SECRET BALLOT IN 2010: NO GUARANTEE
Special Minister of State, Joe Ludwig, today confirmed in Senate Estimates that Australians who are blind or vision impaired are not guaranteed a secret ballot at the next Federal election.
In response to questions from Senator Fifield, the Coalition’s spokesman for Disabilities, Minister Ludwig refused to commit to providing a secret ballot to electors who are blind or vision impaired.
AEC commissioner, Mr Killesteyn, said that the AEC cannot provide for a secret ballot until the Government amends Section 234 of the Electoral Act which currently only provides for assisted voting where a poll clerk records an individual’s vote rather than a secret ballot using automated technology.
This echoes comments made by Mr Killesteyn in the October round of estimates where he said the AEC was “critically reliant” on that legislative change.
Asked by Senator Fifield whether the Government could commit to the necessary legislative changes to allow a secret ballot for blind and vision impaired voters before the next election, Minister Ludwig said:
“I am not able to provide that commitment.”
This is the third occasion Senator Fifield has raised this issue at Senate estimates. Last year the Electoral Commission handed the Minister a plan for secret ballots for blind and vision impaired electors to which the Government has not responded.
In government the Coalition recognised the right of all Australians to have a secret ballot, by funding a trial using automated technology at the 2007 Federal election. Mr Graeme Innes AM, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner, expressed his feelings about voting without assistance for the first time:
“I had tears in my eyes,” he said. “I was able to exercise what I regard as a very important democratic right.”
“All Australians deserve the dignity of a secret ballot. This is the 21st century, it’s forty years since we put a man on the moon, we have cars that can park themselves and phones you can watch TV on. I refuse to accept it is too difficult to provide simple phone-based technology to guarantee a secret ballot for Australians who are blind or vision impaired.
“It is clear the only thing standing in the way of all Australians having the dignity of a secret ballot is the Rudd Government’s unwillingness to stop talking and start acting,” Senator Fifield concluded.