The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (16:43): I rise on behalf of Liberal members to address this bill. Essentially, I will treat this as a cognate debate. There are two bills, the Constitution (One Vote One Value) Amendment Bill and an associated bill in relation to the establishment of a referendum. I will address the bulk of my comments to this bill and will speak only very briefly to the referendum bill.
This bill is one of the most grotesque, offensive and obscene grabs for power I have seen in my time in this parliament. The background to this particular bill is that earlier this year the full bench of the Supreme Court made a decision which confirmed a decision of the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission in relation to their interpretation of the law of the South Australian parliament, in particular the Constitution Act as it applies to redistributions. The result was a unanimous decision of the Full Court of the Supreme Court. It was that not only had the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission correctly interpreted the constitution, the law of the state, but that it had resulted in what has been commonly referred to as a fair set of boundaries, as required by the Constitution Act of South Australia.
This comes after three of the last four state elections where clearly there has been a palpably unfair result, and that follows, of course, the unfair result of 1989. I seek leave to have incorporated into Hansard without my reading it a purely statistical table on House of Assembly election outcomes since the 1991 redistribution, a page from the South Australian Parliamentary Research Library, research paper number 55, by Jenni Newton-Farrelly.
Tables 1-2: House of Assembly election outcomes since the 1991 redistribution:
SOURCE: calculated from data at
State Electoral Office, 1996, Statistical Returns for General Elections 1993 and By-elections 1994, SEO, Adelaide
State Electoral Office, 1998, Statistical Returns: General Elections 11 October 1997, SEO, Adelaide
State Electoral Office, 2003, Statistical Returns for the South Australian Elections 9 February 2002, SEO, Adelaide
State Electoral Office, 2007, Election Statistics: South Australian Elections 18 March 2006, SEO, Adelaide
Electoral Commission SA, 2010, Election Statistics: South Australian Elections 20 March 2010, ECSA, Adelaide
Electoral Commission SA, 2015, Election Statistics: South Australian Elections 15 March 2014, ECSA, Adelaide
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: What that paper shows is that over the last four elections, in three of those four elections the Australian Labor Party polled less than 50 per cent of the vote. In 2002, it polled 49.1 per cent, yet it won the election; in 2006, they won a comprehensive majority, 56.8, and were rightly rewarded with government; in 2010, they polled 48.4 per cent of the vote and won government; and in 2014, they polled only 47.0 per cent of the two-party preferred vote and remained in government. So, three of the last four boundary redistributions had clearly not met the requirement of the Constitution Act that the party that wins 50 per cent plus one of the popular vote, or the two-party preferred vote, as it has been interpreted, should be entitled to win government.
The implications of the unanimous Supreme Court decision are clearly, in my view, that previous boundaries commissions had not done what they had been required to do by the Constitution Act; that is, to produce fair boundaries on which government changed on 50 per cent plus one of the popular vote. Again, the implications, from my viewpoint, of the Supreme Court decision is that the boundaries commission had not used all of the provisions of the Constitution Act which they were provided with to achieve electoral fairness, as they had been required to do.
It is also clear, from my viewpoint, that the previous boundaries commissions had adopted practices and procedures for redistributions and for interpreting the Constitution Act which were not actually required by the Constitution Act. To that end the very well-prepared submission that the Liberal Party made—I am not sure of the exact date—for the 2016 electoral redistribution on pages 9 and 10 said:
“Importantly, subject to any other limitations in the Constitution Act, the Commission is free to draw the boundaries in such a way that the electors, as at the relevant date, are at or near the permissible tolerance or anywhere in between. Taking advantage of this flexibility has the potential to better enable the commission to achieve the fairness outcome…
In the past, the commission declined to exercise the power directly conferred upon it. It has adopted a practice of attempting to draw the boundaries in such a way as to achieve a projected quota which is a quota reckoned not as at the relevant date but as at the time of the next general election. This is a super-added requirement not mentioned in section 77 and not expressly mentioned anywhere in the Constitution Act. Adopting a general practice of this nature has the effect of restricting or limiting the flexibility otherwise given to the Commission by section 77.”
