House debates

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters; Report

4:15 pm

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

() (): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, I present the committee's report entitled Third interim report on the inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 election: AEC modernisation.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

by leave—This third interim report of the joint standing committee is an uncontroversial report, but it is important. All of us are mindful of the context within which elections are taking place across all developed and democratic countries with, obviously, reports of interference in that election in the US and, indeed, attempted interference in the French election as well. These questions of integrity in the conduct of elections go to the heart of confidence in our democracy.

In this light, I want to touch very briefly on the consensus recommendations that have emerged from the work of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters looking at some modernisation and assurance matters going to the conduct of elections in Australia. There are five recommendations that the committee are putting before the parliament and to the government. First, there is a series of amendments to the act, all of which come at the recommendation of the Australian Electoral Commission and which proceed with the unanimous support of the committee after having the opportunity to consider these proposals and ask questions of the commission and, indeed, the commissioner. They are, effectively, tidying up provisions, but they are important tidying up provisions in light of emerging technology and other changes in the practise of elections.

Consistent with this, the second recommendation asks the recommendation to consider some additional funding. This goes to some very significant additional expectations that are falling upon the AEC and its staff and is a matter that deserves some wider consideration in this place. I look forward to hearing from the government when it responds to this interim report. The third recommendation goes to some operational considerations that the AEC might have regard to. A particular issue of concern to many members of the committee and, indeed, to me, goes to the training of staff, recognising the unusual nature of the staffing profile of the Australian Electoral Commission, which obviously, has to dramatically increase its staffing profile at election time and to the challenges that poses, particularly in a nation like Australia that is so geographically diverse as well as diverse in many other respects.

The fourth recommendation goes to the very important question of roll assurance, and we have recommended greater recourse to certified electronic rolls at polling booths to provide greater assurance in this regard. The last recommendation—I started off with the context of democratic assurance—critically requests that progress in these recommendations be reported back regularly to the joint standing committee so that this parliament as a whole can continue to monitor the extent to which our elections are being managed in a manner consistent with the needs of our modern democracy.

I am very pleased to present this report to the House and, in doing so, I thank the chair of the committee, Senator Reynolds, all my colleagues on the committee and extend my particular appreciation to the secretariat and those officers of the AEC who have assisted us, in particular, the secondee, who has been of enormous assistance to all committee members.