South Australian election minus two days

Perhaps fittingly, the closing week of a flat and lacklustre South Australian election campaign has been dominated by back-and-forth claims over campaign advertising.

In the dying days of the South Australian election campaign, voters yearning for the vision thing have instead been treated to a series of spats over truth-in-advertising:

• Electoral Commissioner Kay Mousley has apologised to Nick Xenophon after he was sent a letter which mistakenly told him his complaint about Labor-authorised posters saying the “X-Team policy is to cut wages” had been upheld. The letter was supposed to say the advertising was “not misleading”, but crucially omitted the former word. This prompted Xenophon to make public statements about the complaint being upheld. He rejected Labor’s call for an apology when the matter was clarified, saying the ruling was based on a “technicality”.

• Carolyn Habib, the Liberal candidate for the crucial Labor-held margin of Elder, has accused Labor of a “thinly veiled racist attack” over leaflets it has disseminated headed “can you trust Habib?”, which tenuously attack her over rate increases at the City of Marion, where she is a councillor. Steven Marshall responded that there was “no room for racism in South Australian politics”, and even federal Attorney-General has weighed in that the pamphlet was “overtly racist”. While the phrases “thinly veiled” and especially “overtly” may be off the mark, it is interesting to observe, as does Sarah Martin of The Australian, that the distinctive typeface used in the heading was last seen in the Rudd government’s “you won’t be settled in Australia” advertisements, ostensibly targeted at asylum seekers yet curiously run primarily in Australian newspapers. Nonetheless, conservative Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi won points for intellectual consistency for demurring from the party line, asking “how it’s racist to use someone’s surname”.

• Responding to the above, Jay Weatherill took pleasure in observing there was “only one party who have been found guilty by the Electoral Commissioner to have put out inaccurate and misleading information and that’s the Liberal Party”. This referred to a ruling requiring the party to withdraw and retract a radio advertisement it paid for and authorised which was voiced by Mel Calone, an independent candidate for the seat of Lee who is campaigning against the government over its handling of the school sex abuse issue. Calone said Jay Weatherill “chose not to tell parents” about the rape of a seven-year-old school student, which was at odds with the findings of the Debelle royal commmission. Personally, I have my doubts about the value of charging the Electoral Commissioner with ruling on such issues, which inevitably draw her into the partisan conflict that surrounds them.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

34 comments on “South Australian election minus two days”

  1. Oh, Christ it’s all so uninspiring.

    Labor probably deserve to be re-elected, but the “it’s time” factor is going to bite them on the arse, I’m afraid.

    Although I note that Vicki Chapman is locked in a box somewhere. Not leaving anything to chance, obviously 😉

  2. Let’s say you were an ALP “strategist” and you were thinking long term, the goal for this election is to aim to hold around 18-22 seats. That way, it makes it much easier to get back into government next time. Even if they somehow manage to do the impossible and win this Saturday, it will probably be a Queensland 2012/NSW 2011 result next time round.

    If you look at the Queensland and NSW oppositions, their ability to win is extremely difficult because of how bad it was last time. By contrast if you look at Victoria, they’ll be back in this year because they have enough to work with. The more seats, the easier the job! … And let’s face it, this is the SA Liberal Party we’re talking about. They’ll do everything in their power to lose it in one term! 😀

  3. [this is the SA Liberal Party we’re talking about. They’ll do everything in their power to lose it in one term! ]

    It’s a startling fact that the last time the SA Liberals won a lower house majority at two successive elections was in 1959 and 1962, and that was only done with the help of the Playmander. Since Playford lost office in 1965 they’ve only won a majority three times: 1968 (still with Playmander), 1979 and 1993.

  4. spur212, if Labor somehow escape this with victory then the Liberal Party would probably self destruct into the totally divided party that they have been in the past. We probably would see at least Evans, Champman and Hamilton-Smith make plays for the leadership. We might also see some members retire creating by-elections and who know what would happen if they are fighting by-elections while clearly divided again.

    However the chances of this happening are so slim it is not really worth seriously considering. Under Marshall they seem to be more united and if they win the election he should get support for a while unless things completely fall apart.

  5. Edi

    I reefer you to what happened after the 1993 State Bank election. They’re far more disorganised now than they were back then. I’d give Marshall about a year or so before Iain Evans or MHS makes a play for the job. Really, he’s just a fix to clear the election hurdle

  6. Thanks for the insight into the prospective Liberal Party caucus Spur. Quite prescient. Quick question how long do you give Weatherill after Saturday??

  7. spur212, This Wok in a Box stuff cannot help Marshall, but how much will it hurt him and Liberals I am not sure.

    I also not the caption under the reporter at the end said “WORKERS CLAIM”. They only provided one worker so making it plural is inaccurate. It should have said WORKER CLAIMS.

    Also if Marshall is going well in 18 months time I think he would be safe. It would frustrate those with ambition for the job but I doubt even the Liberals would ditch a popular premier.

  8. William, with the greatest respect, the Independent, Mel Calone, you refer to in your opening is running for the seat of Lee, not Wright, and her campaign is being paid for by the Liberal Party.

    The Independent for the seat of Wright is Danyse Soester whose children previously attended the ‘child abuse school’ as it is known as colloquially, and who is being back by Nick Xenophon. It is fair to say that Danyse pretty much was the public face of the parent community in the aftermath of the cover up.

