Politics

Call for major overhaul of voting laws

A major report into the 2019 federal election has called for a new style of voting and flagged the need for more politicians to better represent Australians.

The 228-page report by parliament’s joint standing committee on electoral matters made 27 recommendations, including voters for the first time being required to show identification at polling booths.

And when they vote for House of Representatives members they should be given the option not to cast preferences, rather than compulsorily number all the boxes to have their vote counted.

The committee said the parliament should consider a constitutional referendum to break the nexus between the number of senators and the number of lower house members.

A proposal to alter the constitution to break the nexus – that is, allow the lower house to expand without increasing the size of the Senate – was rejected in 1967.

“Parliament should commence a conversation about whether the parliament should be increased in size as the last increase was in 1984,” the report said.

“Part of the dialogue should consider whether the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives should be reformed.

“In addition, consideration should be given to changing the term of the House of Representatives from three years to four years.”

The length of term change would also require the Senate to adopt eight-year terms instead of the current six for state senators.

As well, by-elections for the lower house could be abolished with the party or group elected at the general election choosing the replacement.

In a more controversial recommendation the committee said an MP who voluntarily resigns from the party under which they were elected at the general election “will be deemed to have vacated their seat”.

Committee chair and LNP senator James McGrath said electoral reform was vital.

“We sleep safely in our beds protected from the claws of the banality of evil because we decide who governs,” he wrote.

“These reforms are about empowering further the voter. Governments in democracies should always be wary of the voter. Long may it be so.”

The report also made recommendations in relation to donation reform, ending the pre-election broadcast media blackout, examining truth in political advertising rules, and putting in place a new offence of “electoral violence” to deal with candidates being stalked or intimidated.

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