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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (15 June) . . Page.. 1934 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

for election or persons or organisations involved in the political process engage in this activity for federal elections here in the ACT, affecting the very same constituents we service, we should not allow the same opportunity or capacity to people participating in elections for this parliament. There is no reason to discriminate between the two.

It is at times a service which many constituents-particularly the elderly, the less mobile, the frail, carers caring for people who cannot leave the house with ease-find invaluable. This sort of assistance is invaluable for so many people within the community. It is a service to constituents. It applies currently here in the ACT in relation to federal elections. There is absolutely no reason not to make this same service available in relation to local elections.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (9.32): I love the straight face when these arguments are put.

There is a very good reason why this is currently illegal in the ACT and ought to be illegal in federal elections as well. When we conduct elections, we want to be as neutral as possible right across the system, in every way we operate. That is why we have an Electoral Commission. It is to run a neutral election in every way we possibly can.

If older people are not being serviced well enough with electoral ballots, then as a parliament, as a government, we have to say to the Electoral Commissioner, "We have a gap in our service. You have to get postal ballots out to people and get them back in. Not enough is being done." That is if there is indeed an inadequacy.

The party machines want to get some advantage by getting their material-if you like, their how-to-vote cards-to electors with the ballot paper. That is manipulating the role of the Electoral Commission. That is what is wrong with it. That is why it is currently illegal here. That is why it should be illegal in every other state and territory and why it should be illegal federally.

We should not be copying a system that manipulates the electoral system. We should be keeping our system pure and hoping that, when the right circumstances arise, others will say, "We want neutral elections." They can then look at how it is done in the ACT where it is done very effectively. It is in the hands of the Electoral Commissioner. When the job is done inadequately the parliament, the government, can say to the Electoral Commissioner, "You have to do it better." That is if it is being done inadequately, as I suspect it is not. But if it is, that is the way to resolve it, not through this amendment.

This amendment is not about looking after older people. That can be done in an effective way, if it is necessary. This is about parties trying to gain more votes. Small parties and Independents do not do it. There is nothing stopping them from doing it. If they want to become efficient, they can to do it as well. I agree that it is equitable in that sense. The most important thing is that we want our elections conducted in a neutral way, and the way to do that is to allow this sort of task to be done by the Electoral Commission.

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