South Australian 2006 Election Diary
And So it Came to Pass - Labor in a Landslide
Monday, 20th March, 2006
No miracle this weekend with the Liberals managing only a tick over a third of the vote - right down there with the worst performances ever by a major party in a state election. The final count will be a week in coming but it is clear that this will be Labor's biggest ever victory in South Australia.
All Over Bar the Voting
Saturday, 18th March, 2006
It is all over bar the voting if the opinion poll and the betting are any guide. Newspoll in The Australian puts the two party preferred figures at 57% for Labor and 43% for the Liberals. With a standard deviation of 2.5% that makes Labor a 99.7% chance of winning. In The Advertiser the split is 56 to 44 making it a 99.2% chance of Labor retaining government. No wonder that the best the bookmakers will offer you is a wine of a single cent for every dollar invested.
Trying to Find Some Excitement
Friday, 17th March, 2006
They were trying desperately on the excellent ABC morning radio program to inject some excitement in to tomorrow's poll. The poor blokes have to spend hours on Saturday night talking about it so they can be forgiven for talking up the slight evidence of a Liberal Party improvement shown by a couple of small sample polls in individual electorates taken for The Advertiser. The real guide, the betting market, still has Labor virtually unbackable at 50 to 1 on - win 2 cents for every dollar invested.
Bringing Out an Old Favourite as the Encore
Tuesday, 14th March, 2006
One of the truly great political advertisements was the Memories commercial the Liberals showed during the 1977 federal campaign which Labor lost by an even greater distance than the disaster of 1975. In scene after scene the television screen was filled with images of just what a hopeless mess the Whitlam Government had become before being thrown out while the song Memories played in the background. Nice to see that someone in the Labor team has a long memory and the sense of humour to resurrect the theme tonight in reminding people of why they got rid of a State Liberal government last time. The old headlines came flooding back to life to remind voters of privatisation and the ETSA sale and other assorted horrors.
For their part the Liberals at last have some dvertisements on the television screen but they should not have bothered. Good money is being thrown after bad by a party that must be close to stoney broke. They could barely afford to buy a balloon for the campaign launch on Sunday! The advertising highlight of the evening was Nick Xenophon's use of Rann and Kerin puppets. If this man does not poll a quota for the Legislative Council in his own right I'll be staggered. He is a genius of a campaigner who has received almost as much coverage as all the Liberal Party members combined.
A Day Off for the Races
Monday, 13th March, 2006
The election race looks as good as over so why not go off to the Adelaide Cup? The Liberals might as well stay there until they go round again on Saturday for all the good they are doing on the campaign trail. The party's deputy leader Iain Evans showed he hasn't studied the results in the last West Australian election with his criticism of Labor for not "reforming" trading hours so that shops could open on this pubhlic holiday. The people of the West were given their say in a referendum on just this question when they went to the polls and overwhelmingly voted against liberalising. Yet Mr Evans wants the shops open because "business is missing out on millions of dollars" while the workers just want the chance to back a winner. I hope they got on Clare Lindop at the 10s because there's no future in the bookies quote of $1.01 about Mike Rann in five days time.
Murdoch Papers Like Winners so Vote 1 Labor
Sunday, 12th March, 2006
On page 19 the Sunday Mail opinion poll had Labor leading the Liberals 55 to 45 on a two party preferred basis which could give them 30 of the 47 seats in the House of Assembly if it turned out to be true. No surprise then to find the editorial 20 pages further on proclaiming "Labor is the only choice." The only rule for Murdoch papers around the world is wherever possible support the winner and when you don't know, sit on the fence.
The Mail's editor is obviously in no doubt. "South Australians must not hesitate next Saturday. Mike Rann and the Government should be re-elected to build on the progress of their first term and to deliver on their promises. For now, the Liberals deserve nothing more than at least four more years in the wilderness."
Hi Tech Law and Order
Thursday, 10th March, 2006
The two negatives thrown up by Labor Party research are clearly hospitals and law and order. They are the themes that the Rann Government keeps making announcements about. Today it was laura's turn with the Attorney General promising a little bit of hi tech to keep track of arsonists and pedophiles when they are released on parole. If re-elected a Labor Government will use satellite tracking to keep tabs on where the parolees spend their time. A similar pilot program is being trialled in Western Australia.
