NT concerns over proposed voter ID laws

·2-min read

Indigenous leaders from the Northern Territory have voiced their concerns over the Morrison government's proposed voter ID law.

The group fears it will amplify the discrimination already experienced by many Indigenous citizens when they attempt to cast their ballot.

The new legislation would require voters to show identification before voting in federal elections and referendums.

"Voting numbers will plummet," Northern Land Council chief executive Joe Martin-Jard said.

First Nations Union organiser Wayne Kurnorth said the law was like "using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut".

"There's no evidence of irregular voting or fraud in the NT," he said.

"This legislation would diminish the voting rights of all Aboriginal people."

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy called for the bill to be withdrawn.

She said more efforts should be focused on enrolling Indigenous Territorians to vote, not deterring them from taking part in polls.

"Our rate is very, very low," she said.

Former NLC chief executive and Labor candidate for the Lingiari said the law was an attempt to prevent potential Labor voters taking part in the next federal election.

"I see this as a direct assault on the seat of Lingiari. It's a prized seat, and it's one (the Morrison government) wants," she said.

Under the legislation, voters who go to polling booths without ID will be able to fill in a declaration form to enable them to cast their ballot.

But National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Donnella Mills said it was a "clumsy" measure.

"It's unrealistic to think that people without ID, who may have poor language and literacy skills, and perhaps a mistrust of government officials, will be able to fill in a complex 'voter declaration' form," she said.

"The new arrangements defy common sense and most people without ID will be confused, and most will become embarrassed and walk away if they are challenged."

NLC chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi and Theresa Roe of Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the NT have also voiced concerns over the bill.

Federal parliament will continue considering the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Voter Integrity) Bill during the next sitting fortnight, which starts on Monday.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights found the law could discriminate against homeless Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities.

It has asked Special Minister of State Ben Morton for evidence the legislation is necessary and information about the likely impact on voter turnout.

It comes as the Human Rights Commission assesses a complaint about an Australian Electoral Commission policy that allegedly excludes Indigenous people who don't have a postal address from the electoral process.

The AEC won't automatically enrol these people to vote because it can't send a written notice to them, affecting many residents in remote Indigenous communities, where mailboxes are rare.

About 30 per cent of the NT's 251,396-strong population are Indigenous.

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