SOUTH AUSTRALIA: by Tom WalmsleyNews Weekly
Surprises in store in SA's federal poll
, October 27, 2007
South Australia is set to play a pivotal role in deciding the federal election outcome, writes Tom Walmsley.With, arguably, seven marginal seats out of its total of 11, South Australia will play a pivotal role in deciding the federal election outcome. And a few of these seats, not to mention the SA Senate line-up, might even buck the national trend.
Take the seat of Boothby, for example. Held by the Liberals since 1949, its 5.4 per cent margin would normally be of serious concern to a sitting member, given current polling (even more so, given that Dr Andrew Southcott has been labelled "the invisible member" by some).
Not to pre-empt the result, but it seems that Dr Southcott might in fact be saved by the selection of Labor "celebrity candidate" Nicole Cornes. A some-time newspaper columnist and wife of former Adelaide Crows coach Graham Cornes, she has proved a PR disaster for Labor.Dodged interview
On numerous occasions under the media spotlight she has been unable to explain her party's policies, has directed her would-be constituents to the ALP website and dodged a radio interview because they would not assure her of "no hard questions". She has even admitted to voting for Dr Southcott in the past.
Still, the result in Boothby could be close, given that Dr Southcott supported both the abortion drug RU-486 and human cloning, and jeopardised attracting Family First preferences.
Next door in Sturt, Labor's other "celebrity", Mia Hanshin, is taking on junior minister Christopher Pyne. Another sometime columnist and member of the feminist Emily's List, she has been likened to a Cornes who knows when to remain silent. She will likely dent the Liberal 6.8 per cent margin, but won't take the seat. Perhaps Labor regrets not running her in Boothby.
The Labor seats of Adelaide and Hindmarsh, and the Liberal seats of Kingston, Wakefield and Makin, are all on a knife-edge, with margins of 1.3 per cent or less. It seems likely that Labor will retain their two seats and take the three Liberal seats in a national swing, despite the hard work of Liberal candidates such as MP David Fawcett (Wakefield) and builder Bob Day (Makin).
The race for the Senate is no less interesting.
Labor Senator Linda Kirk is headed for involuntary retirement after falling out with her union. Sent to Canberra in the 2001 election by the moderate Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees' Association, she then proceeded to vote for embryonic stem-cell research and other measures which guaranteed her a trip home.
She will be replaced by the SDA's SA leader, Don Farrell, who has won first place on Labor's ticket.
Second on Labor's ticket is their only SA frontbencher, Penny Wong, who recently had the distinction of inclusion in SameSame
website's 25 most influential gay and lesbian Australians, alongside such luminaries as Bob Brown, Michael Kirby and David Marr.
Third is the relatively unknown Cath Perry, backed by the metalworkers' union. She would normally face a tough contest, but these are interesting times.
Fairly new Liberal senators Cory Bernardi and Simon Birmingham, conservative and left-leaning respectively, are sure to be re-elected; but veteran senator and former member for Kingston, Grant Chapman, is in serious danger at number three. This is a real shame given his long-time pro-life credentials.
The normal SA result of three Liberal, two Labor and one Democrat is fast becoming history. Last election saw Labor take the Democrat seat, and this election will see a likely repeat.
Family First would have liked the Democrat seat; but with current polling, their only realistic chance would be to take Grant Chapman's spot. It all depends on what sort of primary vote Family First's candidate, Tony Bates, an automotive executive with GM-Holden, can pull to stay in the preference race.
All of this supposition, however, can probably be laid to rest with the recent announcement that independent State MLC Nick Xenophon will run for the Senate. The "No Pokies" pollie and media darling ended up with more than 20 per cent of the entire vote in last year's state election, meaning that even a fraction of this should see him sent to Canberra.
Behind the façade of a politician who is "there for the right reasons" and "doesn't have his nose in the trough", however, Xenophon has previously voted for same-sex legislation and once sought to force priests into mandatory reporting of child abuse heard in the confessional.
His candidacy has left people asking what the single-issue pollie stands for and why he so quickly abandoned his position in state parliament for what seems a better offer. Xenophon has admitted to discussions with key Labor figures prior to his decision.
At this point the smart money would probably be on three Labor senators, two Liberal and one independent (Xenophon) - pointing to a likely loss of Coalition control of the Senate in 2008, even if the Coalition returns to Government.
One thing is certain: South Australia will play a key role in this and no doubt many more elections to come.- Tom Walmsley