Further on, on the same page:
“The Liberal party respectfully submits that the Commission should cease the practice of trying to achieve the projected quota and encourages it to make full use of the permissible tolerance when redrawing the boundaries as a means of achieving the fairness objective in section 83(1).”
That is saying quite clearly that some of the practices and procedures of past boundary commissions had interpreted in their own way requirements and practices which were not part of the Constitution Act. They are not referred to anywhere in the Constitution Act, they are not inferred anywhere in the Constitution Act and, more importantly, that is not the view of me as a partisan politician on one side of the political fence opposed to the government of the day.
It is the unanimous view of five judges of the Supreme Court who brought down a finding in relation to a case the Labor Party took, and we must say that we are eternally grateful to the Labor Party for taking that particular case to the Full Court of the Supreme Court because that has now cemented the correct interpretation of the Constitution Act, an interpretation that many of us had long believed should have been the case and had argued for, but had not been adhered to by previous boundaries commissions.
The actions that the Labor Party took—at their cost, and we are eternally grateful for that—managed to confirm the accuracy of what the Constitution Act was telling us, telling the commission and, indeed, telling everyone: that the fairness provision was paramount, that the other provisions in the Constitution Act needed to be interpreted, and that there was the capacity to use the act to deliver on the fairness provision, certainly to a much greater extent than the previous commissions had when, as I said, three out of the last four elections had resulted in Labor governments winning power with less than 50 per cent of the vote.
It is clear because the Labor Party, at great expense to their management, took the decision to the Supreme Court and they lost that case. They did not like the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, they did not like the decision of the independent boundaries commission. They had always been fierce advocates of the importance of an independent boundaries commission but they did not like the decision that the independent boundaries commission came up with. They then did not like the decision that five judges of the Supreme Court unanimously came up with.
Having enjoyed the benefits of favourable decisions to them from previous boundaries commission redistributions, in this bill they now want to rewrite the rules completely to try to favour themselves again. That is why I have described this bill as the most grotesque, offensive and obscene grab for power that I have ever seen in this chamber.
I want to trace, for the benefit of members, the history of the long debate and in significant parts driven by past members of the Labor Party over many decades in relation to electoral reform, but in particular in relation to the issue of one vote one value which is the essential component of the current bill that we have before us and the current debate from the Labor Party about how they think this is all now unfair to them. For many decades, members will be aware that the Labor Party, and especially former premier Dunstan during the period of the sixties and seventies as leader of the opposition and then as premier, had campaigned throughout South Australia and nationally for electoral reform and, in particular, for what they described as ‘one vote one value’.
In this quick historical perspective—I should not say quick, it is going to take a bit of time—that I want to undertake at the second reading, I want to refer to three major pieces of legislation which I think have signposted the electoral reform debate, particularly in relation to one vote one value in South Australia and electoral fairness. They were the pieces of legislation from 1968, 1975 and then ultimately in 1990, and now we see this grotesque and offensive bill before us in 2017.
In 1968, to refresh members’ memories, there was a period of time when Labor politicians, some academics like Professor Dean Jaensch and others had campaigned on the basis that there had been a number of Liberal governments elected with less than 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. It was commonplace. Books and theses were written on the basis of Liberal governments being elected under former premier Sir Thomas Playford with less than 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.
I do note, as we are going through a period now where the notion of the two-party preferred vote is challenged by some, that through part of that period of the fifties in particular, there were significant numbers of Independent members elected to the South Australian parliament. This notion of Independents or third parties being only a current day phenomenon does not bear close analysis because there was a period of time in the last century when significant numbers of Independents were being elected to the House of Assembly.
The bill of 1968 was introduced under the former Liberal premier Steele Hall and the Hall government of 1968 to 1970, and there was much angst and debate not only in the community but within the former Liberal and Country League, the predecessor organisation to the Liberal Party of Australia (SA Division) led then by Steele Hall. That bill introduced for the first time the concept of an independent boundaries commission, something the Labor Party had been campaigning for for a long period of time.
