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Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
Conduct of the 2013 federal election and matters related thereto
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Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
CHAIR (Mr Tony Smith)
Macdonald, Sen Ian
Gray, Gary, MP
Griffin, Alan, MP
Rhiannon, Sen Lee
Goodenough, Ian, MP
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Content WindowJoint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters - 04/03/2015 - Conduct of the 2013 federal election and matters related thereto
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CARPAY, Mr Pablo, First Assistant Commissioner, Australian Electoral» Commission
Committee met at 10:32
CHAIR ( Mr Tony Smith ): I declare open this public hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on «Electoral» «Matters» into the 2013 federal election. The inquiry was referred by the Special Minister of State on 5 December 2013 to look at all aspects of the federal election. I now call our witnesses from the Australian «Electoral» Commission, again. As you well know, the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath; although, the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as the proceedings in respective houses. Welcome back, Mr Rogers. Could I ask you to make an opening statement before we go to questions.
Mr Rogers : I would like to provide you today with an overview of our recent activities. As part of that process I intend to table an update to the document that I provided previously, which outlines the progress made in implementing the Keelty report and recommendations from other external reports. You will remember that that is quite a detailed table with a lot of information within it.
Changes since December last year include: decisions to overhaul the AEC's warehousing arrangements; more stringent and nationally consistent governance for contract management; ongoing revisions to ballot paper handling policies; and implementation of better practice governance of the overall reform program. I am also happy to table a summary document that outlines those and other recent changes in more detail, and I think the secretariat have that document there as well.
In addition to the Keelty recommendations, the AEC has developed, and is now implementing, a comprehensive planning framework for all agency activity, including election related and business-as-usual tasks. We have continued to review relevant processes and procedures, have strengthened the way in which we will recruit and train our temporary and permanent staff and have continued to recruit senior staff and fill those vacancies that have been the subject of previous discussion here. Obviously, this is a significant body of work.
I should point out to the committee that the total implementation costs are not yet finalised for this and will not be for some time. I am aware of the fiscal environment that we are all operating in, and the AEC continues to work closely with the Department of Finance on these «matters» . However, it will not come as a surprise when I inform the committee that change of such magnitude will not come without cost.
Additionally, I have provided staff with a clear message that we will re-establish our reputation for «electoral» integrity through the organisational values of quality, agility and professionalism, and it is depicted in a diagram that I am using as a guiding framework for staff and that I hope members have in front of them at the moment.
Without in any way resiling from the long journey ahead of us, I should also point out that this, the most ambitious reform program ever attempted by the AEC, is also being carried out in parallel with our normal business-as-usual activities. This includes updating the roll and providing roll products for the state and local government elections, implementing «electoral» integrity measures, delivery of industrial elections and starting the planning for conducting the redistribution processes for four states and territories this year, and then physically moving the AEC's national office in April of this year for the first time in many, many years.
Finally, I note there has been quite some media interest in a number of issues following last week's estimates hearing, including «electoral» integrity and multiple voting. I am more than happy to take questions on these or any other «matters» and I would be pleased to expand in more detail on our reform journey to date. Thank you, Chair.
CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Rogers, and thank you for appearing before us. What the committee would like to focus on is the implementation of the Keelty recommendations. We are certainly interested in any observations you might wish to make on the Queensland election, given that, as you told us at the last hearing, you were monitoring that closely in terms of how it rolled out performance-wise—and the issue that came up at the last hearing on roll divergence between state and federal rolls. We would be pleased to focus on those three issues today in the limited time available, particularly the implementation of Keelty.
Mr Rogers : Certainly, Chair.
CHAIR: Members may well have questions on other aspects; I have some as well. But we will give you those on notice—
Mr Rogers : Yes.
CHAIR: Either today or in the next day or so. We are getting fairly close to reporting so we would seek an undertaking that they can be responded to within a week or so, within reason. And that will enable us to cover all of that and not digress too much today. We will start with the Keelty recommendations. We have a number of documents here. These A3 documents are very good. They are in very small print, a bit like the New South Wales Senate ballot paper; we need that magnifying sheet that they hand out.
Mr Rogers : Indeed.
CHAIR: But we can look at that. Could you just take us through, Mr Rogers, what has developed since last time? When we last met, you had some key benchmarks you were going to meet in November and December. You had some others, from memory, you were going to meet in February and around about now. Can you take us through: how that has gone, candidly; where you have met those; if there has been any slippage; how is all that going? So that we know, as of the start of March, how well you are placed.
Mr Rogers : Certainly, Chair. And without being trite—and I know you will be expecting me to say this—there has been no slippage, but there are always adjustments as part of a project as we move through.
CHAIR: Right, okay.
Mr Rogers : What I might do is perhaps hit some of the highlights of things that we have been doing and I might ask Mr Carpay then to explain where we have made some adjustments to the delivery schedule and why we have. That might perhaps provide a basis for some additional questions.
We have moved forward in a couple of, for us, very important areas, and I might highlight a couple of those. Some of them are listed on the summary that I have provided to you. We have implemented our new learning management system, which was the end result of large body of work by our learning and development staff. Our previous learning management system was functional, and that is about as much as we could say about it. It did not provide the sort of modern learning and development experience that we would expect.
CHAIR: So it was inadequate?
Mr Rogers : It was inadequate in a whole range of areas. It was an older system, Chair, and it did not provide us fidelity of data. It had a great number of difficulties. It presented us with a great number of difficulties for how we actually provided that learning and development. There was a large project, we have delivered on that project and we are now working on content for that. We have procured a content expert to help us develop some of that content and they are working on that at the moment and I think, as it says somewhere on that process, we are close to being in a position to have that content ready. We have already got a lot of content on there but not for our polling staff, which is what we are hoping to do fairly shortly. One of the reasons we wanted to hire—
CHAIR: Sorry, is that sort of weeks, months?
Mr Rogers : I would say weeks, Chair.
Mr Rogers : But we are testing and adjusting on the way through. Now, one of the reasons we wanted to hire some training, learning and development, experts to assist us with this is that we have been thinking about the issue of what happens in the polling place where things can breakdown, and we are trying to come up with a system that assists behavioural change in the polling place. If I can talk about that for a moment and why that is important and why we are doing it that way.
Mr Rogers : On my estimates, when someone goes into a polling place, either for pre-poll or on the day, there are eight minitransactions that occur between the polling official and that member of the public who is voting. One of those is simply the greeting, and that is not a critical interaction, but nonetheless it is an interaction that sets an agenda for the rest of those issues. Then the other interactions that we know are: asking the three questions; initialling the ballot paper; providing the right ballot paper, particularly in a busy pre-poll centre; explaining the process; and then directing the individual to go and fill out one of those ballot papers. These are rough estimates. If we chose 12 million electors as a figure, and we said that there are about 42,000 polling officials involved in the issuing of votes, we are talking about, as a minimum, about 100 million transactions during the period of polling between electors and polling staff. There are 8,000 polling places, 42,000 issuing officers, 12 million electors, so about 100 million transactions, I should say. My job is to reduce the error rate so that those transactions occur smoothly. Even if we presumed a very small error rate on that very manual process, it is still going to be a large number.
