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Libs' last-ditch bid for "electoral fairness"

Politics

The state Liberal Party has made a final bid to convince the panel charged with redrawing South Australia’s electoral map to end “an innate 40-year imbalance” that it insists has cost it government in three out of the last four elections.

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In the final public sitting of the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission before it hands down its final report, lawyers representing the two major parties tried to persuade the panel to rethink the draft report it handed down last month – which nominally handed the Opposition two extra seats, but only if they replicate the strong statewide majority they achieved at the 2014 poll.

On that basis, the Liberals would hold 25 seats to Labor’s 22 if the election result were repeated – but only if the party wins back the seats of Waite and Frome from Martin Hamilton-Smith and Geoff Brock respectively.

Barrister Joshua Teague, for the Liberal Party, argued today in the federal court that the draft redistribution was “not fair [and] not in accordance [with the constitution act]”.

“The Liberal Party would demonstrably require at least 52.3 per cent of the two-party-preferred statewide vote in order to form a majority,” he said.

“The [final] redistribution needs to take the next step, which has not been done – which is to draw [the electoral] pendulum at 50-50”.

He said “re-setting” the electoral scales was the “key task” facing the commission, so that in the event of another statewide majority “the Liberal Party is able to form Government”.

“The draft redistribution doesn’t do that,” he said.

“The Liberal Party would have the prospect of having enough seats to form a fair majority only if it repeated or nearly repeated the result of the 2014 election – that is 53 per cent to 47.”

The Commission’s draft report had determined that the electoral pendulum should reflect a statewide Liberal majority of 51.8 per cent – rather than the more than 53 per cent majority generally claimed – because counting anomalies in two independent-held seats had inflated the Liberal vote.

The Liberals rejected this, but argued that even if that methodology was applied, with the independents’ 4.5 per cent of the vote removed from the statewide count, Labor’s total 2PP vote would be a mere 43.7 per cent – more than six per cent off forming an outright majority.

Teague said rectifying the flow of the statewide vote was “a practical task that falls to the commission”.

“The necessary next step involves both an application of the principle to reset the pendulum to 50-50, but also the practical need to… ensure a fair outcome as far as practicable,” he said, arguing the Liberal Party’s submission “addressed and set out specific proposed amendments to demonstrate that practical fairness can be achieved”.

“There’s in fact no difficulty with drawing boundaries so as the electoral redistribution is fair and to negate the innate imbalance against the Liberal Party over the last 40 years, which the Commission has quite properly identified.”

He said the Liberal submission was “not an ambit claim with a view to a desirable outcome” for the party, but rather one that “addressed the principle” of electoral fairness.

The commission’s draft report received around 130 submissions in response – more than 100 of which were from Walkerville and Gilberton residents objecting to being shifted out of Rachel Sanderson’s Adelaide electorate into a Labor-held seat.

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