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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 10384


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and the Public Service, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (20:16): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

I am pleased today to present this Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act1918 and the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 to enable the Australian Electoral Commission to better align work practices with the contemporary behaviour and expectations of voters. The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Modernisation and Other Measures) Bill 2018 increases transparency around candidate eligibility and positions the AEC to facilitate more efficient, cost-effective and timely service delivery, resulting in improved public confidence in Australia's electoral system.

The bill implements recommendations made by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in two of its recent reports:

'Excluded—The impact of section 44 on Australian Democracy', which made recommendations to improve the candidate nomination process to increase transparency of information relevant to the status of candidates for election under section 44 of the Constitution; and

The Third Interim Report on the Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2016 Federal Election, which recommended that the Electoral Act and Referendum Act be amended to improve efficiency, timeliness and efficiency of AEC operations.

In line with these recommendations, the bill remedies errors, defects and anomalies in the legislation, and supports improvement in the conduct of federal elections. The bill applies the existing six- metre exclusion zone for polling booths on election day to pre-poll voting centres, to improve the consistency across in-person voting methods.

Schedule 1 —C andidate nominations

Schedule 1 of the bill makes a number of changes to part XIV of the Electoral Act to include an obligation for persons wishing to nominate as candidates in elections to provide information, in the form of a checklist, relevant to their eligibility under section 44 of the Constitution. The checklist will allow members of the public to scrutinise the information provided by all candidates.

The bill will make completing the checklist a mandatory requirement for all candidates in the next federal election, so no candidate can avoid checking their citizenship history, or side-step a declaration to voters about their qualifications for office. The checklist is consistent with the form previously established by regulations and used at the recent by-elections. Information provided in the checklist is also consistent with the form used by current Senators and Members of Parliament which is published on the respective parliamentary Citizenship Registers.

Schedule 2 —A mendments relating to voting and scrutiny processes

Schedule 2 to the bill makes a number of amendments to the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act, to modernise and simplify AEC operations to allow ballot papers to progress more quickly to the scrutiny process, without reducing count integrity.

Firstly, the bill allows for declaration vote ballot boxes to be opened and reconciled at the polling place, rather than being sent unopened to the Divisional Returning Officer for reconciliation. This will eradicate the need for two to three days of additional work at out-posted centres before the declaration vote exchange can be finalised. This amendment is important for the effective and timely delivery of the next federal election.

There is already a long-standing prohibition on canvassing for votes or soliciting the vote of an elector within six metres of the entrance of a polling booth. By omission, the same arrangement has not applied to pre-poll centres and this can cause confusion on election day when the perimeter for canvassing has to be pushed back. The bill will apply this six-metre exclusion zone to pre-poll voting centres as well to ensure all voters can enter a polling place, through a non-congested entry point The six-metre zone works well on election day to separate volunteer campaigners and therefore helps to lessen unnecessary friction and tension. These amendments do not prevent candidates and parties from distributing their campaign material or prohibit them from discussing issues with voters who might wish to engage prior to casting their vote. The amendments only restrict engaging in these activities within the immediate vicinity of a pre-polling place.

Since the introduction of this bill in the House of Representatives, the opposition have requested amendments to simplify the bill, by removing some of the more complex modernisation amendments that are not essential to the efficient conduct of the 2019 election. Such changes are acceptable to the government and I can foreshadow that there will be government amendments moved during the committee stage. Those amendments to remove non-critical parts of the bill would allow some of the lower priority reforms to be considered in detail after the election and progressed later, allowing more time for their consideration.

Conclusion

The bill introduces reforms to one of Australia's oldest pieces of legislation—the 100-year-old Commonwealth Electoral Actto modernise and improve electoral processes and AEC operations for the benefit of the Australian voting public. These amendments will assist the AEC in its responsibility of delivering effective and timely elections and promoting public confidence in a key democratic institution.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

The PRESIDENT: The question now is that items 1, 2, 7 to 21, 23 to 27, 52 to 58, 60, 61, 64, 69, 88 to 91, 95 to 104, 130, 131, 137 to 153 and 174 of schedule 2, and schedule 3 on sheet UV106, circulated by the government, stand as printed.

The Government opposed schedule 2 and schedule 3 in the following terms

(2) Schedule 2, items 1 and 2, page 36 (lines 5 to 18), to be opposed.

(3) Schedule 2, items 7 to 21, page 37 (line 9) to page 38 (line 26), to be opposed.

