The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) advises that there
are 1.5 million eligible Australians missing from the Commonwealth electoral
roll. The AEC estimates that 600 000 of those 1.5 million eligible electors
had previously been on the roll.
In Australia, enrolment and voting is both a right and an
obligation. All Australians should take responsibility to meet their enrolment
obligations in order to ensure they can participate in selecting their
representatives. The methods to enrol and update enrolment details are not
onerous. However, some electors neglect to update their details unless they are
motivated by an impending electoral event. While others believe that the
Commonwealth roll will reflect state enrolment or change of address details
that have been supplied to another government agency.
Currently a change to address details must be elector initiated.
When the AEC receives information about a change of residential address, it
writes to the person instructing them to update their details, but it cannot
take the next logical step and update the address details. Worse still, if the
person fails to respond, the AEC is obliged to remove them from the roll on the
basis that they are no longer entitled to be enrolled at the previous address.
The AEC’s Continuous Roll Update (CRU) process is limited
because it can only use the third party data received to encourage the elector
to update their details; it cannot do it for them. However, if the person does
not respond, the same data can be used to remove them from the roll. There is a
fundamental inconsistency that this data can be used to remove eligible
electors from the roll but not keep them on the roll.
The Electoral Referendum and Amendment (Maintaining Address)
Bill 2011 (the Bill) seeks to address this problem. It is proposed that the AEC
will be able to take the next logical step by extending its CRU process and directly
update the address details of electors who are already enrolled, rather than
removing them from the roll.
The state of the roll necessitates the introduction of direct
address update as a matter of urgency. It will provide the AEC with greater
flexibility to help counter the trend in declining enrolment over the last
It is appropriate for the AEC to have this power and to
determine the agencies from which it will receive data. In the past the
committee has considered making the data sources subject to Ministerial approval,
or to be determined by the AEC and made a disallowable instrument.
However, having examined the mechanisms proposed in the Bill
and the AEC’s advice on how address update will operate, it is reasonable to
conclude that the AEC is best placed to select the agencies that will provide
the most accurate and appropriate data for roll management purposes. The AEC
will continue to use data from Centrelink, roads and traffic authorities and
Australia Post, which has been tried and tested in the CRU and objection
On behalf of the committee I thank the organisations and
individuals who assisted the committee during the inquiry through submissions
or participating at the hearings in Canberra. I also thank my colleagues on the
committee for their work and contribution to this report, and the secretariat
for their work on this report.
Daryl Melham MP
Terms of reference
On 24 November 2011 the House of Representatives Selection
Committee requested the committee inquire into and report on the Electoral and
Referendum Amendment (Maintaining Address) Bill 2011.
Under Standing Order 222(e), reports of the Selection
Committee are treated as having been adopted by the House when they are presented.