- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsDownload Current Hansard View/Save XML
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
- Start of Business
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- STATEMENTS ON INDULGENCE
- Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives Bill 2011
- Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives (Medicare Levy Surcharge) Bill 2011
- Fairer Private Health Insurance Incentives (Medicare Levy Surcharge—Fringe Benefits) Bill 2011
- PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
- REGISTER OF MEMBERS' INTERESTS
- DELEGATION REPORTS
- Competition and Consumer Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2011
- National Health Reform Amendment (National Health Performance Authority) Bill 2011
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
- Morrison, Abbey Rose
- Carbon Pricing
- Small Business
- Carbon Pricing
- Carbon Pricing
- Bennelong Electorate: Ryde Lantern Club
- Donovan, Ms Ricki Lee
- Wright Electorate
- Bass Electorate: WIN Television
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Abbott, Tony, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
Live Animal Exports
(Mitchell, Rob, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Hunt, Greg, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Rishworth, Amanda, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Ciobo, Steven, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
Live Animal Exports
(Bandt, Adam, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Brodtmann, Gai, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Hockey, Joe, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
- Carbon Pricing
- STATEMENTS ON INDULGENCE
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- Albanese, Anthony, MP
- Disability Services
- Cowper Electorate: Blind Courage Team, Cowper Electorate: World Rally Championship
- Deakin Electorate: Nunawading Christian College
- Hibberd, Ms Carly
- Rotary International
- Riverina Electorate: Reserve Forces Day
- Start of Business
- Casey Electorate: Apple Imports
- Fraser Electorate: Eastern University Games 2011
- Trio Capital
- Fountain Gate Secondary School: Lone Pine
- Foreign Investment in Agriculture
- Adelaide Electorate: Vipac Engineers and Scientists
- Parkes Electorate: Gulgong Hospital
- Canberra Electorate: Health
- Riverina Electorate: Primary Centre for Science Education
- Shortland Electorate: Building the Education Revolution Program
- Forrest, John, MP
- Rotary International
- Longman Electorate: Murri Teilah Medical
- Bass Electorate: Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program
- Chisholm Electorate: Australian Envelopes, Petition: Easter Sunday
- QUESTIONS IN WRITING
Thursday, 7 July 2011
Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (11:23): Madam Deputy Speaker D'Ath, I seek leave to make some comments concerning the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters on the conduct of the 2010 election.
Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: In listening to the remarks of the chairman of the committee, you might have thought that the report of the committee had universal support. It did not; it split very much along party lines. I think it is true to say there has not been a more partisan discussion in this committee for many years. Basically the thrust of the discussions surrounded the three changes—and I use the word 'change' as distinct from 'reform' because 'reform' has connotations of good things being done—that would advantage the government and the Greens. It is interesting that their submissions to the committee reflected each other and it was very disappointing that some commentary from the AEC seemed to support the Labor Party position.
There are three things that the Labor Party are very anxious to see introduced, as are the Greens. Firstly, they want to introduce the South Australian ticket-voting system, which would mean that electors who simply place a 1 on the ballot paper would have their vote allocated by a bureaucrat in accordance with a registered ticket and it would be illegal to tell people that is what would happen to their vote. The issue of how we vote is set out in our Constitution. The words in the Constitution say that 'The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth,' and this proposal by the Labor Party is very constitutionally risky. Under the voting system we have for the Senate, where you may vote above the line, you may also place your preferences in every square if you wish. It is very important to note that the reason we changed the system of voting in the Senate was that we were seeing such huge ballot papers with so many people nominating that the margin of error was becoming something that was not considered acceptable. We will never see a House of Representatives ballot paper looking like that. So the so-called justification for the South Australian voting system is one that does not provide any justification at all in this context.
The AEC analysis said that 51 per cent of informal votes at the last election were assumed to be unintentional. The AEC has absolutely no basis to assume that those votes were unintentionally informal. In fact, if you look at the voting patterns in states other than New South Wales and Queensland, where it is a valid vote to put a 1 in the box or a cross or a tick, there is confusion between state and federal elections. Indeed, if you wanted to so-called 'save' those informal votes, the evidence is that, if you allowed ticks and crosses and 1s and you moved to an optional preferential system at the federal level, which would still meet with the constitutional requirement to be directly chosen by the people, you would save, in the terms used by the government, more votes than under the highly objectionable South Australian system with its secrecy and manipulation. People would be horrified to think that a bureaucrat could allocate their preferences in a way they did not intend. You may vote informally if you wish.
The second point that the Labor Party was very keen to push is the question of postal votes and postal vote applications. Currently the system, as everybody knows—this was challenged in the High Court and the challenge was thrown out—is that the political parties send out how-to-vote applications and individuals can choose to send those applications back to the political party of their choice, who then take them to the electoral office where they are processed and the electoral office then sends them out. There are some people who choose to send them directly to the DRO, but a huge number of people choose to send them back to the party of their choice. The Greens, despite the fact that they have now received the largest donation ever known in the history of donations—$1.6 million, which they failed to disclose in a timely way—do not at this stage send out their own PVAs. They want to have some electoral advantage by being sent a list that they can simply get on the back of with regard to the Labor Party's PVAs.