We do not just want to do training, we actually want to do behavioural change so that we can reduce the error rate to the minimum possible error rate that we have got. We have got experts working on that at the moment. Our LMS to date has been a success story and appears to be working well, and I am very comfortable that that very important part of the next election has been completed.
We were rightly criticised at the last election by the ANAO for not having a proper workforce plan. We are a long way along, having rectified that situation. Members will see from the summary that we have now completed job profiles for all polling officials which outline the capabilities we are expecting to see and the attributes required. These not only are going to be communicated to our temporary employees, but mean we can actually do better assessments of how people are performing on the day against those capability statements. That is not something we have been able to do previously. For us, that has been a large piece of work, and given that I am convinced that errors on the day will occur in that polling place, it is critical that we get that bit right, either during voting or when polling ceases on the day.
In terms of warehousing and logistics, we have moved a long way down the process of deciding how we are going to do our long-term warehousing. I think I have spoken to the committee previously of my concerns about our current warehousing policy. We have a number of warehouses all over Australia with the long-term storage of ballot papers, completed ballot papers. I said previously to this committee that I am not sure that that is the business that we should be in. It is not an area of expertise for us. We have done a lot of analysis of that, and I have made the decision that we will be outsourcing the long-term storage of those ballot papers to organisations that are better able to do it in a more secure way than we can currently do it. So we have been doing work on analysing that process.
We were also criticised previously for the way in which we were conducting our contract management. There were a number of different legs to that; one was that we were not nationally consistent. We have done a great deal of work on ensuring that that has been rectified, and we have a very active contracts and procurements area that has provided us with a great deal of assistance in that area.
I think I had also said to this committee previously that I was concerned that our overall planning system for the election was old. It did not provide the commissioner with sufficient notification of whether the organisation was ready for an election or not. There were lots of systems and lots of people working very hard, but in an overarching way there was not that holistic framework. We have hired some expertise in that area and we have developed and are now in the process of implementing a brand-new process for planning and then managing not only election activities but all activities within the department that require some sort of operational outcome. Chair, you might be aware that we were also criticised by the ANAO for our use of polling place data. Essentially the ANAO said that with the rise of pre-poll voting we had not demonstrated that we had adjusted the mix of ordinary polling places on the day.
Mr Rogers : Since that time we have developed a methodology for forecasting a rise in pre-poll voting, and we are applying that to our polling place matrix at the moment in an effort to rationalise that. I am conscious that that statement is not just a statistical statement. It is not just a numbers issue of closing down polling places, because that also impacts on the community. But we have to take account of the rise in pre-poll voting—early voting—and what that means for us on the day, because we also need to make cost savings if we are to introduce some of these reforms, and that is one way of us doing it. So we have done quite a lot of work in that area.
One of the other recommendations from Keelty and from the ANAO is that we do additional sharing of information about the conduct of elections. You mentioned during your opening, Chair, our experience in Queensland. We have spent time talking about election management with some of our colleagues in the other states. I can provide some observations later about what I saw in Queensland. Of course, we will be closely watching our colleagues in New South Wales in March. They have also reviewed their practices in light of what occurred in Western Australia, and we are looking forward to working with them on some of those issues.
I will perhaps finish on this other point: we are continuing to work through the ballot paper handling policy—how we will deal with the ballot papers once they are in our possession, what we will do on the evening when polling closes and how we will ensure the security of those measures. We are not there with that yet. We are consulting internally and, even when we develop that policy we will actually need to do a fully timed trial to make sure it is achievable on the day of polling. Our experience in both Griffith and WA is that the additional security measures that we have put in place do create an additional time lag after polling closes. I am concerned that we have reached the point where some of our staff who start work early in the morning are still involved in critical election tasks very, very late at night and, in some cases, early the following morning. We have even gone to the extent of trialling new forms of tamper-evident tape and materials. We are currently doing that and, in fact, later on, if members are interested, I have some examples of where that might be.
From my perspective, progress is moving at a reasonable rate. We have made some adjustments and we have made those deliberately after looking at the issue more broadly. I might ask Mr Carpay to give some examples of where we have adjusted some of those delivery deadlines.
Mr Carpay : In explaining the adjustment of some of the deadlines, I will make a couple of broader points before I give some specific examples. You will recall that one of the criticisms of the ANAO was a narrow interpretation of various recommendations, so one of the things we did was look at the recommendations again with a fresh look to ask: are we interpreting them narrowly? We met with the ANAO two weeks ago to talk about where we are at with our planning and our processes, and we discussed that very issue. Again, they recognised that a broader interpretation is important. We also went to the market in late November or early December to get some expertise for a health check on our governance processes. We got three quotes from three reputable large organisations that do project and program management, and we selected Deloitte from that process. We then held a five-day workshop with the reform team plus all other relevant areas of the department to go through all of the recommendations that we had and to consider scope and time lines et cetera. So, we refocussed around that. From that, a number of changes occurred. We have adjusted a number of deadlines, and maybe I can quickly go to the examples.
CHAIR: If you could do that, because we will move to some questioning, and we can go into some detail then.
Mr Carpay : Look at recommendation 1, which originally had a date of 19 December, and now we are saying August. Recommendation 1 is about benchmarking material management against industry as well as other «electoral» authorities. Essentially, the original deadline of December really reflected that that was post the Victorian state election, but with a Queensland state election, a New South Wales election in March and further election activity occurring in Tasmania in May, this kind of becomes a live issue. We thought we actually needed to adjust it to reflect some of those major events.
I will pick, for example, the second recommendation, which is about 'develops and applies national and state material management policies'. As the Commissioner has just outlined, if we are going to the market to shift our warehousing arrangements there will be industry standards associated with that. So we cannot close out this recommendation until we have actually linked those.
I will pick one other small one, which is No. 13, concerning tamper-evident materials. We have a range—and we will actually supply them—of materials that we have now sourced. Essentially, they are tapes that, if you peel them back, leave a residue on the material where you have peeled them off. You can see that as you peel it off it actually leaves evidence that there was tape there. With that one, again, we have adjusted the deadlines because we have a range of samples but we actually have to procure them.
CHAIR: I do not want to cut you off, but I know some members have to go. Where you have had adjustments—and we all accept that you do not want to use the word 'slippage'—it is, you would say, for good reasons and to get an even better outcome. It has not been that you just could not get anything done in time. Is that fair?
Mr Rogers : Yes.
CHAIR: That is a good assurance.
Senator IAN MACDONALD: We really need to table that document that you just demonstrated the tape on, because Hansard cannot pick that up.
CHAIR: Yes, we will get it.
Mr Rogers : We have copies of that so you can retain it.
Mr GRAY: Tom, thank you very much for your evidence. I think it is correct that we look at the proper logistics, and it is important to look at the best way of handling storage and contracting things out. That is all very good. But the specific problem that we are addressing through Keelty, includes those logistics, but is primarily about what happened before the ballot papers even had a chance to make it into storage.
Mr Rogers : That is correct.
