House of Representatives Committees

Standing Committee on Electoral Matters

Committee activities (inquiries and reports)

The 1993 federal election - Government response

(Tabled on 21 September 1995)

This document has been scanned from the original government response. It may contain some errors.

THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE REPORT OF THE JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON ELECTORAL MATTERS ENTITLED "THE 1993 FEDERAL ELECTION"

On 9 November 1994 the Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Senator Dominic Foreman, tabled the Report into the Inquiry into the 1993 Federal Election.

Recommendation 1
That the AEC notify political parties and candidates at least 48 hours in advance of the date, time and place of a proposed visit of a mobile polling booth to an institution.

Response
Supported. Under existing administrative arrangements all candidates are advised in writing of times and places of mobile polling in institutions at least one week before the commencement of mobile polling. The State Branches of the major political parties will be advised, as well. However, it should be noted that mobile polling often requires last minute rescheduling within 48 hours of polling day due to local circumstances. For these reasons notification should remain an administrative arrangement and not be made mandatory by law.

Recommendation 2
That all patients in institutions be advised of their right to cast a postal vote if they are unable to vote at a mobile polling booth. The AEC should provide advisory forms for distribution in the institutions to assist in this process.

Response
Supported. Hospital and institutional administrations are already supplied during the election period with postal voting materials where mobile polling facilities exist. The AEC will undertake to provide a standard advisory form to hospital and institutional administrations for distribution to patients and inmates prior to the visits by polling officials.

Recommendation 3
That standing instructions for AEC officers be amended to make clear that all patients in hospitals and nursing homes are to be presumed able to exercise their right to vote, unless the responsible AEC officer is satisfied on medical grounds that a patient is too incapacitated to cast a vote.

Response
Supported. However, the decision of the responsible AEC officer should only be made on the advice of a medical practitioner or a responsible member of the medical staff of the hospital.

Recommendation 4
That the AEC improve education for hospital and nursing home administration staff to ensure that patients are not deprived of the right to vote, and that the rights of party scrutineers are understood and applied consistently.

Response
Supported. The AEC will arrange for information to be made available to party scrutineers and to hospital and nursing home administrations for distribution to staff members.

Recommendation 5
That section 234 of the Electoral Act be amended to require that:

Response
Supported in part. While the recommendation to advise every elector voting at mobile booths of their right to assistance is supported, it is essential that the right of the elector to nominate whoever they wish to assist them in casting their vote be retained. Existing administrative arrangements already require polling officials to advise voters of their right to assistance. However, the recommendation appears to seek to prevent the voter from nominating a friend or relative or a hospital staff member to assist them. This would constitute an unnecessary reduction in the current rights of the assisted voter and may cause distress to the aged and frail. The recommendation also appears to seek to allow all polling officials and scrutineers to observe the marking of ballot papers in all cases. This would infringe the secrecy of the ballot. Finally, the recommendation that polling officials and scrutineers should be formally identified to each voter is already catered for by provisions of the Act which require all polling officials and scrutineers to wear identification.

Recommendation 6
That subsection 226(5)(a) of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that subsection 340(1) (relating to canvassing near polling places) applies to a hospital that is a polling place, or a special hospital within the meaning of section 225, once such a hospital is actually in use as a polling place rather than from the issue of the writ.

Response
Supported in part. For special hospitals, within the meaning of section 225, canvassing should not be permitted on any of the five days prior to and including polling day when mobile polling may take place. Without a definite cut off there is the possibility of disputes between mobile polling staff and canvassers, especially when last minute changes to mobile visiting times have been made necessary. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament disallows canvassing in and around hospitals that are polling places on polling day and in special hospitals during the five days before and including polling day.

Recommendation 7
That subsection 225(1) of the Electoral Act be amended so that special hospitals can be gazetted at any time.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament makes provision for this.

