April 7th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Free trade agreements leave us even more dependent on China

EDITORIAL Why Russia re-elected Vladimir Putin

CANBERRA OBSERVED Empty seat last vestige of minor parties' party

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Liberals take power but plan for none for SA

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Sexual exploitation at Oxfam symptom of culture of death

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM General protection gives a false sense of security

PHILOSOPHY AND CULTURE On celestial politics

GENDER POLITICS Trans ideology awash with big money from big biomed and big pharma

REGIONAL AFFAIRS Taiwan stands up to Beijing's bullyboy tactics

CINEMA Outstanding film follows St Paul to his death in Rome

HUMOUR An Appetite for Diamonds: Porphyry Volpone investigates

MUSIC Power playing: Technique v musicality

CINEMA Peter Rabbit: More Bugs than Beatrix, but lots of fun

BOOK REVIEW We're doomed; but we're not alone

BOOK REVIEW Subcontinent set for Asian century


NATIONAL AFFAIRS The deeper causes of Australia's social malaise

GENDER POLITICS Queensland proposes transgender birth certificates

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Liberals take power but plan for none for SA

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, April 7, 2018

The headline result of the South Australian election was a resounding win for the Liberal Party, which won a clear majority of 25 seats (at the time of writing) in the 47-seat House of Assembly, with Labor winning just 18. Independents are expected to hold the remaining four seats.

Steven Marshall

However, a closer examination of the results will leave no party particularly happy.

Because of demographic changes in recent years, an electoral redistribution was made that ended the pro-Labor electoral bias by rebalancing the number of votes in each seat. Purely as a result of this redistribution, the Liberal Party was expected to win an additional four seats. In fact, it appears to have won just three.

In the 2014 state election, the Liberals won substantially more votes than Labor: 53 per cent to 47 per cent on a two-party preferred basis. Nevertheless, Labor won 23 seats and the Liberals 22. Labor ruled with the help of independents.

Since then, Labor premier Jay Weatherill attempted to win Labor an unprecedented fifth term by positioning Labor as the champion of renewable energy, no doubt to set a new direction for Labor, and to cut the ground from under the Greens.

Weatherill presided over the closure in 2016 of the Northern Power Station, South Australia’s last remaining coal-fired power station, and subsidised the growth in wind and solar power. He said the election would be a referendum on renewable energy.

As South Australia has been left with a critical shortage of base-load power, the plan led to serious shortages of power in the state, and two deeply embarrassing blackouts, one of which extended across the whole state.

The issue of reliable and affordable power was a major one in South Australia, and although the state Liberal Party promised to resolve the problem, it has no plan to increase base-load power generation in the state.

In the short term, South Australia will make up the deficiency by importing electricity from Victoria; but given the policy of the Victorian Labor Government to close base-load coal-fired power stations, the long-term future of South Australia’s (and Victoria’s) energy supplies is entirely uncertain.

Weatherill’s policy had the effect of attracting Green voters, thereby cutting the Green vote, which fell from nearly 9 per cent in 2014 to 6.6 per cent in the recent election. But it also caused the loss of some votes to the Liberals.


The largest surprise in the election was the collapse in support for Nick Xenophon’s party, SA Best. Xenophon, who was a South Australian MP before winning a seat in the Senate, then launching his own party nationally, decided to resign from the Senate to contest an Assembly seat in the SA election.

Xenophon has shown a great capacity to mobilise disenchanted voters from the major parties, and polling two months before the SA election put his standing above that of either the ALP or the Liberals. It seemed that if he did not win enough seats to form a government, he would become the “kingmaker” in SA politics.

However, his failure to give attention to the main issues facing South Australia led to a sudden decline in support during the election campaign.

In the event, SA Best polled a respectable 13.7 per cent across the state, but was unable to win a single seat in the House of Assembly, and will have no role in the next state government.

The outcome of the SA election was also disappointing for Senator Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, who were expected to poll better in Senator Bernardi’s home state.

Adding to its woes was Dennis Hood’s defection to the Liberals just a week after the election. He is reported as saying the Conservatives would have “no impact”.

Australian Conservatives were formed as a political party on the basis of support from Liberal defectors who followed Senator Bernardi out of the Liberal Party, and Family First, the pro-family party based in South Australia.

Their policies on building jobs and industry in the state and ensuring energy security were considerably better than either of the major parties.

Australian Conservatives polled an average of 4 per cent in seats they contested, and 3 per cent across the state.

One result of their campaign was to direct preferences, thereby ensuring the success of Liberal candidates in some seats, and helping the Liberals get a clear majority in the lower house.

The new Liberal Government, led by Steven Marshall (pictured), has promised:

  • Deregulation of shopping hours, a move opposed by independent shops but supported by the national retailers, Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings.
  • Cut the Emergency Services Levy, used to fund firefighting and emergency services, and reduce payroll tax for small business.
  • Maintain “renewable energy” (wind and solar power) as the core of South Australia’s electricity generation.
  • Impose a ban on oil and gas exploration in the southeast of South Australia, a region considered highly prospective for energy in this energy-poor state.
  • Cap rises in local government rates.

The responsibilities of government may move the Liberals to modify their policies. If they do not, they may well find that they are in office for just one term.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm