Fraud is an intrinsic and disgraceful part of the Australian electoral system. If our credit card or registered mail systems were as outrageously lax, they would soon become inoperable.
We have heard from certain politicians that the Morrison government bill to introduce ID voting will, if enacted, discourage the indigenous. The fact is, that as with all other Australians, the indigenous are very well accustomed to and fully understand the need for ID to drive, collect parcels and to access QR check-in, banking, medical and government services. This argument fails at the first post.
If anyone seriously doubts that fraud is now embedded in our electoral system, recall the truly curious circumstances which surrounded the same-sex marriage plebiscite conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, using the electoral roll provided by the Australian Electoral Commission.
Almost a quarter of a million – 248,000 – envelopes came back marked ‘Return to Sender’.
Any reasonable observer would have expected that these would have been sent to the AEC to correct the rolls.
Not so. They were all destroyed. All 248,000 names stayed on the rolls for the 2019 election. They may still be there.
It is hard to believe that the ABS did not first check with the AEC what to do with the envelopes. As the AEC did not apparently protest about the destruction, we can assume that the AEC indicated they did not want them.
In a referendum, as I learned in the last one, electoral fraud will have little impact unless the result is close, something which the AEC encourages by ignoring informal votes in their calculations. But the Constitution prescribes that a majority of ‘electors voting’ must approve the proposed law. It is not, as the AEC claims, a majority of electors casting a formal vote. The founders, of course, knew that some people choose to vote informally, something which has increased with the scourge of compulsory voting.
As to elections, fraud now affects everyone. There will always be electorates where an MP just holds his or her seat. Any such seat, especially but not only Coalition, is now open game for fraudsters.
In a 2019 submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry, noted anti-fraud campaigner Lex Stewart listed over a dozen cases of alleged voter fraud where MP’s lost their seats, one by only 16 votes.
Electoral fraud is not new. Before the introduction of the secret ballot, known also in the US because of its origin as the ‘Australian ballot’, it was rampant. But now the secret ballot is being neutralised significantly by the excessive use, often against the rules, of the postal ballot. The temptation will be to follow the extraordinary abuse of this in the last US presidential election under the cover of the Wuhan, or should we say the ‘Xi-Fauci’ virus.
Apart from the abuse of the postal ballot, there are three major areas of fraud: multiple voting, voting for someone else especially the dead, as well as fake enrolments, probably the greatest cause of fraud. The prospects for multiple voting were greatly facilitated by the Hawke government ‘reforms’. These were introduced ‘to make voting easier’, not that anybody seriously complained that voting was difficult.
One ‘reform’ was to abolish the requirement that voters cast their vote in a nearby prescribed subdivision, rather than in any polling station in the electorate. Once I was required to vote in a nearby school. Now there are over fifty places where I can vote. Extraordinarily, none are connected digitally. The explanation from politicians whose principal function is to waste billions, is cost.
As to voting for the dead, a trustworthy colleague, who used to work for a very well-known union, told me he used to see the receptionist every morning cutting up the back page of the Herald. He found out later that these were all funeral notices which were carefully filed. On election day, union officials would be directed to certain marginal electorates to arrange voting in the names of the deceased.
According to one anecdote, when Minister Joe Riordan lost Phillip in 1975, Gough Whitlam remarked, with exasperation: ‘Comrade, Comrade. To lose an electorate in which there is one cemetery may be explicable, but to lose one in which there are three, is unforgivable’.
As to fake enrolments, the best time to do this is in the week following the calling of an election. This is when there is a tsunami of enrolments which the AEC cannot possibly check. John Howard legislated in 2006 to stop this fraud by closing the rolls on the day the election is called. But in the GetUp! case, just before the 21 August 2010 election, two plaintiffs, both clearly in breach of the law concerning enrolment or notifying a change of address, were given extraordinarily favourable treatment by the High Court. Ignoring the old maxim about coming to the court with clean hands, their case was heard urgently on 4 and 5 August. The following day the Court announced, without any reasons, that the Howard legislation was unconstitutional. GetUp! boasted that, as a result, an additional 100,000 names went onto the rolls which, they said, saved the Gillard government. The High Court released its reasons just before Christmas. Anybody who noticed, learned that it was the closest of judgments, 4:3. I am not alone in concluding that you can turn the Constitution inside out, without finding any justification for this decision.
What is desperately needed are not only reasonable ID requirements. There should be a digital roll (not digital voting) where, when a name is crossed off, it is crossed off everywhere – the same old technology long used for every credit card. Enrolment should require proof of identity similar, say, to opening a bank account. Both presenting identification and enrolling should be videoed. Except in closely verified special cases, voting should be on one day so that all the nation has heard and seen all of the campaign. As we did, even in wartime.
Only these steps will end this national disgrace.
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