House of Representatives Committees

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters

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

Government response

(Tabled on 8 April 1998)

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

 

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON ELECTORAL MATTERS' REPORT THE 1996 FEDERAL ELECTION

Electoral Integrity

Recommendation 1

That the AEC prepare a comprehensive implementation plan on the Committee's proposed measures to improve the integrity of the enrolment and voting process, and report back to the Committee by the end of 1997.

Response

1. Supported. The Government notes the opposition of the ALP members of the JSCEM to this recommendation and Recommendations 2, 3, 4, and 6. However, it supports these recommendations for the same reason put forward by the majority of the JSCEM, ie. that it is unacceptable that the most fundamental transaction between a citizen and the government, that is, the act of choosing the government at a democratic election, is subject to a far lower level of security than such lesser transactions as opening a 'bank account, applying for a passport, applying for a driver's licence or registering for social security benefits to name but a few.

2. The AEC has submitted the implementation plan to the JSCEM.

Recommendation 2

That as part of the implementation plan recommended above, the AEC nominate a prescribed class of persons eligible to complete the witnessing portion of the enrolment form if upgraded into a proof of identity declaration. The upgraded enrolment form should specify that a witness must be on the Commonwealth electoral roll (rather than merely eligible to be enrolled). Adequate provision should be made for identifiable g groups of people who will face unusual difficulties in finding a witness

Response.

3. Supported. The Government believes that appropriate amendments should be made to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The process involved in implementing Recommendations 2, 3 and 52 are interlinked. The combined cost is estimated at $4,862,000 in the first year and $3,940,000 in each out year.

Recommendation 3

That the Electoral Act be amended to provide that an applicant for enrolment must produce at least one original item of documentary proof of identity, where such information has not been provided previously (that is, all enrolment transactions initially and new enrolments thereafter). Acceptable documents might include photographic drivers' licences, Birth Certificates or extracts, Social Security papers (such as notice or advice of a pension) or Veterans' Cards, Citizenship Certificates, passports, Medicare Cards, or a written reference for a limited range of clients unable to produce the above documentation.

Response

4. Supported. However, the Government believes that the amendment should only apply to new enrolments. Recommendation 2 is relevant in relation to costs.

Recommendation 4

That in co-operation with relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory departments and agencies, the AEC conduct a study identifying costs, benefits, methods of implementation, and requirements for legislative amendment of the following options for the expanded matching of enrolment data:

(a) manual provision of data in response to requests for information relating to individual enrolments; (b) bulk comparison of data held by the AEC and other departments and agencies; (c) on-line connections between the AEC's Roll Management System (RMANS) and the computer systems of other government departments and agencies, enabling validation of data as an enrolment form is entered onto the system; and (d) such other options as may appear as a result of the study to appear viable.

Response

5. Supported. The Government considers that the integrity of enrolment and voting are fundamental to democracy and as such the AEC should be afforded the facilities to use the data held in other government controlled databases to check the accuracy of the electoral Roll.

Recommendation 5

That the Electoral Act be amended to make clear that claims for enrolment from persons who state they have achieved citizenship through naturalisation under the Australian Citizenship Act 1948, but who do not provide a date of naturalisation or citizenship number, will not be accepted until such information has been verified by the AEC (see also Recommendation 4 on cross-checking of electoral data against external databases).

Response

6. Supported. The cost estimate of implementing this recommendation is $280,000 in the first year and $140,000 in each out year. Recommendation 2 is also relevant in relation to costs.

Recommendations 6

That section 155 of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that for new enrolments, the rolls for an election close on the day the writ is issued, and for existing electors updating address details, the rolls for an election close at 6.00 pm on the third day after the issue of the writ.

Response

7. Supported.* Following the introduction of identification for new enrollees (Recommendation 3), the administrative implications during the final week of enrolment, and the volume of new enrolments, it is evident that the AEC would not be able to process applications whilst still ensuring that the necessary checks are completed in order to maintain the integrity of the electoral Roll. Existing electors wishing to change their address details may still do so up to 8.00 pm on the third working day after the writ is issued. New enrollees are required under the CEA to enrol within one month of attaining eligibility.

