Parliament - One vote one Value
I rise to oppose this bill in the strongest of terms, and in doing so think that it is important that South Australians, the Labor Party and everybody in this parliament witness the derogation of democracy here in South Australia. What we are witnessing is one step in the removal of fair and free democracy in South Australia. This is the kind of behaviour that exists when a government has been around for too long.
We have seen it in other jurisdictions—in New South Wales, we have seen it in Queensland and we are seeing it here in South Australia. It manifests itself like this: in little things, like earlier today when the Labor Party saw fit to use question time as somehow their joke and their plaything, that answering questions from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition is no longer as important as insider jokes that only a few who actually understand UK humour will get.
It manifests itself in more serious ways, though, when we look at the Gillman land deal or the mess that is the Festival Plaza redevelopment, where governments seek to thwart normal and proper process, seek to hide away from proper process. We had huge numbers of questions today to the Minister for Infrastructure, who just gently sat there and batted back any suggestion that anything was wrong in the face of mounting evidence, evidence that we have received, evidence that has been outlined in an Auditor-General's Report.
Today what we have seen is the next step in the evidence that exists to show that this government has been around too long and, dare I say, a government that is becoming corrupted in its processes. The step the government is taking today, in conjunction with the crossbench, will do more to take away the democratic rights of South Australians than at any time since the mid-1970s. This is a retrograde and backward step. Why are we taking this step? Why is the government choosing to take this step? It is because of the biggest bunch of sooks and whingers in South Australian political history.
Since 1991, when over 70 per cent of the population said, 'We believe that the party that gets more than 50 per cent of the two-party preferred vote should form government,' an overwhelming majority said, 'This is what we want.' Yet, what we understand is that the government has found some legal advice that suggests that they can take that away without going to the people of South Australia and asking their opinion on the matter. They believe that their opinion is more important than the opinion of South Australians—once again, a dangerous step in the corrupting of the political and democratic process.
Having had unchallenged boundaries for the last two decades, the first time they get an adverse result, they crack the sads and move to change the game. Instead of accepting the result, instead of standing up and saying, 'We're going to cop this on the chin,' what do they do? They circumvent the democratic process to suit themselves. That is not what democracy is about and that
is what South Australians are sick and tired of.
South Australia has wanted a change of government since at least 2010. At that election, 51.8 per cent of the population said, 'We want a change of government.' Those cries for a change of government got louder in 2014 when 53 per cent of people said, 'We want a change of government,' and here we are, with the boundaries commission having listened, in a situation where once again
the Labor Party would say, 'We believe that our opinion is more important than the opinions of South Australians.' What we have seen is a dodgy backroom last-minute deal through the upper house to get this piece of legislation up, to keep us late to jam this through.
To those who are out the back having end-of-session drinks and clinking their glasses because they believe they have won some great victory, can I say that this victory will be short lived because you cannot get away from the fact that, on 17 March next year, the people of South Australia are going to pass their judgement. They are frustrated and they are angry. They said it in 1991, with
over 70 per cent of the vote. They said it again in 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2010. With the biggest cry of 53 per cent of the population in 2014, they have been passing judgement on the Labor Party and the Labor Party has been found wanting.
If a referendum is what it takes to put this clause into legislation, the fact that the government believes it can take away this clause without a referendum is an absolute disgrace and an act of pure cowardice. If they had any sense of decency, if they had any sense of trying to uphold the democratic principles that have helped the Western world achieve the greatness it has, they would not take this step. They are doing everything they can to prop up a party that has been sliding in electoral terms and in its standing in the community for a generation. They are doing everything they can to prop up a dying, decrepit, soulless and valueless party.
I know that there are people of principle who sit on the other side of the fence. The Speaker has shown himself to be somebody who has at times been fair and has sought to have this chamber become a better Socratic place, to have better debate, to have greater levels of scrutiny, yet in this one fell swoop, in this one decision, the government is going back to worse than square one. It is going back to pre 1975. This is no longer the party of Don Dunstan. This is no longer the party of people who stand up for principle: it is the party of people who will stand up and do whoever it takes, say whatever it takes and legislate whatever it takes to keep themselves in power.
