MS PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (09:39:28) — I move:
That the Council take note of the report.
I encourage everyone to have a look at this report, Inquiry into Civics and Electoral Participation in Victorian State Parliamentary Elections. We are still finding increased informal voting in Victoria, we are finding a decrease in youth electoral participation and generally we are finding less interest in the parliamentary process in Victoria. This has been an ongoing issue and is certainly something that the Electoral Matters Committee has considered over the last few years, whether it has been in the general review of the 2014 election or in our inquiry into electronic voting, which was again about how can we reduce informal votes and how can we increase electoral participation.
But what we found in those previous inquiries is that to reduce informal votes we need education and awareness, certainly in that group of 18 to 24-year-olds, so civics education is absolutely fundamental and I think, sadly, sorely lacking. I am sure many of us have stories of where we have spoken to young people or even not so young people who have absolutely no idea of the electoral process and really little understanding of our political system in Australia. The Victorian Electoral Commission has been doing a student education program called Passport to Democracy which has been somewhat effective, but it does not go far enough.
The committee was very fortunate to travel to New Zealand and to Canada where we saw some really interesting ways of engaging people. I certainly make note of the Canadian system that is run by CIVIX called Student Vote. Over there nearly a million students actually vote in their provincial and federal elections. That program is rolled out to over 600 schools in almost every single electorate or riding in Canada. They actually run the federal election within their schools. Members of Parliament go and visit the school and the students run the ballots, they run the counting and they set up the scrutineers. It is a wonderful way to increase awareness of and participation in the electoral system.
One of the other areas that we looked at was the recruitment of staff. The electoral commission will need 25 000 staff members for the upcoming 2018 state election. A lot of those staff members will be drawn from retired bank managers and retired schoolteachers, but that pool has been ever diminishing, because when you look at things like banks closing down in all of the regional areas, there are no bank managers to provide that expert knowledge that they bring to that role. When we looked at that in Canada we saw they were taking very creative ways to recruit staff to work in the election but also to recruit staff in an ongoing process. For instance, the electoral commission of Ontario can be found at the garden and flower show providing information to visitors to the garden and flower show about how they may like to work at election times. It is a really great way to get out into our community.
The other really interesting thing that we found overseas was the parliamentary engagement in civics education. Obviously we all speak to students who come from our regions as they come to the Parliament, but the recommendation in this report is that we can really improve upon that. In many jurisdictions in Canada we saw students actually playing a role in the parliamentary process, whether that was as pages in the chambers or as guides around the Parliament. This was a wonderful way to engage them. But also through the rollout of curriculum and even something as simple as actually having voter registration forms in the Parliament, so that after a tour of Parliament you can notify people who are eligible to vote that they can enrol to vote at the Parliament. All these programs could help us with the ever-declining engagement with and participation in our parliamentary process and in our democratic process.
I really commend this report. I think it teases out some very interesting areas in how we can improve the process and really connect with our electorates in a more meaningful way.
Motion agreed to.