Hinch fights for right not to vote

Derryn Hinch outside court today. Photo: Justin McManusRadio broadcaster Derryn Hinch appeared in court today to fight for his right not to vote.

The 3AW personality was appealing against a $155.40 fine for failing to vote at the November 2010 state election.

Hinch, representing himself, told the Melbourne Magistrates Court he had been campaigning for years against compulsory voting in Australia.

He had never voted in his life and said today’s case was a timely, not frivolous, one given new laws had recently been passed in Federal Parliament to target 1.5 million Australians who are entitled to vote but are not on the electoral roll.

The Electoral Commission now has the power to enrol electors, or update their details, by using reliable third-party information.

Hinch told the court that almost 180,000 people did not vote in the 2010 state election, so he was not alone in his opposition to voting. He believed compulsory voting was undemocratic and unconstitutional.

“If people cannot be banned from voting, I believe people cannot be banned from not voting. If I have acquired the right to vote, I have also acquired the right not to vote.”

Hinch said people in the United States, Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand did not have compulsory voting so why here in Australia?

“Why are Australians treated like children?”

Hinch said those who did not vote often had no idea who was standing for office or even when elections were on.

He claimed another reason he should not be forced to vote was because journalists and commentators had to be seen to have no allegiances.

Hinch had interviewed every Prime Minister since Gough Whitlam and they had all known he did not vote for them or vote against them.

At the end of his submission, Hinch said he was reminded of a woman in Arkansas 40 years ago who replied when asked why she had not voted: “I never vote. It only encourages them.”

Magistrate John Lesser asked Hinch why he did not simply cop the fine and keep his principles intact.

But Hinch said that if you cop the fine, the system continues and “it’s a bad system”.

Ms Janine Hebiton, for the Victorian Electoral Commission, said that leaving aside the philosophical issues Hinch had raised, “the law requires people to vote” and everything he had said did not form the basis of “relieving him of the burden to vote”.

Mr Lesser reserved his decision and adjourned the case to September 18.

Voting has been compulsory in Victorian State elections since 1926.

According to the Victorian Electoral Commission, those enrolled to vote must vote in all federal, state and local council elections and statutory polls. Those aged 70 or more are excused from voting in local council elections.

The fine for not voting is $70. Hinch’s fine of $155.40 included penalties for taking the case to court.

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