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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 4916


Mr GRAY (Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia) (10:10 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill implements two amendments relating to the important area of electoral advertising generally. First, it regulates the authorisation of how-to-vote cards to make it clear who will benefit from the preference flow suggested on the how-to-vote card. Second, the bill prohibits a person from causing to be printed, published or distributed including by ‘radio, television, internet or telephone’ anything that may mislead or deceive an elector in relation to how to cast a vote.

Schedule 1—How-to-vote cards

Schedule 1 to the bill expands the authorisation requirements on how-to-vote cards. As how-to-vote cards are a subset of electoral advertising they are currently regulated under section 328 of the Electoral Act. In general terms, this means that how-to-vote cards must contain the name and address of the person who authorised the card and the name and place of business of the printer. This authorisation information is currently required at the end of the how-to-vote card.

The amendments proposed by schedule 1 will provide specific and expanded authorisation requirements for how-to-vote cards and introduce two new offences for a breach of the authorisation requirements.

How-to-vote cards will be required to include at the top of each printed face the name and address of the person who authorised the how-to-vote card. If the how-to-vote card is authorised on behalf of a registered political party, the card must include the name of the registered political party. If the how-to-vote card is authorised on behalf of a candidate who is not endorsed by a registered political party, the card must include the name of the candidate and the word ‘candidate’ printed next to the name.

The authorisation must conform to certain requirements in relation to the size of the characters in the authorisation. This amendment is intended to ensure that the authorisation is clearly visible and identifiable to electors.

The amendments make it an offence for a person to publish or distribute a how-to-vote card that does not comply with the authorisation requirements. The penalty is 10 penalty units.

There is a further offence for a person who publishes or distributes a how-to-vote card with false authorisation details. The penalty is 10 penalty units.

The government is mindful of the views expressed by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in its report on the 1998 election. That report concluded that how-to-vote cards serve a useful purpose to inform voters, enable the franchise and minimise informal votes. Consistent with these views, the measures in schedule 1 to the bill are aimed at ensuring voters are clearly advised of the source of the how-to-vote cards before casting their votes.

These amendments will make it clearer who will benefit from the preference flow suggested on the how-to-vote card and reduce the potential for voters to be misled. These amendments are important to give voters the means of making informed decisions when voting.

Schedule 2—Misleading or deceptive publication

Section 329 of the Electoral Act currently prohibits publications that are likely to mislead or deceive an elector in relation to how to cast a vote. Section 329 of the Electoral Act provides a definition of the term ‘publish’. Schedule 2 to this bill expands the definition of publish to include anything that is published by radio, television, internet or telephone.

As the offence in section 329 is expanded to cover material published on the internet, the offence is amended to provide extended geographical jurisdiction for such offences. The extended geographical operation captures material published overseas by an Australian citizen or resident.

Conclusion

The government is committed to reducing the potential for voters to be misled and to give voters the means to make informed decisions about voting.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Billson) adjourned.