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Albanese accuses former government of voter suppression in the Northern Territory

Giovanni Torre -

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has accused the former federal government of "Republican-style" voter suppression in the Northern Territory.

Mr Albanese said the Morrison government "ripped resources" out of the Australian Electoral Commission, and called for a review of the management of the election in the Territory federal seat of Lingiari.

The Prime Minister was at a press conference on Wednesday when he was asked about the low voter turnout in Lingiari, which covers much of the NT, with one third of eligible voters not casting a vote in this year's election.

He said the under-resourcing was a deliberate policy to restrict voter turnout in the NT.

"It's not rocket science to know out what happened here, they ripped resources out of the electoral commission," Mr Albanese said.

"They tried to abolish a seat and we fought very hard to get two seats in the Territory.

"They restricted the numbers of people who were working with the Australian Electoral Commission to get people on the roll.

"This was straight out of right-wing Republican playbook."

During the final week of the campaign, the Electoral Commission issued an emergency call out for workers to staff polling booths in remote and regional areas.

Community and Public Sector Union policy officer Osmond Chiu said AEC NT staff numbers had dropped from 60 in 2013 to 23 by December 2021.

In that same period the population of the Northern Territory grew by more than 5,000 people, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Northern Territory government.

In April the Northern Land Council raised the alarm that as many as 40,000 adults in the Territory may not be enrolled to vote.

On Wednesday the Council said it endorsed Mr Albanese's call for a comprehensive review of the management of the recent federal election in Lingiari.

NLC chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said action must be taken to avoid a repeat in the future.

"This can never be allowed to happen again â€" not at the NT election in August 2024 or the next Federal election due in 2025," he said.

"The time to fix these problems is now. We look forward to working with all parties â€" particularly the AEC and the NT Electoral Commission â€" to end voter suppression in the NT.

"We will be preparing a submission to the next election review by the Federal Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters."

In 2021 the NLC supported the complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission by two senior men from Arnhem Land that claimed the AEC's failure to implement direct or automatic enrolment in remote Aboriginal communities was discriminatory and acted to effectively suppress Aboriginal voters.

Later in 2021 the Council campaigned against the proposal to introduce voter ID legislation that they say would have suppressed the vote in remote Aboriginal communities.

In early 2022 the NLC produced a number of short films targeted at Aboriginal communities across the Territory promoting enrollment and voting in the federal election.


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