Recommendation 8
That subsection 227(4) of the Electoral Act be amended to delete the requirement for the AEC to gazette the details of visits to remote communities by mobile polling teams, and to insert a requirement that the AEC give maximum public notice of the places, dates and times of such visits.

Response
Supported. While gazettal of the place to be visited would continue, gazettal of other details is unnecessary and does not assist public information. Public notices lodged in other mediums, such as local newspapers, would more readily come to the attention of electors and allow the AEC more flexibility in scheduling mobile polling visits.

Recommendation 9
That subsection 222(2) of the Electoral Act be amended to restrict the right to vote, at a hospital which is declared a polling place, to an elector who is attending the hospital on polling day as a patient or visitor of a patient or an employee in the hospital.

Response
Not supported. Implementation of this recommendation would disadvantage the public in their not being able to vote in places which are essentially public places. Polling booths in hospitals are established on the approval of the hospital administration and in such a location as to not inconvenience the day to day operation of the hospital. They operate as any other polling place on polling day, except that mobile teams also operate in the hospital wards. Should such a convenient location not be available in the hospital, a polling booth is not established on polling day. Instead, the hospital is declared as a special hospital and only mobile polling is undertaken. The implementation of this recommendation would create a practical problem of enforcement, effectively requiring the polling officials to interrogate voters as to their eligibility in an environment where such officiousness would not be appreciated.

Recommendation 10
That the AEC, in consultation with the political parties, review procedures to ensure that access to polling booths in remote and isolated areas is equally available to scrutineers for all candidates contesting an election in a Division.

Response
Not supported. Administrative arrangements already require the AEC to advise candidates of remote mobile polling schedules and to carry how-to-vote cards where scrutineers are unable to reach all remote locations. This is the extent of the involvement the AEC should have in the canvassing activities of the candidates and political parties. The AEC should not be responsible for directly providing or in other ways ensuring that scrutineers have access to remote mobile locations, by for example providing transport. This should remain the responsibility of the political parties and candidates. The provision of transport facilities to remote polling places for the scrutineers of all candidates would not be economically feasible.

Recommendation 11
That the AEC minimise the use of dual booths at the next federal election.

Response
Supported. While the use of dual booths increases the number of ordinary votes to be counted and speeds the result in an election, the AEC recognises the difficulties experienced by participants in the voting process resulting from dual polling booths. Accordingly, the AEC will actively review these and other polling places with a view to their rationalisation. Where population research indicates voter convenience and operational efficiency will be enhanced by the provision of dual booths, ways of providing for better signposting, better separation of voters, and better education will be investigated to minimise any identifiable local difficulties. It is noted that the Committee appears to be inconsistent in commending the use of multiple booths in metropolitan locations but not dual booths on Divisional boundaries.

Recommendation 12
That the AEC consult all parties contesting an election about the location of dual booths in a Division.

Response
Not supported. The use of existing dual polling booths and the creation of new ones are decided well in advance of the election period on the basis of population research and administrative guidelines with the aim of enhancing voter convenience and operational efficiency, and before all parties contesting an election are known. Administrative arrangements already exist for Members of Parliament to be notified of any revisions to polling place appointments within their Division.

Recommendation 13
That the Officers-In-Charge of polling places be granted access before polling day, on a confidential basis, to the names of the candidates selected for the two candidate preferred count.

Response
Supported. OICs will be required to observe secrecy of the information until 6 pm on election night.

Recommendation 14
That sections 274 and 284 of the Electoral Act be amended so that the two candidate preferred count is in future extended to declaration vote scrutinies in all electoral Divisions.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament makes provision for this.

Recommendation 15
That section 266 of the Electoral Act concerning the preliminary scrutiny of declaration votes be amended so as to provide that the preliminary scrutiny of declaration votes may begin on the Monday before polling day.

Response
Supported. This will provide faster election results and improve administrative efficiency by reducing post-polling day pressures on staff and the computer network.