Recommendation 7

That as part of the implementation plan referred to at Recommendation 1, the AEC prepare a detailed proposal for the reintroduction of subdivisional voting for future Federal elections. The proposal should consider a corresponding public awareness campaign (so that people are aware they may be disenfranchised if they fail to advise the AEC of a chan e of address across a subdivisional boundary, even when 9 remaining within the same division.)

Response

8. Supported in principle. The Government supports the conducting of an investigation into the reintroduction of subdivisional voting. However, the government believes the JSCEM should conduct a more detailed investigation into the positive and negative aspects of the reintroduction of subdivisional voting.

Recommendation 8

That in relation to multiple voting, the word "wilfully" be deleted from section 339(1)Q) of the Electoral Act.

Response

9. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 9

That electoral rolls for a division or subdivision again be made available for inspection in local libraries and Post Offices.

Response

10. Not supported. The Australian Electoral Commission to examine the cost and feasibility of placing electoral rolls on the Internet where they can be readily updated.

Recommendation 10

Further to Recommendation 6, that section 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

Recommendation 11

That a) sections 95, 99 and 101 of the Electoral Act be amended so that electors are required to re-enrol within one month of changing address anywhere in Australia and b) the AEC be empowered to negotiate with utilities and local government so that documents sent out by those bodies, to persons who have changed address, include reminders to change enrolment details.

Response

12. Supported.

Preferential and Compulsory Voting

Recommendation 12

That section 245 of. the Electoral Act and section 45 of the Referendum Act, and related provisions providing for compulsory voting at Federal elections and referenda, be repealed. In the interests of effective management of the electoral system and maintaining accurate records of turnout, compulsory enrolment should be retained.

Response

13. Not supported. The Government does not believe that voluntary voting should be considered at this time.

Recommendation 13

That section 270(2), 329(3) and 329A of the Electoral Act be repealed.

Response

14. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 14

That section 240 of the Electoral Act, which provides for full preferential voting at House of Representatives elections, be amended to include the words "consecutive numbers, without the repetition of any number".

Response

15. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 15

That if Recommendation 13 is accepted, at future Federal elections the AEC monitor how many informal votes would have been accepted as formal had section 270(2) of the Electoral Act remained in force.

Response

16. Not supported. The Government does not believe that implementing this recommendation is necessary, beyond what the AEC would normally undertake with regard to its function under section 7(1)(e) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

Recommendation 16

That before the next election, the government seek advice on the constitutional validity of section 272(2) and 272(3) of the Electoral Act, which allow a Senate group to lodge multiple voting tickets.

Response

17. Noted. The AEC has advised that it has advice indicating the relevant sections are constitutionally valid.

Recommendation 17

That the AEC revise its procedures to ensure compliance with section 216 of the Electoral Act, which requires that Senate group voting tickets be "prominently displayed" on posters at polling booths. Such information should be made available to electors who request it before polling day.

Response

18. Not supported. The Government opposes this recommendation as section 216 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 adequately outlines the procedures to be followed.

Enrolment and Voting by Certain Groups

Recommendation 18

That the Electoral Act be amended to allow the reinstatement of provisional votes where an elector has moved between subdivisions in the Northern Territory or Kalgoorlie, but has remained within the relevant division.

Response

19. Supported in principle. The amendment should reflect that the provisional votes be admitted, but that these voters should be required to re-enrol in the normal way.

Recommendation 19

That following the next Federal election the AEC conduct a review of its service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander electors, in the context of the abolition of the ATSIEIS, and report back to the Parliament.

Response

20. Not supported. The Government also notes the call by the ALP for the reintroduction of the ATSIEIS program. However, the Government believes that the measures implemented with regard to the service provided by the AEC to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander electors following the abolition of ATSIEIS provide a sufficient level of service.

