MEDIA RELEASE

Monday 16 September 1996

81% believe only Australians should vote in Elections and Referendums

... But Politicians Remain Silent

The Executive Director of Ausflag, Mr Harold Scruby, today called on Federal politicians to urgently amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, following publication of an AGB McNair Poll which revealed that 81% of Australians believe that only Australian citizens should have the right to vote at Australian elections or referendums.

Mr Scruby said: "these results are as high as those revealed during the gun control debate and the Prime Minister did not hesitate in amending these laws to accommodate the wishes of the vast majority of Australians."

Mr Howard has recently introduced legislation into the Lower House requiring a plebiscite before the Australian flag can be changed. He promised that the Australian flag will not change without the approval of the Australian people. Yet while this anomaly remains, he cannot fulfil this promise, as foreign voters with loyalty elsewhere will be allowed to vote in such a plebiscite and affect the outcome," Mr Scruby said.

Mr Scruby added: "Our demands have been strongly supported by former Liberal Senator and now President of the Anti Discrimination Board of NSW, Chris Puplick, who wrote: ′I agree entirely with your proposition that non-citizens should be prevented from voting in crucial referenda on issues like the republic and the flag. I personally do not think they should be accorded a vote in any of our elections′."

"The Minister for Immigration, Mr Phillip Ruddock has argued that to deny British subjects the vote now would require the introduction of retrospective legislation. This is utter nonsense," Mr Scruby said. "Our arguments are supported by Ms Carol Foley, lecturer in constitutional law and author of the book The Australian Flag who wrote: ′There is no question of retrospectivity declaring past voters voting rights to be invalid. It is simply a matter of passing legislation that states from now on - that is, prospectively - only Australian citizens are competent to vote in Australia′."

Mr Scruby said: "Such legislation would be no more retrospective than the law requiring gun owners to hand in their guns." There is no greater right in a democracy than the right to vote. The current law is clearly discriminatory. If the politicians aren′t prepared to carry out the will of the Australian people, we′ll take the matter to the High Court," he said.