OPINION: by Julia PatrickNews Weekly
Australia's electoral system is 'a scandalous shambles'
, July 20, 2013
In 2010, deputies in Russia’s Parliament were caught running from seat to seat pressing buttons for fellow MPs who did not turn up to vote. The bill was “passed” by 440 deputies, although only 88 were actually present.
Could this happen here? Well no, but our electoral system is a scandalous shambles. In the guise of “reform”, a once secure system has had its parts changed or discarded to make it “easier and simpler” to vote — although no-one complained it was difficult.
Now we have a system that leaks like a bucket with a hundred holes.
Years ago, ballot papers were numbered and the butts kept so votes were traceable if a result were disputed.
But that was axed when the privacy lobby found their feet. Specific polling places were the next to go, and now a name is on the roll at all polling places in an electorate — it can be up to 60.
Once a vote goes into the box it’s counted, and no-one knows if it comes from a real person voting once or multiple times — or a phantom voting from the grave. It’s a charter for invisible crime.
This year the Australian Electoral Commission put 1.5 million young Australians over 18 on the electoral roll without asking them or telling them. If they don’t know, they won’t vote. Could someone vote for them?
The absurdity is that the remedy is so simple. Require ID to be shown when you vote to prove you are who you claim to be — nothing discriminatory in that. Having your hair cut these days is about the only thing you don’t need ID for.
Normally honest people sometimes cheat. Why?
The desire for power is a motivator without equal. “Whatever it takes”, as former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson put it so succinctly.
Or, as industrial relations expert Grace Collier said, referring to unions but equally applicable here: “Anything improper can be justified as proper when it is for ‘the good’.... Civil disobedience is okay if the end justifies the means.”
The present Electoral Commissioner, Mr Ed Killesteyn PSM, was recently reappointed for a further five-year term, commencing on January 4, 2014. That’s a pity. If he hasn’t seen the most obvious way to avoid electoral malpractice in the last five years, what hope is there that he’ll see it in the next five?
So after the coming election, if your candidate wins by a slim margin or just a handful of votes, you’ll always wonder if he or she really deserves to go to Canberra at all.
Julia Patrick is a freelance Sydney writer on social issues.