Recommendation 20

That in relation to assisted voting, section 234(1) of the Electoral Act be repealed, and section 234(2) be amended to allow any polling official (rather than a "presiding officer") to assist a voter.

Response

21. Supported. However, there should be no amendment to section 234(2). The Government believes that the only person able to complete the ballot paper. other than the eligible voter, should be the presiding officer.

Recommendation 21

That the ATSIC Act be amended to provide that ATSIC elections may not be held in the period between the close of nominations and the close of polling for a Federal, State or Territory election.

Response

22. Supported. The ATSIC Regional Council election period should not commence while there is a general federal election or referendum writ in force. Further, if a general federal election or referendum writ is issued during an ATSIC Regional Council election period, the ATSIC election period should be suspended from the issue of the writ, and resumed at a suitable time after the federal election or referendum.

Recommendation 22

That the Electoral Act he amended to allow Australians resident overseas for the purposes of career or employment to remain enrolled, or to enrol after departing Australia, for a subdivision under similar criteria to those provided for itinerant electors in section 96(2A) of the Act. The qualifying period of three years or less under section 94 of the Act should be extended to six years (with the retention of the capacity, under section 94(8) and 94(9), for electors to apply for further extensions on a year-by-year basis.)

Response

23. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 23

That section 193(2) of the Electoral Act be amended to replace any reference to the "Queen's Dominions" with "Commonwealth".

Response

24. Supported.

Recommendation 24

That section 93(8)(b) of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that a person serving a prison sentence for any offence against the law of the Commonwealth, or of a State or Territory, is not entitled to enrol or vote at Federal elections.

Response

25. Supported. The Government notes the ALP's dissension to this recomrnendation. The Government however recognises that the imposition of a prison term limits an individual's access to certain rights and privileges. The right to vote is considered by the Government to be one of the rights that should be foregone by prisoners.

Recommendation 25

That the AEC improve education for staff in hospitals and nursing homes (and other such institutions likely to be appointed as polling places) 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

26. Supported.

Recommendation 26

That section 226(2A) of the Electoral Act be amended so that during the conduct of mobile polling at special hospitals, Electoral Visitors are allowed to advise voters that how-to-vote material is available.

Response

27. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 27

That a drafting error In section 226(4)(a) of the Electoral Act be corrected, by replacing the reference therein to section 219 of the Act ("participation by candidates in the conduct of an election") with a reference to section 348 ("control of behaviour at polling booths etc'').

Response

28. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 28

That the Electoral Act be amended to enable presiding officers to take ballot papers immediately outside a polling place to electors who, because of physical incapacity, cannot enter the polling place. Scrutineers should be given the opportunity to observe this process.

Response

29. Supported.. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Enrolment and Voting: Other Issues

Recommendation 29

That the AEC, in its pre-election advertising, emphasise that pre-poll and postal voting is only available to those electors who will be unable to cast an ordinary vote on polling day.

Response

30. Not supported. The Government believes that a significant amount of pre-election advertising is done by political parties with particular emphasis on postal voting, and that a further campaign conducted by the AEC could not be fiscally justified.

Recommendation 30

That the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act be amended to make clear that a postal vote application form sent to an elector must be the official AEC form or an exact replica, and must not be incorporated into another document with material issued by a body other than the AEC.

Response

31. Not supported. The amendment should provide that the approved postal vote application may be incorporated into another document with material issued by a body or person other than the AEC, such as a political party or candidate. However, the postal vote application must be in the approved form. An amendment has been moved to the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 31

That the postal voting provisions of the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act be amended to enable double enveloping, by deleting the requirement for the declaration certificate and the return address of the Divisional Returning Officer to be printed on the envelope into which the postal ballot papers are placed.

Response

32. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 32

That paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 of the Electoral Act and paragraph 7 of Schedule 4 of the Referendum Act concerning the postmarking of postal vote envelopes be repealed, so that the date of the witness's signature is instead used to determine if a postal vote was cast before the close of polling. The witnessing portion of the postal vote envelope should specify all the elector's details being attested to, and should make clear that it is an offence for a witness to make a false declaration.

