Constantly shifting South Australia’s electoral boundaries to ensure a totally fair result is an impossible challenge, a leading academic says.
Two independents are set to have the balance of power in SA’s hung parliament, including the power to choose the next government, after the Liberals won the popular vote but Labor picked up the most seats in Saturday’s poll.
Professor John Williams, dean of law at the University of Adelaide, says the boundaries commission, charged with shifting boundaries to ensure the party with the highest two-party vote can form a government, faces the difficult job of constantly translating diversity in the community to parliament.
“The impossible challenge for the commission is that the boundaries that are being redrawn to accommodate the results of the most recent election will, by their very nature, be used at a different time in the political cycle,” he said.
“So they’re always running behind the times.”
The final results of this month’s ballot are still to be declared but the election is set to deliver Labor 23 seats, the Liberals 22, with two going to independents Geoff Brock and Bob Such.
Senior Liberals have questioned the present boundaries and the system, after the party won almost 53 per cent of the two-party vote but failed to secure enough seats to form a government.
University of Adelaide lecturer Clem Macintyre said the Liberals might feel hard done by but the boundaries commission could not be expected to predict what might happen in an election campaign two or three years out from the poll.
“Modern media elections are punctuated by gaffes, marginal seat campaigns, brilliant strategies or toe-curling disasters,” Prof Macintyre said.
“The commission does not have a constitutional crystal ball.
“The Liberals’ disappointment and frustration with the weekend’s result is understandable, but perhaps they should be looking at their own campaign strategy.”