SA Votes – Issue 2
Premier Jay Weatherill has launched the Labor Party’s campaign, releasing their policy platform and a promise to spend big on infrastructure. Labor’s $2 billion infrastructure package, which pledges to create 1,700 jobs a year between now and 2022, includes upgrades to seven level crossings; CBD tram extensions; and a new deep sea port in the Spencer Gulf. Details of the three projects will be released during the campaign. Labor has also promised to spend $350 million over nine years redeveloping the Old Royal Adelaide Hospital site to attract future industries including artificial intelligence, cyber security, renewable energy and film.
Labor has further committed to digital progress with the announcement of a new Department of Digital Innovation to be established under a re-elected Weatherill Government, which will be tasked with developing a Digital Inclusion Plan. The new department will also oversee a $35 million expansion of the government internet network, to be known as “the Fishbone”. The additional cabling would be made accessible to businesses and households to increase internet speeds and make services cheaper.
The energy debate was reignited this week. If re-elected, Labor will set a new renewable energy target of 75 per cent by 2025, with Premier Weatherill planning to make energy the cornerstone of his campaign. The plan has attracted scrutiny from all levels of the Liberal Party; State Opposition Leader Steven Marshall has labelled his opponent an “energy fraud”, while Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg described the target as “complete madness”.
The Liberal team has kicked off their campaign by outlining how Mr Marshall would spend his first 100 days as Premier. The 100 day plan sets out a strategy to implement existing commitments made by the Liberal Party, beginning with the preparation of legislation and procedures to scrap payroll tax for small businesses and reduce the Emergency Services Levy. Other immediate actions include establishing the South Australian Productivity Commission and Infrastructure SA; dissolving and appointing a new TAFE SA Board; implementing the moratorium on fracking in the Limestone Coast region; appointing a Special Investigator to examine the Labor Government’s Energy Plan; and re-opening the Repat Hospital for healthcare services.
Adding to existing announcements, the Liberals have also focused on infrastructure in the early days of the campaign, committing $2.5 million to complete the business case for the remaining sections of the North-South Corridor.
SA Best Leader Nick Xenophon has launched his Party’s campaign with a TV advertisement, self-described as “a little bit cheesy”. While commentators and the public have criticised the video, Mr Xenophon said that “it’s the perfect antidote to the relentless negativity and sledging of the major parties”.
Mr Xenophon has continued to roll out SA Best’s policies, this week returning his focus to pokies. More than 20 years after labelling himself the “no pokies” MP, Mr Xenophon has announced that SA Best’s policy would cut poker machine numbers in SA by a third over five years. He is likely to use this new policy as a key balance of power negotiating point in the event of a hung parliament. SA Best has also released policies covering agriculture, the Emergency Services Levy, and regional telecommunications.
With candidate nomination lodgement closing this Friday, expect to see parties making final announcements. Over the past few days, the Australian Conservatives revealed 33 candidates for the Lower House, a significant increase on the 10-20 previously expected. SA Best continues to announce candidates; the party currently has 36 in the Lower House. The Greens have committed to run in every Lower House seat, but are still short a few candidates, as are the Liberal and Labor parties.
The Campaign Trail
The apparent three-way race for the majority of seats is putting preference deals at the forefront of parties’ minds; preferences will likely determine the outcomes in many seats. The Labor Party has announced that in the spirit of “fairness”, it will split its preferences, placing Liberal ahead of SA Best in half of the Lower House seats, and vice-versa for the other half. However in Hartley, Labor will run a split preference ticket, providing voters the option of preferencing either way.
While the other major parties are yet to announce their preference tickets, commentators expect that the Liberal Party will also split their preferences between Labor and SA Best. Earlier rumours of a political “gang-up” between Liberal and Labor to shut out SA Best, by preferencing the new party last in key seats, could well be on the cards in this scenario.
The defamation stoush between Mr Marshall and Mr Xenophon continues. The Opposition Leader’s lawyers have responded to Mr Xenophon’s representatives, saying “It is inconceivable that your client would not accept that these were matters of legitimate public debate in the lead up to the state election”. Mr Xenophon has attracted further attention this week: his Liberal rival in Hartley, Vincent Tarzia, has stopped just short of accusing SA Best of stealing election posters; Mr Xenophon has accused Mr Tarzia of hiring a lawyer to “dig up dirt” on him; and SA Best candidate for Ramsay, Tarnia George has filed a complaint with the Electoral Commission of South Australia over an independent candidate’s branding.
Seats in the Spotlight
Advertiser-Galaxy polling in the seats of Labor-held Lee and Liberal-held Morialta has revealed that SA Best is nipping at the heels of the incumbents.
- Lee (Labor – 2.5%*) – The seat of Lee is significantly weakened for Labor this election, losing Largs and Semaphore to the Port Adelaide electorate, while gaining Grange and Seaton from Colton as part of the electoral boundary redistribution. The more marginal status of Lee puts incumbent Labor member and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan at heightened risk. Polling shows Liberal candidate Steven Rypp ahead on 39 per cent of the primary vote, with Minister Mullighan on 34 per cent, and SA Best’s Andy Legrand on 18. With unknown preference flows from SA Best, the outcome for Lee is too close to call.
- Morialta (Liberal – 11.5%*) – Usually considered a safe Liberal seat, Morialta is held by Shadow Education and Arts Spokesperson John Gardner. Polling suggests Mr Gardner has lost 15 per cent of his primary vote since the 2014 election, largely transferring to SA Best candidate James Sadler, who is polling at 25 per cent. With Mr Gardner polling below 50 per cent and SA Best out-polling Labor, the preference flows will be complex. A third-placed Labor means the direction of their preferences will be vital to the outcome and the Liberals will likely be seeking a commitment from the Labor Party for a preference deal.
*Notional margin, following redistribution, based on 2014 State Election results.