Before counting of votes for the 2022 federal election has even been completed, a video shared to Facebook claims the results are invalid as the governor-general did not properly issue the election writs.
The claim is false. Governor-General David Hurley, as well as state governors, correctly issued the writs on April 11 with experts telling AAP FactCheck they conform to the formatting requirements set out in legislation.
In it, he shows an annotated version of the election writ for the House of Representatives in the state of Queensland. Writs are required for every state and territory for both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
He claims the document shows that the writ was issued not by Sir David but by then Special Minister of State Ben Morton, making it invalid.
“If you look down it says ‘Ben Morton has commanded (Australian Electoral Commissioner) Tom Rogers’ … He’s not authorised to command Tom Rogers. And you’ve got the governor-general in green there – the G-G Hurley is only a witness … You can tell its bogus because of the signature block in blue: ‘By His Excellency’s Command / Ben Morton’. If this document is legitimate then the election wasn’t,” he says (video mark 15min 38sec).
Professor Anne Twomey, a constitutional law expert at the University of Sydney, described the claim as “absolute nonsense”.
Prof Twomey explained the formatting of election writs is set out in law by Schedule 1 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
“Writs have been issued in exactly the same way for a very long time, because this is what the Act requires,” she said in an email to AAP FactCheck. “It should be unsurprising that the writs comply with the law.”
She explained writs for the House of Representatives are issued by the governor-general while state governors issue writs for the Senate.
Directly addressing Mr Bosi’s claims, Prof Twomey said the Act sets out the use of the archaic ‘witness’ terminology, adding: “It indicates that the governor-general (or state governor) is the one who formally signs the writ, witnessing and authorising the application of the seal.”
She said the formatting requirements of the Act set out how ‘witness’ is defined in this context. “Note, for example in Form A of Schedule 1, it says ‘Witness [here insert the title of the Governor of the State issuing the writ]'” she said, referring to the template for the Senate election writ.
Prof Twomey also explained the use of the word ‘we’, as in the first paragraph’s “we command you” refers to the governor-general.
She dismissed Mr Bosi’s claim that Mr Morton’s signature was evidence the outgoing member for Tangney had in fact issued the writ.
“At the bottom of the page, a minister always signs. This indicates who is responsible to parliament for having advised the vice-regal officer to issue the writ,” Prof Twomey said.
“This is a crucial aspect of the system of ‘responsible government’ because it shows that the vice-regal officer was acting on the advice of a minister who is responsible to parliament for that advice.”
She said the same can be seen on other vice-regal documents such as the prorogation and dissolution of parliament (see here).
Evan Ekin-Smyth, a spokesman for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), also dismissed Mr Bosi’s claim in an email to AAP FactCheck, stating the writs were issued by the governor-general or governor of state in the format required by law.
He said: “The writs were issued in the exact same manner as previous elections, and in accordance with requirements.”
The claim that the 2022 federal election writs were incorrectly issued is false. A constitutional law expert and the AEC confirmed to AAP FactCheck the documents match the required formatting as set out in Schedule 1 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
False – The claim is inaccurate.