Pauline Hanson claims credit for Coalition’s controversial voter ID laws

Opponents warn eligible voters in vulnerable groups, including Indigenous Australians, may be discouraged or excluded from voting

One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, has claimed credit for the Coalition’s voter integrity bill, saying she made voter identification a condition for her support on another electoral bill.

Hanson told Guardian Australia on Thursday she had “had a gutful” of the Morrison government taking credit for her ideas and the voter ID bill “wouldn’t be happening without me”.

The comments come as the Centre Alliance party offered the Coalition a pathway to pass the controversial laws, with Senator Stirling Griff saying he is “generally supportive” of an ID requirement.

Griff told Guardian Australia that although his party hasn’t decided its position, he “understands the need for ID” but may seek some accommodation for Indigenous Australians and other groups for whom the bill could impose a hurdle to voting.

The voter integrity bill, which passed the Coalition party room on Tuesday, was introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

It prompted fury from Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, who unsuccessfully moved a suspension of standing orders for a motion accusing the government of seeking to “undermine our strong democracy and deny Australians their basic democratic rights”.

Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday voter ID was “not an earth-shattering proposal” and is “standard practice in liberal democracies” around the world.

He noted the electoral committee had recommended it after the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections. Morrison claimed “not one vote will be lost” due to the ability to cast a declaration vote.

Hanson said about a month ago the special minister of state, Ben Morton, sought One Nation support for a bill lowering the threshold for political campaigners to lodge financial statements from $500,000 to $100,000.

Hanson said she made legislation of voter ID a condition of her support and called for technical changes to the auditing of Senate vote counts, also proposed in a bill on Thursday.

“I give the Liberal party a lot of suggestions on their legislation which they then implement – it wouldn’t be happening without me,” Hanson claimed. “I’ve had a gutful … I’m instrumental in this parliament.”

Voter ID laws have been on the Coalition wishlist for the last three terms of parliament, but the government did not introduce a bill to give effect to the recommendation from the joint standing committee on electoral matters (Jscem). Hanson said they had been “bloody lazy”.

The finance minister, Simon Birmingham, told ABC TV he was “not aware” of a deal with Hanson but the government had decided on the bill due to those Jscem reports. A spokesperson for Morton also cited the reports, but did not respond to questions about Hanson’s account.

The Australian electoral commissioner, Tom Rogers, has said the evidence of multiple voting is “vanishingly small”.

After defeating a Labor motion to delay debate until 2023, the government will have two weeks to pass the proposal in the November sitting period before an election is expected to be called in early 2022.

Labor and the Greens have accused the Coalition of seeking to import US-style voter suppression.

Under the proposed voter integrity bill, a voter unable to produce ID can still vote if their identity can be verified by another voter, or by casting a declaration vote, which requires further details such as date of birth and a signature.

Given One Nation’s support for the laws, the government will need one vote out of the remaining crossbench senators – Griff, Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie – to pass the bill.

Griff told Guardian Australia his party had received the bill but is yet to be briefed by Morton or decide its position.

“I’m generally supportive of having ID … I understand the need for ID,” he said.

Griff noted Rogers evidence about the rarity of multiple voting but said one “has to wonder” if the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is detecting all instances of electoral fraud.

Griff cited his personal knowledge of one elderly person with dementia who “voted five times in a row” and received a “please explain” letter but no further action was taken.

He acknowledged that disfranchisement of Indigenous people was a “key issue” for those expressing concern about the bill, suggesting that there “might be issues we need to deal with for certain groups” to ensure a “positive solution for everyone”.

Rex Patrick ‘cynical’ of proposal

Patrick said that “one can’t be anything other than cynical when the Coalition government again moves to rush proposed changes to Australia’s electoral law in the countdown to the federal election”.

“These sorts of things are very rarely anything other than self-interested on the part of the government,” he said.

Patrick said he had “no great interest in engaging with the government” on the voter ID bill unless it legislated the Helen Haines model of a national integrity commission.

“Whatever the merits or otherwise of their proposal, there are other more pressing legislative priorities.”

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But opponents warn eligible voters in vulnerable groups may be discouraged or excluded from voting.

On Wednesday the Everybody’s Home campaign for fairer housing and Homelessness Australia both warned of the bill’s impact on people experiencing homelessness.

In September the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) made a submission to a Senate inquiry recommending that One Nation’s voter ID bill be blocked, warning it would “create a barrier for people who lack identification documents from exercising their right to vote, leading to further disfranchisement”.

The AHRC noted Mick Gooda, the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, had opposed a similar law proposed for Queensland in 2014. He said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people attempting to vote “may feel intimidated by the requirements to fill in extra paperwork and being treated differently to other voters”.

According to the AEC, only 78% of Indigenous voters were enrolled to vote in 2020. The AHRC said this was “a much more significant issue than the very low rates of multiple voting”.

On Tuesday evening Birmingham defended the government’s proposal as a means to “further enhance integrity” and public confidence.

Birmingham told Senate estimates the bill would help eliminate “actual areas of risk and perceived areas of risk” such as multiple voting or fraudulent voting in the name of deceased people.


Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

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