If You Do the Crime, Choose Your Time
Wednesday, 8th March, 2006
Good defence lawyers acting for guilty people should keep in mind the need to avoid sentencing dates for their clients that are anywhere near an election day. Last week a female teacher had the misfortune to front up before a judge when Labor and Liberal were trying to out do each other in being tough on law and order. Fortunately for the woman His Honour was not swayed by the political climate and gave her a suspended two year and four month jail term after pleading guilty to three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a student when she was a music teacher. Premier Mike "I'm Tougher Than You Are" Rann immediately put his indignation into gear, called for a report on the case from Attorney General Michael Atkinson, described the former teacher's actions as "an incredible breach of trust" and declared she should never teach again.
What, if anything, Mr Atkinson will ever report, goodness only knows. Decisions on appeals against sentences thankfully are made by an independent Director of Public Prosecutions and not the Attorney General. And the South Australian DPP Stephen Pallaras QC has what could best be described as "balls". He has had several run ins with Government Ministers from the Premier down since being appointed last year and has not taken a backward step in the face of some appallingly rude treatment.
Yesterday as Mr Pallaras announced there would be no appeal against the sentence where there were no issues "with which anyone with any legal background could quibble", he declined to name the Premier. Somewhat pointedly he did say it was "always best when politicians don't seek to make mileage out of criminal proceedings."
A State of Speed
Tuesday, 7th March, 2006
South Australia the speedy state. That could be the Liberal Party slogan with Liberal regional development spokesman Mitch Williams calling for higher speed limits. The Rann Government, said Mr Williams, was reducing speed limits by stealth. The limits were being reduced to 100km/h from 110 km/h after repairs were carried out as part of "a secret campaign by Labor to drop the limit on country roads. Once again rural people are being kicked in the guts ...; 100km/h speed limits on country roads will simply turn law-abiding citizens into cash cows." Mr Williams had no comment to make on South Australia having the country's highest road accident death rate.
A Two Edged Advertisement
Monday, 6th March, 2006
Television stations feeling the loss of revenue from the Liberal Party's advertising absence will be grateful to the Public Service Association for stepping in to the breach with a $250,000 campaign complaining about Liberal plans to cut 4000 of South Australia's 70,000 public service jobs. The union thinks it can help the Labor Party cause but while those directly on the hit list might be worried I suspect that in the wider community there will be plenty of support for the Liberal proposal that the union is publicising.
A Reason to Vote Liberal
Sunday, 5th March, 2006
So far the Liberals have not put a television advertisement to air. For someone who hates to have his Law and Order disrupted on a Sunday evening that's a very good reason to vote Liberal! I'm getting sick of Premier Mike Rann taking credit for a Federal Government decision to build destroyers in Adelaide. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was right in declaring that "all that Mr Rann has to run at this election campaign is federal projects for which he is not responsible." Right because he did not interrupt a rattling good show to say it.
Would Two Nicks be Better than One?
Saturday, 4th March, 2006
Greg Kelton, the political reporter for The Advertiser. is prepared to make bold predictions. This morning Mr Kelton asserted, with no ifs, buts or maybes, that No Pokies MP Nick Xenophon "is assured of retaining his seat in the Upper House." The reason for the optimism was an opinion poll taken for his paper showing voting intentions for the Legislative Council that put Mr Xenophon on 10 per cent. With 11 members to be elected, a Council quota is 8.33% which led Mr Kelton to suggest that "the high profile MP has an outside chance of winning a second seat for one of his running mates - drug rehabilitation pioneer Ann Bressington."
The full poll findings were :
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL VOTING INTENTION
The Advertiser report gave no details of the sample size but said the poll was conducted last Wednesday night. Adjusting the figures by distributing the 10% informal and undecided in the same proportion as the other findings would put the total vote for parties other than Labor and Liberal at over 32%. At the last election the actual third party and independent share was 27%.
