The old expression "vote early, vote often" came home to me during the recent election. While waiting for the polling booth staff to check people off the electoral roll, I realised how vulnerable the system is. You turn up at any polling booth, give the name of anyone on the roll and they'll hand you ballot papers. You can repeat the exercise as many times as you like, assuming you don't get caught.
Once those votes are in the ballot box there's no way they can be taken back out of the system. All that happens is that the person whose name you used gets a nasty "please explain" from the electoral commission for voting 18 times.
Why, in these days of instantaneous data transfer, scanners, barcodes, magnetic strips and so on, do we still have such an archaic system, and one that's so open to rorting? The answer is that Australians have a dislike of regimentation and anything we consider to be an invasion of our privacy.
How many of you remember the Australia Card? It was an idea of the 1980s, where every Australian citizen was to have a unique identification number, and a card to match. One of the main aims was to help minimise tax avoidance. If you started a new job, you'd have to show your card. It was to have much the same function as the US Social Security number, and then some. The system was to be maintained by the Health Insurance Commission, which would presumably issue everyone with a number from birth.
Many public groups opposed the card as an invasion of privacy, using analogies like Nazi Germany. The Labor Government pushed the idea forward, but it was blocked by a hostile Senate (sounds like the GST over the next few months). Eventually the idea was abandoned.
When we finally get some sort of electronic voter validation system in Australia, I wonder how they'll identify us to make sure we only get one vote? The idea of having a number associated with you (usually for life) didn't begin and end with the Australia Card. Just think about the numbers that are uniquely yours already. Your drivers licence, tax file number, Medicare number and passport for a start, not to mention the hundreds of numbers that come with bank accounts, memberships, social security and so on.
So instead of being known by one unique number, we're known by dozens. And yet, if you're into conspiracy theories, you doubtless believe that the government has a database on each of us, and has all these numbers correlated so we couldn't get away with anything dodgy if we tried. Personally, I think a national identity card has more advantages than disadvantages. Perhaps the Government could kill two birds with the one stone and just call it the GST Card!