Make no mistake, make no mistake, this bill is a cheap and nasty piece of self-interested, anti-democratic bastardry whose only purpose is to give this awful, hopeless, shameless, desperate, do-nothing, stand-for-nothing government a chance of squeaking back into office, squeaking back into office, while Australians have their democratic rights trampled over by the by the rorters and the wasters and the scandal-mongers of those opposite. It is disgusting!
Mr Wilson (7:33pm) – Thank you, Speaker, and congratulations on your elevation to that office. I’m very pleased to speak to this bill and particularly in support of the second reading amendment moved by the member of Scullin. Everyone in the Australian community should understand that this bill will make voting harder for all Australians. The bill will have the effect of ensuring some Australians don’t vote at all. And that is exactly what the government is hoping for. That is exactly what this measure is intended to deliver.
Why? Because the government has calculated that the people who will be most affected by these pointless, unnecessary, heavy handed new voting requirements will be people who are less likely to vote for them.
It is called voter suppression. It’s been practised by right wingers in the United States for a long time. So here at the very end of a difficult year, in the time of a pandemic, after eight years of a government doing nothing about climate change and energy, eight years doing nothing about wage stagnation and insecure work, eight years rolling out a broadband network based on 19th century copper that is obsolete on delivery – with so many areas needing the attention of good, hard-working, problem-solving government, they come along with this rubbish.
Why, why? Because this government, the Morrison, Joyce government, having abandoned all pretence of doing anything substantial and constructive in the national interest, is desperate to protect its own interest by almost any means. It is desperate to find a way by hook or by crook, by rorts and dishonesty, by scare campaigns, and by fomenting confusion and division in the Australian community, through any and all of the dark arts and down every low road, just to give themself a chance of sneaking back into office to sneaking back into a second decade on that side of the house.
So by introducing this bill, burdening Australian democracy with this cunningly designed and heavy handed regulation that was obtained, express mail from the hard right manipulators that practice this kind of game in American politics, they are hoping to squeak back into office.
And again, everyone in the community should understand that these measures this bill, if passed, will make it harder, slower, and more frustrating for every Australian who goes to do their democratic duty and vote next year.
But the particular evil in the design of this measure is that it seeks to ensure that some Australians don’t vote at all. And the Australians who likely won’t vote because of this bill are people who need to be heard. They will most likely be First Nations Australians, and young Australians and Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds, and Australians facing severe disadvantage. In other words, from Australians who can be marginalised from the political process, and who tend to experience disadvantaged in social inclusion from precisely the people who need to participate in the political process, who need to be heard by all of us in this place so their circumstances can be understood, so that we can do our job, which is to deliver fairness, and justice, and social inclusion.
This bill, Mr Speaker, seeks to blank out, democratically, as many of those people as possible. And let’s be clear, the government doesn’t need to suppress the vote to any great degree, it doesn’t need to knock out and silence and disenfranchise that many people, in order to sneak across the line in a close election. Elections in this country are generally determined by a percentage point here or there. This measure is precisely the thing that those opposite hope will make that marginal difference and allow them to sneak back into office. That’s why the member for Kennedy, no particular friend of this side of the house, has described the measure is blatantly racist. That’s the view of the Northern Land Council. That’s the view of the Central Land Council. That’s the view of stakeholders in the social justice and social inclusion world.
What are the circumstances of the forthcoming election likely to be? It’ll be a pandemic election. We know it’s going to be difficult, we know we’re going to have additional challenges because we will be opening up next year. And as a result of opening up, we expect to see infections rise, particularly in states like Western Australia and Queensland, and South Australia that have been virtually COVID infection free. And so we will likely see measures that are needed to help control the spread of infection. Now, that’s going to put burdens on the process already, that’s going to mean that having people in close proximity to one another in queues needs to be avoided. That’s the sort of thing we should be thinking about, actually making sure that the federal election next year, which will be a vital turning point in the history of this country, we should be making sure that as many of the millions of Australians who want to participate, quite rightly, in that election can do so as easily as possible considering the challenges of the pandemic. These measures will make that harder these measures will require people to be in queues for longer, they will require people to be at polling booths for longer, they will actually work precisely in the opposite direction, from the kinds of things we would otherwise like to see happen at polling booths in 2022, where people are allowed to come move quickly through a polling booth and cast their vote. These bills are going to cause long queues, they are going to cause crowds, they are going to cause people to have to come together and stand in proximity to one another for longer because the government wants to impose this new, pointless, useless form of regulation in their own self-interest.
We know that there’s no benefit to be gained by those bills, because we know there’s no problem. The AEC has described the fact that a tiny, tiny number of people are ever thought to have voted twice. But that problem is in their own words ‘vanishingly small.’ At the last election the suggestion was 2,000 votes may have been cast twice – 2000 out of 15 million votes. That’s not one in 1000. That’s a fraction of one in 1000. And all of the analysis by the AEC shows a number of things, first of all it shows that the majority those people are older Australians, people who are sort of 80 plus, and who possibly vote once by postal vote, and then have a child come on the day, who doesn’t know about the postal vote says ‘Come on, mom. Oh, come on, dad. Let’s go down to the polling booth.’
