Monday, May 17, 2010

The Federal Parliament is not the protector of State democracy

Steve Fielding has had a dumy spit in today's The Punch over the issue of the ALP handing out HTVs in the SA election to direct Family First second preferences to the ALP.

Okay can we just get one thing clear. We live in a Federal system. Technically both the South Australian Government and the Australian Government are Sovereign States - neither is answerable to the other (their sovereignty is only limited by their constitutions which ultimately are all Acts under the Crown).

To argue that Kevin Rudd should comment on the electoral laws in South Australia is like suggesting Australian politicians should have had an opinion on "hanging chads" in the 2000 US election.

If people want the electoral laws changed in South Australia campaign in South Australia. If you want nationally uniform electoral laws campaign to change the Federal Constitution. When it comes to national electoral laws don't just choose one issue - have you noticed how Labor and Liberal both fiddle with the electoral laws everytime they are in power?

The Senate in its "wisdom" has decided to hold an inquiry into these events. Part of the reference is valid - whether Commonwealth law would prohibit the relevant action - to which should be added whether the action is indeed deceptive. After all, the individuals still put Family First first, and really it is the voter who chooses their preference flow, not the party to whom they give their first preference.

To the alegation of Senator Fielding that the ALP has shown no interest in trying to limit similar conduct, the Special Minister of State Joe Ludwig said in debate on the Committee Reference;

Shortly after the first four paragraphs of the reference were reported to the media I asked the AEC for a briefing on these allegations and whether similar alleged conduct would be in breach of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The AEC advised that these alleged activities would more likely than not be in breach of the act. However, in order to remove all doubt and to ensure that electors are made aware of on whose behalf how-to-vote cards are distributed, I requested the AEC to prepare possible amendments to the act. These amendments, which I table now, improve the authorisation requirements under the act so that it is made clear at the top of how-to-vote cards whether or not the card is being distributed on behalf of a political party or candidate. I will be seeking support for the amendments when further electoral legislation is debated in June and, of course, I look forward to the support of the movers of this reference for those amendments which make this inquiry unnecessary.

He also made the points I make above about the jurisdiction of a Senate committee inquiring into State Elections. It will be interesting to see if anyone proposes to the Committee the simplest solution to the issue - follow the New Zealand model and have "clean booths". That would have serious repercussions though, as getting the troops out on polling day is the only real reason for mass membership parties.

Mind you, if the supporters of my party were so stupid that they could be misled in this fashion I wouldn't be publicising it.

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