The South Australian Liberals return to state
parliament today in the wake of last week’s aborted leadership
challenge
. Opposition leader Rob Kerin is in the sad position of having
retained his job because no-one of sufficient standing was interested
in trying to take it from him. As Peter Brent said last week, “What sort of person fights for the honour
of presiding over possibly the biggest Liberal loss (or the largest
Labor win) in South Australia’s history?”

Just as New South Wales is at the leading end of the
Australian political cycle, South Australia is at the tail end. Its
Labor government was the most recently elected (narrowly, like the
others), and the second-time landslide that the others (except Western
Australia) have all had is yet to come. Barring a miracle, it will
happen next March.

The Liberals’ previous worst performance in South
Australia was 1985, when they won only 16 seats. The most recent
Newspoll, published last month, puts Labor ahead by 54% to 46%
two-party-preferred, a swing of five per cent. According to the
pendulum published by the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission,
that would deliver Labor another six seats, leaving the Liberals with
14. Premier Mike Rann led Kerin 60% to 16% in the preferred premier
stakes.

The Adelaide Advertiserpoll that set
off the recent excitement showed similar results. Morgan doesn’t seem
to have released a South Australian poll since July, but its results
then gave Labor a
lead of 61-39. Morgan’s comment that “the ALP would have won easily” is
something of an understatement: a 12% swing would win Labor 13 seats,
reducing the Liberals to a rump of 8.

It’s not surprising that no-one much wants Rob
Kerin’s job. The only surprise is that he’s keen to hold on to it
himself.

Peter Fray

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