I do not intend to go into much detail about the 1968 bill because it was a complicated piece of legislation in terms of different quotas for country and metropolitan electorates. In that bill an amendment was moved in relation to the tolerance figure. Whatever the quota was, there was to be a plus or minus 15 per cent tolerance around that number in the Liberal bill. Labor opposition leader Don Dunstan moved for the tolerance to be 10 per cent. His argument was that in terms of one vote one value, 10 per cent was much closer to the notion of one vote one value. It was their version of one vote one value rather than the 15 per cent that was included in the Steele Hall Liberal Party legislation. That amendment to the 1968 legislation was defeated at the time.
In 1970, of course, the Hall government was defeated by the incoming Dunstan administration and the Dunstan administration governed in South Australia from 1970 through to 1979. In the middle of that period in 1975, the next significant piece of electoral reform legislation in relation to one vote one value was introduced by then premier Don Dunstan. It was introduced on 30 September 1975. The Constitution Act Amendment Bill (Commission) was introduced by the Hon. Don Dunstan, premier and treasurer. In the second reading speech, the Hon. Don Dunstan said:
“This Bill gives effect to the Government’s election mandate to ensure that the single member electorates of the House of Assembly are redistributed on the basis of one vote one value; that is, with as nearly as practicable equal numbers of voters in each electoral district, but with a tolerance from an electoral quota of 10 per cent either way. The Government has stood for and voted for electoral reform on the basis of one vote one value ever since the Labor Party was founded…The Government believes not only that there should be a redistribution but that the Constitution should provide that all future redistributions shall be on this basis, and therefore that part of the Constitution will be entrenched; that is to say, it may not be altered without a referendum…”
So, here was an incoming Labor administration that, after decades of campaigning on one vote one value, actually incorporated and entrenched in the constitution, so it could only be amended by referendum, their version of what one vote one value was. Their version of one vote one value was to establish a quota, and there was a tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent either side in terms of the independent boundaries commission establishing the quota for a particular seat.
The Labor Party had campaigned for a long period of time. They had the capacity to introduce and to pass legislation. They introduced a bill where they said, ‘This is what one vote one value is: it is a quota with a tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent.’ That is the provision that still exists within our Constitution Act to this day, the 1975 provision introduced by Don Dunstan. The bill moved by the Hon. Don Dunstan includes the following provision in section 77(1), which is still the same today:
“(1) Whenever an electoral redistribution is made, the redistribution shall be made upon the principle that the number of electors comprised in each electoral district must not (as at the relevant date) vary from the electoral quota by more than the permissible tolerance.
(2) In this section—
…permissible tolerance means a tolerance of ten per centum;”
That is the provision that still exists in the Constitution Act to this day, entrenched by the Labor Party, campaigned for, driven by, drafted, created, entrenched in the constitution by the Australian Labor Party as the descriptor, as the way of implementing their notion of one vote one value.
In the debate, in terms of knowledge of electoral matters, one of the Labor Party greats in that particular area was Hugh Hudson, a former minister. Together with Geoff Virgo, he argued a number of the Labor Party cases before the boundaries commission, helped draft their boundaries submissions and argued the case for the Labor Party against the Liberal Party at various redistribution hearings. In the debate on 7 October 1975, Hugh Hudson said a number of things that I want to place upon the record:
“The Leader of the Opposition and his Deputy have stated that a one vote one value system may result in a Party with less than 50 per cent of the vote being able to govern because it has a majority of seats. That is always a possibility under a one vote one value system. It arises from what the experts describe as the differential concentration of majorities, the extent to which specific Parties have wasted votes in having had majorities in specific areas.
Traditionally it has always been held to apply as a disadvantage to the Labor Party in South Australia. The traditional view before this decade was that the Labor vote was somewhat wasted because of the heavy concentration of Labor majorities in the north and north-western suburbs of Adelaide, and the expert psephologists have commented on that many times. It was certainly a factor that operated in the 1962, 1965 and, perhaps, the 1968 elections. It probably applies less today; I think that over a period of time a differential change in voting patterns occurs.”
Further on, he says:
“There has been a change in that period in the overall pattern of voting that has tended to be associated with larger Liberal majorities than used to occur in years gone by.”
