SA voters may face referendum

A referendum may be put to voters at the South Australian election in March to better entrench the principle of one vote, one value.


The move follows a recent redistribution of seats across SA which left some with more voters than others and the variation between the largest and smallest seats about 17 per cent.

Attorney-General John Rau says the government doesn’t believe that’s fair and has always held the view that one vote, one value is a fundamental principle of democracy.

“Every voter’s opinion should hold the same value,” Mr Rau said on Thursday.

But before the question can be put to voters, the changes to the constitution must be approved by state parliament with the Liberals already signalling opposition.

“It’s a matter for the parliament whether this even goes forward,” the attorney-general said.

“But if it does go forward, we’re of the view that one vote, one value is a fundamental underpinning principle of the democratic system here.

“This is not about Labor or Liberal. This is about whether or not a voter in one seat has a vote which is worth more than a voter in another seat.”

Mr Rau said the recent boundary changes were a significant departure from the previous objective to ensure every electorate be equal, as far as possible, in the number of voters.

It also made it harder for the Labor government to retain office at the next election.

Labor challenged the redistribution in the Supreme Court but the court rejected its argument leaving some rural seats with significantly fewer voters than others in metropolitan Adelaide.

In its judgment, the court found the boundary changes took into account the disproportionate distribution of Liberal voters across the state.

The changes were also expected to help address the issue of the Liberals clearly winning the popular vote but failing to win enough seats to form government.

Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman said the Liberals believed the current system confirmed the principle of one vote, one value and did not believe voter numbers in different seats were “wildly different”.

“The reality is we have a very fair system in South Australia,” she said.

“We have, as near as practicable, equal numbers of people in each electorate.”

Ms Chapman said the proposed referendum was “an act of a desperate government to cling onto government”.