Response

33. Supported. However, the Government believes that this provision should only be used in the event of the postmark being illegible or non-existent.

Recommendation 33

That the Electoral Act be amended to permit candidates to receive on request, an electronic copy of the marked roll of those electors who lodged postal votes at the relevant election.

Response

34. Not supported. The Government believes that existing arrangements with regard to access to the marked roll are adequate.

Recommendation 3

That the Electoral Commissioner be provided with a discretion in the Electoral Act with regard to the layout and formatting of the Senate ballot paper, to enable costeffective use of standard paper stocks and printing technologies. Any new format should not compromise the legibility of the ballot paper.

Response

35. Not supported. The Government believes that the AEC does not need further discretion with regard to the ballot paper. The ballot paper should have a consistent format, with the size of the paper being amended to incorporate all the candidates names and ensuring that the names are legible. There is no provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 restricting the size of the ballot paper.

Recommendation 35

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

36. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 36

That the Electoral Act be amended so that, where on the basis of first preferences votes the exclusion of all but two candidates for a House of Representatives division is inevitable, the declaration of the poll proceeds based on the result of the twocandidate preferred count.

Response

37. Supported. However, the current requirement to conduct a full distribution of preferences, if only for statistical purposes rather than determining who is elected, should remain. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 37

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

Response

38. Supported. The Government supports this recommendation provided that it only applies to the scrutiny of the declaration, not the votes themselves, and that no envelope containing votes is opened until after the close of the poll. In addition, the secondary check on rejected declarations will not occur until after the close of the poll.

Recommendation 38

That sections 153(2)(b) and 154(4)(b) of the Electoral Act, and section 14(2) of the Referendum Act, be amended to require the advertising of election and referendum writs in only one newspaper circulating in a State or Territory where there are not two newspapers in wide circulation.

Response

39. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Nomination of Candidates and Registration of Political Parties

Recommendation 39

That at an appropriate time, such as in conjunction with the next Federal election, a referendum be held on a) applying the "office of profit" disqualification in section 44(iv) from the start of an MP's term, rather than from the time of nomination, and b) deleting section 44(i) on "foreign allegiance" and otherwise amending the Constitution to make Australian citizenship a necessary qualification for membership of the Parliament.

Response

40. Noted. The Attorney-General is in the process of progressing a recommendation from the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Recommendation 40

That section 170(3) of the Electoral Act be amended to increase the deposit for nomination from $250 to $350 for the House of Representatives, and from $500 to $700 for the Senate.

Response

41. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 41

That section 166(1)(b)(i) of the Electoral Act be amended so that the number of signatures required in support of a nomination by a candidate not endorsed by a registered political party is increased from six to 50.

Response

42. Supported. Although there will be additional time required to check the signatures on nominations lodged near to Close of Nominations, the 24 hour period in Recommendation 42 between Close of Nominations and Declaration of Nominations will allow sufficient time to complete the task. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 42

That sections 156(1), 176 and 213(1)(a) of the Electoral Act be amended to reduce the nomination period by one day (to not less than 10 days or more than 27 days), with the declaration of nominations to be held 24 hours after the close of nomination. Section 211 and 211A of the Act (which refer to the "closing" of nominations) should be amended, so that Senate candidates and groups still have 24 hours after the declaration to advise the AEC of their desired preference distributions.

Response

43. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 43

That sections 176(1), 213(1)(a) and 283(1) of the Electoral Act be amended to allow the Senate ballot paper draw and the declaration of the Senate result to be carried out at the place of nomination, or at another convenient location as decided by the Australian Electoral Officer, if insufficient space is available at the AEC Head Office.

Response

44. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment 'Bill 1997.

Recommendation 44

That the Electoral Act be amended to enable registered party names or abbreviations, as appropriate, to be printed against the names of candidates, where two or more parties are seeking to use the same party identifier to endorse candidates at an election. An appropriate description should also be able to be used if necessary.

