Norm Kelly
The Australian National University

Refereed paper presented to the Australasian Political Studies Association conference University of Newcastle
25-27 September 2006

The Howard Coalition government has recently enacted the most significant reforms to the Commonwealth Electoral Act to have occurred for more than 20 years. The reforms include removing the limited prisoner franchise, earlier closure of the electoral roll, and higher disclosure thresholds and increased tax deductibility for political donations. Parliamentary debate on these issues has been limited, while public debate on electoral issues also tends to receive minimal exposure. This paper provides an overview and analysis of the major changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 passed by the Australian Parliament in June 2006. It examines the democratic implications of these changes, particularly in relation to the democratic principles of political equality and popular control of government. The paper also compares the Australian Commonwealth reforms with electoral legislation at the Australian sub-national level, and with recent electoral reforms in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.

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