The AEC believes that in some cases the thought is that people have voted twice is really just because an official marking the roll at a polling booth has made the mark in the wrong place, which is as the Leader of the Opposition described as earlier. In any case, after the last election there was an investigation by the AEC into only 19 cases where someone may have voted more than once and none of those led to a prosecution, and the AEC has been crystal clear, crystal clear that in any circumstances in which there’s evidence that there may have been double voting, that goes to the question of whether or not an election in an individual seat can be in question there are provisions that would allow for that election to be reheld. So if that had ever been the case, if there’d ever been any evidence, if there’d ever been any evidence that there was a problem that could have been that could have been dealt with, But it’s never happened, it’s never ever happened in 121 years, there’s no risk of it. There’s no evidence of it. It has never ever occurred. I mean, talk about a solution in search of a problem, the AEC – all of the evidence, all of our history shows that we have a robust and high integrity electoral system, but the government is coming along with no basis at all, and seeking to impose additional burdens on Australians who want to exercise their democratic right.
And, if there was any problem at the moment in terms of a concern about integrity and politics, if the people on that side of the house could without the massive hypocrisy that we have heard in this debate so far, and we’ll continue to hear in this debate, if there was any semblance of personal responsibility or anything other than shamelessness on the issue of integrity there are only about 500 or 600 different things that they could do. I mean, we talk about donation reform. When we were in government, we reduced the threshold down so that the donations $1,000 and more had to be properly disclosed; they came in, they straightaway put it back to $14,500. They’ve got no interest in real time disclosure of donations.
For a government that that comes at the last moment of a parliamentary year when there are 6,000 things that need doing in this country, and they come along with this voter suppression rubbish. Is it any surprise from the government that is that is known widely, not just in Australia, but unfortunately, internationally, to be dishonest, to be characterised by rots and scandals and waste, is it any surprise that this is what they come up with? This is what they hang their integrity head on.
They can’t be bothered. They promised an integrity commission. We don’t get an integrity commission, we get voter suppression. They talk about integrity, they’ve got no problem with ministers that go and come up with false documents and try and bully Lord mayors; they’ve got no problem with pieces of land are sold to Liberal mates for 10 times the price; they’ve got no problem with inflicting Robodebt on the Australian people; being on the receiving end of a class action and then today coming in and making class actions harder for all Australians in future. They’ve got no problem with any of that.
They’ve never shown the faintest interest in any real issue of integrity. And now they come along, and they try to pretend that this voter suppression, this attempt to make voter participation in the Australian democracy significantly harder is anything other than the dirtiest, grubbiest, low-road manoeuvre, to give themselves a chance in 2022. So what, so they can continue on with what we’ve seen so far rorts and waste and scandal. Is that what this is aimed to achieve? I mean, anyone who stands up on that side and uses the word integrity in their speech should hang their head in shame, they should hang their head in shame.
Speaker, these bills are what happens when a government gets so hollowed out, so valueless and purposeless that all it can bring to mind is its own survival. It will trash and burn almost anything to cling on to power, even though it has nothing in mind as a positive agenda, and it has a record of doing three fifths of nothing. The minister responsible, the member for Tangney, has made it clear that his defining purpose in public life is to reduce unnecessary regulation. Last year, the member for Tangney announced a deregulation task force whose purpose was to eliminate unnecessarily burdensome and costly regulation. In his first speech, the member for Tangney said and I quote, ‘I hate needless complexity and regulation, because the more complex something is, the more expensive it is to administer.’ That’s exactly what these bills achieve. That’s exactly what they achieve.
They make Australian elections more expensive, and more complex. They impose requirements that serve no purpose, they make voting more difficult and more unpleasant for every single Australian. And worst of all, worst of all, they will do harm to the fundamental democratic principle that participation in elections should be enabled to the greatest degree possible.
Not only do these bills seek to achieve voter suppression, but they seek to disenfranchise some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised Australians. So, these changes are utterly, utterly inconsistent with what the member for Tangney has claimed to be the central principle of his political life. This proposed regulation responds to no problem whatsoever, and it solves nothing. It solves nothing.
It is imported Republican, voter suppression bastardry. That’s what it is. It is the very definition of red tape that makes a perfectly functional and effective process more complicated, more unpleasant, and more expensive.
Make no mistake, make no mistake, this bill is a cheap and nasty piece of self-interested, anti-democratic bastardry whose only purpose is to give this awful, hopeless, shameless, desperate, do-nothing, stand-for-nothing government a chance of squeaking back into office, squeaking back into office, while Australians have their democratic rights trampled over by the by the rorters and the wasters and the scandal-mongers of those opposite. It is disgusting.