Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (12:28): I will contribute briefly to this debate. This is an important issue, and I am pleased to say it was not an issue that played out directly in the electorate of Stuart. I was fortunate enough to be running against quite a decent chap from the Labor Party. We spoke early on—well in advance of a year of the election—and agreed that neither of us wanted to be part of anything dodgy, underhanded or personally malicious. I credit him with not having participated in anything like that (to the best of my knowledge) and if he did, it did not work.

This issue is more broad than just the electorate of Stuart and, clearly, the electorates of Morialta, Mawson, Light and Hartley were directly affected by it. I think the bottom line is that the Labor Party participated where it thought it might make a difference; with very few exceptions—which, I understand, includes the member for Bright, and I congratulate her on that—the Labor Party did it where it thought it would make a big difference. That is sneaky, deceptive and very disappointing.

It does give me the opportunity to show the leadership of our two parties in great contrast, because there is no way that this sort of thing would have gone on without the leaders of the parties, the then and current Premier and the Leader of the Opposition, having the opportunity to weigh into this and very actively take part in discussion about whether their parties would participate. It clearly shows a very contrasting style of leadership and a very contrasting style of electioneering, both before and after the election.

In the last election our leader did absolutely nothing along these lines, and I think that is tremendous. I think from the top down, all the way from the current Premier through to candidates at the last election, this was clearly a plan of the Labor Party. It might be possible that some of the candidates whose electorates would not be affected by this were unaware of it, but from the top down the Labor Party would have known exactly what was going on. I repeat: I am sure that—with very few exceptions, including the member for Bright's electorate— the party did it where it thought it would work. To try to stay on any high moral ground any more than that does not count.

The other thing I would like to say is that I was not aware of this; I was not aware of this at all until immediately after the election—that is okay; Stuart is a long way from where all this happened—but guess what? Neither was the public. The public was not aware of this either until after it was too late. It was clearly designed to be a sneak attack at the last minute to deceive everyone involved. Then, when the public outrage became so clear and when everyone was so angry and upset—and we all know that at the time the public view of the Labor Party and the government was very dim with regard to this particular issue—the government decided it was important to bring forward this bill.

Of course the opposition supports this bill in this house. Our position is that we also want to refer it to the newly established select committee in the other place, but of course we support opposition to anything to do with fraud and deception at any time, and particularly when it comes to the public leading up to an election. Another thing that I believe it is very important to say—if you will allow me to move a little off the strict topic here, Madam Deputy Speaker—is that the select committee will look into a slightly broader range of issues than this bill puts forward and, on behalf of the people of Stuart, I would like to say a few words about postal votes, which are related to this topic.We had a great deal of concern about postal votes in Stuart. Because of the timing of the issuing of the writ it was actually impossible for the Electoral Commission to get all the work done that needed to be done between the issuing of the writ and the election date. What happened was that a lot of people in Stuart—and I am sure in a lot of other electorates, particularly the further flung ones more distant from Adelaide—applied for postal votes on time, did everything expected of them according to the schedule asked but did not get their postal votes back in time to vote. So it was physically impossible for them to vote.

That caused a great deal of difficulty for a lot of people, and a lot of people contacted Graham Gunn's office before the election to talk about this issue specifically. This is a structural problem that needs to be addressed. I understand that the Labor Party would have looked to issue the writs as late as possible, quite likely with regard to causing this problem, but there were lots of people who did not receive their postal votes until during the week before the election—so, less than one week before the election. Now, you may have applied for a postal vote because you would be away on holidays or because you would be away working and would not be home to get it and, in a remote place in my electorate, you could not go to an alternative polling booth or a post office or something like that.

If you are in a remote place and you have applied for a postal vote and you get mail once a week, which happens in an enormous part of outback South Australia, you might get your postal vote back during the week before the election, and it is impossible, even if you have not gone away, to return your postal vote. So, that is a big issue, and I appreciate, Madam Deputy Speaker, your allowing me to talk about that for a minute. Going back to the core issue, I say that no-one can deny that the Labor Party pursued this strategy in the lead-up to the election because it thought it would work, not because they were manipulated or because any candidate in any particular electorate was allowed to twist someone's arm. It was a Labor Party policy. It was disgraceful and something I would like to think we will never enter into in the future.


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