Thursday, 11 May 2006
Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2005
Consideration in Detail
The government does oppose these amendments to the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2005 as outlined in the debate yesterday. I think it appropriate that I make a few additional comments, given some of the comments made by the member for Bruce and the member for Banks yesterday particularly in relation to young people. The member for Bruce just said that I did not refute the fact that young people might be disenfranchised. I did not say that at all. I certainly pointed out the facts and most of the facts that he seems to question come straight from the Australian Electoral Commission. But be that as it may.
I thought it would be appropriate to indicate that. The member for Banks seemed to be suggesting that young people are not engaged in the political process. I thought the House should understand what is happening in engaging young people in the political process. The AEC’s divisional returning officers and other staff in the divisions conduct educational activities for primary, secondary and tertiary students upon request. The sessions cover subjects such as levels of government, voting procedures, elections and enrolment. The School and Community Visits Program also targets specific audiences, including new citizens and Indigenous and non-English-speaking groups. The AEC provides professional development workshops for teachers as well as resources on electoral matters.
There are four electoral education centres—at Old Parliament House here in Canberra, in Melbourne, in Adelaide and in Perth. These centres are visited by thousands of students every year for education sessions. These include information on the history of voting, details on voting in Australia and conducting mock elections. The divisional officers have had 59,261 participants in their workshops to date in 2005-06, and there were 84,911 in 2004-05. In 2004-05 the electoral education centres had 108,493 students and accompanying adults participate in over 2,857 sessions. Information available for sessions conducted so far in 2005-06 at the Adelaide, Canberra and Melbourne centres is that 55,290 people participated in 1,661 sessions. The Electoral Commission is doing huge things to engage young people, and it is progressing to having them on the roll because young people get on the roll when they are at school. More and more students stay at school through to year 12. They get on the roll when they are 17, so they are automatically on the roll for voting purposes the day they turn 18 without their doing anything. It is interesting that at the close of the roll on 7 September 2004, before the last election, there were 65,139 provisionally enrolled 17-year-olds. Of the 65,139 provisionally enrolled 17-year-olds at the close of the roll, 13,803 turned 18 on or before 9 October 2004, so they automatically went on the roll. So much for the so-called disenfranchising that the Labor Party and others claim is happening.
It is also interesting to look at the figures of young people in the days leading up to the election. Like the facts that I gave yesterday, no matter whether you know the election is happening a week ahead, 10 days ahead or four years ahead—the states have fixed dates, so you know four years ahead—the bulk of the people getting on the roll towards election day get on in the last two days. No matter whether the election is 10 days, 20 days or four years ahead, the bulk of people do it in the last couple of days. There is a lot of speculation and a lot of advertising about elections and people leave it until the last minute. It does not matter if you close the roll well before or not, there will still be that rush and this bill allows people more than those couple of days to be able to get on the roll.
This is contrary to what the member for the Northern Territory, who did not understand the bill, said. He said that the roll was going to be closed on the day the election was called. That is not what is in the bill. The roll will be closed on the day the writs are issued. The writs are issued often several days after the announcement of the election. For young people, it is the same thing. The bulk of them enrol in the last two days. Something like 70 per cent of what goes on in the last week happens in the last couple of days. We continue to oppose these amendments. (Time expired)