The Government’s second Electoral Reform Green Paper, released this afternoon by Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig, has invited comment on a series of wide-ranging and occasionally radical reforms to Australia’s electoral systems.

Arguing that the Commonwealth Electoral Act has only been properly reviewed once in its 90-year history, Ludwig’s paper discusses nearly all electoral reform proposals advanced in debate in recent years.

Among the issues on which the Paper invites submissions are:

  • Should non-citizens be permitted to vote and should they continue to be permitted to vote despite their refusal to take out Australian citizenship
  • Should the voting or enrolment age be lowered
  • Greater proportionality in the House of Representatives, or non-geographic electorates, and an end or changes to preferential voting, and greater representativeness in the Senate
  • Ways to reduce informal voting and harmonise voting requirements across states and territories
  • Ways to improve the accountability and transparency of the Australian Electoral Commission
  • Ways to improve enrolment, including a reversal of the Howard Government’s punitive rolls-closure amendments and poll-day enrolment
  • Strengthening registration requirements for political parties and candidates
  • Removal of the media blackout and “truth in advertising” requirements for election campaigns
  • Electronic voting and ways to accommodate growing interest in pre-poll and postal voting
  • Whether Australians should continue to be forced to vote.

The paper raises some interesting, and possibly disturbing, facts and figures.

  • Over 157,000 “British subjects” enrolled before 1984 continue to be enrolled, despite refusing to take out Australian citizenship.
  • ACT citizens are the least enfranchised in the country, with more than 120,000 Canberrans in each of the two lower house seats – more than twice the number in the Northern Territory’s seats, and fifty thousand more than in Tasmania.
  • In the Senate, NSW people are grotesquely under-represented compared to other states.  There are less than 30,000 Tasmanians per Tasmanian senator, compared to 377,000 people in NSW, or more than twice the national average, and 90,000 more than Victoria.
  • From 1993-2007, pre-poll votes tripled, and postal votes doubled.
  • Only 17 countries throughout the world enforce compulsory voting.
  • Ticket voting in the Senate, introduced in 1984, saw a drop in informal voting of around 10% to less than 3% in 2007.

Submissions are due by 27 November and an online discussion will be held from 9-13 November.

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Peter Fray
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