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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (16 November) . . Page.. 3624..


Debate (on motion by Dr Foskey ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Adjournment

Motion by (Mr Hargreaves ) agreed to:

That the Assembly do now adjourn.

Electoral enrolment reforms

MS MacDONALD (Brindabella) (4.39): I wanted to rise this evening to discuss the federal government's electoral enrolment reforms, a matter which I think is of major concern for everyone in this place and should be for anyone who wishes to express their political right to vote. For the past 150 years Australia has been an innovator in progressive reform and democratic processes; and in electoral reform we have always been a world leader.

Governments of all persuasions share the credit for these reforms, which have usually had bipartisan support. As a result, Australia has had one of the most open electoral systems in the world with an excellent reputation for integrity and transparency. Many other countries looked to us when they were designing or reforming their electoral processes.

However, our open electoral system is now greatly diminished because the Howard government has used its majority in both houses of parliament to wind back some of the most progressive features of our electoral system. The only reason for these reforms seems to be for its own short-term partisan advantage.

In December last year the Howard government introduced the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2005. This legislation is expected to commence in mid-December this year and was touted by the Special Minister of State, Senator Eric Abetz, as a necessary measure to improve the integrity of Australia's electoral system by reducing the opportunities for electoral fraud.

Let me put it clearly on the record right here that I am now, and have always been, opposed to electoral fraud. Senator Abetz has openly admitted that there is not, and has never been, any evidence to show that any election outcome has been affected by fraud in the history of our country. What then is the Howard government's agenda in amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act?

When we look at exactly what changes these reforms will make, its motivation becomes clear: to disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters for its own partisan self-interest. The major changes these new reforms make are: increasing the amount above which donations to a political party must be declared; tougher identity requirements for enrolment and to cast a provisional vote; and the earlier closure of electoral rolls.


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