Recommendation 16
That section 273 of the Electoral Act be amended so that, if at any stage of the Senate count the arithmetic based on the group voting tickets shows that only one result is possible, the count will cease and the candidate or candidates will be elected, and so that if the arithmetic based on the group voting tickets shows that the exclusion of a number of candidates is inevitable, those candidates will be excluded in bulk.

Response
Supported. With appropriate checks, this will increase the efficiency of the Senate scrutiny.

Recommendation 17
That section 273 of the Electoral Act be amended so as to permit the Senate scrutiny to be carried out by either the current manual processes or by a computer process based on the same principles as the manual count.

Response
Supported. The computer process should also include the option that the bulk exclusion and deferral of surplus distribution provisions, and the new provisions described in Recommendation 16, need not be carried out. The bulk exclusion and deferral of surplus provisions were introduced, and those regarding the arithmetic based on GVT have been recommended, to provide mechanisms for speeding the manual Senate count. These mechanisms should become superfluous with a computer based process, and therefore should not be included in such a process, unless the speed of computer process would be enhanced by their inclusion.

Recommendation 18
That before any such computer process is adopted for the Senate scrutiny, the AEC undertake consultations with all interested parties including this Committee.

Response
Supported. The AEC will consult with interested parties in particular to ensure that scrutineering provisions are workable.

Recommendation 19
That the AEC keep Parliament advised on progress m converting its on-line Roll Management System (RMANS) from a voter-based to an address-based format.

Response
Supported. The AEC will provide the Minister and the Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters with status reports on the development of the address-based system.

Recommendation 20
That the AEC negotiate with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in order to establish more extensive cross-checking of citizenship information.

Response
Supported in principle. Provided that checks do not have to be made at the point of enrolment, but rather that checks are made periodically by matching data, this source of information would be valuable in keeping the Rolls up to date. Privacy concerns with respect to data-matching would need to be addressed.

Recommendation 21
That section 92 of the Electoral Act be amended to allow more flexibility in the timing of electoral roll reviews and so as to ensure that roll reviews are conducted between elections on an ongoing basis.

Response
Supported in part. More flexibility is required, but to allow for the conduct of short roll reviews targeted in a particular region where it is known there is under-enrolment or high residency turnover, and close to an electoral event such as a by-election, or in conjunction with other population reviews such as those conducted by postal and electricity authorities. Such short, targeted reviews would be, more cost efficient than a continuous review in every electoral Division. There should also be the flexibility to conduct either full reviews each 2 years, as is the current situation, or the targeted reviews, or both, as circumstances require.

Recommendation 22
That the AEC pilot a continuous electoral roll review in a number of Divisions, with the Divisional Returning Officers in question having electoral roll review funding available over a two year period, and the authority to set the most appropriate work program for their own Divisions.

Response
Supported in part. See recommendation 21. It would be more cost-efficient to conduct short roll reviews in particular targeted locations rather than continuous roll reviews.

Recommendation 23
That the AEC display in the relevant Divisional office and make available to interested parties lists of names proposed for removal from the electoral rolls before those removals are actioned.

Response
Not supported. This is an invasion of personal privacy and would distress many electors. The process of objection removal is between the elector and the AEC only. The Electoral Roll and deletions lists are already publicly available to those who wish to enquire, and are provided on an ongoing basis to political parties. In addition, the recommendation would be costly and inefficient. For example, in the current Queensland roll review, some 150,000 names have been listed for objection, which would require printout of some 3,000 pages to be displayed.

Recommendation 24
That procedures be amended so that AEC staff, particularly in rural and remote areas, are obliged to record and make use of postal addresses as well as residential addresses. The postal addresses should be provided to parties contesting an election.

Response
Supported. Where postal addresses are provided by the elector, they are already recorded and used in most AEC correspondence with the elector, including objection action. Members of Parliament and registered political parties are already supplied with postal as well as street addresses outside the election period.

Recommendation 25
That the AEC, particularly in rural and remote areas, make greater use of telephone checks and co-ordination with local authorities or community groups to clarify residency status before removing names from the rolls.

