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Local Government (Casual Vacancies) Amendment Bill

7 March 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in favour of the Local Government (Casual Vacancies) Amendment Bill on behalf the Greens and to indicate that we will be supporting the bill. I listened closely to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the bill. It seems that there might be lessons to be learned by both sides of politics because I remember, when I first came into this parliament back in May 2021, one of the first matters that I dealt with at that time was the local government amendment bill. That reform piece had been knocking around for some time.

I know that a number of groups had been advocating for the bill to be advanced quickly because there was concern that we were heading into an election. What has happened, of course, is because the bill was dealt with quite quickly and quite close to the election, there were some unintended consequences. I am not seeking to make a partisan point; I am just pointing out that there have been some areas here on both sides of politics in terms of how the issue has been dealt with.

As I indicated, the Greens are supportive of this bill. After 45 local government council members lost their positions for failure to lodge their campaign donation return on time, we are pleased to see that the government has intervened. The bill is a simple one. It provides for a 10-day extension to those affected council members while ensuring decisions made by those councils since the election remain valid.

One of the four pillars that underpin the Greens political party is participatory democracy. We believe that real progress comes when enough people believe it is possible to make a difference and to do something about it. Of course, local government is often the most accessible level of government for people to participate in. Many people who run the council elections are new to the processes involved in public office and run without the support of political party machines. Indeed, this particular form was a new requirement brought in as part of the recent local government reforms.

I want to make it very clear that the Greens support requiring disclosure of campaign donations of this kind. Indeed, it was a Greens amendment that was made to the bill that required the disclosure of campaign donations prior to the campaign proper, as well. We certainly would not be supporting any moves to water down that requirement or to make it easier for council members to not disclose their donations, but we do recognise that something has gone awry in this instance and it needs to be amended.

There has been some commentary in the media about whether or not the information provided by the Electoral Commission was clear and whether or not the ECSA website was functionally effectively. I will not speculate on that. That is a matter for the minister to investigate and a matter that should be looked at as part of the broader investigation into what has happened here.

When 45 people make a minor administrative error it is possible that something has gone wrong. It is also vital, when we are considering this piece of legislation, that we consider the democratic principle; that is, the electors should get the council that they voted for. I am reminded of my days in the Senate when we saw the fiasco that unfolded a few years after regarding citizenship, when members of that place had failed to comply with what was quite a minor administrative decision and, as a result, we saw their electors being disenfranchised, and members who had not been democratically elected being elevated to that chamber on the basis of a minor administrative error.

I submit to you, Mr President, that if we were to allow the status quo to stand—that is, if this parliament was not to intervene and 45 councillors were to lose their positions—then I am concerned that those communities are going to be disenfranchised, and that is not a good thing for our democracy. While ECSA is already conducting 10 supplementary elections for positions that remain unfilled, we do need to, if we can, avoid the prospect of additional by-elections in affected council areas.

Whilst I notice that in some areas there may potentially be a countback mechanism, again, that is not quite the same as the communities getting the member that they voted for just a few months earlier. Not only is it preferable to avoid the cost of more by-elections, it is also vital that affected councils can continue their core business of serving their communities. Residents of local council areas deserve to have effective and functioning councils and so this extension will achieve that.

The Greens look forward to the results of the reviews being undertaken by the minister and the Electoral Commission to see whether there are any options for improving the Local Government Act. Indeed, I have indicated previously that I think there are things that could be done. I know the Hon. Mr Pangallo has mooted a number of changes as well that I think have merit. We are certainly keen to see what happens as part of this review and have a more fulsome discussion of those matters when they come before the parliament in due course. With that, I will conclude my remarks.

Council Amalgamations

27 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens on the Plebiscite (South East Council Amalgamation) Bill 2022. I want to put on the public record on behalf of the Greens our concerns with respect to amalgamations. Council amalgamations do not have a good track record, and we have seen in other jurisdictions that forced amalgamations can, indeed, deliver very negative outcomes for the community.