Voting patterns can change differentially again, and it may well be that in the future the Labor Party will suffer once again the disadvantage that arises under a single-member district system from a differential concentration of majorities. Once a single-member district system is accepted with one vote one value, the consequences of that system must be accepted. I have always said that in terms of the interests of the Parties the current distribution, despite the apparent anomalies, is relatively fair, and I have never said anything other than that about the current distribution.”
There are two further quotes. In describing the 1975 bill, the Hon. Hugh Hudson said:
“In the application of these principles this is a historical occasion in the annals of democracy in this country and in this State: the very first time in the history of this country that action has been taken, not only to implement a democratic system, but to ensure its continuity.”
The Hon. Hugh Hudson was there saying that it was a historical occasion in the annals of democracy; the first time that a democratic system was implemented; that there would be an independent body, which had already been supported, but more importantly, they had entrenched this provision of a quota and a plus or minus 10 per cent tolerance—that was one vote one value. That is what the Labor Party campaigned for, and as long as you had a quota with plus or minus 10 per cent, that was one vote one value.
Finally, I quote from the Hon. Hugh Hudson’s words, which are perhaps interesting in their interpretation today. He said:
“The honourable member has never seen a Labor Government elected in this State with less than 50 per cent of the preferred votes. The honourable member has seen year after year in the history of this State conservative Governments elected with a minority of votes, and yet he has the gall to say that this is the Government that is gerrymandering.”
That was what the Hon. Hugh Hudson said in 1975. The Hon. Hugh Hudson, if he were still alive today—I think he has passed—would have seen Labor governments elected with less than 50 per cent of the preferred vote on no fewer than four occasions—in 2002, 2010, 2014 and back in 1989.
That was the Hon. Hugh Hudson and Don Dunstan in 1975 lauding the virtues of this bold new electoral reform to implement and entrench the one vote one value provision in section 77 of the constitution.
Labor policy—Labor campaigning; what they wanted for decades—had now been implemented. As I said, they had always argued that a tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent was one vote one value, and it was combined with frequent redistributions—that is, if you used the tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent but then did not have a redistribution for 10 or 15 years, clearly the one vote one value principle would be offended against. But the Labor Party in supporting frequent redistributions—at a later stage they supported them after every election—accepted that, by entrenching the 10 per cent tolerance factor in the Constitution Act, that was one vote one value.
I note for reference when we get to the bill before us that there is nothing in this whole debate from the Labor Party about numbers being required to be exactly equal at the next election—nothing. Their interpretation of one vote one value was not that at the time of the next election there should be equal numbers in every electorate—they never mentioned that, they never campaigned for that, they never said that that was what one vote one value was—what they said was, ‘We have succeeded in entrenching the one vote one value provision in the constitution by having a quota with plus or minus 10 per cent of that particular quota.’
I will move on to the third significant piece of legislation, which is the 1990 legislation. That of course came immediately after the 1989 state election when the Labor Party was elected with only 48 per cent of the two-party preferred vote. The Liberal Party polled 52 per cent and was defeated; the Labor Party polled 48 per cent and was elected.
At that time, there was a great outcry in the community, in the parliament, certainly from the opposition and the opposition supporters as well, that this was unfair. The Labor Party had campaigned for decades on electoral reform and fairness. They had said that fairness was their driving principle, and they interpreted that as being one vote one value. As Hugh Hudson said, and as I quoted, there had never been a Labor government elected in South Australia with less than 50 per cent of the vote.
He conceded the problem of what he referred to as the ‘differential concentration of majorities’, which he said at one stage disadvantaged the Labor Party and at a later stage clearly disadvantaged the Liberal Party, because the Liberal votes were being concentrated in large numbers in a small number of seats and therefore not being spread across a larger number of seats, as were the Labor votes by redistributions, population shifts and other factors which were working at the time.
In 1990, we saw the next significant piece of legislation, which was introduced under the Bannon Labor government. This particular piece of legislation, the Constitution (Electoral Redistribution) Amendment Bill, was introduced by the Deputy Premier, the Hon. Don Hopgood, who, on behalf of the Bannon government in 1990, said in his second reading speech:
“There are three fundamental principles which underlies the Government’s agenda in the area of electoral reform. They are:
the principle of one vote one value;
the principle of electoral fairness in which the Party which wins a majority of votes in a majority of electorates, wins government;
the principle of regular distributions being undertaken by an independent electoral boundaries commission.
