South Australian election: Masterly pros outgun bumbling amateurs

South Australian election: Masterly pros outgun bumbling amateurs. By David Penberthy.

On the crucial second week of the SA election campaign … Labor leader Peter Malinauskas launched what, in a campaign sense, was his Exocet missile.

Amid huge public concern over the 485 per cent increase in ambulance ramping during the four years of the Marshall government, and with campaign momentum clearly on Labor’s side, Malinauskas promised that if elected, he would build a state-of-the-art $120m ambulance headquarters in the CBD.

Steven Marshall was just down the road that same Sunday where he announced that if re-elected, the Liberals would build a large giraffe enclosure at the Adelaide Zoo, on the banks of the River Torrens.

The optics were stark: Malinauskas flanked by hundreds of cheering ambos, consoling families whose loved ones had died while being ramped, Marshall extolling the marvels of what he dubbed “Adelaide’s own African oasis”. …

The giraffes-on-the-Torrens promise played straight into Labor’s claim that the Liberals had warped priorities, yet the Liberals did it and announced nothing different on that Sunday to change the narrative.

Labor’s entire campaign was ruthlessly and aggressively framed around smashing the Liberals on health, which is almost hilarious, given the state the hospitals were already in four years ago when Malinauskas was actually health minister.

The Liberals had nothing effective to counter it.


Conservative culture not up to the task of winning elections:

Their insipidness can be traced back to a long-forgotten moment in the bleak recent history of the SA Liberal Party, which by 2026 will have governed for four of the previous 24 years.

About 10 years ago … there was furious agreement among MPs that unlike Labor, one of the Liberal Party’s strengths was that it did not have “career politicians” but attracted people from all walks of life who had developed an interest in serving their community.

A lone voice in the room begged to differ: former-student-politician-turned-staffer-turned-MP-turned-Education Minister John Gardner.

He told the room the Liberals were consistently outgunned by Labor when it came to organising and campaigning, and the party needed to attract more people who regarded politics not as a passing interest but a lifelong vocation.

His warning was borne out on Saturday, with an economically competent first-term government blown away by a bunch of young right-wing Labor blokes who learnt their craft managing union campaigns, state campaigns, federal campaigns and now this campaign. …

They were simply flogged by people who are better at politics, work harder, have more supporters on the ground, and who seem to want victory more.

John Ferguson:

There is a clear and obvious trend emerging that Labor has discovered how to talk at a state level to the suburbs and the suburbs likes what it is hearing.

The South Australian Liberal Party has become terminally focused on the inside of the beltway. It talked to the inner east and inner south but even the inner east and the inner south didn’t like much of what it was hearing.

This is a long-term conundrum for the Liberals and the party urgently needs to work out what it stands for.

It needs to find a way to end more than 50 years of tribal nonsense, embrace the regions and recruit and promote the best from all factions. …

South Australia’s covid response was pretty good, to judge by the numbers:

Those critical of Marshall are pointing to his arm’s length management of the pandemic response as a key factor for the government’s political death.

Allowing police and SA’s chief health officer to run the show robbed the government of crucial mileage.

Voters are forward-looking. The current ambulance problems have a much bigger effect on votes than a thank-you for past covid management well done.