Election? What election?

The South Australian election: a personal view

South Australia has an election on 20 March. But I’m finding it hard to detect any election excitement anywhere about the place. Candidates’ posters are up on all the stobie poles, including some mightily offensive ones from the local anti-choice crowd, and bumf is starting to pour through my letter box, but no one seems to be talking about the election. South Australians posting on Larvatus Prodeo have declared the election boring, as have some of my articulate, well-informed colleagues, and there’s not a word about it in the after-school chatter as parents collect their children. It’s all very, very dull.

In order to inject a little interest in what will otherwise be a very dull post, I’m going to make a call right now on which way the election will go. You should bear in mind that I am a new Australian (‘though due to a previous stint living here I have citizenship, and so will be voting on March 20), and I have never voted in an Australian election before, and ‘though I know how to cast my single transferable vote, I don’t understand the mathematical intricacies of the flow of preferences. Furthermore I don’t really get the nuances of opinion here in South Australia yet.

That boredom and dullness? I think it’s an indicator that incumbency will win. Although there are plenty of localised issues in the state, on balance, things are going along pretty well here. Unemployment is low, mining income is holding up, the festival season is in full swing, the summer has been pleasant, life is looking good. And when things are good, why change the government? So tonight, just under three weeks out, I’m calling it for Mike Rann and Labor.

I could be wrong.

Things could yet go badly for Media Mike. His blonde former friend, Michelle Chantelois, keeps on popping up like David Bowie’s Laughing Gnome, the threat of her presence always there. For those who don’t know, late last year, Rann was attacked by a man wielding a rolled up magazine. A few days later, it turned out that the man was angry about Rann’s relationship with his then wife, Michelle Chantelois. Rann denied that there was any sexual relationship, ‘though he admitted to a flirty relationship. Whatever, really, except that Chantelois is now playing the woman rejected. She has popped up here, there and everywhere, including with a lie-detector test that she claims proves that her relationship with Rann was more than just flirty. When last seen, she was draped over the front page of The Advertiser, and she has promised to dog Rann throughout the campaign. I’m not sure what her game is. Rann says he is going to ignore her, and Liberal leader Isobel Redmond has instructed her team to do the same. However, I suppose if some more details or corroborating evidence came out, then this alleged affair could upset the campaign. In the meantime, I think that everyone is just a little bored by it.

Then there’s the local issues, like the proposed sale of some of the Glenside Hospital site, and the sale of the Chelsea cinema, and a proposed landswap at St Clair. Never heard of any of them? Just so – they’re all very local issues, and I don’t think they’re going to swing the election either way. Sure, some people are upset and angry about some of the proposed changes, but it’s hard to see seats changing hands as a result of them. For everyone who opposes one of these changes, there will be someone who supports it, with the possible exception of the St Clair landswap. They are no doubt deeply fascinating to the people who are running the campaigns to save this, that and the other thing, but distinctly tedious for everyone else. The biggest proposal of all is to shift the Royal Adelaide Hospital from its current site at the eastern end of North Terrace, to the old railway yards at the western end of South Terrace. Of course, some people want to save the whales, I mean the trees, no, no, the Royal Adelaide Hospital, but again, this seems to be a matter for specialised interest groups, and most people really don’t care all that much.

The biggest issue of all might be water. We want some. Now. And so far, the Rann government hasn’t delivered all that well. Any national solution for the Murray is years away, despite Rann’s great friendship with Kevin Rudd. Patience with water restrictions boiled away during a comparatively wet winter, when reservoirs filled up, and Adelaideans who were restricted to just three hours of watering a week were treated to the sight of ‘excess’ water rushing down spillways and out to sea. About 50% of respondents to an Advertiser on-line poll admitted that they regularly broke the watering restrictions, and eventually, the government relented. Now we’re allowed to water for five hours every week. But it’s still a huge issue. Walking around the streets, talking to my neighbours and friends and other after-school dads and mums, I have found that many people admit to breaking the restrictions, and say that they’ve simply had enough of them. That’s an interesting shift in opinion; when I first moved to Adelaide at the start of 2008, people were very serious about saving water. Now, well, they water. And part of the reason that they use water, defiantly, is that it’s one way of sending a loud and clear signal to the government that they expect government to solve the problem, not just impose more restrictions. Watering your garden has become a political act.

