Party Workers a Critical Part of the Democratic Process

30 Apr 2019

Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (17:02): The federal election is in full swing, and pre-poll voting started yesterday.

 

Voting places have traditionally been public schools or halls, available on the Saturday of the election. The extended period of pre-poll voting has meant that both the Australian Electoral Commission and the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) have had to source alternate, sometimes private, premises.

In this election the Mornington pre-poll is at the Bentons Square shopping centre, and party workers have been told by the owners of the centre that they are not allowed to operate on their land.

 

To get a how-to-vote card people must cross a busy access road on foot, a potentially risky situation. I am told that most voters are simply going directly into the voting centre.

 

In a similar situation, at a retirement village during the state election campaign, my party workers were denied access. When I raised the matter with the VEC, I was advised that as the venue was private property, they were unable to act.

 

If our electoral system was first past the post, the absence of party workers might not be an issue, although I would still have concerns about the opportunity for property owners to interfere, as they are, in the democratic process.

 

Given our system of compulsory preferential voting, removal of the right for party workers to hand out how-to-vote cards is a dangerous precedent, and may lead to a greater informal vote.

 

This is a situation that should be of concern to all engaged in the democratic process. I call on the Australian Electoral Commission to act immediately to resolve the unsatisfactory situation at Mornington, and I urge the yet-to-be-appointed members of the Electoral Matters Committee to examine this issue and report to the Parliament.