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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3723


Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (11:43): I join with the other speakers from this side of the House in opposing the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Bill 2011 and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Protecting Elector Participation) Bill 2012. In following the member for Mayo, I highlight the point he made at the very beginning of his speech—that in our country we have a compulsory voting system and a compulsory enrolment system. As a corollary of that, it is the responsibility of individual citizens to be on the electoral roll from age 18 and to turn up to a polling booth on election day—or, as is increasingly the case, to a pre-poll centre in the days leading up to election day—and, at the very least, have their name crossed off the roll. It is a feature of Australian democracy and it has been for a number of decades. It is the law of the land that all eligible Australians must vote. That is not the law in a lot of other democracies, but it is here in Australia. What goes with it is that you must be on the electoral roll. It is your responsibility to be on the electoral roll when you are eligible and, when you change address, to ensure that the roll is updated.

As the member for Mayo and all of the speakers on this side of the House have outlined, these bills seek to damage the integrity of the roll through an automatic update and automatic enrolment process. On the one hand, this parliament is saying to every citizen, before these bills come into law, that under the existing law you must be on the electoral roll if you are eligible and you must vote, even if that means getting your name crossed off on election day and destroying your ballot paper. You must exercise your choice. On the other hand, the parliament is saying: 'If you do not enrol we will automatically enrol you. If you do not keep your address details up to date on the electoral roll, they will be automatically updated—through some data source that the House is simply assured will be accurate.'

Mr Perrett: Like your drivers licence.

Mr TONY SMITH: Of course how that will work in practice is, as so many members on this side of the House have indicated, very open to question. I say to the member for Moreton that this is a serious debate. I know it is customary to interject, but we are not at two o'clock yet—it is not question time. I am glad the member for Moreton is still with us, since we are talking about elections. He was on the verge of calling a by-election. These are bad laws. They are laws which Labor think, in their heart of hearts, will favour them. They think that if they can enrol people who do not want to enrol, if they can update addresses of those who have not updated them—in other words, if they can take action on behalf of that small percentage of Australians who do not want to vote—that may somehow give them electoral advantage. These are bad bills and we are opposing them here and in the other place. As our shadow minister the member for Mackellar pointed out just yesterday, these bills will compromise the integrity of the Australian electoral roll. We hope they do not pass; we suspect they will. If they do, they should not become part of the fabric of our electoral system, which has served our country so well.