Rann’s government is on the way to solving the problem for Adelaide gardeners, with a desalination plant. Although we’ve had a dry summer, it has not been a baking hot one, so water has not been quite as critical an issue as it might have been. Next time round, if the water problems have not been solved, then the government might be on its way out, but not yet.

The campaign might get interesting on Wednesday, with the leaders’ debate. It could be a tricky affair for both major party leaders. Isobel Redmond took over as Liberal leader when Martin Hamilton-Smith self-destructed over a bizarre set of fabricated documents. She’s mixed it well with the bovver boys on Labor’s front bench, and they seem to be running scared of her. She’s a straight speaker, direct and common-sensical in her approach, a version of Tony Abbott without the petty moralising. However, I have yet to see a big idea from the Liberals, a plan for the state that matches Rann’s success over the past two terms. When Rann took over, the state was in genteel decay. He has reversed that sentiment, and there’s a buzz about town that was not here when I lived in SA for a few months in 1998 and 1999. Ms Redmond has been critical of Labor and Rann, but I have seen no plans from her, other than large spending promises. The criticism could easily become carping. For his part, Rann could be seen as a bully boy, if he attacks Redmond too personally. And there have been some suggestions that he’s rather bored with the whole election too.

The fact is, Rann has been an excellent Premier. South Australia has done well under Labor in the past eight years. Isobel Redmond is doing a good job as a new opposition leader, but even though the Liberals are trying to plant the idea that it’s time for a change, when people have jobs and money in their pockets, a change of government is unlikely. If it’s the economy, then Rann wins. I don’t think the local matters are enough to topple him, and the big problems are under control. The wild card will be the laughing gnome, and that may not even get played.

Really, the election is a dull affair. Have a little Bowie to lighten things up.

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31 responses to “Election? What election?”

  1. Jacques de Molay
  2. Cooper

    It has been dull so far although hearing Rann get somewhat skewered over policy plagiarism this morning on ABC 891 this morning was vaguely entertaining.

    http://blogs.abc.net.au/sa/2010/03/mornings-reloaded-march-1.html?site=adelaide&program=adelaide_mornings

  3. Pavlov's Cat

    I think all state elections are run on largely local issues and seem boring to people from other places, but I agree that this one seems a bit lacklustre. I noticed yesterday that the disgusting anti-abortion (I don’t think of that arse as anti-choice: he’s anti-abortion, as distinct from pro-choice) are mostly stuck up too high for anyone on the footpath to reach, and seem to be secured with some sort of unbustable cable tie. I wish I had time to get out into the suburbs with a ute and a ladder and a Stanley knife, really I do.

    I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut about this election partly because I know a couple of things I mustn’t talk about, and am not good with the finer points of the defo laws. The Laughing Gnome is being used, and not by the people you’d expect. One assumes that her own motives are operatic, and let’s not forget she was paid quarter of a mill or thereabouts for the original Channel 7 “exposé” and perhaps that cash cow is not yet fully milked. And she does seem to enjoy being on telly and in the paper. A lot.

    That said, Deborah, I would love to hear your thoughts, As A Feminist, on the Chantelois affair. It’s an icky one.

    On the whole I agree with you both about Rann’s performance as Premier and about the possible election result. As to the boringness, many of the people in this town still remember the state-level electoral rollercoasters of previous decades and are really really happy to live in a state that appears to be being run competently and not to wake up every morning to some new horror like the vicious media hounding to his demise of Dunstan, the collapse of the State Bank, or some new victory of the Coalition of Privileged White Men Over 40 Against the Young, the Old, the Poor, the Black, the Sick, the Female and Any Other Upstart You Care to Name.

    Besides, it could be worse. We could be in New South Wales.

