Labor is committed to realising a vision of Australian democracy in which every Australian has an equal say in our nation’s future.
Accordingly, we reject Recommendation 12 as proposed by the Government Members of the JSCEM.
We see the proposals set out there as a pathway to voter suppression. We are especially concerned that those citizens most likely to be disenfranchised through such changes include First Nations Australians, people affected by family and domestic violence, younger Australians, homeless people and itinerant people.
While it has often been contended by conservatives that the present arrangements for voter identification may lead to irregularities in the form of multiple voting and impersonation, these ideological arguments are unsupported by the evidence. We note that this report does not include a single reference to such an irregularity identified in the course of the 2016 election.
Much effort has been put into increasing electoral participation in Australia, and to engaging with population groups which have historically been less likely to vote or which face particular barriers to electoral involvement. This report recognises some of this work, appropriately, and makes other recommendations designed to further progress an expansion of the effective franchise.
But this would be fundamentally undermined if Recommendation 12 were to be enacted.
We note that a similar recommendation was put forward by Government Members of the JSCEM in the report on the 2013 election. On that occasion, the Labor Members of the Committee, together with Senator Rhiannon representing the Greens, also dissented.
We share the concerns they expressed, and repeat them. The experience of the Queensland introduction of similar measures is telling and concerning. Voter turnout fell significantly at the 2015 Queensland election, such that turnout was the lowest since 1980. An equivalent decline at a federal election would exclude more than 160 000 Australians from having their say in our country’s political direction - over decisions taken in their names, and shaping their lives.
It is pleasing to be able to note that the Queensland Parliament has since reversed these regressive changes.
This Parliament should not take any step which would have the effect of reducing the number of Australians participating in our democracy, and should reject Recommendation 12.
Mr Andrew Giles MP
Senator Carol Brown
Mr Milton Dick MP
Senator Chris Ketter