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Electoral reforms needed in Australia: report

Issue date: Friday, 11 December 2020

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Optional preferential voting, the introduction of the Robson Rotation for House of Representatives ballot papers and an entirely new Electoral Act have all been recommended by the Parliament’s Electoral Matters Committee.

Tabling a report into the 2019 Federal ElectionCommittee Chair Senator James McGrath said Australia’s reputation as a successful democracy was upheld by the delivery of a transparent and robust election outcome.

“Australia is one of the oldest most successful democracies in the world,” Senator McGrath said.

“But that has not come through chance, or good luck - our democracy works because over a century, generations of people, paid and unpaid, have worked to make it so through blood, sweat and tears.

“Our democracy works because countless Australians have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms inherent in democracy.

“Our elections are a fundamental cornerstone to our democracy and they should not only be fair, open and transparent, they should be seen to be so.

“As technology evolves and society changes, we must ensure our electoral processes are robust and voters are empowered.

“There is action that can be taken to increase fairness and protect our electoral system. The Committee’s recommendations will empower the voter, increase transparency, establish further safeguards, and create consistency.”

The Committee recommended:

  • To maximise voter choice compulsory preferential voting should be replaced by optional preferential voting.
  • To increase fairness and to reduce the luck of the ballot draw while minimising the so-called donkey vote, the Robson Rotation of candidates on the ballot paper should be introduced for the House of Representatives in tandem.
  • Voter ID should be introduced for all voters with savings measures similar to provisional votes. Likewise, all electoral enrolments, whether new or changes should require proof of ID.
  • The pre poll voting period should be reduced from three weeks to a maximum of two weeks. Voters who choose to vote early should be required to explain why they are unable to attend on the day rather than it being a matter of convenience.
  • The Electoral Act should be completely rewritten to make it fit for purpose. A new offence of political violence, both physical and verbal should be introduced.
  • The rules governing the use of Party names should be tightened to restrict the use of existing party names by new political entrants.

“Parliament should also commence a conversation about whether the Parliament should be increased in size,” Senator McGrath said.

“Part of the dialogue should consider whether the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives should be reformed.”

“In addition, consideration should be given to changing the term of the House of Representatives from three years to four years.”

You can read the full report by clicking here.

Media inquiries

Ms Brooke Hargraves | Office of Senator the Hon James McGrath
0458 689 043 | 07 5441 1800

For background information

Committee Secretariat | 02 6277 2374 | em@aph.gov.au

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