Australia's next federal election is likely to cost the country about an additional 30 million Australian dollars (USD 22.9 million) due to COVID-19 measures.
In a submission to a Senate budget hearing, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) said that the next election would cost taxpayers at least 400 million Australian dollars (USD 306.7 million), up from 372 million Australian dollars (USD 285.3 million) in 2019, as a result of an expected increase in postal ballots and the hiring of COVID-19 wardens, according to The Australian on Tuesday.
"Many of the direct cost drivers for a COVID-safe election relate to personal protective equipment, additional security staff for social distancing and hygiene materials," it said.
"Due to the long lead times and storage of many of the sanitizer products, it is unlikely there would be significant reductions in cost as most will be required for readiness for a 2021 event, even if the election does not ... occur until 2022."
The current three-year term of Parliament is set to end in 2022 but The Australian has reported that Members of Parliament (MPs) prepare for Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison to call an early election between August and November this year with a break in the parliamentary sitting calendar and "the government's strong position in the polls."
The AEC said that the status of the vaccine rollout would have a significant effect on the cost of the election.
"A post-vaccine electoral event may see a reduction in staff costs (compared to a pre-vaccine event) due to the resourcing requirements to manage hygiene and physical distancing," it said.
However, the government is not expecting the vaccine program to be completed until October under a best-case scenario.
On Tuesday, Morrison told local radio station 3AW that there was a lot of work to do over the course of the next 12 months and "an election isn't a due till 2022."
"The election is not due until 2022, so I've got enough to do in 2021 and so does the rest of the country," he said.
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