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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 5375


Mr SECKER (7:35 PM) —I rise to speak tonight on these four bills: the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2010, the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Pre-poll Voting and Other Measures) Bill 2010, the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill 2010 and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (How-to-Vote Cards and Other Measures) Bill 2010. It is always very interesting to follow the member for Blair, who always has an interesting, shall we say, take on history. He suggested that the coalition in Queensland gerrymandered boundaries, but forgot to mention the historical fact that it was Labor who started all of this in Queensland. Bah, humbug, Member for Blair! Bah, humbug! These bills are about the electoral roll and election practices. This is very important legislation because the government is trying to pass legislation that reduces the integrity of the electoral roll, which is never a good thing.

I find it interesting that members from the government are saying that we have to have seven days to allow people to enrol. If you look at the figures and what Labor is trying to take us back to, you see there were 167,000 people who did not enrol at the 2004 election but, when we tightened it up for the 2007 election, there were actually only 100,000 that did not get their names down on the roll. So it is not about whether you have seven days to enrol; it is about having a good advertising and promotion program to make sure that young people, especially, enrol to vote. It is also important to recognise that with those changes we brought in you can do a pre-enrolment three months before you turn 18, so if you are keen you will do that.

The Australian electoral laws are in place so that a level playing field can be established and an open and transparent political system that reflects the Australian voters can be retained. Earlier this year my home state, South Australia, held their state election. As many people would know, there was speculation about fraudulent voting and dodgy practices. Results in many of the seats were very close, and it is at times such as these that it is more important than ever for the process to be accountable and fair.

Unfortunately at this year’s South Australian state election the ALP breached moral ground and did something that fundamentally ruins the trust voters have in political parties to do the right thing at election time. It was unethical. It sought to confuse voters. It sought to trick voters, and it was just plain wrong. Impostors, some even sourced from interstate, turned up to the polling booths dressed in misleading T-shirts that said, ‘Put Your Family First,’ and then proceeded to hand out how-to-vote cards which directed voters to award their second preference votes to Labor, when in fact Family First had made Labor their sixth preference. The how-to-vote cards carried the Family First logo and to the none-the-wiser voter, looked to be authentic. Only the fine-print endorsement gave away that they were not in fact produced by Family First, and very few people saw that.

This was trickery at its worst. Faced with the possibility that the race was going to get tight, the Labor Party clutched at straws and then decided to play it dirty. This was on top of leaving the issuing of the writs to the very last moment to make it harder for voters to get the postal vote applications back in time. These dirty tricks are not welcomed by the coalition and it is a real show of character that they are welcomed by the Labor Party, because, as Kevin Foley, the Deputy Premier in South Australia said: ‘That’s politics. That’s what you do.’ When an election comes down to the knife edge, the Labor Party is willing to stoop to new lows, even for them, at the expense of Family First to secure those few extra votes. According to Deputy Premier Kevin Foley, ‘That’s what you do in politics.’ If the con itself was not bad enough, then that pathetic excuse is enough to make anyone question the ALP’s core ethics.

I note that the member for Longman stood up in this place tonight and said, ‘Labor weren’t the only ones doing it.’ I find this a very poor excuse for very poor behaviour anyway, but he could not point to any examples of where the Liberal Party had been involved in that sort of deception. It is really nothing out of the ordinary for the ALP to stoop to this sort of level. In the extremely tight 1993 election the ALP posed as Democrats to secure preferences, and in the 1998 Queensland election they posed as One Nation. It is an utter disgrace, and tactics like this just show how juvenile and dirty the Labor Party is.

When first elected in 2002, the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, introduced a ministerial code of conduct that prominently featured party representational behaviour at all times. Like his federal counterpart, he seems keen on backflips as, although silent on the Family First impostors, it can be said that nothing speaks louder than silence. With the federal election looming, this is what we can expect from the Labor Party: for them to revert to their nasty impersonation habits to get extra votes that they cannot earn from their own merit.

After the absolutely disgraceful handling of the issue by the state divisions of the Labor Party, Mr Rudd decided he would step in. This legislation is his answer to the problem: a quick sweep under the floor and all is fixed. That is how Labor fixes everything. The coalition supports measures to ensure how-to-vote cards remain transparent and clearly indicate which political party the card is representing. However, the Prime Minister’s proposed legislation that stipulates exactly how and where and what size the political party’s name must be on the card is a little over the top. All or nothing—that is the Labor way.

