The Rann government’s proposed referendum
to reform the upper House of South
Australia’s parliament contains four options but is
missing the most obvious choice. That’s one to make the Legislative Council
more democratic.

The Premier
Mike Rann is planning a referendum in 2010. He’s talking up: a) keeping it as
it is; or b) reducing the number of MPs from 22; or c) cutting the eight year terms to
four; or d) the abolition of upper house.

But missing
from that list is mid term or byelections giving the voters a choice when
someone dies or retires. Two vacancies were
declared yesterday and the two spots have to be filled. One is for
Terry Roberts (Labor) who died and the other for Angus Redford (Liberal) who
quit to try a lower house seat.

Under
convention they will be replaced by party nomination and don’t have to face an
election for up to eight years.

Premier Rann says the polls suggest
“overwhelming support for the reform of the upper house” So why no byelection option? Labor and Liberal voters abandoned
their parties to vote for No Pokies MP Nick Xenophon. He got 190 thousand votes
(21%) — enough to have his second selection, Anne Bressington, elected.

But here’s a dilemma. Xenophon has
no party structure so what if he dies or resigns—who chooses his replacement?
His health nearly caused that situation last term.

Under convention, there is no
byelection. Surely Xenophon’s success was because of his personal style.
Bressington hardly made a sound in the election and rode in on his wave. Who
should really decide on the person who can fill Xeno’s shoes?

Even Xeno had trouble finding
candidates to stand with him. His third preference, Jim Darley, embarrassingly
admitted before the poll declaration yesterday his wife didn’t want him in
Parliament. He said he was “dead in the water “ even if he won because he
would have to face his wife who he’d told not to worry because he wouldn’t win.
How could you appoint him by convention? After that comment would Xeno’s voters
want Darley in?

Peter Fray

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