Election Of Senators (Close Of Rolls) Amendment Bill

27 Sep 2007 archivespeech

This speech is in relation to the Election Of Senators (Close Of Rolls) Amendment Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I had not intended to speak on this bill, but I will point out some of the practical applications. We have heard much faux sympathy from the other side about the youth vote. The Hon. Rob Lawson referred in his speech to the possibility of provisional enrolment, which I availed myself of some 20 years ago so that I could vote as soon as I was eligible. The Hon. Robert Lawson spoke about the burden on the Australian Electoral Commission in those days following the calling of an election and the huge amount of work involved in ensuring the integrity of the roll.

From my own personal experience I am aware of the extensive roll cleansing that takes place and which has been improved upon in more recent times because of the database links the Electoral Commission shares with other agencies, including state government agencies. My sister Angela lived with me a few years ago and I received a letter from the Electoral Commission asking me to verify who was on the roll at my address because she had changed her car registration. The Electoral Commission does its best to keep the integrity of the roll, which is a difficult job with the increasing mobility in our community.

I refer also to the electorate of Hindmarsh in the last federal election 2004, contested by Liberal candidate Simon Birmingham. Hindmarsh is the oldest electorate in the country, with the greatest proportion of voters over 65 years, many of whom avail themselves of the postal vote application because they are frail, may have been to hospital and had a hip fixed and are physically not able to go and vote. There has been a Senate or some sort of federal inquiry into what happened in 2004 because a huge number of people did not get their voting papers. Having been personally involved in that campaign, I took a number of calls from elderly people and people at home with their leg in plaster, who on the Wednesday, Thursday or Friday before voting day had not received their ballot papers and desperately wanted to vote. The only answer our district returning officer could give us was, ‘Well, if you can help them get to a booth, then they can vote.’ That simply was not possible.

The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I am trying to explain how the Electoral Commission can handle the integrity of the roll, but if that is not a concern of yours so be it. The Electoral Commission published on its website the number of applications it had received, and I think on the Friday or Thursday night before polling day it showed that in Hindmarsh some 6 000 were processed. A huge number were denied a vote because they did not get their ballot papers. On election night we were informed by our state secretariat that on the numbers Simon Birmingham as the Liberal candidate, while behind on polling booth results, was further ahead than Chris Gallus as the Liberal candidate had been in 2001, the implication being that we would catch up with postal votes. That did not happen, and that seat was won by Steve Georganis by a mere 108 votes out of some 80 000 or 90 000 electors.

There will be much disingenuous wailing from members opposite about the youth vote, but everybody deserves a vote. If people wish to vote they can get themselves enrolled, but it is not fair to jeopardise any particular age group, and therefore the aged voters of South Australia ought to be considered. If they physically cannot get out to vote, they should be entitled to their postal vote, which will be a huge focus of the Electoral Commission during the election period. So, people should try to get on the roll beforehand so they can expedite that process.