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Tuesday, 13 September 1983
Page: 668

Dr KLUGMAN —On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform, I present the First Report from the Committee, together with copies of the transcript of evidence.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Dr KLUGMAN —by leave-The report which has just been presented consists of 320- plus pages and contains over 130 recommendations. It is based in part on over 200 submissions. But it would be fair to say that the nine members and senators appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform were quite well versed in most of the arguments dealing with electoral reform. Without wishing to criticise the academics who appeared before the Committee, I sometimes felt that universities would benefit if some ex-parliamentarians were employed by political science departments in our tertiary institutions. Maybe current and future students would have benefited if Hansard had been present for the Committee's in camera discussions.

On behalf of the members of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform I thank all those who assisted by presenting oral and/or written submissions. I particularly express the Committee's appreciation to Mr Keith Pearson, Mr Andrejs Cirulis, Mr Michael Maley and Mrs Woodward, all from the Australian Electoral Office, who provided the Committee with valuable information and suggestions, the Attorney-General's Department for providing prompt legal advice and the Committee Secretariat, led by Mr Ian Harris, for its great effort and co -operation. Mr Ian Harris often sits at the table with the Clerk of the House, Mr Blake, and others.

This was a new committee given a large and important task to be completed in a very short time with a speedily assembled staff. A large number of the subjects examined by the Committee were comprehensive in nature requiring-and I assure honourable members receiving-detailed attention and deliberation. Given the time constraint upon the preparation of the Committee's report, it has not been possible on all occasions to provide comprehensive explanations as to the reasoning which led to the Committee's recommendations, all of which were made after close examination and deliberation.

As Chairman of the Committee I particularly thank the Committee members for their excellent co-operation. The Committee repeatedly sat all day and sometimes sat into the late evening. Yet there was almost continuously 100 per cent attendance. Considering the many other duties of members of parliament, I regard this as an outstanding effort. In view of the highly political questions involved, where every party would be expected to look to its own advantages, the Committee's deliberations were examples of rational discussion. I especially thank the Opposition members for co-operating in helping to design reasonable methods for introducing public funding of elections and in reaching a voting system designed to reduce the large number of unintended informal votes for Senate elections-two questions which might have been expected to produce extreme polarisation of viewpoints.

In presenting its first report the Committee has noted that the Australian Electoral Office performs its functions efficiently and capably, particularly in the light of the number of items processed by the office. Currently the office has a full time staff of approximately 740, which is fewer than six people for each electoral division. During 1982 the Electoral Office added over one and a quarter million electors to the Commonwealth electoral rolls and just over one million names were removed. The total number of transactions carried out in the year-that is, names added, names removed and alterations to the rolls-was 2.8 million. At the end of the year the total Commonwealth electoral enrolment was 9 .371 million.

The report contains over 130 principal recommendations which are covered in its 13 chapters. Among the more significant recommendations are: The establishment of an independent electoral commission; public funding of Federal election campaigns; public disclosure of income and expenditure by political parties and candidates; an increase in the size of parliament; the retention of the permissible departure of plus or minus 10 per cent from the quota in an electoral division but that the Act should clearly state that the major consideration should be the aim, where practicable, that all electoral divisions approximate equal enrolment at the median or mid-point time between redistributions; a modification of the voting system to reduce unintentional informality, particularly in the Senate; compulsory enrolment for all Australians, removing all distinctions in the treatment of Aborigines; and that election dates should be announced by the Governor-General at least seven days before the day of issue of the writs and, therefore, the close of the rolls, to avoid the sort of thing that happened in February this year.

The Committee also recommended that it be given the power to consider certain matters in greater depth. For example: The broadcasting and television provisions concerning elections; indirect public funding by means of the provision of free radio and television time; standards governing political advertising; provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act concerning defamation of candidates; the industrial elections functions of the Australian Electoral Office; and tax deductibility of political donations. I trust that the report will be extensively debated in the two Houses and that it will provide a good basis for the extensive amending legislation which will be introduced later this year.

Motion (by Mr Uren)-by leave-agreed to:

That the House take note of the paper.