Swan lashes out at Newman Government over voting move

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie is seeking public opinion on future electoral reform in Queensland.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie is seeking public opinion on future electoral reform in Queensland. Cade Mooney

THE Deputy Prime Minister has likened the Queensland Government and its proposal to reform electoral laws, including compulsory voting, to the infamous Joh Bjelke-Petersen Government.

Speaking from the Sunshine Coast, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan lashed out at the Newman Government's move to overhaul the electoral system.

"These are the tactics of the Tea party in the US trying to stop people having their say," he said.

The Queensland Government released a discussion paper today calling for submissions on potentially scrapping compulsory voting and caps on political donations.

Mr Swan likened the proposal to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen Government.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard took to twitter earlier this morning to slam the move.

"Fight @theqldpremier's plan to end compulsory voting. Don't let the Liberals make our democracy the plaything of cashed up interest groups JG," she wrote.

Outspoken billionaire Clive Palmer has also weighed in on the debate.

The former lifelong LNP member said a proposal to return to voluntary voting was a blow to democracy.

"The more people who participate in a democracy the better and it is good for the whole country if citizens accept the responsibility to vote," he  said.

"But obviously the Queensland government isn't confident that it has the support of the people and despite their substantial parliamentary majority they have proposed to scrap compulsory voting.

"The government is panicking about the next state election even though it is two years away. It makes you worry about what else the government has planned this term."

Meanwhile Australian Labor Party state president Dick Williams said the move showed immature political thinking.
"Queensland had a 91% turnout in March last year, compared to just 66% who turned out to vote in the 2010 British elections where voting is not compulsory," he said.

"That's something we should be proud of, not shying away from."


LNP consider ending compulsory voting in state elections

COMPULSORY voting could be a requirement of the past for Queensland state elections under a proposal for sweeping electoral reform.

In a discussion paper on possible electoral reforms released today, the Queensland Government has also asked Queenslanders to have their say on scrapping caps on big political donations.

Voting in Queensland had been compulsory since 1915, when it was first introduced to improve voter turnout.

The discussion paper outlines arguments for those against compulsory voting who claim it is undemocratic to force people to vote.

Compulsory voting also leads to the ill-informed forced to the polls and an increase in informal votes, the document states.

The discussion papers cites a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters report which argued if Australia wanted to be a democracy it should abolish compulsory voting.

The Queensland Government is also looking at reforming campaign donations, including making it an offence to lie in political advertising.

The green paper submits the fairest and most effective way to regulate political donations is through disclosure and that caps on political donations unnecessarily restrict donors from participating in the political process.

As a result of law reform in 2011, political donations were capped at $5300 per year to a registered political party and $2200 per donor per year to a candidate.

The government has asked for discussion on whether caps on political donations impinge on freedom of speech and political association under the Commonwealth Constitution.

Upon releasing the green paper, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said it was a chance for the public to express their views on important policy reform.

Mr Bleijie said openness and transparency was a key priority for the State Government and this was a chance for the public to express their views on important policy reform.

"The Newman Government wants to ensure the state has an electoral system that meets high standards of integrity and accountability," Mr Bleijie said.

"Fair and effective electoral laws are central to the promotion of participation in our democracy.

"For that reason we have prioritised the review of the Electoral Act 1992, which governs political donations, public funding for elections and election campaign expenditure."

Mr Bleijie said the paper was open to all Queenslanders and encouraged the community to have a say on potential electoral reforms.

"For a democracy to remain vibrant and strong, the community must have confidence in its electoral system," Mr Bleijie said. 

"In order to do this, we must continually review the rules and processes that govern our electoral system to ensure they are right for modern times.

"The discussion paper also covers other important topics such as voter enrolment, optional preferential voting and political advertising."

However, Mr Bleijie made it clear submissions did not need to be limited to topics covered by the discussion paper.

"The options in the discussion paper are not intended to be exhaustive and the Government is after a variety of opinions and ideas," he said.

The submission period is open until 1 March 2013.

>> For more information and to download a copy

Topics:  jarrod bleijie lnp state government voting

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