The push to make voters show identification at polling booths, condemned by opponents as a racist bid to suppress turnout, appears set to fail unless One Nation has a change of heart on its ban on supporting government legislation.
Even if the government gets One Nation back onside to support its bill, it also needs to win over either independent senator Jacqui Lambie or Centre Alliance’s Stirling Griff, who are yet to make up their minds on the measures.
The government needs to win over crossbench senators Jacqui Lambie, Stirling Griff and Pauline Hanson to pass its voter ID laws.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen/Dominic Lorrimer
For the measure to be in place at the upcoming federal election, which must be held by mid-May, Special Minister of State Ben Morton says the legislation must pass this fortnight, the final sittings of Parliament for the year. The bill is currently in the lower house with a long list of Labor MPs who want to speak on it.
The proposal would require voters to show a form of identification when they turn up to cast their ballot or be accompanied by someone who has valid ID and can vouch for them.
It allows for a broad range of identity documents, including photographic ID such as a driver’s licence or proof of age card, a Medicare card, birth certificate, electricity or water bill, bank statement, bank cards including digital ones, and letters from Aboriginal land councils or native title bodies.
Voters who have neither identification nor someone to vouch for them will be able to cast a declaration vote.
“Under the way this is designed, not one person will be turned away from a polling booth,” Mr Morton said.
Labor and the Greens are stridently opposed to the measure.
Shadow special minister of state Don Farrell says there’s no problem with voter fraud and the laws were likely to make it harder for already marginalised people, especially in remote Indigenous communities.
Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers has previously described the problem as “vanishingly small”.
While One Nation leader Pauline Hanson claimed credit in October for the government pursuing the measures, she and colleague Malcolm Roberts have announced a boycott on all government legislation unless Prime Minister Scott Morrison stops state governments from imposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
This includes opposing the voter ID laws, a One Nation spokesman confirmed on Wednesday.
The government needs support from three of the five Senate crossbenchers to pass the legislation.
Independent Rex Patrick opposes the measures.
Senator Griff wants them to be scrutinised by a committee before a vote, although his lower house Centre Alliance colleague Rebekha Sharkie is opposed to them.
Mr Morton won’t countenance a further inquiry, which could take months, pointing out the suggestion for the laws has already been scrutinised three times by the joint committee on electoral matters.
Senator Lambie is running an online survey before landing on a position, saying both sides make good points and she wants to know what the Tasmanians she represents think.
Activist group GetUp asked people on its mailing list last week to vote “no” in her survey and offer reasons such as that the proposal is racist or will confuse voters.
A further complication is the threat of abstaining on votes from several Coalition senators who have sympathy with the pushback against vaccine mandates. Senators Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic have asked the Liberal whip to pair them with the Coalition on all non-legislative votes, meaning their numbers can’t necessarily be counted on.
Mr Morton was confident of gaining their support, saying both supported the need for voter ID.
“There’s a lot of sausage-making happening in the Senate sausage-making machine. I’m very confident all of the Coalition senators will support this bill,” he said.
Northern Territory senator Sam McMahon has also told the ABC she is considering crossing the floor on the laws, saying she agrees with the principle but considers the legislation to have been rushed.
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