SUBMISSION OF DAVID FARRAR TO THE
INQUIRY INTO THE 2014 GENERAL ELECTION BY THE JUSTICE AND ELECTORAL SELECT COMMITTEE
About the Submitter
- This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.
Election Day and Advance Voting Restrictions
- As advance voting has become more and more popular, a situation has developed where we do not have enough restrictions on electioneering during the advance voting period, and too many restrictions on E-Day.
- 630,775 voters advance voted out of 2,416,479 – in excess of 25%. During that period there were stories about voters being handed party or candidate pamphlets as they enter polling places, or even having to go through a barrage of party activists.
- I believe we should aim to have similar restrictions in place for the advance voting period, and E-Day. These should primarily be focused on having an advertisement free zone around polling places, and being illegal to pressure someone to vote a particular way.
- This would see (compared to the status quo) a stricter regime for the advance voting period, and a more permissive regime for E-Day with the aim of the same regime for both periods. It is hard to justify on first principles why the period during which 74% vote should have a radically different regime to the period when 26% vote. I expect in future years this may approach 50/50.
Infringement fines for minor breaches
- As previously, I propose that the Electoral Commission be given the power to fine parties and candidates for minor breaches of the Electoral Act such as late returns. It is silly to require such breaches to be referred to the Police and take up court time if prosecuted. A fine power will increase compliance with the law
- I repeat my previous submissions than the ban on political parties purchasing their own broadcasting time is outdated and an unjustified restriction of free speech. Worse, it means that different parties have different effective spending limits as a party allocated less broadcasting spend than another, is unable to close that gap.
- I think the donations regime is generally working well, except for the fact most donations are only disclosed after an election. I propose that all donations over the disclosure threshold be disclosed to the Electoral Commission on a monthly basis, by the 20th of the following month. Also during the final two months before an election, on a weekly basis.
- Transparency around donations is far more effective and justified that restrictions on who can donate – such as the US has. However transparency works best if the public have knowledge of significant donors prior to an election. The current threshold of $30,000 for immediate disclosure is too high.
Role of the Police
- I have advocated for over nine years that the Police should be removed from their current role of prosecuting electoral breaches.
- In 2005 their investigations of electoral law breaches was arguably incompetent. Extremely basic errors in law were made, where they ignored strict liability and confused the difference between spending limits and who can authorize and advertisement.
- In both 2008, 2011 and 2014 they did not investigate alleged offences in a timely manner. Most complaints referred to them in 2011 just disappeared into a black hole and no action was taken. I do not blame them for prioritizing other crimes ahead of electoral offences, but it is wrong that there is no timely and effective enforcement of electoral law.
- I propose that the Committee recommend to the Government that they agree in principle that the Police be removed as the enforcement agency for electoral law, and that they consult on the preferred replacement model.
Thank you for considering this submission. I would like to make an oral submission in support, and look forward to appearing.