DUBAI // The Australian embassy is urging Australians in the UAE to check their registration details and vote as early as possible ahead of the country's forthcoming general election. The federal election will be held on August 21, and an estimated 4,000 expatriates across the UAE are expected to cast their votes in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
"The main thing is for people to vote early and not to leave it [until late]," said Marion Walshe, the consul at the embassy in Abu Dhabi. Although the embassy is still finalising details, two polling stations are planned for election day: one at the embassy in the capital and another at a school in Dubai. Further information about timings and exact locations will be released later. Those who want to vote early can do so from about August 5, when ballots are expected to arrive at the embassy, Ms Walshe said. Australians living abroad can apply online for postal voting through the Australian Electoral Commission's (AEC) website, www.aec.gov.au.
However, they have only until tomorrow to update their electoral roll details if they are already registered; changes to details can also be done online. Those who find that they are no longer on the electoral roll have now missed the opportunity to participate in the 2010 election. Ms Walshe encouraged Australians to check their status and electorate through the AEC website. "Often, people who have lived overseas for a long time have come off the electoral roll," she said.
Although voting is compulsory for registered Australian voters who are in the country, those who are overseas on election day will not be fined if they do not vote. There are an estimated 16,000 Australians living in the UAE, with thousands more scattered around the GCC. Geoff Wheatley, an Australian who has lived in the Emirates for a decade, was among those who cast their ballots in Dubai during the 2007 election, a process that he said went "very smoothly".
"I think it's important for people to get in early before the polls close, and make sure you are registered," said Mr Wheatley, 68, from Perth. Last month, Julia Gillard became Australia's first female prime minister after Kevin Rudd was ousted from the position. Ms Gillard, 48, had served as the deputy prime minister prior to a revolt in the Labor Party that forced Mr Rudd to step down. Early polls have given Labor a narrow edge over the conservative Liberal Party, lead by Tony Abbott.