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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26575


Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (5:52 PM) —Given the time, I will be extremely brief. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Prisoner Voting and Other Measures) Bill 2004 is a demonstration of the government's commitment to ensuring the integrity of the electoral system. When it passed the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment Integrity and Other Measures) Act, it was the parliament's intention that people who commit offences against society sufficient to warrant a full-time prison term for an electoral cycle or longer should not have any entitlement to vote and elect the leaders of this society. They would be deprived of this entitlement whilst serving that prison sentence.

The legislation will give effect to that intention by preventing all prisoners who are serving a full-time sentence of three years or more, including those whose sentences began before the commencement of the legislation, from enrolling to vote or being enrolled to vote, and therefore being eligible to vote. The bill also removes items from the enrolment integrity act relating to the early close of rolls for referenda, which were overlooked during debate on the legislation in the Senate. This will ensure consistency with the removal of all other early close of roll provisions during the debate on that act and will maintain the current seven-day time limit for the close of rolls after the writs are issued for an election or a referendum.

Finally, the bill will clarify that all provisions relating to proof of name and address requirements for enrolment commence at the same time. Amendments made by the Senate to the enrolment integrity act contained different commencement dates which made the commencement of the scheme unclear. The amendments will remedy that and will remove the uncertainty having been brought about by the earlier amendments. I commend the bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.