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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 1869


Senator RYAN (Victoria) (13:48): I am not going to let the sledging go uncontested. I made absolutely no imputation—in fact, I went to a great deal of trouble not to—about the ATO staff. The point I am making is that they are not trained in the same way as the AEC staff. Anyone that asserts otherwise is simply not telling the truth. A person who works enrolling students at a school is focused on a very different set of priorities from those who are focused on maintaining an electoral roll, particularly about maintaining the impartiality of AEC staff. That is a compliment to the staff at the AEC, not a condemnation of any other staff anywhere. They are simply not trained in it because the data they collect is for a different purpose.

If Senator Rhiannon wants to lecture people in the implications of what they say then I am happy to say Senator Rhiannon should start explaining the implications of the BDS campaign she has been behind and the implications that has for Jewish Australians and the associations that group has had with people and movements that we do not advertise in this country.

The opposition have never said in this entire debate that we want to stop anyone enrolling to vote. We have never said that it is in any way an upside or a negative side of automatic enrolment that more people will enrol to vote. To assert that is, again, to assert something that is patently and demonstrably untrue. What the opposition has said is that, contrary to what Senator Rhiannon outlined, it is not the responsibility of government to enrol people to vote. In fact, it is the legal responsibility of the citizen to do so, and it has been since compulsory enrolment and voting was introduced. So it is not the responsibility of government to do that, and I am proud to say as a Liberal that I do not think it should be the responsibility of the government to do that.

Senator Rhiannon—and the cohorts from the Greens who want to regulate what people say in a newspaper and who have no problem with a columnists being dragged before a court for an opinion they express—suddenly thinks the greatest burden we impose on the Australian people is filling out an A4-sized form to exercise a right to vote and to provide an evidentiary trail to make sure that we know exactly who has enrolled to vote and that we can pursue it if not. You can watch A Current Affair or any television program from Four Corners to 7.30 time after time and see that there are holes in government databases and, despite the best intentions and best efforts of the people at the AEC, no-one can say they will not make a mistake. No-one can, unless all of a sudden we have found human perfection in a form we have not found it in yet—and it would not surprise me if the Greens were going to assert that. So to come here and say that this is anything about people not being able to exercise a franchise is a complete and utter falsehood, and it further demeans an already demeaned political movement when they will resort to such lows and at the same time vote for laws that restrict the communication and handling of postal vote applications because they do not approve of that.

The coalition's opposition to this has been consistent; it has been based on the fact that we think there is a risk. At the same time we have supported education measures and enrolment measures. What we oppose is reducing the citizen to nothing more than a number in a database that the AEC can conscript onto the roll, and, while Senator Rhiannon denies that it is, no-one asserts that it is not happening without the choice of the voter. No-one is asserting that it is guaranteed to occur with their knowledge or consent, because that is impossible to guarantee. This is about adding people to the roll without any individual acting to do so. The impact of it is about removing a chain of evidence, and the inevitable consequence of it is mistakes on the electoral roll.