Labor demands investigation into Liberal party’s ‘misleading’ postal vote strategy for the voice

Labor has called for an investigation into the Liberal party’s “misleading” postal vote strategy for the voice referendum.
The Liberals have been accused of “dirty tactics” for sending out anti-voice pamphlets that include a QR code for postal vote registrations. That link takes voters to a party website to gather their personal information, despite the fact postal vote registrations are not yet open.
Paul Erickson, the Labor party’s national secretary, has written to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) pointing out that under the referendum legislation postal vote applications “may not be made until after the issue of the writ for the referendum in relation to which a postal vote is sought”, so any application made now would not be accepted. The writs for the 14 October referendum must be issued before 6pm Monday.
Erickson writes that the Liberal party material “appears to be encouraging Australians to act in a way that is directly contrary to the act” and “actually misleads” Australians about the referendum process.
“Among other consequences, the distribution of this misleading material may lead many Australians to provide their personal information to the Liberal party under the mistaken belief that they are making a valid application for a postal vote,” he wrote.
A Liberal party spokesperson accused Labor of “extreme hypocrisy” because it has used a similar website previously.At the 2022 federal election, the AEC criticised both parties for their use of third-party postal vote applications, and on Tuesday commissioner Tom Rogers said the tactic was the “number one complaint” voters made to the commission but was legal.
While Labor is critical of the timing of the application mail out, it has not ruled out doing its own mail outs once the writs have been issued.
The Liberal party spokesperson said its website for postal votes had been there for a number of elections and was “a very similar platform to those used by the Labor party”.
“Any criticism from the Labor party is extreme hypocrisy,” the spokesperson said. “It has long been part of the campaign process that both major parties – and indeed, some independents – offer postal vote applications to voters.”
The spokesperson was also critical of the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, for not having issued the writs yet, and said that made it harder for Australians to participate in the referendum.
Political parties are exempt from privacy laws, so they are able to collect, store and use voter data. The AEC said on Wednesday that applying directly through the commission for a postal vote would be a faster process, and covered by the Privacy Act.
The independent MP Kate Chaney has introduced a private member’s bill that would mean parties could only issue postal vote applications if requested, they could not send how to vote material together with the applications. The form would also be sent straight back to the AEC instead of to the party, “which stops the data harvesting”, she said.
“The whole thing misleads the public,” Chaney said. In her electorate, Curtin, material has been sent out with a “misleading” reply paid envelope addressed to a “processing centre”, which is actually a Liberal party address.
“This is typical of the tactics we are seeing from [the] Liberal party’s no campaign – cynical, opportunistic and driven by political gain, rather than the substance of the issue being decided in the voice referendum,” she said.
The Liberal party pamphlet lists “10 reasons to vote no” which closely echo those in the official no pamphlet, which Guardian Australia has factchecked and annotated.
Rogers on Wednesday told an inquiry into the 2022 election that the postal voting system would work better without political parties involved.

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