Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No referendum II

As mentioned earlier, the Prime Minister stood up in Question Time today and said that the Ministry of Justice had recommended against holding a referendum in conjunction with this year's general election. The briefing paper has now been released to the media, and thanks to my inquiry, I was on the list. You can read it here [DOC].

The paper is actually from the Chief Electoral Officer, not the Ministry of Justice, dates from March, and says exactly what the Prime Minister said it did:

Conducting CIR with the 2008 general election would cause voter confusion, lead to congestion in polling places, and put at risk the timing of the Parliamentary preliminary count.
It cites the 1999 election, when two referenda led to serious problems in electoral administration, as evidence for this. As a result, the Justice and Electoral Committee's post-election inquiry recommended that future referenda be conducted by postal vote. The Chief Electoral Office agrees, and recommends a postal ballot in 2009, so as to avoid further disruption to their pre-election planning. They do present the option of going ahead anyway, but note that
Preparations for the possibility of CIR being held with the general election are diverting resources away from the CEO’s focus on delivering a quality general election.
As for why this has happened, I think this bit speaks for itself:
8. The CEO is not funded to conduct CIR and whichever option is adopted, a between budget bid would be required if either petition is successful.
(This became quite apparent when reading the Chief Electoral Office's 2006-2009 statement of intent earlier this afternoon - referenda played no part in their pre-election planning).

So, that settles it then. While Family First will no doubt mutter darkly about satanic government conspiracies to deny democracy, the integrity of the Chief Electoral Office is unquestionable. If they say it can't be done, it can't be done, EOFS.