When you’ve finished cutting your toenails…

FOLLOW me through on this one… I hope you’ll think it’s important, even if it doesn’t look it at first glance.

The Federal Government has changed the election rules.

Until now, whenever the government called an election there was a general bustle among the voting public to get on the electoral register. Especially among young people, who had never been on it before, and among people who had moved home and didn’t want to vote for someone in Tasmania, when they now lived in Thuringowa.

At the last election, in the week after it was announced, 83,000 new voters got off their bottoms and registered. Hundreds of thousands of others changed their address details.

You would, wouldn’t you? I mean, voting is not high on the list of priorities when you’re 18. It comes way down, somewhere after sex, music, fast food, and cutting your toenails.

So they don’t actually do anything about voting until something nudges them in the brain by calling an election.

But not any more; because at the next election they’ll have only 24 hours from the time the election is called. By the time they read about it in the Townsville Bulletin the next morning, that’ll be down to about ten hours maximum.

And you’ll have to front up with 100 points of identification, orginal documents and a witness!

If you’re a voter who’s changing addresses, you’ll have only three days, instead of the previous seven.

Apparently it’s been done to prevent electoral fraud, but I understand that investigations by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) have failed to uncover any worth speaking of. Indeed, the Electoral Commission is on record as being unhappy about the changes.

And if you were going to register fraudulently wouldn’t it be smarter to do it when an election has not been called and the authorities weren’t so fraud-conscious?

And in any case, why give three days to the address-changers and less than one day to the new voters?

Because young people are more fraudulent than people who are simply changing their address?

Either way it seems to be a towering nonsense that a country in which voting is an obligation — enforced by penalties— should be making it harder for people to do what the law says they must.

And who gains?

Well… that depends on which way young people are likely to vote, and I don’t have the answer to that., although some research has shown that at the last election 43 percent of young people voted Liberal or National, and 49 percent voted for other parties, including Labor.

Apparently we can expect a major publicity campaign to alert people to the need to register now, and not wait until the election is called.

But where is it?

We could have an election as early as August 4, so people need to start thinking about it (and getting together the relevant documents, and their 100 points, and their witness) now, not later.

The campaign will be the responsibility of the AEC, but no doubt our local federal members of parliament will be really keen to ensure the people in their electorates aren’t disenfranchised by the laws that they have pushed through parliament, so no doubt they’ll be publicising it themselves soon.

If they don’t, you’d have to wonder why not, wouldn’t you?