Parliamentary scrutiny

The AEC is accountable to the federal parliament, primarily in relation to statutory responsibilities under the Electoral Act, the Referendum Act, and related legislation. The AEC provided evidence to various parliamentary committees. JSCEM remains the primary forum for consideration and public debate on matters relating to electoral laws and practices, and their administration. The AEC supported this and other committees by reporting on a range of electoral matters deemed relevant to the parliament.

Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters

The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) concluded three inquiries in 2012–13.

Inquiry into the Electoral and Referendum (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill 2012

On 16 August, JSCEM concluded its inquiry into the Electoral and Referendum (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill 2012, the third bill to implement the government’s legislative response to some of the committee’s recommendations from its report on the conduct of the 2010 federal election. The AEC made a submission to the inquiry and provided evidence at a public hearing in Canberra on 16 July 2012.

The Advisory Report on the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill 2012 recommended passing legislation excluding the provisions relating to the removal of persons of ‘unsound mind’ from the roll contained in the Bill.

The government adopted the committee’s findings and the House of Representatives passed the amended Bill on 23 August and the Senate on 25 February with Royal Assent on 27 March.

Inquiry into the AEC analysis of the Fair Work Australia report on the Health Services Union

On 20 September 2012, JSCEM concluded its inquiry into the AEC’s analysis of the Fair Work Australia report on the Health Services Union. The AEC’s analysis identified 17 possible measures to address the limitations in the Electoral Act highlighted by circumstances covered in the Fair Work Australia (FWA) report. The AEC lodged five submissions to the inquiry and provided evidence at two public hearings in Canberra on 6 and 16 July.

The Review of the AEC analysis of the FWA report on the HSU made 13 recommendations aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the electoral process, and discussed detailed potential reforms to financial disclosure provisions of the Electoral Act.

To date, the government has not responded to the committee’s report.

Inquiry into the Electoral and Referendum (Improving Electoral Administration) Bill 2012

On 29 November, JSCEM commenced its inquiry into the Electoral and Referendum (Improving Electoral Administration) Bill 2012, the fourth bill to implement the government’s legislative response to some of the committee’s recommendations in its report on the conduct of the 2010 federal election. The AEC lodged three submissions and provided evidence at a public hearing in Canberra on 4 February.

The committee tabled its Advisory Report on the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Administration) Bill 2012 on 27 February. The report recommended legislative amendment that provides for the inclusion (or saving) of votes from prematurely opened ballot boxes in the absence of evidence of vote tampering. It also clarified penalties for officers who tamper with a ballot box or ballot papers.

The government adopted the committee’s findings and the House of Representatives passed the amended Bill on 13 March and the Senate on 18 March with Royal Assent on 28 March.

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia

On 13 February 2013, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Regional Australia concluded its inquiry into the use of fly-in fly-out workforce practices in regional Australia.

The AEC lodged a submission to the inquiry and provided evidence at a public hearing in Canberra on 23 November 2011, informing the committee of the electoral services available to eligible fly-in, fly-out and drive-in, drive-out workers in the resources sector, and providing information on the electoral services provided at the 2010 federal election.

The committee’s Cancer of the bush or salvation for our cities?: Fly-in, fly-out and drive-in, drive-out workforce practices in Regional Australia made 21 recommendations, including one recommendation relating directly to the AEC. Recommendation 16 was for the development of an electronic voting system to facilitate easier access to people living and working in remote areas.

To date, the government has not responded to the committee’s report.

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

On 29 October 2012, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade tabled Australia’s Overseas Representation – Punching below our weight?

The report is a result of the committee’s inquiry into Australia’s overseas representation, which started on 13 September 2011. The AEC lodged two submissions to the inquiry and provided evidence at a public hearing in Canberra on 17 February 2012. The committee made 17 recommendations, none of which related directly to AEC activities.

Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government

On 29 November 2012, the Joint Select Committee commenced an inquiry into constitutional recognition of local government. The AEC lodged three submissions and provided evidence at two public hearings in Sydney on 16 January 2013 and 20 February 2013.

The committee’s final report was tabled on 7 March 2013. The report recommended holding a referendum on the financial recognition of local government in conjunction with the 2013 federal election. This reaffirmed the recommendations made in the committee’s preliminary report from 24 January 2013.

The government introduced the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 bill on 29 May 2013. The House of Representatives passed the Bill on 5 June 2013 and the Senate on 24 June 2013.

Section 128 of the Constitution requires submission of the Bill to voters qualified to vote not less than two months and no more than six months after its passage through both Houses. The earliest date to hold a referendum is 14 September 2013 (as it allows two months between the passage of the Bill and the commencement of voting) and the latest date is 21 December 2013.

Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration

On 14 March 2013, the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee commenced an inquiry into the Citizen Initiated Referendum Bill 2013. The AEC lodged a submission to the inquiry on 31 May 2013.

The committee tabled its Citizen Initiated Referendum Bill 2013 report on 24 June 2013, with one recommendation that the Bill not be passed.

Joint Standing Committee on Migration

On 18 March 2013, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration tabled its Inquiry into Migration and Multiculturalism in Australia report.

The report is a result of the committee’s inquiry into multiculturalism in Australia, which started on 9 February 2011. The AEC lodged a submission to the inquiry on 8 March 2012. The committee made 32 recommendations, none of which related directly to AEC activities.

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