  4. Deborah

    Someone’s doing some good work along Portrush Rd, PC, slapping up alternative slogans on Trevor Grace’s posters. The best one is a simple insertion of ‘Dis’ in front of his family name.

  5. Liam

    Pavlov’s Cat, there’s no such thing as an unbustable cable tie, and you don’t need a ladder to do what I think you want to do.
    Gardening and hardware shops sell (and lease) telescoping pruning shears for lopping which go through plastic and cable tie as if they were paper. It’s easiest if there’s a gap of some sort somewhere between the pole and the tie; if I recall the way telegraph poles look in SA there should be somewhere.
    Alternatively if the corflute is nailed to something wooden, a hook attachment on a stick or telescopic pole will get the poster down with a quick reef. The best kind of hook looks like a trident bent 180° into a u-shape with a hand-space in between. Worst of all is if the posterer has put up the poster with a flat headed nail or clout with a wide washer to hold the corfluting plastic down; pulling from the top will probably just fold it in two and two or three tugs later, it’ll pull out the nail from the wood which will drop on you, along with the now-torn up and bent corflute, from a height. Especially if you’re out at night, this can be unpleasant and dangerous.
    …Or, you know, so I’ve heard.

  6. dj

    Or if creative destruction is more your thing – a paint roller, some buckets of paste and an alternative ad.

  7. Jacques de Molay

    I’ve heard a lot of those Abort SA posters have already been vandalised. The guy has a lot of financial backing though, seems like there are millions of the things around. A Family First front?

  8. chinda63

    He was on the Family First ticket last election – can’t remember whether it was state or fed – but it was upper house at any rate. As soon as I saw his name I knew it was being bank-rolled by FF, and his preferences are no doubt going straight to FF.

    Incidentally, it is against the law to interfere with election posters. Not sure of the penalities, but if you get caught they do throw the book at you, as one overly enthusiastic Young Liberal found out a couple of state elections ago.

  9. Deborah

    The wind seems to be doing a fair job of interfering with election posters today.

  10. Cooper

    Oh dear, any way I can fix my awful typo?

    [Fixed - Deborah]

  11. David Irving (no relation)

    An ordinary pair of wire-cutters does quite well on cable-ties too, PC. Not side-cutters, but the kind I use to trim the left-over bits of guitar strings. The wind seems to have pulled a lot of the Think of the Children Party corflutes down to about head height, I’ve noticed, so I doubt if you’d need to go out and buy Liam’s patented Corflute Remover.

  12. feral sparrowhawk

    I have to say that people saying “this election is boring” strike me as very boring. I think I have heard this said of every state and federal election since 1993. I mean that literally. If your standard for what is not boring is 1972, 1993 and US 2008 then you probably shouldn’t be looking to elections for excitement.

    Of course there are usually quite a few boring aspects to every election, but there is almost always lots to keep the interest. SA’s upper house makes for particularly interesting prospects with a huge field whose preferences will tip the last couple of seats.

  13. Jamie

    Not normally one to be handing out tips on how to mess with a corflute, but at times exceptions need to be made. A super-soaker or such water pistol with a concentrated bleach and water mix does a remarkable job of stripping anyone’s offensive message.

  14. Mark

    I should say that since it’s illegal to deface or remove authorised election signs, LP does not condone that, and I think it would be best, given the amount of litigation that seems to float around SA politics, if this discussion ceased.

  15. feral sparrowhawk

    I think there may be legal, and perhaps more effective, ways to undermine Grace’s campaign. I very much doubt he thinks he can win. So the point is to consider what his aims are: To cause offense to lots of people and pain to women who have had abortions is almost certainly up there, but I doubt that is the whole story. Perhaps he hopes to get the issue on the agenda so action is taken. However, I’m willing to be his immediate goal is to see some ally elected on his preferences. By stirring the issue up in such an obvious way he’ll attract a pool of voters, while allowing his allies to chase more moderate votes and still collect his preferences.

    So it would be very unfortunate for him if it could be demonstrated that the people he is preferencing to were in on the deal – perhaps even funding his campaign. Not sure how exactly one should go about finding this out, but maybe someone has ideas.

