Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1678..
MR WOOD (continuing):
The government does not support replacing the traditional concept of polling day with a three-week polling period, as suggested by the Electoral Commission in its report. This is considered to be too big a change in the nature of the political process in the ACT. No changes to the Electoral Act are needed to continue the use of electronic voting and counting.
The measures listed in this bill include:
changes to the party registration scheme to clarify membership requirements;
the removal of non-party groups on ballot papers;
changes to postal voting procedures to increase the chance that votes will be included in the count;
preventing the Electoral Commissioner from taking part in the review by the Electoral Commission of a decision not to conduct a recount of ballot papers; and
bringing all the disclosure thresholds up to the same amount to remove inconsistencies in the current disclosure scheme.
I will address each of the proposed changes in more detail.
The bill will require a political party applying for registration to provide a list of members with its applications for registration. This list must contain the names and addresses of at least 100 members who are electors. The change will make mandatory a requirement that is currently up to the discretion of the Electoral Commission.
Party membership lists received by the Electoral Commissioner will not be able to be used for any purpose other than for checking whether a party has 100 members who are electors. The bill further provides that the Electoral Commissioner must refuse an application to register a political party if the commissioner believes on reasonable grounds that the party did not have at least 100 members who were electors on the date on which the party applied for registration.
These changes are intended to ensure that only eligible political parties will be able to apply for registration. By contrast, under the existing provisions, it is possible for a party to apply for registration before it has attained the necessary number of members needed for registration.
The bill also brings forward, to 30 June in an election year, the latest date on which an application for party or ballot group registration or an application to change the name or abbreviation of a registered political party or ballot group may be made before an election.
Providing this cut-off date ensures that there will be time for appeals to be made and considered against a decision to register a party or ballot group before the election period commences. By contrast, under the existing provisions a party or ballot group can be registered just before the start of the election period, leaving no time for appeals to be made against the registration.
The bill removes the provisions that allow candidates to form non-party groups on the ballot papers. Only candidates belonging to registered political parties or ballot groups