Former federal police commissioner Mick Keelty has criticised “lax” and “complacent” practices with the Australian Electoral Commission in concluding the fate of 1370 missing Western Australian Senate votes may never be known. The Australian Electoral Commission asked Mr Keelty to investigate what happened to the ballot papers after the loss of the votes was discovered in October during a recount. In a report released on Friday, Mr Keelty said while his investigation had not excluded the possibility of criminality, he had not discovered any evidence to suggest it was more likely than that the ballot papers had simply been misplaced. “It is tempting to say that the ballots are most likely to have been mistakenly destroyed with recycling material but the system put in place by the WA AEC office was so parlous that such a conclusion would be difficult to prove,” Mr Keelty wrote.
Mr Keelty found there was no apparent policy or process to cross check rubbish and recycling before disposal to ensure ballot papers were not accidentally thrown out. He identified a “loose planning culture” and a “complacent attitude” toward ballot papers and “lax supervision” in the AEC’s WA operations.
“In the 2013 Senate Election in WA, the AEC failed to meet its own high standards and damaged its reputation with the community and the Parliament,” Mr Keelty said.
He discovered within the AEC there was less concern for Senate ballots because of a view that they had less of an impact on the election outcome than those of the House of Representatives. “This is a cultural problem within the AEC and it needs to be addressed,” Mr Keelty found.
He recommended a range of changes to AEC policies and systems. The AEC has accepted each of them and will immediately begin to implement them.