Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 1758 ..
MS FOLLETT: Mr Speaker, I am responding to points that were made by your Liberal colleagues in the course of this debate. Mr Humphries also damned himself by his own comments when he referred to voters relying on how-to-vote cards. It is abundantly clear to me, as a person who has worked in polling booths and around polling booths for well over 20 years, that a great number of voters do indeed rely on how-to-vote cards. Mr Humphries, in a slip of the tongue, admitted as much himself. The voters who rely on how-to-vote cards are very often people whose first language is not English. They are very often people who are not terribly familiar with the electoral system. They might be voting for the first time. They might be people whose literacy skills are not sufficient for them to readily cope with the voting process. They might be people who simply want to know how the party of their choice thinks they should best apply their vote. That is a very frequent request.
As Mr Humphries himself said, many voters rely on how-to-vote cards. The amendments that I have moved would allow people access to that information in a way that would not involve anybody standing around outside polling booths or printing of vast amounts of material, but it would ensure that voters had the option of seeking access to a how-to-vote card if they chose to do so. There is absolutely no question of compulsion or of people being told how to vote. To suggest that is an insult. That is not what I am proposing. My amendments propose a modest increase in information available to voters, and I believe that they ought to be supported by members of this Assembly who have the best interests of the voters, rather than of their individual political party or political future, in mind.
Remainder of Bill, as a whole, agreed to.
Postponed clause 4
MS FOLLETT (Leader of the Opposition) (5.04): My Labor colleagues and I will be opposing clause 4 because it removes the requirement that is currently in the Act for the visiting electoral officer at the mobile polling booth to provide to voters how-to-vote cards that have been provided by the candidates. Members who were here in the last Assembly might recall that the provision that we put in about visiting electoral officers, the mobile polling booths and the information that they could have available was an innovation that was introduced in the ACT upon the development of the ACT Electoral Act. From my recollection, it is an innovation that was supported by all of the members in this place who were in the last Assembly. It should have been supported, too, because it ensured that people who might not have access to the usual method of political communication, either because they were in hospital or because they were in the Remand Centre, had information on votes available to them. This ensured that their right to cast an informed vote was actually protected, despite the limitation on their access to the usual political advertising, the shopping centre stalls, the doorknocking and so on.
These are people, Mr Speaker, who are experiencing some degree of isolation from the rest of the community, either voluntarily or not, that could affect their access to information. I do not think there could possibly be a complaint that this one is a waste of paper. Only one how-to-vote card is supplied by a candidate or a party for use by all