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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 5 Hansard (14 May) . . Page.. 2064..


MS TUCKER (11.00): This is the first of a set of amendments that Ms Dundas has put forward. They seek to implement earlier recommendations of the Electoral Commissioner, although they were not highlighted in the most recent report. The problem Ms Dundas seeks to address is that political parties or other political candidates have at times suggested that voters who require a postal vote send their application for a postal vote to the party who will then forward it to the Electoral Commissioner.

Several potential problems arise. First, it is possible for the receiving party to forget to pass on the registration forms, which disenfranchises people. There are penalties for this. But the damage is done as far as that person's vote in that election is concerned. Secondly, it tends to undermine one of the fundamental pillars of the democratic system, that the body running the elections is totally independent of any political party. There are also some privacy concerns involved. While parties and candidates can and probably should do what they can to encourage people to register to vote, including to register for postal ballots should they need one-and this means handing out the relevant forms-the forms should only be returned directly to the Electoral Commission.

The Greens support Ms Dundas's amendment and the rest in this package throughout the bill.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (11.01): As I indicated, the government does not support this amendment. I do not think there is absolutely any justification for it; I do not think there is any evidence that the system that operated in the ACT at the last election, and operates in every jurisdiction in Australia, has worked to the disadvantage of any electors at all. I do not think a scintilla of evidence has been produced to back up the assertions that are made by those that are supporting this. Not a scintilla of evidence has been produced to suggest that in the last ACT election a single elector was disenfranchised or disadvantaged as a result of the operation of this particular provision in our Electoral Act.

I challenge any member of this place who has stood up today to support this amendment to provide that scintilla of evidence of a single constituent that was disenfranchised or disadvantaged as a result of the operation of this particular provision in the Electoral Act. Give me one example. Give me one name of a person disadvantaged or disenfranchised as a result of the operation of this law. Give me the name of one elector that has come to you as a constituent and said, "I was disenfranchised."You cannot. You cannot do it.

This is a very good service provided by political parties, political aspirants and political candidates to the elderly, to the frail, to those who do not have mobility, to those who actually seek some sort of assistance. They will not get the same level of assistance; they will not get the same level of support. There is absolutely no justification or evidence-not a scintilla of evidence-to warrant this amendment. One must therefore ask why it is that it is being pursued. And we all know in our hearts why this is being pursued.

MRS CROSS (11.03): This still Independent member will support Ms Dundas's amendments. I make the comment that if the Chief Minister is going to go on like this about this mild amendment I can only imagine that we will be here till breakfast with all the rest.


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