Fears government's voter ID proposal will limit rights of Indigenous people, homeless

A bipartisan human rights committee is concerned about the government's proposed voter ID changes, saying it would disproportionately impact Indigenous populations and the homeless.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has defended the government's proposed voter ID changes. Source: AAP

A bipartisan committee has slapped down the government's proposed voter ID changes, indicating the laws would limit a person's rights.

Parliament's joint human rights committee has laid out concern with the legislation, which the government intends to put in place by the next federal election, due to be held by May next year.

The committee said the changes, which would force voters to provide ID such as a driver's licence or Medicare card in order to vote in elections and referendums, would disproportionately impact groups such as remote Indigenous populations and the homeless.

"These additional requirements imposed before a voter can cast their vote engage and limit the right to take part in public affairs and the right to equality and non-discrimination," a committee report on the proposed laws says.

"The committee considers the measure has not been demonstrated to be proportionate to the stated objective."

The government said the proposed reforms would bring Australia into line with other western democracies and sought to crackdown on electors voting multiple times on polling day.

Debate on the issue resumed in federal parliament this week, the last sitting fortnight for the year.

However, the head of the Australian Electoral Commission has previously stated the number of instances of multiple voting was "vanishingly small".

While the committee report says ensuring electoral integrity is important, the proposed law has not set out reasons as to why they are necessary.

It comes as the federal Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt insists the changes are needed.

"No voter will be denied the right to vote," Mr Wyatt told ABC radio on Thursday.

Labor said repealing the proposed laws would be the first thing the Albanese government would do in office, should it win power at the next election.

Opposition spokesman Don Farrell said the government was intent on making it harder for people to vote.

"Australia's electoral system works. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said.

"Indigenous enrolment rates are as low as 69 per cent in the Northern Territory and the government still isn't doing anywhere near enough to close that unacceptable gap."

Published 25 November 2021 at 2:09pm
Source: AAP - SBS