Sunday, 17 July 2016

AEC My exchange with them.

I'm convinced our political system is corrupt. I'm also convinced that our elections are not immune. The system is heavily weighted towards incumbents. Politicians have meddled with the system since its creation generally driven by self-interest. I was impressed with the AEC professionalism in the lead up to the election. That sheen is gone for me.
On top of the issues, I have raised it has become apparent to me that at least one major party has directed voters to send postal votes back via their headquarters. I question a system that allows a party any involvement with postal votes. The competition is not afforded the same luxuries. I wasn't given access to a mailing address of every Australian voter. Why were the Liberals & Labor given more advantage? They already have a huge funding advantage from questionable sources without transparency or true scrutiny. They also are given a leg up in the media who they enjoy a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship with. I could further describe the disparity & corruption, I'll save it for another day.

This is the email exchanges I've had with the AEC regards the election 2016.

Dear Jeff,
I am very upset that our democratic processes in Australia are in a state of shambles. I must say that the professionalism I saw during the lead up to the election by the AEC was tremendous. I am aware that the AEC has been subject to cuts. Apart from the issues of people not being able to vote. Ballot papers being in short supply at polling booths. Ballot papers for Victoria ending in Western Australia. A former Prime Minister instructing voters in a polling booth. On top of these things. I have had to compete without resources afforded to the major parties. Who gives them access to personal information so they can send SMS messages or call people on election eve? Who gives them the authority to send out instructions with postal voting applications? Why is the Liberal party allowed to have signage with no address on it? Running as an ungrouped independent I am already disadvantaged without all of these free kicks. I can't even see on the site how I've polled such is the disrespect afforded to myself and the other candidates that ran for public office to help this nation become a better fairer place for all people.
I want a written explanation of the issues I have raised. Any issues that can't be addressed by the AEC I  would appreciate being forwarded to the appropriate authorities. I think the independent candidates are entitled to far better than this.
                                                                     regards Mark F Dickenson
UNCLASSIFIED
Dear Mark

Thank you for your email.  I am sorry you feel that way about this election.  I will do my best to address the issues you have raised below.

