Banning election corflute signs

31 March 2021

Mr DULUK (Waite) (10:34): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Corflutes, love them or hate them, are part of our political cycle at the moment. I think for all of us in this house—not so much for those in the other place; I do not think they really know much about corflutes and putting them up on Stobie poles, but I know you do, sir—

Members interjecting:

Mr DULUK: For the local government, that's true. They had to be corralled into do that. They were wondering what they were talking about. We all know on this side in this chamber the perils of dealing with these corrugated plastic signs.

In my view, and in the view of many in the community, of all the political advertising nothing is more notoriously hated by our community than election posters come election time. Members of the public are all too familiar with being bombarded with our faces all stacked together on Stobie poles during the lead-up to an election, quite often illegally placed, breaching local government regulations, too close to traffic lights, cable ties everywhere, metal wires sticking out and people on ladders on the side of the road trying to get the right balance at just after midnight on a Friday before the writs are issued.

Mr Odenwalder interjecting:

Mr DULUK: Just after midnight, member for Elizabeth. I would not think you would ever go after 6pm on a Friday. We all know the perils of putting up posters to usher the dawn of an election period. Scattered alongside the road, these plastic posters not only provide a distraction to drivers but also are a polluting mess that pose many negative impacts on our environment. This bill sets out to remove the number of electoral advertising posters displayed on public roads and heavily reduce the hundreds and thousands of corflutes that end up in the waste each election cycle.

Especially on the Saturday of each election, we see the increased number of these plastic corflutes adorning, for want of a better word, polling booths across the state and, even worse, at federal elections as well, when we see metres and kilometres of plastic wrap being used for the day, for eight hours, and then being disposed of after. And to think—all of that goes into landfill.

The negative impact on our environment is one of the key imperatives for this proposed change in legislation. I often ask the question: what happens to the corflutes of an unsuccessful candidate who does not run again in the future or those corflutes that are graffitied or damaged? That is always a really big issue. Besides local school art teachers who come to my office after each election asking for a pile of corflutes, more often than not they are discarded.

We all know too well what happens: inevitably, these posters are discarded. We are already battling the war on waste, and the election posters, in my view, are an unnecessary added pressure on our waste system and environment. As the Attorney recently said in her second reading contribution in a similar debate not that long ago in this place:

Corflutes are without doubt detrimental to the environment as there are limited recycling options for them, as acknowledged by the Australian Greens on their website. Polypropylene is not widely recycled, with only two main recycling methods: mechanical recycling, which is complicated...and recycling through chemical methods to break down the order to suspend the advertising they require cable ties and other fixings which often get cut and left (on the side of the road)…

While we all try to re-use, repurpose, donate and/or recycle corflutes, it is all too often that during an election they become damaged and weathered. Then, of course, there is the incentive to develop new corflutes with modern design elements, updated photos and new taglines. Think about all the effort that has gone into banning single-use plastics—the effort from us parliamentarians, the business community and individuals. Why can we not have the same perspective when it comes to the use of single-use signs? We all know that without a ban single-use plastics will sadly continue to cycle through the community.

Another major concern includes the diminished roadside safety that corflutes bear by distracting drivers and moving their attention away from important road signage. Once again, as the Attorney raised in previous debates recently, local councils have their concerns about diminished road safety, and personally I find it sometimes difficult. It is hard not to look at my own face and many other faces when driving around at election times when on the daily commute.

When looking at and pondering the hundreds of corflutes as I drive by, I concede that for such a high cost these two-dimensional posters do very little to educate voters about candidates, what their policies are and what they stand for. Times have changed since the first colonial elections in the 1850s. Nowadays, candidates and voters have access to numerous tools to engage with constituents. The internet has brought with it websites, social media and other emerging tools for voters to understand candidates in more detail than their name, face and potential party.

I appreciate not all voters have access to the internet or choose to use social media, but there are still many other tools for candidates to use: doorknocking, letterboxing, community forums, and actually being active in the community, not thinking they can roll up six weeks before election day and claim some mandate to be part of any community. I would hope candidates are out in the community, meeting people at events, holding listening posts and, as I said, doorknocking and letterboxing the streets they intend to represent.

South Australia will not be the first jurisdiction to pass this ban if successful. Other jurisdictions like New South Wales have already banned corflutes on public property. Whilst I acknowledge that there is a limited argument that election posters are one method of alerting the public that an election is imminent, it is not the key determinant. Of course, it is for the Electoral Commission, not necessarily candidates, to ensure the general public are informed of the need to vote, where they should vote and, indeed, in the most professional way, who their candidates are.

In saying all this, private property naturally, as always, should be exempt from these rules. Private property owners will be at liberty to put as many corflutes promoting any candidate as they like on their private property. I know sometimes if you are driving to Melbourne along the Dukes Highway, you might drive past the member for Hammond's corflutes that are probably still there from about 2006.

Mr Pederick: They are a fixture.

Mr DULUK: They are a permanent fixture on the road to Melbourne.

The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: He is trying to get heritage listing.

The SPEAKER: Order!

Mr DULUK: You pass the big koala, you go through Bordertown and the member for Hammond's corflutes are there on the Dukes Highway. Of course, being able to have corflutes on private property will naturally always be there, and candidates will be able to erect up to six electoral advertising posters on polling day, including at any polling place and within 50 metres of an entrance to those polling booths. Certainly, at pre-poll and on polling day there will still be corflutes available for members of the public to identify candidates.

Of course, it is not intended for this legislation to ban the use of A-frames, etc., when candidates and members are holding street corner meetings or undertaking poster waving. With the regulations, I believe there will still be electoral posters to notify the public, but there will be limitation restrictions so that we need no longer see the exuberant proliferation of posters we see every election at the moment. I do hope this legislation passes through this place and the other and I commend the bill to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Dr Harvey.