Submission: Inquiry into the Administration of the Referendum into an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee (Committee) in regard to the administration of the referendum into an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice (Referendum).

NSWCCL's submission focuses on key issues relating to the disenfranchisement of First Nations people, misinformation and disinformation, and the ongoing integrity and assurance process of the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

NSWCCL considers that all Australian citizens should be afforded the right to vote in all elections and referenda and it is pertinent that Australia upholds the principle of free and equal participation in the political process. Australia has both legal and moral obligations to protect the right to vote without discrimination, which is provided for in human rights treaties that are binding on the Australian Government, namely:

(a) article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and
(b) article 5(c) of the International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

To ensure all members of our democracy are afforded the right to vote in the Referendum, the NSWCCL urges the Committee to remove restrictions on prisoners’ voting rights in the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 (Cth) and Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth). This will support enfranchisement generally, and specifically in relation to First Nations people.

The NSWCCL also implores the Committee to focus on removing barriers to voting for individuals experiencing intersectional disadvantage, including disability, homelessness and illiteracy, such as through the adoption of mobile polling booths and an electronic voting option for the Referendum. NSWCCL also ask the committee to focus on expanding online voting capabilities for those in rural and remote Indigenous communities. 

To prevent the spreading of misinformation, NSWCCL also recommends the committee to support investment in public education campaigns about the referendum process and call for the official pamphlets on the Voice to be factchecked. We also call on the Committee to consult closely with the AEC on what additional resources they may need to combat misinformation and to provide those additional resources as required.

For more information read our submission here.