Federal Labor has labelled the Morrison government's proposed controversial voter identification laws racist, discriminatory and an exercise in American "Trumpism", but has failed in a bid to have them deferred until after the next election.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has claimed credit for the voter integrity bill, which was introduced on the last day of the sitting fortnight. Pursuing voter ID requirements for in-person voting is part of a raft of bills proposed by the government to "safeguard and strengthen the integrity of Australian elections".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says demanding voter IDs for Australian elections is not an "earth-shattering" requirement and government Senate leader Simon Birmingham has described it as a "light touch" measure. But Labor and the Greens say the move creates a barrier to voting and will further disenfranchise the homeless, people on lower incomes, young people and people in remote communities, particularly First Nations people.
Member for the Federal NT seat of Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, told parliament, "I'm sick to the back teeth. I've been here 33 bloody years and I've never seen anything like this."
"It's racist, it is discriminatory and it's all about suppression.
"I know what will happen in my electorate, Mr Deputy Speaker, where people in remote communities will turn up to the polling booth, if they're lucky enough to be on the roll, and be told, 'Do you have a piece of identification? No. Does the person next you have a piece of identification? No.'
"This is a farce, an absolute assault on our democracy."
Despite testimony this week to Senate estimates from the Australian electoral commissioner, Tom Rogers, that evidence of multiple voting among the estimated 16 million Australian eligible voters is "vanishingly small", the government is insisting on pursuing the measure, promising safeguards and that no vote will be lost.
Senator Birmingham says he is not aware of any deal with One Nation and has indicated the laws would have been introduced regardless.
Under the proposed laws, voters would be required to produce ID such as a driver's licence, birth certificate or Medicare card in order to vote. A document issued by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait land council or native title body can also be used.
If the law passes, Mr Morrison said Australia would be following nations like Canada, France, Sweden, Belgium and at least 14 states in the United States in introducing voter identification laws.
"It is not an earth-shattering proposal, that when you go to vote, you should be able to say you are who you are, and provide some form of identification, to support that," the Prime Minister said.
"That's an important protection for our democracy."
"I think it's fair enough that in a democracy I can turn up at the ballot box in Lilli Pilli and say 'My name's Scott Morrison' and give my address that I should be able to say here's a form of identification that we all have these days to be able to substantiate that."
The government says there's a declaration vote process built in as a safeguard for vulnerable people. A voter with ID can attest to the identity of another and if that standard is not satisfied, a declaration vote can be issued.
"Not one vote will be lost that is a formal vote and a real vote from a real person," Mr Morrison told reporters. "Those safeguards are built into the bill."
"So if the Labor Party doesn't want to support people actually telling people who they are and backing that up, well you have to wonder why."
Labor leader Anthony Albanese points to evidence of voter suppression, particularly impacting people of colour in the United States. He has accused the Morrison government of trying to bring the politics of former US president Donald Trump into Australia.
"This is a desperate attempt to undermine our strong democracy and deny Australians their basic democratic rights," Mr Albanese said.
In an attempt to get ahead of the next election due sometime early next year, Labor tried to amend the debate on the bill so it would be delayed until 2023. However, it failed.