This plebiscite does give residents of the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier some level of a say in their future direction but we do worry that there are no appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that the views of the community are heard and respected. Over the last 30 years we have seen forced amalgamations in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. In both of these places, merger plans have led to service cuts and reduced community representation.

In 2007, Queensland saw widespread protest, following the announcement of forced council amalgamations. Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council has recently announced their decision to de-merge due to five years of financial and staffing issues. For regional areas, mergers are particularly challenging, as big, amalgamated councils can struggle to represent wider geographical areas with diverse interests.

There is also a concern about the potential for job cuts in the local government sector, particularly during this period of economic uncertainty, and I would love to know the views of the key unions that represent council workers in these jurisdictions on these council merger plans. We are pleased that this bill does not force amalgamation on residents, but does ask a clear question: 'Do you support the examination of an amalgamation of the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier to form a single council?' Consultation is integral in any democracy.

Our concern, however, is that should local residents indicate their interest in exploring an amalgamation, there is not any appropriate safeguard in place to ensure that the views of the more populous area are not dominating the outcome of the poll. There is also no safeguards in terms of what happens next. If the people of Grant and Mount Gambier vote in a plebiscite that they are, indeed, in favour of exploring an amalgamation, it is not clear what the government does next in terms of further community consultation. I will later be moving an amendment to require the government to go back to the people in those council jurisdictions as a precursor for any amalgamation, and I consider that to be a very important safeguard.

My office has received correspondence from constituents in the relevant council areas detailing their concerns. Some are fearful there will be a forced amalgamation by stealth, and some are concerned about whether the residents of Grant will be given equal consideration to their peers in Mount Gambier. Some ratepayers are also concerned about the speed and the lack of information in the lead up to this plebiscite. I would say that the government's timing has been less than optimal. Springing this bill on the parliament a minute to midnight before council elections is not a sensible way to approach a reform such as this.

These concerns should not fall on deaf ears, and if this plebiscite is a precedent for future amalgamation plebiscites, then we should heed the concerns of residents and ratepayers and ensure that all of their voices are heard. We believe that the process that follows this plebiscite must involve further community consultation, and when the Productivity Commission and the boundary commission consider the implications of an amalgamation, we are moving today that there be a secondary plebiscite held in those council areas as a precursor of any amalgamation plan.

I mentioned before some of the concerns arising from amalgamations, and I may put on the public record some of the data coming out of New South Wales. I did mention the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council amalgamation. Those councils were forced to merge back in 2016 and a de-amalgamation process was announced this year after reports published by the Local Government Boundaries Commission.

The 70-page report described escalating tensions between the two communities following the forced merger of the shires in 2016. The council has been plagued by conflict and financial troubles throughout its short history. Mayor Charlie Sheahan is quoted after the release of the reports saying:

We can do the finances to death, but [we need to] start talking about the social aspect and the impact that's having on the people and that has come through in these submissions. That has played a big part in the decisions [that have been made].

Public submissions were overwhelmingly—overwhelmingly—in favour of demerging the councils. Since those councils have merged there has also been financial and staffing problems, and these were detailed in the LGBC public hearings in July. Over the five years to June 2021, the total spending exceeded the council's original adopted budget by $15.8 million. That is interesting when one considers the case for mergers, particularly in a regional context. We are often told that it is going to result in savings to ratepayers. The evidence in other jurisdictions is that that is not the case.

In 2020, a freeze on merging the two rate systems of the formerly separate councils came to an end, and the councils had until June 2021 to complete the harmonisation process. One pensioner in the local area has said that her rates increased by more than $200 as a result of the council merger. She stated the increase could not be justified because her area did not have the same services as major centres that were also included in the new merged council.

We need to think very carefully about what happens to councils when mergers take place: what happens in terms of rates, what happens in terms of service delivery and what happens in terms of community representation and the community voice. I am sure that these are all issues that the communities of Grant and Mount Gambier will turn their minds to, should this bill pass the parliament. I intend to make some additional comments in relation to my amendments during the next stage of the bill.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

Amendment No 1 [Simms–1]—

Page 2, line 3—Delete 'Plebiscite (South East Council Amalgamation)' and substitute:

South East Council Amalgamation (Plebiscite and Oversight)

I will speak very briefly because I did indicate where we are at in terms of our position in my second reading speech. What this amendment seeks to do is require that a poll be conducted before an amalgamation under the Local Government Act 1999 proceeds.