-       Unfortunately with every election, which is a massive logistical undertaking across Australia, there are things that don’t always go as well as they should or as we have planned.  We don’t accept that easily and we plan hard for issues not to occur but unfortunately they do from time to time.  In Victoria we did have some polling booths that were running short on ballot papers due to an unexpected high turnout in some areas (despite an increase in early voting) but I am not aware of anyone in Victoria not being able to cast a vote as we provided additional ballot papers where needed throughout the day.  It did result on some longer queues in some areas.
-       Ballot papers for Victoria are always dispersed all over Australia and all over the world so that electors can cast an absent vote.  Unfortunately the issue in Western Australia was that a mobile polling team who were servicing a nursing home mistakenly handed the voters a Victorian Senate ballot paper instead of a Western Australian Senate ballot paper.  This is a very bad error as those ballot papers are now considered informal and will not be counted.  Regrettably these sorts of mistakes, which is human error, can happen in elections.  Unfortunately people make mistakes and in this instance the size of the Senate ballot paper for Victoria and Western Australia was the same, the papers at a glance look identical and polling officials need to take great care to read the ballot paper to ensure it is the correct ballot paper being issued.  In this case they did not pay sufficient attention to detail.  These sorts of incidents are fully investigated and we look at ways to try and prevent these mistakes occurring again but sometimes it comes down to people working under pressure and making mistakes.
-       I am not aware of a former Prime Minister instructing voters, I must have missed that in the flurry of the election so I can’t comment on that issue.
-       Regarding the sending of SMS and the so called robocalls to electors this is not a matter for the AEC as we have no legislative authority on this issue.  You may have noted in question time after the Prime Minister’s speech on Sunday evening this issue was raised and he indicated that it needed to be looked at.  After every election there is a Joint Standing Committee on Election Matters (JSCEM) which seeks public submissions and generally holds hearings in every State and Territory to inquire into the election.  This issue might be examined by this Committee but it will depend on their terms of reference.  Anyone can make a submission which is something you may wish to consider.  Otherwise, complaints for these sorts issues might best be directed to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman at https://www.tio.com.au/ or you could try the Australian Communications and Media Authority at Level 32, Melbourne Central Tower, 360 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, telephone number (03) 9963-6800
-       The authority for political parties to send out postal voting applications is derived from the Electoral Act, which authorise political parties, and candidates to issue Postal Vote Application forms, to have them returned to their offices and then to forward these to the AEC for the issuing of the resultant postal vote certificate itself which contains the ballot papers.  In particular, subsection 184AA(1) of the Electoral Act provides that: ‘An application form for a postal vote may be physically attached to, or form part of, other written material issued by any person or organisation.’  You will note that this provision is not just limited to political parties but is generally only undertaken by political parties as it would be an expensive exercise to get wide coverage.  This issue has previously been considered by JSCEM but has been unchanged for a few elections now.
-       I am not aware of any signage for the Liberal party that did not have an address on it.  For me to comment definitively I would need to see a copy/photo of the signage.  I receive complaints from a range of people about the authorisation requirements or the lack of authorisation for political advertising and how to vote cards regularly throughout the election period.  I do not recall receiving one about Liberal Party signage that was not properly authorised under the Electoral Act and if I had received such a complaint I would have addressed it as soon as possible the same as I do with all other similar complaints.  Generally the escalation of these sorts of complaints dominate my polling day.
-       If you go to our Tally Room at:  http://vtr.aec.gov.au/SenateStateFirstPrefs-20499-VIC.htm you can see the first preference votes cast for every candidate in the Victorian Senate election.  The list of candidates are in order of the ballot paper so the Independents are at towards the bottom of this page.  This will be progressively updated with first preference votes as the count continues over the coming weeks and the full distribution of preferences will occur right at the end of the count which will give you the final result just as we declare the outcome.

I hope this assists in explaining some issues.  I would encourage you to make a submission to JSCEM when that process begins which is likely to be in a few months.

Regards

Jeff

 Dear Jeff,
Thanks for the prompt response. I've attached a copy of the picture of the former PM that was posted on social media. Pretty sure this is a breach of electoral law. I didn't take photos of the signs the Liberal Party had without addresses of which I personally saw 3. I've also seen this mentioned numerous times on social media not all from the same location. The signage now has been removed. I would happily sign a statutory declaration if required. If laws are not enforced. What's the point in having them? I'm not the only independent candidate that is upset with the integrity of the election and our democracy. I'm seriously considering posting all of my grievances online so that the people can decide if what happens is acceptable.
                                                                                                       regards Mark Dickenson 
                                                                                                      

UNCLASSIFIED
Dear Mark

I am not in a position to comment on the photo.  The apparent interaction could have been about a range of different possibilities.

With respect to the signage we do enforce the electoral laws at the time of the offence but it would seem we did not receive a complaint about this particular signage otherwise we would have immediately addressed it.  I can advise that myself and our Chief Legal Officer always act very swiftly to all complaints we receive regardless of which party they relate to and our responses always occur contemporaneously when the offences have been detected. 

As mentioned yesterday I would encourage you to share your views with the Joint Standing Committee on Election Matters when submissions open.

I note your thoughts regarding communicating your views via social media.  Please be advised that I do not consent to any of my responses being published on social media as I have undertaken these responses to you in good faith with the purpose of this private correspondence being to try and explain or resolve your grievances.

Regards

Jeff

Dear Jeff,
Our correspondence is unclassified, your stamp not mine . It doesn't say in the candidates handbook candidates can campaign or interact with voters while voting. Perhaps you can get the handbook updated to reflect it as that is clearly what's happening in the photo.
                                                                                                Mark Dickenson
I haven't had a response to the last email.