Bill: LOCAL GOVERNMENT (MEMBERS CONTESTING STATE ELECTIONS) AMENDMENT BILL


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (11:24): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Local Government (Members Contesting State Elections) Amendment Bill and commend the member for Unley for bringing it forward and the member for Goyder, who took the opportunity to also give his point of view on the matter. I want to acknowledge, not in any partisan way, that there is another candidate for Morialta, who is a member of local government, and if this bill is passed, or if Mr Ngo's version is passed, it may possibly impact on his candidacy. I do that to identify that I think it is absolutely suitable for members of local government to wish to run for state parliament as well.

I think that community service in the way of being a member of council is a laudable way to serve the community and should be encouraged, as I believe that anyone who has the gumption to put themselves up for state parliament in any seat, for any party, or as an Independent, should be congratulated on that act. It is an act in itself of community service to provide a democratic choice to the people of the community. Whether they are running with the Liberal Party or the Labor Party, or any other party, or as an Independent, I thank all of them.

Our community, by and large, benefits from having choices, and the broader the range of choices that they have, in representatives of different traditions or values, the more valuable those choices are. We should always seek to have the best person who is in a position to serve the community able to do so. The fact of their prior election to a different level of government should not preclude them from doing so.

I honestly do not support in any way the criticism of people who seek to move from one level to another on the basis of cost, unless that person has told their community that they will not be seeking election in any other form. They should hold to that promise if such a promise has been made. I do not believe it has in the Morialta case. I just want to put on the record that I think that form of service is to be lauded.

This bill should in fact be welcomed by any councillor seeking election to another place, whether it be to this chamber or the Legislative Council, because it provides clarity about what the situation is to be should an election take place and should a candidature take place by member of a council. The significant kerfuffle (for want of a better word) that happens whenever a mayor or a local councillor runs—Should this person stand aside? Should this person not have run in the first place? Should this person be on leave? At what time should they be on leave?—is unhelpful. It is one of the dullest process stories that can be driven. Of course, at the moment the situation is by and large that it is up to each candidate to make a decision that they feel suits them and their constituents, but the very fact of it is that it is a waste of time in our public debate, and it adds nothing to the discourse.

Having clarity about what that situation is and what those rules are to be is of substantial benefit. The member for Unley's bill, I think, is a very sensible way forward and an improvement on the bill proffered by the Hon. Tung Ngo. The particular reason why I think it is an improvement is that the Hon. Tung Ngo's bill presents a different set of circumstances for a candidate depending on whether they are a member of a political party or an Independent, and I do not think that there is any valid reason why a councillor who is seeking election as an Independent, or a councillor who is seeking election as part of a political party, should have differential treatment in this way.

There is no public benefit from having that differentiation take place. The fact is that people who join political parties do so for a range of reasons, to be sure, but at their heart, in joining a political party, there is the opportunity to be part of a cultural and political tradition of values: values for the Labor Party that arise out of the union movement; values for the Liberal Party that arise out of the philosophical traditions of liberalism and conservatism, which I have found always fit very neatly together; values out of the environmental movement—and some might even cheekily suggest, socialism—that the Greens represent; and, values out of the depth of conservatism that the Australian Conservatives represent. It is shorthand for people knowing who you are and where you come from to be a member of a political party. I seek leave to continue my remarks.