Response

45. Not supported. The Government believes that an amendment is unnecessary.

Recommendation 45

That section 169B of the Electoral Act be amended to provide that a candidate endorsed by more than one political party must specify to the AEC, in writing, the name of the political party to be printed on the ballot paper.

Response

46. Not supported. The Government considers that the matter is already adequately covered by section 169B of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The Government notes the ALP minority report supports this view.

Recommendation 46

That the Electoral Act be amended to enable a registered political party to object to the continuing use of a party name and/or abbreviation by another party which obtained its registration by claiming related party status to that registered political party, where that relationship no longer exists.

Response

47. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Election Campaigning

Recommendation 47

That the Electoral Act and the Broadcasting Act be amended to prohibit, during election periods, "misleading statements of fact" in electoral advertisements published by any means.

Response

48. Not supported. The Government firmly believes that political advertising should be truthful in its content. However, any legislation introduced to enforce this principle would be difficult to enforce and could be open to challenge.

49. Previous Committees have found that it was not possible to legislate to control political advertising and that voters, using whatever assistance they see fit from the media and other sources, remain the most appropriate arbiters of the worth of political claims.

Recommendation 48

That section 328 of the Electoral Act and section 121 of the Referendum Act be amended, to provide that where an electoral advertisement is presented so that the AEC believes there is no reasonable doubt as to the individual who, or body which, is responsible for its publication, the authorisation requirements will be taken to be satisfied. The authorisation provisions should still specify that correct name and (street) address details must be clearly displayed.

Response

50. Not supported. The Government believes that the amendment would weaken the requirements regarding the authorisation of material. Although the Democrat minority report calls for strengthening of the provisions to prevent hidden authorisations and funding being used to attack political opponents, the Government considers that current provisions in the legislation are sufficient.

Recommendation 49

That section 331 of the Electoral Act ("heading to electoral advertisements") be amended to ensure that a) as well as newspapers it applies to other periodical newssheets and magazines that accept paid advertisements, and b) it applies to advertisements containing electoral matter whether inserted "for reward" or free of charge by the owner or editor of the publication.

Response

51. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 50

That section 332 of the Electoral Act and section 125 of the Referendum Act ( "authors of reports etc. to be identified") be repealed.

Response

52. Supported. Section 328 of the CEA operates constantly and effectively deals with authorisation requirements.

Recommendation 51

That a review of the level of penalties for offences under the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act be undertaken by the AEC with the assistance of the AttorneyGeneral's Department, with a view to bringing the penalties into line with penalty rates for comparable offences under other Commonwealth statutes.

Response

53. Supported.

Recommendation 52

That the enrolment form be amended to provide for electors' salutation details, and that section 91 of the Electoral Act be amended so that electors' gender, age and salutation details are provided to Members of Parliament and registered political parties, subject to a) sections 91A(1A)(c) and 91A(2)(c) of the Act being amended to make it clear that the "permitted purposes" in relation to MPs and registered parties include research purposes, and b) the penalties for misuse specified in sections 91A and 91B of the Act being increased from $1000 to $10,000 (the outcome of the review of penalties provided for in Recommendation 51 should not delay the proposed increase).

Response

54. Supported. The estimated cost of implementing this recommendation by itself is $62,000. If Recommendations 2, 3 and 5 are implemented at the same time. the additional cost of this recommendation is $12,000. The Government also notes the objections of the Democrat member of the JSCEM. However, the Government believes that (lie provision of this information to Members of Parliament Senators and political parties is a necessary and legitimate use of information within the democratic process with respect to the role of communicating with electors.

Recommendation 53

That sections 89 to 92 of the Electoral Act, concerning improper use of roll information, be reviewed to take account of developments in computer technology. The existing entitlements of MPs and registered political, parties should be maintained.

