LEON BYNER: … do you remember yesterday we spoke to [South Australian Attorney-General] John Rau and John said look we’re going to deliver quickly on two promises we made and that’s a credit to the Government, first one … you remember during the election campaign [then South Australian Attorney-General] Michael Atkinson wanted bloggers on the net that said anything political within a couple of weeks of the election to have to give their name and address, not necessarily to be published but supply it to the publisher, well that kind of got knocked on the head because Michael Atkinson had a rethink after the enormous reactions that happened of course on this program, was a front page story for a couple of days, then of course we had the business of the stuff going on during the election in the last week or so that it started to be discussed internally but everybody said they didn’t know until it happened, that was the ‘Put your Family First’ t-shirts with these how-to-vote cards that were legal according to the Electoral Commissioner but a lot of people said ‘I have a problem with this way of doing business’, so the State is going to legislate to fix it but in the federal parliament there is a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for inquiry and report and this particular issue is now being discussed at a Federal level, let’s talk to … Simon Birmingham …tell us what’s happening on the federal front and good morning?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … the Senate’s just in the last few moments has approved the establishment of an inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which is a cross-party committee that sits across the Senate and the House of Representatives, to look into this very serious issue … it was brought to my attention on polling day by numerous Party workers … I was standing on a booth when I started to receive messages from people elsewhere that this outrageous activity was being undertaken by the Labor Party, so this inquiry will look firstly and closely at the allegations, the issue of impersonation and what indeed the Labor Party got up to during the South Australian election, the extent to which it was designed to mislead voters and to which it succeeded in doing so, but also then it will look quite seriously at whether such behaviour is possible at a Commonwealth level … we haven’t had clear statements, categorical statements from the Prime Minister, from the Labor Party, at a federal level that they wouldn’t undertake the same activities and indeed the Labor Party did vote against the establishment of this inquiry this morning.
LEON BYNER: Did they?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: They did.
LEON BYNER: I’m surprised to hear that because I’ll tell you why … I had a chat with Tony Burke when he came to Adelaide a few weeks ago … not long after the election, and we were talking about other matters but I just threw in the business of these bogus impersonators if you like … he looked at me and said ‘we have to do something about this, otherwise everybody will do it at the next election’, so I’m surprised, I mean that was only one opinion no doubt, it wasn’t off the record by the way, so I guess I’m surprised … what was Labor’s reason for knocking it back?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well this motion was supported by the Liberal and National Parties, the Greens, the Independents, Family First …
LEON BYNER: Good on them.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: … so all were on side there … the Labor Party to their credit indicated that they would look at necessary changes to the Electoral Act, so that was a vast step forward from where we have been, but they categorically ruled out the need for an inquiry, argued this was just a South Australian matter, it should be dealt with by the South Australian authorities …
LEON BYNER: No it’s not, it’s not just a South Australian … you know the history of this … the Independent Weekly, through Hendrik Gout, broke the story that people from Queensland were sent down into South Australia to run this whole thing.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, not only that, Leon, but there are allegations that similar activities have taken place in the past in different byelections or elections interstate, so it’s not isolated to South Australia … this was … Mike Rann’s crew were by far the worst offenders … this was the most blatant act that anybody had seen and the most coordinated across numerous electorates … however, it is an issue that has being looked at elsewhere in the past and obviously we need to make sure that we’re clear on what the problem is and clear on what the solutions are and what is required to be inserted into the Commonwealth Electoral Act to make sure this can never happen at a Commonwealth level in future, especially at the next federal election and indeed of course hopefully never happen again in any state.
LEON BYNER: That was my next question … we are imminent to see an election, can this happen early enough to stop it at the next campaign?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I’m a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters and I will be urging the committee to conduct this inquiry as expeditiously and quickly as possible, to hold hearings as rapidly as we can, to take any submissions and to report back to the parliament within weeks rather than months so that we actually get a fair assessment of the problem and solution and make sure that we push through laws in the federal parliament.
LEON BYNER: You’ll keep us in the loop, won’t you?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: You betcha, Leon.