Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan have taken aim at Queensland for considering scrapping compulsory voting, with the Treasurer comparing the Newman government to the conservative Tea Party in the United States. The Queensland government released a discussion paper today on electoral reforms which questions whether the century-old practice should be dumped at a state level. It lists the pros and cons of compulsory voting and highlights other possible reforms, including allowing the return of big money donations, forcing unions to allow members a vote on political donations, and introducing truth in political advertising legislation.
The Prime Minister took to Twitter and Facebook to express her concern over the discussion paper, urging the public to reject any such changes considered by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman.
“Fight Campbell Newman’s plan to end compulsory voting,” she said. “Don’t let the Liberals make our democracy the plaything of cashed up interest groups.”
Mr Swan also weighed into the debate, telling reporters in Queensland it was “absolutely stunning” and the proposals were reminiscent of the era of former state premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
“Has Queensland just gone back 30 years?” Mr Swan said. “This government is doing everything it can to stop Queenslanders from having a say to their cruel cuts to the public service which they never outlined prior to the election.”
Mr Swan said the proposals would also make it harder for Queenslanders to vote.
“These are the tactics of the Tea Party in the United States, trying to stop people exercising their democratic rights,” he said. “I think that is what lies at the core of this Joh-era proposal which has emerged from the Newman government today.”
However Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, who released the discussion paper, said the Newman government has no current stance either way on the issue, and released the discussion paper to uphold integrity and accountability.
“Fair and effective electoral laws are central to the promotion of participation in our democracy,” he said in a statement.