APO NT Submission to the Inquiry into the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Ensuring Fair Representation of the Northern Territory) Bill 2020

Representative government and representation Voter registration Government relations with First Peoples Census Electoral systems Northern Territory

Key Recommendations:

  • Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) supports the Bill and recommends that a minimum of two seats be provided for the Northern Territory (NT) in the House of Representatives. The Australian Electoral Commission’s determination to decrease the NT’s seat to one would not ensure sufficient and equitable representation to Territorians, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • The NT is Australia’s third largest jurisdiction, it would be extremely difficult and challenging for one MP to divide their time between Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy, Jabiru, outstations, 43 town camps, 96 major and minor communities and over 600 homelands, as well as Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands. All of these places deserve good representation in parliament.
  • The suggested reason for the NT’s decrease in seats has been due to the decline in population. Given the remoteness, low literacy levels, high rates of homelessness and those not in the labour force, APO NT has concerns that the Census is not counting all Territorians, which could be an explanation for the low Territory population. The Territory currently has a population of 244,80013 people dispersed over the vast region, but according to the Northern Territory Department of Treasury and Finance, this will increase to 251,727 by 2021.
  • There is great concern relating to the under-enrolment of eligible voters. While a five percent undercount has been incorporated into the population estimate the accuracy remains questionable. To protect the democratic right to vote in elections, governments must prioritise funding to enable well-resourced and thorough campaigns to educate, enthuse and enrol Aboriginal people in remote communities. 
  • There are many eligible young people living in remote areas that are not aware of their legal obligation to enrol to vote or understand how the electoral system works. Due to the diversity, language, cultural and geographical barriers in the NT,  the Australian Government and the Australian Electoral Commission needs to reform and improve the electoral system in the NT to ensure every Australian citizen and Territorian has the right to vote and is equipped to fully participate in the democratic process.
Publication Details
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