The Senate is preparing for a long night, and a potentially rare Friday sitting, as the government tries to ram through controversial changes to how Australians vote.
The Government says its Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill will make voting more transparent for Australians and stop micro-party candidates with a handful of votes from being elected.
But voter turn-out is low and informal voting is high in Aboriginal communities, Northern Territory Labor Senator Nova Peris told the Senate last night.
“Your plan to address that informal vote is to change the rules on the Senate voting within a few months of an election,” she said.
“You move the goalposts for Aboriginal people, many of whom do not speak English as a first language, who do not receive the same voting education that people in the cities do, and then you wonder why turnout in remote communities is so low."
"Not to mention the millions of our fellow Australians who do not actually give a toss about politics and politicians and do not engage with the political process at all.”
The former Olympian-turned-Labor politician said while she didn’t agree with all of the eight crossbench senators, who have the power to stop the government passing legislation, she did believe they are vital to Australia’s democracy.
“The independents and micro-parties are a vital part of the Australian political system. Without them, we lose a great deal of faith from the Australian voting public by restricting their voting options,” she said.
“I would not go as far as saying [the crossbenchers are] 'friends', but I do believe, and the Australian public believes, that they bring diversity and vibrancy to this chamber — not to mention their colour and movement, and their sometimes unique and unusual points of view.”
Liberal Senator Chris Back defended the government’s planned changes.
It would make sure candidates that Australians voted for would actually be the ones elected.
“You need only have a look at the voting in Victoria in 2013 of the Senate in which one candidate received 0.51 per cent of the votes being 17,122 and is here today,” he told the Senate.
“Another candidate received 389,745 votes, being 11-and-a-half per cent of that particular vote, and that person missed out.”