SA Liberal Party says proposed electorate boundary changes ‘go too far’

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The SA Liberal Party says proposed changes to the state’s electoral boundaries are unnecessary and some “appear to provide disruption” for the “sake” of disruption.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission released its draft redistribution of the state’s electoral boundaries last month, with both of the major parties filing formal responses.

The draft redistribution proposed major changes, including splitting the city of Port Augusta between the electorates of Giles and Stuart, and shifting the city of Port Pirie from the electorate of Frome into Stuart.

That move would give the Government an advantage by making it easier for them to win the seats of Stuart and independent MP Geoff Brock’s seat, Frome.

But the draft redistribution would also disadvantage the Liberal Party by leaving four of its seats with margins of under 4 per cent, as opposed to two seats under 4 per cent before the redistribution.

State director of the SA Liberal Party Sascha Meldrum said the proposed changes in Giles, Stuart and Frome would bring those districts “within the permissible tolerance” but changes beyond that “are not required”.

A woman
SA Liberal Party state director Sascha Meldrum described some of the proposed changes as unnecessary.(Twitter)

“The boundary changes — the subject of the draft report — go too far, displacing one in five South Australian electors [240,000 people] from their electorates — many of the seat-specific changes are not necessary and some appear to provide disruption for disruption sake only,” she wrote.

Ms Meldrum also said the predicted population changes are “inherently unreliable”, and are made even more difficult to predict by COVID-19.

“The Liberal Party submits, moreover, that the COVID-19 pandemic may impact on population and demographic changes, and that there is a real risk that any attempt to draw boundaries based on projected electoral data will result in a significant redraw which may turn out to be entirely unnecessary.”

Proposed boundaries ‘favour Liberal Party’

The Labor Party was far less critical of the proposed changes in its submission, but argued part of the proposal shows a “structural disparity in favour of the Liberal Party.”

“Labor has four marginal seats out of 20 on its side of the pendulum and the Liberals have four marginal seats out of 27 on its side of the pendulum.”

“That is, 20 per cent of the seats on the Labor side of the pendulum are marginal, whereas only 14.8 per cent of the Liberal Party’s seats are marginal.

A map showing South Australia's new electoral boundaries.
A map of South Australia’s proposed new electoral boundaries.(Supplied)

‘Significant’ community concern

An Electoral District Boundaries Commission hearing heard further submissions on one of the other major changes, which involves towns around Mount Barker being shifted from the electorate of Kavel into Hammond.

In her oral submissions to the hearing, Mount Barker Mayor Ann Ferguson said the thought of separating the tight-knit communities was causing significant concern.

She said the changes do not meet the specified criteria of “communities of interest” or the “topography of the area”.

“Adjacent growth areas of Mount Barker, Littlehampton and Nairne should be within the same electorate, given the many shared infrastructure and recreational facilities that relate to all three communities.”

A 19th century classical building with columns
The electoral boundaries will influence the make-up of South Australia’s next parliament.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

Ms Ferguson said with the population expanding in the area, it is critical they have “effective state electoral representation” so that there is good understanding of what is needed for the area, and “there is a strong advocate for those communities”.

However, Ms Ferguson did not oppose moving the town Harrogate from Hammond to Kavel.

In his submission to the commission, current Kavel MP Dan Cregan criticised the idea and called it a “radical departure”.

Mr Cregan said it would not be appropriate to separate the commercial centre from the other towns.

A final decision on electoral boundaries is expected to be made in November.

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