SA election: Major parties lose support

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The South Australian state election has come to a close with the Liberal Party forming government with a slim majority. This was despite a swing of 7% against the party. The election, which was tipped to be a close race, resulted in swings against all the main parties.

Nick Xenophon’s SA Best formation was the only party to increase support. That said, SA Best did not live up to expectations.

In the months leading up to the election SA Best was polling at 32% suggesting that they would set themselves up as kingmakers. Xenophon at one point was the preferred premier.

In the end SA Best found themselves winning only 13.8% of the vote and were unable to secure a single lower house seat. Xenophon himself was unable to win the seat of Hartley, ending 20 consecutive years in parliament.

Xenophon has suggested that the less-than-expected result came about because the party had spread themselves too thin. They stood in 36 seats across the state.

In addition, they have blamed a propaganda campaign that was waged against them by the gambling lobby. The major parties and the trade unions also campaigned against them.

A key reason that SA Best lost support as the election closed in however was that they had a total lack of policies.

There is real enthusiasm in South Australia for an alternative to the major parties. In the early stages of the campaign people were prepared to give SA Best a chance. When they realised they weren’t much different to the Liberals or Labor, support waned.

When ad-hoc policies were announced, they were generally pro-market, protectionist and anti-worker.

For example, SA Best said they were seeking to “harness an entrepreneurial spirit”. They wanted to give tax cuts to businesses and suggested redeveloping Adelaide’s Port Stanvac oil refinery into a commercial and housing precinct – only to sell off the estate as private housing.

The populist rhetoric of Xenophon was not enough to fool people.

Even on pokies, which was the issue that first thrust Xenophon into the limelight, SA Best lost ground with commentators saying their proposals would be a drop in the ocean. That Xenophon had been in parliament for years and achieved very little on pokies reform also exposed him as all talk and no action.

Cory Bernadi’s Australian Conservatives, which stands to the right of the Liberals, had merged with Family First but they suffered a 3% swing against them and didn’t win any lower house seats. Following the trend in Tasmania, the Greens saw a 2.2% slump in their vote and also failed to win any lower house seats.

Labor, who were in power for 16 years up until this election, also lost support, seeing a 2% swing against them. A decade and a half of job cuts, overseeing the decimation of manufacturing, rising electricity bills and stagnating wages meant the party was on the nose with working class voters.

What is clear from these results is that despite the declining support for Labor, the Greens and the Australian Conservatives, the Liberals were unable to take advantage and increase their support base.

They won largely on the bottoming out of SA Best’s vote and the redrawing of electoral boundaries. In fact, the swing against them means that they form government with only 37% of the vote!

On this basis the new Liberal state government will not be stable. Just the same as Labor, the Liberals have no answers to the burning issues working people face. Unemployment in some suburbs sits at over 30%! There is a desperate need for jobs.

Energy prices, which have risen around 50% in the past decade, are also a major concern. The new government has pledged to build an interconnector to the NSW grid but this will not guarantee lower energy prices.

The reason for the state’s high power bills lies not with renewables but with rampant profiteering. The Liberals have not only have no plan to address this, but their policies may make matters worse.

The problems voters in South Australia face will not be solved by any party that supports the profit-driven system. The task ahead is to build a real political alternative that puts the interests of working class people front and centre.

By Corey Snoek