Electoral Reform Bill

The electoral Reform Bill will give the parliament a clear explanation of why the people's will is not being served in our state.

It is my great pleasure today to move in this house, on behalf of the Liberal Party, this bill which is before the house, a commission of inquiry on electoral reform, and that is precisely what we need here in South Australia. We have a very proud history in this state of democracy. In fact, South Australia was, if you like, established as an experimental colony, as an act of the British parliament, in 1834, and our highest ideals were those of democracy, enterprise, freedom of expression and equality. Unfortunately for us here in South Australia, we have not lived up to those lofty ideals established when our colony was first envisaged as an act of the British parliament in 1834.

White settlers arrived here in 1836. We were granted, again by the British parliament, our own self-government in 1855, and we held our first general election here in South Australia in 1857. I am very proud to be living in this state, and I am very proud to be a member of a parliament which had a very advanced form of democracy right from day one. All Indigenous South Australians have had the same voting rights, commensurate with the white settlers, from the very first general election in 1857.

There were no restrictions in terms of real property assets or private wealth for members who were standing for the House of Assembly elections in 1857. I am very proud to be a member of a parliament which in 1894 was the very first place in the entire world that allowed women to run for parliament and the second place in the world to allow women to vote in parliament. What a proud record that is.

The first women were only granted the right to vote in England in 1918 and, in fact, all women were not allowed to vote in England until 1928, and we did it in South Australia in this very chamber in 1894, and that is something that every South Australian should be extremely proud of. Unfortunately, we cannot say that our democracy here in South Australia is currently at the cutting edge. We cannot say that democracy is being well served in South Australia, especially when we look at the election results in South Australia since 1989.

I refer more particularly to the complete disregard of the current system to the will of the people of South Australia. In the past seven elections, from 1989 onwards, the Australian Labor Party has only won the popular vote in South Australia once. They have only won the popular vote in South Australia since 1989 once in seven elections, yet they have formed government five times out of those seven elections. Of course the most recent election results are a continuation of this situation where the will of the people in South Australia, the very clear will of the people for change, has been completely ignored.

The position of the South Australian constitution is extraordinarily clear. Section 83 of the Constitution Act states:  

…if candidates of a particular group attract more than 50 per cent of the popular vote [after the allocation of preferences] they will be elected in sufficient numbers to enable a government to be formed.

This is a consequence of the reforms proposed and put in place following on from the 1989 result in South Australia, yet in the most recent elections in South Australia—in fact, three out of the last four elections—we had this continuation where the Australian Labor Party has not won the popular vote yet it has been able to form government in four out of those four elections.

The most recent general election is a very stark situation for democracy in South Australia. The Liberal Party in that election won more than 45 per cent of the primary vote in this state, and the Australian Labor Party won less than 36 per cent of the primary vote in South Australia. There was a clear vote for change in the election when people went to the ballot box. Unfortunately, their will was completely denied with the result that has been effected thereafter.

This is something that we really need to take a very close look at. So, today, it is with great pleasure that I move this bill to establish a commission of inquiry into electoral reform in South Australia. The terms of reference are very clear. The term of reference of the inquiry is to inquire into and report on electoral reform that would ensure that the political party that receives the majority of the statewide vote at a general election of the members of the House of Assembly is elected in sufficient numbers to enable that party to form a government. It is very clear.

We would like that commission of inquiry to be established as soon as possible. We would like it to report to this parliament by 1 July 2015. This bill provides for three commissioners to be appointed by the Governor of South Australia on the recommendation of an appointment committee, and we think that this appointment committee should be truly representative of the Parliament in South Australia.

We believe that this appointment committee should consist of one member of either house of parliament nominated by the Premier; one member of either house of parliament nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly; the leader of the South Australian Greens in the Legislative Council or another South Australian Greens member of the Legislative Council nominated by the leader of the South Australian Greens in the Legislative Council; the leader of the South Australian Family First party in the Legislative Council or another South Australian Family First member of the Legislative Council nominated by the leader of the South Australian Family First party in the Legislative Council; and, the Hon. John Darley MLC, the Hon. Kelly Vincent MLC, the Hon. Bob Such MP and the Hon. Geoff Brock MP.

We would like the appointment of the committee to truly reflect the entire parliament. We need an independent inquiry because we need independent advice to this parliament on how we can best serve the will of the people in South Australia. We do not want the Labor Party designing an electoral system which suits the Labor Party—or the Liberal Party, for that matter, designing a system which suits the Liberal Party. We want an independent inquiry which is going to give the people of South Australia the democratic outcome that they wish for.

This inquiry will give the parliament a clear explanation of why the people's will is not being served in our state. The expert panel will give recommendations as to how the expectations of the constitution and those wanting to live in a true democracy can be fulfilled, and parliament will be provided with a road map for electoral reform that is informed by impartial advice that will allow us to correct the flaws that have led to the people being saddled with governments that they simply did not vote for. I commend the bill to the house.