|Family First imposter|
As counting continues in marginal South Australian seats, it seems that the Rann Labor Government will be returned with a very slim majority, holding a likely 24 or 25 seats in a lower house of 47.
The Liberals have gained four seats, three coming from Labor and one from SA’s only National MP, Karlene Maywald, giving them 18 seats. The remaining four have returned new or sitting independents.
On March 24, Liberal leader Isobel Redmond conceded defeat, and Labor’s Mike Rann claimed victory. With the likelihood of only one further seat changing hands (Bright, where the Labor incumbent is now behind by six votes), Labor has reshuffled its Cabinet portfolios.
After running the campaign line, “The Liberals – nowhere near ready”, Labor suffered, within hours of election night, both the resignation of long-time Attorney-General Michael Atkinson and a challenge to Deputy Premier Kevin Foley from MP Jay Weatherill.
Mr Atkinson’s resignation from the front-bench, for family reasons according to him, and the desire to make way for new blood, comes after pressure from numerous sources including the group, Gamers 4 Croydon, which stood candidates in the election.
Their dismal polling can in no way have influenced Mr Atkinson’s decision, but their campaign for R18 computer-game classification will no doubt receive a boost. Time will tell what other agendas may creep on stage after his departure.
Mr Weatherill’s challenge, though immediately rebuffed, could be viewed as the start of a longer-term strategy to lock-in the Labor Left for an eventual tilt at the leadership.
In rural SA, the defeat of Karlene Maywald would seem to spell the end of the SA Nationals, although Nationals supporters have pointed to previous resurrections.
What has been ironic, though, is finger-pointing over the Liberals’ campaign to oust Maywald. Both Nationals officials and Liberals have admitted that the Liberals may have sold themselves short by over-allocating resources in some seats, neglecting the city marginals which Labor held on to despite the odds.
But Nationals SA president Jacky Abbott’s claim caused some mirth when he told ABC Online: “Now, we’re a conservative party, the Nationals in South Australia and everywhere else. … As a conservative party we would like to see a conservative party in government, but that was not to be.”
Maywald was, in fact, Water Security Minister in SA’s Labor Government for several years.
|Fake ‘Family First’ how-to-vote card,
authorised by the Labor Party.
Runner-up for ironic election comment goes to the SA Farmers’ Federation president Peter White, who said that the survival of the Nationals was in the interests of country and regional South Australians. It was paradoxical, then, that SAFF’s chief executive, Carol Vincent, has chaired public meetings for the radical Greens and was once touted as a parliamentary candidate.
Counting also continues for the upper house, where, as with lower house predictions, News Weekly once again got it right (“Can SA’s Liberals topple Labor’s Mike Rann?”, March 20, 2010). It seems that Labor and the Liberals have each won four seats of the 11 up for grabs. Family First MLC Robert Brokenshire has been returned, and a new Greens MLC, Tammy Jennings, has been elected (thereby giving the Greens a second upper house MLC).
The 11th vacancy seems likely to go to Dignity 4 Disabled candidate Kelly Vincent, despite her polling a mere 1.14 per cent of the vote (with 73 per cent currently counted). Ms Vincent benefited tremendously from the presence of numerous lower house D4D candidates, not to mention the media’s coverage of the untimely death of her running mate Paul Collier during the campaign.
The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) held on until the 38th of 42 counts, but, despite respectable preference flows, did not gain a sufficient primary vote to stay in the race. Having only fielded one lower house candidate, however, there is certainly room for them to lift their future vote.
Numerous issues-based groups did not poll, perhaps, as well as they had expected; but this was not surprising in an election which tended to polarise around the major parties once more.
It was also an election featuring more than one case of “dirty tricks”, the stand-out winner being Labor’s use of how-to-vote cards and volunteers masquerading as Family First material and supporters.
In several key marginal seats, cards saying “Put Your FAMILY FIRST” were distributed, with first preference to Family First, but second preference to Labor, with the concluding line: “Preference someone who shares your values, preference Labor.”
The fine print did include authorisation from the Labor Party, but the tactic has left a bad taste in many mouths and, in response to the Electoral Commission’s inaction on the issue, may lead to changes to electoral laws.
All in all, the election outcome was predictable, but with an odd-looking upper house and a government hanging on by a slender margin.
Damian Wyld is South Australian state president of the National Civic Council.