Pitched to combat fraud that hasn’t been proved, the Coalition’s voter ID push might be something else entirely.
The next time you vote in a Federal Election you will have to produce proof of identity before you are handed the ballot papers. The Coalition has been talking about this for quite some time. After the 2016 election the Liberal Party-aligned chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, James McGrath said it was a “regrettable omission” that Australia did not “treat elections with the same gravity as a visit to a surf club or entering a Brisbane CBD pub after 10 pm on a Friday night”, both of which require ID.
He said the reform should be implemented “promptly” to counter “the current mistrust of politicians and the democratic process by the voting public”.
The Labor members had lowered turnout in the 2015 election before the requirement was repealed.
The Coalition Government under Morrison has revisited the issue and claims that identification of voters is required to ‘reduce voter fraud’. However, as Greens Senator Larissa Walters points out voter ID laws were “a solution in search of a problem” with just 19 verified instances of double voting at the last election.
“There is zero credible evidence that election outcomes are being corrupted by voter fraud,” she said in a statement.
In addition, there is evidence that a significant number of the poor, dispossessed and homeless don’t have identification to demonstrate that they live at a ‘fixed address’.
The Guardian recently reported, One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, has claimed credit for the Coalition’s voter integrity bill, saying she made voter identification a condition for her support on another electoral bill.
Hanson told Guardian Australia on Thursday she had “had a gutful” of the Morrison government taking credit for her ideas and the voter ID bill “wouldn’t be happening without me”.
Coalition Senator Simon Birmingham is quoted as saying, “public confidence can be eroded by actual areas of risk in the electoral system and perceived areas of risk in the electoral system.”
There are probably areas of risk in running an election. Australia’s compulsory voting system reduces the risk considerably, as we know prior to the election the number of votes we should get (the number of people aged 18 and above a week or two prior to the election, less those that have a lawful excuse). In countries with optional voting, there is no way of knowing how many votes there should be.
This leads to claims from those that lose elections (the immediate past President of the USA comes to mind) that boxes of votes mysteriously appear or disappear from the counting rooms in areas that favour the victor.
And the same people that are worried about a handful of double votes in a Federal Election (where around 15 million votes are legitimately cast by Australians) are fighting the creation of a corruption commission that can investigate alleged incidents where someone elected to Parliament has not kept the high ethical and moral standards they all claim to follow, which also may be a large contributor to “the current mistrust of politicians and the democratic process by the voting public” (to coin a phrase).
Prime Minister Morrison acknowledged prior to the last election that a federal independent corruption commission would be introduced in the next (current) Parliament. However, after 11 months of ‘consultation’, disgraced former Attorney-General Christian Porter earlier in the year gave us a result that is less than encouraging.
Former NSW Supreme Court judge Anthony Whealy, QC, the chair of the Centre for Public Integrity, said the proposed national corruption body would be the “weakest watchdog in the country” because of the restrictions in the draft law.
“It would not be able to begin investigations into the majority of cases, as it is limited to only investigating a specific list of criminal offences,” he said.
Meanwhile, Morrison is adamant it will not have the same power as the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, a view shared by ministers and backbenchers.
Mr Morrison recently said that there was a “real problem” with the ICAC model after the state commission announced an investigation into Gladys Berejiklian last Friday, prompting her to announce her resignation as NSW premier that day.
“You’ve got to have processes that assume people are innocent before thought to be guilty and that is a real problem. So it’s not a model that we’ve ever contemplated at a federal level,” he said.
“And I’m sure there are millions of people who’ve seen what’s happened to Gladys Berejiklian, they’ll understand that’s a pretty good call not to follow that model.”
People that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. James McGrath is correct to a point when he suggested that politicians don’t have a good reputation. Demonstrably it has nothing to do with the election process (or ID) but more to do with actions the politicians are alleged to take during the political parties’ pre-selection processes or after the election.
Is it too cynical to suggest that the sudden legislation requiring voters to provide identification prior to voting is Morrison’s version of Boris Johnson’s ‘dead cat strategy’ where a dramatic or sensational topic is introduced to a discussion, solely to distract attention from the inconvenient truth?