A Crikey tipster has already been on the receiving end of a letter from Malcolm Turnbull, that arrived in Monday’s post — meaning it was sent before Turnbull even visited Yarralumla on Sunday. The letters come in an envelope that reads “important postal vote information” along with a postal vote form, which asks for the voter’s contact details and a “security question”, which could let the political party know the middle name of your oldest child.

Turnbull letter

We’ve covered this before, as regular readers will be aware, but it’s worth mentioning again, as one person who received the postal vote form thought it meant that her vote would automatically go to her Liberal MP. This article from Crikey in 2013 shows just what political parties do with the information:

“You’ve just told the Liberal Party or the Labor Party your name, date of birth, mobile phone number, email address, enrolled address, postal address, where you were born and who your first employer was, and you’ve given the party your signature.

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“And you probably don’t even know it — because there’s nothing on that reply-paid envelope to indicate that you’re sending it to a political party (although there will be some advertising material from a candidate contained in the letter).

“You’d like to see what personal information political parties have filed on you? You can’t. Parties are exempt under the Privacy Act; you have no right to access your file.

“Next, the political party — which might use tracking systems to work out whether you’re likely to vote for it — is supposed to send the form on to the Australian Electoral Commission (it’s an offence under section 197 of the Electoral Act not to). But it might just sit on your form a for a while, perhaps long enough that you never get that postal ballot paper (the Electoral Act prohibits stockpiling, but studies indicate it takes place). And party officials might “correct” details on your application form before sending it on (that’s happened before).”

While the AEC has tried in the past to make the practice illegal, it has had no luck. Of course it’s not just a Liberal thing, and it’s not even confined to the major parties. This photo was uploaded to Imgur, with an important-looking seal and bold text saying “voting is compulsory” — from Greens MP Adam Bandt. Of course, voting is compulsory — but filling out these forms definitely isn’t.

adam bandt postal vote

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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