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Commission denies bias in Indigenous enrolment ads

The head of the Australian Electoral Commission has defended the way advertising encourages Indigenous people to enroll to vote.


Image: Neda Vanovac

The electoral commissioner has rejected claims ads aiming to boost Indigenous enrolment are biased ahead of the upcoming voice referendum.


Prominent 'no' campaigner Warren Mundine lodged a complaint with the Australian Electoral Commission over an ad campaign featuring the wording "our vote, our future", saying it was promoting the Indigenous voice.


But electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said the image was in reference to boosting Indigenous electoral enrolment rates and had been used for many years.


"We treat all complaints very seriously, but we're comfortable with what we're doing," he told ABC Radio on Friday.


"The current ad campaign was actually funded, to start with, by the previous government and there's been a long-standing bipartisan approach in parliament to ensure Indigenous Australians are represented adequately on the roll."


Mr Rogers said almost identical ads had been used by the commission in the lead up to the 2016, 2019, and 2022 federal elections.


While more than 97 percent of the eligible population are on the electoral roll, enrolment rates for Indigenous Australians are at 84.5 percent.


Mr Rogers said the images in the campaign were not biased to one side or another during the voice campaign.


"To assume that a particular, culturally distinct group of Australians will vote in one particular way is frankly offensive," he said.


"It's simply targeting people to get on the roll and to engage with the electoral process and we're very comfortable with what we've done."


Mr Mundine said on social media he thought he had woken up in a "banana republic" upon seeing the advertising campaign.


Parliament is debating the final terms of the Indigenous voice referendum before the public vote, due to be held between October and December.


Earlier this week, Mr Rogers said there had been an increase in threats against electoral commission staff in the lead up to the referendum.


"It's disappointing and one thing we try and do ourselves is to be civil in the way in which we deal with everybody including candidates from all parties," he said.


"It's not just about the referendum. I think we're seeing an increase in ugly commentary at electoral events more broadly."


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