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Zero truth in nonsense illegal writ claim

Nik Dirga -

WHAT WAS CLAIMED

The voice referendum writ is invalid because a government minister signed it in place of the governor-general.

OUR VERDICT

False. The writ was signed by the governor-general and witnessed by the special minister of state.

A social media video claims the Indigenous voice referendum is illegal because the writ for the poll was signed by a government minister in place of Governor-General David Hurley.

This is false. The writ was signed by the governor-general and witnessed by Senator Don Farrell in his role as special minister of state.

But a Facebook video claims the actions are an act of political skulduggery.

"The law has been broken by Don Farrell," a man in the video says (video mark 1min 30 sec).

"Who the heck is Don Farrell? … he is now signing the election referendum – the referendum for the 14th of October – in place of your governor-general."

A screenshot from the Facebook video.

The video's claims are false.

The man goes on to encourage people not to vote in the referendum, claiming "we've got the proof to give you if you do not want to vote," and "if you do not want to vote, we have a disqualification notice to give you".

"And that's what we're saying: don't vote, not 'yes' or 'no' with tick or cross. That's consent. That means you're contracting with these b******s, and I have no problem to say that because Don Farrell illegally signed the writ."

The claims, posted on a page which has previously shared misinformation about voting, are entirely false.

A copy of the writ on the Australian Electoral Commission website shows the governor-general signed the document on September 11, instructing the electoral commissioner to set the date for the voice referendum.

The Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act of 1984 requires the governor-general to sign a writ to establish voting particulars.

Senator Farrell's signature is below the governor-general's at the base of the writ as a witness, as he discussed in an ABC Radio interview on September 13.

Electoral matters are part of the special minister of state's roles.

Don Farrell and David Hurley (file image)

Senator Don Farrell (standing) with Governor-General David Hurley (right).

Experts told AAP FactCheck the claim was incorrect.

Professor Dan Meagher, chair in law at Deakin University Law School, said the writ could only be issued by the governor-general.

"That is precisely what the photo of the relevant writ – signed by GG Hurley – demonstrates as legally required," he told AAP FactCheck in an email.

Professor Graeme Orr, an expert in electoral law at the University of Queensland, also said there was nothing untoward about the writ.

He said Mr Farrell's signature features on the document as he was a witness.

"A witness is not required, but makes sense," Prof Orr told AAP FactCheck.

"Both to confirm it's not a fake G-G, and given the G-G acts only on the advice of the government."

The video narrator's claim he can hand out "disqualification notices" is also nonsense.

"No idea what 'disqualification notice' is meant to mean," Prof Orr said.

A copy of the writ for the voice referendum.

The writ was signed by the governor-general.

"An enrolled elector must turn out – i.e. return a ballot paper.

"Someone who doesn't want to 'vote' can vote informally – e.g. protest by scribbling on the ballot paper.

"Otherwise you can't avoid a fine by saying 'I did not turnout to vote as I thought the referendum was a sham'."

AAP FactCheck has debunked several claims about writs for elections, as seen here, here, and here.

THE VERDICT

The claim the voice referendum is somehow invalid because a minister signed it in place of the governor-general is false.

The writ was signed by Governor-General David Hurley and witnessed by Special Minister of State Don Farrell on September 11.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

Nik Dirga - AAP Fact Check

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