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- Why did South Australia adopt the fairness clause?
- Newton-Farrelly, Jenni
- South Australia's fairness clause is unique in Australia, although similar requirements have been proposed in WA and also NSW. This research paper looks at why a fairness clause seemed necessary in South Australia, and why the parliament chose a fairness clause rather than a different mechanism. The paper shows that both of South Australia's major parties had, from the 1960s, made numerous statements that the aim of a fair electoral system should be to allow a party to assume the government benches if it won the support of a majority of voters. When the fairness requirement was adopted in 1990 it was not a new proposal---a similar requirement had first been proposed in 1975. For all of the fourteen year period from the 1975 proposal to the 1989 select committee recommendation, a special redistribution criterion had been conceptualized as a remedy for bias caused by the overconcentration of one party's support in a few safe seats. And for all of that time there was a generally-held assumption that if the bias was addressed then the new districts would generate an outcome at a subsequent election which would return a party to government if it had the support of a majority of voters. Only the 1990 HA select committee sounded a warning that other factors, such as the way that parties campaign, might interfere with the translation of votes into seats. But almost everyone seems to have considered that the parties' campaigns were not so different that this factor would have much effect. On that basis it seemed reasonable to express the requirement in terms of its intended effect---a fair election outcome. Finally, the fairness clause was not unanimously supported, nor considered to be the only option. But both parties were committed to retaining single member districts and to assuming government if given the support of a majority of voters.
- Publication type
- South Australian Parliament Research Library research paper series, No. 33 (Jun 2012)
- Publication year
- Bias; Electoral systems; Fairness clause; Malapportionment; Parliament; South Australia
- South Australian Parliament Research Library
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2012 South Australian Parliament Research Library. The published version is reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher.
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