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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4409

Senator XENOPHON (5:41 PM) —The incorporated speech read as follows—

May I start by stating that I am extremely disappointed to hear that the Government has negotiated amendments to this Bill with the Opposition that will continue to allow political parties to distribute postal vote applications to constituents to which they can attach political advertising, and to allow political parties to receive postal votes to be forwarded to the Australian Electoral Commission.

I acknowledge the positive provisions of this Bill.

Australians will be able to provisionally be enrolled from the age of 16 years; it will be easier for people to apply for a postal vote, it will introduce flexibility for ballot papers to printed at the local level and it will provide clarification around the rights around inspection of the Electoral Roll, to name a few.

These are good amendments.

These amendments will further refine our electoral process and will engage more young Australians in the voting process.

But the two most important amendments proposed in this Bill, I have been advised, will not proceed because the Government has agreed to the Opposition’s amendments which will maintain the status quo.

The Government had the right idea—and my support—to prohibit written material from being attached to a postal vote application.

But the Opposition wants to continue to be able to send Constituents its party-political advertising along with a postal vote application.

Now if that doesn’t interfere with the process, then I don’t know what.

I know some might say that when a voter walks into his or her local school to cast their vote on Election Day, that they are bombarded by people handing out pamphlets and letters and badges and the like.

The difference here is that they don’t get to the ballot box and as they’re reading how to complete the form, there’s a piece of paper instructing them how to vote.

Further, I want to express my disappointment that the Government is willing to back down from this amendment which would have improved Australia’s electoral system.

The second amendment I am disappointed will not succeed is the one which sought to require postal voters to send their votes back to the political party which enables them to count votes before forwarding them on to the Australian Electoral Commission.

Again, this is a good amendment but as I understand it, the Government has agreed to the Opposition’s Amendment to remove this provision from the Bill.

I want to make it clear that I do not support the Opposition’s Amendments to this Bill, but I acknowledge that the Government has conceded to these Amendments in order to have this Bill passed.

This is an opportunity lost.

I support the more-administrative provisions of this Bill, but the two key changes to do with materials attached to postal vote applications and the banning of voters returning postal votes to political parties were good changes that the Government had put forward and which would have greatly improved our electoral system and democracy.