Rigged: ALP Fights Fair Electoral Boundaries In SA

SINCE 1982, SA Liberals have won the two-party vote at 8 of 10 state elections, but won two; many observers — me included — have long felt SA boundaries are rigged. SA is the Liberals’ biggest failure; now, the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission has produced a redraw notionally giving the Liberals office on 2014 votes. Like a toddler in meltdown, Labor is off to the SA Supreme Court. The rort offers national insight into the rotten ALP mentality.

In any discussion of “gerrymanders” in South Australia, what many casual observers (and even some seasoned ones) overlook is the fact that it was a Liberal state government which, in 1968, abolished electoral malapportionment in SA and in so doing, redistributed itself out of office; even so, what Labor has perpetuated in the Croweater State in the name of being “fair” over the past 40 years has been anything but, and now the rort is ending, the ALP is screaming blue murder.

I am including articles today from The Australian and Adelaide’s Advertiser newspaper — the latter including more links to other relevant coverage — that readers can access here and here; but first, a little history.

Step back 50 years, and most Australian states had electoral boundaries that incorporated some kind of malapportionment; the thinking at the time — before reliable air travel and fast, safe road transport was as prevalent as it is today — was that rural MPs should be accommodated with smaller electorates to service than their city cousins, and this guiding principle meant that state elections (by their nature) gave the man on the land a vote that was more heavily weighted than the man about town.

It is also one of the reasons why some of the long-term state Premiers of the past — Tom Playford, Frank Nicklin, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Henry Bolte — were conservatives representing country electorates; but the impact of this philosophy was not universal and was not consistent, as 24 years of ALP rule in more urban NSW between 1941 and 1965 shows by way of example.

As the state “gerrymanders” (which they were commonly called, despite more correctly being termed malapportionments) went, the SA boundaries were the heaviest in Australia, believed to weight country votes against city votes by a 6:1 margin; the example most commonly railed against by Labor (and which the ALP itself introduced, its latter-day declamations notwithstanding) and the one fine-tuned by Bjelke-Petersen in Queensland was also the least distorting, giving weight to rural votes at about 3:1.

The Queensland “zonal” boundaries also meant any party winning 50% of the vote after preferences would win power, which is exactly what Labor did when it won a majority of the two-party vote in 1989 for the first time since 1956.

It goes without saying that fair elections, conducted on the principle of “one vote, one value,” are absolutely imperative; I am no apologist for boundaries that are rigged in favour of conservatives, and have railed in this column against attempts to gain electoral advantage through fiddling with electoral apparatus by either side ever since I started it.

But after Steele Hall committed electoral suicide by redistributing himself out of office in South Australia in 1968, Labor — under the guise of “fairness” — legislated a special commission that would review that state’s boundaries after every election, and “adjust” them based on the most recent results to ensure that as closely as practicable, the party which won a majority of two-party votes at the next poll would win office.

In practice, this has meant that the Liberal Party — despite itself, and we’ll get back to that — has been almost completely locked out of office in SA since David Tonkin was beaten by John Bannon (with Labor scoring a minority of the vote) in 1982, save for the 1993 boilover in the wake of Labor’s State Bank disaster and a narrowly acquired second term four years later.

The effect of this has become more pronounced in recent years, with SA Liberals losing elections in 2010 and 2014 with well over 50% of the statewide vote: in 2014, the Liberal Party under Steven Marshall won more than 53%, and didn’t just lose, but lost convincingly.

Now — in a breath of fresh air — the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission has finalised its redraw of boundaries ahead of the 2018 state election, which moves five seats on paper into the Liberals’ column and with them, makes an end to the most recent long-term Labor government in SA look likelier in 18 months’ time.

And Labor, having benefited from rigged boundaries for decades, is trying to raise merry hell about it.

In its “appraisal” of the latest redistribution, the ALP makes much of the fact that almost 400,000 voters (or almost one in three) are shifted into different electorates: hardly much of a surprise, given the distortions that have existed to this point, and which most recently gave Labor a majority win with a tick over 46% of the statewide vote.

It somehow seeks to claim that because the usually safe Liberal seat of Waite — held by turncoat and general piece of shit Martin Hamilton-Smith — returns to the Liberal column on paper, this is more evidence of a “biased” redraw. But Waite voters were sold down the river by Hamilton-Smith, who tossed principle overboard to jump into bed with the ALP and pocket a fat ministerial salary, and there is no obligation on the Commission’s part to somehow sanction this piece of bastardry just because it suits the Labor Party.