Mr GRAY: Because the particular flaw that we are considering happened, we believe, within a polling or a counting location—we do not know for sure, and Mr Keelty cannot answer the question—I am more interested in what comes before the very good decision to seek a different logistics pathway for storage, future retrieval and checking. It is, effectively, what happens from the moment at which the ballot papers are printed to the days after the ballot takes place. It is in that window that I have my principal concern about the concept, as Keelty describes it, of the sanctity of the ballot paper. Of the work that you have done, the very good work that you have done, in modelling the integrity of the process—and what we are here to do is to ensure that, in an «electoral» commission, we are implementing a balloting process that has integrity, which honours the sanctity of the balloting process itself—I am, far more interested, accepting the importance of future storage, in that end of it. So, can I get you to come a little further upstream to address some of those issues with us too.
Mr Rogers : You are absolutely right. I think that the warehousing arrangements and those logistics are a kind of hygiene factor—they just need to be right. The difficulty is what occurs, as you have said, from printing onwards. One of the principles that we have adopted, and that we have plastered everywhere in the AEC, is that all ballot papers remain live from printing through to statutorily authorised destruction. I think we had not previously had that end-to-end view.
We are beginning the process, and I might correct myself here, but we are even starting to work with our printers on this matter because, frankly, the moment a ballot paper is printed, it is like money; it is like a blank cheque; it is not just a piece of paper. Whilst our printers, previously—and there is no criticism here; they have been very good. I am not sure there has been that level of scrutiny from the printing process forward. It is also why in Griffith and in WA we introduced, in the polling place, a range of additional security measures. You might be aware, Mr Gray, we had ballot-paper secure zones; we had additional accountability measures. For pre-poll voting we put in place additional security overnight. I think it was in Griffith that we hired—what are they called?
Mr Carpay : It is a Site Safe.
Mr Rogers : Site Safe.
Mr Carpay : They use them on building sites.
Mr Rogers : For each of the polling places. If you see them, they are huge. They require several people to lift them and they, overnight, lock tools in them. They are very difficult to break into. This is because at every step of that process we need to be assured that there is accountability through the process up until these things are put into storage. It is not just the warehousing logistics. We are spending a lot of time on the processes in the polling place and tamper-evident material and those issues.
I would highlight another thing you said. This is in the polling place. With our workforce of 65,000 people, there is a cultural issue here as well. If we do not address that, we have a real problem. We can have all the processes and procedures in place, but if people do not understand the importance of following those processes, then we are going to have the same issue again. I think I am also on record as saying—it sounds trite—that one of the problems we have with our temporary polling staff is we are Australians, and we like to problem-solve. In a remote community, something pops up and people think, 'I know what the common-sense approach to solving that is,' but sometimes the common-sense approach does not fit with the legislative process and we have to make sure that people culturally understand that.
So we have addressed practice, culture and systems from printing through to storage. If we do not do all of those things, Mr Gray, those changes in the step, the next Keelty report will say the same thing, which is: 'We do not know where it broke down.' So that accountability is critical.
Mr GRAY: Thank you.
ACTING CHAIR: Mr Rogers, just so I am clear on this, in terms of all of the recommendations from Keelty, you are either in line with what was the timeline for implementation or, if there has been a need to adjust, that adjustment is for good reason. It does not in any way affect the overall implementation of the recommendations or the integrity of the recommendations from the AEC's point of view.
Mr Rogers : That is correct, Deputy Chair, and I am conscious—I do not want to just keep talking, but could I give you a nuanced response with one area?
ACTING CHAIR: Sure.
Mr Rogers : We are working overtime to ensure that we have all of the learning and development measures in place by the time of the next election. If the next election is called significantly earlier, we will have to, you know, cut things off at a point. If you are asking me the question you have not asked, which is: 'When you get to 2016, you have implemented those things; will that be it?' the answer is: no.
We have a problem with our temporary workforce. That model is at the end of its useful life, I have said this previously. We are going to rectify that for the 2016 election. In the 2019 election, we need to do a lot of work. It needs to be a different sort of workforce. We are doing that work at the same time as we are looking at 2016. So if you said to me, 'Can you bring that forward?' or 'Do you think you will have that bit of work done for 2016?' the answer is: no, that is going to take a lot longer. That is an issue for us. But the other answer to your question is: yes, I am comfortable with our progress against those areas.
Mr GRIFFIN: I think I could say on behalf of the committee there is—in broad terms, there are two aspects to this. There is the question of the recommendations made in order to resolve the issues that became apparent with respect to the last election, particularly in WA, and then there are broader, cultural issues that relate to the operation of the organisation.
Mr Rogers : Yes.
Mr GRIFFIN: One is a response that requires a detailed, 'Here is a recommendation; here is an implementation,' and we go forward. The other one requires a change of mindset. I will put it on record that I have always been of the view that the mindset issue is the more important.
Mr Rogers : Yes.
Mr GRIFFIN: Also the mindset issue is what makes it difficult; it is throughout the organisation—in fact, it is more in the mid-range and the bottom of the organisation, frankly, than at the top. And so, from a management perspective, I have no doubt about the bona fides of you and your senior management with respect to what needs to be done. In fact, I had no doubts about the bona fides of the previous commissioner with respect to some of the changes he was seeking to pursue. The test—and I think you understand this—is that you have to drive down into the organisation, and make sure that people down the line actually understand that the parliament has had enough.
Mr Rogers : I agree with that. You will see on your desk that I have given you a screen grab of a diagram that we are using to explain to our staff at the moment the need for us to put «electoral» integrity back into the heart of our processes. That is surrounded by a mantra that we are using at the moment called 'Every task «matters» ,' because it is important all the way down. But putting that as a screen saver on a computer does not change culture. That is a long journey of continual messaging and working with our staff who, frankly, want to do the right thing and to be assisted to do that. So I am very—
CHAIR: To be blunt, going to Mr Griffin's point—and we are all, as a committee, united on this—we know the leadership is focussed on it, but he is talking about what happens as you drill down into the organisation. This came home to us when we arrived in Perth and there was something in the paper from some local AEC officials saying that the inquiry had been too much and that there was no need for us to be there—they had got the message; couldn't everyone go away? That was really the point of it, I think.
Mr Rogers : You are right, and I have been at pains to stress to everyone the importance of this issue. I have been on record saying that we caused the error and we need to fix the error, and that it is within our ambit of responsibility, and we will do so. I have seen encouraging signs of new shoots coming out of the tree—and all those sorts of analogies we could use. You know that a cultural journey is not a one-year journey—
Mr Rogers : or even, frankly, a two-year journey. We have to change our systems and processes. We have to support the staff and ensure that they understand that every task «matters» , because it will be one task, on the day of the election, that causes grief.
Senator RHIANNON: Thanks for outlining this. It is impressive to see how it is coming together. I was certainly impressed with the emphasis that you gave, Mr Rogers, about culture, because I think that is often lost sight of these days. It is one thing to change the rules, but it is how we actually bring them into place. With regard to storage—again I really understood you were talking about from inception to grave, right through—the integrity and protection of those ballot papers goes to the heart of what we are talking about. I would like to understand more about that, because obviously you will be getting advice from industry people with regard to the best way to do that: how to store it, how to transport it—everything. What I was interested to understand is when the AEC staff will do something and when you will be getting private companies to do it.
