Spotlight on the Australian Electoral Commission

Margo Kingston has a fascinating follow-up piece on the AEC and its current Commissioner Andy Becker. This story may turn out to be more significant than I first imagined.

Update – EvilPundit highlights a Labor-related body called the “Fair Go Alliance” that also seems to fit the definition of “associated entity” in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The difference is that it has fessed up and filed disclosure returns under the Act (albeit belatedly), whereas Tony Abbott’s slush fund is still resisting doing so. Nevertheless, in terms of what this tells us about the AEC, it rather suggests that its supine approach to regulatory oversight mostly doesn’t have partisan motivations. I haven’t suggested otherwise, although some of Margo Kingston’s material appears to do so.

The fact that the AEC seems equally disinclined to enforce the Act vigorously against both major parties may suggest a careerist culture disinclined to take risks by antagonising powerful political groups where that can be avoided, or it may just indicate a chronic lack of staff, funding and resources. Whatever the explanation, it’s certainly time to turn the spotlight on the AEC and demand improvements. Its apparent failure to police effectively many of the abuses associated with “wedge politics” techniques is another example of systemic failure. As a non-partisan centrist, I don’t see this issue in party political terms at all. I see the AEC as a critical component of Australia’s sophisticated and successful system of democratic checks and balances; one that has to date ensured that we haven’t developed the sort of corrupted electoral practices highlighted in Florida during the 2000 US Presidential election. We should all be concerned to ensure that it maintains (or regains) its fearless independence.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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2022 years ago

Looks red hot to me Ken.