And the outrage Labor types seem to profess at the fact that some seats have been “flipped” on paper to the Liberals is fatuous, given the whole point of redistributions is to more equably apportion electorates based on the most recent electoral results, and if Labor now suggests that “notional” electorates should never emerge from a redistribution process it’s an indictment on its power-crazed entitlement mentality and an insight into the anti-democratic instincts that now underpin Australia’s oldest party.

The ALP has also made a lot of noise about the variable enrolments in the new seats, as good as declaring the new boundaries are rigged. But the Commission’s report clearly shows no electorate is above the 10% tolerance that is standard in Australia these days at all state and federal redistributions, and Labor’s bleating is no more than an attempt to smear and defame those who refuse to do its bidding: in this case a statutory government authority, which for once appears to have produced a fair outcome.

It should be emphasised that the SA Liberals — despite their lack of success at elections, which is in turn at least a partial consequence of past outcomes of the Commission — have in other respects been their own worst enemies, with bitter faction fighting and other divisive, self-destructive behaviour more entrenched and rampant in that division than anywhere else in the country; there is no guarantee at all the party will win the state election that is now less than 18 months away.

The Liberals retain a leader in Steven Marshall whose electoral appeal and ability to govern remain unclear, and they retain inside Parliament and out powerful factional players (such as Bragg MP Vicky Chapman, a perpetual target of this column) without whom they would well and truly be better off.

And the rising presence of Nick Xenophon’s NXT team, on its home turf, might well derail any prospect of a Liberal win altogether, as this left-leaning influence has at the federal level siphoned votes off the Liberal pile and disproportionately sent them on preferences to Labor.

But for all that, the changes in SA should be welcome: and are at least a decade overdue.

I don’t propose to discuss any issues that particularly apply to SA politics today, for the focus is the electoral system: it would, however, be remiss not to note the statewide blackouts that occurred there recently, and to note that for a party in office for 14 years (and for 25 of the past 34) Labor has nobody to blame but itself for anything SA voters are motivated to take up baseball bats over.

But the disturbing thing about these changes, and Labor’s reaction to them, is the pattern of anti-democratic thuggery it continues where the ALP’s approach to elections and government is concerned.

Federally, it is unable to accept it is in opposition, and uses the Senate not as an instrument of review, but as a battering ram to try to destroy the government.

In Queensland, it stealthily fiddled the electoral system, abolishing optional preferential voting (supported by at least the 60-70% of voters who no longer allocate preferences there) to give itself the best chance of harvesting Greens’ votes. In so doing, it abolished its own electoral fix, introduced when it ended the gerrymander in 1992.

In Victoria and Queensland, Labor sends out union officials at state elections masquerading as essential services workers, and in Victoria in 2014 even had “nurses” ring old and sick people to lie to them about what a Liberal state government would do if re-elected.

And where outright lying is concerned, the so-called “Mediscare” fracas during the recent federal election continues the theme of an ALP prepared to literally say anything to barge its way into the corridors of power, where patronage and influence can be handed out to union thugs and other filth that resides in the Labor tent.

In this sense, the ALP’s recourse to the South Australian Supreme Court should surprise nobody; it is the action of a sore loser, and one whose profit from a shabby rort has been allowed to go on for too long as it is.

My bet is that the Court will dismiss any challenge the ALP brings, although I don’t wish to pre-empt such a finding: it just seems so cut and dry as to be a frivolous and vexatious attempt to maintain advantage by legal intimidation and brutality.

And in this sense, there is a message for voters in every other state, and federally.

Next time you hear Bill Shorten, or any of the other parrot puppets the ALP sends out to address the media, talking about “fairness” and “equity,” what they are really talking about is their own self-interest and unfair advantage.

Labor is so concerned with fairness that it seeks to rig and rort the mechanics of elections to either keep itself in power forever, or destroy any government by someone else that voters have the nerve to install in its place.

Once again, what is going on in SA merely shows Labor is rotten to the core, and frankly, if SA voters needed an extra reason to throw the ALP out in 2018, Labor itself is handing it to them.

But even this is no guarantee, for the SA Liberals have repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to make themselves unelectable. For its trouble and its lack of real principle, SA Labor may yet prevail if the Liberals, once again, prove unable to get their shit together ahead of a state election at which they should be a lay-down misere.