I look forward to members opposite standing up and actually saying what they truly believe, instead of smiling like Cheshire cats, sitting out the back having a drink and believing that they have won some sort of great victory. And the Labor Party thinks that this is a good move, but I do not know how many people have to give you the same advice before you start listening. The first piece of
advice came during the 2016 boundary redistribution committee's report, a report submitted by two senior mathematicians from Adelaide University, which states:
There were two main findings. First, there is strong statistical evidence that the probability that an election in South Australia is unfair is higher than in the other seven jurisdictions under consideration. The results show that the predicted probability of an unfair election result in the other jurisdictions is [12 per cent], and in South Australia is [44 per cent]. Second, if predicting the proportion of seats that will be delivered to either major party with a given two-party preferred vote in South Australia, it is necessary to know which of the two parties is the subject of prediction. For example, given a two-party preferred vote of 50 per cent, it is predicted that the Liberal Party will win 43 per cent of the seats. For the same vote, the Labor Party is predicted to win 51 per cent of the seats.
That is exhibit No.1. Exhibit No. 2 is this extract from the Supreme Court judgement when the Labor Party challenged. After having suggested to the Liberal Party in previous redistributions to either put up or shut up, we put up. What did the full bench of the Supreme Court find? The commission found:
…having regard to election results over the last 40 years, there was an innate imbalance against the Liberal
Party caused by voting patterns in South Australia upon which had been imposed successive redistributions as a result
of which the Liberal Party could win a significant majority of State-wide votes but not win a majority of seats.
The commission referred to an argument by the Labor Party that the imbalance was a function of poor placement of resources at the last election but said that there was no evidence that this had occurred.
In the other place today it seems that at least one crossbencher's vote was swayed by advice from the government that said that there was no need to have a referendum and that this was somehow the tipping point at which that crossbencher and others have chosen to change their votes.
How is it that not wanting to go to the people of South Australia and ask them the question is something that pushed you over the edge, that that is the bit that got you to say, 'Yes, this is okay; this bill is okay to become law as long as South Australians do not get a direct say in it'? How is that an argument that is consistent with the principles of Western democracy; the principles that have helped South Australia to be the free and fair state that it is? How is that right? The answer is that it is not. They are hollow, shallow, cowardly arguments used by people who do not want to face the wrath of the electors on this question. They would prefer a deal done in the last hours of the last sitting of this parliament instead of asking the people of South Australia what they
think. South Australians want a chance to have that say.
The bill itself does a couple of things. First off, what it does is delete section 83 of the Constitution Act. That section provides:
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
It is fairly straightforward. For a Labor Party that stands up and says that they are for fairness, to take away the fairness clause is the biggest piece of hypocrisy in itself. This is no longer the Labor Party of Don Dunstan. In fact, this is no longer a Labor Party. What this is is a group of careerists who seek to hold on to the greasy pole of power for as long as they can using any method possible to continue to do that.
Do you know what? On 17 March next year, the people of South Australia will rip the Labor Party from this greasy pole and not before time. It should have happened in 2010. It should have happened in 2014 and it certainly is going to happen in 2018. This next election will be a referendum on what the Labor Party is seeking to do here tonight. Amongst all the other failures and all the other issues that this government has had, especially over the last four years, this question is going to form the basis of part of what South Australians are going to decide at the next election.
The Hon. John Darley in the other place had the government insert an amendment to review the operation of section 83(2)(c) requiring that this review must commence no later than 12 months after the general election. How can you have a review into section 83 if section 83 does not exist? How can you have a review into a fairness clause that you have just taken out of the Constitution Act? Are we supposed to review thin air? Are we supposed to review an empty piece of paper on the statute book? I do not know how you hoodwinked him, but he has been hoodwinked nonetheless, and South Australians are all the poorer for it. This review will be a farce.
The member for MacKillop said earlier that the people of South Australia should have the right to get rid of the government if they want and have elected to them the government that they want. This is not about us.
What I was excited by in this outcome from the boundary redistribution is that finally every single vote mattered because every single vote counted towards the 2PP, the two-party preferred percentage. A vote in Port Lincoln mattered as much as a vote in Hartley. Every vote was worth it. The reason we know that and the reason that we know that the Labor Party know that is that it is the first time we have seen them in the country for 20 years. Finally, they have the Speaker, the member for Croydon, doing multiple trips and street-corner meetings in my electorate, the first time in decades we have seen anybody out there.
In the 2014 election, I did not see my opponent from the Labor Party once. The poor bloke got no help from central office. There was only his family on polling booths. You could tell by the candidate they put up and the effort they put into the seat of Schubert that they did not care about Schubert voters. This electoral system and this outcome from the Supreme Court meant that every
single voter across South Australia mattered.
