Services Australia and the AEC on the phone voting system

By Anna Macdonald

July 3, 2022

Jeff Pope
AEC deputy commissioner Jeff Pope. (Supplied)

Undertaking the task of setting up the phone voting system for the federal election, Services Australia and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) did not overlook the significance of the event.

Services Australia deputy CEO Michelle Lees told The Mandarin in a statement her staff deal with sensitive information on a daily basis. 

“Our staff are no strangers to pivoting to different priorities. I think we’ve proven during the pandemic and recent fire and flood emergencies that we have the ability to efficiently and enthusiastically deliver support to people who need it most, so we were well placed to support Australia’s biggest service delivery operation,” Lees said. 

Lees added Service Australia worked with the AEC for three months in the lead up to the election, commenting she was proud of her staff to volunteer to help out. 

In a statement, the AEC said the age of social media means misinformation is spread further, with a good reputation of the electoral system essential to a functioning democracy. 

“The challenge of electoral reputation management has only intensified in the era of social media and disinformation, particularly when some citizens and commentators can be astonishingly swift to reach, and then broadcast through social media, unshakably strong views about electoral events. 

“Anticipating those issues enables the AEC to deal with matters before they influence the reputation of Australia’s electoral system,” the commission said. 

Numerous agencies were part of The Secure Voting Telephone Inter-Departmental Committee (SVT IDC): AEC, Services Australia, Department of Defence, Australian Taxation Office, Department of Employment Skills and Education, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Department of Social Services, Department of Finance, Department of Home Affairs, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Public Service Commission, and Australian Cyber Security Centre.

Phone votes took about 10 minutes on average, 74,257 total votes cast via phone voting calls from citizens in Australia and Antarctica. The AEC added it was undertaking a review of the phone voting to consider its efficiency using a ‘lessons management approach’. 

When it comes to inter-departmental collaboration, the AEC said open and transparent communication was key.

“The key is to build trusting partnerships, which we quickly achieved in this IDC through openness and transparency. This fostered an environment where there was mutual trust and respect for the respective expertise and experience that each agency bought to the table,” AEC deputy commissioner Jeff Pope said. 

Lees added: “By sharing our expertise, capability and infrastructure we can bring the vision of One APS to life and deliver exceptional services to the Australian community”.

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