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Save Our Sydney Suburbs (NSW) Inc.
October 2002

Parliamentary Electorates and Elections Act Amendment Bill

This bill passed through all stages on Wednesday. Attached is the Hansard Record of the debates in the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.

It was good to see that with one exception the Parliamentary members were either neutral towards SOS or supportive.

The exception, I was surprised to see was Barry O'Farrell. front-bencher of the Liberal Party. You will see from the attachment that he states that there was "nothing intrinsically unfair has been applied in the test by the State Electoral Commissioner to SOS" and refers to "the type of legalism evident in Save Our Suburbs (NSW) Inc. v Electoral Commissioner of NSW (NSWC 785)." He says "I find it hard to believe that the intent of the 1999 legislation was found to be unclear. I find it inexplicable that a court would set such a debate aside." He adds "on this occasion score one more for judicial activism".

He also says "If Save Our Suburbs had not waited until literally five minutes to midnight on the electoral cycle to seek registration—in other words, it waited until November last year to start the process of party registration—and if they had started midway through last year they probably would have passed the test. The subsequent legal action would have proven to be unnecessary and this bill would not be before the House." He adds "I admit to being uncomfortable with the special treatment accorded to Save Our Suburbs."

He asserts "I believe that preferential treatment is solely due to Labor's assessment that with SOS in the field the anti-overdevelopment vote will be fractured, that the campaign against Labor's destruction of Sydney suburbs will be rendered ineffectual". He makes the astounding assertion that "Labor has had people within SOS laying the groundwork for that party to simply advocate a "Vote 1" policy."

Further down the speech he says "We have a concern in relation to schedule 1 that we are in endeavouring to remedy. If we cannot remedy it then it may be the subject of an amendment in the upper House. It involves the backdating of registration for SOS............. .......A registration should be backdated only to the date on which it was initially rejected, and there should be no possibility for a party to contest the date or for the court to select a day at random. It should be set out in legislation that if this path is to be followed again—and I pray that we will not have to follow this path again—the backdating should clearly apply to the point in time at which the party seeking registration failed to meet the commissioner's test. I would like some advice on that. If we cannot get satisfactory advice on that we will seek—".

Towards the end of this speech he says "the court determination in my view is a disgrace."

His speech is in stark contrast with what Lee Rhiannon said later on that day in the Legislative Council: "The Greens accept without question that the Save Our Suburbs Party is a genuine party with a genuine right to contest the 2003 poll. The Greens have much in common with that party in policy terms, and we wish the party every success."

I have requested Barry to let me know what his problems were with the backdating provision.

All we await now is the signature of the Governor.

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