Bill: CONSTITUTION (ELECTORAL REDISTRIBUTION) (APPEALS) AMENDMENT BILL


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (11:12): Thank you, Deputy Speaker, and thank you, member for Newland, for your kind consideration of my desire to speak on this bill. The Constitution (Electoral Redistribution) (Appeals) Amendment Bill was brought to this house on 13 April by the member for Bragg, and I also acknowledge the member for MacKillop, who spoke to this bill in May. Tempting as it is to use this bill as an opportunity to freelance at great length about the failure of the Labor Party—in particular, its appellant Reggie Martin—to succeed in the quest to overthrow Justice Vanstone and her Redistribution Commission's proposed redistribution up to the Superior Courts, I will mostly refrain from doing so, notwithstanding that I note the ALP had costs awarded against it.

This bill arises out of a suggestion by the Chief Justice that he felt should be considered by the parliament. In particular, His Honour noted in the appeal:

Parliament may wish to consider whether a registered political party, or any other person with an interest in an electoral redistribution, particularly if that party or person has made representations to the EDBC, should be entitled to bring an appeal against an order of the EDBC. It may also be prudent to allow the Court a power to preclude a political party from appearing on an appeal through a proxy if that party made representations before the EDBC. As a practical consideration, Parliament may also wish to contemplate prescribing a procedure for the giving of public notice that an appeal has been instituted and the right of persons to be joined.

I am not sure why the government has not acted on this. I am hoping that when the member for Newland rose before it was, rather than to adjourn the bill, to in fact speak in furious agreement with the member for Bragg and the member for MacKillop. Certainly, I myself take it seriously when the Chief Justice considers it important to bring matters to our attention.

The Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission's redistribution that was handed down late last year is certainly a good document. It was a strange course of events to see Mr Martin listed as the person appealing it. The bill, of course, would provide an opportunity for political parties to very clearly be out appealing, rather than just individuals. We had Sascha Meldrum as our appellant.

I think it would have made more sense if it were a matter where the Liberal Party and the Labor Party were able to clearly, in full sight of the public, put forward their points of view. As the member for MacKillop has advised, perhaps there are opportunities for individuals, who are not necessarily South Australians, to be able to have a point of view that is worth considering by the court.

The circumstances surrounding the redistribution are always of interest to the people of South Australia, whose democracy is served in this way. The bill significantly adds to that democratic process by making things more transparent and making the appeal system better. I commend the member for Bragg for bringing the bill to the house and I urge all members to support it.