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Thursday, 3 December 1998
Page: 1323


Mr MELHAM (12:46 PM) —by leave—I move opposition amendments Nos 11, 22, 25, 28, 31 and 32:

(11) Schedule 1, item 18, page 5 (lines 24 and 25), omit the item.

(22) Schedule 1, item 29, page 8 (lines 4 and 5), omit the item.

(25) Schedule 1, item 36, page 8 (lines 22 and 23), omit the item.

(28) Schedule 1, item 49, page 10 (lines 18 to 21), omit the item.

(31) Schedule 1, item 59, page 12 (lines 14 and 15), omit the item.

(32) Schedule 1, item 69, page 13 (lines 17 to 20), omit the item.

As outlined earlier, we do believe that prisoners should be entitled to be enrolled and that the current five-year rule should remain. These amendments are consequential to ensure that this remains the case. We have just had a dissertation from the parliamentary secretary at the table which confirms that this is purely just a low-grade exercise in politics on the part of the government trying to feed into those elements in the community. What we need to do is step back here. There are many people who are imprisoned, but not for serious crimes. There are many people in the indigenous community who are imprisoned in relation to offences of drunkenness and offences that carry very small penalties. What this would seek to do is disenfranchise them.

For instance, someone may be penalised for their involvement in a drink driving offence where someone dies or suffers grievous bodily harm. Such people might have short prison sentences as a result of those drink driving offences, but they are still being penalised. These are not offences that necessarily involve criminality where people set out deliberately to do things, but an accident may occur, and they might be drunk. There is a whole range of other things. There are instances where there are a number of people who are, in our view, entitled to continue to participate and have their legitimate right to vote accepted. It seems to me that in abandoning the five-year rule this government is just playing low-grade politics.

I repeat what I said earlier in relation to what is happening in state jurisdictions and the penalties there that disqualify people from voting. Those state jurisdictions had conservative governments for many years, including the Bjelke-Petersen government, yet even they did not attempt to do this.