Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2342 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
available to them. So there is a significant number of people in the community who feel disadvantaged by the lack of how-to-vote cards, which obviously affects their ability to cast an informed vote. I should add that our voting system already restricts the ability of parties to direct people's actual vote through the Robson rotation and the lack of the above the line voting as used in Senate elections. The ban on how-to-vote cards is somewhat superfluous in that regard.
It is an inherent feature of elections that parties attempt to influence people to vote for their preferred candidates. This is what election campaigning is all about. The fact that we have a preferential voting system also means that parties have an interest in where people place their preferences. There is no particular logic in stopping campaigning 100 metres from a polling booth. The argument that was put was that there is a value in banning how-to-vote cards outside polling places because of the potential for harassment of voters. The other argument was that it was a waste of paper, but we have seen that just as much paper is used. The Greens included this material with our ordinary election material, but the major parties used a lot of paper by putting how-to-vote material into the post pre-election. So we still had that coming from the parties.
The select committee that reviewed the recommendations of the Pettit report recommended that the present ban on how-to-vote cards at polling places remain. However, it did note that the ALP supported the introduction of how-to-vote cards, that the Greens supported the provision of how-to-vote cards inside polling places, and that the Government supported the provision of how-to-vote cards in polling booths subject to the ban outside polling booths being maintained. The Government also asked the committee to determine the most appropriate way to display how-to-vote cards inside polling booths. The Government's submission to the select committee's inquiry is quite clear on this point, but I note from recent media reports that the Government seems a bit confused about its position on this issue. Well, to help the Government sort out its position on the issue, we have worked out a feasible way to display how - to - vote cards within individual voting compartments by the provision of folders prepared by the Electoral Commissioner containing standardised how-to-vote material submitted by parties and independent candidates.
I should point out that this Bill was developed in consultation with the Electoral Commissioner who provided good professional advice on the practicalities of conducting elections. In this Bill we have made a point of minimising as much as possible any problems that the commissioner could face in implementing this proposal. Under the Bill each party or group of independent candidates and each ungrouped independent candidate in an electorate will be allowed one A4 page on which to place their how-to-vote material. Parties or independents can, of course, decide not to participate in this system. There is no obligation on them. The specifications for the how-to-vote material are fairly prescriptive in the Bill, but this is necessary to prevent candidates from using this process to include defamatory, obscene, misleading or irrelevant material under the guise of a how-to-vote card. There is also the need to standardise how-to-vote cards in terms of size and colour for ease of printing by the commissioner. The specifications are, however, broad enough to include all the things people would normally expect to see on a how-to-vote card.