Response
Supported. This would assist in maintaining the accuracy of the Roll.

Recommendation 26
That the AEC conduct an evaluation of its enrolment program in remote areas and provide a report on the evaluation to the Committee.

Response
Supported. The operation of the ATSIEIS program in remote areas is already being evaluated by an external consultant. The AEC is conscious of the difficulties associated with enrolment in remote areas. Evaluation is also difficult due to the lack of reliable census data in remote areas and the fact that voting statistics in these areas are not a good guide to enrolment.

Recommendation 27
That subsection 118(5) of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that the period during which a Divisional Returning Officer cannot remove a name from the roll following objection action commences at the close of rolls.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 28
That section 114 of the Electoral Act be amended so that an elector objecting to the enrolment of another elector on the ground that the challenged elector is of unsound mind need not be enrolled in the same Division, and that section 115 be amended to provide that the $2.00 fee not be required for objections on the ground of unsound mind.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 29
That the instructions for ATSIEIS Field Officers be amended to make clear that those officers have a responsibility to engage in enrolment activity, as well as their educative role.

Response
Supported. Administrative arrangements have already been revised to ensure that ATSIEIS officers have a responsibility to engage in enrolment activity. This will have a very positive flow-on effect for ATSIC elections.

Recommendation 30
That section 370 of the Electoral Act, restricting legal representation before the Court of Disputed Returns, be repealed.

Response
Supported. Comments from the High Court Bench indicate that the current provision may inhibit proper court practices.

Recommendation 31
That section 356 of the Electoral Act be amended so that the security for costs required of a petitioner to the Court of Disputed Returns is $500.

Response
Supported. At present the security for costs is so low that it does not provide any barrier to vexatious and frivolous petitions.

Recommendation 32
That a fine not exceeding $50 be introduced in support of subsection 92(1) of the Electoral Act, relating to provision of information required for preparation, maintenance or revision of electoral rolls.

Response
Supported. Advice will be sought on whether a penalty to be paid on the spot would be more effective than a fine.

Recommendation 33
That the Electoral Act be amended so that during the close of rolls period DROs have the authority to arrange, where practicable, to collect mail directly from mail exchanges and mail sorting/delivery centres in their Division to expedite the processing of enrolment forms before the close of rolls.

Response
Supported in part. However, it should be noted that the boundaries covered by mail exchanges bear no direct relationship to Divisional, boundaries. This should remain as a discretionary activity dependent on local arrangements and not mandatory in law.

Recommendation 34
That section 102 of the Electoral Act be amended so that the hour at which the rolls close be changed to 8pm.

Response
Supported. While the implementation of this recommendation will not eliminate late enrolments, it will provide a facility for those who are unable to reach an electoral office until after hours on close of rolls day.

Recommendation 35
That AEC offices open to the public from 8.30am to 8pm during the close of rolls period (Saturday and Sunday included).

Response
Not supported. The implementation of this recommendation will not eliminate late enrolments and the disadvantages of hindrance to the election preparations and the increased administrative overheads will outweigh any additional convenience to the public. Divisional staff use the after business hours period to catch up on enrolment processing and other administrative duties in the planning and preparation for polling, without the distraction of telephone and counter enquiries.

Recommendation 36
That the Government examine the introduction into the Citizenship Oath of a simple mechanism for the renunciation of foreign allegiance.

Response
Supported in principle. The Government accepts the point made by the Committee that there is a need to further clarify citizenship requirements for candidates notwithstanding the Sykes v Cleary case. Based on the High Court judgement in that case there must be some doubt as to whether the measure suggested by the Committee of introducing into the Citizenship Oath a renunciation of foreign allegiance would be effective. The Government does agree however, that the issue of citizenship requirements should be considered by relevant Ministers before the next election and will be referred for that purpose to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Attorney-General.

