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Thursday, 19 June 1997
Page: 4624


Senator MINCHIN (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister)(12.34 p.m.) —In the general sense, of course, we are opposing opposition amendments which flow from the fact that the opposition will not accept a postal ballot, therefore necessitating this sort of amendment. As the AEC advises me, they do provide information on voting methods at every election, so there is no need to actually legislate to provide for the question of how-to-vote statements and how to comply with the election requirements. That is a normal function of the AEC and does not require legislation.

The other problem with this, really, relates to precedent. Given that the tone of the debate has been—and has been pointed out to the government to be—that this is consistent with normal electoral methods, it has never been the case that a parliamentary committee oversees what the AEC does in this respect. We have all accepted the independence and the objectivity of the AEC in providing information on how-to-vote material. That should not be overseen by parliamentarians or politicians. This would be something of an unfortunate precedent to set.

Of course, we have said that this is a different election but, by and large, where the provisions of the Electoral Act are sensible and relevant, they should be applied. That is the position the government has taken with much of this legislation. This is, we think, an unnecessary departure and is potentially setting the sort of precedent which should not be set. So we will be opposing the amendment.