Response

55. Supported.

Recommendation 5

That the Electoral Act be amended so that the prohibition on canvassing at "special hospitals" and hospitals that are polling places applies from the Monday before polling day to the expiration of polling day, and so that the gazettal of special hospitals is effective on an ongoing basis.

Response

56. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Election Funding and Financial Disclosure

Recommendation 55

That section 314AC(1) of the Electoral Act be amended so that political parties are required to disclose a total amount of $5000 or more, rather than $1500, received from a person or organisation during a financial year.

Response

57. Supported.

58. The Government notes ALP and Democrat dissent to this recommendation and Recommendation 57. However, it agrees with the majority report of the JSCEM that the reporting thresholds should more adequately reflect current financial values and that the scenario painted in the dissenting reports that donors would go to extraordinary lengths to avoid disclosure is in most cases unlikely.

59. The Government also notes the Democrat recommendation that consideration be given to the Recommendation 128 of the report of the Western Australian Commission on Government. This recommendation includes the proposal for the immediate disclosure of donations over $10,000 by the recipient. As the federal system already requires annual disclosures by political parties, the Government is of the view that the adoption of this recommendation would add little to the current provisions and does not support the immediate disclosure of donations. Recommendation 56

That section 314AC(2) of the Electoral Act be amended to raise from $500 to $1500 the threshold for counting individual amounts received.

Response

60. Supported. Recommendation 57

That section 305B(1) of the Electoral Act be amended to increase from $1500 to $10,000 the amount above which a donor to a registered political party must furnish a return for the financial year.

Response

61. Supported. Recommendation 58

That section 309 of the Electoral Act be amended so that registered political parties are not required to lodge returns of electoral expenditure.

Response

62. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

63. The Government notes the Democrat minority report concerns. However, returns of electoral expenditure only report specified expenditures over a set time frame. Their abolition would not detract from the core principle of disclosure which is to make public the details of those funding political parties.

Recommendation 59

That the Electoral Act be amended to allow registered political parties to lodge their audited accounts in place of the annual return, subject to a) the accounts containing a level of detail consistent with Part XX of the Act and b) the format of the accounts being approved by the AEC.

Response

64. Supported. However, it should be optional, not mandatory that parties lodge audited accounts in the place of the annual return. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997. The AEC will only approve accounts which provide the required detail in a simple format which allows them to be easily interpreted as the annual return.

Recommendation 60

That section 314AD of the Electoral Act be amended to replace the current requirement to report in detail amounts paid with a requirement to report total expenditure.

Response

65. Supported. The amendment is included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

66. The Government notes the concerns expressed in the Democrat minority report. However, the abolition of the current requirement to report expenditure in detail would not detract from the core principle of disclosure. (Section 314AB already requires the reporting of total expenditure, therefore, the action required is the full repeal of 314AD).

Recommendation 61

That section 78 of the Commonwealth Income Tax Assessment Act be amended so that donations to a political party of up to $1500 annually, whether from an individual or a corporation, are tax deductible.

Response

67. Supported.

Recommendation 62

That section 78 of the Income Act Assessment Act be amended to provide that donations to an independent candidate at a Federal or State election are tax deductible, at the same level as donations to registered parties.

Response

68. Supported.

Recommendation 63

That the Electoral Act be amended so that the amount of public funding available is based on the total enrolment at the close of rolls for an election, multiplied by the amount payable per elector as in section 294 of the Act.

Response

69. Not supported. The Government does not agree that a change to the current arrangements is necessary.

Recommendation 64

That section 311A of the Electoral Act, concerning annual returns by Commonwealth departments, be deleted and inserted in more appropriate legislation.

Response

70. Supported. The Government is considering the appropriate legislation into which it can be inserted, and an amendment will not be made until that other legislation is determined.

71. There is also dissent to this recommendation from the ALP and Democrat members of the JSCEM. The ALP say there is a need for the requirement and the most rational site is the CEAThe Democrat Report says it will only support Recommendation 64 if those provisions remain applicable until actually replaced in more appropriate legislation. They also recommend that section 311A be given a sunset clause, operable once it is replaced in other legislation.

