HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 27 OCTOBER 2021
Just months away from the federal election, the Liberals have decided they want to change the rules to make it harder to vote. By requiring that voters present identification at the ballot box, the government would disenfranchise thousands of Australians.
Who will their bill hit? The poor, the homeless, Indigenous people, older people who've given up their driving licences, people who can't wait in the long lines that will result. They don't like what people have to say, so they're making it harder for them to say it. If you can't stuff the ballot box, tell disadvantaged voters to stuff off.
Yet Australian Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers, said this week that ‘evidence of multiple voting to date is vanishingly small'. There were just 19 verified instances of double voting at the last election, out of 14 million votes. It's almost literally a one-in-a-million issue. Most of these were accidents, not fraud. No-one was prosecuted for multiple voting.
Homelessness Australia Chair, Jenny Smith, said:
If you flee your home without your papers to escape violence, or have your documents stolen while sleeping on the street, you shouldn't lose your ability to vote.
There's a long history in this country of denying Indigenous Australians the right to vote. In 1961, the House of Representatives Select Committee on Voting Rights of Aborigines estimated that 30,000 Indigenous people had been denied the vote. The next year, the Commonwealth Electoral Act granted all Indigenous people the option to enrol and vote in federal elections. But it wasn't until 1984 that enrolling to vote in federal elections was made compulsory for Indigenous Australians. Even today, Indigenous voting rates may be as low as 50 per cent, yet the government's bill threatens to make this worse. As the Australian Human Rights Commission points out:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples often do not possess a birth certificate and face difficulties obtaining subsequent formal identification
This is a racist measure.
Even if you think we need to change the rules, you don't do it just before kick-off. That's why the Manager of Opposition Business has moved that it be put off until 2023, well after the next election.
The Liberals' attacks on democracy aren't even original; they're straight out of the US Republican playbook. As former senator Jim DeMint once said, voter ID laws are:
something we're working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you've seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.
Since Donald Trump's 2020 election loss, Republicans have been trying to pass voter ID laws, as well as restricting early voting and mail-in voting. They falsely claim that voter fraud is a major problem. So, it's no surprise that our Trump-lite Prime Minister has picked up on this. Let's not forget, this is the same leader who spoke at a Trump rally and who is the only major world leader not to condemn the 6 January Capitol riots.
The Liberals have form on voter suppression. Former senator Nick Minchin wanted to scrap compulsory voting. I'm sure plenty of his colleagues today would do it in a heartbeat if they thought they could get away with it. Another insidious tactic is their go-slow on citizenship applications. At the time of the last election, there were more than 200,000 people denied the chance to vote because their citizenship applications hadn't been processed.
It's, sadly, unsurprising from a government that has presided over sports rorts, which pork-barrelled funding to projects judged unsuitable while denying it to higher-ranked projects. It's not surprising from a government that ran car park rorts, which gave money to 47 projects, mostly in coalition electorates, none of which were proposed by the infrastructure department. It's not surprising from a government that ran a regional grants program that gave 90 per cent of the money to coalition and marginal seats, or from a government that stacked the Administrative Appeals Tribunal with Liberal mates and gave $20 billion of JobKeeper to firms with rising revenue.
It's not surprising from a government that's trying to get rid of charities involved in public activism, pushing through new deregistration powers that Tim Costello has compared to Vladimir Putin's Russia. And it's not surprising from a government that promised a national integrity commission over three years ago and has yet to deliver, because they know that a robust integrity commission would be after their dodgy ministers quicker than Eliud Kipchoge running for the finishing line.
The Liberals don't like public education; they don't like public health; they don't like public services. And now we've learned they just don't like the public.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.