The Peter Garrett electoral roll saga will no doubt spark another round of debate about electoral fraud and Vicky Voter has offered up this pugnacious demolition of right wing conspiracy thoeries about so-called Labor rorting. However, make sure you read to the bottom as HS Chapman Society leader Amy McGrath has returned fire.

On April Fools Day 2004 the Howard Government introduced an electoral bill into Parliament that could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of electors who might not vote for the Coalition at the 2004 federal election (Electoral and Referendum (Enrolment Integrity and Other Matters) Bill).

Conventional wisdom on the hard right has it that left-leaning voters can be found not only in the ranks of the so-called latte-sipping “elites”, but also amongst the young and the socially disadvantaged, the poor, the homeless, prisoners, and aboriginals. And they know who you are. MPs and political parties are provided with the electoral roll in electronic format, including all your personal details, and they match this data with any other database they can lay their hands on. They have you demographically mapped, and have a fair idea from polling booth records how you are likely to vote, especially if you are interesting enough to be enrolled in a marginal electorate.

The right wing ascendancy in this country is intent on fixing the federal electoral system to its advantage by amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to remove as many politically incorrect voters from the roll as it can. Its easier to win an election when you can bias the electoral rolls in your favour. Just ask our PM’s mate, George W Bush, who profited greatly in Florida from rigged rolls that excluded many blacks and prisoners, not to mention a clapped out voting system, brow-beaten electoral officials, and a stacked supreme court. Voters better be very alert when Parliament resumes or we can kiss our world-class electoral system goodbye…

When this bill is debated in the next few weeks, you can expect such liberal luminaries as Eric Abetz, Nick Minchin, Jeannie Ferris and Christopher Pyne to spread alarm and confusion with their terrifying tales of electoral fraud. You will hear that “it is easier to enrol to vote than to hire a video at the local store”, that the rolls are stacked with cats, dogs and other imaginary voters, that hackers have invaded the computers and that electoral staff are biased and incompetent. The sky is falling in, we must not cut and run, we must “tighten up” the electoral system (and sacrifice more of our hard-won rights), in order to prevent electoral terrorism from the usual suspects.

You will be told that the only way to avoid this impending electoral disaster is by making it more difficult for young people to enroll for the first time, by closing down the rolls for new enrolments at the issue of the writs, instead of the usual seven days after, by requiring provisional voters, including itinerants and aboriginals, to prove their identity at the polling booth, by making assisted voting more difficult for the disabled and those who cannot read and write, and by winding back the franchise for prisoners. In all the sound and fury about rampant electoral fraud which will accompany debate on this bill, and which will be echoed abroad by a lazy and compliant media, you will hear very little about the internationally recognised merits and strengths of our electoral system (Canada and the UK have recently reformed their electoral systems to mirror many significant aspects of Australian electoral law).

For nearly two decades a group of cranky old right-wing reactionaries from the leafy suburbs of Sydney, such as Dr Amy McGrath of the H S Chapman Society, and cheered on by Alan Jones, Christopher Pearson, Paul Sheehan, and Professor David Flint, have been leading the assault on the integrity of our electoral system, with a relentless avalanche of electoral fraud allegations after every election (none of which has ever been proved) and loopy suggestions for “reform” that would take the franchise back to the dark ages. This small but useful constituency has been carefully nurtured by the Howard Government and rewarded with sympathetic publicity through ministerial press releases and parliamentary committee hearings.

The H S Chapman Society is still apparently unable to cope with the bipartisan electoral reforms made in 1983 which included the creation of an independent statutory authority to administer elections and referendums, reduced political interference in boundary redistributions and campaign financing, and improved the franchise through various technical amendments, such as the introduction of division-wide and provisional voting. Dr McGrath and her friends want to roll back the electoral reforms of 20 years ago, which they argue, against history, has benefited one side of politics over the other. McGrath insists that the secret ballot must be watered down with the introduction of “limited vote tracing” to deter electoral fraud (which it wouldn’t), and that there should be a return to an “English village” model of enrolment and roll maintenance, where everyone knows everyone else on the electoral roll for their suburban area. That way no-one can have their vote counted until the lace curtain brigade gives the nod. So much for the voting rights of the great unwashed in this wide brown land.

