Thursday 19 June, 2014

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (10:32): I would like to, firstly, begin today by commending the member for Goyder for this amendment that he has introduced to the Local Government (Elections) Act 1999. Of course, the member for Goyder has extensive experience in local government. I dare say he probably has more experience in local government than almost anyone here, having been a hardworking CEO of a local council for many years, and he has actually run elections as well, as a returning officer.

The Hon. S.W. Key: Geoff Brock and Tony Piccolo.

Mr TARZIA: Yes, I understand the member for Frome has also had extensive experience in local government.

Members interjecting:

Mr TARZIA: And the member for Light, but the member for Goyder has certainly been an esteemed fellow in that field. He understands the needs and wants of local government and he understands what needs to be done to improve local government, and I commend him on his initiative here in the house today. As we have heard, following changes in 2009, if you are a landlord, a business, a lessee, a non-resident property owner or a resident non-Australian citizen, you are no longer automatically included on the council's voting roll. I have to say, I was one of the councillors who was elected to local government on these rules. However, I do believe that there is time to improve this bill.

In my time as a local councillor I witnessed firsthand the apathy that does exist, unfortunately in this day and age, among certain people in regard to local government elections. Of course, I was elected to the Norwood, Payneham and St Peters council, where the turnout, like for many councils, is somewhere around 25 per cent. I am looking at the member for Bright, the former deputy mayor of the City of Marion, who I note was also elected under the old rules. We come from council areas where the turnout has historically been quite low: 25 per cent, 30 per cent, 35 per cent.

I think anything that encourages a better turnout for local government elections is a good thing, because we live in Australia where we should be proud of our democratic principles and our Westminster system where we do have the ability to elect members of local, state and federal governments. We should make the most of this, and we should make it as easy as possible for people to be able to be on that roll.

I note that the member for Goyder has also offered a good opportunity for consultation and he has consulted with Ms Wendy Campana, the CEO of the LGA, who seems supportive of the amendment. It certainly has the support on this side of the house and it also has support, I am pleased to say, in the conversations that I have had through other councillors as well. It is a good bill. Any bill which goes to the heart of our democratic principles and which allows more people to be able to vote and to get people more involved in the process of electing their local government representatives is a good thing and I am happy to support the bill.