The Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission handed down its draft findings in August, giving the Liberals a notional 25 seats in the 47 seat House of Assembly – but only if they managed to retain their thumping two-party majority from their contentious 2014 election loss and win back either the seats or the votes of the two conservative independents sitting in Jay Weatherill’s cabinet.
The Liberals argued in a subsequent submission that under the commission’s methodology a statewide vote of 50 per cent each way would see Labor elected with 28 seats to 18 (not counting independent-held Frome).
The commission this week posted an update on its website, stating it had expected to finalise its deliberations by the end of the month, and hoped to still do so.
However, it said that date may be delayed into December due to an influx of several “supplementary submissions on a particular topic… and an additional hearing” that were “not envisaged” when it set its original date.
Liberal MP Mitch Williams, who has attended commission hearings and helped oversee the Liberals’ case told InDaily he “certainly took a lot of hope” from the fact the submissions on the draft were being carefully looked at.
“To be quite honest, I think the commissioners themselves got a bit of a shock when they came to that realisation [about the result of a 50-50 vote],” he said.
“So I take a great deal of comfort from the fact they asked that question and are going back and reworking their initial draft to make it considerably fairer.”
Williams, a former deputy Liberal leader, said “it’s my suspicion that the commissioners themselves were possibly a little bit blindsided when they looked at the [potential] result”.
Williams’ own submission on the draft report claims “it is immediately evident that the ‘fairness’ as demanded by [the Constitution Act] has not been achieved by the Commission”, arguing that “the Liberal Party in SA requires more votes than the Labor Party to win the same number of seats”.
“This is the definition of a gerrymander,” he writes.
“Maybe if the Commission called it what it is, it might take the issue more seriously.”
Williams said the commission would only satisfy its remit if it could ensure a party won outright with just over 50 per cent of the vote.
He said subsequent commissions have “gotten it wrong so many times over the past 40 years” because “they hadn’t looked at it in that light”.
“It might put considerably more competition into the political scene in this state,” he said.
“The state’s desperate for it.”
The commission’s final determination must be published by the end of December.
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