SA Labor: Ridiculous Act of Self-Immolation Cedes Election To Liberals

IN CONDUCTING an extraordinary and highly public brawl over what are essentially the spoils of Opposition this week, the South Australian ALP has effectively surrendered the contest at the 15 March state election; short of a miracle there is no way South Australians will re-elect their tired Labor government now, and the behaviour of the Labor Party itself shows it unfit to govern. A big win by the Liberal Party is now all but certain.

Just like Queensland Premier Anna Bligh in 2012, who admitted having no proof to back accusations against Campbell Newman of corruption and other criminal misconduct she repeatedly referred to her state’s Crime and Misconduct Commission, or Kevin Rudd, whose re-election bid last year was summarily terminated by three senior Treasury bureaucrats publicly stating ALP claims on Coalition costings were baseless, yet another moribund Labor government has found yet another way to throw yet another election on account of its own self-obsessed and churlish actions.

The ridiculous and self-indulgent brawl the South Australian ALP engaged in yesterday — ostensibly over the entry of factional he-man and defeated Senator Don Farrell to the SA Parliament to assume leadership of the ALP once it loses next month’s election — immediately renders Labor’s quest for a fourth term in the Festival State pointless, and virtually guarantees Liberal leader Steven Marshall the Premiership when the votes are counted on 15 March.

The stoush — conducted in a suitably public forum by Labor standards on a morning radio programme during which Premier Jay Weatherill threatened to resign, effective immediately, if Farrell were preselected to the vacant ALP seat of Napier — stinks of childish petulance and makes it impossible to see how Labor might convince a majority of SA voters to support it.

Weatherill has committed a cardinal political sin — publicly threatening to set a government adrift, leaderless, ahead of an imminent election — and it is now inconceivable that the party will suffer anything other than electoral humiliation as a consequence.

The irony in this is that based on recent opinion polling, it has looked a little difficult to see the Liberals finding the swing of about 3% required to take six seats off Labor to form government, even if they must be regarded as favourites to reclaim at least one, and possibly two, seats back from independents.

A 3% swing will now be the last thing SA Labor needs to worry about.

One of the most incredible aspects of this — according to the report I’ve linked to — is the assertion by a “senior Labor source” (who is unnamed, of course) that Weatherill himself advocated Farrell’s entry to Parliament after the latter lost his Senate seat in last year’s federal election.

“Imagine how we are all feeling now that he’s (Weatherill) done this to us,” the source said.

Imagine indeed. Fancy that.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter who started it, or who reneged, or who got in the lucky strike to settle a score: the damage is done.

In forcing Farrell’s withdrawal by threatening to quit himself, Weatherill has in no way shut down or neutralised the political shitstorm yesterday’s internecine antics unleashed; in fact, the episode has merely served — once again — to illustrate to the electorate by the most graphic of means that the ALP is far less concerned with rendering sound governance in office than it is with its perennial internal pastimes of kicking each other in the head and fighting brutal factional wars based on (misplaced) notions of entitlement and retribution.

The episode shows that Weatherill — himself installed in a 2011 coup that forced out longtime Premier Mike Rann that was partially sponsored by Farrell — is unlikely to survive much longer than the declaration of the poll as Premier, if the ALP were to somehow cobble an election win together, before the faceless Labor machine strikes him down: the same revolving-door approach to the Labor leadership that has poisoned the party in NSW, and Tasmania, and federally, has apparently now arrived in South Australia.

And the idea that Farrell (who is soon to turn 60) might be a suitable candidate to lead state Labor during what is likely to be at least a two-term rebuilding phase would have merit to anyone other than Farrell himself is an insult to a rational person’s intelligence.

It is beyond question that Farrell — a senior union official prior to entering the Senate, and by all accounts a legendary numbers man and factional heavyweight — is a big hitter in the rough and grind of the politics of the South Australian Left.

Yet having spent a career total of just ten weeks as a minister (after backing Rudd to roll Julia Gillard, whom he himself helped to install as Prime Minister) it is impossible to ascertain what qualifications, if any, he might possess to lead the ALP in opposition, let alone as a future Premier in his dotage.

What was played out in the saga yesterday — ugly, malicious, with the “do unto others before they do unto you” odour the whole thing reeks of — is just about the worst imaginable political look for any government seeking re-election, and seeking a fourth term from a poor numerical starting point at that.

Whichever way you cut it, Labor in SA has shown just how pathetically bankrupt it is in its capacity to offer voters anything meaningful to vote for or deserving of support.

Yesterday, the South Australian election became a foregone conclusion, just like others before it that the ALP has recently lost.

It will only have itself to blame. Step forward, Premier Steve Marshall.