In stark contrast to that bill, the next bill seeks to open the door to fraudulent voters. The logic is breathtaking. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill (No. 2) 2010 is the controversial half of the old bill that was split in half after coalition protest. The two measures contained in these bills are, firstly, to seek to close the rolls seven days after the issue of writs and, secondly, to remove the requirement for declaration voters to produce ID. So in fact it would be easier to get a vote at the federal election than it would be to get a DVD from your local DVD store. Firstly, this does not allow time for the Australian Electoral Commission to check the legitimacy of the voter—and that was a concern that they raised—and, secondly, it allows impostors to vote. Shame on you, Labor! The Labor government are seeking to reduce the integrity of the electoral roll and they are also opening the door to fraudulent voters.

There was more controversy at the South Australian election. At the election one family voted not once, not twice, not three times, but 159 times! A letter published claimed the frauds were from a group of siblings calling themselves ‘The Election Team’. They said they committed the fraud in two marginal seats to make a point about poor identity checks and other problems with the Electoral Act. They certainly showed that up.

Labor want this to continue; they are more than happy to introduce legislation that would take away the accountability of the electoral roll. So, the federal government has decided to take action. Kevin Rudd on the one hand makes legislation to stipulate how political party names are placed on how-to-vote cards but then on the other hand, instead of addressing problems allowing fraud to occur, he makes it easier for it to happen. Encouraging fraudulent voting is a blatantly wrong activity to endorse. The Prime Minister  has no problem with endorsing dodgy practices—the home insulation disaster and BER cost blow-outs come to mind. This is just another piece of legislation that is poorly thought through with no consideration about the consequences it may have—or perhaps it was thought through, with a view to giving them an electoral advantage.

I cannot support legislation that encourages fraudulent voting, and I cannot believe the other side is willing to reduce the integrity of the electoral roll. The amendment the coalition is supporting is one moved by Senator Nick Xenophon. It would require every signature on a provisional vote envelope to be compared with the elector’s original signature, thereby preventing fraudulent votes being accepted into the tally and providing evidence, if there is any, of attempts at fraudulent voting. I support this measure; I support open and transparent processes and a level playing field. The Rudd government must do the same. The government must support fairness at election time and must not encourage practices that are dodgy and immoral and unethical.

The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill 2010 contains mostly amendments that we are in support of but I note there are some that we oppose. One of these measures that we do not support is in schedule 6, which contains a controversial addition by the Labor government—postal vote applications can only be returned directly to the Australian Electoral Commission, which bypasses party collection, and the attachment of extra material on a PVA form is prohibited. The Liberal and National federal directors are strongly opposed to both these parts of the measure. The seventh measure, item 9, also cannot be supported by the coalition as it is concerning that there is no practical provision to ever remove an itinerant elector from a roll. We must have those sorts of practical measures available.

We are arguing against some of the measures in these bills and that is because we simply cannot trust this government to get it right. Any changes to weaken the electoral roll weaken the fundamentals that make it strong in the first place. If you make provision for trickery and fraudulent practices then you take away what makes Australian elections open and transparent. We do not believe the Rudd government can be trusted; we do not believe they can get it right, because they have got it wrong so many times before. That is one of the reasons we are opposing these measures.

Labor has a strong record of trying to rig the voting system by impersonation of, in turn, the Democrats, One Nation and Family First. Labor wants to reduce the voting age to get an advantage; Labor wants to keep its advantage with compulsory voting and its inherent donkey vote, when voluntary voting is the norm in other countries, including our neighbour New Zealand. They do quite fine with that system. With voluntary voting you actually have to convince voters that you are worth their support. With compulsory voting, you do not. If we want real electoral reform, it is my belief we should go to voluntary voting. However, this is not even addressed in these bills.

Australia has a proud tradition of voting integrity that is only abused by Labor. Indeed the secret ballot was invented in Australia, and in many of the states in the United States of America the secret ballot is called the Australian ballot. But we have seen Labor with a long history of fraud in elections, a long history of deceptions in elections—this is Labor’s way. We should all remember when Mike Kaiser was sacked from the Queensland parliament for his role in fraud with respect to branch stacking. We also know that he was appointed to an unadvertised position with the National Broadband Network at a salary of some $450,000. Not bad for a fraudster. Labor has form on this, and it is no wonder that we do not trust Labor with electoral changes. That is why we cannot agree to these four bills.