NSWCCL has made two submissions and given oral evidence to the various stages of the Parliamentary Inquiry into the conduct of the 2013 federal election. Initially we responded to a useful private members bill introduced by Senator Xenophon advocating optional preferential voting for the Senate. NSWCCL supported that bill in a submission made in December 2013. Subsequently on 7 February 2014 NSWCCL gave oral evidence before the Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters in which we articulated a set of civil liberties principles that guided our analysis and which we believed had been breached by the 2013 voting processes.
At that hearing we were asked for our views on a range of matters that we had not considered: e.g. optimum size of party; registration requirements for a party. NSWCCL responded to the questions and we submitted a supplementary submission on 13 April 2014 reaffirming our support for the introduction of optional preferential voting and the abolition of group voting tickets for Senate elections. These two interlinked reforms are essential to ensuring that the electoral outcome is consistent with the intentions of voters – an essential democratic principle. We also recommended that:
- Federal political party registration requirements be strengthened to mirror those in NSW – a minimum 750 members and more robust checking of party membership.
- There be no additional restrictions on the words a party can use in its name. In addition, the Australian Electoral Commission should use empirical evidence in assessing whether voters might confuse a proposed party name with an existing party.
- There be no additional identification requirements for voters to cast a ballot in federal elections. Introducing additional requirements would likely lead to many people not casting a ballot in the name of seeking to fix a comparatively minor problem - there are very few proven instances of multiple voting in Australia.
The Committee report is expected soon.