Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 7 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 1904..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
Since the publication of its 2004 election review, the electoral commission has suggested changes to the postal voting processes. The government supports these changes as they will ensure a 21st century approach to providing postal voting services to electors at ACT Legislative Assembly elections. The changes will simplify the process of applying for postal votes by removing the need for a signature and a witness so as to allow voters to apply for postal votes by post, phone, email, internet and fax. The integrity of the postal vote process will be preserved by checking signatures on declarations accompanying postal ballots against signatures on the elector's electoral enrolment form.
To ensure that the simplification of the postal voting process does not lead to an increase in the number of electors unnecessarily applying for a postal vote, the bill modifies the grounds for applying for a postal vote. An elector will not be eligible to apply for a postal vote if the elector is able to attend a pre-poll voting centre in the ACT before polling day. This change is intended to boost attendance at pre-poll voting centres in preference to postal voting for those electors in the ACT unable to vote on polling day, as electors voting by post are more likely to have their votes rejected on a technicality compared to electors voting in a polling place or pre-poll centre.
The bill also contains significant amendments to the scheme for the disclosure of political donations and expenditure. In June last year the federal parliament amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act to raise its disclosure thresholds from $1,500 to over $10,000. At present, the ACT's disclosure scheme generally includes disclosure thresholds of $1,500. Before the commonwealth changed its thresholds, the ACT disclosure scheme was essentially the same as the commonwealth scheme.
Currently, political parties registered at both the ACT and commonwealth levels can satisfy the ACT disclosure requirements by providing the ACT Electoral Commission with a copy of their commonwealth annual disclosure return. This means that the commonwealth's $10,000 threshold effectively applies to ACT parties and associate entities that are federally represented, while those parties and other entities that are not federally represented are bound by the ACT's $1,500 threshold.
The government does not consider that a $10,000 threshold is appropriate for the ACT disclosure scheme. Adoption of this threshold in the ACT would result in little meaningful disclosure of the identity of donors. This bill, therefore, breaks the nexus with the commonwealth and retains disclosure thresholds at $1,500 in the ACT. The bill also includes changes to the disclosure scheme intended to minimise opportunities for avoiding disclosure, make publication of disclosure details more timely, extend disclosure requirements to online news publications, and reduce some of the complexity and inconsistencies in the current scheme.
Other amendments in the bill include: