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Friday, 2 December 1983
Page: 3206

Senator PETER BAUME(9.48) —I seek the advice of the Committee. I understand that Senator Harradine may wish to recommit an earlier clause. At what stage would that be taken on?

Senator Gareth Evans —We are not quite ready.

Senator PETER BAUME —In that case I shall deal with clause 88. The effect of paragraph (b) of clause 88 is to allow people to cast an ordinary vote anywhere within their electoral division. At present a person is required to vote within the subdivision for which he or she is registered. I move:

(10) Page 107, paragraph 88 (b), lines 26 and 27, leave out the paragraph.

The Opposition is seeking to maintain the current situation whereby people can vote in subdivisions and need to vote absentee if they vote outside those subdivisions. We are not necessarily trying to force people to vote in any place . We are asking that if a person votes outside his subdivision it be recorded that he cast an absentee vote. The Opposition believes, and those who have been in the system for a while believe they have anecdotal evidence to support this. The Government's amendment to the Act would offer wider opportunities for electoral abuse. We believe anything that gives any kind of opportunity for electoral abuse should be examined very carefully.

If someone wished to impersonate other people or go around different subdivisions and cast a vote on a number of occasions, to undertake multiple voting, that impersonator would be difficult to identify or recognise in a large electorate. Further, if people are allowed to cast an ordinary vote anywhere in a division that vote is placed in the ordinary count and cannot be identified. On the other hand the validity of an absentee vote, the same as postal votes or section votes, can be identified and is subject to scrutiny before it is added to the count. We do not believe that it would make it impossible for people to vote at any polling booth they wanted to attend. It would simply require them, if they were outside their own subdivision, to vote by way of absentee vote. The validity of their vote would then be checked. If there was any evidence of multiple voting the vote could be held out of the count. All that we are seeking to do is provide a mechanism whereby, if someone attempted multiple voting, it could be detected. Since absentee votes would require validation before they could be added to the count, such votes could be held out of it. We would not, in fact, be restricting where people could go. We would be merely identifying the kind of vote that they would have to cast. We believe that it would become more difficult for a particular abuse to occur. For that reason it is an amendment that is worthy of consideration.