Concern voter changes would limit rights

Ken Wyatt insists the proposed overhaul requiring voters to show ID at the ballot box is needed.
Ken Wyatt insists the proposed overhaul requiring voters to show ID at the ballot box is needed.

Politicians across the party aisle have slapped down the government's bid to make voters show identification at polling booths as unnecessary and limiting people's rights.

The MPs and senators found there wasn't enough evidence to show the changes requiring voters to provide identification such as a driver's licence or Medicare cards were necessary.

The joint human rights committee was concerned the voter identification laws before parliament would disproportionately burden Indigenous people, and those experiencing homelessness or fleeing domestic violence.

The push for the bill is premised on reducing voter fraud, avoiding clerical errors and boosting public confidence in the electoral process.

At the 2019 election, there were 311 admissions of multiple voting out of more than 15 million votes.

"It has not been established that there are no less rights restrictive ways to achieve the stated objectives," the committee concluded.

"There is a risk that this measure would impermissibly limit the right to participate in public affairs and the right to equality and non-discrimination."

The Australian Electoral Commission labelled instances of multiple voting were "vanishingly small", but Liberal MP Jason Falinski disagreed.

"What is vanishingly small you have is the number of Australians willing to commit fraud and admit to it," Mr Falinski told Sky News on Thursday.

He also had an issue with the proportion of people casting their votes before polling day.

"The number of people who are casting their votes at pre-poll, yes, is undermining the purpose of election campaigns and the purpose of our democracy," the MP said.

When asked if he had faith in the electoral commissioner, Mr Falinski replied: "I don't want to answer that question".

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt insisted the changes the government wanted to put in place before the election due by May were necessary.

"No voter will be denied the right to vote," he told ABC radio.

Mr Wyatt recalled someone previously admitting they had voted for him 17 times.

"If I'd won by 16 votes in a very tight margin, it would have meant the candidate would have lost the seat because somebody had done the wrong thing," he said.

Labor indicated it would scrap the changes if it won power.

Opposition spokesman Don Farrell accused the government of trying to make it harder for people to vote.

"Australia's electoral system works. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said.

"Indigenous enrolment rates are as low as 69 per cent in the Northern Territory and the government still isn't doing anywhere near enough to close that unacceptable gap."

Australian Associated Press