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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3814


Mr GRAY (BrandSpecial Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service and Integrity) (18:19): The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Bill 2011 and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Protecting Elector Participation) Bill 2012 grow from recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters which cover a number of deliberations by that committee following the 2007 and 2010 elections. The bills respond to the need to ensure that 1.5 million Australians who are not on the electoral roll are given the opportunity of getting onto the electoral roll. That is 10,000 people, on average, in every federal division across our nation.

The Australian Electoral Commission itself feels that the need to move to modern technology to ensure an electoral roll that better represents our voting population—or our potential voting population—is an appropriate thing to do. These two bills necessarily harmonise the Commonwealth electoral roll with the rolls that are now being developed in our two most populous states. It is important to be aware that the act of harmonising the Commonwealth roll with the rolls in our two most populous states, creating a high-integrity system for ensuring that the roll itself is as accurate as it can possibly be and ensuring a direct enrolment system, is not—as has been characterised repeatedly in this place—an automatic enrolment system. It is a direct enrolment system that in many ways adds to the integrity of the roll itself. These measures respond to identified needs in our community to ensure that our roll provides the service it is meant to provide to the electoral process: to be as accurate a roll of electors as it can possibly be. It allows for technology to be used to ensure that the roll is accurate. It creates contestability for electors whose electoral details may be subject to these updating processes to challenge, via the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, decisions made by the electoral commissioner.

These bills represent a modernisation of the roll maintenance process that is long overdue, that responds to the needs of our community and that also responds to the Australian Electoral Commission's accurate identification of the weakness in our electoral roll and the ways in which we can attend to that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): I remind the House that under normal circumstances when we are considering bills in detail we will be referring to amendments. We do not have amendments before the chair, so the question is that the bill be agreed to as a whole.