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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8304


Senator STOKER (Queensland) (13:57): There are not that many times that we have the opportunity to rethink the principles that motivate us in this place to do all that we can to engage the Australian people in the democratic process. Those principles, though, are worth revisiting. We need to be focused always on the importance of maximising the opportunity for all Australians to be active participants in the democratic process, well-informed, and able to assess the information available to them because it is transparent. We need to encourage honest participation, the genuine explanation of policy and discourage the tendency to have, in an election campaign, the misrepresentation or unfair manipulation of data that we see from time to time.

It's also really important to the integrity of our democratic process that we have an effective and efficient regulator, a competent and capable Australian Electoral Commission, one that is sufficient in expertise and flexible enough to deal with the unusual challenges that the election environment can present. It needs to be able to deploy resources to the often unexpected circumstances that can arise in a campaign. The unusual or unexpected arrival of a large number of people at a country polling booth, for instance, can present difficulties, just as those circumstances where a ballot is very close can present difficulties too. And it's quite a challenge to provide sufficient support and opportunity for that body to be able to always tackle that difficult task.

This bill is also about ensuring that our electoral system is one of integrity, one that protects our national sovereignty. It is really important to ensure that only those people who have a meaningful connection to the Australian people, the Australian parliament and Australia's interests are able to have a serious influence on Australian politics.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted. Senator Stoker, you will be in continuation.