This would insert a new section that says that the Governor cannot make a proclamation amalgamating the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier to form a single council unless a poll is held in each of the councils and the Electoral Commissioner certifies to the Governor that a majority of electors voting at the poll in the District Council of Grant support the proposition of the poll and a majority of electors voting at the poll in the City of Mount Gambier support the proposition submitted in the poll. The proposition would be: do you support the amalgamation of the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier to form a single council?

My rationale in proposing this amendment is that this would provide constituents in the councils of Grant and Mount Gambier with real certainty heading into this plebiscite process. It means that they could participate in the plebiscite asking whether or not the government should investigate a merger, knowing that there is no risk that this could be seen as support for a merger itself, knowing that they are not in a position where they could potentially see a forced amalgamation by stealth. Rather, they would be in a position of knowing that the consultation the government is embarking on is indeed open-ended, knowing that they would then have the right to veto any potential amalgamation proposal. I do think that should be a template adopted when one is talking about amalgamations, to ensure that there is no risk of the needs of smaller councils being subjugated to the larger council bodies.

So, from our perspective in the Greens, this is really important insurance. It is protection for the people of Grant and Mount Gambier. Indeed, if supported, this would be a really important template in terms of dealing with council amalgamations in the future. But I do hope, of course, that the government does not have a council amalgamation agenda in mind because I think it might face a bumpy road in this place.

Question: Council Amalgamation Consulation in the Regions

8 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development on the topic of council amalgamation consultations in the regions.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On Monday, Premier Malinauskas announced the government's plan for a plebiscite at the November council elections exploring a merger between the City of Mount Gambier and the District Council of Grant. The Premier claimed that the plebiscite was in response to community and business demands.

Additionally, yesterday in this place the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development told this place that she had had 'informal discussions with individuals who live in the area' regarding the amalgamation. My question to the minister is: who precisely has the minister had these informal discussions with?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. The answer is members of the public.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I have a supplementary question: could the minister advise whether these members of the public included the business and community leaders that the Premier referenced?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I have a number of conversations and interactions with people across regional areas. Of course, our Premier has also been out in regional areas a great deal, both prior to becoming Premier, when we were in opposition, and also since, because we think it is incredibly important to be in touch with residents in regional areas.

I can't guarantee that exactly the same people that the Premier has spoken to are the same people that I have spoken to. I am sure there are some crossovers, and I would imagine there would be many on the list who have raised it with me who haven't necessarily spoken with the Premier, and plenty who have raised it with the Premier who haven't necessarily spoken to me.

It is a general matter of community discussion from time to time, and that can sometimes be sitting in a coffee shop. Sometimes it might be at something like country cabinet or, indeed, at shadow country cabinet when we were previously in opposition. Those sorts of conversations happen at all sorts of times.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: would the minister agree to publish her ministerial diary so that this information could be more readily available?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Leader of the Opposition is FOIing my diary I think every month, it seems, so far, so that will be available under the usual FOI processes.



Question: Council Amalgamation

7 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development on the topic of council amalgamations in the regions.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Malinauskas government announced its intention to introduce a bill to include an amalgamation plebiscite in November's council election ballots for residents of Mount Gambier and Grant. Just last month, the state of New South Wales started the process to demerge some regional councils that merged just five years ago.

Financial and staffing issues have made it unworkable for the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council to manage such a large landmass. Other councils in New South Wales have now indicated that they are investigating demerging, such as the Inner West Council, Canterbury Bankstown Council and Central Coast Council. My questions to the minister are:

1. Were the City of Mount Gambier and the District Council of Grant consulted before this announcement was made?

2. Has the minister been engaged in discussions with regional communities regarding potential council mergers?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. In terms of whether there has been engagement with local communities about a potential merger, it's the sort of issue that comes up very regularly, particularly in regard to the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier. I live in the District Council of Grant and often the issue around potential amalgamation is raised.

