The Morrison Government has dropped its attempts at passing a Voter ID bill before the next election which had been described as “racist and undemocratic”.
The bill which would have made it far more difficult for First Nations’ peoples to vote, “has been put in the bin for the year – exactly where it belongs”. according to GetUp First Nations Justice Campaign Director Larissa Baldwin.
The bill was dropped following Senator Jacqui Lambie making public that she would not vote for the bill.
Her opposition made it clear the Government were not going to be able to pass it through the Senate.
“Voted ID has been met with a wave of public oppositions and clearly the Senators felt that pressure,” continued Baldwin.
Ben Morton, Special Minister of State, whose responsibilities include electoral matters, reiterated that the legislation “did not have the support in the Senate to pass this week to allow implementation for the next election within six months”.
Minister Morton underlined the Government’s continued to commitment for the “important reforms”, stating that “the arguments for it remain.”
“Instead the Government has secured passage of critical electoral legislation that will provide greater transparency to non party organisations that seek to influence Australian Elections,” he said.
“These organisations have been able to avoid foreign donation bans and avoid disclosure under existing legislation. Loopholes that allow independent candidates to avoid annual disclosure will also be tightened.”
Baldwin described this new legislation as “a sneaky backroom deal with Labor to take another hit at our democracy”.
Labor Senator for the Northern Territory Malarndirri McCarthy congratulated the community who campaigned against the proposed bill, stating that “The decision by the Morrison Government to drop the voter ID laws is a direct result of this strong advocacy.”
“This discriminatory bill would have made it harder for some of our most vulnerable people to vote – First Nations communities, the homeless, elderly, and people escaping domestic violence. Not all of these people find it easy to produce identification.”
Senator McCarthy felt the bill would have “discouraged voters turning up to the ballot box” when the NT “already has the lowest voter turn out in the country”.
“The focus should always be on encouraging more people to have their democratic say, not putting up obstacles to voting,” said the senator.
“The Morrison Government should instead be investing in more staff for the Australian Electoral Commission and enrolling more people.”
Donella Mills, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) had been publicly critical of the proposed bill in November.
“There is no case for introducing these measures,” she said.
“NACCHO understands that the Australian Electoral Commission has confirmed that there was almost no voter fraud at the last federal election and that the introduction of voter ID requirements is unnecessary.”
Mills and NACCHO welcomed the dropping of the proposed voter ID laws, believing that the results would follow the pattern of this type of legislation by the Newman Government in Queensland which “had a negative effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voter representation”.
“If they [the voter ID laws] had gone ahead, the new requirements would have had a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voters. It would have seen our people disenfranchised and walking away from the polling booths,” said Mills.
By Aaron Bloch