Keelty Report On Lost Senate Votes Inconclusive But Says No Evidence Of Wrong-Doing

The report by former Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty into the missing Western Australian Senate ballot papers has found no evidence of deliberate wrong-doing but the mystery remains unsolved.

Keelty’s report says the AEC systems in place in W.A. made it difficult for him to reach a conclusive finding. He recommends a number of measures for storage and movement of ballots papers and for the disposal of other material during counting.

A reading of Keelty’s report suggests the possibility of accidental disposal and destruction of the ballot papers. Training and management of casual staff is also pinpointed.

Counting shows that the disappearance of 1,370 Senate ballot papers had the potential to alter the Senate result in WA. The AEC has itself petitioned the Court of Disputed Returns to void the result of the election. The case has not yet been heard but a new Senate election is expected in 2014.

  • Keelty’s report is shown below

Media release from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Keelty report released

The Australian Electoral Commission today released a report by Mr Mick Keelty AO inquiring into the circumstances of 1370 missing Western Australian Senate votes.

The inquiry found there were significant failures in some of the processes and procedures for the handling, movement and storage of WA Senate ballot papers. These failures were likely to have increased the risk of ballot papers being mislaid, as well as making it more difficult to detect or accurately determine the fate of the ballots.

Mr Keelty observed that while there was no evidence of any deliberate action to destroy or remove ballot papers, the systems in place in WA made it difficult for him to reach a conclusive finding.

The full Australian Electoral Commission has considered Mr Keelty’s report and all of his recommendations have been accepted.

Inquiry recommendations include:

  • the implementation of material management policies and systems for the management of all aspects of ballot paper movement and storage that are consistent with the long term sensitivity of ballots and that reflect industry best practice. Specific recommendations include introducing ‘tamper-evident’ materials for the transfer and storage of ballot papers, both to and from vote counting centres, as well as for long term storage in warehouses. The installation of CCTV and alarms at warehouses is recommended;
  • the introduction of controls for disposal of recycling or other materials to ensure that no ballot material is inadvertently lost;
  • that all relevant staff have skills in contract management and contract enforcement;
  • that the AEC’s approach for the training of electoral staff (permanent and casual) ensure adequacy, national consistency, effectiveness, and the rigour of assessment measures, and
  • that measures are implemented to ameliorate the pressures on staff arising from the expectation that all results will be known on polling day, and the logistical issues arising from the size of the Senate ballot paper.

A dedicated task force led by Deputy Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers will immediately begin the work of implementing Mr Keelty’s recommendations. Discussions have already commenced with transport and logistics providers for the introduction of industry best practice controls over the movement and control of ballots and valuable items and a review of relevant AEC training materials. An AEC review has also commenced of ballot paper storage arrangements in all warehouses used by the AEC across Australia.

The AEC will include Mr Keelty’s report in its forthcoming submission to the federal parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) for consideration as part of the Committee’s general inquiry into the 2013 Federal Election and related matters. The AEC will provide ongoing progress reports to the JSCEM regarding the implementation of Mr Keelty’s recommendations.

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