What's really key here is that the proposal gives a high level of consultation to local communities. If legislation passes this place and the other place, people will be asked the question—I don't have the exact wording, but I am paraphrasing—'Do you want further investigation of a potential amalgamation?' That involves a high level of involvement by the local community to determine whether they want it further investigated.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Further supplementary: has the issue of a plebiscite as a vehicle to deal with amalgamations been raised with the minister in her capacity as the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I have had some informal discussions with individuals who live in the area.


Electoral Reform Amendments

14 October 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in support of the electoral reform bill, with some caveats. I understand the Labor Party will be moving some amendments to address one of the issues the Greens have with this bill, and that is the push to close the rolls early. We worry that would disenfranchise young people, particularly first-time voters for this election, many of whom we know may not necessarily be on the roll.

We are very concerned about that change and what that would mean for voters in this election, and we have made it clear to the government that we will not be supporting legislation that will undermine the capacity of young people to get on the roll and participate in this election.

Another issue we want to address—and I will do so through amendment and also speak to that in the third reading speech—is the right of young people aged 16 and 17 to vote on an optional basis. If you are old enough to drive, if you are old enough to work and pay taxes, then surely you should be old enough to vote, surely you should be given the opportunity to participate in the great contest of ideas that is our democracy. After all, the decisions made by the government impact on the conditions of working people, they impact on their rights just as much as they do on other members of our society.

What the Greens are proposing is the inclusion of a clause that would give young people aged 16 and 17 the opportunity to vote, if they so wish. We think this would also have the added benefit of improving understanding of our political system and better engaging young people in our political system at a time when many people are feeling disenfranchised. Looking at the events that have unfolded in the other place over the last 48 hours, one can certainly understand why young people might feel disenfranchised from politics and disconnected from the Game of Thrones theatre that we see playing out in the other place.

One way we can change that is by giving young people the chance to vote, the opportunity to participate in our political system and have their voice heard. They pay their taxes, they work, they drive; surely they have a right to have a say in the direction this state takes, surely they have a right to determine who should be in government come the 19 March election.

To go to the broad elements of the bill, we are supportive of the broad intention of the bill. We understand that many of these changes have been advocated by the Electoral Commission but, should this bill advance to the next stage, we will be seeking to amend it substantially and will not be supporting it in its current form. With that, I conclude my remarks.

Corflute Ban

12 October 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise in support of this bill on behalf of the Greens. In so doing, I recognise that, as is the case with all political parties, there are different views within the Greens on this matter. My predecessor in this parliament, Mark Parnell, organised a forum of Greens members when this issue first came on the agenda. I had the opportunity to talk with many members about this issue at that time, and indeed over the months and years when corflutes have been debated.

It is very clear to me that there is strong support for this change within the SA Greens membership. This has also been a strong campaign for the Greens interstate. In the ACT, for instance, the Greens have been campaigning strongly on this issue. Indeed, the parliamentary inquiry into the ACT election has recommended banning corflutes from roadsides. It is a parliamentary inquiry that has involved representation from the Labor Party, the Greens and others.

More importantly, there is strong support for this reform among the South Australian community. Most voters find these signs to be an eyesore and to be visual pollution, not to mention highly wasteful. There are a few exceptions, of course. I know my mum and dad will miss seeing my face on Stobie poles. I know the member for Kaurna, Mr Chris Picton, will be very disappointed, as he has a growing collection of my corflutes dating back to our days together at Flinders University. I can assure him that these signs will still be available for his personal collection, they just will not be in the public realm. He can still display my corflute on his private property or post it on his fan wall or whatever else he wants to do. There is no prohibition on that.

It is worth noting that the views of political parties on this issue have changed over the years as well. Back in 2009, the then Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, first attempted to ban corflutes from public streets. The move at that time was opposed by the Liberals and the crossbench. I am sure Mr Atkinson will be tweeting in delight to see the Greens have changed our position on this.