Mr Rogers : To be accurate, we have already taken industry advice broadly on that matter. We worked with a group of logistics consultants last year. Because we are not logistics experts we wanted to make sure that we had access to what was current. We just do not have that knowledge within the organisation. The logistics industry is a multibillion-dollar industry that moves fairly quickly, and there is technology out there that can assist us with that. There are some things that we will need to keep doing. We will always need warehousing and storage, because running an election requires things to be stored.
We had, in my mind, got into the habit of thinking that we had to do all of that, even if we did not have the expertise to do it. And the most obvious one was the long-term storage of secure ballot papers. You would have seen the photos in the Keelty report. It is painful to look at and we do not want to go back there. It developed so that we were storing things in a way that I do not think was appropriate. What we are currently doing is working on a process of completely outsourcing the long-term storage of ballot papers. That is an area that I do not wish to be involved with into the future, because frankly we do not it very well and other organisations do that very well. The way that it will work is that at an appropriate point after an election, we will then transfer responsibility for the long-term storage of those ballot papers to an appropriately accredited commercial organisation who, frankly, is better able to do it. Our initial investigation has shown that they are able to do it at a very reasonable price compared to what we are currently doing. For me, that is where that delineation of responsibility lies.
There are some other issues that we are still looking at about when we need to call forward other equipment that we need at election time. Looking at cardboard equipment—and I will look to Mr Carpay, who might jump in and correct me—how long does it take you to procure cardboard equipment? If we store cardboard equipment over the long term in our own organisation, does it deteriorate? And the answer is yes. When you are dealing with glue and cardboard, things deteriorate. So, are we best storing that stuff? Or are we best actually leaving it with the individuals who are making the equipment and having a lead time such that we know that we can access it? We are still working through that process at the moment, but I would like to have minimum holdings in our own warehousing. Other organisations, who commercially do this for a living, do it. And that is a process that we are developing at the moment.
We have had some other experiences previously where we have stored cardboard equipment, and it has failed because of the conditions in which we stored it. We do not have pristine conditions, and glue deteriorates. So we are looking at that issue at the moment, but there has to be, as you are indicating, Senator, a very clear hand-off between us and a commercial organisation so that there is no gap between the two, there is no area where accountability does not follow those ballot papers.
Senator RHIANNON: Coming back to the ballot papers and the storage, you spoke about complete outsourcing. Are you talking about outsourcing from the point that they are printed—
Mr Rogers : No, I am sorry; I am talking about completed ballot papers post the election, where we are statutorily required to keep them for a period of time. For us, the way that it works with secure storage is that if you have a low requirement to access those then the prices go down quite dramatically. And, as we know, it is not often that we need to access that. So, it is that that I am talking about.
Senator RHIANNON: Post the election storage?
Mr Rogers : Yes, post the election. Now, if you are now talking about how we—
Senator RHIANNON: From printing?
Mr Rogers : Yes, from printing. I might get Mr Carpay to talk about this, but there are kind of going to be two solutions for this matter: a 2016 solution and then a long-term solution.
Mr Carpay : We are shortly to go to the market in relation to a statement of requirements for ballot paper printing. In the past we have had a set of requirements around the printing. In relation to the Keelty recommendations, we are now looking at those statement requirements to include security aspects. At the point at which those ballot papers are printed, they then need to be moved to polling places, and this is where the linkage between the printing companies and the use of third party transport companies actually comes in. And, again, we are going to market very shortly with statement requirements to the transport industry to specify what it is that we need. So, whilst we can tell you in principle the concepts, we do not have the specific solution, because we do not yet have responses for those particular tenders. But in principle you would end up with a situation where material is printed, obviously by professional printing companies. The transport of that in large-scale to our facilities from whence it is distributed to polling places is something where we would have third-party logistics providers involved. And in the past we have actually had return of materials occur though OICs returning physical ballot papers to our premises. Again, there is potential that third-party logistics providers could get involved in that, noting that with 8,000 polling places and time frames that, often late in the evening, we have to consider seriously whether third-party providers can do that.
Broadly speaking, the advice from the logistics industry is that metro areas are fairly easy but once you start to step outside major metropolitan areas into regional and then remote there are fewer transport providers available, and therefore you have to adapt your methodologies. But in principle, they are printed by private contractors and moved where appropriate by private contractors and we then have an end-to-end view. And transport providers, of course, have their own logistics processes for track and trace and all sorts of systems. We need to link those to the printing end as well so that we have the ability to know that ballot papers have been printed and produced in X quantity, that they have transferred through us to polling places and back out of polling places for account and then fresh scrutiny and that they go from there to long-term storage. So, we have to have an end-to-end view and we are going to market very shortly on those two critical pieces.
Mr Rogers : And just to be definite about this, there is not going to be one solution, because in remote areas we might have to have a very different solution to the one that we are implementing elsewhere. So, it will be a mix; it will never be one thing or the other.
Senator RHIANNON: In talking about the third-party logistics providers, at the end of the day, somebody has to do the job. The printers are on the floor, printing off the ballot papers. They go and they are stored. The truck comes along. The forklift goes out, and all the rest. Where, in all those stages, do you have your people interacting with that? It is such an important stage when we are getting all these ballot papers done. Can you describe those interactions between AEC people and these private companies? If it is too complex—although I think it is worth us knowing—maybe you could set it out in one of these documents, which I am quite happy to read. 'Logistical providers' sounds impressive—and I am not reflecting on the workers, obviously—but, at the end of the day, they are probably paid a pretty bad wage, they come in, they pick it up and off they go. How do we sort all that out?
Mr Rogers : I might answer this in two ways. I am probably happy to do this as a table for you and provide that information later on, but I will explain it, if I can. We do not get into a relationship with a provider unless we are sure that, contractually, they have got a quality process in place that we have signed off on, and that is the critical thing.
CHAIR: To use your printing of ballot papers as a template, you do not use every printer on every street corner.
Mr Rogers : That is exactly right. We go to tender. We go through an appropriate process. We procure them appropriately. But the critical thing is the quality control of those contracts to make sure that we are involved in that process. I think Keelty was fairly clear that we were deficient in some of those areas, previously, of working with our contractors. I think part of that was a lack of knowledge. I do not think it was a lack of will on anyone's part. But it was clearly an issue, and we are determined not to repeat that. So we will be as involved as we need to be at every stage of that process to ensure that there is a quality process at the centre of it. If I look at some of the logistics providers out there that we have been talking to already, they have a very impressive suite of systems in place, far beyond what we would be able to do in any case, given the budgetary issues. I am very confident that the system that we are developing will be a significantly better system providing a greater level of fidelity of tracking right through the process than we have ever had previously. So I am comfortable with that.