It certainly does look like the voters are turning against the major parties and that as many as four of the 11 Legislative Council seats will be won by representatives of minor parties and independents.
Talking for the Preferences
Friday, 3rd March, 2006
Discussions between parties over second preferences are always a fraught time in the campaign cycle and so it is proving in South Australia. Former speaker Peter Lewis had been trying hard for weeks to ensure that the Family First Party gave him the nod by letting people know that the mother of his Liberal Party opponent had once taken out an apprehended violence order against her son. Alas, for Mr Lewis, it was not to be and Family First preferences are going to the Liberals. A "craven, hypocritical act, trading off preferences" by people who had abandoned their family values, he shouted as he abandoned the people of Hammond. Mr Lewis now thinks he has a better chance of being one of 11 people elected to the Legislative Council with a state wide vote of 8.5% than getting to 50% in his old Legislative Assembly seat.
Memories of Sir Tom
Thursday, 2nd March, 2006
In this wonderful age of privatisation it was interesting to be reminded that it was a Liberal Party leader who nationalised South Australia's electricity industry in the first place. Sir Thomas Playford was the man and 1946 was the year and Ralph Clarke is a man on a mission to get to get a future government to do it all again. Mr Clarke, deputy leader of the parliamentary Labor Party before being forced to quit in 1998 over allegations of domestic violence, is standing for the Legislative Council as an independent. His single issue campaign is based on buying back ETSA - "the same answer Playford came up with 60 years ago."
Memories of Premier Don
Wednesday, 1st March, 2006
Remember the safari suit? Remember Don Dunstan? On the eve of another Adelaide Festival how appropriate to resurrect the memory of the great Labor Premier. So the Democrat candidate for Norwood, David Winderlich, dressed in the finest fashion of the mid 1970s and proceeded up The Parade distributing posters advising people to "Think Dunstan - Vote Democrat". Premier Mike Rann thought it was a terrible slur on the man for whom he once wrote speeches but the veteran academic commentator on SA elections Dean Jaensch thought Don would not be a happy person if he came back to observe current political life because the ALP had swung so far to the right it could no longer be considered to be "traditional Labor".
A Wiz at Arithmetic
Tuesday, 28 February, 2006
There are more votes in motorists than pedestrians. That is the only conclusion to be reached from the reaction of politicians to a suggestion that there should be permanent 40km an hour speed limits around South Australian schools. A Mr Harold Scruby, calling himself chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, called for the speed zones to replace the current law which has a 25 km per hour limit but only at a time when a child is present in the zone. According to Mr Scruby, when motorists cannot see a pedestrian they can speed. "This is just ludicrous," he said. "It should be mandatory that people slow down at school zones."
Not so in the view of Labor Transport Minister Patrick Conlan. He is against any change because "we have a very safe model and, quite frankly, 25km/h is slower than 40 km/h." Opposition police spokesman Robert Brokenshire is clearly not as confident with his arithmetic as Mr Conlan. He called for more research on where pedestrian collisions were occurring.
Bob Page Says it All
Friday, 24th February, 2006
It needs to be said every election campaign and Bob Page of Glenside said it so well in a letter to The Advertiser this morning that I thought it should be repeated. So here it is. Empty Promises.
Voters be vigilant - remember that the past two state elections were won on empty promises, the most glaring example being in 1997, when premier John Olsen said "we are not pursuing a privatisation course with ETSA" (National 9 News 16/9/97), and "I have consistently said there will be no privatisation, and the position remains" (The Advertiser, 21/9/97).
Then deputy premier Graham Ingerson also assured us that ETSA was not for sale and emphasised the fact by adding "full stop ... full stop ... full stop ... full stop!"
Then at the last election, Mike Rann promised "Labor will fix our electricity systems", which really surprised me because I knew that he must have known what a 'dog's breakfast' the National Electricity Market was, and with the monopoly 'poles and wires' business in foreign hands, it was tantamount to saying Labor will fix the unfixable.
It is reprehensible that we are paying a virtual army of advisers and spin doctors whose main purpose is to influence the way we vote, by determining what our leaders hide from us, and how shrewdly worded what they they do tell us is, as as to make it ambiguous.