  9. While we all like to poke a little bit of fun at the Liberals for leadership troubles and make predictions of Marshall being overthrown in the next four years, we should be mindful that it’s only happened once before and once definitely doesn’t represent a pattern.

    In fact, the Liberals may well be that mindful of what they did last time that they adamantly stand by Marshall to the bitter end (regardless of how the polls go), just to prove that they are loyal and not premier killers, much like how one predicts that federal Labor will be extra hesitant about toppling a PM next time it’s in power.

    Having said that, Iain Evans has been proudly boasting the Rightists that he’s managed to get preselected and how that is going to boost his faction’s standing in the party, so you never know.

    But I’d put my money on Marshall being Premier at the next election.

  10. Moderate,
    In contrast to the SA Liberal Party the SA Labor Party has a history of stable leadership. Yes there was a bit of a messy hand over from Rann to Weatherill but Rann had been in the job for a long time. The last four Labor leaders, Weatherill, Rann, Arnold and Bannon span over 30 years.
    It could all change, Weatherill might not be the leader after the election but the previous evidence is the SA Labor Party will choose a leader and stick by them.

  11. CM

    You’re right in being cautious about political predictions … that being said, I suggest taking a look at what’s happened to the Victorian Liberal Party. They’re more organised than they are in SA

  12. Weatherill will stop down if they lose (an almost certain outcome), which is normal for a party when it gets toppled from power.

    If, in the extremely unlikely event Labor does win, then I don’t think we can bank on Labor’s stability from the last 20 years keeping JW safe. While it’s perfectly plausible he could stay on, the government will probably find itself in an increasingly worse position, polling-wise (I suspect, if Labor hold on, the next election will be “baseball bat” territory) and, with that, the party will get increasingly desperate and topple him.

  13. Weatherill terminated his career in the ALP, as well as any chance of winning the election, with his absurd petulant tantrum over Farrell. And it’ll be a long time before the Left get given the leadership again.

    Rau is 54 which is a bit old for a new leader.

  14. Whilst Weatherill’s reaction to Farrell’s possible candidacy was a bit ridiculous, Farrell’s lack of judgement in announcing his candidacy only weeks before the writs were issued was pretty pathetic IMHO. Shows a complete lack of political judgement and disrespect to the voters of the electorate. It a shame because everyone I know who has worked or had dealings with Farrell have found him to be quite a gentleman.

    A better bet for the ALP will be Stephen Mulligan who is being groomed by the right (even though he would be a sophomore MP). Koutsantonis isn’t the right choice.

    After all of that, the whisperings I am hearing out of ALP headquarters is the feeling the goose isn’t quite cooked yet …

  15. I can tell you the chance of Jay Weatherill staying as Labor leader after the election for longer than it takes time for Don Farrell to pick up the phone and say ‘go’ is NIL.

    But I don’t think the Left will ever be given the leadership again as long as the ALP exist. They may take over the ALP and do it, but given it..forget it.

  16. [After all of that, the whisperings I am hearing out of ALP headquarters is the feeling the goose isn’t quite cooked yet …]

    I gather the feeling is that a hung parliament is still possible. But in that event Labor should resign and let Marshall form a minority government, in the pretty reasonable hope that it will be a failure. Weatherill sticking around in a minority would be a recipe for an absolute massacre at the next election.

  17. [Weatherill sticking around in a minority would be a recipe for an absolute massacre at the next election.]

    Absolutely. The difference between now and 2002 (the last hung parliament) is this one is a result of the tide turning against Labor, rather than the Liberals. If Labor retained a minority government, it would look like they’re desperately holding on against the will of the people.

    Of course, it would be severely unlikely that Labor could win a minority government with the potential crossbenchers, as they all seem to be country independents or populists who’ll go with the state tide. Also, unless they want to make this their last term, it’d probably be electoral suicide for an independent to back Labor this time.

  18. I think Mullighan is definitely a suitable candidate for the job. I think we’ll probably initially see someone like Snelling in the top job but he won’t last that long and certainly won’t be Premier. I think the Right and Left would be best suited to getting Mullighan and Close into the cabinet and putting them in as Leader and Deputy respectively.

    This assumes, of course, that Mullighan wins in Lee, as the seat is not a dead cert for Labor.

  19. They wouldn’t put Mulligan in right away. They’d give him a bit of parliamentary experience first. I agree that he’d be a good choice. Preferable to someone like Koutsantonis who has a bit of a reputation down here for being a dickhead

  20. TT

    If I was Labor I would do an ad in the Tiser for tomorrow copying the headline ‘Abbott sends in the drones’, cross out the word ‘Drones’ and replace with ‘Clowns’ and underneath a pic of Steven Marshall with the line, ‘Don’t bother, they’re here’.

    Or maybe only I have a deep knowledge of politics AND musicals.

  21. Abbott might be sending in the drones … but he didn’t bother inviting Jay Weatherill to the announcement at the Edinburgh RAAF Base today, but did invite Stephen Marshall.


  22. There are polls on Mitchell and Newland coming out at 4.00pm local time according to The Advertiser. “Spectacular results” apparently

  23. If the ALP holds seats like Mitchell and Newland, I reckon we might be looking at a hung parliament. I reckon they’ll hold Light, Colton and Mawson. Not sure about the rest under 5% 2PP. Some say the ALP are quietly confident in Elder. Maybe it’s seats higher up the pendulum that will fall.

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