Other Matters

Recommendation 65

That when available, any government proposal for reorganisation of tile AEC divisional office structure be referred to this Committee for inquiry and report.

Response

72. Supported. The Government notes the recommendation in the Democrat minority report that the ANAO, which has initiated a performance audit of the AEC, examine practical ways in which federal and State electoral commissions could consider joint efficiencies to the benefit of both. In 1992, the JSCEM reported on its examination of the cooperation and efficiencies between federal and State electoral commissions. There has been considerable cooperation and work toward efficiencies since that time. The ANAO does not have the legal mandate to review State Government operations. Additionally, the Government does not consider it appropriate that a Commonwealth agency examine State electoral commissions.

Recommendation 66

That if regionalisation does not proceed, funding for AEC divisional offices be increased to a level sufficient to maintain a permanent staff of three in each office.

Response

73. Noted. The AEC has sought additional funding in the context of the 1998-99 budget to allow Divisional Office staffing levels to be increased to three.

Recommendation 67

That if regionalisation does not proceed, the government provide special project funding as a matter of urgency to enable the replacement of information technology used in AEC divisional offices.

Response

74. Noted. 'Me AEC has incorporated the replacement of information technology into its outsourcing initiative.

Recommendation 68

That section 188 of the Electoral Act and section 61 of the Referendum Act be amended to provide that where Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel are serving in an overseas country as a formed unit, and Australia Post certifies that postal vote applications or ballot papers would not, if posted, reach the personnel in time for their votes to be cast before the relevant deadline, then the requirements of section 188 and section 61 shall be satisfied if a Divisional Returning Officer provides the relevant applications or ballot papers to a designated member of the ADF.

Response

75. Supported.

Recommendation 69

That similar amendments be made to the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act to cover cases where the AEC uses services other than postal services, such as contractual delivery, for the conveyance of postal voting material.

Response

76. Supported. These amendments are included in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment Bill 1997.

Recommendation 70

That the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act be amended to provide explicitly that a failure of an alternative mechanism to the postal service shall not, in cases where the postal service has broken down, form the basis for a challenge to the result of the election in the Court of Disputed Returns.

Response

77. Supported.

Recommendation 71

That the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act be amended so that the Court of Disputed Returns or the High Court must decide election or referendum petitions "as quickly as is reasonable in the circumstances".

Response

78. Supported.

Recommendation 72

That section 354 of the Electoral Act be amended to enable the High Court to remit aspects of a petition to a Supreme Court, with the High Court retaining final jurisdiction on relief.

Response

79. Supported.

Recommendation 73

That the Electoral Act be amended so that within 75 days of the resignation or death of a Member of the House of Representatives, a writ must be issued for a by-election (except in the four months before the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time). A similar amendment should apply to supplementary elections caused by, for example, the death of a candidate after the close of nominations.

Response

80. Not supported. The Government is not satisfied that the imposition of a time Emit is appropriate with regard to the issuing of the writ for a by-election.

Additional recommendations in the Democrat minority report:

i) That the electoral system for the Senate be left operating as at present.

Response

81. The Government is on record (House of Representatives Hansard page 6761) as saying that it has no plans to change the voting system for the Senate.

ii) The AEC Public Awareness Program specifically target voter education on preference voting, and voter confusion over the count for the Senate and HoR.

Response

82. The Government notes that the AEC's public awareness program already does this.

iii) That if an AEC registered candidate is disendorsed by a political party 'or expelled by that party between the time of AEC official acceptance of that nominated candidate and the date of the election, then the AEC must ensure all polling stations and polling booths in the relevant electorates clearly indicate that fact.

Response

83. Not supported. This is an internal matter for the political parties.

iv) That if a Parliamentarian is elected as a representative of a political party, unless he or she resigns or is expelled from that particular party, or that party has a name change or ceases to exist, then they must continue to style themselves as being from that party.

