Compulsory Voting in Australia Timeline

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With self government all adult (21 years) male British subjects were entitled to vote in South Australia from 1856, in Victoria from 1857, New South Wales from 1858, and Tasmania from 1896 including indigenous people.

Queensland gained self-government in 1859 and Western Australia in 1890, but while granting the vote to all adult (21 years) male British subjects, both the colonies (Qld in 1885, WA in 1893) specifically excluded indigenous people from the vote unless
  1. in WA, they owned title to land worth £50 or more or
  2. in Queensland, they could identify as "half-caste".
Note too that at the time there were hundreds of Aboriginal languages, as there are still many languages today, and back then, not many spoke English. Accordingly there were no official forms in either colony to collect data on indigenous births deaths & marriages until the late 1980s. In June 1902, a Franchise Act was passed at the Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne. It provided a right to vote in federal elections for any adult who had resided in the Commonwealth for at least six months. It excluded, at the time, indigenous Australians except for those eligible to vote under State laws, all non-European migrants from Asia, Africa and Oceania, certain offenders (in 2020 those serving a sentence of three years or more), and those of unsound mind. Women (21 years and over) throughout Australia were enfranchised by the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902.

Women's Suffrage in Australia

Female suffrage Right to vote Right to stand
for Parliament
South Australia18951895
Western Australia18991920
New South Wales19021918
In 1911 a bill for compulsory enrolment was introduced into Parliament in Melbourne by Australia's 5th Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher. The bill was passed by both houses of parliament in December 1911 and formally commenced on 27 March 1912. Enrolment forms could be found at each State Govt electoral office or local post office. Prior to this year, police officers, state electoral officers were responsible for keeping tabs on eligible voters in each state. A big job. By making enrolment compulsory, their job became a lot easier. That same year, South Australia handed responsibility for the Northern Territory over to the Commonwealth Government. In 1922 regulations were passed to exclude the Northern Territory indigenous people from voting with officials having the power to decide who was indigenous.

Compulsory Voting The Australian Electoral Commission today states: "It is compulsory by law for all eligible Australian citizens to enrol and vote in federal elections, by-elections and referendums. First made compulsory for all eligible citizens in state elections in Queensland in 1915. First made compulsory for federal elections in 1924, though not made compulsory for indigenous Australians until 1984. In 1925, peoples of British India were granted the option of enrolment and the vote. Victoria introduced compulsory voting in 1926, New South Wales and Tasmania in 1928, Western Australia in 1936 (excluding indigenous Australians), and South Australia in 1942.

After 1948, every member country click here in the new Commonwealth of Nations, Australia, Canada, New Zealand etc (but not Ireland) put in force local citizenship laws. On January 26 1949, Australia's first Minister of Immigration, Arthur Calwell, declared that

  1. ** Everyone born inside Australia were automatically granted Australian citizenship, regardless of parents nationality, unless the parent was a foreign ambassador.

    **After 20 August 1986, children born in Australia were required to have at least one parent an Australian citizen (or permanent resident) to be Australian citizens.

  2. Everyone who had been born outside Australia could automatically apply to become Australian citizens, provided they had been living in Australia for five years.
Rules have evolved somewhat. The other situation after 1949 of being an Australian citizen, and thus becoming a British subject, was then acknowledged by the UK up to January 1983, but rarely since. Also in 1949, indigenous Australians in Qld and WA and Northern Territory who had served in the Defence Forces during World War II were to be given the option of enrolment for the federal vote. In 1961 with regards to peoples from Asia, Africa, Oceania all disqualifications to Australian citizenship (and the vote) were repealed. In 1962 all indigenous Australians in Qld and WA and Northern Territory were granted the right to enrol and vote at a Federal level but were made exempt from compulsory enrolment. The compulsory voting age for federal elections was reduced to 18 years on 16th March 1973. Qld fell in line for state and local voting on 11th April 1973. On 26 January 1984, all British subjects in Australia who were not Australian citizens became known as "permanent residents". If registered to vote, they were allowed to retain that right, but from that date the right to vote was only to be granted to Australian citizens. Also from 1984, both enrolment and voting became compulsory for all indigenous people. Penalty Units Penalty for not voting without having a valid reason in Qld is one penalty unit, currently $133.45 as of 1 July 2019 In NSW $55.00 Commonwealth just $20, but if you get taken to court for not paying that, a maximum fine of one penalty unit, currently $222 plus court costs. In the High Court, sufficient reasons for not voting include Physical obstruction, whether of sickness or outside prevention, or of natural events, or accident of any kind. These would certainly be recognised by law in such a case. Recent laws were added in 2013 to allow for 'direct enrolment', which allows the AEC to access other Commonwealth records to add you to the electoral roll (or amend your details) eg ATO, Medicare, Drivers License, Bank Details


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