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Monday, 18 June 2001
Page: 27678

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (12:56 PM) —This particular committee, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, is always going to be characterised by a degree of partisanship because the electoral laws of this country are of fundamental interest to both political parties. However, this year's inquiry into the integrity of the electoral roll was especially disturbing. If there were an indictment of the present chairman to be made, it would be the very number of resignations and/or purges of coalition members on this particular committee. Not only was the previous chairman replaced at a very early stage for Mr Pyne to come in and, basically in an attempt at careerism, manipulate this committee in a very partisan fashion, but also in the course of the inquiry we had an unprecedented two resignations from other members on the coalition side. That was of course preceded by the manner in which the minister set up the inquiry itself, without any consultation of the parliament itself. Then we had the display of the chairman: throughout the inquiry we had commentaries by him about witnesses, evidence and whether people were guilty or not guilty. We had his continual refusal to bring before this committee the Minister for Sport and Tourism, despite a very sustained interest by the media in her performance and involvement in the situation at Penrith City Council. We had, as we have said earlier, people threatened with a variety of public attacks on them and subpoenas threatened for all and sundry around the country, and at the same time this chairman would not even allow a number of Liberal Party MPs to be invited to speak to the committee. So there is a very big contrast in the way in which he handled those witnesses identified by the Labor Party and those identified by the coalition.

The situation is that he came here today and said, `We are not about making a distinction between rich and poor. Everyone's vote should be equal.' What this inquiry is fundamentally aimed at is to try to ensure that significant parts of our electorate do not vote. When he talks about 445 cases being referred to the police over a period of time, the reality is—he knows this, the police know it and the AEC knows it; everyone knows it, including him—that with the vast majority of these cases eventually it turns out that the people on the polling booths might have made mistakes or that people with intellectual disabilities are involved in this kind of field. But a more telling statistic than that is that, over the last four elections, a referendum and a constitutional convention, the total number of proven cases is 71—71 cases have emerged where there appears to have been electoral fraud proven. How many people voted in that period? Seventy-two million votes were cast in this country in those six electoral events.

Mr Danby —Exactly.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne Ports.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON —Seventy-two million people voted, and yet that group over there can only come up with 71 proven cases. They are saying that, because of that very scant evidence, that meagre number of instances, we should change our electoral laws to make it more difficult for people to enrol and more difficult for them to vote. The chairman did not make much reference today to their attempts to close down voting enrolment very soon after an election is called—within three days. Those opposite do not tell the Australian people that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Order! The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the member for Sturt wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?