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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3592


Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (21:22): I welcome the opportunity to speak tonight on the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Bill 2011 and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Protecting Elector Participation) Bill 2012. And it is also good to follow the two previous coalition speakers—such fine speakers. In particular, the member for Durack made a number of very relevant and insightful points.

When looking at these bills, I was struck by a sense of deja vu. They are typical of what we have come to expect from this government across a whole range of portfolio areas. Whether it is to do with funding campaigns or allowing people to vote in prisons, it always seems to be the case that this government pursues its view of democracy, which also happens to correspond with its political ambitions and political advantage. Before I go too much further in looking at some of these matters, I want to say that I stand with the coalition against these bills. I stand by the view that the Australian people are intelligent and that the Australian people know their responsibilities. The government tends to think the worst of people. It tends to think that Australians are not very intelligent. Indeed, so many of the policies that this government has brought to bear against the Australian people are typical of the view that the Australian people are not very smart. But I and people on this side know that the Australian people are smart and that they can see through the certain type of dust that this government throws at them.

I also think that the Australian people should have their personal responsibility verified. The Australian people know that they have to play some part in the process, that they need to take active steps to enforce their own franchise and to take up the vote themselves. It does seem rather odd in this instance but, as usual, the government sees its own importance at the centre of so much of the life in this country. The government thinks it knows better than the person on the street. I think such a view of the Australian people will bear on the government at the next election, which I hope will take place as soon as possible. It is a view that will certainly bear on the Queensland government on Saturday.

I do welcome the opportunity to speak on these bills. I would like to start with the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Bill 2011. This bill will give the AEC the ability to change the address of an elector when it believes the elector has moved address. This raises significant concerns for us because it will allow the AEC to automatically update the details of an elector, based on information obtained from other sources, when an elector changes their residential address. This will simply make it easier for the system to be rorted. Not only can electors unknowingly have their details updated but also it is far beyond the control and concern of the AEC to determine what are reliable and current data sources. As other speakers have spoken about at length, there have been untold problems with the integrity of certain information—tax file numbers and other records. There are going to be these sorts of problems in the future and, whilst these problems might not be of interest to the government, they are certainly of interest to us.

As I said before, this nanny-style legislation is typical of not just this Labor government but all Labor governments. The coalition believes that it is the duty of each Australian citizen to enrol to vote, to accurately maintain the enrolment of their permanent place of residence, to cast a vote and to fully extend preferences to all candidates contesting election for the House of Representatives. However, in typical fashion, Labor is trying to manage the duties of Australian citizens with a 'we know what's best for you' attitude. But, clearly, as shown in so many ways in the last four years, the government does not know what is best for the Australian people.

I find it incomprehensible that this Labor government cannot see that this bill will corrupt the integrity of the electoral roll. Taking away the responsibility for maintaining correct address details from Australian electors will significantly increase the potential for errors on the electoral roll. While the Labor government may argue that the percentage of errors will be minor, a handful of incorrect enrolments could be enough to win or lose a highly marginal seat. Given the hung parliament situation we are currently operating in, I thought Labor would be doing anything it could to reduce the risk of it losing a seat due to administrative errors by the AEC. Although the changes in this bill can be easily viewed as nothing but a ploy by the Labor Party and the Greens to improve their electoral chances at the expense of the integrity of the electoral roll, we all know what lengths these parties already go to in order to gain an extra vote.

I will take this very brief opportunity before the adjournment debate begins to make a comment about a couple of things that took place in the last couple of elections. I will start with the most recent one. At the 2010 election, I had personal experience concerning the integrity of the electoral roll as taken up by my major opponent. There is an address in Cowan, 64 Wanneroo Road, Marangaroo, which is the address of basically the only house in Marangaroo. The house is on the major axial route of Wanneroo Road. I was aware of this house because it had been reported to me as being derelict. It had been trashed by the former tenant probably over a year before the 2010 election. I was made aware of this house due to complaints from local residents and I was of the view—and I had it verified on several occasions between then and the 2010 election—that this house was absolutely derelict and that no-one could live in it. I was surprised to then find that two people were on the electoral roll for that address, which I found very odd because there had never been lights on at night and there had never been any signs of actual presence in the building. However, what did occur was that basically at the time—

Debate interrupted.