  16. chinda63

    Trevor Grace has previously been an upper house candidate for Family First, so I suspect this is about nothing more than whipping up some notoriety and hopefully pull in some extra fundie votes he can then funnel to FF via preferences, thereby helping them to get an extra candidate up.

    The worst part about him is his website. Despite being a “high school teacher”, some of his grammar and sentence construction is appalling. Not a good advertisement for him or the SA education system gone by, I wouldn’t have thought.

  17. Saint Furious of Ikea

    Anyone know, definitively, what the law is re: tampering with electoral posters? Just askin’.

    I listened to Mike Rann on 891 yesterday. Future = mining, defence, more traineeships for electricians and carpenters etc. mining, roads, mining, submarines, mining, tech-port.

    111,300 more jobs created in the last 8 years. He went on to say that there were 3,500 mining jobs in SA when Labor were elected and there are now 7,000. So it seems that from 111,300 new jobs only 3,500 of them were in mining….? We’ve gone from 4 mines to 11 [16 by the end of the year] and new jobs in mining = 3500..?

    Later, when it was mentioned that polling suggested women in particular don’t trust him, he was asked “do you have a problem with women?”.

    “I don’t have a problem with women……..When you look at the policies we are doing on health and education, the premiers reading challenge, giving opportunities for kids, these are things that women care about….”

    ^^There ya go ‘ladies’, that should keep ya happy. [PS: I know I'm not one to talk on butchering the English language, but..."the policies we are doing?"..ugh]

    Never mind that there is still a huge disparity between what men earn and what women earn, we don’t care about that, no. The most rapidly growing household demographic in South Australia is single women households. What about wages parity?; what about jobs for women [not just 'our' kids]?; What about affordable housing [not just family homes on the urban fringe]?

  18. David Irving (no relation)

    Apropos interfering with posters, there’s apparently some turkey standing for the Take the Commie Flouride out of the Water Party. If he has corflutes up with a nice toothy grin, they’d be gagging for a black texta …

  19. David Irving (no relation)

    St Furious, “the policies we are doing” has a sinister sound.

  20. Jacques de Molay

    Michael Atkinson transcript from last night’s Media Watch:

    http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s2833558.htm

  21. Deborah

    Rann tweeted this following the leaders’ debate:

    Just completed debate to be televised this evening on Ch 10. Happy to do another. [link]

    But nothing from Isobel Redmond yet.

    Do y’reckon that indicates he thinks he did a good job?

  22. Fine

    What’s happening with the Chelsea Cinema? that’s such a beautiful, old building.

  23. Deborah

    I think it’s a local council (Burnside) issue rather than a state government issue, but there is of course, a Save the Chelsea Cinema group on Facebook.

    I’m sure the local government issues get mixed up with state government issues when it comes to voting and elections. A bit like the weather, really. If it’s bad, it must the government’s fault.

  24. Fine

    Thanks Deborah. I guess it’s the old mantra that all politics are local.

  25. Chris

    Deborah @ 23 – doesn’t the state government have the power to override or sack the burnside council if they really wanted to? But as nice as the cinema it requires a bunch of money to save it that no one is willing to give.

  26. Helen

    Oh! One of my childhood icons.
    The Sun cinema in Yarravile, where I now live, was a derelict wreck and now it’s a local success story. Maybe someone in Adelaide should form a consortium or something. (No images at that link – how bizarre.)

  27. Deborah

    Well, I was going to watch the leaders’ debate and report back to y’all, but after I had rushed around and prepared dinner and gotten the kids organised and finally sat down to turn the tv on, the damned thing had somehow lost Channel 10. And channel 9. And SBS. Digital TV sux. And we’ve only got one tv in the house (policy decision) so there wasn’t even an alternative set to watch it on.

    It’s the first thing I’ve tried to watch all year…

  28. Jacques de Molay

    I think the Ten debate is being replayed later tonight at around 11:15 or 11:45.

  29. Deborah
  30. Saint Furious of Ikea

    This thread is depressing.

  31. Jacques de Molay