Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — I move:
That the Council take note of the report.
I am very pleased to present the Electoral Matters Committee’s report on its inquiry into electronic voting. As many members will recognise, this is a very current issue and certainly one we have all discussed at the pub or around the dinner table. The committee received 34 written submissions, which is the second highest number of submissions the Electoral Matters Committee has ever received. I would like to thank all the individuals and organisations who made those submissions.
The committee had to consider two competing forces as a consequence of this inquiry. Firstly, the committee received evidence that it is hard to guarantee the security of votes lodged electronically. In many ways the bar is set higher for electronic voting than it is for the current system, but the opportunity for widespread electoral fraud is made easier by technology.
Secondly, the committee recognises the growing desire across the voting public for electronic voting. Often this is expressed in the somewhat simplistic but valid question: we have online banking and online tax returns, so why can we not have online voting? The expert evidence gathered by the committee answered this and advised that the success to banking online is guaranteed by linking the name of the person doing the banking and the transaction. The same goes for the tax department. But a secret ballot is a fundamental right of every individual in Australia, and this requirement for anonymity makes electronic voting a far more difficult technical proposition — but not an impossible one, and certainly the advent of blockchain technologies has proved this.
The postal system, on which we will rely for postal votes for the next state election in 2018, is very different than the one that operated decades ago. In fact the current postal system struggles with postal voting, and we saw that very clearly in the recent council elections. The inquiry also took place during the 2016 federal election, where results took weeks to be confirmed, and then there was the census. This provided two perfect examples of the issues the committee faced.
The committee has been cautious in its recommendations, and these include: that the committee supports electronic voting in principle for a limited classification of voters, comparable with the New South Wales iVote model, which has operated for three elections and was used by over 280 000 voters in last year’s state election. Specifically this system applies to people with a vision impairment or disability and to people who would be out of Victoria on election day, either interstate or overseas. The committee also favours a combined approach from the commonwealth and various state electoral authorities, particularly given the extremely high cost of establishing remote voting options and the need for rigorous security.
I wish to thank the members of the committee — the chair, Louise Asher, the deputy chair, Ros Spence, along with Martin Dixon, Russell Northe, Lizzie Blandthorn and Adem Somyurek. It really was a pleasure to work with them on this very interesting subject. I would also like to thank the staff of the Electoral Matters Committee, led by Mark Roberts, the executive officer, and backed by Nathaniel Reader, the research officer, and Bernadette Pendergast and Maria Marasco, the administrative officers. I also wish to thank the assistant clerk, Robert McDonald, who supported the work of the committee during this inquiry.
I commend this report to the house.
Motion agreed to.