Recommendation 37
That the nomination form be amended to clarify the question on compliance with section 44 of the Constitution and remove the "double negative".

Response
Supported. The actual wording of the Constitution should remain but clarification can be provided in a footnote.

Recommendation 38
That subsection 166(1)(b) of the Electoral Act be amended so that the number of signatures required in support of nominations for the House of Representatives and Senate be increased to 100 and 500 eligible voters respectively, and that signatories print their names and addresses as well as signing the nomination form.

Response
Not supported. Such a requirement would disadvantage independent candidates without a large organised party structure, and particularly independent Senate candidates in the smaller States and the Territories. From a practical point of view such a requirement would place an unsupportable burden on AEC staff in having to do enrolment checks on all signatories, especially where nominations are lodged close to the close of nominations. Consideration could be given instead to increasing the nomination deposit to deter frivolous nominations.

Recommendation 39
That subsection 167(3) and sections 177 and 180 of the Electoral Act be amended so that the whole of a political party's bulk nomination of House of Representatives candidates is not invalidated by a) the death or withdrawal of a candidate within that bulk nomination or b) a bulk-nominated candidate also nominating separately. If necessary a bulk nomination should be able to override an individual nomination.

Response
Supported in part. A bulk nomination should not be invalidated by the death or withdrawal of a candidate or by a bulk-nominated candidate nominating separately. However, duplicate nominations in the same name should not be permitted, whereas duplicate nominations in different names but with the same party endorsement should stand.

Recommendation 40
That in the case of bulk nomination of House of Representative candidates, nomination refund cheques be directed to the party/person which paid the nomination fee, rather that being addressed direct to the relevant candidates.

Response
Supported. This would be administratively more convenient for the AEC and it is standard government accounting practice to refund any moneys paid to the Australian Government back to the original payee.

Recommendation 41
That section 167 of the Electoral Act be amended so that a national officer of a registered political party can make a "bulk nomination" of that party's endorsed House of Representatives candidates. If necessary, a national nomination should be able to override a State nomination.

Response
Supported in principle. In making recommendation 41, the Committee appears to have proceeded on a misunderstanding of the present position and consequently there is - no need to amend the the Act to achieve the first part of the recommendation. The current legislation allows the registered officer of a nationally registered party to nominate House of Representatives candidates in any State or Division, provided the nomination is to the Australian Electoral Officer, if made in bulk for the whole of the State/Territory, or to the Divisional Returning Officer, if made for an individual Division. The second part of the recommendation is supported in principle. It is important that the AEC not be involved in what could essentially be a difficulty between the national and State administrations of a political party. In situations where there is a bulk nomination from both the registered officer of the nationally registered party and the registered officer of the registered State branch of the same party, unless there is a written (lodged with the AEC) agreement between the State and national registered officers as to which nomination are to remain in force, the State nominations are to take precedence and the others rejected. A similar arrangement should take place where bulk nominations are made by the registered officers of the "home" State and another State, whereby the 'nominations of the "home" State registered officer would take precedence, unless there is some agreement in place.

Recommendation 42
That sections 156, 175 and 176 of the Electoral Act be amended, so that the minimum period from the date of the writ to the close of nominations is reduced to five days (that is, a nominations period of not less than five days nor more than 28 days) with the hour of nomination to be 12 noon and nominations to be declared at 5pm on the same' day.

Response
Not supported. With a minimum nomination period of 5 days, nominations would close before the close of rolls. The close of rolls must be before the close of nominations because the enrolment of nominators must be checked. The recommendation could also lead to a close of rolls being very close to close of nominations which would be administratively unsupportable. A 24 hour period between close of nominations and declaration of nominations would be more useful. Overall any reduction in the period from the issue of the Writ to the close of nominations would cut drastically into election preparation time.

Recommendation 43
That the Electoral Act be amended to prohibit a postal vote application form, or a reproduction thereof, being incorporated with material issued by any body other than the AEC.

Response
Response deferred for further consideration.

