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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4851

Senator FERRIS (2:14 PM) —My question is addressed to the Special Minister of State, Senator Abetz. Is the minister aware of a warning in today's Australian by Mr Pat Bradley, an international expert on electoral matters, that Australia's electoral roll is open to fraud? Will the minister inform the Senate of the attempts that have been made by the Howard government to improve the integrity of our electoral rolls?

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) —I thank Senator Ferris for her ongoing interest in the integrity of the electoral roll. The integrity of the electoral roll is fundamental to our democratic system. But we have been reminded again today that, whilst our electoral roll is very good, it could benefit from some basic safeguards. Mr Pat Bradley, an international authority on elections, has questioned why we give away the precious right to vote without requiring any proof of identity. Recently I met with Mr Bradley, a former chief electoral officer from Northern Ireland who also has vast experience as an election adviser in 26 countries. I told him that we did not have in our enrolment process any requirement to show ID, because of Labor's obstruction. Labor Party careerists, in their unseemly scramble for office, saw fit to compromise the roll's integrity and to corrupt its spirit. Who can forget the revelations of the Shepherdson inquiry into electoral rorting by Labor in Queensland? Surely I do not need to remind those opposite that a Labor deputy premier and two other state Labor MPs were forced to resign and one Labor operative in fact went to jail.

The problem is that at the present time it is literally easier to get onto the electoral roll than it is to hire a video. There is no need to produce any form of ID at present, and almost anyone can witness the form. That is how certain Labor officials were able to rort the system and enrol phoney voters, and I am sure that Senator Cherry would understand what I am talking about. Last year the Howard government drafted new regulations which would require people enrolling to vote to present some form of identification and have their enrolment forms signed by a responsible individual. I remind the Senate that the presentation of identification at the time of enrolment was a recommendation of both the Shepherdson inquiry and the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

Despite these recommendations and despite their own shabby record of rorting and deceit, Labor refused to support the new regulations. Even in Queensland, the home of Labor rorts, the Labor Party are fighting this reform. Labor even tried the spurious argument that it would somehow disenfranchise young people—the very same young people that are able to provide ID to get into nightclubs. For all their froth and bubble, Labor did not present a single credible example of how voter ID at the time of enrolment might disenfranchise anyone. Labor have led a shameful campaign to frustrate our much needed reforms, thus preserving the scope of Labor rorting. In the face of this obstructionism, what moral leadership has Mr Crean shown? Absolutely none, just as he has failed to show any moral leadership on the $36 million Centenary House scandal.