Time To End The Annual Daylight Saving Farce

THE FARCICAL MISHMASH of four time zones for 24 million people resumes tomorrow; coming just hours after the AFL Grand Final and coinciding with the finale of the NRL season — marking, obliquely, a passage from the sublime to the ridiculous, as Australian sport moves on to horses and pretty girls in dresses — the inefficiency, waste and confusion caused by daylight saving is again upon us for six months. It’s time for the circus to end.

It’s a less “heavy” post from me this morning, and I begin with a familiar apology to readers on account of the dearth of time I have had for posting comment; whilst the heavy workload I’m under is manageable, the additional impost inflicted by the medical fright* I have obliquely alluded to over the past two months will shortly be resolved as well: and whilst I’ll still be busier than a swarm of bees, the time I have been carving out to attend to the latter is about to draw to a close, and this is probably the difference between the three articles I’ve been delivering each week and at least another couple, so do bear with me.

I’ve read the editorial from this morning’s Brisbane Courier Mail, and whilst it contains a couple of errors of fact — Queenslanders (including, then, me) voted in a Daylight Saving referendum in 1991, not in 1992 as stated — I have to say I couldn’t agree more.

When those north of the Tweed last had their say on the permanent adoption of Daylight Saving, I voted against it.

But I did so with the explicit rider that had I lived in Melbourne, I would have been unreservedly supportive; I have of course lived in Melbourne now for almost 18 years, and whilst I don’t like the “extra hour of afternoon heat” that comes with Daylight Saving during the most unpleasant excesses of summer, the fact it remains twilight until almost 10pm during the longest days of the year (and is light enough first thing in the morning) outweighs that concern.

When I lived in Brisbane, it was still dark by 7.30pm — even during the three-year trial of Daylight Saving introduced by the Ahern government in 1989.

But time, experience, and the passage of more of life’s journey can evolve perspectives, and it certainly has in my own case.

True to its reputation of being “different” — a euphemism if ever there was — some of the arguments advanced against Daylight Saving in the so-called Sunshine State back in those days were ridiculous; the birds at the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary on the Gold Coast, for example, were said to be disinclined to show up an hour early to be fed.

The same was said of country cows, who lacked comprehension of time zone changes, and would supposedly fail to arrive for milking at 4am…because they would still believe it to be 3am.

And my favourite was the effect Daylight Saving would have “on the curtains,” and watching Gerry Connolly’s Gerrymander Joh And The Last Crusade at Brisbane’s Twelfth Night Theatre in December 1989, audience members were treated to the disgusting spectacle of “Flo” hanging the most flatulently garish curtains at the Bjelke-Petersen ranch in Kingaroy, assuring the neighbour who had “popped in for a cuppa” not to worry about the hideous pattern on them because “they’ll be bleached white in no time with all this extra daylight we’re having.”

It is difficult to believe intelligent people could ever come up with this sort of rubbish. But the truly deleterious effects of Daylight Saving are no laughing matter.

In the almost quarter of a century that has passed since that ill-fated 1991 referendum, Brisbane has changed; no longer the archaic backwater that closes at 5pm and all weekend every weekend, the Brisbane lifestyle has evolved to make far more use of the daylight hours for recreational purposes than has ever been the case.

Businesses on the Gold Coast (which have traditionally driven any Daylight Saving push in Queensland) these days simply ignore the time change, and turn their clocks forward to synchronise them with their neighbours south of the Tweed River.

The cost in lost economic output and waste from the hotchpotch of time zones that exist for half the year has been estimated at $4 billion — a lot of money at the best of times, and inefficiency and waste that can scarcely be justified as the economic climate turns decidedly sour.

And the instrument of Daylight Saving itself seems to have become a de facto vehicle for state chauvinism and the persistence of States’ Rights that are becoming increasingly difficult to demarcate or even justify in a modern, integrated society such as Australia’s.

In theory, I spend a day each week commuting to Brisbane and back at present: and from this coming week onward, airline schedules become truly confusing, as flights to Brisbane take (on paper) one hour, whilst the return leg takes a little over three.

I am dependent on the latest departure possible on the return leg, on account of what I’m going for; to ensure flights arrive and depart in Melbourne at the same time all year round (and by extension, on other routes to the southern states) all of those departures become one hour earlier tomorrow — which scarcely helps business travellers requiring a full day interstate.

