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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5508

Mr ROBB (12:20 PM) —by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) to (4):

(1)    Schedule 6, page 38 (lines 9 and 10), omit item 2.

(2)    Schedule 6, page 39 (lines 26 and 27), omit item 12.

(3)    Schedule 6, page 42 (lines 1 to 8), omit Part 2.

(4)    Schedule 7, page 44 (lines 15 and 16), omit item 9.

It is unfortunate that this debate on electoral reform has been gagged. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill 2010 goes to the integrity of our electoral process. It is the underpinning of our democracy. Those on the other side are giving no due respect to the electoral reform bills.

Government members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—Order! The member for Goldstein will resume his seat. Honourable members would be aware that it is disorderly, and it is doubly disorderly, to drown out the speaker. Would those members who are leaving the chamber please do so expeditiously. The honourable member for Goldstein.

Mr ROBB —As I was saying, debate on this bill has been gagged. It is a bill on electoral reform that goes to the underpinnings of our democracy. You would think that the House would debate these very important bills in some detail. On this particular bill, we have sought to remove, by amendments, two very important and controversial aspects. Unfortunately, these items have been included by the government following the review by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. They were not introduced before the committee and were not discussed. It is very disappointing to see the government seeking to sneak these through in an otherwise non-controversial bill. They have sought to frustrate a number of quite important and sensible measures by including in the same bill, without consultation with others in the House, some very unacceptable proposals.

Firstly, there is the question of postal vote applications. The government are proposing that applications only be returned directly to the Electoral Commission. There would be a prohibition on the attachment of extra material to a postal vote application. There is no valid reason for the government to seek to introduce these measures and they have done it in a deeply cynical manner. It is an attempt to undermine the extremely successful postal voting processes of the coalition parties. There have been no concerns raised in the community. There have been no concerns raised by the authorities. No concerns have been raised which go to the need to remove this. The concern is that of the Labor Party, who have been unsuccessful in seeking to deal with these measures. Allowing the attachment of materials gives those in the community the opportunity, at the very first instance, to have some assistance with their postal vote and to be informed, at the outset of an election, about the relative merits of the different parties. This is purely and simply a cynical measure by the Labor Party to oppose something which they have failed to successfully implement and carry out during the electoral process.

The second measure we strongly oppose is included in the seventh initiative in this bill, which seeks to modernise the provisions about homeless voters. In principle, the measure was supported by the coalition members on the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. However, the coalition has identified concerns about item 9 and the way in which this bill seeks to introduce that measure. Section 96(9)(a) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act states:

(9) A person ceases to be entitled to be treated as an itinerant elector under this section if:

(a) while the person is being so treated, a general election is held at which the person neither votes nor applies for a postal vote …

The implication that flows from the repeal of this section of the act is that there would be no practical provision to ever remove an itinerant elector from the roll. It is axiomatic that you cannot do a habitation review on a homeless person. Unless the itinerant elector is unusually diligent in keeping their enrolment details up to date, the only way to determine if they have left the electorate or died is if they do not show up on polling day. Again, this goes to the heart of the integrity of the voting system. This bill opens it to fraud. It is very sad that the government has sought to weaken this provision of the act, a provision that was working very satisfactorily. Again, you would have to very much question the motives of the government on both these issues.

Question put:

That the amendments (Mr Robb’s) be agreed to.