All voters will be asked to present identification to vote under a Morrison government bill to crack down on alleged voter fraud.
The bill, which passed the Coalition party room on Tuesday but is yet to be introduced to parliament, will be fiercely resisted by Labor, which opposes voter ID laws because they may exclude legitimate votes.
According to several Coalition MPs and senators, the bill aims to exclude invalid votes without disenfranchising eligible voters.
If voters are unable to present ID on polling day, another enrolled voter with ID can attest to their identity, or the voter can cast a declaration vote, which requires further details such as date of birth and a signature.
Declaration votes are already used by the Australian Electoral Commission to allow voters to cast a provisional ballot, which can then be excluded if they are found to be ineligible after further checks.
Guardian Australia understands that acceptable forms of identification will include photo ID, such as passports, drivers licences, proof of age cards, and student cards, as well as government-issued documents including Medicare and pensioners cards, and recent documents from financial institutions and utility companies.
Labor’s shadow special minister of state, Don Farrell, said “the Morrison government introducing a bill on ‘restoring integrity’ has to be a joke”.
“ If any of these bills include those anti-democratic thought bubbles, Labor will be campaigning fiercely against them,” he told Guardian Australia.
Although Australia has largely avoided culture wars over the highly contested issue of voter fraud, in the US context Donald Trump’s big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him has been shown to reduce confidence in elections.
In December 2018, the government used its majority on the joint standing committee on electoral matters to call for voter identification laws.
At that time the electoral matters chair, James McGrath, said it was a “regrettable omission” that Australia did not “treat elections with the same gravity as a visit to a surf club or entering a Brisbane CBD pub after 10pm on a Friday night”, both of which require ID.
He said the reform should be implemented “promptly” to counter “the current mistrust of politicians and the democratic process by the voting public”, but the reform was not enacted in time for the 2019 election.
McGrath said the government wanted “to make sure our electoral system is ready”, including that it is “healthy, transparent, and fair for all”.
Labor and Greens members of the committee dissented on the recommendation, warning it would probably disfranchise Indigenous Australians, family violence victims, young, homeless people and itinerant people.
The Labor members said claims of double voting were “unsupported by the evidence” and Coalition senators did not identify a single irregularity in the 2016 election.
Although the Coalition has left it to the third-last sitting week of 2021 to introduce the bill, the issue has also been discussed in the Senate finance and public administration committee after One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts introduced a bill proposing voter ID.
In a report released on 14 October the government majority report noted Roberts’s bill seeks “to strengthen the integrity of elections” but quibbled with “a number of administrative issues” with the bill.
In additional comments, Labor and the Greens reiterated their opposition. Labor senators said: “As the majority of submitters to this inquiry have pointed out, there is no culture of voter fraud in Australia and without further evidence, there is no justification for voter identification laws.”
On Tuesday, the assistant minister for electoral matters, Ben Morton, also presented the party room with legislation to prepare for a pandemic election by allowing the AEC to give more time and or expanded the reasons to cast a pre-poll or postal vote.
As Guardian Australia reported in September, the bill would allow changes to election rules in the event of a declared emergency, with the ability to limit changes to a geographical area such as expanding pre-poll in an area under coronavirus lockdown.
The government is still pushing for passage of a bill to lower the disclosure threshold for political campaigners, such as NGOs and charities.
Morton presented anti-avoidance amendments to that bill to close loopholes such as using separate legal entities to prosecute a single campaign.
In August, the Coalition passed a suite of electoral bills with Labor support including raising the registration requirements for political parties.