AEC gets a pass mark on conducting referendum – just!

The army of scrutineers recruited by One Nation to observe the integrity of the voice to Parliament referendum held on October 14 has given the Australian Electoral Commision a passing mark, but only just. 

For many years, One Nation has worked to improve election integrity on the basis that it is absolutely essential for the survival of Australian democracy. As polls and surveys in recent years have demonstrated, Australians’ faith in democracy—and their trust in public institutions—has been falling. When individual freedoms were trampled by Australian governments using draconian emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic, this erosion of trust only accelerated. 

Out of considerable concern about the fairness of a referendum being pushed by government, big business, academic elites, and even sporting organisations, more than 1200 people answered Senator Pauline Hanson’s call and volunteered to be scrutineers at polling booths across the country for the first referendum held in Australia since 1999. 

In a comprehensive post-referendum survey, One Nation volunteers provided detailed feedback to the party about the AEC’s management of the voting process and the count. 

Overall, 69% of participating volunteers said they believed the AEC conducted the referendum in a free and fair manner—a passing mark but not a great one—and 30% said otherwise. Concerns were raised about the funding disparities between the yes and no campaigns (conservatively estimated at around five-to-one in favour of the yes campaign), bias in campaign materials, and aggressive behaviour by yes campaigners. 

Most scrutineers (88%) felt well or somewhat prepared for their role. Despite some reservations about on-site guidance and in-person training, One Nation's and the AEC scrutineers handbook's advice was highly praised. While a majority (77%) considered instructions and communications from the AEC were clear and timely, many thought there was room for improvement. 

One Nation scrutineers strongly opposed any moves to electronic voting in Australia, expressing confidence in the current paper ballot system. They also suggested a range of improvements to improve integrity, headlined by the need for voter identification laws, strengthening rules against multiple voting, and allowing the use of recording devices to ensure transparency. 

Senator Hanson thanked all Australians who put their hands up for One Nation to ensure the fairness and integrity of the referendum. 

“This was the most important referendum ever held in Australia, and from the beginning, the signs grew that Anthony Albanese and voice activists were doing everything they could to stack the deck in favour of the yes vote,” she said. 

“Fortunately, a great majority of Australians saw through the lies and the spin and showed the elites that it is the people who have the power in this country, as it should be in a free and fair democracy. 

“I am forever grateful to the many people who volunteered to scrutinise this divisive referendum and who took the time to answer our survey and suggest improvements to the system. These recommendations will substantially inform the efforts of Malcolm Roberts and I to improve the election process and ensure democracy continues in Australia.”