An Utterly Pointless Commission

Posted: September 16, 2019 in Ranting
Tags: , , , ,

There was one thing that came out strongly in the 2019 Federal election. It needs urgent attention. And all in parliament are simply ignoring it,

The last election proved once and for all how utterly useless and powerless the Australian Electoral Commission is, through no fault of their own. The Electoral Act and associated legislation and regulation are in urgent need of remedial attention. But the whole subject is subject of deafening political silence.

When you wish to stand for election, you need to complete a nomination form that is to be supplied to the AEC by the relevant closing date. Prior to the dual citizenship eligibility crisis, the nomination forms only required prospective pollies to tick a box which was a statement that they were not in breach of section 44 of the Constitution. And clearly far too many had not bothered to even check. Or didn’t care.

Following the crisis, the AEC electoral nomination forms were amended to finally require disclosure of your origins and that of your parents, as a way of confirming if potential dual citizenship issues may exist.

Now we come to the start of the idiocies.

The AEC lacks the power to require those citizenship-related details to be completed. This came to light with nominations from Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party not including those details. One of those nominees, with origins from Pakistan, even declared he didn’t need to provide any details as he only considered himself to be Australian. That was the Malcolm Roberts nonsense defence that the courts previously tore to bits.

The AEC has no power to ensure those forms are properly completed. They are required to accept those incomplete forms, even though disclosure of those matters is required. And those nominees are still allowed to stand for election despite incomplete nomination forms.

Rod Culleton used to be a favourite of mine of sorts. When it came to nonsense arguments, he led the field. When first elected for One Nation, before going independent, he knew he had been convicted of a crime which carried a potential sentence of a year’s imprisonment. And that made him ineligible. Nope, insisted Culleton, it was all actually OK. Then the WA courts declared him bankrupt. And he disputed it, insisting that he was not bankrupt at all, despite the fact he had big bills he had done nothing about paying. And bankruptcy also makes you ineligible.

I was at the High Court for Culleton’s hearing in which he was attempting to have his title and benefits of Senator reinstated. And during the hearing, his barrister objected to the government legal team not calling Culleton by the title ‘Senator.’ The judge in question poured oil on troubled waters, declaring that Culleton was to be referred to as Senator for the duration of the hearing. After losing his case, Rod the Ridiculous fronted a press conference and declared that he had won, insisting that the Judge had required him to now be referred to as Senator and not just for the duration of the case. He also declared that he considered himself to be a Senator therefore he was.

The bankruptcy finding as upheld and Culleton removed from his Senatorial office. And a simple glance at the register of registered bankrupts clearly shows Culleton still there.

Despite his blatant ineligibility due to bankruptcy, Culleton nominated for the Senator as an independent for Western Australia in 2019. And despite that  ineligibility, the AEC lacked the authority to refuse it. So, Culleton’s name appeared on the WA Senate ballot paper even though he was not legally entitled to be there. Fortunately, the WA electorate saw better than to be ‘electing’ him.

Controversy is nothing new for Clive Palmer. When he relaunched his political party, he renamed it United Australia Party. It was a bit of surprise that the AEC allowed that name to remain as it was also the name of a former party that had been merged into the formation of the Australian Liberal Party in 1944. But the name was allowed to stand. This was soon followed by media advertising by UAP, featuring Palmer, declaring that his party was the party of three former Prime Ministers. That was obviously a blatant lie has his party had zero to do with the original party of that name or those Prime Ministers.

Complaints to the AEC about these blatant Palmer lies did not have a very happy result. While agreeing that Palmer’s statements were ‘untruth’ the problem was that the structure of the Electoral Act and the way that it had been interpreted by the courts, meant there was no ‘truth’ in political advertising provided it was part of an electoral campaign. And the UAP stuff was deemed to be part of a campaign despite no election having yet been called. In other words, so long as you call it part of a campaign, politically you are allowed to say whatever you like, lie as much as you like, as blatantly as you like. And the AEC is powerless to stop it.

The 2019 election also saw the matter of political signage descend to new, disgusting lows. In the electorate of Chisholm in Victoria, there is an estimated 20% of population having origins in China. And in that electorate, signs in Chinese suddenly appeared for the 2019 election.

You will notice that they are the same colour scheme as official AEC notices and placed immediately next to the AEC signs Any reasonable person would assume that they were indeed AEC signage in Chinese in order to help those from Chinese origins. Except they weren’t AEC signs at all. Instead the Chinese characters translate as:

“The right way to vote: On the green ballot paper fill in 1 next to the candidate of Liberal Party and fill in the numbers from smallest to largest in the rest of the boxes”.

This was a disgusting behaviour. Those signs quite clearly tried to emulate AEC signs and colour schemes. Any reasonable person would surely consider that to be fraud? Could the AEC do anything about them? Nope. Not a thing.

So, who was the main candidate potentially benefiting from those ridiculous signs? Liberal MP Gladys Liu. So, the question now becomes was her election at least in part due to those hopefully fraudulent signs, whether she directly had anything to do with it or not? As I write, Liu is due to face a first hearing by the High Court as the Court of Disputed Returns later this week, in which the future of the matter shall be considered. Surely that behaviour has gone too far even for the political and legal leniency of campaign statements? The wider role of the Liberal Party as a whole, also needs to be considered as those signs were apparently authorised by Liberal officials, making the entire matter that much murkier.

Of course, a much more reasonable response would have been to see the AEC with authority to force removal of such blatantly false signs that clearly attempt to emulate official AEC signage. But, as with everything else, the AEC was powerless to do anything.

These were all matters that the Australian Electoral Commission should have been authorised to act on. But its legislative backing is ridiculously lacking any such reasonable strength. Instead, politicians and political parties are largely unfettered.

We saw with Clive Palmer that the most outrageous of blatant lies are in fact allowed, with the only relevant authority, the Australian Electoral Commission, completely powerless. And we are only going to see more of it, more attempts to obtain votes by what would in other circumstances be completely fraudulent conduct.

This is pretty serious stuff. But whatever reasons, nobody in Federal Parliament shows the slightest interest in doing anything about it.

Do we have to wait until someone is elected by completely fraudulent means before anything is ever done?

Ross doesn’t bite – a lot – so if you like this piece, feel free to share it and follow Ross’s Rant. But please – don’t use this without contacting me first.

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