SOUTH AUSTRALIA: by Tom WalmsleyNews Weekly
Liberal debacle in SA election
, April 1, 2006
The Liberals have lost some of their best performers after suffering swings of close to 20 per cent in some areas, writes Tom Walmsley.With votes still being counted at the time that News Weekly is going to press, results so far in the South Australian election have been a shock to many.
Mike Rann's Labor Party certainly can't have expected such a big win. The most pessimistic of Liberals can't have foreseen such a big loss. And some people were elected seemingly almost by accident.
With Labor now holding roughly double the number of seats held by the remaining Liberal rump, the Opposition has been left in the position in which Labor found itself after the "State Bank disaster" election of 1993.
The Liberals have lost some of their best performers after suffering swings of close to 20 per cent in some areas. Rob Kerin has fallen on his sword as Opposition leader and accepted full responsibility for the debacle. So why did this happen?Media
Possible reasons for the "Rannslide", as it's been termed, are many and varied. Labor strengths, including clever use of the media and utter dominance over it, form a major part. So too do Liberal weaknesses, including a failure of leadership.
Kerin was often perceived as a weak leader, unable to take the fight to Mike Rann; but in reality he was a reasonably capable one. Having nearly won the 2002 State Election against the odds, it is likely he would have made a good Premier, but he unfortunately lacked the aggressiveness required in Opposition.
There were also external forces at work. Aside from a pro-Labor local media, the general state of the national economy - plus an influx of GST revenue into state coffers - made for a comfortable electorate unwilling to seek change.
Where does this leave things?
Counting for the Upper House continues. Predictions made in News Weekly
(March 4, 2006) were reasonably accurate, as it seems Labor will win four seats, Family First one, the Greens one and the Democrats none. The major upset was the Liberals only winning three and the independent "No Pokies" MLC Nick Xenophon polling around 2.5 quotas, thus seeing him safely re-elected and joined by anti-drugs crusader Ann Bressington.Rash pledge
Mike Rann is already in the process of organising a reshuffle of his front bench. Before the election, he rashly pledged that independent MP Rory McEwen and National Party MP Karlene Maywald would retain their Cabinet positions. But with such a huge majority, some new talent and some factionally-jilted MPs, Labor caucus meetings are sure to be interesting.
The Liberals will elect a new leader as soon as final results are known. One possible leader, Robert Brokenshire, lost his seat, leaving three other possible contenders.
Senior Liberals are voicing the need for factional compromise to avoid the disruptions that have plagued South Australian Liberals since the days of the Liberal Movement in the 1970s.
The next few weeks will be telling.