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Estimates: Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee: Finance Portfolio: Australian Electoral Commission

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 6 Jun 2018

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Electoral Roll Issue & GetUp

Senator RHIANNON:  Thank you for accommodating me. I just wanted to get an update on the electoral roll issue. There's been an issue, which we've discussed, about the inconsistency in the numbers between the New South Wales roll and the federal roll. Could you inform the committee of the size of the current gap and where the discussions are up to with the New South Wales Electoral Commission and yourselves about ensuring that there's consistency here, or working towards consistency?

Mr Rogers : As I've said previously, that has been an issue that we've been dealing with for quite some time. What I can tell you is that the work that's been occurring with the New South Wales Electoral Commission has actually produced a good outcome with that. We still have an issue with the divergence with Victoria, which is far more significant than with New South Wales. Looking at where we are at the moment: you might remember that at its absolute height, in 2015, the divergence was 785,000, which was very bad.

Senator RHIANNON: That's with New South Wales?

Mr Rogers : In fact, back in 2015 it was New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: So, that's a accumulative figure?

Mr Rogers : That's right. And we've now cut that by 64 per cent—

Senator RHIANNON: That's great.

Mr Rogers : down to 281,000. Now, when I look at New South Wales, as a result of a lot of ongoing work with the New South Wales Electoral Commission—and full credit to the New South Wales Electoral Commissioner—I'd have to tell you that we've got a significant improvement in the divergence with New South Wales. We've seen a reduction of 77 per cent in divergence with New South Wales since December 2015. So, the big issue at the moment for us is actually Victoria. And if I look now, Victorian divergence makes up almost 80 per cent of all divergence.

Senator RHIANNON: Really?

Mr Rogers : Yes. So, whilst divergence fell by 11 per cent down to 220,000 by 30 April 2018, it's still an issue. I visited the Electoral Commissioner in Victoria a couple of weeks ago. I think we're having a more extensive meeting with the Victorian Electoral Commission next month to try to address this issue. We're very conscious of it. But we've been working very hard to try to fix it.

Senator RHIANNON: With regard to New South Wales, could you give us the number—not a percentage, but numbers—

Mr Rogers : I can tell you that, in December 2015, just with New South Wales, we were about 260,000 electors divergent, and, as at 30 April this year, we're down to about 60,000—

Senator RHIANNON: That's good.

Mr Rogers : and it's trending down.

Senator RHIANNON: Are there still issues, where you're not happy with the ways that the New South Wales government brings people onto the rolls? Does that remain the problem?

Mr Rogers : No. In fact, I would tell you I'm uproariously happy with those figures and what they're doing at the moment. They're genuinely trying to work with us to ensure that there's no divergence at all. That's our aim. It's to get to zero divergence with that. We're working very, very seamlessly.

Senator RHIANNON: What needs to happen? If you're happy with them, why is there a divergence?

Mr Rogers : For that number, it's probably largely technical or a matter of timing. I'm very confident that, over the next few months, we'll whittle that down further and further. The New South Wales Electoral Commissioner is being very innovative with this and also very collaborative. I'm hopeful we'll get to a very low level of divergence.

Senator RHIANNON: Good news. Moving on—in response to questions on notice from February, you said that the AEC has not formally considered the disclosure status of the Business Council of Australia or the Queensland Resources Council. Has the AEC received a referral or request to formally consider the status of those bodies?

Mr Rogers : I'm not aware of one. I'm looking at Mr Pirani.

Mr Pirani : No, we aren't aware of one. But I had a discussion with Senator Farrell earlier about the Business Council of Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay, I'll look that up. You're currently conducting a third investigation into the disclosure status of GetUp!. Can you provide an update, please.

Mr Rogers : I can, Senator. Being conscious of not either derailing the process or being unfair to GetUp!, I will provide the information I think I can provide. Mr Pirani will tell me if I stray into other areas. As you know, we have been looking at the status of GetUp!. That's been very public. That process is continuing. It's a complex area, and we sought external legal advice about the review process itself. Mr Pirani might correct me.

Mr Pirani : And also the material that we currently had.

Mr Rogers : That advice advised us to ask some additional questions. We have asked those questions, and, as at 1 May I think, GetUp! have responded with a significant amount of information. I don't have the actual number of pages, but I think there are five or six lever arch folders.

Senator RHIANNON: Good heavens!

Mr Rogers : There are normally about 500 pages in each of those folders, so there are several thousands of pages. We now need to work through that. We'll try to do that as quickly as we can, and, once we have completed that, we'll be in a position to—

Senator RHIANNON: Is there a time line on where all this is going?

Mr Rogers : It's as quickly as we can move through it. I'm conscious it's been going on for quite some time.

Senator RHIANNON: You confirmed, when we spoke about this last time, that no other organisation has been the subject of three investigations. Could you tell us which organisations have been investigated twice?

Mr Rogers : I think I'd have to take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Nobody here would know?

Mr Pirani : Normally we report them on our website. I'm not aware of any other one that we've done an investigation—a formal investigation, where we've reported the outcome—twice.

Mr Rogers : But we will confirm that, to make sure we're being accurate, for you.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.


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