Social advocates hit out at voter ID laws

Proposed voter identity laws could be put in place before the next national poll.
Proposed voter identity laws could be put in place before the next national poll.

Social services groups have hit out at a controversial government push to force voters to show identification at the ballot box, calling the move discriminatory and unnecessary.

The proposed legislation, introduced to parliament on Thursday, would force voters to produce ID, such as a driver's licence or passport, at a polling place.

Those without ID on them could have another voter vouch for their identity on their behalf.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the proposal should not be seen as "earth-shattering", with similar measures in place in countries such as France, Canada and parts of the United States.

The government has promised no voter would be turned away, but Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie says the measures will affect disadvantaged voters.

"We simply do not have a problem with voter impersonation in Australia - our elections are run with the highest standard of integrity," Dr Goldie said.

"Requiring voter IDs would hit hardest those people who already face barriers to voting. It would create an intimidating process and significant confusion as to what is required to vote."

Labor has criticised the proposed legislation as racist, saying it would disenfranchise large numbers of voters.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese criticised the proposed legislation in parliament on Thursday, calling it a "Trump-style attack on democracy".

"When you go to vote, you should say who you are and provide some form of identification to say who you are," Mr Morrison told reporters.

"I think it's fair enough that in a democracy I can turn up and say 'my name's Scott Morrison' and give my address and I'm able to say 'here's a form of ID'."

The proposal was a recommendation from parliament's joint electoral matters committee.

The government indicated it wanted the legislation in place before the next election, which is due to be held by May next year.

The opposition tried to delay debate on the bill until 2023, but were unsuccessful.

Long-serving Labor MP Warren Snowdon, who has a deep interest in Indigenous voting rights, labelled the laws discriminatory and an exercise in voter suppression.

"I have been here 33 bloody years and I have never seen anything like this," he said.

Special Minister of State Ben Morton said voters would not have to wait longer at the polling place to cast their ballot.

"You have to show ID to pick up a parcel at the post office. This will allow more integrity in the electoral system to make sure the right people are getting names marked off the role," he said.

Australian Associated Press