Apr 17, 2007

Youth a casualty of the PM’s unfair, undemocratic electoral law reforms

Youth a casualty of the Prime Minister’s unfair, undemocratic electoral law reforms


17 April 2007

April 14-22 is Youth Week, but this year, rather than it being a celebration of the empowerment of young people, it coincides with their disenfranchisement under the Howard Government’s extreme changes to the electoral laws.

Under the new rules, which came into effect yesterday 16 April, people who are not on the electoral roll will only have until 8pm on the day the day the election is called to enrol to vote. People who need to change their details will only have until three days after the day the election is called to update their information.

The seven-day grace period, in which 3552 people in Grayndler enrolled, re-enrolled or changed their enrolment details in 2004, has been abolished.

The new electoral enrolment form also requires proof of identification, such as a driver’s licence, other certified identification, or declarations by two eligible enrolled voters, to be complete. This will cause problems particularly for people who are unaware of the new requirements and who attempt to enrol at the last minute.

The changes to the electoral laws threaten a strong disenfranchisement of voters across Australia, and particularly in the electorate of Grayndler.

Grayndler has among the highest numbers in Australia of people who rent rather than own their homes, and a high number of students and young people. It also has a high number of people who speak English as a second language, and for whom the complexity of the new form may be a barrier to correct, timely enrolment.

It is these people who will be left without a vote and without a voice on Election Day.

I am totally opposed to this attack on Australian democracy, and voted against it all the way. The Prime Minister’s attempt to disenfranchise the people who are least likely to vote for his government is a reflection of how desperate and out of touch he has become.

For Anthony’s speech against the bill when it was introduced, see: Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2005