VIC election – the people not eligible to vote

VIC election
Not all people who reside in Victoria will get a say in who forms the next state government. (ABC News: Brigid Andersen)

23 November 2018

Larissa Romensky and Mark Kearney – ABC Central Victoria

About 4.1 million people are enrolled to vote in Victoria’s election on Saturday, about 350,000 more than those who cast ballots in the last poll four years ago.

But that number would be significantly higher if voting rights were extended to several groups in the community who are currently ineligible to vote despite being permanent residents and taxpayers.

Key points:

  • Being a citizen was not a prerequisite for voting before 1984,
  • Experts say allowing currently excluded people to vote could change who holds marginal seats.
  • Those excluded include temporary visa holders, some prisoners, and people under 18.

University of Queensland law professor Graeme Orr said anyone who had been accepted as a permanent resident should be given a political voice.

“The idea of one person, one vote should apply to all people whose interests are directly and strongly affected by the decisions of the government,” he said.

“There’s still hundreds of thousands of people who are on the roll 33 years [after the law changed] who can still vote and they’re not citizens, and yet lots of other newer permanent residents many decades old can’t vote — so there’s a bit of unfairness and inconsistency there.”

Before an overhaul of election law by the Hawke Government in 1984, citizenship was not needed to vote in Australia — all that was needed was residency and being a subject of the Crown.

Anyone on the roll before Australia Day in 1984 did not have to become a citizen to vote, with voting rights grandfathered before the change.

Kiwis ‘disenfranchised’ in Australia

New Zealand granted all permanent residents the right to vote in 1975, provided they lived continuously in the country for at least a year.

“They have a lot of people who come and go from the Pacific and they have decided to embrace those people politically,” Professor Orr said.

It is a different case for many of the 567,000 New Zealanders who were living in Australia in 2017.

Because the [SCV] TY444 visa Kiwis use to enter Australia is temporary, those living and working in Australia for years have no easy pathway to citizenship or voting rights.

Only New Zealanders who were on an Australian electoral roll between 26 October 1983 and 26 January 1984 get a vote in Australian elections. [See if you have to enrol].

“The longer they stay here, the more disenfranchised they become,” Joanne Cox, deputy chairwoman of lobby group Oz Kiwi, said.

Ms Cox said concentrated pockets of New Zealand residents in Queensland and New South Wales could have a potent effect on elections in those areas.

But she believed the current Federal Government was unsupportive of extending voter rights to her community because New Zealanders were ideologically to the left of the Liberal Party.

[Read the full ABC News article].

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