Noteworthy happenings from the past five or six days’ worth of South Australian election action:

Antony Green summarises the preference tickets which have been lodged for purposes of South Australia’s unique provision to save incomplete ballots, which in other jurisdictions would be ruled informal (it does not necessarily follow, but can reasonably be inferred, that this will reflect the how-to-vote cards handed out on election day). Labor has done very well out of the Greens, who are not only directing preferences straight to Labor ahead of the Liberals across the board, but are also favouring them over independent and one-time Greens member Kris Hanna in Mitchell, as they did in 2006. Hanna’s own preferences will be split between Labor and Liberal, but the Liberals are unlikely to be competitive in the seat. The Greens are also favouring competitive independents and Nationals candidates over Liberal in Mount Gambier, Frome, Chaffey and Flinders. Whereas Family First cut a deal with Labor in 2006 which resulted in split tickets in the key seats of Mawson, Light, Morialta, Newland and Mitchell, this time they favour the Liberals across the board – not only in Labor-versus-Liberal contests, but also where independents (Mitchell, Frome and Mount Gambier) and Nationals (Chaffey and Flinders) are in play. Karlene Maywald is directing preferences to the Liberals in Chaffey, which will not be electorally significant but might be seen as a useful pointer to her attitude. Save RAH, Dignity for Disability, Gamers 4 Croydon and the DLP also seem to be directing all preferences to the Liberals ahead of Labor. The Free Land Tax Party has not lodged tickets. Mount Gambier independent candidate Nick Fletcher favours the Liberals over independent Don Pegler; Chaffey independent David Peake favours the Liberals over Karlene Maywald; Stuart independent Rob Williams in Stuart favours Liberal over Labor; Newland independent Ryan Haby favours Labor over Liberal.

• David Bevan and Matthew Abraham’s Mornings program on ABC Radio yesterday featured an interview with the three re-contesting independents about their likely attitude in the event of a minority government. Mitchell MP Kris Hanna said he would present the parties with “detailed policy imperatives” concerning water, democracy and pokies, and “projects for his community” including Glenthorne Farm and the Oaklands railway crossing. Frome MP Geoff Brock said he would be seeking upgrades of natural gas pipelines into cities in the upper Spencer Gulf, and commitments on water security. Fisher MP Bob Such said he would not be asking for specific commitments in his electorate, but would instead do as he did in 2002 and write to constitutents to gauge their views. However, he said he was not expecting the matter to emerge as he believed Labor would win. All were pressed by the presenters on their attitude to an Independent Commission Against Corruption; none said it would be a “deal-breaker”.

• Graham Young of Online Opinion wrote in The Weekend Australian of qualitative polling he has conducted in South Australia, which found only 36 per cent of a sample of 252 (which he freely admits was likely to have had a Labor bias) believed the state to be ahead in the right direction, against 44 per cent who felt otherwise. The sample was particularly concerned about water, followed by health – which loomed as a negative for Labor as the Royal Adelaide Hospital relocation was “wildly unpopular”. Underlying both concerns was a perception the government was concerned with “spin over substance”. However, the Liberal Party continues to be viewed as “extreme” despite positive perceptions of Isobel Redmond, who voters feel they do not know well enough.

• At the Liberal campaign launch on Sunday, Isobel Redmond promised $47 million out of a claimed $1 billion in savings from rebuilding the Royal Adelaide Hospital on site would be used to return obstetrics services to Modbury Hospital, located in the electorate of Florey and of significance to its marginal neighbour Newland. Redmond also promised upgrades to the hospital’s paediatrics, intensive care and emergency departments. Labor responded by promising a $44 million upgrade including a new emergency department at the hospital. In 2007 the government removed obstetric and pediatric services and had pathology and radiology services at the hospital downgraded, while adding more elective surgery and palliative care. Redmond also promised to spend $75 million on country health services.

• Paul Collier, the lead upper house candidate for Dignity for Disability, died yesterday after suffering a brain haemorrhage. Since nominations have closed his name will remain on the ballot paper, but votes for him will be passed along to the voter’s next preference. In most cases this will mean the second candidate on the party’s ticket, Kelly Vincent. If any of the 73 remaining candidates dies between now and polling day, the entire upper house election will be deemed to have failed, and a separate election will have to be held at a later time.

Brad Crouch of the Sunday Mail reported Liberal internal polling of 14 marginal seats conducted at the start of the campaign showed 49 per cent found Isobel Redmond the more trustworthy of the two leaders, compared with 25 per cent for Mike Rann. A repeat of the exercise after the debate found Redmond’s rating had risen to 54 per cent while Rann’s remained steady. A question on whether respondents were confident in the government elicited a 57 per cent negative response in the first survey, rising to 66 per cent in the second.

• Mike Rann has called for the second debate which both he and Isobel Redmond have agreed to in principle to be held on pay TV. Redmond wants it held in Port Augusta or Renmark, in an environment where audience members can ask questions, but Greg Kelton of The Advertiser writes that Labor “will not have a bar of that”. Sky News says it is engaged in discussions and hopes to screen the debate.

• Also in the aforementioned Greg Kelton article, Labor strategists are reported saying momentum to the Liberals had stalled, such that they believed Labor might only lose Morialta.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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