Territory Stories

Sunday Territorian 7 Nov 2021



Sunday Territorian 7 Nov 2021


Sunday Territorian; NewspaperNT






Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.

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News Corp Australia

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Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.

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News Corp Australia



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14 OPINION SUNDAY NOVEMBER 7 2021 NTNE01Z01MA - V1 THE Northern Territory has the worst electoral enrolment rate in the country. It is estimated that some 24,000 Territorians who could vote are not on the roll including more than 16,000 Aboriginal people. It is a problem exacerbated by the federal government decision in 2017 to end the remote enrolment program and cut staff at the Australian Electoral Commission Darwin office from 16 to three. The NT also has the worst voter turnout in the country. In the last Territory election, many remote polling locations were characterised by low voter turnout and high rates of informal votes. Arafura had 52.7 per cent turnout; Arnhem had 58.1 per cent, Gwoja 52.8 per cent and Barkly had 63.2 per cent. As the NT Electoral Commissioner, Iain Longanathan, has noted, The reality is that the bush is not having an equal say. That is not a good sign for the future of democracy in the NT it means that our democracy is weakening. The most fundamental human right in any functioning democracy is the right to vote but there can be many barriers to voting. Mobility can keep people from the voting booth; as can poor health; poor literacy and numeracy; language barriers; lack of postal services. These are longstanding problems. And serious ones. The system might not be broken yet, but it needs urgent fixing. But the proposed fix from the federal government last week did not address improving enrolment or access. It went to a completely different issue voter integrity. Voter fraud and multiple voting is not a problem, according to the Australian Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers, who described it last week as vanishingly small. And yet despite the lack of threat to the current system, the federal government has introduced voter identification legislation. This unnecessary legislation, introduced on the eve of our next federal election, will require the presentation of ID to replace voters being asked for their name and address. While this may only be a minor inconvenience for most Territorians, it runs the very real risk of silencing the people who already have the least power be it young people, the elderly; disabled; poor, and our remote Territorians. As John Paterson, the CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliances NT puts it, the issue we have is that many Aboriginal people do not have or carry the necessary ID or are not enrolled to vote, particularly in remote regions. This legislation will block many Aboriginal people from voting and deny their democratic rights. Its shameful and discriminatory. Liz Reid, executive officer of YouthWorX NT, says they help people with varied vulnerabilities and no formal identification. Young people want to contribute and participate in the community, want to be valued voting members of the community this measure could significantly impact those who are already disadvantaged. We dont need more Territorians feeling unwelcome at the voting booth we need ongoing, targeted and culturally sensitive electoral education across the NT (including remote/very remote locations); refunding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Electoral Information Service; and mobile polling in our remote aged care and health facilities. The priority of government should be removing barriers to voting, not creating Legislation is a barrier for voters DEBORAH DI NATALE them. It should not be making it harder for people who already experience discrimination or exclusion. Given that people living in remote communities experience the highest levels of poverty and poor health outcomes, they have the most to gain from greater representation. Health care, education, our built environments, and economic stability are shaped by policy, and policies are set by our political representatives. In truth there needs to be innovative, integrated and collaborative responses, and commitments from the Commonwealth, NTG and local governments to work together to address the real issues confronting our voting system. But how can Aboriginal people and our most marginalised Territorians call for that, when by design or default their voices are already so hard to hear? DEBORAH DI NATALE IS THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF NTCOSS We dont need more Territorians feeling unwelcome at the voting booth CHECKING IN MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER CONTACT tracing can be the difference between athree-day lockdown and months of rising cases andhospitalisations. Health authorities have refined the way they contact trace over the past two years. In the early days of the pandemic, checking in with QR codes was unheard of. The ability for governments to know where the next superspreader event could be was limited. But today, contact tracing fundamentals such as using QR codes are playing a critical role in NT Healths ability to trace and track where infected people have gone, who they may have mingled with and what restrictions are needed. From there, CCTV can help identify who is most at risk. We so far have a handful of exposure sites in the Terri tory, among them are major venues such as Monsoons Nightclub, Lolas Pergola and the Katherine Club. On any single evening these venues may see dozens or hundreds of patrons come and go. This most recent outbreak is a timely reminder for Territorians to continue checking in as much as possible. There are even QR codes for outdoor locations such as the Parap Markets. Encouragingly, Katherine Club manager Alison Vincent said she estimated 98 per cent of the patrons who were at the venue when the positive case attended had checked in. There have been times through the pandemic where Territorians have let their guard down and not checked in as religiously. It is almost understandable. But the current outbreak demonstrates the situation can change relatively quickly and Covid can lurk for days in the community before its detected. It is crucial at this moment that we continue to check in. In addition, the government needs to consider new measures to make sure contact tracing is as swift and painless as possible. As this current lockout demonstrates, there is a real need for a platform that combines QR check-ins with vaccination status. Other states, such as NSW, already have check-in apps that integrate vaccination status, allowing users to know whether they are allowed access to venues under the current restrictions. It allows businesses to more easily police patrons for their vaccination status. In the meantime, Territorians need to be meticulous in keeping a record of where they have been, so we can keep each other safe. TOUCHED BY THE ROAD TOLL THIS YEAR 28 LAST YEAR 23

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