Australian Expatriate "Voting Rights"

An Australian election on September 7, 2013

We now have a Federal election scheduled for Saturday, September 7, 2013 and unfortunately the rules and regulations surrounding voting overseas continue to make it difficult or impossible for Australians to maintain their ability to vote. This is completely contrary to the position regarding tax residency, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to escape the clutches of the ATO. So, in short, the government is happy to continue collecting tax revenue from you, but less happy when it comes to allowing you to vote.

Unfortunately, the fact that you have Australian citizenship is not enough to guarantee you a right to vote, and the rules in this area are complicated and consequently poorly understood by most expats. The best starting point is a series of FAQ's prepared by the Australian Electoral Commission, but in essence if you are going overseas for more than one year and less than six you can choose to remain on the roll by registering as an overseas elector.

You can check your status through the AEC’s online enrolment verification process, and then you will normally be able to vote at any Australian mission overseas, with postal votes also available.

Given how difficult in practice it is to retain a vote, expatriates who have been effectively disenfranchised by what is a very bureaucratic process, should not be shy of expressing their opinion on any matters to visiting politicians - and most politicians should be reminded that the great majority of Australian expatriates eventually do go home .. to vote.

Now, when answering the question of which party you should vote it becomes very difficult.  Both main parties effectively ignore the expatriate population, except when it suits them on overseas junkets - and seem happy to foist new taxes on a part of the broader Australian population that can't vote and is effectively disenfranchised.  However, we find it very hard to ignore the Labor government's changes to s23AG in 2009 and just recently to how capital gains are calculated for non-residents.  Whilst we believe it unlikely that an incoming LNP government would reverse these changes, we also think that any recommendation to vote Labor would be tantamount to declaring ourselves to be masochists!