Recommendation 44
That the Electoral Act be amended so that a postal vote application form and associated material sent to electors shall nominate only the appropriate office of the AEC as the return address for the application form.

Response
Response deferred for further consideration.

Recommendation 45
That the AEC provide candidates' scrutineers daily with a list of names and addresses (excluding the addresses for "silent enrolments') of applicants for postal votes.

Response
Not supported. 'Me recommendation would impose considerable administrative burdens on Divisional office staff during the already, busy election period. The AEC does not make lists of who apply for a postal vote, but merely places the applications in an order to facilitate checking signatures against those on the certificate envelopes during the scrutiny. The number of postal vote applications received in Divisional offices ranges from about 700 to over 3,500 at each election. Further, electors are entitled to apply for a postal vote without that information being supplied by the AEC to political parties who may then single the elector out for canvassing purposes. This may discourage some electors from voting at all, and would certainly give rise to complaints such as from electors who are absent from their homes. Political parties have the right to examine postal vote applications after the election.

Recommendation 46
That subsection 189(3) of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that all information (excluding the elector's name) on postal vote applications from silent enrolment electors be deleted or obliterated before public inspection.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 47
That subsection 186(2) of the Electoral Act be amended so that a General Postal Voter can register to be sent ballot papers and a declaration envelope without a postal vote application form being required, provided that the voter lives more than 100 kilometres from a polling booth.

Response
Supported in principle. However, all registered postal voters should be sent ballot papers directly without the need for an application. This would bring the AEC in line with many of the States and reduce voter confusion. There is no justification provided for the arbitrary 10Okm limit and it fails to take account of the real problem. The test for whether a General Postal Voter should be sent ballot papers direct is not one of distance, but one of the difficulty and unreliability of mail deliveries. For example, there is an island off Tasmania which is only about 20 kms from, the nearest polling booth, but which only receives weekly mail deliveries. In the Northern Territory, with approximately 200 mobile polling places and 40 static polling places, almost every elector would be ineligible under the 100 km rule, yet in some remote areas mail deliveries are weekly at best.

Recommendation 48
That subsection 184A(2) of the Electoral Act be amended to include an elector who is caring for someone with a serious illness or infirmity as an elector able to register as a General Postal Voter.

Response
Supported.

Recommendation 49
That the Electoral Act be amended as necessary to allow for interstate absent voting in those Divisions bordering State boundaries.

Response
Not supported. The AEC currently provides facilities for interstate voters on polling day in locations where it has been established that a need exists. These facilities are reviewed between each election. For example, facilities are located at resort towns and cities (both close to borders and elsewhere), cross-border locations, interstate highway border towns and many other locations. For the 1993 election there were 182 centres providing facilities for interstate voting on polling day, in addition to the 147 Divisional offices. Whilst there may be a gain in service to some electors in remote localities, this would be counter-balanced by administrative complications and increased costs. The recommendation would introduce interstate absent voting for two entire States at certain remote polling places. For example, the Division of Grey would not only have to provide for and issue ballots for all other South Australian Divisions, but also for Kalgoorlie WA, Northern Territory, Maranoa QId, Farrer and Parkes NSW, a total of 5 extra Divisions and all the material this implies, for perhaps a handful of voters. Advertising and public information campaigns by the AEC would be complex and expensive. The AEC would effectively have to mount separate information campaigns aimed at just residents in the affected Divisions. Finally, this recommendation appears to run counter to the intention behind recommendation 11 for the minimisation of dual polling booths.

Recommendation 50
That the Electoral Act be amended as necessary so that an elector may cast a pre-poll vote up to the close of polls in the State or Territory in which the vote is cast.

Response
Supported. Electors should be able to enjoy the same conditions for voting as other electors in their host State. It will also reduce voter confusion.

Recommendation 51
That section 94 of the Electoral Act be amended so that Eligible Overseas Electors can register:

Response
Supported. This will apply to only a very few electors, will extend the franchise, and will not add significantly to administrative costs.

