SA Libs Show Why They Languish In Opposition

THE ISSUE — daylight saving — is innocuous, but the approach is fatuous, bloody-minded and downright childish: spearheaded by Vickie Chapman (a waste of a safe seat if ever there was), South Australia’s Liberals have scuttled a proposal to bring the state into line with Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales. At great cost to business, an opportunity to partly untangle the annual daylight saving mess across Australia has been needlessly squandered.

For those who were wondering, I haven’t forgotten Her Majesty’s milestone; effective from yesterday, Queen Elizabeth II is now the longest-serving monarch in British history: and whilst I am delighted of course — God Save The Queen! — it isn’t an anniversary as such, and so on this occasion I opted to let it pass.

Heading into the weekend, we will have much to discuss, but for now I want to speak about what at first blush might seem a triviality, but which instead perfectly embodies the reasons South Australia’s Liberal Party thoroughly deserves the favouritism it already “enjoys” in betting markets to be consigned to a fifth consecutive term in opposition in that state.

There has been a “debate” (for want of a more suitable term) going on in South Australia for some time now over whether to keep its time zone settings as they are, move 30 minutes closer to the Western Standard Time that applies in Perth, or — most sensibly — abandon their time zone and align official time in South Australia with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania by permanently moving SA clocks forward by 30 minutes.

The last of the three options (which would still feature daylight saving adjustments in summer) would go a little way toward unpicking the ungodly mess that Australia’s time zones constitute, particularly in the warmer months: whilst Western Australia will never share a time zone with the east coast on account of distance, the practical effect of a 30-minute movement in South Australia would be minimal, and would mean that during daylight saving four of the five easternmost states at least would operate on common time.

Those effects would be easily outweighed by benefits in productivity and efficiency in trade and communications between states and economic gains.

But as seems characteristic when discussing the South Australian Liberals, common time — just like common sense — does not appear to be a commodity in abundant supply, at all.

The final article in this column for 2014 examined the lot of the South Australian Liberals in great depth and with brutal honesty, and rigged the state’s electoral boundaries may be — which really is no excuse for failing to win last year’s state election with an abysmal campaign that nonetheless secured 53% of the two-party vote — nothing that has transpired since then is remotely suggestive that the SA Libs have gone anywhere but backwards.

And quickly.

Yesterday’s issue of The Australian carried an article detailing how a Weatherill government initiative to align South Australia with the south-eastern states was effectively scuttled by a Liberal Party threat to block the requisite legislation in the upper house; in and of itself, this mightn’t be such a crime.

But to go through some of the crap (there is no other way to put it) that the Liberals have offered up as their pretext is to recognise a party in need of a top-to-bottom cleanout that is a disgrace to conservative politics, and in what seems to be becoming an all too familiar refrain, one which is appallingly run, stands for virtually nothing, and is a clubhouse for a little junta of cronies when it should be advancing liberal and conservative values to the betterment of the hundreds of thousands of South Australians whose hopes and aspirations depend on it.

The party’s deputy leader, Vickie Chapman, produced what must rank among the most cringeworthy and contemptible political soundbites in Australian political history, claiming “there’s no demonstrable evidence to support (South Australia) becoming a western suburb of Sydney,” which to be entirely candid shows that there is, in fact, no demonstrable evidence to support the contention that Chapman isn’t completely brain dead.

What makes Chapman’s idiotic pronouncement worse is her follow-up claim that “there’s good reason to stay in sync with the Northern Territory and our northern trading partners.”

What reason?

Half the distance from Adelaide lies more than a hundred times as many people as there are in Darwin. Our northern trading partners? What pap. The flow of goods and services in and out of South Australia — to say nothing of tourists, actual trade, and at the risk of sounding old-fashioned, money — has far more to do with Melbourne and Sydney than it does with the north. Any South Australian government which implemented a literal interpretation of Chapman’s remarks would bankrupt the place (not that they’d have to try hard, admittedly).

The business community could see the economic benefits in the move, but this supposed party of the business community has characteristically chosen to kick sand in its face; much better to rattle on with stupid and wholly defective rationales for a stupid decision cooked up in some ghastly backroom hollow by useless spivs unworthy of the stipend they are paid.

And to say something nice about him, remarks from treacherous dog — now SA Trade minister — Martin Hamilton-Smith are not very far wide of the mark, noting the loss of job opportunities and trade benefits, and accusing the Liberals of living in the past and looking backwards.

(Just in case anyone thinks I’ve relented in my criticism of Hamilton-Smith, I still maintain the that shrewdest assessment of that individual ever published appeared in this column in May last year, and I stand by every syllable of it. Those who missed it at the time may peruse it here: Hamilton-Smith might be making a reasonable fist of his job as a minister, but where integrity is concerned, he is sorely wanting).

But for all that — just like a Demtel commercial — there’s more.

The Advertiser today is running a story that details a position agreed by the Liberals’ party room on local government reform: rather than arrive at a position on the issue and stick to it, the party decided to wait and see what Labor’s position was: if Labor was in favour, the Liberals would oppose; if Labor opposed, the Liberals would support.

