‘Unfair’ ruling costs independent election candidate Airlie Keen $13,000
Four independent candidates want to change South Australia’s election laws after missing out on public funding.
Independent candidates are unfairly disadvantaged when it comes to election funding, local candidate Airlie Keen says.
Under South Australia’s Electoral Act, parties or candidates were entitled to between $3.31 and $3.86 of public funding for each vote they received at the 2022 state election, so long as they met a few basic conditions.
The funding is intended to encourage people to have a go at running for election without running up huge debts, and to promote integrity and accountability.
Ms Keen received 3550 votes in Hammond, and would ordinarily be entitled to just over $13,000 worth of funding.
But to be eligible, the Electoral Commission of South Australia said, candidates had to register by 5pm on the day they announced they were running.
Ms Keen made her announcement on October 21, 2021 – a Friday – but only after 5pm.
That meant she should have had until 5pm on the Monday to file her paperwork, Ms Keen argued.
She only discovered the problem when she went to do so on the Monday afternoon, as the deadline was only described in the Electoral Act, and not listed on the ECSA website.
The established political parties did not have to meet the same deadline.
“I have always been prepared to back myself, however, navigating the Electoral Act as an independent was the biggest challenge in my campaign,” Ms Keen said.
“What we’ve achieved in SA on our shoestring budgets is considerable.
“We need to right this wrong and fix up an unjust act which was written by the major parties for the major parties.”
Three other independent candidates – Heather Holmes-Ross in Waite, Lou Nicholson in Finniss and Liz Habermann in Flinders – also missed out on funding under similar circumstances.
Rules have been administered correctly, but could be changed, ECSA says
A spokesperson said that the Electoral Commission of South Australia could only operate within the parameters of state legislation.
“ECSA believes that the provisions of the Electoral Act in relation to funding have been administered correctly,” the spokesperson said.
However, the commission has previously recommended changes to the law around applications for election funding.
In a 2019 report, the commission argued that the deadlines for candidates to nominate for the election, and to apply for election funding, should be the same.
In response to the recent confusion, independent MP Dan Cregan said he planned to introduce legislation which would standardise the election funding process for all candidates and parties.
The four unsuccessful candidates have written to Attorney-General Kyam Maher and Electoral Commissioner Mick Sherry, asking them to support Mr Cregan’s plans.
The Liberal Party would be entitled to almost $32,000 following Adrian Pederick’s win in Hammond, and Labor almost $19,000.
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I completely agree with the comments of Steve Burgess of May 30 regarding the need for a level playing field for all candidates. I have long believed that the only way to see real improvements in a community is to turn safe seats into increasingly marginal ones to make our elected representatives really have to work hard for our vote. Quality independents such as Airlie Keen and others are part of that process and they certainly should not be unfairly treated in any way relative to the major parties.
This sort of political manipulation where the major parties who are regular victors at each election make one rule for them(which is usually to their benefit) and another rule for their opponents (usually to their detriment) is what the electorate is heartily sick of, as shown in the recent Federal election.
We should all demand that there be a true level playing field to enhance our democracy. Quality independent candidates are necessary for a thriving democracy, and so too is integrity and accountability, and this sort of one sided manipulation could deter future quality candidates from running at future elections.
Good luck to all the Independents in changing this legislation. It filled my heart seeing greater diversity of candidates running and winning the recent Federal election. I look forward to the same situation in the next State election.