House debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021


Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021; Second Reading

10:52 am

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Western Australia) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] Let's call this bill for what it is: voter suppression—a government blocking its ears and closing its heart to Australians, because this government is worried that if all Australians vote they might not vote for them. It's a gutless move from a gutless Prime Minister, who steals his best and most evil ideas from the mind of Donald Trump.

Election day in Australia should be a celebration, a day when Australians are free to exercise their democratic rights. We've got a pretty good system in Australia, and speakers on both sides have pointed that out. It works well, it's efficient and at least most of us in this House, if not most of us across Australia, enjoy the experience. But this bill, the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity Bill) 2021, would change that. It would Americanise our voting system. It would add unbearable delay and it would reduce the number of Australians who would vote. It would literally cut them out of money that local P&Cs would get when they run their democracy sausage sizzles. They will get less money, because there are fewer voters rocking up.

If we want to really understand the impact of this we need to put ourselves in the shoes of a typical voter. Imagine election day 2022. They wake up on a Saturday morning after having a bit of a sleep in. They decide to go about their day, but they are going to get the voting out of the way first. So they drive to the booth and, on the way there, they see the crowds. It's not like normal; there's traffic everywhere and they can't get a car park. When they finally get to the booth, they can't believe what they see: people queued up everywhere; a line as long as the eye can see. Their neighbours, friends and community members are standing out in the sun waiting endlessly—all because they want to do what they have done at every election, which is vote. So they collect their how-to-vote card for their preferred candidate—and they get given the how-to-vote cards from all the nut-job right-wing parties, who preference the Liberal Party. The minutes tick past and the sweat begins to stick. They start to worry about how long they've been in line. They didn't put any suncream on; they're getting worried. They look at their phone. Twenty minutes have passed, and their battery might not last as long as they need it to, given how long the queue is. They look over at the sausage sizzle. They wish they'd got a sausage before they got into this never-ending queue. They start to wonder if they've been transported to somewhere in the United States. Finally the line starts moving. That's not because the electoral commission is processing people's identity checks quicker; the line's moving because people ahead of them are walking out of the queue. They've given up on democracy. Then, this poor voter, after 200 minutes, finally makes it to the front. They've been in line longer than the latest James Bond movie takes to watch. They're now behind for the rest of the day—late to pick up the kids, haven't started any of their Saturday weekend tasks. Finally they get to the desk and are asked for their drivers licence. They proudly hand it over. Nice and organised. Then the booth worker from the AEC tells them: 'Sorry. Your licence expired three days ago. You can't vote.' They look around desperately, trying to find someone to verify their identity. They can't find anyone who can verify them. All their neighbours and friends have given up and left the queue. So there they are. Stuck and unable to have their rights heard. So, having given up—because this government has given up on them—they go, 'I will console myself by getting a democracy sausage'. But we all know what it's like later in the day—


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