These three principles have guided the electoral reforms of the Government over two decades; they informed the changes we made in 1968 and in 1975. They are written into the Constitution Act of South Australia. These principles have for over 20 years ensured that South Australia had the fairest electoral system in Australia.”
However, having argued that, he concedes further on:
“No-one disputes that the current electoral boundaries are out of balance. No-one argues that the current boundaries are fair to all voters: they are not.”
The Hon. Don Hopgood was acknowledging some of the concern that was being raised at the time about the unfairness of the 1989 election result. Further on in the debate on the Constitution (Electoral Redistribution) Amendment Bill, the Hon. Don Hopgood said, on behalf of the Labor government:
“We would endorse an immediate change to the boundaries with a view to restoring what my side of politics has always called ‘one vote one value’.”
Further on, he says:
“…to describe the very simple process of trying to ensure that the enrolments in the electorates are equal, subject only to some sort of reasonable tolerance.”
Again, he is referring back to their support for a 10 per cent tolerance.
Further on, he says:
“…and, in particular, former Premier Dunstan used ‘one vote one value’ as a polemical tool as well as a political science label as it were.”
Then, further on, he says:
“So, we would certainly endorse that part of the Bill which suggests that ‘one vote one value’ should be restored by an appropriate redistribution of boundaries. However, we would go further and say that, in changing the trigger mechanism, we should change it in such a way that there is an automatic redistribution of boundaries after each State election.”
Again, that is consistent with the argument that a tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent, as long as you are having frequent redistributions, is one vote one value—and that was the Labor Party’s policy and position over many decades. A quota with a tolerance of 10 per cent, plus or minus, and frequent redistributions was what the Labor Party entrenched in 1975 in the Constitution Act and had supported prior to that and for many years after the 1975 reforms. The Hon. Don Hopgood went on to say:
“The report goes further than that, however, because the second major thrust of that report attempts to take up this concept of electoral fairness, the fairness of the outcome. It is not unknown for a political Party to complain that it has obtained a majority of votes (either in its own right or through the preferential system) but been denied a majority of seats and, therefore, government. Again, that was precisely the point former Premier Dunstan was making in 1968 when he used the political label ‘one vote one value’ as a polemical slogan.”
“However, this time around it is suggested that it is not the accidental malapportionment that has led to a result of which the Liberal Party has complained but, rather, what is sometimes called differential concentration of majorities, namely, that the boundaries and the movement of population has occurred in such a way as to bottle up, as people sometimes say, very large majorities in certain seats—in short, that one Party has wasted more votes than another.”
Those quotes from the Hon. Don Hopgood, deputy premier in the Bannon government in 1990, in this third major piece of reform reinforce again the decade-long view of the Labor Party that one vote one value was a quota with a tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent and as long as it was associated with frequent redistributions that was the Labor achievement of its long-held policy goal of one vote one value in South Australia.
In that 1990 reform, the Constitution (Electoral Redistribution) Amendment Bill, the following amendment to the bill was moved on behalf of the Labor government by the deputy premier, the Hon. Don Hopgood. This is what is now in the Constitution Act as the fairness clause. This says:
“In making an electoral redistribution the Commission must ensure, as far as practicable, that the electoral redistribution is fair to prospective candidates and groups of candidates so that, if candidates of a particular group attract more than 50 per cent of the popular vote (determined by aggregating votes cast throughout the State and allocating preferences to the necessary extent), they will be elected in sufficient numbers to enable a government to be formed.”
That fairness provision, section 83(1) of the Constitution Act, was moved by the Labor Party, the deputy premier of the Labor government, in 1990 in the House of Assembly. Further on, 83(2) provides, ‘In making an electoral redistribution, the Commission must have regard, as far as practicable, to’ five other factors, which were the key factors prior to that; that is, communities of interest, population, topography, feasibility of communication and demographic changes. That is a brief summary of those particular issues.