Allegations of electoral fraud are made by Dr McGrath and her friends in voluminous submissions to every post-election inquiry by the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM). The Australian Electoral Commission has responded to each and every one of these allegations in minute detail, and its submissions are published on the AEC website, but the same old discredited allegations are repeated year after year and recycled without question through the media, predictably undermining public confidence in the electoral system. The Howard Government now sees its chance, having softened up the electorate during the 2001 JSCEM inquiry into electoral fraud, chaired by a very hungry Christopher Pyne, and is set to make major “reforms” to the electoral law that could seriously erode the franchise. Your franchise. And heaven help the various electoral authorities who will have to establish and administer the new law in such an irresponsibly short time frame before the 2004 federal election.

Fortunately, there are a few political heavy-weights in parliament who are awake to the pending Howard Government electoral fix, including ALP Senators Faulkner and Ray, and Democrat Senators Murray and Bartlett, who sit on the JSCEM from time to time, and we can probably expect some senior journalists, who can read a parliamentary submission, not to be snowed by what is about to hit the fan. For readers who might be interested in finding out how their electoral system is about to be comprehensively whacked by the Howard Government, the 2004 electoral bill is available on the Parliament House website, and relevant AEC submissions to the JSCEM can be found on the clunky AEC website under “parliamentary submissions” (see below)….


Relevant extracts from AEC submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters


Allegations of political bias in the AEC


Submission No 66 of 9 February 2001, part 2

Submission No 86 of 20 April 2001, part 3


Allegations of electoral fraud by Dr McGrath and associates


Submission No 26 of 17 October 2000, parts 7, 8 and 12
Submission No 66 of 9 February 2001, parts 5, 8 and 12
Submission No 76 of 28 February 2001
Submission No 81 of 27 March 2001, part 4
Submission No 86 of 20 April 2001, parts 5 and 6


Alan Jones


Submission No 26 of 17 October 2000, part 7
Submission No 66 of 9 February 2000, part 10
Submission No 81 of 27 March 2001, part 4


AEC evidence of electoral fraud


Submission No 26 of 17 October 2000, parts 7, 8, 12 and 13
Submission No 66 of 9 February 2001, parts 6, 7, 9, 10 and 12
Submission No 81 of 27 March 2001, parts 6 and 7


Enrolment of Curacao Catt


Submission No 66 of 9 February 2001
Submission No 81 of 27 March 2001, parts 4 and 5


Media commentary on electoral fraud allegations


Submission No 66 of 9 February 2001, part 11


Early close of rolls


Submission No 26 of 17 October 2000, part 12.2


Enrolment Identification


Submission No 26 of 17 October 2000, parts 5 and 6
Submission No 66 of 9 February 2001, part 4


Voter identification


Submission No 26 of 17 October 2000, part 12.3


Subdivisional enrolment and voting


Submission No 26 of 17 October 2000, part 12.4
Submission No 81 of 27 March 2001, part 4


Use of personal enrolment information


Submission No 26 of 17 October 2000, part 9
Submission No 73 of 23 February 2001, part 9

Amy McGrath hits back for the HS Chapman Society

By Amy McGrath

Vicky Voter has proved the April Fool in a ranting attack on myself, the HS Chapman Society and the Howard government on 11 June 2004 over the Electoral Bill introduced on April Fool’s Day. She has made a monumental fool of herself by a total failure to check her facts.

The major purpose of the Bill was for identification on enrolment, re-enrolment and provisional enrolment (when you are not on the roll) by motor vehicle licence (which carry photos) or affirmation by two authorised witnesses so that returning officers could be sure you are who you say you are.