Recommendation 52
That the AEC conduct an ongoing public education campaign, through means including the media and school system where possible, aimed at improving understanding of the preferential voting system.

Response
Supported. The AEC has already done a lot of work in this area in recent years through the electoral education program. in schools. However, media promotion outside the election period may be questioned in terms of cost efficiency and the retention period of the message.

Recommendation 53
That subsection 328(1) of the Electoral Act relating to publication of electoral material be amended, so that the word "poster" is added to the words "electoral advertisement, handbill, pamphlet or notice".

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 54
162. That the Electoral Act and the Broadcasting Act 1942 be amended as necessary to allow registered political parties to display, for at least one second, a registered party logo and party name as an alternative to the existing "written, spoken and authorised by" announcement used for television advertising.

Response
Supported in principle. In recent years broadcasting matters have been deliberately removed from the Commonwealth Electoral Act and included in the Broadcasting Services Act. The registration and control of political party logos during the election period should be the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and not the AEC. This matter will be referred to the Minister for Communications and the Arts for consideration.

Recommendation 55
That the AEC investigate means by which how-to-vote material could be displayed inside polling places at future federal elections.

Response
Supported. The AEC will investigate the feasibility of the display of HTV cards in polling booths with the following reservations. The priority for the AEC is the display of its own voter assistance material. The AEC cannot become involved in policing delivery or specifying the size, spacing or coverage of voter assistance by political parties. There may be problems with the size of the Senate ballot paper where space is restricted in polling booths. Trialling at by-elections should be conducted.

Recommendation 56
That section 332 of the Electoral Act be amended so that, in the case of a letter to the editor, only the author's name and suburb/locality need be shown. The newspaper concerned should still be required to obtain and retain full address details.

Response
Supported in part. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for the author's name and suburb/locality to be printed for letters to the editor. The second part of the recommendation is not supported in terms of a legislative amendment, as this would require the AEC to police all letters to editors.

Recommendation 57
That section 332 of the Electoral Act be amended so that radio stations are required to obtain (before broadcast) and retain the full name and address of a "talkback" caller during an election or referendum period, with full name and suburb/locality required to be broadcast.

Response
Supported in principle. Broadcasting matters were deliberately removed from the Commonwealth Electoral Act recently to the Broadcasting Services Act, because responsibility for the monitoring of election broadcasts is for the Australian Broadcasting Authority not the AEC. This matter will be referred to the Minister for Communications and the Arts for consideration.

Recommendation 58
That sections 153(2) and 154(4) of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that receipt and particulars of the writ be advertised in at least one newspaper circulating generally in the State or Territory. The advertising provisions for redistributions in sections 64, 68 and 76 of the Electoral Act should be similarly amended.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 59
That in the week leading up to polling day the AEC advertise in the electronic media where and when, in newspapers, a list of polling places can be found.

Response
Supported. However, the increased advertising budget will require funding.

Recommendation 60
That subsection 393(1) of the Electoral Act be repealed and replaced with a provision stipulating that electoral documents may not be destroyed, amended, defaced or altered in any way prior to a) the Court of Disputed Returns having disposed of petitions disputing an election, or b) the time for filing petitions having expired without any petitions being filed.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 61
That section 209A of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that ballot papers may be printed using either a security mark approved by the AEC or a watermark.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 62
That the AEC investigate changes to the Senate ballot paper to eliminate any confusion caused by the use of the letters "I" and "J" to identify group voting tickets.

Response
Supported. Following a recommendation of a previous Committee report, which dealt specifically with the letter "I", the AEC issued for the 1993 election, instructions for the use of Times Roman or New Century Schoolbook typeface for the lettering of above-the-line boxes. These typefaces provide for a more distinctive letter "I" than other typefaces. The AEC has received no formal complaints since the election. Instructions for the preparation of ballot papers for the next senate election require the use of Times Roman typeface and will also now refer to the letter" Ft.