And having alluded to the little medical issue I have been working against of late, after the most recent incident Qantas barred me from flying until the condition was diagnosed and resolved (which will happen this week) — and I spent the following two days driving the length of the Newell Highway to get home: I raise this because Australia isn’t a series of petty fiefdoms, but a continuous, rolling plain that merely changes the further you go; there is no border checkpoint at Goondiwindi, or Tocumwal, or anywhere else. To arrange the country as if there were is fatuous, and a relic of a bygone era that belongs in the history books and not in the 21st century.

It’s only a few weeks since we last looked at Daylight Saving: through the lens of vacuous expediency and cheap political frippery deployed by South Australia’s Liberal Party to scuttle a move to permanently align that state’s time zone with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania; filled with imbecilic righteousness and a sadly misguided sense of self-importance, serial embarrassment and senior Liberal Vickie Chapman spoke of a need to remain “in sync with northern trading partners” (in Darwin, of all places) and to avoid becoming “a western suburb of Sydney” as the Liberals’ brain-dead reasons for torpedoing what was objectively a pretty good idea.

The same sense of faux righteousness emanates out of Queensland irrespective of who is in office these days; the LNP claims to be defending the small business community by acting to preserve the status quo, whilst Labor simply claims there is no consensus on the issue despite its platform committing it to Daylight Saving for decades.

I understand there are parts of Queensland — its rural west and its far north, for instance — in which Daylight Saving really isn’t a fit; these are the areas that hardly depend on efficient or harmonious accord with what goes in in the southern states, and which can and indeed should probably be left to their own devices.

But the south-east — say, from Noosa and Coolum to the border, and west to take in Ipswich and perhaps the Warwick/Toowoomba arc, depending on local sentiment — really should be brought into line with the vast majority of the population that lies south of the Tweed, and as the Courier Mail correctly notes, majority support in the south-east for such a move existed even at the time of the 1991 referendum.

But there is a bigger issue here; does Australia remain a series of disparate former colonies that reluctantly tolerate each other’s existence, or is the country evolving toward being a united, single nation?

Some express surprise whenever, as an unabashed conservative, I express my view that the states are basically redundant; far from the mad centralism the likes of former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen would accuse anyone of if they dared suggest abolishing state government, I actually advocate the opposite: a federal government devolving responsibility wherever possible to a system of beefed-up local authorities, and getting rid of one tier of government in a ridiculously and indefensibly overgoverned country.

It’s an argument for another time, of course. But this internecine sniping over daylight saving is a symptom of national dysfunction, not some machismo expression of the bona fides of states’ rights.

If you look at any global map of time zones internationally, these are not crisp, clean, and do not run in straight vertical lines: there goes that theory, and debunks the cretinous argument of Vickie Chapman for good measure.

It’s high time someone took some leadership, moved South Australia and the Northern Territory onto the same time zone as the eastern states — ignoring mental midgets like Chapman and charlatans like everyone in the Queensland Parliament, it seems — and bring as much of the eastern half of the country into sync.

There are ample provisions in the Constitution to justify the Commonwealth instituting such a change, even if the charge of riding roughshod over “sovereign” states becomes the next irresponsible political fraud to be kicked around the place as a consequence.

Frankly, if an elected federal government using the mechanisms available to it to override the irresponsibility and posturing of hillbilly state politicians whose usefulness in the big scheme of things is a colonial relic ruffles a few feathers, then so be it.

AND ANOTHER THING: with the Grand Final set to begin in a few hours in Melbourne, my tip; with no disrespect to my old mates in Brisbane, I am not interested in what happens in the NRL  — having grown up a Carlton supporter many years before God invented the Brisbane Bears — but I wish those who love their rugby a great game tomorrow.

Obviously, with my beloved Blues not playing in finals this year, I don’t have anything invested in what transpires at the MCG this afternoon.

Yet by the same token — and this used to rankle friends when I lived in Brisbane and refused point-blank to abandon Carlton (or even find my way clear to make supportive utterances of the Bears when they sputtered into the competition in 1987) — I only ever support an interstate side when they play Collingwood and especially Essendon, which I utterly and absolutely despise (and would barrack for a freight train en route to the MCG against the Bombers if I thought there was some prospect it could prevent them winning).

