South Australian election minus 11 days

Some more local colour from an otherwise colourless campaign, for an election now less than two weeks away.

A second round-up of local happenings as the sedate campaign for South Australia’s state election crawls to its March 15 conclusion:

Colton (Labor 3.6%): As noted at the tail end of Saturday’s Newspoll post, a Galaxy automated phone poll of 495 respondents published in the Sunday Mail provided Labor with a measure of encouragement by showing Labor incumbent Paul Caica tied with Liberal challenger Joe Barry on two-party preferred, representing a swing to the Liberals of 3.6%. The primary votes were 45% for Labor (46.3% at the 2010 election), 46% for the Liberals (39.9%), 5% for the Greens (8.2%) and 4% for Family First (3.5%). Caica seems to be a very popular and well-recognised local member, recording a 58% satisfaction rating versus 22% dissatisfied, whereas Steven Marshall has a 42-39 edge over Jay Weatherill as preferred premier. Sixty-two per cent of respondents anticipate a Liberal victory against only 27% for Labor.

Lee (Labor 7.7%): Following in the footsteps of Danyse Soester in Wright, another campaigner against the government over its handling of the school sex abuse issue, Mel Calone, will run as an independent under a “put Labor last” banner in the north-western suburbs electorate of Lee. However, Labor has found cause to dispute her bona fides as an independent after the Liberal Party paid for and authorised a radio advertisement in which she states her case. Lauren Novak of The Advertiser reports that Calone is a former ALP member who has worked for the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union and the Australian Services Union.

Hartley (Labor 0.1%): The Liberals have complained to the Electoral Commission over a fundraising letter sent by Labor member Grace Portolesi to a public servant at her Education Department workplace, and queried whether its invitation to purchase raffle tickets amounted to an electoral bribe. Portolesi told Michael McGuire of The Advertiser that the material was being sent to those who requested it at the address they nominated.

Adelaide (Liberal 4.2%): Labor has proposed that the site of the soon-to-be-relocated Royal Adelaide Hospital be converted into a second city high school specialising in health and sciences, with construction to begin in 2017 at a cost of $46.5 million over forward estimates. The Liberals want to keep the site as a privately run medical facility and meet demand for city schooling by spending $75 million on a second Adelaide High School campus on West Terrace, to be linked to the existing campus by a foot bridge.

Mitchell (Labor 2.5%): Labor has promised to spend $2.5 million turning Seaview High School into a specialist manufacturing school with a view to preparing students for employment at the manufacturing hub being developed at the site of the old Mitsubishi plant at Tonsley Park.

Elder (Labor 1.7%): A further Labor plan for the Tonsley Park site, announced last week, is to spend $30 million establishing a resources precinct that will consolidate drill core library facilities which currently store rock samples at various locations around the state. The Liberals, who have been kept well supplied by highly sourced leaks during the campaign, were promptly able to point to a business plan which questioned whether the sale of the existing sites would bring in the money budgeted for, raising concerns about contamination at one of the existing sites in Thebarton.

Kaurna (Labor 8.8%): Kym Richardson, who held the federal seat of Kingston for the Liberals from 2004 to 2007, is running as an independent in the corresponding southern suburbs seat being vacated by the retirement of Labor’s John Hill.

UPDATE: Another Galaxy poll for The Advertiser, this time from the seat of Adelaide, shows on swing at all in the one seat Labor were hoping to snare from the Liberals. The poll has Liberal incumbent Rachel Sanderson leading Labor candidate David O’Loughlin 54-46, with primary votes of 49% for Sanderson, 39% for O’Loughlin, the Greens on 8% and Dignity for Disability on 4%. The poll was conducted on Tuesday night from a sample of 587.

Newspoll: 54-46 to Liberal in South Australia

Two weeks out from polling day, Newspoll provides further evidence that the South Australian Liberals are headed for a solid win. UPDATE: And now a Galaxy poll with a 50-50 result in the marginal seat of Colton …

The Australian reports that a Newspoll survey of 1100 respondents is consistent with the tenor of other pre-election polling in giving the Liberals a decisive 54-46 lead on two-party preferred, from primary votes of 44% for the Liberals, 34% for Labor and 7% for the Greens. Personal ratings contain further ominous signs for Labor, with Steven Marshall effectively catching up with Jay Weatherill on the preferred premier measure (Weatherill leads, but only by 40-39), and Weatherill recording a negative net approval rating for the first time (43% approval and 44% disapproval). Marshall records 45% approval and 29% disapproval. The Australian also reports the poll shows most respondents saying there is no chance they will change their vote, and an overwhelming expectation that the Liberals will win.

In other news, this week also saw the closure of nominations and ballot paper draws. The Poll Bludger election guide has accordingly been updated with full candidate lists in ballot paper order. Upper house above-the-line preference tickets have also been lodged, and can be perused at the Electoral Commission website.

