Same-sex marriage postal vote: Remote Indigenous towns will get phone or online option


The Australian Bureau of Statistics is working on a “paperless option” for the impending same-sex marriage survey, a Senate inquiry has heard.

The option will only be available to specific groups of voters, including those travelling overseas, those living in remote communities, including Aboriginal town camps, and those with “certain disabilities”.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) admitted it had not yet decided on exactly how the paperless vote will be run, but promised to reveal the method by August 22 at the latest.  

“It will almost certainly include a telephony mode. It may include an online form,” ABS deputy Australian statistician with the Census and Enabling Services group, Jonathan Palmer, told a Senate committee on Thursday.

There could also be an SMS test message option, he said.

Malarndirri McCarthy, a Labor senator from the Northern Territory, voiced concerns over the “thousands and thousands of voters” in remote Indigenous communities who did not have postal addresses.

Mr Palmer said while Australia Post was improving its reach into remote communities, the paperless option would be made available.

Senators asked how a phone vote would be protected from fraud.

"We will capture details about the person who wants to use the paperless option," Mr Palmer said.

"We will undertake some checks to verify that they are eligible, as per the information on the electoral roll."

The ABS is ramping up its $6 million advertising campaign to encourage participation, with the August 24 enrollment deadline now less than one week away.

Of the $6 million, just over $300,000 will go to Indigenous-specific advertising that will include material in seven Aboriginal languages.

An ABS representative said the translation work was currently underway.

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