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Thursday, 12 August 2021
Page: 8111

Mr MORTON (TangneyAssistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Assistant Minister for Electoral Matters and Assistant Minister to the Minister for the Public Service) (09:56): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am pleased to introduce the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Offences and Preventing Multiple Voting) Bill 2021. This bill amends the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to strengthen the integrity of our electoral system.

These amendments will help guard against instances of multiple voting and clarify circumstances that may constitute an offence of interference with political liberty under the Electoral Act. The amendment also increases the penalty associated with this offence.

Designated electors

While Australia is fortunate as a democratic nation to experience very few instances of voter fraud, this amendment will help strengthen our electoral system's defences against instances of multiple voting.

Schedule 1 to this bill amends the Electoral Act to introduce the category of 'designated elector'.

The amendment empowers the Electoral Commissioner to declare an elector a designated elector if the commissioner reasonably suspects that the elector has voted more than once in the same election. This conclusion could be drawn from data and investigations from previous electoral events.

If the Electoral Commissioner declares a person to be a designated elector, the commissioner must give the elector written notice of the decision and set out the elector's rights of review. These rights include having the decision reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

A designated elector will be protected in their entitlement to vote, only they will be required to cast a declaration vote. This means the elector will have to cast their vote through postal voting, pre-poll declaration voting, absent voting, or provisional voting.

The amendments prohibit the disclosure of a person's status as a designated elector. This is to maintain the privacy of a person's status as a designated elector.

A designated elector's declaration vote will not be withdrawn from its envelope until after the close of the poll. This provides a safeguard to ensure that, if the designated elector casts multiple votes in the election, only their declaration vote received first can be accepted into the count. This ensures that no voter is disenfranchised, but that nobody can vote more than once.

This amendment strengthens the integrity of our electoral system and maintains voter confidence in elections. It also aligns with other state jurisdictions that have taken similar steps to overcome instances of multiple voting.

Interference with political liberty

Schedule 2 to the bill amends the Electoral Act to clarify what may constitute interference with political liberty, which is an offence under the Electoral Act.

This clarification notes that violence, obscene or discriminatory abuse, property damage, and harassment or stalking with relevance to an election are examples of what can be considered interference with political liberty.

Further, the penalty for 'interference with political liberty' will be brought in line with the penalty in the Criminal Code for 'interference with political rights and duties'. The penalty will be increased from 'Imprisonment for six months, or 10 penalty units, or both' to 'Imprisonment for three years, or 100 penalty units, or both'.


These amendments will promote continued public confidence in the electoral process and ensure voters can participate in the electoral process free from harassment and intimidation.

Debate adjourned.