SOUTH Australians may face a referendum at the upcoming state election, as the State Government continues to oppose the latest electoral boundary redistribution which could help deliver more seats to the Liberal Opposition.
The Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission (EDBC) redrew electoral boundaries earlier this year, giving the Liberal Party a better chance of forming government after failing to do so in the past two elections, despite winning the majority of votes overall.
The state Labor Party recently failed in its Supreme Court challenge against the redistribution, where it argued the EDBC had failed to achieve “electoral fairness”, as expected under the Constitution.
Labor argued the redistribution failed to achieve equal voter numbers across each electorate – in what’s been referred to as the “one vote, one value” principle – but lost the appeal and was made to pay the Liberal Party’s court costs.
Last fortnight, the State Labor Government introduced a bill to parliament to enshrine the “one vote, one value” principle as the primary benchmark of electoral fairness in the Constitution, which would need to be voted on in a referendum, if passed.
State Attorney-General John Rau said, under the current redistribution, votes in some electorates were worth substantially less than others, which is “fundamentally undemocratic”.
“The State Government has always held the view that “one vote, one value” is a fundamental principle of democracy,” he said.
“Every voter’s opinion should hold the same value.”
However, Shadow Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said there were only “minor variations” of voter numbers between electorates, as the commission sought to draw a balance between an equitable distribution of voters and giving the party with the most votes overall a better chance of winning.
“This is really all about the government trying to cling on to power by using the superficial principle that equal number of people in each electorate, exactly, to achieve fairness,” she said.
“The government is mischievously presenting this as if there’s been some major distortion in numbers between electorates, but we’re talking about a few hundred here or there to accommodate a fairness principle and geographically manage the state.
“What if we were to draw a boundary to achieve numbers and chop off three streets in Hewett out of the seat of Light – it would be absurd.”
Minor parties are also expected to oppose the move, with the Greens even vowing to push for reforms to deliver a multi-member electorate system.