Recommendation 63
That section 102 of the Electoral Act be amended so that DROs are clearly able to accept a facsimile of a "claim for enrolment or transfer of enrolment".

Response
Supported. Facsimiles are already accepted for nominations.

Recommendation 64
That subsection 245(3) of the Electoral Act be amended so that non-voter notices are sent by post "or other means".

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 65
That when available the Minister for Administrative Services refer the AEC's proposals for a revised structure to the Committee for Inquiry and report.

Response
Not Supported. The Government acknowledges the interest of the Committee in the possible effect of restructuring on the efficiency of electoral services, and notes that the Committee has been supportive in the past of some change to the current field structure. While the Government would expect the AEC to consult widely with all interested parties before taking decisions on major structural change, it does not consider that proposals for such change should be referred to the Committee for inquiry and report. Subsequent inquiries into operational aspects of the AEC's performance will afford the Committee the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of any structural change, which, in accordance with Government policy, would be implemented through the mechanism of workplace barg

Recommendation 66
That the AEC advise the Committee of steps taken to improve the response of the Roll Management System (RMANS) under peak load.

Response
Supported. The AEC will provide the Committee with a detailed brief on the steps taken to improve the response time of RMANS under peak load.

Recommendation 67
That section 157 of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that the date fixed for polling shall be not less than 21 days nor more than 30 days after the close of rolls or the date of nomination, whichever comes last.

Response
Not supported. No clear arguments have been advanced as to why this is desirable. A reduction in the election timetable will place increasing pressure on the administrative efficiency of the AEC and has the potential to jeopardise security and accuracy. There must be enough time for the production and the distribution of ballot papers to overseas and interstate postal voters. Large country Divisions are already struggling to distribute materials and recruit and train polling staff under the present minimum timetable. Divisional staff already work long hours of overtime during the election period and OH&S and Industrial Relations problems may be expected to increase with a reduction in the election period.

Recommendation 68
That subsection 93(8)(b) and section 109 of the Electoral Act be repealed, so that an elector is not deprived of the right to enrol or vote on the basis that the elector is a prisoner (except in the event of a conviction for treason or treachery).

Response
Supported. 'The Government attempted this amendment a few years ago but was defeated in the Senate. It would streamline administration, particularly with respect to the reporting requirement in section 109, and would overcome the current low rate of enforcement of voting among prisoners, because of lack of certainty about who is qualified.

Recommendation 69
That section 95AA of the Electoral Act be amended so that Norfolk Islanders who chose to enrol may only enrol in the Division of Canberra.

Response
Response deferred for further consideration.

Recommendation 70
That subsection 274(13) of the Electoral Act, which precludes a Divisional Returning Officer (DRO) from voting in the House of Representatives Division for which he or she is the DRO, be repealed.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 71
That subsection 249(4)(b) of the Electoral Act, which provides for annotation of the names of Antarctic electors on certifies lists, be repealed.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Recommendation 72
That the AEC report back to the Committee on amendments to section 326 of the Electoral Act, relating to bribery, that would more clearly define the scope and intent of the provision.

Response
Supported. The. AEC has already sought the advice as recommended by the Committee and the Attorney-General's Department has now advised that for various legal reasons including the creation of possible loopholes, and the existence already of prosecutorial discretion, it would not support an amendment to section 326 along the lines suggested by the Committee. Criminal law policy considerations indicate that the proposed amendment to section 326 would impair its effectiveness and is not justified in view of the low risk that conduct, involving the provisions of small amounts of food etc to voters, would be prosecuted in the absence of any clear evidence that they were supplied with the intention of influencing the vote or political allegiance of the members of the public concerned.

Recommendation 73
That section 16 of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that the Commission may delegate its powers "under this Act or any other law", other than its powers under Part IV (Electoral Divisions) of the Act.

Response
Supported. The Electoral and Referendum Bill currently before Parliament already makes provision for this.

Back to top

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print