Hunt for new electoral commissioner stalls as candidates rejected

The quest to appoint the state’s new Electoral Commissioner is effectively back to square one, after a call for applications failed to find any candidates deemed suitable.

Feb 08, 2016, updated Feb 08, 2016
Retired SA electoral commissioner Kay Mousley. Photo: John Kruger

Retired SA electoral commissioner Kay Mousley. Photo: John Kruger

The parliamentary committee charged with the task, the Statutory Officers Committee, advertised the position in November, but it’s understood its members were underwhelmed by the field of respondents.

InDaily understands the committee considered the advertised salary was too low to attract higher-calibre applicants, and the issue has been sent to the independent Remuneration Tribunal to review.

That’s despite the tribunal only last year determining that “the salary of the Electoral Commissioner shall remain as $190,457 per annum”.

Of interstate equivalents, the SA commissioner’s salary only betters that of Tasmania, which was last year advertised at $172,713 a year. In 2014, the ACT’s Electoral Commissioner Phillip Green won a long-standing bid to boost his official remuneration – which rose from $161,600 to $191,300.

Green argued in a submission that his pay “is closest to that of the Commissioners for Tasmania and South Australia”, but that neither of those have “comprehensive funding and disclosure systems for their state elections, unlike the ACT”.

“The South Australian Commissioner has tenure until the age of 65,” he noted. The longest tenure interstate is 10 years in both Victoria and NSW, which have salary packages worth $264,000 and $350,000 respectively.

However, recent changes to SA’s disclosure regime may have bolstered the local case for a pay rise.

Statutory Officers Committee chair Gerry Kandelaars told InDaily once the Remuneration Tribunal had finalised the salary, the position would be re-advertised, but was unsure when an appointment would be made.

The previous commissioner Kay Mousley announced her retirement in May. Her deputy David Gully has been acting in the role since she stepped down.

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The position has been a controversial one of late, with former Liberal leader Isobel Redmond coming under fire for criticising Mousley under parliamentary privilege over the redistribution of electoral boundaries before the 2014 election.

As acting commissioner, Gully sits on the current Electoral Boundaries Commission – which began its formal inquiry last week – but will have to be replaced on the panel when a permanent appointment is made.

The commission’s final determination is set to be heavily scrutinised, given the 2014 election result which saw the Liberals lose despite a two-party majority.

Asked if the delay was an issue, Kandelaars said: “It would have been preferable [to appoint someone earlier] but I’m also pragmatic enough to realise that we want to get a suitable applicant, and get consensus around that applicant when it goes to the committee.”

“Whilst that’s not ideal, that’s where we are at the moment,” he said.

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