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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 1964


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (17:16): by leave—I move amendments (1) to (14) as circulated in my name together:

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 2), omit "25", substitute "24".

(2) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 5), omit "items 49 and 50", substitute "item 50".

(3) Schedule 1, item 24, page 6 (line 15), after "officer", insert "(the reporting officer)".

(4) Schedule 1, item 24, page 6 (lines 23 to 27), omit subsections 238B(3) and (4), substitute:

Report

(3) The reporting officer must prepare a report about the circumstances in which the ballot-box was opened before the close of the poll other than in accordance with this Act (including details of any witnesses).

Material to be given to DRO

(4) The reporting officer must give the report, parcel, ballot-box and any other thing the reporting officer considers appropriate to the DRO for the Division as soon as practicable.

Role of DRO

(5) The DRO for the Division must examine the report, parcel, ballot-box and any other thing given to the DRO under subsection (4) and then give them to the Australian Electoral Officer (the AEO) for the State or Territory concerned.

Role of AEO

(6) The AEO must:

   (a) open the parcel and examine the ballot papers not enclosed in envelopes, the envelopes, the report, the ballot-box and any other thing given to the AEO under subsection (5); and

   (b) for each ballot paper not enclosed in an envelope—decide whether the ballot paper is to be included in the scrutiny under Part XVIII (see subsections (7) and (8)); and

(c) for each envelope—decide whether the envelope is to be included in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 3 (see subsections (9) and (10)).

(7) The AEO must decide that a ballot paper is to be included in the scrutiny under Part XVIII unless the AEO is satisfied that the ballot paper has been fraudulently altered or otherwise interfered with so as not to reflect the voter's intention.

(8) If the AEO decides that a ballot paper is not to be included in the scrutiny under Part XVIII, the ballot paper is to be excluded from that scrutiny.

(9) The AEO must decide that an envelope is to be included in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 3 unless the AEO is satisfied that the envelope has been fraudulently altered.

(10) If the AEO decides that an envelope is not to be included in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 3, the envelope is to be excluded from that scrutiny.

(11) The AEO must, after examining all the ballot papers and envelopes:

   (a) place in a parcel the ballot papers that are to be included in the scrutiny under Part XVIII; and

   (b) place in another parcel the ballot papers that are to be excluded from the scrutiny under Part XVIII; and

(c) place in another parcel the envelopes that are to be included in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 3; and

   (d) place in another parcel the envelopes that are to be excluded from the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 3; and

(e) seal each parcel; and

   (f) write on each parcel an indication of the type of ballot papers or envelopes enclosed and that the ballot-box has been prematurely opened; and

(g) sign each parcel.

(12) The AEO must give the parcels referred to in paragraphs (11)(a) and (c) to the DRO for the Division, and the ballot papers or envelopes in the parcels are to be included in the scrutiny under Part XVIII or in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 3, as the case requires.

(13) Before the declaration of the poll in the election, the AEO must advise the Electoral Commissioner and the candidates concerned of the following:

   (a) a ballot-box was opened before the close of the poll other than in accordance with this Act;

   (b) the number of ballot papers the AEO examined;

(c) the number of ballot papers that were excluded from the scrutiny under Part XVIII because the AEO was satisfied that they had been fraudulently altered or otherwise interfered with so as not to reflect the voter's intention;

   (d) the number of envelopes the AEO examined;

(e) the number of envelopes that were excluded from the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 3 because the AEO was satisfied that they had been fraudulently altered.

Preservation of material

(14) The AEO is responsible for the safe custody, in accordance with the directions of the Electoral Commissioner, of the parcels referred to in paragraphs (11)(b) and (d), the ballot-box and the report and any other thing given to the AEO under subsection (5) until they are destroyed.

(15) Subject to Part XXII, the Electoral Commissioner may direct that the things referred to in subsection (14) be destroyed if:

   (a) not less than 6 months have elapsed since the declaration of the poll in the election in which the things were used; and

   (b) the things are no longer required by the Electoral Commission for the performance of its functions.

(5) Schedule 1, item 25, page 6 (lines 28 and 29), omit the item.

(6) Schedule 1, item 26, page 6 (line 30) to page 7 (line 5), omit the item, substitute:

26 At the end of subsection 248(2)

   Add:

   ; and (c) for section 238A—a reference in paragraph 238A(3)(b) to the Divisional Returning Officer for the Division is taken to be a reference to the Electoral Commission.

