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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 4908


Mr GRAY (Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia) (9:42 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to present legislation to meet two of the government’s 2007 election commitments.

This bill contains two schedules that will:

  • restore the close of rolls period to seven days after the issue of the writ for an election; and
  • repeal the requirement for provisional voters to provide evidence of identity.

Schedule 1—close of the rolls

Schedule 1 to the bill deals with the close of the rolls for an election. There is a deadline for every federal election after which the roll will be ‘closed’ for an election. This is known as the ‘close of the rolls’ and specifies the date after which no additions or deletions can be made to the electoral roll. The certified list of voters for an election is a list of persons who enrolled or updated their details before the close of the rolls deadline.

The amendments proposed by schedule 1 implement one of the government’s pre-election commitments to restore the close of rolls period to seven days after the issue of the writ for an election. This amendment will provide sufficient time for new voters to enrol to vote for a federal election or existing electors to update their address details with the AEC.

Schedule 2—evidence of identity and provisional votes

Schedule 2 to the bill repeals the requirement for provisional voters to provide evidence of identity. Provisional votes are a type of declaration vote cast by an elector at a polling place on polling day. The Electoral Act and the referendum act currently specify that a person who needs to cast a provisional vote at a polling place on polling day must provide a polling official with evidence of identity at the time of voting or by the first Friday following the polling day. If the elector does not provide such evidence of identity by the deadline, his or her provisional vote will not be counted. The AEC estimates that over 27,000 provisional votes were excluded from the count at the 2007 federal election due to the operation of the existing evidence of identity provisions.

In accordance with the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters recommendation 2, the bill will repeal the requirement for voters casting a provisional vote to provide evidence of identity and will instead insert the new requirement that, where there is any doubt as to the bona fides of the elector, the signature on the envelope containing a provisional vote be compared with the signature of the elector on previously lodged enrolment records.

The amendments in schedules 1 and 2 to the bill implement recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters supported by the government as necessary to provide eligible electors with the greatest opportunity to enrol and vote in an election.

Conclusion

The government is committed to removing the barriers that prevent Australians from voting by:

  • restoring the close of rolls period to seven days after the issue of the writ; and
  • repealing requirements for provisional voters to provide evidence of identity.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Gash) adjourned.