A Riverina man who believed the government was no longer representative of the people has been told by a magistrate that refusing to vote was not an effective means of protest.
Cootamundra man Christopher Smalley, 51, was sentenced in Wagga Local Court this week for failing to vote as a resident of the Riverina electorate at the 2022 federal election.
Documents tendered to the court reveal Smalley, a landscape gardener who suffers from a disability, did not vote during the 2022 election.
In response, the divisional returning officer sent Smalley a penalty notice, to which he replied saying he no longer trusted the Australian political system.
On August 22, 2022 the returning officer received a statement from Smalley saying that the country's "political system has been corrupted".
He went on to write "We are no longer a constitutional monarchy, as successive governments have removed our constitutional rights", citing Section 100 of the Australian Constitution.
However, the divisional returning officer was not satisfied with this response and issued Smalley a $20 administrative penalty to be paid by September 21, 2022.
Appearing in court on Thursday, Smalley told Magistrate Don McLennan he had refused to vote since 2018.
He told the court he had been advised to plead guilty to the offence with an explanation for his protest.
Smalley claimed Australia was no longer a two-party state and said there was only one party, which pretends to be two under the public eye.
He went on to blame every social issue, including the "housing crisis, massive inflation, crime, miscarriage of justice regarding domestic violence" on the government.
"Legislation passed by the government has corrupted everything that's right," he told the court.
"That's why I refuse to vote."
While upholding Smalley's right to protest, Magistrate McLennan countered his means of doing so.
"I don't think by not voting ... the message will get to the government that way," the magistrate said.
"All that will happen is you sitting here talking to me.
"If you want to send a message there are lots of [other] ways [to do so].
"While I appreciate and respect what you are doing, I just don't think it's getting the message across."
"I realise that, which is why I've pleaded guilty," he told the magistrate.
Smalley was convicted and fined $100.