In the absence of even a basic Bill of Rights in Australia, it is very much a matter for noting any time a right is identified as being entrenched in our nation’s Constitution. Last year, the Coalition used its control of the Senate to make a range of changes to the Electoral Act aimed at favouring themselves. One of the changes was to take away the right to vote from all prisoners – a big shift from the previous law where only those sentenced to three years jail or more lost that right.
The decision was made by the High Court a month ago to rule that change invalid, but the reasons have only just been released. The Court decided there is a constitutionally entrenched right to vote – a big protection against Australia going further down the compromised franchise in the USA – whilst still deciding that the previous restriction remained for those serving sentences of three years or longer. For a good outline of the reasoning, see this post by Ken Parish on Club Troppo.
All the other Electoral Act changes made by the Coalition last year stand – not least the ones which enable much larger anonymous donations and which enable the electoral roll to be closed the day the election is called – so if you’re not on the roll or have shifted house and not updated your address, do it now. A week’s time may be too late.