Labor has stolen the treasury benches

26 Mar 2014 Article

Originally appeared on page 18 of The Adelaide Advertiser on 26/03/2014

Labor has stolen the Treasury benches
Christopher Pyne

IT is beyond question that under the Westminster system of government the party that controls the majority of seats in the House of Assembly forms Government.

But uniquely in South Australia, the provisions of the Constitution Act governing the redistribution of electoral boundaries requires that the political party with 50 per cent plus one of the statewide vote should achieve 50 per cent plus one of the seats in the House of Assembly and so form a government.

On Saturday, March 15, the Liberal Party received almost 53 per cent of the two-party preferred vote and did not form government. So how did Labor achieve this stunning theft of the Treasury benches? Not only did the electoral boundaries not achieve what the Constitution requires but, quite simply, Labor convinced independent member Geoff Brock, from a conservative seat, to back it.

Another independent, Dr Bob Such, has taken extended leave for health reasons and has not indicated he would support a Liberal government despite also representing a conservative seat.

In that way, the intent of the Act governing our electoral process has been ignored. The argument that Mr Brock had no choice, because Labor has 23 seats and therefore is the only party that can form government is spurious because if Dr Such indicated his preference for the Liberal Party then indeed they could form government with the required 24 seats.

This is what I mean when I say that the South Australian Labor Government lacks legitimacy. It governs not only having achieved only 47 per cent of the vote, but uniquely to SA, it governs in defiance of the Act of Parliament that was designed to achieve fairness. Mr Weatherill seems determined to govern in this profoundly unfair way for the next four years. And he is unapologetic about a system that for the last two state elections has seen a majority of the popular vote go to the Liberals, but has failed to deliver a majority of seats, contrary to the legislation.

The recent Federal experience of minority government had unhappy outcomes. It seems clawing your way back into power is the Labor way. In the past, honourable Premiers who have formed government without a majority of the popular vote, from both sides of politics, have sought to make the system fairer. The Weatherill Labor Government claims the system is fine, so long as it keeps delivering government to Labor.

We will be watching closely over the next few years to see how the Electoral Commission proposes to satisfy the clear intent of the South Australian Constitution Act.