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Thursday, 1 April 2004
Page: 27931


Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (10:14 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2004 contains amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918—the electoral act—and the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984, the majority of which arise from the government supported electoral reform recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters report titled The 2001 federal election. The government response to the JSCEM report was tabled on 16 October last year.

Further measures arising from the government supported recommendations of this report will be implemented in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Access to Electoral Roll and Other Measures) Bill 2004. Several measures in this bill have been carried over from the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Roll Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2002, which is currently before the parliament. That bill gave effect to the government's legislative response to the committee's report on the 1998 federal election. I propose that debate not proceed on the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Roll Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2002.

The bill also includes the legislation for the government's response to the JSCEM's report on the integrity of the electoral roll titled User Friendly, Not Abuser Friendly.

The most significant amendments of this bill include those that will:

outline the principles of new arrangements for proof of identity and address for applicants for enrolment or re-enrolment; applicants wishing to change their enrolled name or address; and applicants claiming a provisional vote because their names do not appear on the certified list on election day;

include the sex and date of birth of electors on the certified list as a check on identity when voting;

allow for the close of rolls for new electors to be 6 p.m. on the day on which the writ for an election is issued, and for the close of rolls for those amending their enrolment details to be 8 p.m. three working days after the issue of the writ;

allow political parties and Independent members of parliament to be provided with certain information about where electors voted on election day;

provide that prisoners serving a sentence of full-time detention are not allowed to vote;

introduce enrolment based on address rather than subdivision;

prevent scrutineers from actively assisting electors who have requested an assisted vote; and

increase a number of the financial disclosure thresholds to $3,000.

The government remains committed to preserving and enhancing the integrity of the electoral roll and believes the introduction of new arrangements for proof of identity and address at the point of enrolment will significantly enhance roll integrity and reduce electoral fraud.

The legislation provides for the broad principles of a proof of identity scheme, with regulations to prescribe the arrangements. The regulations will be developed in consultation with the state and territory governments. Privacy issues will be taken into account in the development of the regulations.

In its response to the committee's report on the 2001 federal election, the government indicated that it favoured the use of a drivers licence number to verify an applicant's identity and address when enrolling or changing enrolment details. The drivers licence number would be included on the enrolment form, with the AEC checking the details from records on state and territory databases or from details provided by the states and territories.

Alternate forms of acceptable identification documentation, to be prescribed in the regulations, could be provided by applicants who do not have a drivers licence. Where no identification documentation is available, only people in a prescribed class would be able to provide written references supporting an enrolment application.

Developing the scheme in consultation with the states and territories will facilitate preservation of the joint roll arrangements and enable access to information databases.

Similar requirements for proof of identity and address will be introduced for provisional voters whose names do not appear on the certified list on polling day. Implementation of these measures will provide a further important check on identity fraud at the point of voting.

The inclusion of electors' sex and date of birth on the certified lists used on polling day will provide another important check on identity fraud at the point of voting. The new arrangements will give the presiding officer in each polling booth the discretion to ask electors questions about their sex and date of birth in cases where the presiding officer has some doubt about the identity of the elector, based on the information on the certified list. As a measure to prevent any potential disenfranchisement of voters, where the presiding officer continues to have doubts about the elector's identity following the answers to the questions, the elector will be able to cast a provisional vote.

As a further measure to preserve the integrity of the electoral roll, amendments to allow for the close of rolls for new electors to be 6 p.m. on the day on which the writ is issued, and for the close of rolls for those amending their enrolment to be 8 p.m. three working days after the issue of the writ will ensure that the Australian Electoral Commission has sufficient time to verify details provided by applicants for enrolment. The government remains committed to the introduction of the early close of the roll.

The government considers that these, and other measures in the bill, are important and urgent reforms to the electoral process, which should be implemented as soon as possible.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr McClelland) adjourned.