Thursday, 28 October 2021
That this bill be now read a second time.
I introduce the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill 2021.
The bill amends the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918(Electoral Act) and Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984(Referendum Act) to implement the government's response to voting identification recommendations arising from the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) inquiries into the conduct of recent elections.
The bill will further improve public confidence in the integrity of Australian elections, and reduce the risk of fraud in the form of voter impersonation by requiring voters to present identification documentation prior to receiving a ballot paper during pre-polling, and at polling locations on polling day.
The measures in this bill will bring Australia into line with voter identification practices of other liberal democracies, such as Canada and Sweden, and with other everyday activities in Australia that require proof of identification, such as driving, opening a bank account, or collecting a parcel from the post office.
This bill changes the existing requirement under the Electoral Act and Referendum Act for a voter to identify their name and address verbally, to a requirement to provide a proof of identity document.
The bill includes a broad range of options for voters to verify their identity by proof of identity document, including:
These forms of proof of identity can also be provided in electronic form—such as a digital drivers licence on a mobile phone.
No voter will be denied a vote because they do not have a proof of identity document. There are two options for voters who do not have a proof of identity document when they go to vote:
An attester to the identity of another voter must show a proof of identity document to a polling official. They must also complete an approved form which records the attester's full name, enrolled address, details of the identity document utilised, and the name of the voter whose identity is being attested. Both the attester and the voter must sign the approved form. The form is to be retained as evidence by the AEC, in case of any suspected instance of multiple voting.
There are already checks and balances used by the AEC to verify the identity of a person casting a declaration vote, as well as safeguards to prevent multiple voting.
It is also consistent with other everyday activities that require proof of identification, such as driving, opening a bank account, or—
Opposition members interjecting—
collecting a parcel from the post office. To ensure privacy is protected, a voter's proof of identity document must only be used by the AEC to establish the voter's identity.
The requirement to present a proof of identity document will not apply to electronically assisted voting, otherwise known as 'telephone voting', which is used by vision-impaired voters and Antarctic electors.
Postal voting, as a form of declaration voting with its own rigorous preliminary scrutiny processes, will also be exempt from these requirements.
This bill will also replicate amendments to the Electoral Act in the referendum act, to maintain consistency between the two acts.
The government has committed additional funding of $5.6 million to the AEC to implement these measures, including communication and community engagement activities to inform voters about electoral participation with these new requirements.
These changes will help to safeguard the integrity of Australian elections and referendums by reducing the potential for voter impersonation and provide additional assurance to Australia's free and fair elections.
I commend the bill to the House.
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the first sitting after 1 January 2023".
The effect of this is simple. The effect of this motion is to put beyond the next election an attempt, on the eve of an election, to deny people a vote. Let's not mince words about what this is about. We know exactly what this is. This is about undermining support for the democracy here. It's about the exact tactics that we saw from Donald Trump. That's what this government's doing. They wait for the eve of an election, they wait for the final months leading up to an election, and they take one of their far-right-wing ideas—to try to deny people a vote—and whack it in front of the parliament right now
Let's make no mistake about who gets affected by this. People who are homeless and who are poor get affected by this. People who live in remote communities get affected by this. People who are elderly, who have given up their drivers licences, get affected by this. Everybody who turns up and sees endless queues on polling day gets affected by this. There is one outcome: the government is trying to make sure that fewer people vote.
Well, we happen to have a bit of faith in the Australian people, and our position is really simple: we want Australians to vote in Australian elections. That didn't use to be controversial, but in the last 24 hours, on the eve of an election, they've decided that's going to be a partisan point. Well, if you want to go to the next election telling Australians you want barriers between them and the ballot box, you're making it clear right here, right now. The Prime Minister, about to scoot off overseas, leaves this until the last day, because everything about this is about denying scrutiny. It's a desperate attempt to undermine the democracy we have in Australia.
What is the problem you're trying to solve?
After the last election, after millions of Australians voted, the AEC then did the check to work out if there was a problem with the integrity. Guess how many people ended up being prosecuted? Zero. Zero! So, for the sake of fixing a problem involving no Australians, the government want to stand in the way of thousands of Australians voting. This should be put off till well after the election.
I second the amendment. Let's be very, very clear about this. This is just an exercise in voter suppression—nothing more, nothing less. It's designed to deny Australians the legitimate right to vote in our democracy. It's part of a piece. I have railed in this chamber on a number of occasions against the way in which this government has dealt with people who are trying to enrol to vote—where they were attempting to deny people the right to enrol, let alone get a vote. And what we are seeing now is a second part of that piece: 'We've denied the right to vote by not having you enrolled, and now what we want to do is make sure that, when you turn up to the voting place, you don't get to exercise your right to vote in our democracy.' That's what this is about.
I'm sick to the back teeth. I've been here 33 bloody years and I've never seen anything like this. It's racist, it's discriminatory and it's all about suppression. Don't shake your head, because that's what it's about. You have no idea. I know what will happen in my electorate. People from remote communities will turn up to the polling booth to vote, if they're lucky enough to be on the roll, and be asked, 'Do you have a piece of identification?' 'No.' 'Does the person next to you have a piece of identification?' 'No.' 'Well, they can't verify your identification because they don't have their own.' This is a farce, an absolute assault on our democracy.