(7) Schedule 1, page 7 (after line 7), after item 27, insert:

27A Subsections 328B(2) and (3)

   Repeal the subsections.

(8) Schedule 1, page 7, after proposed item 27A, insert:

27B Paragraph 328B(4)(d)

   Omit "subsections (1) and (2)", substitute "subsection (1)".

(9) Schedule 1, page 7, after proposed item 27B, insert:

27C After section 339

   Insert:

339A Officers not to interfere with etc. ballot -boxes or ballot papers

      An officer commits an offence if:

   (a) the officer does an act; and

   (b) the act results in the unlawful destruction of, taking of, opening of, or interference with, a ballot-box or a ballot paper.

Penalty:   Imprisonment for 6 months.

(10) Schedule 1, item 32, page 7 (line 26), after "officer", insert "(the reporting officer)".

(11) Schedule 1, item 32, page 8 (lines 5 to 8), omit subsections 41AB(3) and (4), substitute:

Report

(3) The reporting officer must prepare a report about the circumstances in which the ballot-box was opened before the close of voting other than as mentioned in subsection 29(2) (including details of any witnesses).

Material to be given to DRO

(4) The reporting officer must give the report, parcel, ballot-box and any other thing the reporting officer considers appropriate to the DRO for the Division as soon as practicable.

Role of DRO

(5) The DRO for the Division must examine the report, parcel, ballot-box and any other thing given to the DRO under subsection (4) and then give them to the Australian Electoral Officer (the AEO) for the State or Territory concerned.

Role of AEO

(6) The AEO must:

   (a) open the parcel and examine the ballot-papers not enclosed in envelopes, the envelopes, the report, the ballot-box and any other thing given to the AEO under subsection (5); and

   (b) for each ballot-paper not enclosed in an envelope—decide whether the ballot-paper is to be included in the scrutiny under Part VI (see subsections (7) and (8)); and

(c) for each envelope—decide whether the envelope is to be included in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 4 (see subsections (9) and (10)).

(7) The AEO must decide that a ballot-paper is to be included in the scrutiny under Part VI unless the AEO is satisfied that the ballot-paper has been fraudulently altered or otherwise interfered with so as not to reflect the voter's intention.

(8) If the AEO decides that a ballot-paper is not to be included in the scrutiny under Part VI, the ballot-paper is to be excluded from that scrutiny.

(9) The AEO must decide that an envelope is to be included in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 4 unless the AEO is satisfied that the envelope has been fraudulently altered.

(10) If the AEO decides that an envelope is not to be included in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 4, the envelope is to be excluded from that scrutiny.

(11) The AEO must, after examining all the ballot-papers and envelopes:

   (a) place in a parcel the ballot-papers that are to be included in the scrutiny under Part VI; and

   (b) place in another parcel the ballot-papers that are to be excluded from the scrutiny under Part VI; and

(c) place in another parcel the envelopes that are to be included in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 4; and

   (d) place in another parcel the envelopes that are to be excluded from the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 4; and

(e) seal each parcel; and

   (f) write on each parcel an indication of the type of ballot-papers or envelopes enclosed and that the ballot-box has been prematurely opened; and

(g) sign each parcel.

(12) The AEO must give the parcels referred to in paragraphs (11)(a) and (c) to the DRO for the Division, and the ballot-papers or envelopes in the parcels are to be included in the scrutiny under Part VI or in the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 4, as the case requires.

(13) Before publication in the Gazette of the statement by the Electoral Commissioner showing the result of the referendum, the AEO must advise the Electoral Commissioner of the following:

   (a) a ballot-box was opened before the close of voting other than as mentioned in subsection 29(2);

   (b) the number of ballot-papers the AEO examined;

(c) the number of ballot-papers that were excluded from the scrutiny under Part VI because the AEO was satisfied that they had been fraudulently altered or otherwise interfered with so as not to reflect the voter's intention;

   (d) the number of envelopes the AEO examined;

(e) the number of envelopes that were excluded from the preliminary scrutiny conducted in accordance with Schedule 4 because the AEO was satisfied that they had been fraudulently altered.