In terms of the pecking order, the drafting of the Labor government in section 83 was to say, ‘You must ensure fair boundaries, but in doing it, the commission must have regard as far as practicable to the following issues, and then may have regard to any other matters it thinks relevant.’ There was a clear pecking order in the Labor government’s instructions via that legislation to the independent commission in terms of what was paramount in the work that had to be done. They must deliver fair boundaries, and all these other issues were of a lower priority in terms of the work that the commission had to do.
That groundbreaking legislation introduced by the Labor government, supported by the Liberal Party and various other Independents and minor parties in both houses of parliament back in 1990, is the basis of the current redistribution and has been the basis for the formation of electoral boundaries for the last 25 years or so since the 1990 legislation.
Summarising then the 1968, 1975 and 1990 pieces of legislation, but in particular 1975 and 1990, the current system that we are debating at the moment that operates prior to this attempted perversion of the system by the current Labor government, which are section 77 and section 83. Section 77—the one vote one value provision, the tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent—and section 83, which is the fairness, were both created by the Labor Party and Labor governments. They were campaigned for by the Labor Party and Labor governments and they were supported by the Labor Party and Labor governments throughout all of that period and in the critical periods in the parliament in 1975 and in 1990.
The current system, from the Labor Party’s partisan viewpoint, obviously has served them well. As I showed from that earlier table, in 2002, 2010 and 2014—three of the last four elections—the Labor government had actually been elected with a minority of the votes, as low as 47 per cent in the last state election.
As we turn to the bill and where the government wants to head to from here, the current Constitution Act, as I said, has section 77, which is unchanged from 1975. It has the electoral fairness provision, which is unchanged from the amendments they introduced in 1990, and when one looks at the current Constitution Act, there are no other provisions of any great significance other than a detailed issue as to the definitions of what is a relevant date and election date, which I will refer to in a little while.
The current act, which this bill and the attached bill are seeking to amend, is untouched from the amendments that the Labor government introduced in 1975 and 1990. That history of the current legislation having been created and campaigned for by the Labor Party and having served them pretty well over the last 10 years or so from their own partisan viewpoint is the reason that I have described this bill at the outset of my contribution as the most grotesque, offensive and obscene grab for power that I have ever seen in this parliament.
It is clear that the Labor Party is prepared to jettison decades of Labor principles, policy, campaigns and argument. Those campaigns and argument, which were argued by Labor intellectual giants of the past, with the names of Dunstan, Hopgood, Hudson and Virgo, have been attempted to be overthrown by the Labor intellectual pygmies of 2017, with the names of Weatherill, Rau, Maher and Malinauskas. The dilemma we have in South Australia is that we have people who purport to represent the Labor Party seeking to overturn decades of Labor policy, campaigns and implementation of their own policy positions through legislation in terms of one vote one value.
Now, that it does not suit their partisan interests, they seek to overthrow everything they have believed in for the last many decades because they are unhappy with the independent decision of five judges on a Full Court of the Supreme Court, and they are unhappy with the independent decision of the boundaries commission in relation to trying to implement fair electoral boundaries in South Australia. That is why we have this bill, introduced by the Hon. Mr Malinauskas. In the brief second reading speech on the bill, he says:
“The bill will delete current section 77—”
That is the amendment they introduced in 1975, which they said was historic because it implemented one vote one value. The Hon. Mr Malinauskas, on behalf of the current Labor government, says:
“The bill will delete current section 77 and replace it with a new paramount principle for the making of an electoral redistribution. The new paramount principle to which the commission must have regard is that the number of electors in each electoral district should be equal at polling day. This principle is not modified or watered down by a notion of tolerance. The commission must aim for numerical equality of electors across districts, or one vote one value. Proposed new section 77(2) expressly provides that the new paramount principle prevails over the provisions of section 83 of the Constitution Act, which sets out other considerations that the commission is, as far as practicable, to have regard to in making an electoral redistribution.”
