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Greens elect city councillor to fill retiring party pioneer's seat

Politics

Adelaide City Councillor and former Senator Robert Simms has been elected the Greens candidate for a winnable state Upper House seat, after long-time Legislative Councillor Mark Parnell announced his retirement.

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InDaily reported in July that Parnell would not contest a third eight-year term at the March 2022 state election after 14 years in the role, citing no “real reason” apart from his desire to “give someone else a chance”.

Parnell was a founding member of the Greens SA and became the first Green elected to parliament at the 2006 election.

The party this morning announced that current city area councillor Robert Simms had been elected by members to fill Parnell’s winnable seat.

If elected at the 2022 election, he would join fellow party-member and Legislative Councillor Tammy Franks, whose term expires in 2026.

Simms told InDaily this morning his priority in the Upper House would be to deal with “two crises: the climate crisis and growing inequality in our state”.

“I’d like to be focussing on green job creation, looking at jobs in renewables, electric car manufacturing and of course, scrapping the Liberals’ ridiculous tax on electric cars,” he said.

He said he would also focus on increasing social housing stock, improving public transport and protecting public service jobs.

“I think people know through the work that I’ve done on the council that I’m really passionate about homelessness, issues like renters’ rights, but also issues like transport infrastructure and cycling infrastructure,” he said.

“All of the things I’ve been working on for many years now are state issues and I’m really excited about what can be achieved at a state level.”

Simms added there was a “really bright future” for the Greens in South Australia and the party had a “real opportunity to make gains at the next state election and potentially even win the balance of power”.

His possible election to the Upper House could prompt a second Adelaide City Council supplementary election this council term, after central ward councillor and former Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad vacated his seat earlier this year to pursue a career in Saudi Arabia.

The current council term does not end until November 2022 – eight months after the next state election.

Under current state legislation, a supplementary election would be called if Simms resigned from the council before January 1 2022.

However, under the proposed local government reforms still before parliament, a supplementary election would be called if he resigned before November 2021.

Simms previously resigned prematurely from the Adelaide City Council during his first term as councillor in 2015 to fill the vacancy caused by Penny Wright’s resignation from the Senate.

He served in the Senate until his defeat at the 2016 election, before being re-elected to the Adelaide City Council in November 2018.

Simms said his pre-selection would have “no immediate impact” on his second council term, but Parnell could decide to vacate his seat earlier than March 2022, forcing a supplementary election.

“It’s up to Mark to determine the timing and I’ll support Mark with whatever decision he makes,” he said.

Parnell told InDaily this morning that he had not decided whether he would retire before the March 2022 election, but he would be “around for many months”.

“I’ve got plenty of unfinished business,” he said.

“Parliament resumes in February and I will be back in my usual chair in February.”

In a media release, Parnell said Simms had the “skills, enthusiasm, temperament and commitment to represent all South Australians and to hold the Government to account in the Legislative Council”.

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