Mr Carpay : I might just add two quick observations, if I may, one of which is that, for example, at printing places, we always have our staff there. But part of the trick here is around handover of custody of ballot papers and, therefore, designing steps where, if it is handed over to us, we have signing and countersigning and checks and balances to ensure what is being handed over. The other thing that we have in principle is that, as we did in Western Australia, when transport companies move materials like ballot papers, they have two people in their vehicles so that, at no point, is it just reliant upon the one person. One person can look at the material in the vehicle whilst it is being loaded whilst the other can do the unloading. Then they get us to sign to say receipt and, at the other end, as we transfer across. So there are lots of steps in there now which are all about sign over, safe custody, transfer, signing and accountability and countersigning.
Mr Rogers : A problem for us remains delivery to polling place. It is a complex thing with the 8,000 polling places. Doing that in a way that is traceable and accountable is something that will always be difficult, given where those polling places are located.
Senator RHIANNON: Yes, it is huge.
Mr GRIFFIN: Having said that we should stick to the script, now I am going to go off it. I want to walk through with you a couple of things around the question of both the need to keep ballot papers post the actual conduct of the election and whether there is anything that could or should be looked at there. My understanding—and correct me when I am wrong, and I know I will be to a degree—is that there is a need to keep Senate ballot papers for the life of the Senate on the basis that there could be a need at some stage for a re-election. In memory, that has happened once, back in the eighties.
Mr Rogers : Mr Pirani is salivating at the chance of answering that.
Mr GRIFFIN: It is not a pretty sight, but, nonetheless, something that we should not let go untested.
Mr Pirani : Prior to 1983 there was a situation where, yes, they had to go back and look at the original ballot papers for the Senate. In the case of Sue v Hill, though, when we got to the High Court, the High Court accepted the information that was held in our election management system with the results. When we went away, we ran the program excluding the disqualified senator in that matter, and that result was put back to the High Court. The High Court and all the parties accepted that.
Mr GRIFFIN: You never got the ballots out of storage—
Mr Pirani : Ballot papers were not—
Mr GRIFFIN: because the circumstances are you have a tally of the actual ticket votes in that situation, and then you enter into the system the individual votes that are below the line.
Mr Pirani : That is correct.
CHAIR: Was that 1983?
Mr Pirani : Sue v Hill was a bit later than that.
Mr GRIFFIN: It was 1998.
Mr Pirani : The situation that the AEC still has concerns about is, if—like occurred after the election in WA in September 2013—there are challenges to the actual information that is in our election management system, would we be required to produce the actual ballot papers for a recount in that situation? That is not clear. Section 393A of the Commonwealth «Electoral» Act has a requirement for the preservation of ballot papers. There is a time period of six months that is referred to in section 393A. The six-year period for keeping Senate ballot papers is not in our act.
CHAIR: Is it six months for both House and Senate?
Mr Pirani : That is what the act says, but the practice of the AEC has been to retain Senate ballot papers for the life of the Senate on the possibility that we may be required to produce them if a recount at some later stage—and this is well after the Court of Disputed Returns—is required.
Mr GRIFFIN: I take on board that you are actually in the midst of negotiating contracts with respect to storage and that, but, ballparking a figure, what is it costing the AEC, or what do you think it is roughly going to cost the AEC, to store those ballot papers over that extra 5½ years?
Mr Carpay : The provisional cost that we have from a supplier who is already contracted with us to store the number of ballots that we have is in the order of $180,000 per annum.
Mr GRIFFIN: It is the best part of three quarters of a million dollars, if my mathematics, off the top of my head, is not bad. In order to deal with the situation—and I understand we need to be careful—of what might be a very odd occurrence, where the actual result which is detailed within the AEC «electoral» management systems are challenged, we are adding a cost in the best part of—
CHAIR: Well, it is $1 million.
Mr Rogers : Yes.
Mr GRIFFIN: What I would like you to consider, in the context of the reviews that you are doing, is that, if there are issues that are worthy of consideration that relate to the nature of what you are currently doing as per past practice or as required by legislation, where there may be an argument about whether in fact that should be the process into the future, it would be useful if those things were raised with the committee. It is the sort of thing that would not necessarily jump out and bite us. Obviously, in terms of this particular issue, should the government ever decide to respond to the interim report of the committee around the question of voting systems, that might in itself produce some different outcomes around the question of what might be needed to be kept. I think it is an interesting issue when we are talking about a million bucks over that sort of time, and certainly half a million over a normal House of Representatives term.
Mr Rogers : It is a significant amount of cash.
CHAIR: Do you keep the House of Representatives ballot papers for the whole term?
Mr Pirani : No. House of Representatives ballots papers are kept for six months, or, if there is a Court of Disputed Returns challenge, until that has been resolved.
CHAIR: It has just been practice of the commission to keep the Senate ballot papers for the whole term?
Mr Pirani : That is correct.
CHAIR: When did that evolve? You had them when that challenge was on.
Mr Pirani : It evolved in the early 1980s when there had been a challenge that required them to have a look at the ballot papers. It has only occurred once. For the AEC to not have them available, when there is potential for a challenge, is a risk.
CHAIR: With the House, you could have something seven months after an election?
Mr Pirani : Our practice is to destroy them. It is a commissioner power. A submission goes up to the commissioner after the Court of Disputed Returns period is finished, and after any legal challenge is resolved. After the six-month period we get submissions and they go up to the commissioner, the commissioner signs off signs off and the House of Representative ballot papers are destroyed.
CHAIR: We understand that. With the House we have got close results and there is all the argy-bargy that is settled normally.
Mr Rogers : That is correct.
Mr GRIFFIN: It was a requirement. There is a time requirement. Once you are outside of that requirement the ballot papers are null and void, effectively.
Mr Rogers : Just two things. First of all, I have given a direction, when we do this, that I do not want to just move everything we have without actually looking at it. I have said that I want to move the minimum necessary amount into storage, and I would be looking to offset that long-term storage cost through savings in our current warehousing. I would have to recall, but I think we have something like 1,100 pallets of ballot material stored in warehouses all over Australia at the moment. You and I would both know that the chance of a lot of that being required any time soon is virtually zero, so I want to try to reduce our holdings as much as we can in any case.
Mr GRIFFIN: I think that is very sensible. My point from that is: in the current environment, given what has happened, I can understand why the commission would be extremely cautious around the question of star-trekking anything and boldly going where no-one has gone before. However, having said that, I think we are also dealing with a culture that goes back over a long period of time in terms of how best to do things. It is not unusual to have a situation where you do things because that is how you do things, and that is what happened and therefore it continues to be. It would be a mistake in my view if, as part of this process, there was not an opportunity to look at some aspects of what currently is done, and at thoughts that there might be something worth looking at. I am not saying that I think the commission should jump off the bridge and do it themselves.
Mr Rogers : And suddenly shred all of our ballot papers.
Mr GRIFFIN: I do think that, if there are issues, it would certainly be worthwhile, and I think the committee would be keen to hear from you as to anything like that. Frankly, with issues like that, I would not have a problem with recommending that the committee actually holds hearings, considers those issues and, if the «matters» can be resolved in a clear, transparent and bipartisan fashion, if we are able to actually make changes which make sense and save money, we would be dumb if we did not do it.
Mr Rogers : Deputy Chair, I endorse that fully, and in fact I do so. I will write to the committee, Chair, if that is okay with you, and outline where we are heading and the current process, which might be worthwhile.