UPDATE: And now the Sunday Mail brings us a Galaxy automated phone poll of 495 respondents from the key western suburbs marginal of Colton which, somewhat encouragingly for Labor, has the result at 50-50. GhostWhoVotes has posted the paper’s graphic, which suggests Labor’s Paul Caica to be a popular local member:

South Australian election minus three weeks

An assortment of electorate-level news snippets as the March 15 South Australian state election moves closer into view.

There are now less than three weeks to go until polling day in South Australia (and indeed in Tasmania, which I’ll get around to eventually), which is around the time I start to take state election campaigns seriously. The all-important television advertisements can be viewed here for Labor and here for the Liberals. As is usually the case when a party has been in government for over a decade, it’s the opposition’s advertisements that pack the greater punch.

What follows is a quick review of noteworthy local developments, which have been drawn upon to update the relevant entries in the Poll Bludger election guide:

Napier (Labor 16.1%): Labor’s candidate to replace Michael O’Brien in its second safest seat is Jon Gee, secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s vehicle division. Gee prevailed in a vote of the party’s state executive over Dave Garland, a factionally unaligned official with the National Union of Workers. Following the collapse of O’Brien’s plan to relinquish his seat to Senator Don Farrell, Gee’s endorsement was described by David Washington of InDaily as “another assertion of Premier Jay Weatherill’s authority over the party’s dominant Right faction”. While Gee’s union is aligned with the Right in South Australia, it is not part of the bloc associated with Farrell and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. Lauren Novak of The Advertiser reported that Weatherill was keen to see the seat go to Gee due to his “close connections with the northern suburbs and Holden”.

Wright (Labor 4.6%): Danyse Soester, who has gained a high media profile as a parent concerned with the school sex abuse scandal and its handling by the government and the Education Department, has announced she will run as an independent against Education Minister Jennifer Rankine. Soester has won backing from Nick Xenophon, and has ruled out directing preferences to Labor or supporting them in government in the event of a hung parliament. Her announcement scored her a front page photo story in The Advertiser, although it was soon followed by a column in which the paper’s Amanda Blair dismissed Soester as “a poster girl for the conspiracy theorists”, and “a blow-up doll inflated at every media opportunity by the likes of Nick Xenophon and shadow education minister David Pisoni”.

Ramsay (Labor 17.8%): Anthony Antoniadis, the Liberal candidate for Labor’s safest seat, has gone to ground following the emergence of Facebook posts in which he made unflattering reflections on residents in the area he aspires to represent. The comments generally related to his experiences as manager of a news agency at the Parabanks Shopping Centre, a typical example reading: “Welcome to Salisbury. A mother speaking to her 6-year-old son: ‘Get out of my f*@%ing way and sit down. I want to play Keno.’”

Reynell (Labor 10.5%): Daniel Wills of The Advertiser reported on Thursday that multiple local residents had been left with “sorry I missed you” messages in very different styles of handwriting, all purporting to be from Labor candidate Katrine Hildyard.

Legislative Council: Liam Mannix of InDaily reports that the man who made preference harvesting a household name, Glenn Druery, is on a retainer from the state branch of the Shooters & Fishers Party. However, his endeavours might be complicated by a rival alliance based around the Liberal Democratic Party, with which Druery was once associated. The latter grouping has dubbed itself the Fair Minor Party Alliance, with Liberal Democrat principal Michael Noack claiming it encompasses five of the 11 small parties planning to run. Druery accuses it of running “front groups in the form of Smokers Rights and Hemp”. The distinction between the rival groups appears to be fairly loose, with most if not all micro-parties likely to preference each other ahead of the major and established minor parties.

ReachTEL: 55-45 to Liberal in South Australia

A new ReachTEL poll for the March 15 South Australian state election provides the exact same two-party preferred result as last week’s Galaxy poll.

GhostWhoVotes relates that a ReachTEL automated phone poll, which I’m guessing was conducted for Channel Seven, concurs with the recent Galaxy poll in having the Liberals with an election-winning lead of 55-45. Primary votes are 31.3% for Labor, 42.3% for Liberal, 18.4% for “others” including the Greens and 8% for undecided, which taking the latter out of the equation results in 34%, 46% and 20%. Steven Marshall leads Jay Weatherill as preferred premier 58.5-41.5, but ReachTEL’s findings on personal ratings can be a bit unusual owing to the absence of an undecided option.

UPDATE: Full results here.

South Australian election guide: March 15

Introducing the Poll Bludger’s comprehensive seat-by-seat guide to South Australia’s March 15 state election.

The Poll Bludger’s guide to the South Australian state election is open for business, offering comprehensive overviews of each of the state’s 47 lower house electoral districts including, in most cases, booth result maps (with an upper house guide to follow when I can find time). Labor goes into the election with 26 seats against 18 for the Liberals, with three independents. The numbers are unchanged from the 2010 election, there having been no party resignations or defeats for incumbent parties at by-elections.

