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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 3748

Mr TUDGE (Aston) (13:41): Australia is a truly great democracy. We are indeed one of the great democracies of the world, the longest continuous democracy on the planet despite our relatively short history as a nation. We have never had a coup. We have never had a revolution. When we have elections at the state and federal level they are abided by. People go and cast their vote peacefully, generally without interruption. The ballot is cast, the votes are counted and the decision is made, and people adhere to that decision.

In fact, I often pose a question to members of school communities when I am speaking in their civics and citizenship classes. I ask: 'What normally happens after we have had an election and the government has lost the election? What normally happens the next day?' They look at me and scratch their heads and wonder what I am talking about, but of course the answer is that the next day after a government has lost an election, just like the Howard government did in 2007 when they lost to Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party, you go into your office and you pack up your office quietly. You go to your files and you shred some of your files, you tidy it up and you leave very peacefully. And you hand over the keys to what had previously been the opposition. That is what happens. It is a remarkable thing about democracies that this occurs. You do not need the police to come in. You do not need the military to come in to assess that or ask one party to leave and to hand the keys over to another party. No, it is all peacefully done, and enormous power is transferred from one group of people to another on the basis of an election.

The reason that that can occur is that we have integrity in the voting system. Both sides of this House and the Australian public know there is integrity in the voting system because we know that there is a system whereby people have to enrol to vote and that there is integrity in that process and we know that there is integrity in the process where the roll is marked off, where the votes are counted and where there is scrutineering all through the process.

I am deeply worried about the bills before us, the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Bill 2011 and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Protecting Elector Participation) Bill 2012, because I think they will damage this integrity. That is my primary concern in relation to this legislation, because this legislation enables the Australian Electoral Commission to use a variety of sources of information—which are unspecified to date—to update the electoral roll, whereas presently the system is that an individual must go and enrol to vote and must go and update that enrolment record if he or she has changed their circumstances, such as by changing address.

We on this side of the House are concerned that the system which is proposed here by the government and is outlined in this legislation will lead to a number of negative consequences.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): It being 1.45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.