Sound advice. In an election campaign it pays to believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.
Rann Gets Results
Tuesday, 21st February, 2006
There's a simple message from the Labor Party: our man's better than your man. Hence the slogan Rann Gets Results. In a campaign without significant policy differences it is easy to see why it was chosen. Mike Rann must be about as popular a Premier as any state has ever had. Stressing the positives is what good campaigning is all about and he is the major positive. Over the next 25 days we can expect to get very familiar with Rann getting results.
Given the expectation that Labor will win easily it makes sense for the Democrats to base their campaign on the checks and balances that come from having minor parties in control of the Legislative Council. Democrats Leader Sandra Kranck should be talking about nothing else and she was on target yesterday saying that "without the protection of an independent Upper House nothing would be safe ... in a system that gave the premier of the day absolute power."
The problem for Ms Kranck and all the minor party candidates is to be heard when the major parties are making the election as presidential as possible. The Democrats solution is to use their web site in an effort to attract younger voters.
The Poles Signal in the Poll
Monday, 20th February, 2006
Like flowers blooming in spring or coloured leaves falling in autumn: the election season is marked by pictures bursting out on telephone poles. They were going up along the North Road when I drove home to Tanunda from the airport yesterday. Labor, Liberal and Democrat. Smiling faces all. And surely one of the most futile wastes of time, money and energy ever devised. Who in their right mind would vote for a face on a telephone pole?
Surely Nick Xenophon can do without this old campaign technique. After all, he has The Advertiser. There he is this morning smiling out from a banner atop page one with a beret wearing chihuahua . Inside on page three Laura Anderson reported that "frustrated political rivals have turned on stunt master Nick Xenophon." Their frustration will have grown when they saw the four photo spread which accompanied the words.
The Pollster Says 8 Per Cent
Friday 17th February 2006
There's do doubt about who the underdog is in this election. First The Australia's Newspoll and now The Advertiser have the Liberals well behind as we approach the formal start of the campaign on Monday when Premier Mike Rann is expected to trot off to see the Governor to have the writs issued for 18 March. According to The Advertiser the Labor Government has 57 per cent of the two party preferred vote to the 43 per cent of the Liberals. That's an eight per cent swing since the election of 2002 when Labor snuck in as a minority government supported by the National Party and independents.
Federal Nationals Flying in to Give Labor Government a Hand
Tuesday, 14th February, 2006
In less than a year he has become the biggest name in the National Party. Senator Barnaby Joyce is the one we journalists cannot stop writing about. And he's the one the South Australian National Party have called on to kick start their state election campaign. Senator Joyce is coming to Adelaide to talk at a lunch for Hank Swalue who is trying to unseat the sitting Liberal member for Flinders Liz Penfold. Also on the campaign trail is NSW National Senator Fiona Nash who will be out and about trying to help her party take the seat of Finniss which the retiring Dean Brown holds for the Liberals.
That campaigning is not the only reason for Liberals to feel a little peeved about the party which is their coalition partner in Canberra. In South Australia the Nationals not only are trying to win seats from the Liberals but are partners in government with the Labor Party. The sole National Party in the Legislative Assembly, Karlene Maywald, is the Minister for Regional Development, Small Business, Consumer Affairs, Science and Information Economy and the River Murray and says that Labor Premier Mike Rann has promised to keep her in the Cabinet if she and he are returned at the coming election.
So here we have it in South Australia. National Senators campaigning to help return a Labor Government.
Laura is Running Hard
Monday, 13th February, 2006
The Labor Party's campaign proper has not even begun yet but law and order is already off
and running hard. Surely it can only be days before one party or other promises to bring back the stocks. Premier Mike Rann has already gone close. He has pledged that young troublemakers will be "named and shamed" under a new anti-lout law that could see police displaying the photos of "hoons" in public places. Surely it would be more popular to give people the real thing?