Liberal plan to “swing both ways,” The Advertiser aptly put it.

It actually doesn’t matter, in a sense, what the issue in fact is — which is why I’m not going to bother discussing it. The formulation the SA Liberals wanted to pursue is one that makes the likes of Bill Shorten and Daniel Andrews look principled and responsible. And that — not to put too fine a point on it — is a bar set low enough as it is.

You really have to wonder how the Liberal Party in South Australia can ever break out of the confines of opposition, given its apparent determination to render itself completely unelectable.

Yes, electoral boundaries that supposedly engineer “fair” boundaries prior to every election at fixed four-year intervals can only be dismissed as patently biased, delivering victory to the ALP at seven of the past nine state elections despite Labor only once winning a majority of the two-party vote in 2006.

But as I said earlier, that’s really not an excuse: and it certainly cuts no ice when this is the kind of thing the SA Liberals are serving up.

Many of its safest seats are occupied by long-standing no-hopers; in football terms they would be described as list cloggers. Nobody would make the mistake of ascribing all that much talent to the SA Liberal party room, for the brutal fact is that it boasts none.

For decades the SA party has been more interested in factional chicanery and the settling of long-dead scores than in any serious attempt to behave as a rational political party.

And yet again, Chapman, who has caused no end of trouble over the years with leadership mischief and factional machinations, despite being an insipid performer in Parliament and on the campaign trail — ensconced in her 70-30 safe Liberal seat — is at the epicentre of another object demonstration of why the Liberals really don’t deserve to win in South Australia.

Leader Steven Marshall is as good as useless. Terribly for the party — and in an utter indictment on it — there is simply nobody else fit to replace him.

Especially not Chapman, whatever plotting and scheming she might care to indulge herself with.

I really don’t like having to critically analyse the various Liberal Party divisions around the place; it’s depressing and, when the subject arises, I’ve got to be honest about it — there’s no credibility in glossing over trouble when the only people to whom it isn’t glaringly obvious are the members of the insiderish junta that runs things in Liberal land.

But with the expectation the recently-restored President of the Victorian division, Michael Kroger, will knock the party in my own state back into some semblance of competence and professionalism, South Australia’s Liberal Party is easily the worst-run and least electable of all the Liberal divisions across the country — the farce of its federal effort, run by yet more washed-up has-beens who are of no value to the party whatsoever, notwithstanding.

There’s another election due in South Australia in March 2018 — two and a half years away — and if a week is a long time in politics, obviously anything could happen to the conservatives in the Festival State over such a long lead time.

But right now, you’d have to say losing that election is very much on the cards: and if the party in SA doesn’t pull its collective finger out, and quickly, it won’t have the fig leaf of a majority of the two-party vote to hide behind when defeat rolls around again, either.

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3 thoughts on “SA Libs Show Why They Languish In Opposition

  1. They make the other states look downright organised, professional and tactically astute, but really talking about South Australia? Can you hear the crickets? If you are going to talk state politics any of the three eastern seaboard would be of more interest.

    All joking aside, it is a sad state of affairs that they can gain the majority of the vote so many times and never win government. Did they run a target seat campaign?

  2. I think you are being a bit too inclusive when you throw the mud at Marshall just because it’s true that the others deserve it. I say again that you should stop talking about the 53% the Libs got in the last election and focus instead on the 54.5% they needed to win to show the true extent of gerrymander which exists. The electoral commissioner I believe resigned just after the last election becaus the game was up. You can only reach this sort of high farce by assuming that the two independent Seats are historically liberal and letting this guide the redistribution. But she had a duty to redistribute on the basis that 50.5% should deliver government overall and true results provide ample evidence of gross incompetence which even the most sanguine Laborite cannot justify.

    • Hi Rasputin, I actually don’t disagree with most of your points – except Marshall has been shown up to be the ineffective neophyte some suspected he would prove. Making first-term MPs party leaders is a dangerous pastime that is becoming increasingly common for opposition parties. The only one I can think of for whom it worked was Bob Hawke — and Marshall is no Hawke!

      That said, I’m in 100% agreement with all your other points. On the 53% thing, it’s where I was heading when I said (twice) that the boundaries were really no excuse: the party knew what had to be done and didn’t do it, and in any case, to fall over the line by one seat is hardly a desirable outcome, had it eventuated: no Coalition government anywhere in the country since the war, except Colin Barnett’s in WA, has ever taken power in minority and won the following election. In any case, with the state the Labor government was in, the Liberals should have got a 2-3% swing against it. They got a scrape less than 1%. The outcome was right there. Enough said.

      But yes, as a whole, the SA Libs certainly deserve the assessment I’ve made. The tragedy is that all around the country, those charged with running who make a botch of it invariably hit out at people like me who see the problem and call it for what it is as troublemakers, know-it-alls, and disruptive elements seeking to destroy the party. There’s an irony there, and the situation we have discussed in SA accurately reflects it. With people of that calibre entrusted with the Liberal Party’s fortunes there is scarcely a need for Labor to lay a glove on it: they are more than capable of destroying the party all by themselves.

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