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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3577


Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (20:18): To say that that was an interesting contribution to this debate is an understatement. That part of it that I could actually understand was an interesting contribution to the debate on the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Bill 2011 and cognate bill. I was very surprised to hear that the member for Macarthur had been a police officer in a previous life. When he is talking of domestic violence and the placing of people in different electorates, surely he knows that somebody who is a victim of domestic violence would probably suppress their address and that it would not be available to other people.

He was all over the place, and I am really pleased to hear that, for once, members on the other side of this parliament are interested in letting people in public housing have a vote. Under the Howard government, absolutely everything that could be done was done to prevent people who were in public housing, who were homeless or who moved around from having a vote. Absolutely every possible action was taken, and here we have the member for Macarthur being the great advocate for democracy! I suspect that he actually does not know how to spell the word. Here he is, being the great advocate for democracy, arguing in favour of making sure that people know who they are voting for, that maybe they had been living somewhere else for 12 months but they still want to vote for their original member. It is not on.

This legislation is not something that has been rushed through the parliament. It has been examined by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and is implementing recommendations of the joint standing committee. There were public hearings on the recommendations by the joint standing committee, and those recommendations were drawn up after considerable thought, consultation and discussion. This government does not ignore the recommendations of parliamentary committees. If I remember correctly, when I was on the committee on health and ageing and the Howard government was in power, we brought down the Blame Game report, but they did not respond to it. Unlike the Howard government, we actually picked it up and ran with it as policy because we could see that it was a good report. So this government looks at the recommendations of standing committees. We looked at the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and we decided that we should implement the recommendations. On this side of the House we believe in giving everybody the opportunity to vote and on that side of the House they believe in giving their friends the right to vote. They believe in making it as difficult as possible for the people who are the most disadvantaged to have the right to vote.

This legislation lines up the Commonwealth and the states so that their legislation is similar. It removes confusion and it gives people the maximum opportunity to vote. In Canada, if a person turns up to vote on election day and they are not on the roll they are allowed to vote; they do not have to enrol. In Canada, they believe in doing everything they possibly can to ensure that a person can cast a vote. Those on the other side of this parliament believe in doing everything in their power to stop people from having the right to vote. I see the member for Mitchell trying to google the Canadian system. Believe me, he should have a talk to the ambassador. The ambassador was the person who shared that information with me when he visited me in my office. He was talking about elections and he was quite mystified by the fact that it is so difficult for people to be enabled to vote in Australia.

Before the last election I had constituents coming into my office who had moved into my electorate and wanted to cast a vote. They had been taken off the roll of the electorate in which they lived previously and had sought to be enrolled within the Shortland electorate. When it came time to cast their vote, they found out that they could not vote. It is beholden upon us as a parliament to maximise the number of people who are able to vote. It is beholden upon us as members of parliament to do everything in our power to increase people's ability to vote and to broaden the democratic process. It should not be about placing barriers to voting before people; it should be about ensuring that every person has the ability to have a say.

The member for Macarthur talked about 'vote early, vote often'. It seems that he has written the handbook on it, doesn't it, Mr Deputy Speaker Thomson? He seems to be quite across the process of how to distort the electoral system. It seems to me that he is following the doctrine of the Howard government, which was all about distorting the electoral system and creating a system that advantaged them electorally, whereas we on this side of the parliament are about ensuring that every person has the right to vote.

This bill will really assist in meeting the urgent need to assist people to get onto the roll. It is quite difficult, and people become quite confused about how to update their enrolment. Constituents in my electorate find the process very difficult. Particularly if they are a little older, they find it quite hard to navigate the system. Members on the other side of this parliament should stop their woolly arguments, and their pretence that they actually support democracy and support encouraging people to enrol to vote, and be upfront with the Australian people. That is what I am asking those on the other side to do: be honest and tell them that you want people to enrol to vote only if they are going to vote for you. I see the member for Mitchell nodding in agreement with me. He is very much along that line. He believes that only people who are going to vote for the Liberal Party and the Nationals should be allowed to be on the electoral roll and that everyone else should have barriers put in place that make it difficult for them to enrol to vote, which subsequently makes it difficult for them to cast a valid vote on election day.

I strongly support the legislation we have before us tonight. I encourage members opposite to look at the real issues that are involved here and to make sure that people who would like to vote have the right to vote, even if they are not going to vote for them. I always ensure that every constituent in my electorate who wishes to enrol or who would like to vote has the ability to enrol to vote, even when I know that they are not going to vote for me. I encourage the member for Macarthur—who, I discovered, used to be a police officer—to look at this a little bit more closely. I thought he would have a greater understanding of domestic violence and of issues surrounding bail conditions. I would encourage him to be just a little nicer and to look at things in a kinder way—not to be a nasty little chappie but to look at things from the perspective of making sure that people have the right to vote.

It is about democracy. It is about ensuring that people actually can vote if they choose to vote. I strongly support the legislation.