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Monday, 18 June 2001
Page: 27696


Mr ANDREWS (2:18 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I ask the Prime Minister: what action is the Commonwealth government taking to protect and enhance the right of Australians to participate in free and democratic elections?


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Menzies for his question. Can I start my answer by saying that, by the standards of the world, Australia has not only a very fair and clean and open electoral system but also an extremely efficient one. It has been organised over the years on a nationally coherent basis, and I know that many Australians would have compared the national consistency of our system very favourably with that of the United States at the time of the last presidential election. Having said that, there is always room for improvement. It is not something about which we should be complacent.

I understand that there has been tabled in the parliament a report from the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. I have to say that in the time available I have not had an opportunity of reading the report, although I have been advised of some of its recommendations. I have in particular been advised of a recommendation that, in future, people who seek to get on the electoral roll should have to produce some identification. I have to say that at first blush it has always struck me as rather odd that you need more identification to get a video than you do to get on the electoral roll—that is a very odd circumstance. Whilst this is a matter that will need to be taken through the proper processes of the government and of the government parties—



Mr SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne!



Mr SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne Ports!


Mr HOWARD —I notice it is getting an excited response from those who sit opposite, Mr Speaker. The idea that you should actually have to establish your identity to get on the electoral roll is drawing bitter reaction from the member for Melbourne. Very, very, very interesting! Anyway, that is one of the recommendations. We will examine that recommendation and in due course make a decision. I will seek the views of my colleagues on that matter. I know that many of them have views, because they are concerned about maintaining the reputation of Australia for running fair, clean and open electoral contests. It is only when you have fair and open and clean electoral contests that you get the right result.

There are a number of other recommendations. I know one of them puts forward a principle that I have often heard enunciated in this parliament—including, I must say, from some members of the Australian Labor Party—and that is the principle of one vote one value. I think behind this is the notion that inside a political party there should not be A and B class shareholders; there should not be a group of people in a political party who have more clout than their numbers would warrant.

I have to say, speaking not only as Prime Minister but also as the leader of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party, that it is not a change that would give us any trouble, because we are a party that is very broadly based. We do not have bloc votes on the floors of state conferences dominated by trade unions, like others in this parliament have, and I cannot imagine either that this is a sort of change that would give any trouble to my good friend and colleague the Leader of the National Party of Australia, because this is also—



Mr HOWARD —But, as with the other amendments—the changes—we will have a look at them; we will examine their practicality. As I say, I have not had a chance to read the report, but I have got to say that at first blush the idea of asking somebody to prove who they are before they get on the electoral roll does not strike me as a particularly outrageous proposition.