SA Election: Campaign Insights & Analysis

9 March 2022

As we covered in Issue 1 of this newsletter series, the South Australian Government is now in caretaker mode ahead of the State Election on 19 March. Following the issuing of the writs on 19 February, the major parties officially launched their campaigns in two very distinct styles.

The Australian Labor Party (ALP) opted for a traditional presidential-like, stage-managed launch event at Adelaide Oval, while the Liberal Party favoured a more grassroots approach that saw Premier Steven Marshall attend multiple smaller campaign launches across a single day, with volunteers and other Members in key seats throughout the state.

Pre-polling stations have opened statewide, and the South Australian Electoral Commission has prepared for what it expects to be a record number of non-standard election day votes in the forms of declaration votes (a vote made outside of the electorate), postal votes, or pre-poll votes. A number of recent elections and by-elections in Australia have seen a trend toward these types of voting, which could see a delay in results if there are significant proportions of non-standard votes in key electorates.

The Campaigns

Liberal Party

Having launched its policy platform ‘Stronger Future,’ the incumbent Liberal Government has continued its economy-focused campaign, with the Premier using daily press conferences and media appearances to reinforce his message that South Australia has “the fastest growing economy in the country,” and attribute this position to his government’s performance over the past four years.

The majority of Premier Marshall’s new election commitments relate to proposed economic stimulation. Promises include the removal of payroll tax for apprentices and trainees; the establishment of a plant-protein manufacturing and export hub; a ‘Direct Flights Fund’ initiative to increase direct routes for visitors and exports to and from Adelaide in key markets; and a number of recreation and tourism-based commitments.

The Liberal Party has also made announcements on social policy, targeting the ALP with the promise that a re-elected Marshall Government will allocate an additional $123 million to upgrade hospitals that it states Labor “downgraded” when previously in Government. Other commitments include subsidies for public school fees and upgrades to school infrastructure.

In terms of general attack on the Opposition, the Liberal Party, in particular retiring Treasurer Rob Lucas, continues to criticise Labor for its “reckless pre-election spending spree,” touting that the return of a Labor Government will be a “risk” to the economy and the state.

The Liberal Party has also sharpened its attack messaging around health, displaying corflutes in various electorates that reinforce the narrative that Labor downgraded hospitals. In particular, there has been a focus on the key battleground of Elder, which is home to the revived Repatriation Hospital that was closed under the former Labor Government in 2017. In a bid for incumbent Carolyn Power (née Habib) to retain this seat, the Liberal Party is displaying corflutes depicting the messaging, “Never forget Labor closed the Repat.” This stands in contrast to Labor’s messaging in the area that it will direct Steven Marshall’s proposed $662 million spend on a “basketball stadium” into the health system.

Australian Labor Party

Since its ‘For the Future’ campaign launch, the Opposition has returned to a heavy focus on health-related announcements and has continued to reinforce its message that, if elected, it will  “scrap” an arena on the River Torrens that has been proposed by the Government, and will instead invest those funds into the health system. Health-related commitments proposed recently include a significant investment in additional beds, nurses, doctors and ambulance officers, as well as upgrades to Modbury Hospital and increased funding to MND South Australia.

Labor has focused a good deal of its attack messaging around extensive admission delays (referred to as ‘ramping’) at hospitals under the current Government, and this permeating across the state. SA ambulances have been ‘chalked’ for many months with messages that reinforce the ALP’s narrative that “ramping is out of control under Marshall”, and Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas is now encouraging individuals to bring their cars to the Ambulance Employees Association to have messaging ‘chalked’ across their personal vehicles.

Outside of health, Labor has made a number of other commitments, including funding towards a general tourism package, a support package for the live music industry, and a promise to increase skills and training where there are specific trade shortages. Labor has also named Whyalla as the preferred location of the $593 million hydrogen power plant it committed to build when it announced its first major election commitment back in March 2021.

The Campaign Trail

In addition to holding daily press conferences, sometimes accompanied by other Liberal candidates, the Premier has been spruiking economic investment commitments with Federal Liberal colleagues. Premier Marshall has appeared with the Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham respectively to promote Federal investment in South Australia that his Government has lobbied for. The Premier has also presented a number of live question and answer sessions on social media with the incumbent Liberal Members of the state’s key marginal seats: Adelaide, King, and Newland.

Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition has invited voters to join him on weekly 6am runs in the city to discuss policy. Additionally, Mr Malinauskas has been hosting presentations and rallies with unions and community groups such as Parents for Change to promote Labor’s health commitments. Mr Malinauskas also attended a pre-election forum at the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS), where the host mentioned that Premier Marshall had declined a number of attempts to attend SACOSS for either a debate with the Leader of the Opposition or a one-on-one interview.

The party leaders recently appeared for their first debate at the SA Press Club, hosted by The Advertiser. The debate saw each leader promote their principal campaign theme, with Premier Marshall focusing on SA having “the fastest growing economy in the country for first time ever” and Mr Malinauskas portraying the health system as “in crisis”. Other topics discussed included the pandemic, parliamentary behaviour scandals, and Labor’s hydrogen plan.

Seats in the Spotlight

The margins of these seats are projected following the 2020 electoral boundary redistribution.

  • Waite (Independent Liberal – 7.4%) – Currently held by Liberal defector Sam Duluk, who is running in this election as an Independent, the south-eastern seat of Waite is expected to return to the Liberal Party under candidate Alexander Hyde. However, the Greens have indicated that its How-To-Vote cards in the seat will preference Mr Duluk above Mr Hyde, despite Greens’ MLC Tammy Franks recently using parliamentary privilege to make a series of allegations about Mr Duluk’s behaviour at a 2019 Parliamentary Christmas party, after he was acquitted of a basic assault alleged to have occurred at the event. The two-party preferred battle in Waite is expected to see Mr Hyde face-off against Independent candidate and current Mayor of Mitcham Council, Dr Heather Holmes-Ross.
  • Stuart (Liberal – 11.7%) – Deputy Premier and Incumbent Member for Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan has been promoting a number of regional health commitments made by the Liberal Government as part of his campaign to retain the seat. He is running against current Independent Member for Frome Geoff Brock, who is contesting Stuart due to his hometown of Port Pirie being moved from Frome in the electorate redistribution.
  • Kavel (Independent Liberal – 14.5%) – Traditionally considered a safe Liberal seat, Kavel is currently held by Independent Dan Cregan who defected from the Liberal Party in October 2021. The Liberals’ Rowan Mumford may face an uphill battle to unseat Mr Cregan, who has been campaigning with the support of popular Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, Federal Member for Mayo (which encompasses the Kavel area). Mr Cregan recently criticised the Marshall Liberal Government for committing to the delivery of its newly-announced $19 million Hills transport package no sooner than 2024.

Further information

This is the second of our SA Election newsletter series, featuring analysis of campaign activities, policy announcements, polling and other political developments. For more information about the election, or to enquire about our services in South Australia, please contact:

Sandy Kay-Oswald
m: 0432 220 063
e: [email protected]


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