Voluntary voting comes to Australia?

Despite Nick Minchin’s constant urgings, John Howard has more or less ruled out using his new Senate majority to abolish compulsory voting. But has the Australian Electoral Commission’s failure to follow up punters who don’t vote produced voluntary voting by stealth?

The federal election last year was held on 9 October. The following weekend the ACT held elections for its local legislative assembly. Voting at both elections was compulsory. Since October, the ACT Electoral Commission has used court action to follow up around 1,800 voters who failed to respond to the non-voting penalty notice with either a satisfactory excuse or payment of the standard fine.

But how many ACT voters has the AEC followed up about non-voting the previous weekend? Crikey hears that the number pursued to the courts by the AEC is substantially lower. Not a four digit number. Not a three digit number. Not even a two digit number. We are in fact talking a single digit number. We hear the number of cases is exactly one.

Is this some new policy to not crack down on non-voters – or is the other rumoured excuse of a technological stuff-up correct?

I’m still waiting for my postal vote application. The AEC sure had problems getting them out. Has there been another bungle?

If so, will the government chase it – or will it be happy to quietly ignore the problem, happy to see compulsory voting effectively become voluntary.

Howard’s dodgy poll arithmetic

In his Liberal Party Federal Council address, playing down the IR reforms, John Howard referred to the “millions of trade unionists” who voted Liberal. But the figure that always seems to get kicked around says only 1.8 million Australians still bother to belong to unions. Vote early, vote often?

Tatts lotto

An extremely well educated subscriber writes:

Last night I dreamt about reading a Crikey piece on which pollies have tattoos. Are there any outrageous tatts on our federal pollies? My money is on Nelson having one.

CRIKEY: Our reader is getting mixed up with Dr Brendan’s lairy earring – which he famously traded in with a few other things when he became a minister, but it’s a good question. George Bush Snr famously has a tiger tattooed on his bum. What surprises can you offer us, readers? Titillating tatt tales to [email protected], please.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey