Thursday, 01 Dec 2022

Not fit for purpose: government looks to amend antiquated referendum laws ahead of voice vote

Not fit for purpose: government looks to amend antiquated referendum laws ahead of voice vote


Not fit for purpose: government looks to amend antiquated referendum laws ahead of voice vote

A leading constitutional expert says Australia's century-old laws around referendums are "not fit for purpose", suggesting the government could look to amend rules around donations, funding disclosures and social media advertising before the voice to parliament vote.

Linda Burney, the minister for Indigenous Australians, said the government would propose changes to "modernise" the Referendum Act before the end of the year, and promised a civics campaign and more information about the voice campaign in early 2023.

Prof George Williams, a University of New South Wales legal academic and member of the government's constitutional expert group on the voice, said referendum rules should be updated before the vote in the next financial year.

"Some of these laws go back to the 1920s. It's just not fit for purpose," he said.

The government has set up three separate expert groups around the proposed referendum, including a working group, an engagement group, and the constitutional group. The latter - including Uluru statement from the heart co-chair Megan Davis, Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, University of Sydney academic Professor Anne Twomey and Williams among others - met for the first time on 28 October. Following a working group meeting the same day, Burney's office issued a communique saying the group supported changes to bring the Referendum Act "into line with the Electoral Act".

During a speech at the National Press Club last month, the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, called Australia's referendum processes "very antiquated".

Williams said the current Referendum Act contains provisions dating to 1912, including limits on pre-poll voting, and the distribution of a pamphlet to all Australians containing 2,000 words written by the Yes and No campaigns to convince voters. Williams said these provisions could be considered outdated, while more recent considerations like campaign finance, truth in advertising and misinformation were not covered.

you may also like

Mexico’s Best Destinations for Tequila Drinkers
  • by travelpulse
  • descember 09, 2016
Mexico’s Best Destinations for Tequila Drinkers

Tequila lovers can't go wrong exploring the Mexican state of Jalisco.

read more