Thursday, 17 March 2016
Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill 2016; In Committee
Thank you, Senator Day. We have gone through this issue now for six or seven hours, round and round in circles. Given that Senator Day mentioned his amendments, it would be good if we could start to deal with some of the amendments and if the Senate could start passing judgement in relation to some of these amendments so that we can get on with making judgements on the legislation as a whole.
Senator Day has circulated amendments in relation to the matter that Senator Wong has raised. As I have said on several occasions now, in the government's judgement the Electoral Act, and specifically section 329, already provides sufficient protection for voters against deceptive and misleading conduct in relation to the casting of a vote. Of course, that prohibition against misleading and deceptive conduct will continue.
As part of this proposal the government is also making sure that voters get very clear, very explicit, black-and-white advice on their Senate ballot paper. It will say, 'To vote above the line, please number at least six boxes 1 to 6 in order of your preference, with 1 being your highest preference.' That is what it will say on the ballot paper, and our judgement is that the information provided on the ballot paper, together with the education campaign that will take place over the next little while, subject to the passage of this legislation, together with the provision in section 329 of the Electoral Act prohibiting misleading or deceptive conduct seeking to mislead or deceive electors in relation to casting their vote—we believe that this is sufficient protection for voters.
On top of that, our indication as the Liberal Party—through our federal director representing the Liberal Party, as you know, at the relevant inquiry—is very clearly that our intention is to provide guidance to voters on our how-to-vote cards entirely consistent with what is on the Senate ballot paper. Obviously it is a matter for other parties how they seek to do this, as long as they do not deceive and mislead voters in relation to the casting of their vote.