Crikey's Adelaide Hills-based correspondent Charles Kingston Cameron has provided this excellent prediction on how the seats will fall at the South Australian election on Saturday.
The Kerin Liberal Government has fired back with a range of big spending commitments on health and schools. This has begged the question of why, if the money's been there, it hasn't been allocated before but Labor couldn't resist the temptation to go for a beat up and made some noisy allegations of secret slush funds. The media payed polite, but only brief, attention and with their one shot fired, that was it for the ALP.
The Government has made the economy and employment its key focuses and have somehow been allowed to get away with it. The economy isn't doing that badly by local standards, but the Liberals can hardly take any credit. South Australia firmly remains a rustbelt state and nothing has been done to fix that. The current good economic news is based purely on strong exports of primary products that have been boosted by a low dollar. As for employment, the jobless rate is down but so is the participation rate, the number of people actually looking for work.
South Australians, for some reason, cannot honestly face the fragility of their economic circumstance, and so Labor has let the Liberal Party get away with spreading a load of crock on this front. Likewise, no-one can admit that the state should stop the business welfare schemes that date back to the glory days of Tom Playford's premiership fifty years that pass for industry policy, despite the fact that they claimed the political life of Premier John Olsen. Oddly enough, the only party that has shown at bit of integrity and commonsense here has been the Australian Democrats but that might just be because they'd rather spend the money on middle class welfare than jobs for the working class.
The local Liberal Party has somehow managed not to have any major public brawls in the few short months since John Olsen was forced to resign, neutralising its internecine warfare as an election issue. All up, in fact, an incompetent and shabby Government has managed to look almost respectable for the campaign.
The State Bank may have gone under more than a decade ago, but its failure still creates plenty of doubt in the public about Labor's economic management skills. The sleaze over various business deals that bought down John Olsen, his deputy Graham Ingerson and acolyte Joan Hall not to mention the number of "winners" the state government has picked to shower money on under its business welfare schemes that have gone sour has raised serious questions about the Liberal's management style, too, but Labor has avoided pressing the issue.
Labor also seems to have only started to build an "it's time" mood in the last few days. The Libs have been in power since 1993, the election was due in November last year and delayed by loopholes, but Labor has largely left this alone during the campaign.
No doubt their polling has given them reasons why, but as a result the campaign has been quieter, gentler and much, much duller than the battle many expected. This is Mike Rann's last shot at the top job. One might have expected a harsher fight. The numbers look very, very tight. Now, it's over to the punters to see if they're going to get rough.
Seats to watch
Adelaide Liberal 2.3 per cent, CBD and North Adelaide
Sitting member Michael Armitage went into a sulk and then tried to do a runner when his majority was slashed in a redistribution. All he succeeded in doing was trashing his career and Adelaide has turned into a battle between the popular and competent former Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith, a star Labor recruit, and the heavily cashed up but not too bright Deputy Mayor of Adelaide, Michael Harbison for the Libs. Local junk jewellery king Albert Bensimon, best known for TV ads that would make Lionel Hutz blanch, has thrown his hat into the ring, standing for his own "No Hoo-Hah" Party. Bensimon has been a generous donor to a couple of local federal Libs, and it's thought he's really there to send preferences Harbison's way. Adelaide has been the high profile battle of the campaign, and there's a good chance that Lomax-Smith will take the seat.
Colton Liberal 0.9 per cent, western suburbs beaches
Yet another former Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Steve Condous, figures in this seat but only as the retiring MP. He has done sod all and despite being married to one of Adelaide's top fundraisers hasn't left the local branches cashed up to fight a marginal campaign. To top it off, the Libs preselected an unprepossessing drip and a bit for a candidate, ministerial adviser John Behenna. Labor's Paul Caica, the National Secretary of the United Firefighters Union, has got to be the favourite here.
Davenport Liberal 4.4 per cent, south-eastern suburbs/Adelaide Hills
Normally the Democrats make a lot of noise about winning Davenport. This time, they finally seem to have wised up and Environment and Heritage Minister Iain Evans won't have to resort to the dodgy tricks the dynasty have become famous for to hold the seat. Whether they can actually resist them is another matter. There's an "Independent Ant-Nuclear Green Granny" running in the seat. No-one would be surprised if she turned out to be an aunt of Evans' trying to push some preferences his way.
Elder Labor, 1.8 per cent, inner southern suburbs
Sitting Member Pat Conlon is the most celebrated bruiser and boozer of the South Australian ALP but whether he should be parked in a marginal seat is a matter for debate. His high profile isn't translating into votes on the ground, and the steady gentrification of much of his electorate is also weakening his position. Elder is too close to call at the moment, although it's thought Conlon will hold onto the seat. The local Libs are short on numbers, but everyone expects that Pat will have a bunch of big blokes on every booth come Saturday, glaring at anyone who looks at little wobbly and swinging shillelaghs.
