Radio Interview Transcript - Famous People Vote Too

Updated: 1 February 2011

Station: Radio National
Program: Breakfast
Date: 8 July 2010
Topic: The Australian Electoral Commission is rounding up voters missing from electoral rolls and launching the Famous People Vote Too campaign. Kelly interviews Ed Killesteyn, Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission, who says 1.4 million people missing from roles could shift an election.
Interviewees: Ed Killesteyn, Australian Electoral Commissioner

FRAN KELLY: With the count down to the federal election now well and truly on, and rumours of an August poll even, the Australian Electoral Commission is getting ready to round up the nation's missing voters and there's 1.4 million of us apparently missing from the electoral roll.

Now these either never enrolled or moved address and therefore dropped off the rolls, so if you want your vote to count, now is the time to check your status on the electoral rolls.

Today the Electoral Commission is launching a campaign called Famous People Vote Too and it's all about getting in touch with the 1.4 million missing voters. Ed Killesteyn is commissioner of the Australian Electoral commission, Ed welcome to Breakfast.

ED KILLESTEYN: Good morning Fran, how are you?

FRAN KELLY: I'm good thanks Ed, 1.4 million of us missing from the rolls, that's more than enough to change the outcome of an election isn't it?

ED KILLESTEYN: Indeed. I guess if you look at for instance Western Australia that's about 15 electorates so it's a substantial number of people and it can shift the vote in many different ways.

FRAN KELLY: How many of us are old enough to be of voting age in this country?

ED KILLESTEYN: Our estimate is about 15.3 million people, that's based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data, and it's – of eligible citizens who are over 18 years of age.

FRAN KELLY: Okay, so 1.4 million, it's almost 10 percent missing.

ED KILLESTEYN: Yeah we're generally round about between 90 and 92 percent of what we call a participation rate but we're just finding that probably a trend that's happened since about the mid '90s that the growth in the eligible population is outstripping the actual growth in the roll.

So if you give it – if you look at the 2007 election, we've actually increased the role by about 220 000 people since the 2007 election, but still because the growth in the eligible population is increasing, we're falling behind each time.

FRAN KELLY: Okay. I guess it's no surprise that most of those who aren't enrolled to vote are young, is that right? That's the clear statistic?

ED KILLESTEYN: Yeah that's correct. Of about the 1.4 million we think about a third of those are in the 18 to 24 age group and then if you extend that to 18 to 39 our demographic research tells us that that's about 70 percent of the 1.4 million, so it's clearly an age related issue.


ED KILLESTEYN: And a lot of it's not about avoidance, it's really about people who are time poor, they've got other things in their lives and I guess maintaining their enrolment details is something that's low on their priorities.

FRAN KELLY: How many, well, and perhaps they've never actually thought about it in the 18 to 24 year olds, many of them would be first time voters who perhaps have just never got around to it.

ED KILLESTEYN: Oh indeed and that's one of the concerns that we have is that you don't build a pattern of getting enrolled and voting then potentially you could never get on the roll and never vote.

We know that for instance with 18 year olds it's one in two, in fact it's less than one in two are on the roll, so quite clearly it's something that we've got to try and instil in our young people an early pattern of getting on the roll and voting.

FRAN KELLY: And that means people need to want to vote, they need to treasure that vote which I guess is what your campaign is about and we'll come to it in a second.

But for some, perhaps they just don't like the political process at all in this country. They don't like politicians, they think they're all the same, they don't really have any respect for it, so they don't want to be a part of it, couldn't be bothered. How much of that is a player in this?

ED KILLESTEYN: Yeah we're doing quite a bit of research to try and understand the motivation behind people who are not on the roll or who have dropped off and it's quite interesting some of the findings that we've found just recently.

Firstly, many people didn't even know there was an election, this year, which I guess suggest that people have other things in their mind. There is a correlation with life stages, you know, as people get older, they felt to have more responsibility, they look at the implications of policy outcomes and then they, I guess, start to think about getting on the role and voting.

We know a lot of people just don't get around to re-enrolling, at a new address until an election is called. So there's a last minute call to arms. There's also not a strong understanding that updating details on the electoral roll is required, it's the law, and it's an obligation.

And there is some sense, although it's not the majority that a lot of the young people view – have a particular view about politicians and their ability to influence a particular political outcome.

FRAN KELLY: Okay, talk about the last minute call to arms, over 100 000 people were too late to enrol, they tried last time, but the 2007 federal election, but they missed out because they were too late. What are you going to do to try and reduce the numbers for this election, is the cut off date the same?

ED KILLESTEYN: The cut off date is the same. Yes, the rolls will close on 8pm on the day of the issue of the writs. So it's very important for people to move now to get on their rolls and that's part of the reason we're launching this particular campaign, Famous People Vote Too, and it's one of a series of things that we're trying to do to encourage people to get on the roll now so they avoid missing out.

FRAN KELLY: It just seems illogical, doesn't it, to cut it off when the election's called, when that's the peak time of people's awareness that there's an election on?

ED KILLESTEYN: Well there's always been a close of rolls at a particular time and there's always a need for people to act quickly, but bearing in mind that, you know, the Australian Electoral Commission manages the roll for all states with the exception of Western Australia and Victoria.

Therefore we're providing electoral roll details for all elections are both federal, state, and local government level. In 2009 we provided details for some 90-odd elections around the country. Therefore it's important to keep the role up to date all the time…


ED KILLESTEYN: …so it's not just a matter of focusing on the close of roll for a federal elections it's an ongoing exercise to keep it up to date.

FRAN KELLY: Okay, so you've got a list of famous Australians, you've got some great slogans with them, City Homicide's Aaron Pederson thinks it's a crime if you don't; catwalk models like Tahnee Atkinson and former Miss Australia Laura Dundovic say it's easy to be model citizens you can vote. Comedian Dave Hughes is angry, again. You've got a whole list of famous people, how are you going to use them to get this message out?

ED KILLESTEYN: Well they're our ambassadors. We think it's important to show these role models to particularly the demographic that we're after. These are people who appeal to that demographic and the fact that they've come on board supporting us I think is terrific.

They will be part of a campaign which will allow people to go onto the website and uploading their own videos of people either enrolling or of celebrities or just ordinary people, you know. It's really about ordinary people exercising their franchise.


ED KILLESTEYN: So there's lots of videos around firemen or basketball players, or softball players just doing what is normally done by many, many other Australians.

FRAN KELLY: We've got to go, this is extremely important, just very briefly, if you're not sure you're registered what can you do? How easy is it?

ED KILLESTEYN: Just ring up the AEC and we can confirm your enrolment. You can go onto our website, you can also confirm your enrolment details through the website, so there's plenty of opportunities for you to work out whether you are enrolled, one, or enrolled at the correct address.



FRAN KELLY: Dot, of course it is.


FRAN KELLY: Ed thank you very much for joining us.

ED KILLESTEYN: Pleasure, thank you Fran.

FRAN KELLY: Ed Killesteyn is commissioner for the Australian Electoral Commission. if you want to check whether you're on the rolls or if you want to check out have a look at some of those videos.

Transcript produced by Media Monitors