Labor did remarkably well to secure the above score line at the 2010 election, given that they were outpolled 51.6-48.4 on two-party preferred. The margins listed on the election guide entry page tell the story, with Labor holding 11 of their 26 seats by 5% or less compared with only three for the Liberals, and the Liberals holding five seats on margins equal to or greater than Labor’s safest seat. This may point to a difficulty for a one-vote one-value regime in delivering balanced party representation when conservative support is strongly concentrated outside the city, Labor’s only substantial basis of support outside Adelaide being in the declining “iron triangle” cities. Of these, only Whyalla continues to furnish Labor with a reliable seat in Giles, with Port Augusta and Port Pirie respectively subsumed in the conservative seats of Stuart and Frome. By contrast, Adelaide is home to swathe of marginal seats which appear, on the basis of the 2010 result, to have a slight natural lean to Labor.

A provision in the state’s constitution requiring that an effort be made to achieve “electoral fairness” has for most of the past two decades resulted in redistributions after each election which have specifically aimed to even up any biases, the target being to guarantee victory to the party that exceeds 50% in the event of a uniform swing. That assumption was seriously confounded by the 2010 result, at which the only two swings to Labor in the whole state happened to be in their two most marginal seats (Light and Mawson, at Adelaide’s northern top and southern tail). Elsewhere, a combined 9.4% swing in Adelaide deflated Labor margins in a brace of seats where blowouts had occurred in their favour in 2010, but only Adelaide, Morialta and Norwood switched to the Liberal column (Norwood, its name now changed to Dunstan, was won from Labor by none other than Steven Marshall, who took less than three years to rise from marginal seat challenger to Opposition Leader).

As I wrote in Crikey last week, this caused the boundaries commissioners to put the uniform swing objective into the too-hard basket, and they proceeded with an unambitious redistribution that contented itself with clipping Labor’s wings in marginal seats where the opportunity presented itself. Consequently, a Liberal Party that starts from a 2010 election base of 51.6% needs to gain still more to win office, so long as the uniform swing assumption holds. Three pieces of low-hanging fruit are available in the form of Hartley (0.1%), Bright (0.5%) and Ashford (0.6%), but beyond that point the Liberals run into the problem of the three independents, all from naturally conservative seats – Don Pegler in Mount Gambier, which was last held by Labor in 1975; Geoff Brock in Frome, where Labor’s base of support in Port Pirie is more outweighed by surrounding country territory; and the naturally conservative seat of Fisher in foothills suburbs in southern Adelaide, which former Liberal MP Bob Such has held as an independent since quitting the party in 2000.

The Liberals have talked up their chances in all three, but Bob Such in particular will surely be very hard to shake loose, having won by 16.6% in 2010. However, a trend against independents around the country over recent years suggests Geoff Brock can take nothing for granted in Frome, which he won narrowly at a by-election in 2009 and retained by 7.5% at the general election the following year. Mount Gambier is hard to predict, as sitting member Don Pegler won by a hair’s breadth in 2010 upon the retirement of another independent, Rory McEwen. Independents generally perform well after they have had a term to entrench themselves, but a mood for majority government might make this time an exception. There appears an outside prospect of independents poaching metropolitan seats from Labor in Lee, where popular local mayor Gary Johanson is targeting a seat where the Labor member is retiring, and Mitchell, where Labor-turned-independent MP Kris Hanna is trying again after retaining the seat as an independent in 2006, then falling short in 2010. There are no major independent threats in Liberal seats that I am aware of; the Nationals lost their only seat to the Liberals in 2010, and do not seem likely to make a comeback this time.

Should Pegler, Brock and Such remain where they are, that leaves the Liberals needing another three seats if they are to go all the way, which the pendulum suggests is likely if they achieve a swing of 3%. That doesn’t seem a particularly high mountain to climb for an opposition facing a 12-year-old government, but it requires a two-party preferred win of beyond 54-46, which is not something the polls have been crediting them with with any consistency. Failing that though, as the 2010 result makes clear, it’s by no means impossible that a smaller swing can give them what they need provided it’s fortuitously distributed.

If one South Australian election guide isn’t enough for you, Ben Raue’s typically thorough effort is available here, and I gather Antony Green’s should be along any day now.

UPDATE (31/1): A fairly comprehensive update to my entry for the seat of Napier will shortly be required following gobsmacking developments, in which a) member Michael O’Brien announced he would make way in the seat for Don Farrell, the principal powerbroker of his Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association faction and a soon-to-be former Senator and powerbroker, b) Jay Weatherill threatened in an ABC Radio to quit politics if this proceeded, invoking Farrell’s involvement in the 2010 coup against Kevin Rudd and agreeing voters might perceive a possibility that Farrell would move against him after the election, and and c) Farrell backed down and announced he would make no further efforts to pursue a career in politics when his Senate term expires in the middle of the year.