Country voters at risk of losing voice

Friday July 17, 2020

Published by The Border Watch

Greens consider backing push to change constitution

GREENS SA has not closed the door on Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell’s push to change the Constitution to allow regional electorates smaller numbers of electors, despite parliamentary leader Mark Parnell saying it had problems.

The Member for Mount Gambier has introduced a bill in the state’s lower house to change South Australia’s electoral permissible tolerance from 10pc to 12pc.

Mr Parnell said the party had yet to vote on a position, adding if the proposal passed the House of Assembly the Greens would “have a good look at it”.

“The Greens position is that one vote, one value is important in our democracy,” he said.

“In principle, there are problems with Troy’s bill, but we are more than happy to look at it alongside the decline in rural and regional population.

“As far as possible, seats should be similar in population size.

“Having said that, there may be scope if there are particular circumstances which make that too difficult to achieve.”

Mr Parnell said historically, the South Australian “Playmander” and Queensland “Bjelkemande” systems of voter malapportionment created rural electorates which had half as many voters as city-based seats.

“In Australian political history, one of the biggest problems in the past was the rural gerrymander,” he said.

“The gerrymander systems has been largely removed in Australian politics and we would be very nervous to see it come back.”

Mr Bell has warned without significant investment and population growth, future changes to South Australia’s boundaries under the current 10pc quota will result in larger geographic electorates and a decrease of regional MPs.

MacKillop is one of three electorates which is currently under the 10pc voter threshold and will require a boundary redraw before the 2020 election.

“As the regions lose its population base, regional MPs will have to take on a greater distance to be within the 10pc tolerance,” Mr Bell said.

“Eventually, it will lead to more MPs in and on the outskirts of Adelaide.”