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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2341..


Wednesday, 25 August 1999

________________________

MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1999

MS TUCKER (10.32): I present the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2) 1999, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MS TUCKER: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

This Bill amends the Electoral Act to establish a process by which how-to-vote material provided by candidates can be displayed inside polling places. The current ban on distributing how-to-vote material outside of polling places is not affected.

This issue goes back to 1995 when the ban on the distribution of how-to-vote material outside polling places was introduced by the Liberal Government. The Government argued that this was consistent with the Hare-Clark voting system, or, more correctly, in fact, with the Robson rotation aspect of the voting system, that limited the ability of parties to list their candidates in a preferred order on the ballot paper. This ban was, however, contested in the Assembly. There were concerns that this ban limited people's democratic rights to participate in the electoral process. The Labor Party actually put up an amendment to achieve the same objectives as this Bill, although, I should add, not with the level of detail proposed in my Bill, which was defeated.

However, the Pettit Review of the Governance of the Australian Capital Territory, released in early 1998, recommended that "voters should be able, if they wish, to obtain how-to-vote cards at polling places; such cards should be available in each polling place, even if the ban on distributing them outside is maintained". The review noted that it is perfectly reasonable of voters to want to vote in the order proposed by a party or grouping of their choice. After all, they may prefer to take their guidance from a body that has more information than they personally have about the candidates and that possesses the capacity to coordinate votes.

This view was confirmed in surveys undertaken by the Electoral Commissioner at the 1998 election, the first with the ban on how-to-vote cards. Market research found that 37 per cent of voters said that they found how-to-vote cards useful. At an exit poll on election day 15 per cent of voters found it a problem that how-to-vote cards were not


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