Hyde ‘undecided’ on second council tilt if election thrown out

Former city councillor Alex Hyde has told a court he “may not” stand for Adelaide City Council again despite his long-running legal battle to void the 2022 Central Ward election.

Jan 24, 2024, updated Jan 31, 2024
Alex Hyde in the Adelaide City Council chamber in 2020. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Alex Hyde in the Adelaide City Council chamber in 2020. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Hyde made the comment on Tuesday during his second day of giving evidence in the Court of Disputed Returns in his case against the Electoral Commissioner of South Australia and Central Ward councillor Jing Li.

Li defeated Hyde by 24 votes to win one of four Central Ward seats at the Adelaide City Council election in November 2022.

The Central Ward election has since been mired in controversy, with the Electoral Commission rejecting 23 ballots from the count amid allegations of a voter scam targeting international students in four CBD apartment blocks.

Hyde petitioned the Court of Disputed Returns in December 2022 to declare the Central Ward election results void, alleging “illegal practices” and “voter harvesting” contributed to the result.

Li has consistently denied any wrongdoing and in his defence filed with the court labelled Hyde’s pleadings as “speculative and embarrassing”, The Advertiser reported.

The trial is being closely watched in Town Hall, where a declaration that the Central Ward election is void could force four incumbent councillors – Li along with David Elliott, Carmel Noon and Simon Hou – to stand for re-election.

But Hyde, who represented South Ward from 2018 and 2022, told the court this week that he was “undecided” on whether he would stand for Central Ward if the election was thrown out.

During cross-examination, barrister Helen Luu, for Li, asked Hyde: “You understand that if there is a re-election you would have another shot at running for council?”

Hyde replied: “One which I may not exercise, but anyone could nominate if they’re so entitled.”

Luu pressed further: “But you accept that that is one result that occurs that if the election is declared void and a re-election occurs you could run for council again?”

Hyde replied: “I may not. But yes, I could.”

The comment was later picked up by Todd Golding KC, for the Electoral Commissioner, who questioned the purpose of Hyde’s court case if he might not run again.

“You’re at pains to point out… that if you get the remedy that you seek, which is that the election be declared void, that you may not run again,” Golding said.

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Hyde replied: “I’m undecided on that topic, yes.”

Golding then asked: “Why are we here then, Mr Hyde?”

Hyde replied: “We’re here because, in my view and the view of others, the election itself was not a free and fair election.

“It was affected by illegal practices which in my view and the view of others include the use of foreign citizens who otherwise might be entitled to enrol and vote but to do so in a fraudulent manner and have their votes filled in and taken by other parties.

“To distil it down we’re here because no election in Australia should be able to be influenced by illegal practices, let alone an election in a capital city, let alone an election that was influenced by foreign nationals and fraud.”

Hyde, who is being represented by Simon Ower KC, is a member of the Liberal Party and unsuccessfully ran for the state seat of Waite at the 2022 election.

He is currently working in the Liberal Party state secretariat as head of strategic projects, the court heard.

Hyde was first thought to have lost the Central Ward election to Li by 31 votes, but a problem with the Electoral Commission’s preference counting system saw that margin reduced to 24 votes.

The trial continues.

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