What the Australian Labor Party is now saying is, ‘Stuff the campaigns and the policies that one vote one value was a quota and plus or minus 10 per cent,’ that campaign for decades. What they are now saying is, ‘Because it no longer suits us we are now redefining one vote one value’, and are trying to pretend this is what they meant all along, that you actually have to have an independent commission driving a boundaries redistribution that has to have exactly equal numbers in each electorate come election day. That is the paramount principle, not the issue of the fairness of the electoral system.
What the Labor Party wants is this mathematical formula-driven process which, they know, has allowed them to win government with less than 50 per cent of the vote in three out of the four last elections. The Hon. Hugh Hudson pointed out many years ago the notion of the differential concentration of majorities favouring at one stage the Liberal Party and at another stage the Labor Party. He argued that these things come and go, but if one looks at the 1989 result the situation has clearly been that there have not been any examples of a Liberal government selected since 1989 with less than 50 per cent of the vote but there have been four Labor governments elected on less than 50 per cent of the vote. As I said, three out of the last four have been elected with less than 50 per cent of the vote. Further on, the Hon. Mr Malinauskas, on behalf of the government, said:
“The 2016 commission took a different approach. It used the 10 per cent permissible tolerance in section 77(1) of the Constitution Act to try to address what the commission described as the ‘innate imbalance, against the Liberal Party, caused by voting patterns in South Australia upon which have been imposed successive redistributions’. The government considers that the use of the 10 per cent permissible tolerance in this manner erodes the principle of ‘one vote one value’. This government is firmly of the view that the commission should strive to achieve, to the extent possible, numerical equality of electors in each district at polling day, that is, to achieve one vote one value.”
There it is in all its naked obscenity. Contrary to decades where the Labor Party have argued that one vote one value was a quota with plus or minus 10 per cent (as I put on the public record), because it no longer suits them they are now clearly saying that, ‘One vote one value, under our new definition, is that it has to be exactly equal numbers in each electorate at the time the election,’ irrespective of whether it delivers a Labor government with only 47 per cent of the vote or 46 per cent of the vote. That does not matter. Electoral fairness is not the issue from the Labor Party viewpoint; it is the notion of the new version of what one vote one value is, and not what they have long campaigned for over many, many years.
Clearly, this bill is trying to gut the fairness criteria in the Constitution Act. It is trying to return South Australia to the circumstances which led to 2002, 2010, 2014; that is, Labor governments elected with significantly less than 50 per cent of the vote and, as former Labor luminaries like Hugh Hudson and Don Hopgood identified, to take advantage of the differential concentration of majorities. What the bill and this Labor government are seeking to do is to tie the hands of the independent boundaries commission behind its back so that it cannot achieve electoral fairness.
So, electoral fairness is not the overriding provision they should achieve, even though the Labor Party moved the electoral fairness provision in 1990. What they are seeking to do is constrict the boundaries commission from being able to achieve electoral fairness through this devious and underhanded mechanism of redefining what they have long argued one vote one value was.
Before summarising, it is interesting to note in relation to this Labor Party position on one vote one value and plus or minus 10 per cent and whether or not the commission should be allowed to use the plus or minus 10 per cent tolerance figure or not, my office has been through the last 20 years of Labor Party submissions to the boundaries commission. Time does not permit me to go through all of those, but I refer to the 1991 boundaries submission as a fair indication of some of the earlier submissions from the Labor Party. In later years they did not do detailed work in relation to quotas on individual seats when they made their submissions to the boundaries commission.
Interestingly in that particular submission and some others, they had no compunction at all in arguing to the commission that some seats should be put at plus 9 per cent and 10 per cent and some seats should be put at minus 9 per cent and minus 10 per cent. Using the full value of what they clearly believe was one vote one value, that is, plus or minus 10 per cent, they urged the boundaries commission to use numbers in particular electorates which used the maximum value of the tolerance.
It is intriguing to look at some of those seats. In seats like Coles and Bragg, very strong Liberal seats at that particular time and still so in the case of Bragg, the Labor Party argued to stuff as many Liberal voters into those seats as they could, that is, as differential concentration majorities. They wanted Bragg at 9 per cent above the quota, so a lot more Liberal votes would be wasted in Bragg, and Coles would be 8 per cent above quota, and they were growing no less strongly than many other Labor seats in other areas.
