ALP pres­i­dency vote dogged by rig­ging warn­ings be­fore it starts

The Australian - - THE NATION - BRAD NORINGTON AS­SO­CIATE EDI­TOR

The ALP’s con­test for its na­tional pres­i­dency has been dragged into al­le­ga­tions of po­ten­tial vote-rig­ging even be­fore it starts as doubts grow about the “in­tegrity” of its planned on­line bal­lot.

Se­nior La­bor of­fi­cials told The Aus­tralian there were se­ri­ous se­cu­rity is­sues sur­round­ing the run­ning of the se­cret bal­lot of party mem­bers be­cause of easy ac­cess to their per­sonal de­tails held in head of­fice files.

They said the com­pany run­ning the pres­i­dency bal­lot had the ca­pac­ity to use high-se­cu­rity meth­ods such as those used for on­line bank­ing to safe­guard vot­ers — but the sys­tem re­mained vul­ner­a­ble in re­ly­ing on just a party mem­ber’s name, ad­dress, mem­ber­ship num­ber and date of birth.

The ALP na­tional pres­i­dency bal­lot — to run from May 4 to June 15 — has be­come a heated con­test as La­bor front­bencher Mark But­ler seeks a sec­ond term as the left’s main can­di­date, and squares off against the right’s can­di­date, for­mer trea­surer Wayne Swan.

When nom­i­na­tions closed last Fri­day, two other con­tenders emerged, with Mich-Elle My­ers run­ning as an al­ter­na­tive left can­di­date with back­ing from con­struc­tion, mar­itime and rail unions, and La­bor se­na­tor Claire Moore run­ning as part of Mr But­ler’s group.

As the ALP in­creas­ingly shifts to on­line bal­lots for elec­tions to party po­si­tions, se­cu­rity is­sues emerged this week with an of­fi­cial com­plaint to the NSW ALP about how one win­ning can­di­date from the cen­tral coast “as­sisted” party mem­bers when they voted to choose del­e­gates for the ALP’s na­tional con­fer­ence in July.

The can­di­date, La­bor staffer Emma Mur­phy, has con­firmed in writ­ing she “as­sisted” four party mem­bers with on­line se­cret bal­lots — but in­sists she acted on the “in­struc­tion” of party mem­bers, and con­sis­tent with guide­lines, in­clud­ing when one “pro­vided her birth­day so that her vote could be cast”.

The fu­ture of an ap­peal against Ms Mur­phy’s elec­tion re­mains un­clear, but party in­sid­ers said the in­ci­dent high­lighted a po­ten­tial vul­ner­a­bil­ity in the on­line method more broadly for the ALP na­tional pres­i­dency bal­lot af­fect­ing 550,000 party mem­bers na­tion­wide.

“We’ve raised the is­sue of in­tegrity (with the ALP’s na­tional sec­re­tar­iat) be­cause of past prac­tices — we’ve seen rort­ing be­fore,” a se­nior left source said.

“What we’ve asked is to put in place one safe­guard — no run­ning list of who’s voted. So you shouldn’t be able to tell who’s voted, which is some­thing I could see hap­pen­ing.”

An­other se­nior La­bor fig­ure said on­line vot­ing was at its weak­est in the lat­ter stages of a bal­lot when it be­came clear who had not voted, and was not likely to do so.

It was then pos­si­ble, with­out pro­tec­tion, for party in­sid­ers favour­ing one can­di­date to ac­cess mem­ber­ship de­tails and “har­vest votes” by vot­ing on be­half of oth­ers us­ing a sin­gle IP com­puter ad­dress.

The ALP’s na­tional sec­re­tar­iat also faces com­plaints over al­legedly “dis­crim­i­na­tory” bal­lot rules that will deny party mem­bers aged over 66 the au­to­matic right to on­line vot­ing for the ALP na­tional pres­i­dency.

In­stead el­derly vot­ers are re­quired to make tra­di­tional postal votes — un­less they spe­cially re­quest on­line par­tic­i­pa­tion.

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