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Electoral Matters (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2022

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Tags: Electoral Reform, Democracy

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I am going to make a short contribution on the second reading of the bill. We will be supporting the bill. I can flag and have distributed four amendments to the bill relating to the return of monies that have been provided to the Tasmanian Electoral Commission as the candidate deposit, a provision around informal votes and what counts as a vote, and also a new clause that would insert a truth in political advertising provision. This is long overdue in Tasmania and is working in a number of other jurisdictions. Ours is similar to the South Australian provisions around truth in political advertising.

This bill primarily in significant part, other than the establishment of the augmented Electoral Commission to replace the Redistribution Tribunal, deals with the conduct of election campaigns, communication within election campaigns, the tools available to the Tasmanian Electoral Commission to ensure free and fair elections, the legal procedural responsibilities of the Tasmanian Electoral Commission, parties, candidates, and others who participate in our democracy, in election campaigns.

I note that finally we are going to have some changes to section 196 which relate to not being able to use a candidate's image or their name without their permission during a campaign. This has had me in trouble a couple of times.

Ms Haddad - All of us.

Ms O'CONNOR - All of us. The first time I was volunteering as a campaigner on the Save Ralphs Bay campaign. It was just before the 2006 election and we had spoken to all the candidates for Franklin. We had their views on the Ralphs Bay proposal, so put a newsletter out with multiple candidates' images and names. I had a call from the then Electoral Commissioner, Bruce Taylor, a lovely man. It scared me because I was sitting at home in my living room at South Arm and then the Electoral Commissioner rings up. Then during the Legislative Council election for Huon we used Dr Bastian Seidel's name in relation to his party's position on electronic gaming machines, given his interest in the health and wellbeing of his constituents. We fought that complaint about our identifying Dr Bastian Seidel. I believe we won that. Anyway, it did point out what a ridiculous provision section 196 is in its current form.

As the Attorney-General said, there is no other jurisdiction in the country that has such a protection racket for candidates in campaigns. It is not fair but it is also not healthy for the conduct of the campaign.

Ms Haddad - The last example you gave supports it. We have called for this change as well.

Ms O'CONNOR - It has long been an anachronism. The question I have relating to section 196 for the Attorney-General is regarding our amendment, which is to omit from 196(1) 'any advertisement, how to vote card, handbill, pamphlet, or notice' and substituting 'or keep on display any how to vote card'. Can the Attorney General confirm that in election campaigns when stakeholders survey candidates and parties and present a ranked assessment of those candidates' positions - often it is a simple thing without any opinion expressed - that would not be captured as a how to vote card under the newly amended section 196? We have all been part of that material that is distributed during campaigns where our position on something is ranked. We just want to make sure that that is not the case.

Ms Archer - At what point? Obviously, you cannot hand out anything when someone is going in to vote.

Ms O'CONNOR - No. That is right and particularly not a Hare Clark state election. This is for the period of the campaign.

Ms Archer - Got you.

Ms O'CONNOR - In closing, I express on behalf of the Greens our deep gratitude for the work of the Tasmanian Electoral Commission, their professionalism and their integrity. Electoral Commissioner Andrew Hawkey is such a thoughtful and decent man. It comforts me that he is one of the guardians of our democratic processes in elections. We should all be very thankful for the professionalism, the perseverance, hard work and commitment to democracy of the Tasmanian Electoral Commission.