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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3589

Mr HAASE (Durack) (21:08): I rise to speak on the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Protecting Elector Participation) Bill 2012 and a related bill. This bill seeks to amend the Electoral Act to allow the Australian Electoral Commission, the AEC, to directly enrol new electors on the electoral roll when the Electoral Commissioner is satisfied that an individual is living at a particular address for one month and is eligible to be on the roll.

If this bill is passed, we are risking the integrity of the electoral roll. We are risking the people of Australia's right to vote in the electorate they genuinely live in. We are taking away the responsibility of constituents. We are not empowering people with the right to vote. In fact, we are saying, 'We do not trust you to notify authorities of your permanent address'—no reflection on you, Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou. If an elector is enrolled without their knowledge there is a significant chance for an error to occur. Under automatic enrolment, there is the potential for electors who are not Australian citizens, for electors who are under 18 and for electors who use different names to be enrolled without their knowledge, damaging the integrity and reliability of the roll.

This absurd bill is all about trust and treachery. The Labor government is asking the Australian public to trust them with the enrolment details, yet this treacherous government has proven to the people of Australia that they cannot be trusted. This government cannot be trusted on their word. Who will ever forget those infamous words, 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead'—words spouted by the current Prime Minister in her first official act of deceit just days before the last election.

Not only can this government not be trusted on their word, they cannot be trusted with the Australian taxpayers' money. Why? It still irks the public of Australia that around $40 million was wasted a few years ago when 16,000 dead people and 27,000 people living overseas were given a bonus of $900 each. According to the taxation—

Mr Mitchell: I have a point of order on direct relevance, Madam Deputy Speaker. This has absolutely nothing to do with this bill in line with what we have been hearing earlier.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order! The member for McEwen will take his seat. I am listening to the member for Durack. I would advise the member for Durack to return to the bill, as I am sure he will very shortly.

Mr HAASE: According to the Australian Taxation Office website, to be eligible for a tax bonus payment—and the point is the relationship of this faux pas to the upcoming faux pas—you must have lodged a 2007-08 income tax return by 30 June 2009, your 2007-08 taxable income did not exceed $100,000 and you were an Australian resident for tax purposes during the 2007-08 financial year. Those are perfectly reasonable criteria. It is stated on the same website that one of the eligibility criteria for the Australian resident for tax purposes is having been in Australia for more than half of the financial year, unless your usual home is overseas and you do not intend to live in Australia. I wonder how the 27,000 people living overseas spent the money designed to boost the local Australian economy.

This government is asking us to trust them with their technology and our address. We cannot trust with them with their word. We cannot trust them with our money. To date, we have a failed border protection system, including a $1.7 billion blowout, up to $8 billion wasted in their Building the Education Revolution and $2.5 billion in their pink batts program. We have a $1.4 billion blowout in the laptops in schools program—

Mr Mitchell: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, again I point to direct relevance. This is about the Electoral Act, not a speech by the member for Durack to spout his lines.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Durack would assist the chair if he stayed with the bill at hand.

Mr HAASE: I am sure that is the case. The member of the government is offended by the things I am mentioning but they all tie directly into this next move by this government of failures in relation to changing the Electoral Act. I will move on in that regard. We have a $1.4 billion blowout in the laptops in schools program and they have delivered only just over half the number of computers. The solar homes program included an $850 million blowout and then the program was cancelled. We have a broadband network costing about $50 billion with no business plan. The waste continues today with set-top boxes estimated to cost $350 a home, but Senator Conroy now admits—

Mr Mitchell: I rise on a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to do this again but it has been over six minutes now and we have not heard a bit about the bill. I ask that you ask the speaker to get back to the bill and direct relevance to it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Durack has the call and he will stay with the bill.

Mr HAASE: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Senator Conroy now admits that the boxes could cost up to $1,528 each in rural areas. Gerry Harvey says he can do it for $168. What more evidence do I need to cite to prove that this government should not be put in charge of the asylum. It is the duty of each Australian citizen to enrol to vote—that is a given—to accurately maintain their enrolment at their permanent place of residence, to cast a vote when an election is called, and to fully extend preferences to all candidates contesting an election of the House of Representatives. Surely we as adult Australian citizens can be trusted to do this. Compulsory enrolment for federal elections was introduced in 1912, and I fail to understand why this government is hell-bent on reinventing the wheel in this matter.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you may ask how the integrity of the electoral roll is at risk if the AEC is managed by a three-person Australian Electoral Commission made up of a chairperson, who must be an active or retired judge of the Federal Court of Australia, the Electoral Commissioner, and a non-judicial member. I am in no way passing judgment on the reliability of individuals. I am in fact passing judgment on a government that has proven they cannot be trusted with anything, much less trusted to pass on accurate data.

