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Tuesday, 14 May 2002
Page: 2012

Mr RANDALL (4:09 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations representing the Special Minister of State. Could the minister outline to the House the attempts that have been made by this government to improve the integrity of the electoral roll? Will the minister also inform the House why the government has sought to make these reforms? Is the minister aware of any attempts to block these reforms?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Canning for his question. I acknowledge the presence in the House of the Acting Leader of the Opposition. If question time today was so important to the opposition, why isn't the Leader of the Opposition here in question time today?

The SPEAKER —The minister will come to the question.

Mr ABBOTT —Obviously, the integrity of the electoral roll is vital to the functioning of any healthy democracy. Unfortunately, the roll, as things stand, is not entirely tamper proof. Unfortunately, it is not fraud proof. The sad truth is that as things stand it is easier to get onto the electoral roll of this country than it is to sign up at the local video store. The government are very keen to try to change this situation. Last year we tabled regulations providing that new enrollees produce at least one piece of documentary ID and requiring that new enrollees have their applications signed.

I am sorry to tell the House that this very day in the Senate the opposition are moving a disallowance motion against these regulations. They are doing it today, the busiest day in the parliamentary year, in the hope that no-one will notice. They are doing this like thieves in the middle of the night. We have noticed, and the Australian people will notice too.

As the Shepherdson inquiry revealed last year, members opposite belong to a party which believes that whole families should inhabit a single post-office box. That is the standard of members opposite. Where is the evidence of change that was supposed to take place under the leadership of the new Leader of the Opposition? On the basis of what the opposition are doing today, the best you can say about them is that they may not be the perpetrators of fraud, but they are certainly the protectors of fraud. I call on the Leader of the Opposition to come back into this chamber and stand up for democratic principles.

Mr Swan —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 75, members on this side find those remarks offensive and we ask that they be withdrawn.

The SPEAKER —As the member for Lilley will be aware, remarks are withdrawn when they are directed to an individual, not to a group. The remarks I heard used by the minister were not remarks that would normally be required to be withdrawn.

Mr Swan —Mr Speaker, I have a further point of order. If that is to be the standard then order in this House will degenerate rapidly. Under standing order 75, I ask you to get the member to withdraw those remarks that members on our side of the House are involved in fraud.

The SPEAKER —I stand by my earlier ruling. I will undertake, however, to check the Hansard and, if I feel I have erred, to consult the member for Lilley and report to the House. I believe my ruling is entirely consistent with previous rulings from the chair.