Enfield Independent, notionally Labor 17.4 per cent, northern suburbs
Sitting member Ralph Clarke might be a former deputy leader of the Labor Party, but when accusations of domestic violence came up not to mention an opportunity to do over one of the remains of the centre left and give the seat to a member of an ascendant faction he was doomed. Clarke has fought on, despite a massive stack that ended in a Supreme Court judgement against the ALP, and is contesting the seat as an independent. His official Labor rival, John Rau, is a favoured son of the factions, but when he contested the federal seat of Hindmarsh for Labor in 1993 it was lost to the conservatives for the first time since it was proclaimed ninety years earlier. After the campaign against him, Clarke has become a strange sentimental favourite with some locals, but while the fight will be tight Rau is expected to come out on top.
Fisher Independent, notionally Liberal 9.6 per cent, southern suburbs/Adelaide Hills
Sitting Member Bob Such was a minister in the Brown Liberal Government, but was dumped by John Olsen. He left the party to sit as an independent in 1999, but like all too many Liberals in relatively safe seats did sod all when it came to recruiting for his local branch. This has left him without any real supporters or the manpower needed to run a campaign. Federal oncer Susan Jeanes is expected to win the seat back for the Libs even though the party's right would probably prefer to see Such stay there.
Florey Labor 2.9 per cent, north-eastern suburbs
There are dark mutterings in some circles that Labor's Frances Bedford may well lose Florey. More reasonable voices point out that the Liberal Party has not made it one of its targets seats, and it is unlikely to change hands.
Giles Labor 11.2 per cent, upper Spencer Gulf
Unlike Florey, Giles is giving the Labor Party some genuine worries. Whyalla, the one time shipbuilding centre and BHP town the electorate is based around is now barely distinguishable from the surrounding desert. Sitting member Lyn Bruer is facing a strong challenge from independent John Smith, a retired police sergeant who has served as Mayor of Whyalla for the past four years. One to watch.
Hammond Independent, notionally Liberal 14.7 per cent, Murray Mallee/Upper South-East
There's a strong argument that Member for Hammond Peter Lewis, a long term Liberal MP until his constant ratbaggery saw him expelled from the party, should be certified. Instead, it looks as if he'll be returned for another term. Still, as they say, the voters get what they deserve.
Hartley Liberal 0.9 per cent, eastern suburbs
Labor's Quentin Black ruthlessly pursued sitting Member for Hartley Joe Scalzi in the lead up to the 1997 election and hasn't stopped since. Scalzi is a small and timorous man at about five foot four he's scarcely a tower of anything, let alone a tower of strength but the Libs feel they might just hold on to the seat while Labor has been loft wondering how things may have been if Black's name ended with a vowel.
Heysen Liberal 1.9 per cent, Adelaide Hills
With long term MP and former minister David Wotton standing down at this election, the Australian Democrats have held high hopes for this seat. They're probably about to have them dashed. Candidate Ted Dextor has campaigned hard and well and even brought in outside consultants to help, but the Democrat tide is out and he's left stranded. Labor are running dead in the electorate, but the Liberal candidate, solicitor Isobel Redmond, put there by the number of the Evans family rather than any genuine local support and reportedly still practising only a few weeks ago, seems set to be the next member.
Kavel Liberal 6.7 per cent, Adelaide Hills
John Olsen has gone and in his place is Mark Goldsworthy, son of the previous member. This should be a safe Liberal seat, but there's another name running Pastor Tom Playford, son of the long, long serving Liberal Premier. Playford has picked up the second preferences of all candidates, and Kavel is now a seat to watch.
Light Liberal 1.4 per cent, northern city fringe
South Australian voters know more about what's happening in Patagonia than they do about this seat. Light has been a primarily rural electorate on Adelaide's northern fringe, but the last redistribution has added a solid slab of suburbia. That's been enough to make deputy Labor leader Annette Hurley decide to leave a safe seat and run against Education Minister Malcolm Buckby, but what should have been one of the more high profile competitions of the campaign has become Adelaide's own forgotten war. The Liberal rank and file are still all cockies who never even understood how to campaign in the town of Gawler, the closest Light got to suburbia in the old days. When they look at the new electorate, they've been like cavemen confronted with Cadillacs. Labor's campaign has been marred by tension between know it all locals and know it all experts from the National Secretariat, but they're still the tip to win.
Mackillop Liberal 20.9 per cent, South-East
Former Liberal leader Dale Baker lost the seat of Mackillop to independent Mitch Williams in one of the big upsets of the 1997 state election. Williams has rejoined the Liberal fold, but now he's under threat from independent Bill Hender. The South-East has long been blue-ribbon territory and Hender is a former high profile Country Labor figure who only left the party last year, but preference deals and anger at Williams might see him over the line. One to watch.