Liberal Leader Rob Kerin and his police spokesman Robert Brokenshire appeared positively moderate, by comparison with Labor's fearless chief, when they promised 100 hours of community service for graffiti vandals the first time they offend. Their weekend stunt for the cameras was to declare, while standing at the graffiti daubed Goodwood railway station and tram overpass, that people had had a gutful of graffiti which was not art but vandalism. A second graffiti offence will attract 200 hours of supervised work in addition to any other penalties like fines that might be imposed by the courts.
Soft on crime, those Liberals, is what I say. Bring back the cat o' nine tails!
We're All in This Together
Thursday, 9th February, 2006
Many true words are sung in jest. The jingle "We're all in this together" has been blasting out of South Australian television screens for months now as the pictures show the amazing achievements of the Labor Government. And in it the locals all are. Or at least they are all paying for it. For this is not the fair dinkum Labor Party advertisement that it appears at first glance or hearing but a Labor Party advertisement masquerading as a South Australian government offering. In other words, a political party advertisement paid for by taxpayers. No wonder Premier Mike Rann does not want to officially declare a start to his election campaign. The moment he does Labor must start paying for its own propaganda.
A Spin Doctor Gives a Hand?
Wednesday, 8th February, 2006
Not quite the follow-up Rob Kerin would have wanted having chosen to make economic management his number one issue. The Advertiser's chief reporter Paul Starick this morning contrasted the State leader's policy speech comments about the state of South Australia with those of Federal leader John Howard late last year. While Mr Kerin argues that jobs and export growth have not kept pace with the national economic boom, Mr Howard speaks of good economic conditions, a low unemployment rate and SA making an enormous contribution to the nation's export performance. The piece had all the hallmarks of someone on the Labor campaign team helping the journalist find the appropriate quotes. More importantly it shows the difficulty the Opposition will have in making economic mismanagement by the Labor State government a winning issue.
An Early Start for a Liberal Leader
Tuesday, 7th February, 2006
It seemed a rough way to start an election campaign proper. Liberal Leader Rob Kerin being asked on a radio station if he would follow Bob Hawke's example and give up the drink if he won the election and became Premier. A variation on the "have you stopped beating your wife yet" question. A bit of Mark Latham like biff would have been the appropriate response but Mr Kerin, with 39 days to go, was in his responsible mood stressing the three themes of his policy launch the previous day: honesty, the economy and service delivery - "making sure services people want are there when they need them." The coming of the 9am news break saved him from a discussion of his drinking habits but my guess is that the knock-about Liberal Leader has no reason to worry on this score.
You've Just Got to Admire Him
Monday, 6th February, 2006
The Adelaide City Council by-laws allow people with sandwich boards to wander up and down the Rundle Mall spruiking any kind of shonky goods but politicians are banned from doing so. Which gave the irrepressible Nick Xenophon the opportunity to scream foul on ABC Radio before setting out at 11am with his board bearing his photo in the name of freedom of speech. The man does not miss a trick.
Queen of the Kids
Sunday, 5th February, 2006
SA Democrats Leader Sandra Kanck made the best of the photo opportunity provided by the big day out concert - this year featuring Kamahl who appears to be becoming a cult figure for youth with a sense of humour - to say a few words about marihuana. While all around her politicians are striving to be tougher on drugs than everyone else, Ms Kanck takes the more reasoned approach that big sticks are unlikely to achieve anything. She can but hope that the kids are enrolled and were watching the weekend TV news.
An Independent With Support
Monday, 30th January, 2006
For an independent to win a seat in the South Australian Legislative Council is a difficult feat. The Legislative Council has 22 members and 11 are elected every four years when the lower house goes to the polls. Nick Xenophon stumbled to the 8.5% quota in 1997 after gaining just 2.9% of the vote in his own right when standing under the banner of an Independent No Pokies Campaign. In 2002 the No Pokies candidate vote fell to 1.3% and it was the Family First Party with 4% of the primary vote that snuck in with the 11th seat.
Family First, who were not in the 1997 race, will well and truly be in this year's Legislative Council contest having gained even more prominence following their successful Victorian Senate campaign last year and that presents Nick Xenophon with a real problem: either his vote needs to increase or Family First's to fall if he is to be returned.
