February 14th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Australia-US free trade agreement: free trade or fair trade?

EDITORIAL: Bush and Iraq: the essential issues

ELECTION: How Labor outgunned the Coalition in Queensland

AGRICULTURE: Political will needed to solve dairy industry crisis

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Latham catches government on wrong foot

OPINION: Regionalism the solution to excessive centralism

STRAWS IN THE WIND : Deschooling or reschooling? / Oxbridge / Pluralism

Death ethics (letter)

Front and centre (letter)

CANADA: Exposing the myths behind 'free market' agriculture policy

ISLAM: Musharraf's ambitious quest to lead the Islamic world

Bird flu cover-up shows that change in China comes slowly

COMMENT: Is President Bush really "dumb"?

BOOKS: Divorce Law and the Future of Marriage, by Barry Maley


MUSIC: Reflections for Peace, Joy and Serenity

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by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, February 14, 2004
by Amy McGrath

Towerhouse Publishing
Rec. price: $22.50 (incl P&P)

Most of us believe that Australia's electoral system is not only fair, but is incapable of being corrupted.

Yet there has been a succession of cases involving ballot irregularities in trade unions, political parties and local government over the years. In this informative and disturbing book, Dr McGrath has challenged the popular belief that the electoral system is foolproof, or immune from the possibility of fraud.

While staff of the Australian Electoral Office have a well-deserved reputation for propriety, there is an abundance of evidence showing that, in some states, candidates have used a variety of methods to "fix" elections, including false enrolments, party branch stacking, fraudulently casting ballot papers in the name of people on the electoral rolls, and forgery.

Public evidence

Dr McGrath has collected much of the public evidence of these activities, as it was given to the Commonwealth Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters' inquiry into the 2001 Federal Election, the 2001 Shepherdson inquiry in Queensland, other Queensland electoral inquiries from 1997-2001, and documentation on branch stacking in all states.

What is most surprising is that the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has repeatedly denied that there is anything wrong, has refused to take seriously the issues raised by Dr McGrath and others, and has even descended to ad hominem attacks on those who have tried to draw attention to the problem.

If the AEC had itself uncovered the fraudulent conduct which has been the subject of legal action or media attention over the years, one might conclude that the Commission had good reason for believing that the existing system is virtually incapable of manipulation. What is significant, however, is that the AEC has a poor track record, and only becomes involved after alleged irregularities have been reported in the media.

Dr McGrath makes numerous recommendations for improvements in the electoral system. It is to be hoped that they are implemented.

(Copies available from the H.S. Chapman Society, PO Box 39, Brighton-Le-Sands, NSW 2216 for $20.00. Please add $2.50 for postage and handling.)

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