Senate debates

Thursday, 10 February 2022


Selection of Bills Committee; Report

11:21 am

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I'm sure our chamber attendants will do their very best to circulate them. That is the effect of the amendments: to refer those three electoral bills to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for an inquiry by 25 March. That will be with you on a piece of paper shortly.

The reason that we need these bills to be properly inquired into is that no-one should pass laws that they've only just seen in draft form 24 hours ago, particularly laws that relate to people's ability to vote and choose the government of the day. Some of these bills sound innocuous. Maybe they are, but we will never know unless we have time to scrutinise them and hear from experts and potentially find loopholes or nefarious consequences that the Senate might then seek to amend and close and change. That's the whole point of an inquiry, so it's kind of ironic that we need to argue for basic process here.

I might just point out that these three bills follow 10 electoral bills that we've seen in five months, so we have had a flurry of attempts by the government to change very fundamental rules about voting and elections in the shadow of an election that they are desperate to attempt to win, because they are so deeply unpopular throughout the entire community—in particular the Prime Minister. This is not the way to win an election—trying to rig the system at the last minute and ram through bills that suit your own purposes. It's pretty shameless, folks, even for you. So we'd like these bills to be inquired into.

I might add that, the last time we dealt with electoral legislation, this government was proposing to bring in the requirement that voters show identification before they voted and to then set up a convoluted, impractical process in the event that someone couldn't provide identification. It was a pure attempt to disenfranchise people. It would have had the effect of disenfranchising First Nations people, people without a home and women fleeing from violence. These are people who might not have their ID papers with them. They might not have ID papers at all, and they might not have a person who can come along to the polling booth and vouch for them, so that they can get a declaration vote. It was a shameless way of trying to deflate the vote of people who traditionally don't vote for the Liberal Party.

A deal was done between the two big parties. In the course of dealing with that bill, the government were also trying to silence the genuine involvement and advocacy of not-for-profit organisations in the contest of ideas that is an election campaign. They were trying to bring an additional layer of bureaucracy to non-government organisations which advocate for their purposes—sometimes, charitable purposes—and which are already covered by a schema that heavily regulates charities. The government were essentially seeking to silence dissent and silence voices that call out their terrible policies. In the course of dealing with that bill, the two big parties did a deal together, as they so frequently do, and pushed off voter ID laws. Yesterday in this chamber, we saw Senator McGrath introduce his own voter ID bill, so this issue is not dead.

This government is once again trying to rig the electoral system to benefit themselves because they've got nothing left. They've got no policies that anybody likes. They don't have any representatives that anyone likes much any more, if the latest polls are anything to go by. And now they're trying to ram through three more electoral bills which may have consequences that this chamber isn't across without having an inquiry to find out.

We are moving for these three electoral bills to go to an inquiry, as they normally would, in the usual manner. It's particularly important when bills are about voting and the right of people to have their say about who runs this country and protects their future or sells it out to big corporations and political donors.


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