Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Putting your name on the

electoral roll is compulsory in Australia.
I have forgotten the precise sections of the various Electoral Acts (Commonwealth and State) which require you to do this but the law says you must do it.
You must do it when you reach the age of eighteen. Indeed you can do it a little before that in order to ensure that you are on it by the age of eighteen. You must also inform them if you change your address.
It is also possible to have your name removed from the electoral roll if you are going to be out of the country for an extended period of time - but preferably only if you are going to be somewhere which will make it difficult, if not impossible, to vote in the event of an election.
Now the government has decided that they will "automatically enrol" people and also keep the roll up-to-date by relying on information from third parties, like the motor vehicles registry. They have enacted legislation to do this.
I have no doubt at all that this was done in the belief that 18 to 39 year old people, the most mobile and least likely to go on the roll, will vote Labor. The present government sees this as an advantage to them.
It says far more about our system of compulsory attendance at the ballot box than it does about democracy. There is the clear belief that many people will simply vote mindlessly for Labor. It is a way of obtaining many votes at no expense or effort. It leaves the party free to concentrate on winning over the "swinging" voter.
I have said elsewhere in this blog that voting is a right and a duty. It should not however be something that people are coerced into doing by legislation put in place by lazy governments.
There are also serious problems with the legislation in question. It is wide open to fraudulent practices. There was an instance in this state where someone made a claim that his or her family managed to vote multiple times in a state election. I do not know what he or she did, whether it was possible, or whether it really happened. It is worth noting though that the Electoral Commissioner apparently admitted in a newspaper interview that what was claimed to have been done could have been done. I am also aware that our electoral system is far from being free of fraud and corruption. It can, according to a former acquaintance of mine who was a very senior member of the Electoral Commission, be manipulated in all sorts of ways.
It will soon be compulsory to teach all secondary students in Australia something about the Holocaust and how it has helped to shape our modern western democracies. Few people would argue that students need to know about such things. While that is to be taught the very basics of our own "democracy" are not being taught. The compulsion to attend the ballot box is not explained or debated. The potential manipulation of the system is not acknowledged or recognised.  Why?
There can only be one answer to that. Our system could not bear too much scrutiny. It might be found to be less democratic than we wish to believe.


Anonymous said...

And there's the Exclusive Brethern, who don't vote in a compulsory election, but lobby (?influence) their "friends" in politics.

Democracy has lots of variations, doesn't it?


catdownunder said...

Certainly does!