Senator Boswell (Queensland—Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (1.43 p.m.)—The Electoral and Referendum Amandment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2006 covers a wide range of subjects in the Electoral Act that need adjusting. I intend today to speak about only one or two of these subjects, which I believe are the essentials that need to be addressed.
I want to speak today on party registration and party names, because I saw one of my colleagues, Larry Anthony, the former member for Richmond, defeated by a subterfuge, a deceit or by misleading conduct by the liberals for forests, as they were called at the time. My colleague the former member for Richmond had had a reasonable hold on that seat and had worked particularly hard in it. Mr Anthony was a National and he ran under that banner. He was defeated, by 301 votes, by a candidate who ran under the registered party name ‘liberals for forests’.
There were 1,417 votes collected by the liberals for forests candidate and Mr Anthony was beaten by 301 votes. I have heard that their how-to-vote cards and shirts were identical to those of the Liberals and that the party logo was identical to that of the Liberal Party. There was an absolute plan to deceive. I believe they deceived a number of people—particularly elderly people, who became distressed when they found out what had been achieved. This bill takes on board and addresses that problem.
We in the National Party have lost a very good member of parliament—and probably a prospective leader—but if that is the will of the people then I accept it. In politics, there is always a winner and a loser; I accept that, as long as it is fair and reasonable. But this was not fair. This was designed to mislead. I understand that the people of Richmond are very annoyed about this. I have been told that they are determined that they will reverse this, because they see that unfair play succeeded. Someone who had worked very hard in his electorate for over three terms of parliament was defeated by the group of people who ran as liberals for forests. When we in the Liberal and National parties run against each other, we direct preferences to each other. However, the liberals for forests directed preferences away from the National Party—there was no Liberal candidate at the time, which was even more confusing, to direct preferences to Larry Anthony. He lost the seat by 301 votes.
If ever there was a wrong that needed to be addressed it is that one, and it has been addressed in this particular bill. This subterfuge should have been addressed long ago. You cannot have ‘labor for the dolphins’ or ‘nationals for the turtles’ or liberals for whatever—such names are designed to mislead. The name ‘liberals for forests’ was designed to mislead. And it did mislead people—particularly the older people in the electorate, who became confused. Our polling booth workers pointed out the distress that it caused some people. So I am very pleased to see that a part of this legislation addresses that.
I am also pleased to note that, for postal voting or provisional voting, people will have to provide some form of personal identification. It is very easy—and it does happen—to register as Mr or Mrs Bloggs and to give an address that does not even exist or that is the address for a vacant block of land or a boarding house or even a factory. Yes, there are checks. Sometimes those checks are made; sometimes those checks are not made. Surely it is not too much of a hardship for anyone to turn up with a driver’s licence, a rates notice, a pension card or some other form of identification. Everyone in Australia must have some identification. It is easy to do that. It is not done in the seats where big margins are held, but sometimes it is done in seats where the result is going to depend on a knife-edge margin—such as the seat of Richmond.
I have been in the business of politics for many years. Traditionally, provisional votes go to the Labor Party. Fair enough; that is part of the electoral process.
Senator Webber—That’s why you don’t like it.
Senator Boswell—I do not object to people voting for the Labor Party, but I do object to people being able to register for any address and not come up with proof of identity. I observed that, in the results in the seat of Richmond, up to around 80 per cent—from memory—of those provisional votes went against the sitting candidate. We all accept that provisional votes do, traditionally, favour the Labor Party, but not to such a high degree. You might get 60 per cent; you might even get 65 or 70 per cent, but, when it starts to come in around 80 per cent, you need to start saying: ‘If this is the case then let’s make it certain, by asking people to provide proof of identity when they register for a provisional vote.’ So I think this piece of legislation goes a long way, with these two particular aspects, to making the Electoral Act more fair, more reasonable and more certain. It certainly has my support.