Analysis shows that more electors who choose to vote by way of postal ballot vote for the coalition than vote for the Labor Party. This is clearly seen as undesirable by the Labor Party and so, if they cannot attract the votes, they want to change the system. The statistics show that with regard to postal votes only 2.63 per cent of those votes cast were in fact informal as distinct from 5.5 per cent of votes in the overall count, which shows quite simply that the current system works, but because it does not work to the advantage of the Labor Party and the Greens they want to change the system. This is not a good way to be running fair and free elections.
The third way in which the Labor Party and the Greens want to change the system is that they want to reduce the integrity of the roll. Let me remind the House that, presently, you are required by law to register to get on the roll. Having got on the roll, if you should change your address it is your obligation to advise the Electoral Commission so that that change of address can be recorded. Those are your obligations under the law. Through our system of compulsory voting, we already oblige people to turn up, get their name marked off, take the ballot paper and then mark the paper as they will—they can vote informally if they wish. Some people choose to put expressions of their objection to being forced to vote; other people write comments about what they think about candidates. In other words: they are busy showing what their will is, but the—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): The member's time—sorry, that was my mistake, having just taken the chair. My apologies, member for Mackellar, please continue.
Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Thank you. I am making the very strong point that, under our system of compulsory voting, you are obliged to turn up, get your name marked off, get the ballot paper and mark it. Nothing compels you to vote formally if you do not wish to, and you may express your point of view as a free person in a free system.
But the Labor Party and the Greens want to see what is called automatic enrolment. That means taking names from lists compiled for reasons other than inclusion on the electoral roll and simply adding those names to the roll. The names are not checked; they are simply added. That, of course, was one of the last-ditch desperate stands introduced by the appalling Labor government in New South Wales, which of course was flogged mercilessly at the polls, to try and garner a few extra votes. They may well have done that, but it certainly was not enough to counter the anger of the people.
It is on those three issues that this whole report is really based. The coalition has put a lot of its objections in the body of the report, so that people reading the report do not think that, in any way, manner or means, this was a unanimous recommendation or conclusion of the whole committee. It divided on party political lines. The opposition members noted in our dissenting report that we oppose 19 of the recommendations—the ones that relate to the three issues that I have just raised—but we do not oppose 17 of them. In addition, we make 10 other recommendations which we believe would be helpful for the way in which people cast their vote. The AEC was very keen to lessen the amount of time people could have to apply for postal votes—they are keen to lessen the time people have, when overseas, to get themselves a vote. We do not find that acceptable. We see no reason why voters should have their time limits shortened. Indeed, we had evidence from the CPSU, the Community and Public Sector Union, which said that in fact the Australian Electoral Commission is less efficient today than it was 21 years ago, in 1990, when it was able to process more changes to the electoral roll than it is currently.
I think there is a very big point to be made that the Electoral Commission, rather than making recommendations to lighten its workload, should in fact work more efficiently. For that reason, we have made some very specific recommendations. We have recommended that it should concentrate on continuing to check the accuracy of the roll, by canvassing and advertising to make people aware of their obligations to enrol properly initially and advise when they change address. There should not be this idea that you can not follow the law and have bureaucrats within the AEC simply allocate your vote, saying, 'This vote is going to be formal and allowed into the count. Even though you didn't comply with the law, we deem it not to be too bad, so you can have it in the count.' If we have compulsory voting and registration provisions there has to be some obligation for the voter to value that vote and comply with their obligations to register and make sure their address on the roll is correct. The Labor Party obviously thinks that people who are less likely to comply with the law are more likely to vote for them. Perhaps that is the case, I do not know, but I do not see it as a reason to change the law.
We also note that there has never been a proper follow-up of multiple voting. There were in excess of some 20,000 incidents of multiple voting. The AEC has admitted in evidence that it does not have the power to adequately investigate and prepare briefs for prosecution for the DPP. We have made a recommendation, which the AEC would seem to be inclined to accept, that we should establish a dedicated fraud unit within the AEC to investigate multiple voting. When the margins in so many seats are small, the fact that there are 20,000-plus incidents of multiple voting should raise alarm bells for anybody. The AEC says there has never been a prosecution. We are told by research from the Library that in fact only three prosecutions have taken place. That is an unsatisfactory event and one for which the AEC should have those additional powers.
We also believe very firmly that the AEC should concentrate on its core business, the integrity of the roll, which means the accuracy of the roll. Offering that lazy system of automatic enrolment, where the integrity of the roll is put at risk, is not the way for it to proceed. We are always keen to see information from the AEC, but I am very concerned when I see that the AEC's recommendations are so much in lockstep with those of the Labor Party and the Greens.
In looking at this report, know that this is a very political report. The report split on party lines—the government had a majority. But if you look at the attendance record, and I will finish on this point, you will wonder just how keen they are, particularly the Greens, to see proper assessment of an election at all. Private meetings and public hearings were held, and an analysis of the minutes that are tabled with this report will show that the coalition attended more meetings than either the government or the Greens. Senator Brown of the Greens turned up for three out of 14 private meetings and two out of nine public hearings. In other words, his attendance record was 22 per cent—a bit more than his vote, but not much. The Labor Party members attended an average of 65 per cent of meetings and the coalition members attended 79 per cent of meetings. So although we were in the minority of people who had the right to vote on this report, we attended in a better fashion than either Labor or the Greens.
This is an important report. The division between the Labor Party, the Greens and the Liberal and National parties, who form a well-known coalition, has to be read in that light. There are grave concerns about the manner in which the Labor Party want to forge these changes to the way we vote to give themselves an electoral advantage.
Mr MELHAM: I move:
That the House take note of the report.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.