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Howard's electoral changes will affect regional Australia.



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M e d i a R e l e a s e s

HOWARD'S ELECTORAL CHANGES WILL AFFECT REGIONAL AUSTRALIA 16th June 2006

New South Wales Country Labor Senator, Ursula Stephens, has expressed concern for rural and regional Australians over the Government's planned changes to the Electoral Act.

In her speech in the Senate today, Senator Stephens stated that many regional Australians will find it incredibly difficult to exercise their democratic right at the next Federal Election.

"The Commonwealth Electoral Act was designed to enfranchise the citizens of Australia, not - as the Howard Government is trying to do with this Bill - disenfranchise some of them." Senator Stephens said in her speech.

"It is to the detriment of the electoral system that the Howard Government seeks to undermine the principles of fairness, transparency, access and accountability of the electoral system."

The right to vote is a fundamental human right. By closing the rolls at 8pm on the day the election is called, potentially hundreds of thousands of rural and regional Australians could be denied this right. Allowing seven days after the writs are issued gives people in rural and regional Australia - particularly young people, itinerant workers, miners, contractors and Indigenous people - time to enrol and update their information on the electoral roll.

The legislation flies in the face of advice from the Government's own independent agency, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), which expressed concerns at the Government's measures. The AEC stated it would be a "backward step" to significantly shorten the period between the issue of writs and the closure of the rolls.

"The Labor Party opposes this Bill. It will clearly disenfranchise many Australians living in rural and regional Australia," Senator Stephens said.