If you look at some equivalent seats in the safe Labor areas like Semaphore, a very strong Labor area with not strong population growth, the Labor Party had that at minus 2.6 per cent. It was the game that they played. They used the plus or minus 10 per cent: you stuff as many Liberal votes in safe Liberal seats as you can, and you use as few Labor votes in safe Labor seats, like Semaphore, so you argue that it should only be at minus 2.6 per cent of the quota. There are many other examples in the 1991 submission and indeed in some of the later submissions from the Labor Party as well.
Ultimately, the decision was for the commission, not for the submission from the Labor Party, but I note the hypocrisy of the Labor Party in arguing, ‘We are holier than thou; we have always believed’—even though the record shows they have not—’that one vote one value means exactly equal numbers at the next election in every electorate,’ when their submissions over many sections of the last 20 years of submissions to the electoral boundaries commissions demonstrate their willingness to use the plus or minus 10 per cent of the tolerance factor. As I said, the law says it is there to be used, so I make no criticism of that. The argument would be, in that particular period, that the fairness provision was the one that should be coming into play to the greatest possible extent, not the numerical equality of numbers at the time of the election.
If you are having a redistribution, as the Labor Party argued for decades, frequently, and we now have them every four years, some argue too frequently, and if you have sorted your boundaries out too—as the Labor Party, in 1975, when they inserted section 77, said, one vote one value is a quota and plus or minus 10 per cent; that is one vote one value—then if you generate boundaries within those approximately equal numbers of electors in seats and you have the overriding consideration that you have to have a fair electoral system, that was a system they supported, they proposed, they campaigned for and we in the Liberal Party in the end supported in the debate of 1990 in what was implemented.
Sadly, however, what had occurred was that the boundaries commissions did not implement what the Constitution Act required of them. It has only been as a result of the most recent boundaries commission and the Labor Party taking it to the Supreme Court that we now have a unanimous decision of five judges and the Full Court of the Supreme Court saying, ‘This is what the act says. It says “fairness is the overriding provision.”‘
The act also says that you have one vote one value with a quota and a tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent. It also says that the commission, in delivering fairness, can use that tolerance of plus or minus 10 per cent to deliver the overriding consideration, which is fair electoral boundaries where governments change at 50 per cent of the vote. I cannot see any logic to the argument, other than that the Labor Party are now upset that the Full Court of the Supreme Court disagrees with their view of the world and that the independent electoral boundaries commission disagrees with their view of the world. The Labor Party have this born to rule mentality, that if they only get 47 per cent or 48 per cent of the vote, they are entitled to govern.’
The other interesting part of the Supreme Court decision was their dismissal of the Labor Party spin that in some way there was evidence to demonstrate that their superior campaigning capacity had generated these particular results. This is the independent decision of a Full Court of the Supreme Court. It is not a claim being made by me or journalists or commentators: it is an independent decision made by the Full Court of the Supreme Court. Because the Labor Party does not like it, because they do not like the fair result that has been delivered, they now try this grotesque, obscene, offensive piece of legislation, this grab for power, to throw it out.
All I can say is that from the discussions I have had with members in this chamber, I am pleased that, on the advice I have received, there will be a majority of people prepared to say no to this government, to say no to this piece of legislation, to say no to the referendum, to say no to this blatant grab for power, and to say to the government, ‘Get off your backsides, go out and campaign, justify your own record of performance or non-performance over the last 16 years in South Australia. Don’t try and change the rules because they no longer suit you. Let the people decide in relation to these issues. This is your system, you introduced it, you created it, a Full Court of the Supreme Court has confirmed it and now you want to change the rules.’
It is, sadly, a further indication of the arrogance of this government and how out of touch they are after 16 years. They have this born to rule mentality that it is in the best interests of the state that they stay in power forever, and if the Full Court of the Supreme Court disagrees with them, if the Electoral Commission disagrees with them, ‘Well, stuff the lot of them. What we need to do is change the law so that it can further entrench Labor in power.’ The bill should be rejected, and when it comes to a vote, I strongly urge members to vote against it.