'A shambles of a process' - opposition rages against council election machinery malfunction
Updated: Feb 19
The Electoral Commission was handed control of election disclosures for the first time at November's local government elections, and suddenly 46 councillors including the mayor and deputy mayor of Streaky Bay have been declared invalidly elected.
A failure to inspire enough people to nominate in some councils, including the directly-elected mayoralty of Robe and Kingston South East, saw supplementary elections required across regional South Australia.
As supplementary elections are underway, a second set in six months may be required to fill disclosure-driven vacancies. Councillors and mayors are entitled to appeal to the state's administrative tribunal, SACAT, to argue they should regain their seats. The Flow news desk understands all councillors are proposing to do so, and there is no suggestion at this stage that any councillor had received inappropriate donations leading up to their election.
Former president of the Local Government Association, now shadow minister for local government Sam Telfer (pictured above), told FlowFM that there was a risk that confidence in the local government sector would be eroded by the latest controversy:
"His (Minister Geoff Brock's) core function is the oversight and involvement with local government as a whole. And you would have thought the local government elections are a pretty key component. There's a lot of answers here that we need from Minister Geoff Brock at this stage.
"Unfortunately, as I said before, he's trying to sheet the blame onto to others. Longstanding respect and understanding of local government really is at risk at the moment because of the shambles of a process and the chaos which it's caused. "
Hear the full interview with shadow local government minister Sam TElfer on the Flow podcast player below:
Minister Brock told FlowFM listeners last week at least two reviews were underway into the controversy:
"We need to work our way through this and what I'll be doing is looking at the opportunities. How can we ensure that this doesn't happen again? After each election the Electoral Commissioner has to have a review of what happened and I've had discussions with the electoral Commissioner and also I'll be undertaking myself with the Office of Local Government, working with the Local Government Association to ensure that it has the process in the last general election in November. Was that the best process? What can we learn from that and how can we do it better?"
Shadow minister Sam Telfer has called for an independent, public inquiry into the controversy.
The Local Government Association has called for the invalidated mayors and councillors to be reinstated. LGA President Dean Johnson said while accountability and transparency of campaign donations and gifts were essential, the cost and consequence of not getting paperwork in on time was disproportionate and unwarranted:
"While the LGA accepts that individual elected officials bear personal responsibility for complying with their campaign reporting obligations, it appears the cost and consequence of not submitting paperwork on time is utterly unreasonable
"The unprecedented scale of this issue, state-wide, is also evidence there was a broader problem with the system – after twenty years in local government, I haven’t seen anything like this.
"South Australians shouldn’t need to foot the bill of legislative bureaucracy – not only is there a potentially expensive and time-consuming legal appeals process through the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, but ratepayers will ultimately pay for the additional cost of more council elections."
An earlier interview about the situation with local government minister Geoff Brock is available here.