Mawson Liberal 3.9 per cent, southern city fringe
Mawson is South Australia's Eden Monaro, the seat that changes hands along with the Treasury benches. Sitting Member, Police Minister Robert Brokenshire, is hoping his increasingly hysterical drug announcements will save the day for him. The Labor Party, however, have been busy building up the credentials of their candidate, Moria Deslandes. One to watch.
Mitchell Labor 0.5 per cent, southern suburbs
Labor's Kris Hanna seems likely to lose this seat to Liberal Hugh Martin despite the fact that until very recently Martin hasn't felt obliged to do any work other than letting his name go on the ballot paper.
Norwood Labor 1.7 per cent, inner eastern suburbs
Norwood is another seat where Labor could be in trouble. Sitting Member Vinni Ciccarello is a former local mayor, who doesn't seem to realise that the electorate takes in areas outside her old stamping grounds and notable eccentric whose novelty value is waring thin. Liberal candidate Michael Durant has run a tight campaign, making this one to watch.
Reynell Labor 1.6 per cent, outer southern suburbs
The Liberal Party has high hopes that Julie Greig, Member for Reynell between 1993 and 1997, can win this seat back. The sitting Member, Gay Thomson, and the ALP would beg to differ and it looks unlikely to change hands.
Stuart Liberal 2.8 per cent, far north
Graham Gunn has been the Member for Stuart and its predecessors for almost thirty years, but is facing his toughest test yet from Labor young gun Justin Jarvis. The South Australian Libs short lived attempts to play the refugee card may bite them in Stuart, as if Woomera closes its likely to be replaced by a centre near Port Augusta, the main town in the electorate. Another one to watch.
Waite 4.8 per cent Liberal south-eastern suburbs/Adelaide Hills
Waite is another seat the Australian Democrats have made a lot of noise about. Back in the days when it was known as Mitcham, it became the only lower house seat ever won by the Democrats ever, but that was a long time ago. Candidate Yvonne Caddy is a former local mayor, but they are kidding themselves if they think they can win. That hasn't stopped the Dems from rattling the sitting member, SAS vet and Tourism Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith, yet another Liberal MP who doesn't realise that recruiting branch members and fundraising are useful things for Members of Parliament who want to keep their jobs to do.
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Finally, here is a piece about the Adelaide battle sent by a Crikey subscriber.
Lib candidate and Lib stooge in hand-out standoff
An opinion poll for the South Australian state seat of Adelaide published in Wednesday's 'The Advertiser' showed former Lord Mayor, Jane Lomax-Smith, leading by a noselet.
The sample of 400 voters (from an enrolled base of 22,000) showed Liberal party candidate, Michael Harbison, trailing the Labor candidate, Jane Lomax-Smith, by 51.3 per cent to 48.7 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
With the combined Democrat and Green vote collapsing to 8 per cent, and a very presentable female candidate (and former lord mayor) standing for Labor, Harbison's chances of winning are looking "iffy".
Amongst the four conservative independents standing (including One Nation, Family First and SA First), only one has any sort of public profile in this City-State electorate, namely Albert Bensimon of the No Hoo Haa Party. Bensimon is an SA jewellery chain operator with a high television advertising profile based on wacky personal acts and a promise to cut out the Hoo Haa in retail jewellery selling.
Bensimon's How To Vote card was issued last week and showed Lib candidate Harbison as his second preference, ie, number 2 [two] on the HTV card.
Bensimon claims in public conversation that he is not a Liberal Party stooge, (also known in the war rooms as an unendorsed third-party candidate), but with 1percent of the vote in The Advertiser poll, his preferences could be vital in helping Harbison to approach the finish line.
If his How To Vote cards get distributed.
Bensimon hit the phones early this week seeking helpers to hand out his HTV cards at the electorate's 10 polling places. And Harbison would love to ensure that the No Hoo Haa party gets those cards into the hands of as many Hoo Haa voters as possible to maximise the chances of an extra 200-300 second preference votes.
In a coffee shop interview on Wednesday morning, Harbison grappled with the problem of trailing in the polls, noting that his 40-54 year old bloke vote was significantly down (32percent Vs 47percent) and that Bensimon may not have the wherewithall to get his How To Vote cards into the hands of his (Bensimon's) supporters.
The interviewer's suggestion that Harbison simply adopts the "usual" election practice of finding people to hand out other candidates' HTV cards was greeted with a mini frisson of shock-horror from the Liberal candidate.
But let's wait and see what goes down on Saturday.
Lomax-Smith appears to have a chance of winning the prized seat of Adelaide, but if Harbison gets up with Bensimon's preferences, there'll be a real bloody Hoo Haa.