CHAIR: It has been useful to shed a little bit of light on this issue. We have other things we want to go on with, but it struck the deputy chair as Senator Rhiannon was asking the questions. In that, just out of interest, when you write back would you mention what the states do, what their practice is, et cetera, given that you are trying to harmonise things all over the place. If you need to pick one state, pick Victoria, given we are both from Victoria. Mr Goodenough has some questions.
Mr GOODENOUGH: I have a question relating to the issue of divergence. As a Western Australian representative I note the unique situation where there is the legislative inability of Western Australia to recognise Commonwealth direct enrolments, and in your submission you say that WA does not meet the state requirements for an enrolment or update as the WA law does not recognise direct enrolments. Could you elaborate a little bit more on that?
Mr Rogers : I certainly will, but I also might ask Mr Gately, who is our Assistant Commissioner of Roll Management, to step forward for the moment As you will have seen from the submission, the divergence in Western Australia is slightly different from the divergence in New South Wales and Victoria and, as you have correctly pointed out, the Western Australian legislation, as I understand it, will not recognise the outcomes of our direct enrolment process for the purposes of state enrolment. I might get Mr Gately to talk briefly about that to make sure that I am correct with what I have just said.
Mr Gately : That is correct. In part the issue is that most of the law originally was predicated on the concept of a claim for enrolment. That is both the federal law and the state laws. With the changes to the federal law and a range of the other states, there have been various mechanisms to deal with the concepts of direct enrolment or other mechanisms of enrolment. WA does not have those provisions at the moment in their state «electoral» law. WA had aligned some of their «electoral» law in relation to evidence of identity about three years ago, but then, with the changes in the federal law subsequent to that, that divergence had grown at the time.
Mr GOODENOUGH: Is it likely that the state parliament may consider—
Mr Rogers : I might perhaps interject there and say that we continue to work with our state colleagues. Clearly, there is a difference in approach, but we work with them fairly constantly. I would not say that we were always in robust agreement, Mr Goodenough, with our state colleagues. We have a good relationship, but there are some differences that emerge. As I put in the submission, which I hope members got before the event, I think that the point for us is that enrolment remains an individual's responsibility. So at the end of that process it is an individual's responsibility to get onto the roll. We put a framework around that to assist and to make it as streamlined as possible. Clearly, there have been some differences between the three states. I would point out that many Australians use the issue of a writ for an election as a trigger to remind themselves to get on the roll, so the divergence is always larger in a non-election period, and during an election period it narrows down significantly. That is where we are with that at the moment.
CHAIR: I was going to ask about that a bit later, but now Mr Goodenough has brought that up we might stick with enrolment for a second. You made the point that it is every Australian's responsibility to be on the roll if they are eligible to vote, and that is when they turn 18, of course. The law actually requires that, but if that is not followed they have an opportunity, just as the writs are issued, for a few days. That has been the case for a number of years. More recently, automatic enrolments have been introduced and the divergence is occurring federally with New South Wales and Victoria—not because one has automatic enrolment and the other does not, but because you are using different data sources, as I understand it.
Mr Rogers : Different data sources and different processes.
CHAIR: Different processes, yes, that is a fair point. For my next question, I want to leave aside the desirability of automatic enrolment—when the law is you have to enrol and you can do that when an election is called. I want to ask about the process of automatic enrolment where the AEC writes to someone who is eligible to vote and, essentially, says: 'You are not on the «electoral» roll. You should be. With a whole lot of data, we think you live here, and therefore we have enrolled you.' The point I would put to you is: don't you think the voter should have to do something to actually affirm that the information is correct? At present, you automatically enrol someone. It may be right; it may be wrong. There is never any contact made. I think you ask them, don't you, to say so if it is wrong? But if there is no communication received they are on the roll, and they stay on the roll until some other time.
Mr Rogers : That is essentially correct. Mr Gately will reach across and poke me in the chest if I get this wrong, but I might talk about that a little. We have, obviously, adopted a tighter set of business rules—and I do not make this comment critically about the states, I am talking about federally—but we have clearly adopted a tighter set of business rules around our processes than the states have adopted. I would hate to be the commissioner of the AEC and in two years time have a Western Australian-like issue occur with the roll because there is a problem with roll integrity. That really would be a bad thing for all of us, and for me personally. So I directed the establishment of the «Electoral» Integrity Unit in 2014, and I asked Mr Gately—that unit is in his branch—to examine the area of the divergence in particular. To look at the quality of the divergence, if you like, to see whether or not they are reasonable enrolments. I also asked them to come back to me with other ideas on how we can strengthen the current process because, like you, my concern is that we have changed a process where we have got a confirmation to one where we do not essentially need a confirmation from individuals. I want to make sure, if that is the process that we are following, that that is working.
CHAIR: Let me put it to you another way. Some people are just outright opposed to automatic enrolment, but my point would be around the integrity of the role. We brought down an interim report on better use of modern communication that examined a range of things; we talked about electronic certified lists and all the rest of it. When you get your updated credit card in the mail, you have got to do something to activate it, you cannot just say: 'I refuse to do that'. You have got to ring and put a PIN in, you have to do something to actually make it work. I would have thought there was a whole range of things that you could do with people. If you have very good online presence, I would have thought that you could give a range of options.
Mr Rogers : Chair, you remember that we used to rely largely on a process called CRU, the continuous roll update. Over many years the efficacy of that system had started to decline because people do not respond to mail the way that they used to respond to mail. We now have a range of different measures. I have asked Mr Gately to examine this for the very reason that you are discussing. I think there are other measures that we could put in place to strengthen the integrity around—using your term—the automated process, where we get something from the elector that says that they are the individual. There is a range of different ways of doing that, even, frankly, an SMS message, potentially, but something simple to know that a live person got that at the other end of the process.
CHAIR: I have not raised this with my friend, the deputy chair, but he will be very familiar with it as will Mr Goodenough. Now our Senate colleagues have left, they would be less familiar, and I can say that without wasting 15 minutes. All of us in the House of Representatives get notified of new electors, and we typically write and welcome new electors. Of course they comprise people who have just moved into the electorate or people who have turned 18. You are automatically enrolling people, and we are writing out to those people who are automatically enrolled. You are writing to them, but you are not getting a response necessarily to say anything is wrong, and you have enrolled them. We write out to them, we get 'return to sender' mail and, if we are following a proper protocol, which I certainly know the Liberal Party and the Labor Party do as a courtesy, we forward those onto your divisional office. I do that and I know Mr Griffin does that; we have spoken about it before.
In the past it has been, 'Thanks for that. That's all fine', but I think there has recently been an upgrade of process. I got a nice letter back saying that we had looked at all this and all the rest of it. It turned out that one was wrong, another one had just shifted and so on. But a certain number, and I have not got them in front of me, sent no reply. You are writing to them automatically enrolling them, and you do not get a reply. We welcome them, we get a return to sender, we send it to you and you still do not get a reply. It seems rather circular.
Mr Rogers : As you know, for MPs, return-to-sender mail is an important input into our process. We do follow a process.
CHAIR: Most say 'return to sender', some have a certain messages on them, don't they.