Preservation of material

(14) The AEO is responsible for the safe custody, in accordance with the directions of the Electoral Commissioner, of the parcels referred to in paragraphs (11)(b) and (d), the ballot-box and the report and any other thing given to the AEO under subsection (5) until they are destroyed.

(15) Subject to Part VIII, the Electoral Commissioner may direct that the things referred to in subsection (14) be destroyed if:

   (a) not less than 6 months have elapsed since the publication in the Gazette of the statement by the Electoral Commissioner showing the result of the referendum in which the things were used; and

   (b) the things are no longer required by the Electoral Commission for the performance of its functions.

(12) Schedule 1, item 49, page 9 (lines 15 and 16), omit the item.

(13) Schedule 1, item 50, page 9 (lines 17 to 22), omit the item, substitute:

50 At the end of subsection 75(2)

   Add:

   ; and (c) for section 41AA—a reference in paragraph 41AA(3)(b) to the DRO for the Division is taken to be a reference to the Electoral Commission.

(14) Schedule 1, page 9 (after line 24), after item 51, insert:

51A After section 130

   Insert:

130A Officers not to interfere with etc. ballot -boxes or ballot -papers

      An officer commits an offence if:

   (a) the officer does an act; and

   (b) the act results in the unlawful destruction of, taking of, opening of, or interference with, a ballot-box or a ballot-paper.

Penalty:   Imprisonment for 6 months.

These amendments relate to different parts of the bill and are ones on which we, in the opposition, have been very consistent. They relate to the question of automatic enrolment. What this bill does is amend the Taxation Administration Act so as to allow the Australian Taxation Office or its officers to give to the Australian Electoral Commission lists of taxpayers and their details for the purposes of automatic enrolment. We find that absolutely unacceptable on two counts. Firstly, we are totally and utterly philosophically opposed to the concept of automatic enrolment.

We say, and the Commonwealth Electoral Act says, that the prime duty of the Australian Electoral Commission is to uphold the integrity of the roll. This means that people have to have confidence that the roll as it is comprised is accurate. Court decisions since the 1930s have said that they will not permit courts to look behind the roll—that is, to take evidence as to whether people should be on it or not—because the roll itself has to be treated as accurate and has to be final. Professor Graeme Orr writes:

Like other official public registers, such as land registers, a chief feature of electoral rolls is their finality. The purpose of a roll is to be a definitive statement of the entitlement to vote. Thus there is a rule that the roll is conclusive evidence of the entitlement to vote. Reinforcing this is the secondary rule in almost all jurisdictions that a court of disputed returns is not to inquire into the correctness of the roll.”

Therefore, preserving its integrity is fundamental to having confidence in our system.

What happens now that we have automatic enrolment and automatic upgrading of addresses is that the Electoral Commissioner is entitled to take any roll he chooses. One that he has used to date is from Centrelink, which in fact is not a single piece of data; it is anything up to 100 pieces or lists which are compiled into one. Another is the motor traffic register. And now the commission wants to add the tax office list of taxpayers. The error in these lists will be just astronomical. In 1999 a committee of this House found that there were 3.2 million more tax file numbers than there were people in the country. They found that 62 per cent of their deceased clients were not recorded as deceased. Another inquiry found that up to half a million active Medicare enrolment records were probably for people who were deceased. The inaccuracies in records or rolls that are kept for another purpose can be useful for that purpose with their inaccuracies but should not be allowed to corrupt the integrity of the electoral roll, because it is necessary for us to have absolute confidence in it. The opposition feels very strongly on that and would be looking to repeal automatic enrolment. Certainly it will be vociferously rejecting the proposal to allow the tax office to provide information to the Electoral Commissioner. In fact, it is an offence currently under the law for that to occur.

What this legislation will do is remove that offence if it is for the purposes of the Electoral Commissioner. If it goes to somebody else, it will still be an offence. There is the inaccuracy of the material and the fact that the electoral office is really not capable of determining its accuracy or otherwise. It writes a letter to the person at the address that is on that roll, and the person could quite easily be at another address. When the electoral office does not get back a letter saying, 'That's not me because I'm not here'—which is a stupidity to think that someone who is not there could write back and say 'I'm not here'—it means that the information is automatically wrong.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member's time has expired. I call the Special Minister of State.

Mr Melham: Let her speak again.

Mr Gray: She can continue speaking.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The debate is continuing. You can speak, Member for Mackellar.