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Labor pleads case in court as factions divide electoral spoils

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The future of a peace deal between Labor’s left and right factions that will hand the north-eastern suburbs seat of Florey to arch-conservative Jack Snelling hangs in the balance today, as the state’s redrawn electoral boundaries are tested in the Supreme Court.

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InDaily understands maverick left-winger Frances Bedford’s seat was handed to the ‘Labor Unity’ right faction under a trade-off that would see the left take pride of place in the Upper House.

The Legislative Council ticket is generally run with the right-faction candidate running at number one, with left and right candidates taking alternative spots after that.

However, it’s understood the left ceded Florey to the right under a deal that would see its candidates take both the number two and three spots in the Upper House.

This would virtually ensure two left-wingers – including Australian Workers Union official Justin Hanson, who is likely to fill the casual vacancy left by departing Gerry Kandelaars – are elected, leaving Labor Unity’s second candidate with a tough task to enter parliament from fourth place on the ticket.

Current Lower House MP for Taylor, right-winger Leesa Vlahos, will take top spot on the ballot, with former senior Labor staffer and current deputy chief executive at the Communities and Social Inclusion Department Lois Boswell widely linked with the second spot.

It’s understood Hanson’s elevation has rankled some sections of the party; there is no love lost between he and Bedford, who is understood to have re-contested her seat in 2014 after Hanson emerged as her likely replacement there – ironically, a move supported by the Labor right.

She has not ruled out standing as an independent if she loses her Labor preselection.

Snelling today told ABC Adelaide he had nominated for “the new seat of Florey” because he lived within its boundaries, in Ingle Farm.

“My children went to primary school in the new seat of Florey, went to kindergarten, we’ve lived there for more than 20 years,” he said.

“I’ve represented this area for a very long time, it’s where my kids play sport, it’s where my wife does her shopping… this is the area that I want to continue to represent in state parliament.”

But all of the ALP machinations are contingent on the outcome of the party’s appeal against the revised electoral boundaries, with its lawyer Dick Whitington QC arguing Labor’s case before a full bench comprised of Chief Justice Chris Kourakis and justices Patricia Kelly, Malcolm Blue, Anne Bampton and Martin Hinton.

Whitington argued a key task of the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission was to “wrestle with the tensions” between trying to achieve electoral fairness and the objective that the number of electors in each seat “must not vary from the electoral quota by more than the permissible tolerance” of 10 per cent either way.

Whitington likened the exercise as being like solving a Rubik’s Cube, in which solving one objective might derail the other.

Kourakis intervened to assert that the emphasis on electoral quotas would be more relevant “if the electorates were all electing independents”, but argued: “By a long shot the most important thing for most voters is the effect their vote has on electing the state government.”

Blue raised the question of whether maintaining the same number of electors in each seat was more important than ensuring the party with the largest number of statewide votes could form government, noting the apparent conflict between both objectives.

“Ultimately if there’s conflict one will have to yield,” he said.

If Labor manages to get the redrawn boundaries thrown out, it will have to re-evaluate its factional deals predicated on the new electoral map.

The former seat of Napier remains in limbo, having been squeezed into a marginal electorate, renamed King.

InDaily understands rising Labor star Jo Chapley was in the mix to run in King, but is unlikely to put her name forward, with nominations closing this week.

Chapley – the in-house lawyer for her family’s business, which operates several Foodland stores – previously ran against Liberal leader Steven Marshall in Dunstan, and has publicly expressed an interest in re-contesting that seat.

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