London’s Australian Labor Party activists rallied outside Australia House on Sunday, protesting the closure of overseas polling stations for the upcoming NSW election.
ALP Abroad has condemned as “undemocratic” and “un-Australian” the decision not to have any oversees polling stations available for the crucial state election on 28 March. Instead, overseas voters can vote online or by post.
It will be the first time in 100 years that voters in a NSW state election will not be able to vote at the High Commission (Australia House) in London or any other Australian consulate or embassy around the world.
In federal elections, more voters cast their ballot at Australia House than any other place overseas or on home soil. Traditionally, those votes favour Labor by about 2-1.
“The undemocratic decision to close all overseas polling stations that traditionally favour Labor by large margins shows how desperate and fearful the Liberals are of losing the election because of the unpopularity of their electricity privatisation plans and of Tony Abbott,” said the London based president of ALP Abroad, Paul Smith.
“The Liberals’ fear of losing like in Queensland and Victoria is why they have taken the unprecedented decision to close polling stations that do not vote for them.”
While some 4,000 people from NSW voted in person at Australia house at the 2013 federal election, state elections tend to attract less interest.
According to the Australian Electoral Commission, only about 15,000 people from overseas and interstate voted in NSW elections in the past. However, that number dramatically bounced to about 40,000 when online voting was introduced in 2011.
Nonetheless, Smith believes all avenues to vote should be made available and ALP Abroad are hoping to get the decision reversed.
“That is Un-Australian and undemocratic and not how a proud democracy like Australia, that invented the secret ballot, conducts elections,” Smith said.