Collateral in SA Labor's call for electoral reshuffle

Long-serving Member for Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan and Port Augusta Mayor Brett Benbow.

Long-serving Member for Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan and Port Augusta Mayor Brett Benbow.

Proposed changes to outback electoral districts could see the city of Port Augusta split down the middle by the next general election.

A mandated four-yearly review regularly redraws the electoral map, but this year's Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission (EDBC) has received complaints from SA Labor regarding "a structural imbalance in favour of the Liberal Party."

Labor leaders are proposing one of five regional seats in Flinders, Giles, Stuart, Frome and Chaffey be scrapped to create a new district elsewhere.

In a submission to the EDBC, the party indicated the districts suffered from a "problematic combination of extremely low (and likely declining) elector numbers and a very limited capacity to accommodate piecemeal adjustments, by reason of their geography and the fact they border one another."

Of the five, only Giles (Whyalla), is held by Labor and their favoured proposal would see Port Augusta incorporated into that district.

A proposal submitted by SA Labor would see Port Augusta and surrounds absorbed by the district of Giles.

A proposal submitted by SA Labor would see Port Augusta and surrounds absorbed by the district of Giles.

Another proposal also considered dividing Port Augusta between Giles and Stuart or combining Port Augusta and Port Pirie in the district of Stuart.

Port Augusta City Council CEO John Banks said a split in the municipal would not be desirable and would be detrimental to the community.

"Council believes splitting the municipality to achieve a mathematical quota will ignore significant characteristics of the city and will diminish electoral capacity, representation and recognition," he said.

"Port Augusta is a major service centre for the region as well as a meeting place for Outback SA residents, we are best served by a single Electorate member, with an estimated $5 billion in private investment in the Port Augusta district alone, the Upper Spencer Gulf is on the cusp of a significant economic transformation."

Mayor Brett Benbow agreed.

"The proposed Electoral Boundary changes would result in the division of the city, and would not benefit the residents," Mr Benbow said.

"Port Augusta deserves and warrants its own Electoral representation, which must not be shared with another city.

"We have important infrastructure projects, services, investments, health and education departments which would not be benefited by split boundaries."

Long-serving member for Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan said: "While the current Stuart boundary is challenging, it works."

The electorate of Stuart covers over 374,000 square kilometres, extending from just north of the Barossa Valley all the way to the Northern Territory, Queensland and and New South Wales borders.

Representing the notoriously Liberal-skewed electorate for nine years, there's not much of it that Mr van Holst Pellekaan hasn't seen.

"Changes to the Stuart boundary for the 2022 election which are based on starting with Flinders, then Giles, then Stuart in an effort to give each electorate an appropriate voting population would now almost certainly result in wholesale changes to the electorate of Stuart (and smaller changes to Flinders and Giles)," he said.

"This wholesale change could potentially include 50 per cent of current constituents moving to other electorates and a similar number of constituents moving into Stuart from other electorates.

"In the current climate of social and economic upheaval due to COVID19, such major changes would add even more uncertainty for people and communities.

"It is also unknown how long the COVID19 impacts will continue, but likely until well after the revised electorate boundaries will be announced, so adding to community pressures and stresses.

"This would not be good for the people of Stuart, or those people affected in neighbouring electorates."

The EDBC will draft proposed boundaries in August with final decisions expected by November 2020.