Crucial bill that makes voting accessible to be debated

Image: GetUp campaign

From GetUp

Ever heard of the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. But this technical-sounding bill is going to define this year’s referendum – and it’s up for debate in a matter of days.

In past months, GetUp has been attending working groups and lobbying ministers to ensure enrolling and voting is accessible and safe for remote First Nations communities.

At the centre of the campaign are four priorities:

  • Voter enrolment support. Allowing voters to enrol on the day of the Referendum, so long as their identity can be vouched for, can help increase voter turnout and particularly for those living in remote areas.
  • Making voting easy and accessible. Increasing translation services and making polling more accessible, especially in remote communities can help reduce barriers to voting.
  • Increased funding. By allocating better funding for programs like The Indigenous Electoral Participation Program (IEPP), this amendment can ensure that the heavy work needed to counter Coalition-led voter suppression inflicted on First Nations communities will be undone in time for the referendum.
  • Awareness and education programs. Additional funding for the Australian Electoral Commission and local community groups can build better awareness and address unique access issues that exist for remote communities.

The bill is being debated in a few days and it’s likely that the changes we’ve been fighting for will be tabled.

The bill is being debated in a few days

In 2010, the GetUp movement challenged Howard-era electoral laws that would have seen tens of thousands of young people denied the right to vote – just because they missed a registration deadline.2 GetUp took this all the way to the High Court. And won.

Less than two years ago in the 2020 Northern Territory election, GetUp fought for enrolment to stay open right up until voting day, ensuring those who otherwise would have been blocked from voting could have their say. And they didn’t stop there – from Minyerri to Borroloola, GetUp worked alongside First Nations communities to enrol thousands of people to vote.3

an estimated 112,057 First Nations people were unenrolled in the last Federal election

And in late 2021, after weeks of intense action from GetUp members, they fought to defeat racist voter ID laws in Parliament alongside First Nations communities – and won.4

These laws were a last ditch attempt by the Morrison Government and One Nation to stop First Nations people, as well as people living below the poverty line or fleeing violence, from voting.5

Research landed on the desks of decision-makers throughout Parliament, showing that an estimated 112,057 First Nations people were unenrolled in the last Federal election.6

Alongside this important work, we need to make sure we have the right system in place to make sure everyone can engage in the referendum – and that starts with essential reform to our referendum machinery bill.

[1] Indigenous enrolment rate, Australian Electoral Commission, 31 December 2022.
[2] GetUp! High Court win overturns Howard’s electoral laws, The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 2010.
[3] NT Election: Youth push to get NT mob on electoral roll, SBS News, 24 July 2020.
[4] Kill Bill: ‘discriminatory’ voter ID laws dropped as Lambie denies support, SBS News, 1 December 2021.
[5] Pauline Hanson claims credit for Coalition’s controversial voter ID laws, The Guardian, 28 October 2021.
[6] Indigenous enrolment rate, Australian Electoral Commission, 31 August 2021.

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