The latest edition of the Democratic Audit of Australia’s invaluable newsletter taught me the following things I (mostly) didn’t already know:

• Griffith University commissioned Newspoll to conduct two polls on “constitutional values”, in May 2008 and March 2010, and has handsomely published the full results in a comprehensive report. This finds the most pressing item on the public’s constitutional agenda to be “a referendum to decide which level of government is responsible for doing what”, which 54 per cent rate “very important”, followed by “what levels of government Australia should have” on 47 per cent, indigenous recognition on 43 per cent and a republic on 38 per cent. Support for recognition of local government is very high in Queensland (and, relatedly, among Nationals voters), but shaky everywhere else. However, the 2008 survey found the public would be highly favourable “if changes state there must always be a system of local government, set rules and standards of accountability, and guarantee a reasonable level of funding for local government”.

• The High Court has published its reasons for finding in favour of the GetUp!-backed plaintiffs who challenged the early closure of the electoral rolls introduced by the Howard government in 2006. The ruling restored the old regime under which new enrolments and changed details were accepted during the first week of the campaign, obliging the Australian Electoral Commission to accept over 100,000 applications that would otherwise have been frozen until after the election. There is a summary here and full judgement here. The court was finely poised on the issue, with Chief Justice Robert French and Justices William Gummow, Virginia Bell and Susan Crennan forming the majority, and Kenneth Hayne, Dyson Heydon and Susan Kiefel making dissenting judgements.

• Daniel Kreiss and Philip N. Howard probe the laxity of regulation surrounding political parties in the English-speaking world in “Political Parties and Voter Privacy: Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and United States in Comparative Perspective”, published on the online journal First Monday.

• An Australian Parliamentary Library report tells us that a federal redistribution in South Australia should occur during the current parliament, with the seven-year time limit on the existing boundaries expiring this month. Other than the Victorian redistribution that has just been finalised, this is the only redistribution likely for the current term.

• The Queensland government has produced an 18-page paper entitled Reforming Queensland’s Electoral System, which canvasses “on political donations, caps on expenditure by candidates, parties and third parties, and automatic enrolment of eligible voters”.

• The Democratic Audit’s Joo-Cheong Tham has published a paper on regulation of NSW local government elections.

• The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters has initiated its inquiry into the 2010 election, and will accept submissions until February 16.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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