Seriously, the present iteration of the Hawthorn Football Club is the best football side the national game has seen since the Brisbane Lions of 2001-03, and probably the Hawthorn and Carlton sides of 1979-1991 before them; that brown and gold outfit that has already won three flags from four Grand Finals over seven years has another opportunity today, and I am convinced Hawthorn will prevail.

The West Coast side they face is a seriously impressive unit, and cannot be dismissed out of hand today; there is the realistic prospect they will score a lucky strike this afternoon and will be worthy winners if they do.

But I see the Weagles as potentially next year’s champions rather than today’s, and faced with a battle-hardened opponent at its ruthless best almost every time the big occasion demands it — and especially when backed into a corner — it is impossible to believe Hawthorn won’t add to its legend as one of the best sides to ever play Australian football when it lines up against West Coast at the G this afternoon.

Hawthorn by 27 points.

*For those who’ve expressed concern in comments, I can assure them I am perfectly all right — perfectly all right — but the “stroke” symptoms that triggered a flight diversion to Sydney when I was returning home from Brisbane seven weeks ago have turned out to have been caused by one of the myriad of harmless (albeit unpleasant) afflictions that mimic a stroke but which have nothing to do with the brain or a stroke at all: I have the extremely rare condition baroparesis facialis which is believed drastically under-reported (I’m the 24th confirmed case worldwide) that is simply an ear problem in which pressure changes caused half my face to collapse at 37,000 feet — and would have righted itself upon return to sea level if unattended to.

Regrettably, confirming that diagnosis (at considerable expense) has had me spend some days in total with a raft of specialists and included a whole-day field trip down an MRI tunnel last week…the “cure,” at age 43 (which may or may not relieve the problem) is a grommet — the sort of thing I never had as a child — but then that should be that.

I’m lucky it was nothing sinister (and with excellent BP and blood numbers, it shouldn’t have been anyway) but it’s better for medicos to err on the scary side first and work backwards rather than the other way around…thanks for the concern people have shown too. Happily, it seems it has been a false alarm this time. 🙂

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.

Union’s Penalty Rates Deal A Smoke And Mirrors Trick

THE DEAL ON PENALTY RATES announced yesterday between Business SA and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association may be a rare and welcome shred of labour market flexibility, and it may even constitute a step in the right direction. But robbing Peter to pay Paul is a fraught pursuit, and this smoke and mirrors trick simply cloaks the underlying burden of wage costs to businesses in a veil of “consultation” and “consensus.”

I have been reading about the “historic” template agreement signed yesterday between the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDAEA) and Business SA — which is said to “slash” penalty rates — and I have to wonder if I’m the only one who hasn’t been conned by what can only be described as a hoax; The Australian‘s Grace Collier tears strips from it in a complementary argument to mine, although stablemate Judith Sloan takes a gentler view of it.

The whole point to any debate over penalty rates (at least, where the poor bastards in small business lumbered with paying them is concerned) is that these archaic, obsolete relics from a bygone era as “compensation” for “unsociable hours of work” have in fact become a millstone around the figurative necks of many small and medium-sized enterprises, forcing them to restrict the times they trade, the number of staff they can hire, or both.

But this deal is simply a conjuring trick; everyone with a stake in it professes to have had “a win” — even the employers, their industry representatives, and the supposedly pro-business Liberal government — yet the only winner out of this is the union involved, which has hoodwinked the business interests concerned by a breathtaking sleight of hand.

First, the positives as I see them.

One, the abandoning of penalty rates on a Saturday is an absolute no-brainer, and this indefensible impost on businesses ought to be removed across the board: Saturday has become a day just like any other over the past few decades, and there is nothing unsociable about working on it.

Two, and similarly, the reduction of penalty rates from 100% to 50% on Sundays and from 150% to 100% on public holidays is at least a step in the right direction, reducing at face value as it does further imposts on small enterprises that — with a tiny number of exceptions, such as Christmas — simply fail to stack up against the ancient criteria still wheeled out by Labor and the unions to justify them.

The “right” — set to be enshrined as part of the agreement at hand — not to work on Sundays and/or public holidays is one I can find no fault with; after all, if people don’t want to work on given days they shouldn’t be forced to do so, although I reiterate that with a very small number of exceptions they shouldn’t have their hand out for multiples of their ordinary time earnings if they do work at those times.

And anything that helps flatten out and simplify a ridiculously complex regime of penalty allowances, loadings, and other wage components for hourly employees can only be a good thing.