Mr Rogers : I did not want to point that out, but with some of the mail to us it is very clear that that is a deliberate act. We will not repeat some of the messaging in this room. A proportion of that mail has no message on it, so you have got to make some assumptions about why that would be the case and, again, it is an indicator that there may or may not be an issue with the process. That is why I have asked Mr Gately to spend time on looking at—
CHAIR: Particularly if it says 'not at this address.'
Mr Rogers : Yes. To answer your original question, with our process I would like to have an additional assurance measure in the current, to use your terms, automated process. I do not want it to go back to the continuous roll update because that was becoming less effective, but there are a range of things that we could potentially do to make the current process stronger. I am conscious that I have given you a message there, Chair, with that diagram with «'electoral» integrity' in the centre of it. It is a bit hard for me to sell that message if I am not spending time looking at the roll and the integrity measures surrounding the roll. I am prepared to come back, at a point when we finish looking at that, to update the committee on what I am proposing to do. I would like to make sure that there is no repeat of the WA like issue with the roll in a couple of years. I think we are meeting with the ANAO this week—
Mr Carpay : Tomorrow.
Mr Rogers : who are completing the next tranche of their audit of the AEC, and this will be focused on the roll and, in fact, will be focused—
CHAIR: I am advised that is going to take several months.
Mr Rogers : I think so. It will be focusing on the recommendations they made previously in the 2010 report, and how we have gone with that. I am sure there will be some additional information that comes out about roll integrity. I am conscious that it is my responsibility to ensure that the roll is as complete as possible and has the highest possible integrity, so I am actively looking at that at the moment. I have also asked Mr Gately to do a better review of the roll itself—the integrity of the roll. We are also talking, at the moment, about the next sample audit field work, which is due to go ahead—
Mr Gately : In May.
Mr Rogers : in May. That will be an additional input for us into letting us know how the roll is progressing at that point. That was a very long answer for, yes; I agree—
CHAIR: No, it is a very detailed area. Let me jump back; again, it is timely to ask this without senators in the room. When you are going to the pressures of the vote count on the night—Do you have any more, Mr Goodenough? Sorry.
Mr GOODENOUGH: I just have an anecdote. When I purchased a home in Canberra I received a letter from the AEC offering to enrol me in the Canberra electorate—
Mr Rogers : I am really hoping that that was an accurate letter you received.
Mr GOODENOUGH: Other than me coming from WA, so I had to decline.
CHAIR: As a Liberal colleague, I am hoping you are not enrolled in Canberra, Mr Goodenough!
Mr GOODENOUGH: That is right.
CHAIR: Let me take you back to your evidence, where you talked about the upgrade of procedures that were used in Griffith and how that adds to the time. That is just a necessary cost of democracy, in my view. We are always anxious for the result but not at the point of wanting risk. It is your practice on the night—and to a large extent you are governed by the act; a colleague from the secretariat showed me the relevant section just before—to count the House of Representatives and then to do the first preference count on the Senate. I did not want to ask this earlier with Senate colleagues here, but would it assist you if you did not count anything on the Senate, on the night, and that was just delayed until the following week—given that you do not learn a lot on the night? It does not diverge much from the two-PP outcome. Everyone, and all the commentators, are pontificating about who may win the 5th and 6th spot, and this pontification typically goes on for several weeks. As Mr Griffin will attest, there are about 10 people who really understand what is going on—in other words, if the ballots were securely stored and then when you resumed on the Monday you have got over your logistics hurdle of getting them from all the polling places back.
Mr GRIFFIN: Given the way senators sometimes react to suggestions like this, we would understand if you wished to take the question in a very careful manner.
CHAIR: I did wait until they had all left, because I did not want to waste 20 minutes!
Mr Rogers : It is important for me to be very accurate here, so anything I am about to say is not a reflection on the Senate—
CHAIR: No, not at all.
Mr Rogers : or the dignity of the Senate, or anything. I am talking about—
Mr GRIFFIN: If there are any reflections to be done on the Senate we can do that ourselves.
CHAIR: The other point I would make—and this is not a criticism of the senators, and you are through Senate estimates—is that senators do not take office immediately. That is the other point; whereas a declared House of Representatives member takes office as a member of parliament straight away on the declaration.
Mr Rogers : I think Keelty recommendation 26 is:
The AEC implements measures to
- the pressure arising from the expectation that all results will be known on Election
- the logistical issues arising from the size of Senate ballot papers.
We do have a workload issue on the night in the polling place, with the rise in pre-poll voting, the expansion in the size of the Senate paper and a range of other issues. If I confined my answer to a technical answer—I am being very careful here—doing work around saving the Senate ballot paper until a later date I think would save a significant amount of work for our staff on the night and probably aid accuracy. I know that a couple of the states that have upper houses are looking at the same issue and essentially have the same problem. One of them was even talking about bringing in a separate workforce to do the upper house count so that it is—
CHAIR: Starting on the Monday or something?
Mr Rogers : Maybe on the night or the next day, but they were talking about on the night getting an entirely separate workforce in, because people are tired. But, again, you already have issues if you have 65,000 already, and in some areas we are struggling to get enough people.
Mr GRIFFIN: I was going to say: let's get another 60,000—I do not know what their—
Mr Rogers : The money, the process, the risk—there is an issue there as well. From my perspective there will be a point where with the best will in the world we simply will not be able to crack through the workload on the night to the standard required, so something will have to give. From my perspective, if I am speaking technically, some sort of give in how we do the Senate process would certainly be worth looking at—again, carefully phrased, with lots of respect around the edges of that.
CHAIR: And all the caveats, yes; we understand. But given that security is an issue, I would have thought, particularly when you are looking at large electorates and long transport times, that when those ballots arrive—if they are packaged properly, they are secured and they are dispatched and the focus is on dispatching them to the central count, where they could be counted and where a senator is not going to take up their new position until July 1, and in the case of the last election it was a nine-month wait—ultimately you might be pushing the button a day or two later. In terms of safety and security I would have thought it was worth considering.
Mr Rogers : The thing you would need to solve, though, so that we do not have a repeat of WA, is accountability to make sure that what you have is what you expected to have and that there had been a transfer of accountability. You would have to spend a fair bit of work on that. But from my perspective—
CHAIR: But you could make that very robust without involving all the counters.
Mr Rogers : I might just get Mr Carpay to tell you whether he agrees with me here publicly—which would be a problem!
Mr Carpay : I think workload relief is one of the issues that is identified in the Keelty report. We have people starting at 7.30 in the morning and finishing at midnight and later. As the commissioner outlined, there are 100 million tasks just to issue the votes, and if you then add—
CHAIR: And if the House of Reps seat is close, they are back the next day.
Mr Rogers : That is exactly correct, so we certainly would like to look at that process, and it does not mean that we are saying that we cannot do the job or that it is too hard or whatever the issue is. We learnt some lessons in Griffith. Some of the new parcelling materials we tried were difficult for staff to deal with. That added to the time. So, we have to get the materials aspect of that right as well. But I think there is a worthwhile stream of inquiry in that area.