Vicky Voter prophesied ‘sound and fury about rampant electoral fraud’ and ‘Liberal luminaries’ spreading ‘alarm and confusion with their terrifying tales of electoral fraud’ (a wild list follows). But, she said salvation was in sight from ‘a few political heavy-weights in parliament who are awake to the pending “Howard Government electoral fix”, including ALP Senators Faulkner and Ray and Democrat Senators Murray and Bartlett, who sit in the JSCEM (Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters) from time to time (Senator Ray for 20 years and Faulkner nearly as many) and we can probably expect some senior journalists not to be snowed by what is about to hit the fan’. It is Vicki Voter who has been ‘snowed’.

Alas, Vicky Voter, your ballooning conspiracy theory, against all us supposed conspiracy theorists, is absolute nonsense because you never imagined that the opposition parties would do a huge back flip by dumping all those arguments about disadvantaged voters peddled for nearly 20 years months before your hostile rant. Thanks to a simple solution from Premier Bracks they agreed without dissent in the report of the JSCEM, in the Electoral Council meeting of all State Electoral Commissioners, and in State Parliaments many months ago. And they finally agreed in the second hearing of the Bill and the Senate last week after two contentious amendments on prisoners and close of rolls were dropped. And as to the senior journalists there has been an inexcusable silence to the significance of this momentous change.

As to your personal attacks on myself, Vicki Voter, they are so laughably inaccurate that you qualify to rival one of the worst offenders of failure to check facts in the on-going history wars. I exemplify. You speak of ‘a group of cranky old right-wing reactionaries such as Dr. Amy McGrath’. If I am such, I have the Labor Party to thank. It bred myself, now President of the H.S. Chapman Society, and our Vice-President. Both of us were members of the Australian Labor Party for over 30 years. And I do not live ‘behind lace curtains’ so beloved of the Asian community (among which I lived for 5 years).

You assert this ‘group’ has been continuous for nearly two decades. The H.S.Chapman Society was founded late 1996 and has thus been continuous for only 8 years. Most of its committee and members are not ‘from the leafy suburbs of Sydney’.

You claim I have submitted ‘a relentless avalanche of fraud allegations after every election’.

This proves you have not read my submissions to the JSCEM despite the list you throw in at the end of your accusations. We are only in the business of exposing the potential for corruption in electoral law or the administrative process.

You say the Australian Electoral Commission has always disposed of all our concerns. No satisfactory answer was ever given about the computer hacker into the ballot count in 1993 federal election with the disruption of the system for weeks, nor the result in the Richmond electorate in the 1993 election. Nor in others.

Rather the ‘relentless avalanche’ of allegations has been on the part of the Australian Electoral Commission towards myself – insults eg. that I am ‘destroying the entire electoral system’, sneers, rudeness and character assassination.

You consider we have been ‘carefully nurtured by the Howard Government and rewarded with sympathetic publicity through ministerial press releases and parliamentary committee hearings.’ If only this had been true! Ministers and politicians have largely fought shy of us thanks to the AEC’s campaign to fob me off as they have done others.

You allege ‘the HS Chapman Society is still apparently unable to cope with the bi-partisan electoral reforms made in 1983.’ You cite division-wide voting and provisional voting. You are wrong on both counts. Division-wide voting never had bi-partisan support because it never went through Parliament. It was introduced by stealth. Ask Sir John Carrick or the Hon Ralph Hunt. As to provisional votes they existed before 1983, but only a handful were ever sought.

Finally, you state that the UK has ‘recently reformed their electoral systems to mirror many significant aspects of Australian electoral law,’ out of admiration for its merits. This would surprise our counterpart UK HS Chapman Society formed in 1997 with lawyers and high officials of major parties and members of the Association of Electoral Administrators (Council) of Great Britain – many of whom I know.

They were troubled over legislation for unconditional postal voting rights in 2001 (previously hard to get), experiments in all types of voting in 15 councils monitored by Australians and their antagonism to the UK’s traditional voting system.

The Chairman of the UK Chapman Society, the former national agent of the Labor Party Baroness Gould, fought 5 times in the House of Lords against the bill for full postal voting in 4 regions (14,000,000 voters) in the June 10 council and European Parliament elections. Parliament was overruled by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, who thought he would secure more Labor votes. The election was branded a ‘fiasco’ and a ‘democratic’ disgrace’ with Labor getting its worst vote since 1918.

Peter Fray

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