Additional Comments from Senator Nita Green

Firstly, I acknowledge the work of the Chair, committee members and committee secretariat for undertaking this inquiry and formulating this lengthy report. The report the committee has presented addresses important changes needed to ensure that Australia's national identity is promoted, and democracy in Australia is strengthened. The recommendations outlined in this report will make a positive contribution to pursuing Australia's Nationhood, the following is noted:
Regarding Recommendation 1 of the report, while civics education plays an important role in engaging school aged people in the processes of Australian democracy, our history and our national identity instead of mandating civic education, policy makers should also be given the necessary tools and resources to increase understanding of Australian civics for people of a school age.
Secondly, Recommendation 7 of the report regarding section 44 of the Constitution requires further investigation and public consultation as to how this change can be made, if through referendum or, if not, through another avenue. The Parliament should also work out a way to mitigate section 44, the rules that apply and effect those rules have on the Parliament.
The view of Iain Walker, Executive Director, newDemocracy Foundation should be noted that 'a change to section 44 of the Constitution would be a challenging task'.1
The Parliament is currently faced with many challenging and pressing constitutional reform agendas which should be actioned with priority.
Finally, The Australia Institute's view that the fine for not voting should be increased from $20 to $70 to 'better reflect today's wages and act as an incentive', is noted, however it has not been recommended by this committee.2
Instead, it is the view of the committee, as laid out in Recommendation 15 of the report that the Australian Government should work with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to devise strategies to increase enrolment and voter turnout before, during and after elections are held.
It is worth noting that there may be unexpected consequences for increasing the fine for non-voters including the impacts of an increased fine may be felt mostly by those who cannot afford it.
The Australian Government should also explore how the current system of fining non-voters can discourage people from enrolling to vote in the first place, before changing the penalty for not voting.3
Senator Nita Green
Senator for Queensland

  • 1
    Mr Iain Walker, Executive Director, newDemocracy Foundation, Committee Hansard, 7 February 2020, p. 18.
  • 2
    The Australia Institute, Submission 132, p. 2.
  • 3
    Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, Report on the conduct of the 2016 federal election and matters related thereto, November 2018, Recommendation 10 p. 58

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