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Patrician burghers of Adelaide lament: 'Won't someone think of the rotary clubs?'

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Proposed changes to the state’s electoral boundaries have been dubbed “counterproductive” and “totally out of order”, with a range of submissions calling for the commission responsible to go back to the drawing board.

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The panel charged with redrawing the state’s electoral map has also evidently put noses out of joint among Liberal-leaning voters in the Adelaide suburb of Walkerville, after it was proposed the booth be shifted into the neighbouring Labor-held seat of Torrens, thus reducing its margin.

Spurred on by Liberal incumbent Rachel Sanderson in a letter to constituents which has been seen by InDaily, several have written to the boundaries commission to vent their disdain.

Sanderson told residents “many residents have voiced their strong opposition” to such a move, “expressing that their community connections are strongest with their neighbours in Gilberton, Medindie, Prospect and North Adelaide”.

This opposition was perhaps most pointedly expressed by resident Michael S Downey (MBBS, FRANNZCP, Cmus), who wrote:

“Dear Sirs/Mesdames,

I have lived in the suburb of Gilberton …for some years.

It has come to my notice that it is proposed we are to be removed for electoral purposes from the seat of Adelaide.

It seems highly likely to me that the proposed changes would result in a political shift from Liberal to Labor in the seat of Adelaide… I have significant concerns that should the changes take place, then the present culture and lifestyle of my neighbourhood would be irreparably damaged.

My experience is that Labor administrations have no special interest in libraries, men’s sheds, rotary clubs, rostrum groups, service groups, community events, council services or even sporting events that have the slightest trace of ‘elitism’ about them, and that all the advocacy and hard work of our present Liberal representative, Ms Rachel Sanderson, will go for nothing…

Michael S Downey

(MBBS, FRANNZCP, Cmus)”

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The letter in full. Source: EDBC website

Speaker and Member for Croydon Michael Atkinson told ABC891 Sanderson was effectively “sandbagging her own electorate at the cost of her colleagues forming government”.

Sanderson’s own submission points out that with no boundary change to her seat since 2003, the seat has gone from a safe Labor seat to an (increasingly) marginal Liberal one.

“Diminishing the margin in the seat of Adelaide does not assist in electoral fairness, in fact it is counterproductive and makes it far worse,” she writes, arguing that “since 2010 there has been an emphasis on high density living which has been echoed in the high percentage of residents in transit”.

She distributed a pro forma for residents to sign, which read: “As a resident of Walkerville we write to object to the proposed removal of Walkerville from the electorate of Adelaide… We share services and engage with the communities in Gilberton, Medindie, North Adelaide and Prospect such as the libraries, community centres, walking groups, combined NHW [neighbourhood watch] meetings and services for elderly and youth”.

The draft boundaries review received scathing responses from both major parties, with the Liberals formally submitting that “the draft order fails to make boundary adjustments necessary to address the acknowledged [longstanding electoral] imbalance”.

It is totally out of order for the Commission to adopt the hackneyed ALP propaganda…

The ALP countered that their electoral advantage was often due to disaffected Liberal independents or Liberal own-goals, arguing that “had the Liberal Party won those independent seats, it would have formed a majority government in both 2002 and 2014”.

“These results are examples of the system working the way it is supposed to,” the Labor submission said.

But former Liberal deputy premier Stephen Baker wrote in his own submission: “It is totally out of order for the Commission to adopt the hackneyed ALP propaganda claiming that poor placement of resources by the Liberal Party can elevate the 2PP [two party preferred vote] without also discussing the significant advantage enjoyed by incumbent governments or discussing the nasty little campaigns run by the ALP”.

“Let me assure you that minimal campaigns were run by the Liberal Party in their own safe seats and in safe Labor seats, for obvious reasons,” he said.

“I am firmly of the view that if the boundary changes recommended in the draft report remain unaltered the people of SA will again be denied natural electoral justice.”

Some submissions were more whimsical than others, in particular the hand-written effort by retired former parliamentary Speaker Graham Gunn:

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Michael Atkinson, one of Gunn’s successors as Speaker, wrote to argue that “geographic names for state districts are superior to commemorative names”.

“My electorate was once named for a 19th-century suffragist who had no connection with the district and it was only ever a source of confusion,” Atkinson lamented.

“I would knock on the door of an elector and introduce myself thus: ‘Hello I’m Michael Atkinson, the member of Parliament for Spence.’ To which the householder would reply: ‘Where’s Spence?’”

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Having a laugh? Speaker Michael Atkinson. Photo: Nat Rogers / InDaily

He took particular exception to the renaming of the southern suburban seat of Mitchell with the generic-sounding Black.

“Is it named after the colonist William Edwin Black, or the adjudicator on Pick-a-Box, George Black, or the child actress and diplomat Shirley Temple Black, or perhaps the Rolling Stones hit song Paint It Black?” he pondered.

“If it must be Black could it at least be [named after Australian painter] Dorrit Black, which has the virtue of being exotic?”

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