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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2294


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(10.06) —I direct the Committee's attention to Division 580 which deals with the Australian Electoral Commission. I am one of the members of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform and I acknowledge that a considerable amount of progress has been made both in the establishment of the Commission and in legislative reform. But fundamentally the mechanisms of electoral reform will fail essentially for one government budgetary reason. All the elements are built around the fact that an electoral roll must be clean. The Government has not made any money available at all for a habitation review this year. It is a nonsense to set up an electoral commission, to give it the job of cleansing the rolls-making transfers, wiping out those people who have died and adding new people-if it cannot do one fundamental thing. This is doubly important. It is no use the Minister saying: `We have a three-year cycle; we can do it before an election or before the next shower of rain'. The fact is that the Government is rightly seeking to get an agreement with all States that there be a joint preparation of rolls and that the rolls be joint rolls. I think that only one State, or at the most two, now stand out. If a roll is to be in reasonable condition for any State election or for a Federal election whenever it may emerge, there must be a continuous habitation review and a continuous cleansing of the rolls so that both the States and the Commonwealth can have available a set of facts.

I was recently taken to see a demonstration of a pilot computer program that would do marvellous things if one had the millions of dollars to buy it. It can make sure that if somebody dies he or she is taken out of the roll and if somebody transfers somewhere that is noted on the rolls. The only trouble was that I asked a question that one should not ask-how one could tell whether the basic roll was clean. How does one check up ab initio on a person who is initially enrolled? There is absolutely no check at all. It is like expertly shuffling a crook pack of cards. Therefore, it is an absolute nonsense to set up mechanisms and for Senator Ray and me to come into this Parliament and talk about the virtues of how a redistribution is done. If we do a redistribution over seven years, we lock it in and we have a median point at three and a half years for a precise figure. At this moment we are very worried about whether there should be any tolerance at all. This is the essence of lunacy because one starts off with a gross error. We are playing silly little people's games. We are pretending to the community that a system is correct and accurate when in fact the very basis from which we start is not accurate.

I say emphatically that there is no sense in pretending that we have a basis of a sound electoral system particularly if we have joint Federal and State rolls if we will not make money available for habitation reviews. It is no use the Government saying that it might do it next year after or in the year before an election. Habitation reviews must be done continously in order to meet the demands of all States. It is nonsense to think of computerising rolls and shuffling the pack accurately when the pack itself is defective. I make the strong plea to the Minister that whatever the economies may be, the money must be allocated. One cannot have an effective parliamentary system with redistribution unless one's rolls are honest. At this moment the rolls are getting more and more erroneous, both for State and Federal purposes. Therefore, while commending the work of the Committee and the chairmanship of Senator Robert Ray, I must say that there is a fundamental error in the budgeting of a government which seeks not to cut the amount for a habitation review but to provide no money at all for it.