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Electoral (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading

(Continued from 30 May 2017)

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 12:19 :39 ): I rise very briefly to indicate my support for the second reading of this bill. The bill makes a number of amendments to the Electoral Act, which were recommended by the former electoral commissioner following the 2014 election. I understand many of the changes the government is proposing are merely to make it easier for the electoral commissioner to do their job and clarify portions of the act which may have been ambiguous. The bill also makes a number of changes to pre-poll voting. I understand the government's position is that voters should be encouraged to vote on polling day only and as such pre-poll voting should not be widely advertised or promoted.

As members will be aware, I have filed a number of amendments to the bill. Some of my amendments have a similar flavour to the government's in that they simply formalise current practices or clarify ambiguity in the bill. However, I do flag that I have filed an amendment regarding robocalls. As a political tool, robocalls have increased in popularity in recent years. In fact, it was only in the past month that I picked up a phone call from—in inverted commas—'Bill Shorten'. I am not sure what he was trying to tell me because, frankly, I did not stay on the line long enough to hear it.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: It would have been good!

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: You reckon? I know that both sides of major parties have used robocalls, as have other organisations, such as the unions and GetUp!, for political purposes. I have no problem with robocalls; however, I believe it is deceptive when organisations present these calls as calls from ordinary people. I remember receiving a call from a doctor who trumpeted the virtues of Transforming Health. Clearly, this doctor was aligned with the government and had been asked to be the voice of the campaign.

At the 2014 election campaign, voters received a call from a concerned nurse who said they were worried about their penalty rates being cut by Nick Xenophon and his colleagues. Notwithstanding the fact that this was an outright lie and completely misrepresented NXT's position on penalty rates, I know there were voters who genuinely failed to recognise this as a political call.

These are scripted advertisements paid for by organisations that aim to impact the political climate through a robocall campaign. I have no problem with this and am not moving this amendment only because NXT have been targeted by a number of robocall campaigns; rather, it is because I believe that these advertisements should be treated the same as any other form of political advertising: disclosure should be made as to who authorised the advertisement and which organisation they are from.

Yesterday, I received a briefing from the government, which advised that they will be moving a very similar amendment to mine to address robocalls. I am glad they recognise this issue. The government is also finalising amendments to clarify political expenditure and disclosure requirements. At first glance, these amendments seem sensible and will reduce the administrative burden whilst increasing transparency; however, I reserve my position on these until I have had time to consider them in greater depth.

I will speak to my other amendments during the committee stage, and again indicate my support for the second reading.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins .