House of Representatives Committees

Standing Committee on Electoral Matters

Inquiry into all aspects of the conduct of the 1996 federal election and matters related thereto

Media release, 16 June 1997

This press release was issued by the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Gary Nairn MP, on the day the report of the inquiry, titled The 1996 Federal Election, was tabled (16 June 1997):

REFORM OF THE COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL SYSTEM

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters today tabled its report of the inquiry into "all aspects of the conduct of the 1996 federal election and matters related thereto".

The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Gary Nairn MP (Federal Member for Eden-Monaro), said: "the reforms advocated in the report are the most far-reaching proposed by the Parliament in more than a decade. Our 73 recommendations, if accepted by the Government, will lead to:

safeguards against fraudulent enrolment: "the Committee recommends several improvements to enrolment procedures, including that electors be asked to produce at least one form of proof of identity for enrolment and that the witnessing requirement on the enrolment form be upgraded";

voluntary voting: "if Australia is to consider itself a mature democracy, compulsory voting should now be abolished. The assertion that voting is a 'right' means little if one can be imprisoned for conscientiously choosing not to exercise that right - or rather, for conscientiously exercising the right not to vote";

a ban on misleading statements in election advertising: "if some of the misleading statements made during elections were instead made in private enterprise, the perpetrators would most likely find themselves prosecuted under the Trade Practices Act. A provision similar to section 113 of South Australia's Electoral Act (which bans 'inaccurate and misleading' purported statements of fact in election advertising) should therefore be introduced into Commonwealth law";

the repeal of the 'Albert Langer' laws: "the Langer affair has clearly shown that section 329A of the Electoral Act is an ineffective and heavy-handed provision (section 329A makes it an offence to encourage, during the election period, voters to fill in House of Representatives ballot papers other than in accordance with the full preferential method set out in section 240 of the Act). Section 329A and related provisions should be repealed, while the wording of section 240 should be clarified";

a referendum to amend section 44 of the Constitution: "the 'office of profit' and 'foreign allegiance' disqualifications in section 44 of the Constitution frequently cause uncertainty for electors, political parties and candidates, most recently Jackie Kelly MP and Senator-elect Jeannie Ferris. The time has come for a referendum to clarify the requirements of section 44";

a review of the fitness of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to conduct elections and referenda into the 21st century: "proposals for 'regionalisation' of AEC service delivery were noted during the inquiry. While regionalisation might well deliver certain efficiencies, a properly-resourced divisional structure (where each House of Representatives division has its own office) has for decades provided a valuable service. The Committee recommends that when available, any government proposal for reorganisation of the AEC structure be referred to this Committee for inquiry and report".

For further information please contact the Committee Chairman, Mr Gary Nairn MP, on ph. 02 6277 4939 or the Committee secretariat on ph. 02 6277 2374.

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