above the line voting came in in 1984.
SENATOR MAGUIRE -Certainly.
MR WILLSON -At the same time there was an increase for the House of Representatives, so that is the reason why the House of Representatives has had that first attention. We will be doing a number of things on the design of the ballot paper, and we hope we will be getting better at the advertising that we do, mainly in the last 10 days before polling day, to alert voters to the sorts of problems they have created. I think the major change in the direction of our advertising last time resulted from that sort of research where we, at a number of shopping centres in Sydney, put to sample voters a number of computed ballot papers and asked them to sort them according to whether or not they were accurately filled out. It is on the basis of what we learned there that we tailored the advertising.
Your question could be answered in another form, I suppose, by saying that we hope that the Commission's education program with young people will have a long term effect in helping to counter this problem.
SENATOR PARER -This question may have been asked in my absence. If so, I apologise. When a person comes in and demands a declaration vote, what sort of checks are made to verify the bona fides of that person voting?
MR DACEY -In the polling place?
SENATOR PARER -Yes.
MR DACEY -The checks are not made in the polling place. The checks are made back in the divisional office at the preliminary scrutiny of that declaration. So the checks are made on the basis of the declaration envelope that the elector completes.
SENATOR PARER -What exactly is done? What sort of checks are made?
MR DACEY -Some of my colleagues will correct me if I leave out some of the checks. Firstly, there is a check that the person is on the roll. If the person is on the roll, that may have been missed by the polling official.
SENATOR PARER -That would be most unusual, would it not?
MR DACEY -It can happen when a person comes to vote that the polling official does not find the name on the roll. The polling official may mishear, or may not ask the person to write the name down, and in fact the person could be on the roll and entitled to an ordinary vote. That person has a declaration vote in that case.
If that person's name is not found on the roll, it is then checked on microfiche in the divisional office to see whether it appears on any other divisional roll within the State. We also have a new check-we have microfiche in street order-to see whether people appear with a different form of their name on that street-fiche. It could be a transposition of name. In particular, some overseas born people may give christian name second and surname first. So those checks are carried out to see whether the person was entitled to vote or be on the roll. If that is the case then that vote is accepted. There is a very stringent set of procedures.
We also check both former and current addresses. But there are very strict procedures laid down in our guidelines for divisional staff doing preliminary scrutinies in our offices as to the checks to be made on declaration votes.
SENATOR PARER -So if on checking you cannot find any identity of that person, that vote is not opened?
MR DACEY -If a person does not have an entitlement, that vote is rejected.
SENATOR TEAGUE -There is reference to the initial work on the preparation of a conspectus of Commonwealth and State electoral legislation. Will that be completed this financial year?
MR DACEY -It is hoped so. It has been delayed due to other commitments, particularly the ATSIC election which we are to run. The officer who has been working on it is currently involved with ATSIC. But it is on our program to be finalised this year.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Will it then be a public document?
MR DACEY -As far as we know it will be available.
SENATOR TEAGUE -With regard to projects to be undertaken this financial year, has there been any request made by France for our experience and expertise in keeping rolls to be made available to New Caledonia in the quite complex task it has of keeping two sets of rolls?
MR COX -No.
SENATOR TEAGUE -This is the kind of request that could be considered. I suppose it is really a government policy matter, but as it is in our region and there is in fact very little progress being made in New Caledonia with its electoral roll, if there was a request from France, it is something that could be contemplated by the Electoral Commission?
MR COX -If it was a request of that order, of course we would have to consider it.
SENATOR TEAGUE -You gave assistance with regard to the elections in Namibia?
MR COX -Yes.
SENATOR TEAGUE -Was that a consultant going over there or a research paper? What form did that take?
MR SKINNER -It was both. Mr Maley, one of our officers, went for quite a period and a contingent of about 28 of our people from the Commission were involved for a period of about three to four weeks in the actual conduct of the election.
SENATOR SHORT -Was the cost of all of those activities borne by the Commission or by the Australian Government? In what way was it accounted for?
MR SKINNER -It was basically United Nations funded.
SENATOR SHORT -If France was to pay the bill for a similar exercise in New Caledonia, is it something that the Commission would contemplate?
MR COX -We certainly would contemplate it; but in dealing with such a matter, we would look at all of the factors and other commitments. It would be a serious matter and it would require serious attention.