(4) Schedule 2, items 23 to 27, page 39 (line 26) to page 40 (line 14), to be opposed.

(5) Schedule 2, items 52 to 58, page 45 (line 15) to page 46 (line 21), to be opposed.

(6) Schedule 2, items 60 and 61, page 46 (lines 25 to 28), to be opposed.

(7) Schedule 2, item 64, page 47 (lines 9 and 10), to be opposed.

(8) Schedule 2, item 69, page 47 (lines 27 and 28), to be opposed.

(21) Schedule 2, items 88 to 91, page 51 (line 12) to page 53, to be opposed.

(22) Schedule 2, items 95 to 104, page 55 (line 8) to page 56 (line 30), to be opposed.

(23) Schedule 2, items 130 and 131, page 62 (lines 11 to 23), to be opposed.

(24) Schedule 2, items 137 to 153, page 63 (line 18) to page 65 (line 14), to be opposed.

(37) Schedule 2, item 174, page 69 (lines 13 to 17), to be opposed.

(38) Schedule 3, page 70 (line 1) to page 72 (line 20), to be opposed.

Question negatived.

The PRESIDENT: The question now is that amendments (1), (9) to (20) and (25) to (36) on sheet UV106, circulated by the government, be agreed to.

Government ' s circulated amendments—

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 3), omit the table item.

(9) Schedule 2, item 78, page 49 (line 9), omit "offices", substitute "places".

(10) Schedule 2, item 79, page 49 (lines 25 to 27), omit subparagraph 340(1) (b) (ii), substitute:

(ii) a pre-poll voting office or office of a DRO at which applications for pre-poll votes may be made, or pre-poll ordinary voting is available, for the election; and

(11) Schedule 2, item 79, page 49 (line 31), after "a pre-poll voting office", insert "or office of a DRO".

(12) Schedule 2, item 79, page 50 (lines 1 and 2), omit "the pre-poll voting office", substitute "the office".

(13) Schedule 2, item 80, page 50, (lines 16 to 18), omit subparagraph 340(1A) (b) (ii), substitute:

(ii) a pre-poll voting office or office of a DRO at which applications for pre-poll votes may be made, or pre-poll ordinary voting is available, for the election; and

(14) Schedule 2, item 80, page 50 (line 22), after "a pre-poll voting office", insert "or office of a DRO".

(15) Schedule 2, item 80, page 50 (lines 24 and 25), omit "the pre-poll voting office", substitute "the office".

(16) Schedule 2, item 81, page 50 (line 27), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of the DRO".

(17) Schedule 2, item 82, page 50 (line 30), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of the DRO".

(18) Schedule 2, item 84, page 51 (line 2), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of a DRO".

(19) Schedule 2, item 86, page 51 (line 7), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of the DRO".

(20) Schedule 2, item 87, page 51 (line 10), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of the DRO".

(25) Schedule 2, item 164, page 67 (line 2), omit "offices", substitute "places".

(26) Schedule 2, item 165, page 67 (lines 16 to 18), omit subparagraph 131(1) (b) (ii), substitute:

(ii) a pre-poll voting office or office of a DRO at which applications for pre-poll votes may be made, or pre-poll ordinary voting is available, for the referendum; and

(27) Schedule 2, item 165, page 67 (line 24), after "a pre-poll voting office", insert "or office of a DRO".

(28) Schedule 2, item 165, page 67 (lines 26 and 27), omit "the pre-poll voting office", substitute "the office".

(29) Schedule 2, item 166, page 68 (lines 6 to 8), omit subparagraph 131(1A) (b) (ii), substitute:

(ii) a pre-poll voting office or office of a DRO at which applications for pre-poll votes may be made, or pre-poll ordinary voting is available, for the referendum; and

(30) Schedule 2, item 166, page 68 (line 14), after "a pre-poll voting office", insert "or office of a DRO".

(31) Schedule 2, item 166, page 68 (lines 16 and 17), omit "the pre-poll voting office", substitute "the office".

(32) Schedule 2, item 167, page 68 (line 19), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of the DRO".

(33) Schedule 2, item 168, page 68 (line 22), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of the DRO".

(34) Schedule 2, item 170, page 68 (line 26), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of a DRO".

(35) Schedule 2, item 172, page 69 (line 8), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of the DRO".

(36) Schedule 2, item 173, page 69 (line 11), omit "or pre-poll voting office", substitute ", pre-poll voting office or office of the DRO".

Question agreed to.