It is a key function of the work of Committees to ensure that any proposed legislation is carefully examined and that the public has an opportunity to contribute to these parliamentary deliberations.
It is also crucial that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, in examining Bills, seeks to ensure that any proposed legislation lessens regulatory burdens and red tape which can significantly impact on not only smaller parties and independents but also the wider voting public.
The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020 contains a number of amendments designed to improve clarity, enhance electoral processes and strengthen electoral integrity in the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984.
This Bill makes necessary amendments to sections 302CA and 314B of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and clarifies the relationship between the electoral laws of the Commonwealth, States and Territories.
To alleviate unnecessary administrative burdens, the Bill also includes a number of practical amendments including; changing the telephone voting method available to Antarctic electors to provide secret voting; changing staffing requirements for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) at elections to allow greater flexibility; allowing AEC staff to make administrative marks on ballot papers; allowing pens and other implements to be used to mark votes on ballot papers; minor practical changes to the Senate ballot paper mitigate against excessive ballot width; and streamlining the vote issuing process.
These changes, amongst others, contribute to the AEC’s ability to deliver transparent, consistent and efficient elections while removing unnecessarily prescriptive practices.
The Committee has therefore recommended that the Bill be passed.
The Committee has also recommended that the Government amend the Bill to clarify that recipients of donations will only be provided exclusive coverage under Federal donation laws where they place donations in a Federal electoral account that can only be drawn down for Federal electoral purposes. This will ensure that the banking and accounting treatment of donations aligns with the legal treatment, supporting a separation of state campaign activity from federal campaign activity. This amendment squarely addresses the main issues raised in submissions.
I would like to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to make a submission for the inquiry into the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020.
I would like to thank Deputy Chair Senator Carol Brown and my fellow Committee Members for their assistance in this report.
Senator the Hon. James McGrath

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