Vote recounts aren’t as simple as they seem

Anthony Fels writes: Re. “WA Senate drama: ballot-box anomalies boost Ludlam’s fight” (Friday). It is more usual that the AEC will conduct a recount if there is any possibility that “parcels” of votes are not counted correctly. They probably have done this on a case-by-case basis for each polling place already, and reconciled this to the ballots issued at every individual booth. Any discrepancies must be raised at the time by the scrutineer for the candidate. The issues now being raised by [WA Senator] Scott Ludlam, if they have already been considered by the AEC, (which they have), and the AEC proceeded to the final count, (which they did); can be appealed only to the Court of Disputed Returns. The AEC is obliged under the Commonwealth Electoral Act to declare the result as soon as possible after the count. In their written request, the Greens did not identify any discrepancy in the counting process, only that the result was very close. The issues now raised cannot be raised after the count, only during the count. The only issues that can be raised now are if the count has not been added up correctly — ie. if there is an error in the arithmetic.

It is quite possible for ballot papers to go missing at a polling booth, but the court will not disenfranchise hundreds of valid votes on the basis that there was a shortfall of votes at one or two booths. Also, these matters should have been raised at the time by scrutineers if they didn’t believe the process was correct. I presume while the Greens were leading in the earlier counts, they neglected to raise these issues before the AEC “pressed the button” and gave them a different result.

No same-sex divorce in Queensland

Chris O’Regan writes:  Re. “Gay divorce: it’s already happening” (yesterday). I don’t know who your tipster was about same-sex divorce in Queensland, but they are wrong on key facts. Same-sex marriage does not exist in Queensland. Same-sex couples can register their relationship, but have only been able to do so since 2011, not 2009 (prior to 2012, they could hold a ceremony and call it a civil union, but [QLD] Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie revoked this last year). This is explicitly not a marriage, as the Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages webpage explaining them makes clear, and therefore cannot end in “divorce”. I’m unclear on what facility exists to revoke a registered relationship, but that process couldn’t be described as a divorce. It doesn’t have relevance to what is being discussed in the ACT, which would be full legal marriages albeit not covered by the federal act.

ATO surveillance 

John Richardson writes: Re. “Tax surveillance is looking the wrong way” (yesterday). I reckon John Jamieson is absolutely right to wonder what the tax office, as well as our partied-out politicians, are doingJohn and others might be interested in the report: Secrecy Jurisdictions, the ASX100 and Public Transparency, published in May of this year by Dr Mark Zirnsak, Director of the Justice & International Mission Unit of the Uniting Church in Australia.  Whilst some might not think it strange that 61 of the 90 corporations in the ASX top 100 have foreign subsidiaries in so-called “secrecy jurisdictions”, others may wonder if that helps explain the dramatic 20% collapse in company income tax paid as a percentage of GDP since 2007 or the fact that some 40 big businesses in Australia pay no income tax at all? Of course, given what we mistake for quality debate around “genuine” tax reform in Australia, unsurprisingly it took only a millisecond for all the experts and pundits to conclude that an increase in the GST is the only solution to the tax revenue problem.