One thing in Mr Xenophon's favour is a wonderful ability to find issues other than opposing poker machines to keep in the public eye. Over the last eight years he has emerged as the politician of last resort for a wide variety of causes. Rarely a week goes by without him finding an excuse to bob up on the television.
The media clearly love him. He is what is known in the trade as good copy and the top rating local radio station 5AA chose him to fill in presenting one of its key morning programs over the Christmas break. But perhaps of more significance to the No Pokies Party chances is the undoubted support of the News Limited newspapers. The Sunday Mail has already come out and backed him in an editorial and today The Advertiser chose to make a front page lead out of a largely irrelevant statement by Mr Xenophon that the law should be changed to stop future governments having a parliamentary break of more than eight weeks during the year, and no more than 10 weeks before a state election.
With the Labor Government having chosen that parliament not meet until after the 18 March election, Mr Xenophon was quoted by SA's only daily paper as saying "the Government needs to get through its skull that it is a servant of the people and is accountable through the Parliament. A break of this length breaks down public confidence. We should be sitting now."
When in Trouble, Blame a Foreigner
Saturday, 28th January, 2006
Two lots of foreigners to blame today. That dreaded ETSA has purged South Australians from its board! The chairman of the body that brought us the power blackouts lives in Sydney, no less. And those good Crow Eaters and true who guided the electricity assets so well that the state regularly ran out of electricity have been replaced by a group of interstaters and - heaven forbid - gentlemen with Chinese names representing the Hong Kong owners!
Energy Minister Pat Conlan did not quite put it like that, mind you. He just expressed amazement and sup rise as he called the decision "dopey". What Mr Conlan did continue to do was try and put as much distance as he could between the State Labor Government and the continuing troubles. He asked the Essential Services Regulator to investigate whether the location and operational standards of ETSA's Bendigo-based call centre (those shocking foreign Victorians again!) should be mandated. And while he is at it the regulator will be looking at whether compensation should be increased for people who have experienced blackouts.
Presumably the Regulator is not expected to issue his report until after the election but the Liberal Opposition is obviously not finding this issue the vote winner that some people might have expected. While some voters might be blaming the Government for the troubles, others obviously remember that it was a previous Liberal Government that made the decision to sell off ETSA in the first place. Hence Liberal Energy spokesman Angus Redford joined in condemning the decision to get rid of South Australians from the ETSA Board - "extraordinarily stupid ... not a wise move ... I don't think that's the smartest thing in the world.."
Meanwhile the Australian Democrats continued their search for an issue that might get them on to the television. If they failed last night at least they made the local edition of The Australian with an attack on the Rann Government for not making a submission to a Senate inquiry in to petrol sniffing. Hardly a vote winner but MLC Kate Reynolds did get a nice picture on page 30 of The Advertiser with her 17 year old son Josh who will nominate next week as the Democrats candidate for the lower house seat of Hartley. Unfortunately keeping the candidacy in the family just seems to confirm that the Democrats have lost so much support they could not find anyone else.
Government Feels the Heat Again
Friday, 27th January, 2006
Another hot day in Adelaide so what could be better than another story about the new trams to Glenelg where the air conditioning doesn't work? The Advertiser was cruel enough to bring out an old picture of Premier Mike looking cool, calm and collected taken when the $5.5 million Flexity Classic trams were unveiled weeks ago. Not that Mike was around to explain why they were fitted with a European cooling system designed for far different conditions than a scorching 40 degrees. He went off to the cricket and left it to Transport Minister Pat Conlon to mumble about changing the German system which dispensed air along the sides of the carriage and not in the middle. Minister Pat sounded decidedly testy on ABC radio this morning at having to deny the Government had rushed the purchase of unsuitable trams simply to have them operating before the 18 March state election.
No wonder that politicians favour corporatising and privatising any part of government that actually runs anything. Electricity blackouts have been far less damaging during the heatwave than those rotten trams. Premier Mike and Minister Pat, free of the restraints of ministerial responsibility, have both been able to get stuck in to the privately owned ETSA for not having enough skilled workers to repair fuses blown by a surge in power demand as people switched on their air conditioners.