The South Australian election campaign is now officially on, with the Premier visiting the Governor yesterday to advise the issuing of the writs. Here are some doings since this blog’s last South Australian instalment:
• Thursday’s Advertiser had two ReachTEL polls from the electorates of Mount Gambier and MacKillop in the state’s south-eastern corner. The Mount Gambier poll turned up a remarkably strong result for Troy Bell, who won the seat for the Liberals from an independent in 2014, then became an independent himself when charges of mishandling public funds were laid against him in August. Bell was credited with 36.3% of the primary vote, well clear of Liberal candidate Craig Marsh on 28.5%, with Labor on 13.3%, a then-unspecified SA Best candidate on 11.3%, others on 5.8%, and 4.7% undecided. According to Daniel Wills of The Advertiser, the result matches up with “steady rumblings coming from Mount Gambier for some time”. The poll was conducted on Tuesday from a sample of 665.
• In MacKillop, which is being vacated by the retirement of Liberal member Mitch Williams, ReachTEL had Liberal candidate Nick McBride on 56.7%, with SA Best on 15.8% and Labor on 12.1%. The sample for the MacKillop poll was 615; it too was conducted on Tuesday.
• Labor is without a lead upper house candidate after Leesa Vlahos announced on Friday she would not contest the election. Vlahos resigned from cabinet in September, ostensibly for health reasons, but following a patient abuse scandal at the Oakden aged care facility that embroiled her as Disabilities Minister. The scheduled publication of an Independent Commission Against Corruption report on management at Oakden for February 26 loomed as a major campaign headache for Labor, and Vlahos’s resignation announcement acknowledged that her candidacy “could become a distraction at this most important time”. Vlahos has been member for the lower house seat of Taylor since 2010, and was set to move to the upper house in preselection arrangements arising from the redistribution.
• The vacancy at the top of the Labor upper house ticket is reserved for the Right faction, which appears unsure as to whether it should promote its fourth-placed candidate, Clair Scriven, or bring in a newcomer. Tom Richardson at InDaily reports it is deemed necessary that the nominee have a regional background, which Scriven is said to have through connections to Mount Gambier. Others in the picture are “Emily Bourke, who works in the Premier’s office and has links to the Yorke Peninsula, and Lucy Pilkington, a former media adviser to Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis who hails from Naracoorte, and whose brother Ben Hood, ironically, was at one point in the mix as a potential Liberal candidate in Mount Gambier”.
• SA Best now has candidates in thirty-five seats, of which twenty are Liberal seats in post-redistribution terms, compared with fourteen for Labor, plus independent-held Mount Gambier. Pointing to the imbalance between Liberal and Labor seats, Steven Marshall accused Nick Xenophon of targeting the Liberals ahead of a post-election deal with Labor, to which Xenophon responded by initiating defamation proceedings against him.
• InDaily reports that Labor believes the SA Best disturbance is indeed opening new opportunities in Liberal seats. Newly added to the Labor’s list of target seats are Adelaide and Black, the notionally Liberal seat of Colton, and even Hartley and Steven Marshall’s seat of Dunstan, where I’m told a Labor internal poll showed nothing in it.
• The Advertiser reports Labor will direct preferences to Liberal ahead of SA Best in 23 seats, vice-versa in another 23, and run a split ticket in all-important Hartley. However, no decision has been made as to which parties will be favoured in which seats.
• InDaily reports the Australian Conservatives now have candidates for thirty-three seats, after saying at first they would be limited to ten to fifteen. The party’s state leader, Dennis Hood, spoke of “an extraordinary number of people coming forward”.
• InDaily reports Campbelltown deputy mayor Marijka Ryan will join the crowded field in Hartley as an independent. Ryan was until recently a member of both the Liberal Party and Australian Conservatives, and unsuccessfully sought Liberal preselection for Torrens.