Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:20): I rise in support of the Local Government (Casual Vacancies) Amendment Bill 2023. Occasionally in this place we see sensibilities that are sensible for the state, and I commend the work of the shadow minister, the member for Flinders, in pursuing this issue to make sure that, in this place, we can right the wrongs, and some of these wrongs do not seem to be particularly an individual's fault to a degree.
If anyone has tried to access business portals, and that kind of thing, thinking that they have lodged a document—tax, for instance, an ABN—and then realise maybe a week or two later, 'Oh, hang on, that didn't work,' or someone gets hold of you, it is something that is easy to do.
I think that some of the complexities of the reporting certainly need to be ironed out into the future. We do not want to dissuade people from entering any form of public office. We know that the Electoral Commission had a busy year but its role is to run elections. That is its one role in South Australia. Yes, it ran a state election, a federal election and a local government election—one job.
Some of the time lines involved seem ridiculous—the time lines involved in who let who know on what had happened. Yes, we do want transparency, but it appears that there were some issues in reporting back to people in senior positions—for example, the minister—about what happened here.
Certainly the good people of this state who put their hands up for local government for not much reward, let me say, have the reward of looking after their communities, and sometimes very small communities, very small councils, that have low rate bases and that work very hard to get grants above their rate base to make sure that they can service those communities. I commend them all, whether they are from the smaller communities or the larger communities.
Just one, for example, is the Mid Murray Council, which has a very small rate base and which has overseen millions of dollars worth of work building levees during the flood crisis, and they just got on with it. They just got on with the job relying on the word from the state government that where the holes in the finances need to be filled they will be, and if they are not I will be following them up, but I am sure they will be.
In relation to this bill, it seems to me that there have been some very, very honest mistakes made. It seems quite a reporting process, where candidates for local government have to acknowledge whether they have received gifts or not when they are elected. Obviously, it does seem to be a flawed process. As the member for Narungga said, perhaps down the track there are some other things that need to be reviewed in relation to the Local Government Act.
In regard to this bill, I think it is timely. I think it saves hundreds of thousands of dollars for local governments, which is vital in these times of higher interest rates. It would take a lot of stress away from people who have lodged their claims with SACAT. Hopefully, everything will be resolved with the passing of this legislation, giving more time for these valued candidates.
I hope everyone gets through this well—the people who thought they had achieved positions—because it has had other effects on council. Some of the broader committees of council all of a sudden realised that the chairs of some of their other local government groupings could not be chair anymore because technically they were not elected, so we had to have people backfill those positions in a hurry, which was done. It just causes stresses all along the board.
I wish this legislation speedy passage. I wish everyone, and certainly the 45 or so people who have been directly affected, all the best. I hope that the right result will come because of this legislation passing through the parliament.