Constitution (One Vote One Value) Amendment Bill | VIDEO


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (22:36): What an extraordinary disappointment this government has become in so many ways. It does not matter whether it is child protection. It does not matter whether it is energy. It does not matter whether it is the economy. It does not matter whether it is unemployment. It does not matter whether it is the foundation of our constitution. Of course we can debate the one vote one value, the fairness test and a whole range of other things that are in this bill but, goodness gracious, Mr Speaker, on your last day in the chair you are presiding over the government gagging debate on one of the most fundamental aspects of democracy in South Australia.

We have a bill here from the government that removes section 83 from the constitution of South Australia and replaces it with clause 83A, which states:

(1) The Premier must undertake a review of the operation of section 83.

(2) The review required under this section must commence not later than 12 months after the general election of members of the House of Assembly next occurring after the commencement of this section.

(3) The Premier must prepare a report based on the review and must, within 12 sitting days after the report is prepared, cause copies of the report to be laid before each House of Parliament.

What this says is that the Premier must undertake a review and the Premier must deliver the results of his review. What does that replace? It replaces, in the original section 83:

(1) 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.

Mr Speaker, you are presiding over the replacement of that fairness with ‘the Premier must undertake a study and must report the study and must lay it on the table’, which means absolutely nothing. This is an extraordinary situation. The government wants to use its numbers in this chamber to replace one of the most important foundations of our democracy with ‘the Premier must do a study and deliver the study to parliament’. It does not even say what has to happen to it after that. It does not say what any member of parliament or what the government must do. It is just a dreadful disgrace.

This is one of the most important things that we will discuss. I know the government has had its heart broken now that the Electoral Commission has finally delivered on what the constitution asks it to do. The constitution essentially says that how the votes fall broadly across the state is how the boundaries must be changed, so that the next time around, if everybody voted roughly the same way, the seats would fall in line with how the votes fell across the state.

The Electoral Commission has finally delivered that, and the government’s response is not to say, ‘Well, after a lot of free kicks over quite a lot of elections, we finally got a fair fight. Okay, we will front up and we will accept that we finally have a fair fight, and we will take that fair fight on.’ The government does not say that. The government does not say, ‘Okay, we will finally have a fair fight; we’ll cop it on the chin. We have had free kick, after free kick, after free kick for the last four, eight, 16 non-stop years.’ The government says, ‘We refuse a fair fight.’ The government says—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: I warn the member for Colton.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: They say, ‘We’ll change the constitution instead; we will change the Constitution Act instead.’ The government does not say, ‘We accept the independent umpire’s ruling and we finally have fair boundaries so we will finally fight fairly.’ They will not change the rules. As soon as the rules are implemented fairly, the government says, ‘We’ll change the rules.’ Not only does the government say they want to change the rules; they say, ‘We refuse to participate in fair parliamentary debate about changing the rules.’

The Deputy Premier fronts up and says the government has just decided that we will only allow the parliament—this house—to discuss this for another 30 minutes. I do not know where 30 minutes comes from. We are all allowed to talk for 20 minutes, plus the lead speaker, and so the Deputy Premier has said—

Mr Marshall: No legal advice! Where’s your Crown law advice, you cowards?

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: The Deputy Premier said, in a very arbitrary way—

The SPEAKER: The leader may not refer to another member as a coward.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Will the leader withdraw?

Members interjecting:

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Mr Speaker, the Deputy Premier turns up and at some arbitrary point in time he says, ‘I’ve decided that only 1½ more speakers will get a turn on this issue.’

The SPEAKER: Is that not debating the previous motion rather than the second reading?

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: No, I am talking about how the government is handing this issue, sir. The Deputy Premier says that at an arbitrary time he has decided that 1.5 of what is normally the opposition speeches will be allowed to contribute to this debate. So they do not want fair rules. When the rules are finally made fair, they say they want to change the Constitution Act and, instead of allowing debate on the Constitution Act, they just say, ‘We are going to shut down debate. We’re not even going to let the opposition have anything to do with it.’

It is an absolute disgrace and it speaks volumes of the cowardice of this government when it comes to fighting a fair election. At the last election, the opposition got 53 per cent of the vote. At the election before that, the opposition got 51.6 per cent of the vote. The government loved it that way when the rules supported them. As soon as the rules are fair, they say, ‘No, we want to change the rules,’ and they will not even allow a fair debate on the rules. We have endless members of parliament who want to contribute to this debate in a responsible way on behalf of their electorates, and the government will not even allow it to happen.

The Hon. J.M. Rankine: Well, why didn’t the member for Bragg give them a turn?

The SPEAKER: The member for Wright is called to order for interjecting out of her seat.

Ms Sanderson interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Adelaide is on two warnings.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: To remove from the Constitution Act that as far as possible the electoral redistribution is fair to prospective candidates and groups of candidates, that is what this government wants to remove. Let me just tell you that it does not matter whether a person, an elector, a South Australian, lives right next to the GPO in the middle of the CBD in Adelaide, or if they live in Mount Gambier or Port Lincoln or Oodnadatta or Innamincka, they deserve this fairness. By the government coming in here and rushing it through, using its numbers to gag debate on this issue, they are staring in the face of every single South Australian.

Whether they live in the electorate of Adelaide, the electorate of Mount Gambier, the electorate of Flinders, the electorate of Stuart, they are staring at that person and saying, ‘We don’t care about you. We do not care about you and we do not want you to have a fair election.’ They are saying to every single elector in South Australia, ‘We do not want you to have a fair vote to fairly choose the government of your choice,’ and worse than that, ‘We are not even going to allow the parliament to debate it properly.’

The Hon. J.M. Rankine: You moved adjournment.

The SPEAKER: The member for Wright is warned.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Worse than that, they are saying, ‘We will not allow the parliament to even debate their own proposal to change the rules,’ which have finally been made fair, Mr Speaker. I can only imagine how ashamed and embarrassed you must be on your last night here in parliament to preside over this debate with the government wrecking democracy in South Australia.