Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (31 March) . . Page.. 1449..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
I urge members to support this motion today.
MR STEFANIAK (4.40): The opposition will be supporting Mr Hargreaves's motion. One of the biggest problems of any electoral system is to ensure that as many people as possible vote. Even in a compulsory system, as the figures from the commission show, not everyone is enrolled. Some people simply do not want to enrol.
Mr Speaker, you, Mr Hargreaves, Mr Cornwell and I have scrutineered at a number of elections, and it is interesting to see some of the works of art, some of the not-so-great works of art and some of the crass comments made by people who want to vote informally. That is fair enough; at least they are enrolled. One of the beauties of the Australian electoral system, which is duplicated in all the states and territories, is that it is compulsory. It makes sure that people at least attempt to exercise their civic and democratic right, a right many people have fought and died for over the centuries and a right many people around the world would love to have but do not because they live in totalitarian dictatorships.
Mr Hargreaves's motion is timely. A lot of what he has in his motion is actually happening. He has a few interesting ideas. The second part of his motion calls on the commission to examine ways to encourage young people to enrol to vote, such as sending out enrolment information with year 12 school results, provisional driver's licence applications and proof-of-age cards. Let's try that. I do not know if that will work, but it does not hurt to try.
The Electoral Commissioner, Phillip Green, has sent a note to all MLAs, and I will read the salient points. It is dated 30 March-yesterday. He regurgitates Mr Hargreaves's motion and states:
The ACT Electoral Commission, in conjunction with the Australian Electoral Commission and other State and Territory electoral authorities, has in place a series of initiatives aimed at encouraging young people to enrol to vote.
For many years electoral authorities have been working to address the fact that a greater proportion of young people in the 18-24 year old age group tend not to be on the electoral roll compared to other age groups. It is a feature of this age group that a significant proportion of people delay their electoral enrolment until an election is announced and they are aware that electoral rolls are about to close.
In the ACT, it is estimated that currently around 78% of eligible Australian citizens in the 18-24 year old age group are enrolled. This compares to a national average of around 80% currently. It is anticipated that the proportion of young people enrolled in the ACT will increase significantly in the lead up to the October ACT election as people become aware of the deadline for enrolling for the election. At the 2001 election, it was estimated that the enrolment rate for this age group was around 90%.
It should be noted that these calculations use estimates of numbers of eligible citizens that make assumptions regarding likely numbers of people who are or are not eligible for enrolment. It is possible that the high number of non-Australian citizen students in the ACT may mean that these statistics under-estimate the actual proportion of eligible citizens enrolled in the 18-24 year old age group. Therefore these statistics need to be used with some caution.