Both former Labor minister Kate Ellis and former Liberal minister Christopher Pyne have argued for corflutes to be banned. Back in 2019, the Hon. Kate Ellis of the Labor Party told The Advertiser, and I quote directly from her statement:

It is a massive amount of resources, the public don't particularly like them and it's a huge distraction for the first week of the campaign.

Your office gets inundated with calls about 'you've got too many posters here, or you don't have enough posters there'.

Wouldn't it be great if we had an election campaign where we were talking about the issues that were going to be determined and how that would impact on our community?

She goes on:

There are too many of these signs, they don't serve much purpose and we have this debate every couple of years; the rest of the country do not do this the way that we do…Get rid of them, I say.

'Get rid of them, I say,' says Kate Ellis, former Labor minister. I could not agree more.

For my part, my views on corflutes have been on the public record for many years. As a city councillor, I advocated for corflutes to be banned for council elections. That move was opposed by the majority in Town Hall, but it did receive strong support from the local community. I welcome the fact that this change was legislated as part of the government's local government reforms.

For me, there are three very important considerations in this debate. The first is the impact that corflutes have on the environment. At a time when our state has taken bold and decisive action on single-use plastics, it seems absurd that the political class would be exempting ourselves from this through producing these costly and wasteful plastic signs, many of which will end up in landfill. Not all political parties recycle their candidates in the same way that I have been recycled, so that can lead to increased waste.

I do concede that you could legislate to use other materials less damaging on the environment, but there are also other issues for us to weigh up here. There is another fundamental consideration, and that is: who owns the public realm? The public realm belongs to all South Australians. Intrusion onto the public realm, onto our public streets, is heavily regulated for this reason. The idea that these streets should be populated with election signage in this way is a form of visual pollution and I think it offends that basic principle. I have heard it said that voters will not realise there is an election on if there are not corflutes on the streets. I do not accept that argument.

There are plenty of other ways that candidates and campaigners can engage with their electors. Signs really do not say anything about the policies or principles of a political party or a candidate. I mean no disrespect to anybody in this room but politics is hardly a beauty contest. A sea of smiling faces does nothing to advance the quality of political debate in our state. Under this bill, party members, supporters and volunteers can still display signs on their private property as is the case in other jurisdictions around our country, so there will still be plenty of opportunities for people to get the message out without dominating our streets in this way.

The final issue I want to touch on is equity. I have heard it argued—indeed the Leader of the Opposition made this point—that somehow banning corflutes will damage smaller parties. I do not accept that argument. The current regime is an arms race. It means that all parties are required to invest huge amounts of money and people power into putting up these signs and finding the volunteers to distribute them. This really favours those candidates or political parties who have deep pockets. At $7 a pop, corflutes can blow a very big hole in a campaign budget, particularly for a small party or a candidate. This bill just levels the playing field.

I know the Leader of the Opposition has argued that this would be the end of democracy as we know it in the state of South Australia but the reality is, if the Labor Party feel so strongly about this, they can go into the next election and say, 'Vote for the Labor Party and we will reverse this legislation. We are the bring back corflutes political party.' It is their choice to do that. If they want to run as having that as a key part of their platform at the next election, saying to the people of South Australia, 'We will bring back corflutes and reverse these changes,' then they should do so and let the people of South Australia decide. I suspect what they will find is that there is a huge amount of public support for these changes and that people will be very excited to see the parliament take action on this.

In concluding, the Greens have been in negotiation with the government and I understand that some amendments will be moved in the committee stage. These have been alluded to by the Leader of the Opposition and I will talk to those a bit later. What those amendments do, I think, is provide certainty in terms of ensuring that people can have signage at public rallies and events, street corner meetings and the like and the amendments that the government will talk to later will address those points.

I do hope that this will be the last time the parliament is required to debate this issue and I think that the public would overwhelmingly welcome this parliament's action on the matter.

Local Government Review Amendments

10 June 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I just want to very briefly speak in favour of these amendments. I think this has been an example of what this house of parliament does very well—that is, reviewing and improving government legislation. From the perspective of the Greens, we welcome some of the transparency measures that have been included in the bill, obviously those relating to disclosure of donations but also the undertaking that has been given by the government around the disclosure of political party memberships. We welcome that that is going to be done through regulation.

