SA-BEST flags big changes to local government elections to stop rorting

14 November 2022

Mandatory Australian citizenship and stricter enrolment conditions will be among changes SA-BEST intends introducing in amendments to the Local Government Act. 

SA-BEST MLC and local government spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, also proposes to overhaul postal voting and make voting compulsory at local government elections after widespread complaints to the Electoral Commission of South Australia about voting irregularities and fraud, particularly in the City of Adelaide. 

Frank tried unsuccessfully to have the requirement to be an Australian citizen to be eligible to vote and mandatory voting in elections when the Local Government Act was reformed by Parliament two years ago. 

“During the debate I warned about the likelihood of the type of corrupt practices that are now being reported to the Electoral Commissioner,” Frank said. 

“I specifically referred to the serious concerns I had that foreign students living in the city of Adelaide could be manipulated by unscrupulous candidates and their supporters,” he said. 

“Labor, Liberals and the Greens shut me down on that because this is where they harvest their own electoral support, among segments of the multicultural community. 

“They were more interested in trifling topics like banning corflutes - but as it turns out they outsmarted themselves and couldn’t see the wood for the plastic in the legislation they had passed.” 

Frank said South Australia was “sleep-walking” into a real threat to our national security with its lax voting requirements in the third tier of government. 

“We are one of only two states in Australia that do not require local government voters to be nationalised citizens - yet this is required at State and Federal elections,” Frank said. 

“I’m not sure how many other democracies around the world allow foreign nationals to take part in their elections but I doubt there would be many - if any at all,” he said. 

“We are leaving the back door open for hostile foreign governments to have an unwanted influence by planting ‘sleeper’ candidates sympathetic to their policies - and it’s time this door was closed. 

“Eligibility to supplementary rolls also need to be changed. You can’t have people who only need to show they’ve lived in an area for 30 days to be eligible to cast a vote. 

“It has to be much longer than that - exceptions could include if someone had bought a property - otherwise it should be a minimum of 12 months.” 

Frank said the postal ballot system should work like it does for State and Federal elections with voters able to apply for them. 

He also wants mandatory voting and pre-polls to be set up in council-owned buildings. 

“I understand people will say this is an expensive process but the democratic process should not be allowed to be diminished and exploited by unscrupulous persons or political parties seeking to establish a power base which we are seeing,” Frank said. 

“Local government is the tier of government closest to the community and it carries a great deal of responsibility in managing the ongoing and future needs of their communities,” he said. 

“There’s no point complaining about the actions of a local council or its elected members if people didn’t take the time to learn about them and exercise their right to vote. 

“It takes a strong wake-up call like we’ve seen this year to realise change is urgently needed before the next round of local government elections.” 

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