AEC, not political mailouts, the place for postal vote applications

By Tom Ravlic

April 19, 2022

AEC signage
The AEC says voters should ignore ‘postal vote’ mailouts from political candidates. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Australian Electoral Commission is calling on voters to go straight to it for postal vote applications and to ignore the mailouts from some candidates and their political parties.

Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers has expressed concerns about MPs and political parties mailing out postal vote applications to residents in their electorates.

Political parties are exempt from privacy laws and can send out various pieces of information to people in their electorates including postal vote applications.

“It’s legal but it is potentially misleading and we’re concerned. There is a multitude of issues we’re seeing and it’s the number one complaint we’re receiving from Australians, with thousands of pieces of correspondence received across social media and more traditional complaint channels in just days,” Rogers said.

“Firstly, the election is an in-person event … most voters will come to a polling place so we don’t need the mass distribution of postal votes.”

Rogers said there are different issues that have emerged since voters have received information packs related to applying to receive postal votes.

“We’ve also seen the wrong forms distributed in one division, our colour purple used in a potentially misleading way in another and voters being directed to generically named websites en masse with the potential to mislead,” Rogers said.

“People have a right to know what they’re doing with their personal data. The AEC takes privacy seriously and operates under the Privacy Act, political parties don’t have to.”

Senator Rex Patrick has backed in the electoral commissioner, with a public statement of his own calling on the political parties to end their exemption under the privacy laws that has caused people to question on social media why they are receiving postal vote applications from candidates.

“More and more the Liberal and Labor Parties are running election campaigns supported by ‘Big Data’ programs based on access to electoral roll information, harvesting of social media data, highly specific economic and financial information, and through partnerships with contracted polling and analytics agencies”, Patrick said.

“Yet none of this sensitive personal information is protected by Australia’s national privacy standards because more than two decades ago the Liberal, National and Labor parties self-interestedly agreed that they would exempt themselves from the data protection rules that apply to other large companies and organisations.”


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