Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (16 November) . . Page.. 3625..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
The earlier closure of the electoral rolls is a critical issue, as it could result in thousands of Canberrans and Australians missing out on their right to vote. For citizens wanting to be added to the electoral roll, the roll close at 8.00 pm on the day the election writs are issued. Citizens previously had seven days to enrol from the time the writs were issued.
As Australia does not have fixed date elections at a federal level, the Prime Minister is able to call an election without any warning. This means that, if a resident is not enrolled the day the writs are issued, they have to be in a position to enrol that day or they will miss out. In other words, they need to be in a position where they can drop everything and go and enrol.
This is a completely unrealistic situation to place people in. Closing the electoral roll for most new enrolees on the day the writs are issued and only giving existing enrolees three days to correct their details is likely to disenfranchise many young people who are unaware that an election may be called.
At the 2004 election 284,000 people enrolled or changed their enrolment in the five working days between issuing the writs and closure of the roll. This included nearly 80,000 Australians hoping to vote for the first time.
While the federal Liberal Party has suggested it has no partisan interest in preventing young people from voting, the 2004 Australian Election Study showed there was a large increase in the percentage of young people voting for parties other than the Liberal Party.
The Howard government's electoral reforms will impact the ACT in a number of ways, as the ACT Electoral Commissioner, Phil Green, told the legal affairs committee on 2 November. With regard to the earlier closure of the rolls, Mr Green said:
Typically hundreds of thousands of people take advantage of that week to update their enrolment or to enrol for the very first time.
He went on to say:
Because the commonwealth is cutting that period short, there will no doubt be some people who will miss out who would otherwise have corrected their enrolment. The fact that our election is a year after the commonwealth election will mean, quite possibly, that our roll will not be in as good a shape as it might have been if people were correctly enrolled after the commonwealth election.
I am running out of time. I had a bit more to say, but I will say that it is vitally important to oppose these changes.
Vietnam Veterans Federation
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (4.44): I have recently received a letter from James Wain, the President of the Vietnam Veterans Federation (ACT Branch) Inc. The last paragraph of the covering letter says: