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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 185


Mr DUBOIS —My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. What action is being taken to analyse the informal vote at the last Federal election?


Mr YOUNG —It is true, as all honourable members know, that we did have an exceedingly high informal vote at the 1984 House of Representatives election. Prior to the election the Australian Electoral Commission did a number of surveys of the electorate as to people's understanding of the new voting system for the Senate. From results the Commission was getting from that research it was obvious that very few people, less than 5 per cent in fact just a few months before the election, understood the new system that had been put in place by this Parliament acting on the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform in that we could have a list system of voting for the Senate.

The Electoral Commission persuaded the Government that resources ought to be given to it to be able to publicise, in all forms of media, the new system that was to apply at the 1984 election for the voting for the Senate. It was unfortunate that in doing so-I do not think that anybody has laid claim to the fact that he might have been wiser then than he is now-it was overlooked that this might have some impact on how people voted for the House of Representatives, in respect of which the Joint Committee and indeed the Parliament had made no change at all.

The fact is that there were 625,000 informal votes for the House of Representatives in 1984 compared with 185,000 in 1983. For the Senate the campaign worked very successfully. In 1983 there were 872,000 informal votes, which I think all of us would agree is a disgrace to the system. In 1984 that figure had been reduced by half-to 440,000 informal votes for the Senate-which was the objective of this Parliament in changing the system. I think it was a very wise course to adopt. There was also a very disturbing feature about the referendums, in that the informal vote was also over 400,000 on the simultaneous elections question and 600,000 on the interchange of powers question.

The Australian Electoral Commission is currently carrying out a comprehensive survey of all the informal papers, the results of which will be known to us next month. The survey will make known to us practically all the information in relation to the Parliament that surrounds the reason why people may have voted informally. There have been lots of theories, but some of those theories have already been somewhat exploded--


Mr Ian Cameron —You are worried about this now only after you have the redistribution through.


Mr YOUNG —The honourable member ought to be careful because I think there might be a big bonus in this informal vote for us in the next election. He had better have a close look. I advise him to just be very patient.


Mr Brumby —How is Andrew going to look then?


Mr YOUNG —The honourable member does not have to worry about Andrew because the honourable member for Bennelong is not playing trivial pursuits; he is after Andrew's job. When the results of the Commission's survey are known, not only will they be up for discussion within the Parliament, but also obviously the Government would want to refer them to the Joint Committee. Any recommendations the Joint Committee has in order that we may be able to improve the system even further would be looked on favourably by the Government.