Australian Electoral Commission - 6/03/2014

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:11): I also wish to speak on the Australian Electoral Commission's report for 2012-13. As Senator Faulkner said, the conduct of the 2013 election, which is referred to in this document, is the subject of an inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. I have attended a couple of meetings of that committee so far. The committee is initially having a look at the Western Australian result and the lost votes, and then when that is finished we will move on to other issues relating to the 2013 election.

It is clear, and I think those of us who have been involved in elections for decades will know, that over the years the actual security for ballot papers can be sometimes problematic, particularly with the Senate, where usually one or two votes lost or one or two wrongly counted does not really make a great deal of difference when—for example, in my state of Queensland—there are some two to three million voters. So my impression has been that, where in what are regarded as safe seats, there are not quite the same standards of scrutiny and security adopted.

In this last election, I spent quite a bit of time campaigning in the electorate of Kennedy. It was thought by all—except me, I might say—that this was a safe seat and the sitting independent, Mr Katter, would be returned without any problem. As it turned out—as I expected and as I knew, but as not many others did—the election was very, very close. In fact, the LNP candidate, Noeline Ikin, polled about 10½ thousand more primary votes in Kennedy than Mr Katter did. But he was saved by the preferences of the Labor Party, the Family First party and the Palmer United Party, all of whom preferenced Mr Katter before the LNP candidate.

As I counted there for the three days after the election, and from looking at the Senate vote as well, it was clear that security could have been impugned. I have concerns with the Western Australian issue that I have raised at both of the committee's meetings, which is that people are saying, 'This is just a lack of attention by the Electoral Commission.' But you have to consider that, at the time these votes went missing, the government of Australia had been determined and there was a fairly good idea of what the composition of the Senate would be after 1 July. I am not suggesting any conspiracy but I am concerned that there could have been direct criminal activity here. We know there are a number of politicians in jail for electoral fraud. I do not know whether any of you have read the book by Amy McGrath in which she details numerous cases of electoral fraud and mismanagement. I would not say that I agree with all of Dr McGrath's work, but there is enough there to make one suspicious. With big money involved in what happens in this chamber and in the government of Australia after 1 July, it is not beyond the realm of fantasy to think that there could have been direct criminal activity in the loss of those votes.

Mr Keelty said that, on his investigation, he could not come to that conclusion; but, in the evidence he gave the day before yesterday, he made it quite clear that anything could have happened, that the systems were so fluid—to put it nicely—that he could not rule out anything. This is a concern. As a result of legislation going through this chamber after 1 July, or legislation not going through the chamber after 1 July, it could be a matter involving different people with millions and millions of dollars. I think it is something the AEC needs to carefully look at.

Question agreed to.

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