I want to recognise the work of all the players here. Obviously, my predecessor Mark Parnell worked on this bill, and I want to acknowledge his contribution. In particular, I want to acknowledge the work of the Hon. Emily Bourke, with whom I had the opportunity to work on this reform; the Hon. Mr Frank Pangallo; and, of course, the work of the government in the other place as well.

I am sure many people will be relieved to see this legislation finally come to pass. I recognise the work and patience of the LGA and their long-term advocacy on this and look forward to a new local government regime.






Disclosure of Donations

11 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: If it pleases you, Chair, I will make some general remarks about the thrust of a series of these amendments because they all relate to the same topic, so in the interests of time I will deal with it that way. These relate to the disclosure of donations received. Currently, candidates who are standing for election to council disclose their donations that they have received after the election period.

What I am proposing, on behalf of the Greens, is that there now be two disclosures: one before the voting period and one after. This is a modest measure but it is an important transparency measure. I have always believed that sunlight is the best disinfectant and giving the community the most information possible I think is really vital so that people can make informed decisions.

If someone who is standing for council is being bankrolled by developers or another vested interest group, then, if this amendment is carried, for the first time members of the community will have access to that information. I think that would really enhance democracy at a local level. That is why we are pursuing this amendment.


Transparency in Local Government Elections

11 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

Amendment No 1 [Simms–1]—

Page 98, after line 25—After clause 180 insert:

180A—Amendment of heading to Part 14

Heading to Part 14—after 'donations' insert 'and disclosure'

180B—Insertion of Part 14 Division A1

Part 14—before Division 1 insert:

Division A1—Disclosure of political party memberships

79A—Disclosure of political party memberships

(1) A candidate for election to an office of a council must, at the prescribed time, notify the returning officer, in the manner determined by the returning officer, of—

(a) whether or not the candidate is a member of a registered political party (within the meaning of the Electoral Act 1985); and

(b) if the candidate is a member of a registered political party—

(i) the name of the party; and

(ii) when the candidate became a member of the party.

Maximum penalty: $10,000.

(2) The returning officer must make a copy of each notification given under this section in relation to an election available on a website maintained by the returning officer within 7 days after the day on which the notification was required to be given.

(3) In this section—prescribed time means—

(a) in the case of a periodic election—within 21 days after the close of nominations for the election; or

(b) in any other case—within 7 days after the close of nominations for the election.

This amendment seeks to improve transparency in local government elections, but from the outset I do want to thank honourable members for their indulgence. I recognise that there has been significant discussion about this bill before I came to this chamber, and so I will make my remarks brief. It is for that reason also that the Greens' amendments are modest in nature.

What we are seeking to do here is improve transparency, and this amendment No. 1 [Simms-1] relates to requiring people to disclose their political party memberships. What we are requesting is that this happen within 21 days after the close of nominations, and that it be published within seven days after the notification, so the returning officer would put this information on the website.

Why is this important? Presently, candidates who are standing in local government elections are required to disclose their political party memberships along with their memberships of a range of other organisations after the community has cast their votes. It has been a long-held principle of the Greens that members of the community should get all the information they require to enable them to make an informed choice. It seems really wrong to us that we have a scenario where members of the community are voting without that vital information. Somebody could be a member of a political party and that information has not been disclosed to the elector at the time they have cast their vote.

Elections for local council should not be a lucky dip where the community just kind of puts their hand in the hat and pulls out whatever they land with. Members of the community have a right to that information so that they can make an informed decision. We have seen situations in local councils where you have members of particular political parties who have not disclosed and then may form some sort of a faction or informal grouping, and there are some that have been very well advertised involving, in particular, the conservative side of politics, and there have been a number of scenarios where that membership has not been made clear to members of the community at the time that they cast their votes. So we are seeking to clear that up, and there are a few amendments that relate to that.

It is my understanding that the government is intending to pursue this element through regulation, but I have received no information about how that is going to be done. Today, I would welcome some clarification from the government about that on the public record.