The wrongs of a selective right to vote

The Sun-Herald, 20 October1996, p.18.

Angela Chan, the head of the Ethnic Communities' Council of NSW, wrote to Prime Minister John Howard last week asking for legislation to exclude British subjects from voting in Australian elections.

"The council's position on this matter is clear," Ms Chan wrote. "We feel that Australian citizens should be the only people allowed to vote in Australian elections. It is of concern to us that Australia is allowing people who are not Australian citizens to vote whilst denying that right to other people from other countries who may have legitimate reasons for not becoming Australian citizens."

In Federal Parliament last week Administrative Services Minister David Jull confirmed that at least 155,000 British subjects who have not taken out citizenship will continue to be allowed to vote in elections.

In a recent opinion poll, 81 per cent of people said they believed only Australians should have the right to vote.

A law change to prevent Britons from voting is supported by Chris Puplick, a former Liberal senator and now president of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board who said: "I entirely agree with the 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 Sydney-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre is investigating a court challenge to the Commonwealth Electoral Act on the grounds that exclusively allowing the British to vote is inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act.