It is not just regional South Australia that matters in this regard. It is safe Labor seats as well, where voters have been ignored for a generation also, where finally their vote matters as much as a vote in a marginal seat. Again, the way we know that is because the Labor Party have been changing the way they operate as well.
Every single voter being enfranchised has to be a good thing for democracy. I thought it was an exciting part of the Supreme Court's judgement because finally we were going to get to one vote one value. That one vote one value sure gets defined by different people for different purposes, but finally a person in a safe electorate for either the Liberal or the Labor Party could actually have their vote count towards the next redistribution. Because of that fact, it meant that every vote mattered.
That is what is being lost here today. We are going to go back to the dark days where there are only a few electorates that matter and the majority of South Australians get ignored, where the decision on who forms government is left to a couple of hundred thousand voters as opposed to the over 1 million voters that exist in South Australia.
This is what is at stake here. The Labor Party needs to wake up. They are the only ones left who believe that this is a good decision. At successive elections, the people of South Australia have told them. In the 1991 referendum, overwhelmingly the people of South Australia told them that they wanted fairness. In 2010, they got a message and in 2014 they got a stronger message. Then we had a boundary redistribution committee that sent them a clear message. Justice Ann Vanstone said:
'There has been an imbalance against one party for the last 40 years, and I am going to rectify it.'
After the Labor Party taunting us since 2010, saying, 'If you don't like the redistribution, why don't you challenge it? Why don't you guys just get over it and get on with it?', we did challenge it, and the boundary redistribution committee, the electoral redistribution committee, agreed with us. And what did the Labor Party do after having an adverse finding against them, that did not go in their favour, for the first time? They challenged it, to the full bench of the Supreme Court.
So much for just grinning and bearing it. At the first opportunity where something did not go away, they cracked the sads and went to the full bench of the Supreme Court. We were happy by this because we thought, 'Finally, we are going to get an answer.' The people of South Australia and the electors have been telling the Labor Party; the boundary redistribution committee was telling the
Labor Party and now the full bench of the Supreme Court has told the Labor Party that this is what matters, that the fairness clause matters, that every vote matters, and that getting the majority of the two-party preferred vote matters. It is the overriding principle.
The first example we are going to see the results of that is in the election in March 2018. Instead of the government waiting to see what happens, waiting to see how the system works, they have decided to change the system. Before we even get one vote, before we even get one chance to test out this new arrangement, this new system, this new understanding of where the value of a
vote lies, they seek to change it because it does not work in their favour. It is a dark, dark day.
For those members opposite, who at various times quietly whispered to me in the corner saying, 'Come on, Stef, this is important; this is the right thing to do. Why don't you stand up for what's right?' Stand up for what is right here and now, because you cannot stand up and say what you are saying and have anybody in South Australia believe you. This is a corruption of the process.
The people of South Australia in previous elections have spoken. The boundary redistribution committee has spoken. The full bench of the Supreme Court of South Australia has spoken. And, at the moment, with the primary vote below 30 per cent, the vast majority of South Australians are giving a message to the Labor Party and that is, 'We do not like the dark path that you are going down. We do not like the ICAC hearings held in secret. We don't like the dodgy deals on the Festival Plaza and Gillman. We don't like the way you're acting,' but they do not seem to get the message.
This here is the most tin-eared example of the decline into a boggy sewer of mess that the Labor Party has undertaken yet. If they will not hear the message, then the overwhelming majority of South Australians are going to give it to them. Make no mistake: this is going to be seen as a corrupting of the process. This is going to be seen as nothing more than a dirty grab for continued power by a bunch of careerists who see power as an end in itself instead of a principle to uphold.
We here in this place are only here for a short period of time. There are those who have come before, some 800 in our chamber, and those who will come after. It is up to us as members of parliament to uphold the principles of democracy, to uphold the principles of this parliament, and that is not what is happening here today.
Back when the fairness clause was put in, it was put in because South Australians were sick and tired of the imbalance. And finally, after all this time, the Supreme Court made its judgement on how we are supposed to deal with that. The Labor Party have chosen not to listen to all of that and instead to go down their own path to serve their own petty ends, to serve themselves—the very, very
few members of them left, certainly less after the next election—instead of serving the people of South Australia.