CHAIR: Thank you. That is useful. I would now like to move on, because with a lot of this you will have some observations but you will want to give us the detail later, so I will start with that caveat; we are not expecting you to produce all of the facts and figures, because we appreciate that you will not yet have them. But, the Queensland election: some observations generally and particularly on the issue of voter identification? It was the first election where there was a voter identification requirement.
Mr Rogers : I have a couple of observations. Firstly, it has been interesting for us and not unexpected that most of the other Australian «electoral» commissions have reviewed their own processes post Keelty. You would expect them to do that. In fact, even the New Zealand «Electoral» Commission—we were in contact with them—did a review of their own processes based on what occurred with us. So, the ripples of that event have spread through our region. It is the same with Queensland. They reviewed their processes and adopted some different handling processes and some different ways of conducting that election—even simple things like the wearing of the bibs, which we did in WA. They have adopted that, and that seems to be becoming the national standard.
The big change up there was, of course, the introduction of evidence of identity at time of voting. I think I have put in the submission that if parliament was minded to go down that particular path there are a number of different solutions, a number of ways, of doing it. Queensland chose a particular method, and they sent every voter a voter information letter. The voter information letter—in fact, I did have a copy of this—did have, I think down on the right hand corner, a perforated thing that you ripped off. It was bar coded, and you took that into the polling place. They had, particularly in the larger centres, bar code readers, and they could scan you off the role. They had a large number of electronic certified lists. I do not remember the exact number, but it was more than we deployed at the 2013 election, I remember. It then marked you off the list. That was done. You did not have to take the voter information letter. They had other categories of voter ID which would be suitable, but you did not have to produce photographic ID.
CHAIR: So you could produce your licence or you could produce a credit card or you could produce a rates notice or you could produce something—there is a whole list of them. The threshold was low and broad. The voter ID card is something some people criticise because someone can just turn up with the voter ID card. Admittedly, the threshold is still higher. What are your views on that, given they had such a large range of items? I think they had about 10 or 20 items.
Mr GRIFFIN: As part of that, do we have any idea anecdotally of how many or in reality of how many people actually presented with the letter?
CHAIR: That is a very good question.
Mr Rogers : I think we do. I am very conscious they have not yet finished their analysis, so this is all anecdotal, and I might even correct my own evidence because I will check again with Queensland. But, from memory, most people took the voter ID letter with them. So they used that.
Mr GRIFFIN: A majority.
Mr Rogers : The majority used the voter ID letter. I was in a number of polling places. We did a look around. Some of the other staff here were in different polling places. I, personally, did not see anyone in the polling places that I was in jack up all say, 'I am not going to provide that,' or, 'Why do I have to provide this?' In fact, I think the overall feeling was that, 'Well, I have to produce my ID for a whole range of things, and voting is important and here is my ID.'
Mr GRIFFIN: One of the concerns that I have always held with this sort of activity is the situation where someone has not got ID in normal circumstances or has not got ID on them. What process is followed with respect to ensuring that people have the right to cast a vote and for that vote to be counted? Can you just walk us through what happened with respect to that?
Mr Rogers : From my understanding—
Mr GRIFFIN: I think it is useful to have a brief discussion about it. But, given Queensland is in the process of reviewing this, on behalf of the committee, we would be keen to get a report back when you feel that is appropriate.
Mr Rogers : Absolutely, and as soon as we have got information from Queensland I will pass that on to the committee.
CHAIR: Mr Griffin's question is: if you turn up without the card and you have not brought along any of the stuff, what then happens to your vote?
Mr Rogers : I think the overriding principle that they adopted in Queensland is that no-one is denied a vote. So if you turn up without ID you are given a declaration vote.
Mr GRIFFIN: Then, post election day, the circumstances are that the registered roles are checked to see if your name has been crossed off in any other circumstance.
Mr Rogers : More importantly, to check your entitlement to actually cast that vote. That is the critical thing. The idea is that no-one should be disadvantaged, even if they have forgotten their—
CHAIR: So they check that they still live in that electorate and not another one et cetera, and then they, as Mr Griffin said, check that they have not been marked off more than once, and then, through other data sources—
Mr Rogers : Or whatever process they use.
CHAIR: Then, all things being good, their vote is admitted to the count.
Mr Rogers : All things being good, their vote is admitted to the count.
Mr GRIFFIN: On from that note—and I do not expect you to be able to answer this now—I would be very keen to see whatever information you can get when this is concluded around what the implications were for alleged multiple voting in that situation. As you are aware, the conspiracy theorists on this one normally point to those sorts of issues as being the real reason why you need to have this, and I would be very interested to see what impact, if anything, could be seen from that.
Mr Rogers : You are probably aware that other jurisdictions have applied evidence of identity at time of voting differently. The New Zealanders have evidence of identity at time of voting. They do it in Canada. It is a relatively recent thing in Canada, I think.
CHAIR: Most countries do.
Mr Rogers : They have all done a slightly different process to that. The overarching principle is that no-one is denied a vote. No-one is disadvantaged by turning up without their ID. There is still a process to make sure that that vote can be included, if they are valid and on the roll, and a valid voter.
Mr GRIFFIN: The other thing is obviously the cost. If we are talking about a letter out to each member of the electorate, that is obviously a pretty significant cost, particularly the way Australia Post is going these days. And I imagine there were probably some savings, at least in terms of efficiency and time at polling booths, on the basis of the bar coding system as well.
Mr Rogers : I will certainly do that. I did speak to the Queensland «electoral» commissioner last week before my appearance at Senate estimates, and he said to me that he is okay with me saying this. They are going through their evaluation. It is not yet formal but, anecdotally, it went smoothly. The introduction of evidence of identity at time of voting went smoothly.
CHAIR: I am the first to admit that not every multiple mark is a multiple voter. A lot of them are errors. Nonetheless you have referred some to the AFP. My concern is the vulnerability. The criticism overseas is that a voter-ID requirement can affect turnout. But we have got a compulsory system, which is pretty rare, so that would obviate against some of the criticism you see in the United States.
Mr Rogers : I will provide you some separate information about this. To be clear, what I am not saying is there were not people who went to the polling place and complained. There may well have been—and that may come out of the Queensland evaluation.
CHAIR: But it did not become a story at the pre-poll. They had a by-election too, didn't they?
Mr Rogers : And they trialled that system during the by-election beforehand. What I, and the staff who went up there, saw was a very smooth introduction, and that appears to be being endorsed by the Queensland «electoral» commission. I will write to you about the outcomes of that, when we have more information, so that you can make your own decisions on it.
CHAIR: Thank you again for your evidence today. Thank you in advance for the material that you will provide us. As I said at the outset, other members, some who had other engagements, have some questions on other «matters , but we have deliberately confined our time today to Keelty and the Western Australian issues and your internal renovation, if I can put it that way. Those questions will be forwarded to you on notice. We will undertake to send a note today for questions to be sent to you within the next few days, because we are really nearing report consideration in the next few weeks. We will get them to you and give you a week or 10 days to answer them as best you can.
Mr Rogers : We will turn those around as quickly as we can.
CHAIR: Thank you very much.
Resolved that these proceedings be published.
Committee adjourned at 11 : 53