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Wednesday, 17 February 1999
Page: 2118

Senator ELLISON (Special Minister of State) (5:15 PM) —The regulations can only be put forward in draft form. As I have said previously, it is not normal when you have legislation being debated in the form of a bill to have the proposed regulations also before the Senate or the House. In fact, this is a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but we have done this in the interests of making available to the opposition and the other parties a full disclosure of what we are proposing. The reason we cannot have it in final form is that we still have to negotiate with the states, because we have a joint role situation.

Senator Faulkner —You could have had it in a more developed form than this. And you could have provided it a bit earlier, and you know it.

Senator ELLISON —We have just had a comment that you could not have it in a more developed form, and we have just had criticism from the opposition that this is in such a draft form that they do not want to sign off on it. You cannot have it both ways.

Senator Faulkner —I said it could be in a more developed form than this, and we could have had it a lot earlier than you have provided it.

Senator ELLISON —It is in as advanced a form as we could possibly have it for this debate. If we did have to put it off to get the consultation to the states and those agencies for which we are talking about where you can lodge an enrolment, then you would be waiting for another year.

Senator Faulkner —We have been waiting for a year already.

Senator ELLISON —We know why there was a delay, because the bill was not debated because an election came along. Then we had a new parliament, and then we had the Christmas break. There is no great shakes in saying that there has been this inordinate delay. We have had an election, a new parliament and the Christmas break. That is a substantial reason for any delay.

I would suggest these regulations are in sufficient form for the committee to make an informed decision. Once this bill is dealt with and this provision is passed, we will then go to the states and deal with the states in relation to the joint role provisions and those agencies to ensure that there is no problem; that you can, for instance, go to Centrelink or Australia Post to lodge your enrolment to vote. It is as simple as that. That is the situation, and nothing could be clearer.

What we have here is a proposal by the government that there should be some verification of identity for those people enrolling for the first time. What we are saying is that it is quite curious—in fact, more than curious; it is inappropriate—that you have a stricter requirement to open a bank account than you do to get on the roll to vote. Gaining the right to vote is a very important right indeed, and we believe as a government there should be some scrutiny in that process. It is as simple as that. What I am saying is that there are adequate provisions in these regulations for the committee to form a very informed view. In any event, these regulations could be subject to disallowance. At the end of the day, the government has a sound proposal as to the scrutiny for the enrolment of new voters.