Bill: LOCAL GOVERNMENT [MEMBERS CONTESTING STATE ELECTIONS] AMENDMENT BILL (2nd READING)


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (10:55): I continue my remarks from last sitting week.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: And you have five minutes; is that right? Five minutes to go.

Mr GARDNER: I will not need all five, ma'am. I understand that, without reflecting on the vote of another chamber—

Members interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I cannot hear the member for Morialta.

Mr GARDNER: —a bill not entirely dissimilar to this has been—

Members interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! There is too much conversation. Please show some respect for the member on their feet. Member for Morialta.

Mr GARDNER: —the subject of some consideration in the other place. There were some differences between that bill and this bill. I think this is a superior bill for reasons that I commenced to outline last week. Fundamentally, it treats major party candidates and Independents as the same. The point that I started to make last week is that, when constituents have the opportunity to vote from a choice of a number of candidates at an election, if all the candidates have no party affiliation, that is absolutely fine, but in many cases that puts a burden on the constituent to find information about those candidates—whether they are the sort of person who shares the values of the constituent or whether they have the same set of beliefs that the constituent might have.

Being a member of a major party is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it suggests that somebody has a set of values, a set of beliefs and principles that a constituent, a voter, can immediately understand the candidate aspires to and would represent for them if in government. Therefore, it baffles me why anyone would want to give local council members seeking election as Independents differential treatment to those local council members seeking election as a candidate for a major party, whether that be, as I said last week, the Liberal Party, the Labor Party, the Greens, the Australian Conservatives, or any other group.

I think this is the superior bill. I hope that members of the government will join with the opposition in passing this bill rather than any other bill that does something similar. However, I think the first principle of the bill is sound and probably applies to both bills in that it will clarify for members of council seeking election to a different parliament (this state parliament in this case) their obligations with regard to ceasing their council duties, and instead they can focus on their election to state parliament. I think that is valuable and worthwhile, and I encourage all members to support this bill.

Mr PENGILLY (Finniss) (10:58): I rise to support the member for Unley in his efforts. As someone who came out of local government (I spent 17 years there) to this place, I know over the years it has been quite a topical issue and it has caused a fair bit of dissension in a number of councils around the state over members who have nominated to stand for a position in this parliament. It is an issue that needs clarification. It is an issue that the member for Unley has thought about and discussed with his colleagues for some time.

I have a personal view about this. When I was preselected as a candidate for Finniss in 2005, to all intents and purposes I handed over my responsibilities to the then deputy mayor, who picked up on that and did what was required. The only thing I did in the lead-up to when the writs were called was to chair the monthly meetings of council, and basically that was it. I also chaired the meetings of council—no, I do not think I did; I will have to check up to correct that.

However, I believe that it is important that if someone is in the local government sphere and they wish to stand for parliament, they should stand aside for the duration of that campaign so that they can focus entirely on their possible election to parliament without any sort of conflict with the local government sector or the council they belong to. I think it would clear up the matter quite well. Next year we are going to see candidates, who are currently serving in elected positions in local government in South Australia, standing for parliament in the lower house or the upper house, and I think this bill gives some clarity and clears the decks for them and it clears the decks for their councils.

It is something that has probably needed clarification for a number of years and the opportunity is here now to do that, and I believe this parliament should pick up on it and proceed with it. There will be members in this place who possibly have a different view to me, and I can live with that, but, as I said earlier, it has caused some grief to a number of councils over the years. I think it muddies the water when elected members are still in that role at that level and are then standing for this parliament.

The situation is that if a person is successfully elected to the parliament on 17 March next year, they automatically lose their role in local government. That changes the second you are elected, quite frankly. It happened to me, and I use my example because I was the mayor at the time, immediately I became aware that I had won the election for the seat of Finniss over Mary-Lou Corcoran, of blessed memory—and I did it again in 2010; I think the house needs to be reminded of that. I could go on about that because it was quite an interesting series of events.

The Labor Party brought in people to hand out how-to-vote cards across the Fleurieu in the electorate of Finniss, and when it went down in a screaming heap, these poor kids they had pulled from all over the Eastern States and had dropped in places such as Parawa and Second Valley were all left there and no-one picked them up. It turned out that my people picked them up and took them back to Victor Harbor or Adelaide, because they had been deserted; they were left in their bright red shirts.

I digress from the business at hand, Madam Deputy Speaker. Indeed, if you are elected you are immediately no longer a part of the local government sector. I support the member for Unley in his efforts, and I am happy to be able to make this contribution to the debate this morning. I wish him well with the speedy passage of what he has in front of the house.

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:03): I rise to speak to the Local Government (Members Contesting State Elections) Amendment Bill. I commend the member for Unley for bringing this bill to the house. We are seeking to address the issue of mayors and local councillors running for state parliament, and to provide a consistent approach across all councils, placing an obligation on local councillors and mayors to step aside from their duties and functions while they canvass for elections in an Australian parliament.

For instance, with regard to registered political parties, this leave would commence from the issuing of state election writs and end at the closing of the polls. In regard to Independents or non-registered political party candidates, the leave would commence from the close of nominations and end at the closing of the poll.

We want to make sure there is full transparency. These amendments, which will be made to the Local Government Act 1999, refer to providing automatic leave for all candidates from the issuing of the writs, and no penalties to apply, for example, and no loss of allowances. The candidate would continue to be a local councillor or a mayor until the casual vacancy came into effect from the date of election to parliament.

What we are trying to offset is retirements and then costly council by-elections taking place to fill that vacancy. Obviously if someone retires from council and their place is picked up, they do not have any opportunity to go back. I note that there are arrangements for public servants, whether they be serving police officers or other levels of public servants, where they can make sure that they can resume their employment if they are not elected.

I certainly understand that that is the case for corrections officers, who have a similar undertaking. They can essentially take the appropriate allowance to run as a candidate. They go through a process of stepping aside, and then if they are not successful, there is a streamlined passage to go back into the role they were doing before the election. What we are trying to do is give that same certainty to mayors and councillors in local government who are having an attempt at representing at the state level. I think it is a very smart move and I commend the speedy passage of this bill through the house.