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

I've clearly struck on a sore point for this government. Indeed, Christmas Day this year is a Saturday so it could be a day the government could choose to have an election. When I suggest that they might be looking to move elections to a Tuesday like the United States, all of a sudden we have the minister at the table raising points of order. To me, that tells you everything about the direction of democracy under the Morrison-Joyce government.

Looking at some of the challenges that happen when you start to suppress the votes of Australians, I want to talk particularly about a cohort of vulnerable Australians who do find it hard to have up-to-date ID. We know that there are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 rough sleepers on any one night, and they are often escaping domestic violence or a particular risk because of other health or social challenges. These voters will be disproportionately affected by these laws, and, again, are a group of voters who have been disproportionately ignored by this government. I want to echo the words of Cassandra Goldie, the CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, who put it so clearly. She said:

Requiring voter IDs would hit hardest those people who already face barriers to voting - people who are homeless, people living in remote communities, First Nations people, recent immigrants, younger people.

I know here in Western Australia that the government and the resourcing they provide to the Australian Electoral Commission has failed on the task of getting Indigenous voters on the roll. Here in Western Australia the estimates are that only 69.7 per cent of all eligible Indigenous voters are on the electoral roll. That is 20,954 people who are eligible to vote in Western Australia and are not on the roll. This government's legislation doesn't do anything to fix that. All it does is make it harder for those who are on the roll to actually be able to vote. It is so disappointing. When it comes to young people, we saw in 2016 that over one-third of Victorians aged 18 to 24 do not hold a drivers licence. Again, young people are disproportionately affected by these laws.

Most of all, this is going to reduce trust in government. It is government saying that they don't want to hear from people, and choosing to do something that's in their political interests rather than the interests of democracy. If you want to do something about improving democracy, start by looking at electronic electoral rolls. It's worked well in Western Australia. Start by looking at donation disclosure, making sure that we clean up all of the problems with this unrealistically high threshold for political donations. And maybe, just maybe, this government could match their words to actions when it comes to an anticorruption commission. Labor will oppose this legislation. We will fight it. We will make sure this is an issue at election time. If an Albanese Labor government is elected, we will repeal this mean, tricky legislation.


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