Since 1983, the Parliament has charged this committee with assessing the operation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the conduct of general elections, and other matters relating to the conduct of our electoral system.
In this Parliament alone, the Committee has considered: the conduct of the 2016 general election; influenced changes to the Electoral Act to stop foreign money being part of our elections; and the eligibility of Members of Parliament set out under section 44 of The Constitution.
The Committee has also established formal oversight activities for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC)–to assure itself, the Parliament and the Australian public that the AEC’s processes are robust, and to identify where electoral processes can be improved. This report outlines this function and identifies key areas for inquiry during the 46th Parliament.
The Committee has also investigated the next great threat to democracies worldwide–the impact of disinformation on voters, electoral systems and outcomes. Whether by state actors or non-state actors, the dissemination of disinformation serves to polarise debate and political discourse in the great liberal democracies of the world.
Much has been made of the role that Governments and social media companies have in regulating and protecting users from disinformation, and rightly so. However, individuals must accept a level of personal responsibility by researching and educating themselves on topics before sharing what is potentially false information designed to deliberately deceive.
The Committee is proud to support the establishment of an international committee, led by our parliamentary colleagues in Canada and the United Kingdom. Ultimately, the spread of disinformation is a global problem that will require democratic nations to unite to find a global solution.
The Electoral Matters Committee has produced a comprehensive body of work during the 45th Parliament and in this report has set out a vision to support the work of its successor in the 46th Parliament.
Thanks are due to Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds, who chaired the Committee until August 2018, supported by Andrew Giles MP as Deputy Chair. Many other Senators and Members of the House, current and former, have also contributed to the work of the Committee over the 45th Parliament, strengthening its inquiries.
Senator the Hon James McGrath