Adjournment Speech - Chisholm

Adjournment Speech - Chisholm Election



Adjournment Speech - Chisholm Election


31 JULY 2019


Earlier today, the Labor Party announced that it would not be challenging the result of the election in the Division of Chisholm, in Victoria.

We were disappointed – and, frankly, appalled – by the tactics employed by the Liberal Party in the Division of Chisholm.  And in the Division of Kooyong, for that matter.

In particular, the Chinese-language signs used by the now-Member for Chisholm and by the Member for Kooyong, who is also the Treasurer of Australia, were clearly designed to look like official voting instructions from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Translated into English, the signs stated:

“Correct way of voting:

Fill in 1 next to the Liberal Party (Liberal) candidate on the green ballot

And fill in numbers in other boxes in ascending order.”

Let me repeat that:

Correct way of voting:

Fill in 1 next to the Liberal Party (Liberal) candidate on the green ballot

And fill in numbers in other boxes in ascending order.”

The signs used the same colours of purple and white as the Australian Electoral Commission.

The signs were displayed next to official AEC signs – that’s actual AEC signs – at the entrance of polling places, so they would be one of the last things a voter saw before they cast their ballots.

The signs included no Liberal Party branding at all. The only evidence that the signs originated with the Liberal Party was a barely perceptible strip of text at the bottom which indicated that the sign was authorised by the Victorian Branch of the Liberal Party.

Unlike the rest of the sign, the sneaky, near-invisible authorisation was written in English – presumably so the sign’s target audience would not be able to read it.

According to AEC and Census data, there are approximately 13,000 voters who speak Mandarin or Cantonese at home in the Division of Chisholm.  The final two party-preferred vote difference between the elected member and Labor’s candidate, Jennifer Yang, was 1090 votes.  That means if only 546 voters changed their votes, Jennifer Yang would have been elected as member for Chisholm.

We will never know whether the fake AEC signs in fact misled a sufficient number of voters to change the election result in Chisholm.  Or how many Chinese Australians were misled – or insulted – by the signs in the Treasurer’s electorate of Kooyong.

But there can be no doubt about the intentions of the Liberal Party in devising and placing these fake AEC signs.

It should be a matter of great concern to all Australians that the now-Member for Chisholm, the Treasurer of Australia and the Liberal Party sought to mislead Chinese-speaking Australian voters with their shamefully deceitful signs.

Labor believes there is a strong case that the signs constituted a criminal breach of the Electoral Act.

However, the significant cost and lengthy nature of a legal challenge means we will not be seeking to overturn the outcome of the election in Chisholm through legal action.

Now is not the time for us to be looking back at the result of the last election. Instead, our focus must be on holding this tired, third term Liberal Government to account and showing the people of Australia that Labor has the most positive, just and prosperous vision of our nation’s future, and the best policies to get us there.

That is not to say we do not think that there should not be consequences for the Member for Chisholm, the Treasurer of Australia and the Liberal Party for their disgraceful conduct during the election campaign.

Regardless of whether the High Court of Australia, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, finds that the fake AEC signs were in breach of the Electoral Act, the Australian public can see clearly what the Liberal Party were up to.

This Parliament has a role to play in ensuring that conduct of this nature – conduct of a political party masquerading as the Australian Electoral Commission to deceive voters – is condemned for what it is.  And the parliament can ensure that it is never repeated, through the inquiry of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters or if necessary, by legislation.

These are matter we will be raising over coming weeks and months.