Thursday, 29 October 2020
Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I would like to thank all those in this chamber who have contributed to the debate on the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2020. I echo the Minister for Finance's thanks to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for their thorough review of the bill and their examination of the issues raised in submissions. The committee found that the reforms in the bill will deliver important enhancements to our electoral system.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 is one of the oldest pieces of legislation in Australia. This bill is a housekeeping piece of legislation that helps facilitate the proper functioning of our parliamentary democracy. The reforms in this bill are important to help modernise parts of the electoral system and to assist the AEC to deliver effective and timely electoral events. Many of the amendments in this bill were included in an earlier technical amendment bill in the last parliament. While those reforms were recognised at the time as necessary, they were carried across to the current parliament so the AEC could focus on the delivery of the most urgent machinery changes ahead of the 2019 federal election.
This bill contains numerous improvements. Key among these, it extends a confidential voting service to Australian voters working in Antarctica; removes the requirement to designate some divisional offices as prepoll centres where they are unfit for purpose, including lacking disability access; helps contain the width of the Senate ballot by allowing candidate names to be printed underneath preference boxes instead of only alongside boxes; clarifies the interaction between federal, state and territory funding and disclosure regimes; and allows flexibility in wording of questions to help find a voter on the roll, which will better assist people with a non-English-speaking background or those with a hearing disability.
In summary, these reforms will improve the operational efficiency of elections, remove overly prescriptive language in the act, improve services to particular disadvantaged or geographically remote voter groups, and strengthen electoral integrity and administration. Once again, I thank my colleagues for their contribution and commend this bill to the House.