This bill gives the AEC the discretion to determine what 'reliable and current' data sources are. According to the Australian Electoral Commission's website, the AEC has seven core business functions. These are to manage the Commonwealth electoral roll; conduct elections and referendums, including industrial and fee-for-service elections and protected action ballots; educate and inform the community about electoral rights and responsibilities; provide research, advice and assistance on electoral matters to the parliament, other government agencies and recognised bodies; provide assistance in overseas elections and referendums in support of wider government initiatives; administer election funding, financial disclosure and party registration requirements; and support electoral redistributions. Surely deciding what is reliable and current data to determine where someone lives is far beyond the purview of the AEC. This bill does not give a specific definition of what the Electoral Commission may regard as a 'reliable and current data source' from which to change elector details. What is considered a 'reliable and current data source' is open to interpretation.

I believe there are significant risks to the integrity of the electoral roll by using external data sources such as the ATO, Medicare or other government agencies to update elector details. In fact the Australian National Audit Office report No. 24 of 2004-05, Performance audit: integrity of Medicare enrolment data, stated that the Australian National Audit Office 'found that up to half a million active Medicare enrolment records were probably for people who are deceased'. I wonder if I ought to be challenged on that with respect to straying from the bill, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure you will agree that it simply supports my argument that this government has no track record that demonstrates their ability to get anything right, let alone taking over the electoral roll.

A 1999 report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, Finance and Public Administration, Numbers on the run: review of the ANAO report No.37 1998-99 on the management oftax file numbers, found that there were 3.2 million more tax file numbers than people in Australia at the last census that had been undertaken, that there were 185,000 potential duplicate tax records for individuals and that 62 per cent of deceased clients were not recorded as deceased in a sample match.

This government has ruined the reputation and standing of the office of Prime Minister, it has ruined the reputation of Speaker of the House, it has ruined our international reputation as a country with low sovereign risk and now it seeks to ruin the reputation of the AEC. We, the people of Australia, must be concerned that, should this bill pass, we are again being manipulated by the Gillard government. To maintain their tenuous hold on power they removed the Speaker of the House to their backbench and cajoled a member of the Liberal coalition to take up that position. This deceitful manoeuvring took a voting member away from the opposition, added a voting member to the government, allowing the Prime Minister to renege on her agreement with Mr Andrew Wilkie, the member for Denison, to curtail poker machine activity.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order! The member for Durack is straying in relevance. This would be about the fourth time that the chair has asked the member for Durack to be relevant to the bill.

Mr HAASE: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I shall continue to be so. There have been suggestions that Fair Work Australia has again been reticent in assisting authorities investigating Craig Thomson, the federal member for Dobell—

Mr Dreyfus: Madam Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would ask that you draw the honourable member's attention to the actual subject matter of this legislation—and to keep him to it, if it is possible.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The chair has, on a number of occasions, drawn the honourable member's attention to the relevance of the bill. This will probably be the fifth time that the chair asks the honourable member for Durack to stick to the bill. The member for Durack will wind up, with relevance.

Mr HAASE: Madam Deputy Speaker, I am talking about this bill and I am proving my point that this bill has no right of passage in this House because the track record of the government introducing it has no credibility whatsoever. I add to the evidence of that lack of credibility in my speech, and I insist on doing so. Without the member for Dobell's position the Gillard government does not have a majority in the House of Representatives and therefore cannot continue—

Mr Dreyfus: The honourable member seems to be having a great deal of difficulty in hearing you, Madam Deputy Speaker. You have now drawn his attention to the subject matter of this legislation on several occasions. It would seem to me that this amounts to a dissent from the chair, and I would ask that you again draw the honourable member's attention to the subject matter of the bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will draw the honourable member for Durack's attention to relevance on the bill. I would ask the member for Durack to wind up fairly quickly or I will sit him down.

Mr HAASE: I am very happy to do so, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am most impressed, however, by the tenacity of government members in the House tonight—irrelevant, but tenacious nevertheless. The government have a proven track record of being unreliable. They have a track record full of bright ideas, yet when it comes to the implementation of these ideas—such as changing the electoral act to allow enrolment on the basis of address, determined by other government departments—they invariably fail through lack of process. We cannot and should not and must not let this Labor government destroy the integrity of the electoral roll for whatever underlying, perhaps even underhanded, reasoning they espouse. I suggest this bill should never be supported.