Strict new Federal Government voting rules that take effect today (Monday 16 April) will make it much harder for young people who have suffered as a result of the new IR laws to vote in the upcoming Federal election says the ACTU.

The new voting rules abolish the five day enrolment period after the official calling of the election and introduce strict proof of identity requirements for first time voters.

Under the new Federal Government laws the election rolls for new voters will close at 8pm on the same day that the election is officially called.

Figures from the last Federal election in 2004, show that 78,816 new enrolments were received in the five day period following the official calling of the election and the close of rolls — these people may be robbed of their vote in the coming election.

Commenting on the changes today, ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“The Howard Government’s new IR laws are hurting large numbers of young Australians and now the Government is making it much harder for young people to vote.

The changes that start today will affect up to 80,000 young people and other first time voters.

With evidence that young people are particularly vulnerable to being exploited under the IR laws, these changes could rob many young workers of their chance to vote against the new IR laws at the coming election.

Retail and hospitality are the top two industries where employers are taking advantage of the IR laws to cut workers’ pay and conditions through the use of AWA individual contracts.

There are significant numbers of young people working in these sectors in shops, cafes and bars.

Their pay and conditions are slowly but surely being eroded with research showing more than 2000 young workers are being put onto AWA individual contracts every month.

It is ironic that this week is National Youth Week when we celebrate the contribution of young Australians and yet the Howard Government is making it that much harder to hear the voices of first time voters.

These voting rule changes are a setback for young Australians and a setback for our democracy,” said Ms Burrow.

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