An independent candidate will launch an eleventh-hour legal fight in the Federal Court to ensure Australians who have recently tested positive to COVID can vote in Saturday’s federal election.
Kooyong candidate Dr Monique Ryan confirmed late Thursday her lawyers would take Special Minister of State Ben Morton to court on Friday.
It came after Dr Ryan discovered that anyone who had contracted COVID before 6pm on Tuesday had been given no means to cast their ballot, which could affect tens of thousands of voters.
Her campaign raised $100,000 in a couple of hours on Thursday night to support the court action – exceeding the $60,000 target – and a petition to the Prime Minister is also circulating.
It states: “To Prime Minister Morrison and Special Minister of State Ben Morton, Every Australian has the right to vote.
“We ask that you allow all voters affected by coronavirus to use secure telephone voting so that no Australian misses out.”
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Dr Ryan said up to 200,000 Australians who caught COVID this week would not be able to vote “because the Morrison government was not allowing them to use secure telephone voting”.
“Yesterday a neighbour called me in distress. Her husband has COVID, and has just realised that he won’t be able to vote on Saturday,” Dr Ryan wrote on her funding page.
“By the afternoon, I learned that up to 200,000 people are in the same boat!
“Absurdly, the Morrison government is allowing people with COVID to vote by secure telephone vote… but only if they caught COVID after 6pm on Tuesday. Which means 200,000 people who caught COVID from Saturday to Tuesday will be denied their right to vote.
“The government says they can register for a postal vote… but postal vote applications closed on Wednesday.
“A huge number of people missed out, and who can blame them when they were sick with COVID.
“The stroke of a pen is all it would take for the Prime Minister to ensure all these Australians can exercise their right. Let’s demand he does the right thing.”
The AEC said on Friday it was seeking urgent talks with the federal government on the issue.
“It’s up to the electoral commissioner to have a discussion with government,” a spokesman told Sydney radio 2GB.
“It’s actually up to government to change the regulations, we can’t do that.
“Ultimately, if it ends up in a change of regulation, that’s what we’ll deliver. We can only deliver on the regulation.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was a matter for the AEC commissioner to work within the legislation agreed to by the parliament.
“This morning he is looking at these issues very closely and we have certainly asked him to do that,” he told ABC TV on Friday.
“Any recommendation that the electoral commission provides to us we will certainly act on, whether that means changing regulations or anything of that nature.
“We will take his advice. It is not something for politicians to interfere in.”
While Saturday is polling day, more than seven million people have either voted early or applied for a postal vote.
Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese will begin Friday on opposite sides of the country in a last dash to win over voters.
Mr Albanese will start the day from Sydney before a last-gasp blitz of marginal seats held by the Coalition.
Meanwhile, Mr Morrison will begin day 40 of the campaign in the west, in a final blitz of seats in Perth.
It comes as the latest opinion poll showed a tightening of the race between both leaders.
The latest Ipsos poll showed Labor has a narrow lead over the government on primary votes, just ahead 36 to 35 per cent.
On a two-party preferred basis, Labor is ahead 53 to 47 per cent.
Despite the lead, Labor said it was leaving nothing to chance, even going as far as to project its campaign messages onto prominent buildings on Thursday night in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Mr Albanese said Labor would be fiscally responsible in office, after the opposition revealed on Thursday it would spend an extra $7.4 billion over the next four years.
“It pales in significance compared with the extraordinary waste that we’ve seen from this government,” he said.
“You’ll start to see a return on areas like our clean energy policy really quickly.”
Mr Albanese said there would be savings to the budget bottom line following a Treasury audit of “waste and rorts” under the Morrison government.
Meanwhile, Mr Morrison will use the final day of campaigning to spruik the government’s economic record.
It comes off the back of unemployment levels dropping to 3.9 per cent, the lowest level since 1974.
Mr Morrison said jobless rate was a sign the government’s economic plan was working.
“Are we going to have a Labor Party and a Labor leader that doesn’t know their way around the economy and is a complete loose unit, or is it going to be a government who understands how the economy works?” Mr Morrison said.