Response

84. Not supported. This would be an impossible situation to monitor. It is also an internal matter for political parties.

v) That the provisions relating to the Party Name registration be reviewed and tightened.

Response

85. It is not clear what is intended by this recommendation. However, tile Government will consider any submissions which detail problems with the current party registration system and propose practical solutions.

vi) That the Electoral Act be strengthened to prevent hidden authorisations and funding being used to attack political opponents.

Response

86. Not supported. The Government considers that the existing provisions are sufficient.

vii) With regard to how-to-vote provisions the Australian Democrats recommend the melding of the Tasmanian and New South Wales laws into the Federal law.

Response

87. Not supported. Tasmania bans the distribution of all electoral matter on polling day or the day to which polling has been adjourned, and NSW requires the registration of all electoral material, with the application for registration to be made from the date of nomination to 8 days before polling day.

88. The Government believes that the banning of the distribution of how-to-vote cards raises civil, liberties questions and severely reduces the freedom of participation of enthusiastic party workers in the campaign process. Handing out how-to-vote cards is one of the few means by which supporters of a candidate can participate in a campaign.

89. To have the cards registered, as in NSW, would be a considerable administrative load.

viii) That the AEC take an early opportunity to trial, at a by-election, systems of displaying how-to-vote material inside polling booths.

Response

90. Not supported. Priority must be given to the display of the AEC's own voter assistance material. The AEC cannot become involved in policing delivery or specifying size, spacing or coverage of material by political parties. Additionally, how-to-vote material for the Senate could not be trialled at a by-election and the size of this material would cause considerable problems at polling places where space is restricted.

ix) Each AEC polling booth electoral officer should be required to collect one sample of each how-to-vote card handed out, for records and analysis purposes.

Response

91. Not supported. This is an impractical suggestion. In NSW alone it would require the collection of in excess of 3,000 how-to-vote cards. Apart from the diversion of resources, the AEC cannot be responsible for ensuring it has a sample of every card. Nor, is it clear what the purpose of the analysis would be.

x) Political parties which receive donations from Trusts or Foundations must be obliged to return the money, or forfeit the money donated unless the following as disclosed:

Response

92. Not supported. The provisions covering associated entities already provide for detailed disclosure by trusts and foundations closely associated with registered political parties

xi) That where any State or Territory requires disclosure of political donations by just one sector of the community, then all other organisations and companies should also have to comply with this requirement in that State.

Response

93. Not supported. This is a matter of State legislation and is not applicable to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

xii) That the ANAO in its performance audit of the AEC examine practical ways in which Federal and State Electoral Commissions could consider joint efficiencies to the benefit of both.

94. Not supported. In 1989, the JSCEM examined the cooperation and efficiencies between federal and State electoral commissions and there has been considerable cooperation and work toward efficiencies since that time. Additionally, the Government does not consider it appropriate that a Commonwealth agency examine State electoral commissions. The ANAO does not have the legal mandate to review State Government operations. Therefore this recommendation cannot be included in the audit, which will only focus on the AEC's Corporate Governance Framework, and associated issues. from a Commonwealth perspective.

xiii) That the dates of elections be fixed and preset by legislation.

Response

95. Not supported. The Democrat recommendation may also require change to the Constitution.

xiv) That legislation should be introduced to impose a financial penalty on a member of the House of Representatives who resigns without due cause.

96. Not supported. Imposing a penalty on a member of the House of Representatives who resigns without due cause raises issues of equity in relation to Independent Members who do not have political party machinery behind them to support the payment of a penalty. Small parties may not want to or be able to provide that support, nor for that matter may large parties want to provide that support.

97. Further, questions of definition must arise, such as to the threshold of reasons for resignation that trigger the penalty. For example, resignation for reasons of ill-health or family problems would presumably have to constitute penalty exclusions. Once it is accepted that some exclusions are necessary, the further question arises as to how such cases should be arbitrated, particularly given that such arbitration would inevitably involve personal and private factors, with their attendant difficulties in interpretation.

Back to top

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print