But the positives are instantly neutralised with one very big negative: the 8% increase in base pay rates the agreement enshrines for its workers in return for surrendering a portion (not all, mind, just a portion) of their entitlement to be paid penalty rates at certain times, and the guaranteed 3% annual increases it includes will simply compound this.

On the one hand, this agreement takes some penalty rates away — some — from the hourly employees it will cover.

But on the other, it will mostly give them straight back in the form of a higher hourly rate.

The proof is that the template calls for the workers it covers for it to be no worse off under its terms for the agreement to be binding.

And the employers, desperate for relief from the punitive burden of paying penalty rates, will still pay out the same amount of money in wages — but broken down and accounted for a little differently.

The higher hourly rates will mean the employer effectively pays current penalty rates at any time of the day or night on any day an employee is working in their business.

What an absolute farce.

It’s unsurprising Labor and the unions are gushing over this; the SDAEA has probably uncovered an exciting new mechanism, compliant with the Fair Work Act, with which to continue to shaft small businesses whilst preserving their self-designated status as the “champions” of Australian workers.

It’s unsurprising the union, even a right-wing union like the Shoppies, would strike such a deal (despite any illusion otherwise) because it enables it to diminish a contentious area of industrial policy — penalty rates — by hiding part of it in an area of wage entitlements that it will never be held to account or challenged over; the penalty rate problem becomes smaller, more manageable and easier to fend off, whilst the unmitigated overall pressures on business are maintained.

But it is a surprise, distastefully enough, that various employer and industry bodies are hailing this as some kind of breakthrough when it is nothing of the sort; a red herring like this should have been easy to spot, and apparently it wasn’t.

And it’s just obscene that various figures in the Abbott government have seen fit to crow about this deal as “a constructive approach” and a “vindication” of its thoroughly gutless position that setting penalty rates should be left to the Fair Work Commission — which Labor in government set up as part of its sop to unions for their role in destroying the Howard government over its WorkChoices legislation.

About the only one of the key players quoted in the articles I’ve included today who has it right is Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm, who described South Australia as an “economic basket case” and correctly observed that those who want to work on weekends had been priced out of the market by penalty rates.

And crucially, when the dust settles and the businesses affected reconcile their outgoings on labour — and find nothing has changed — this deal will not make it easier for a single new job to be created, despite the loose rhetoric being tossed around to that effect.

In the final analysis, the union has insulated the earnings of its members by permanently entrenching the cost burden of penalty rates on the affected employers under a different guise.

It can hardly be described as a reform. The parties to this silly agreement might as well have not bothered in the first place.

Nuclear Abyss: SA Libs End 2014 At A Minute To Midnight

THE HAND OF FATE may well have been poised to strike South Australia’s Liberals from the moment 2014 began; whether destined or not, it’s been a horror year for the Liberal Party in the Festival State: knowing the electoral boundaries were fixed, it ran a poor state election campaign led by a lacklustre neophyte and paid the price. Now — after nine more months of abject humiliation — come signs the lot of the SA Liberals could yet grow far worse.

It’s difficult to know which is preferable or, I might say, less undesirable: losing an election in a catastrophic landslide resulting in a near-wipeout, or losing by the merest sliver in terms of votes and seats as part of the kind of year the Liberal Party in South Australia has endured this year.

Frankly, I’d choose the wipeout — at least from there, the only way is up.

Yet to be absolutely brutal, unless it finds some way to fix up its act in record time, the SA Liberals — having tasted the bitterest of political nectar in 2014, starting with a state election loss by a hair’s breadth — are likely to have experienced both of these unpalatable scenarios by the time the votes are counted on election night in March 2018.

In short, the SA Liberals teeter on the precipice of a nuclear abyss: the clock, rather euphemistically on this New Year’s Eve, reads one minute to midnight.

I’ve been reading the results of the final quarterly Newspoll of voter sentiment in South Australia for 2014, published in The Australian today, and to say they don’t exactly make for happy reading for the Liberals is an understatement.

Newspoll now shows the ALP leading the Liberals on primary votes and attracting a 6% swing after preferences based on the March state election result; Premier Jay Weatherill now leads Liberal leader Steven Marshall by almost 20 points on the “preferred Premier” measure, and Marshall himself is now attracting the sort of uninspiring personal approval numbers that in any other circumstances would invite a leadership challenge.

We’ll come back to that last point a little further in.

The only real surprise in the Newspoll numbers is that they aren’t worse for the Liberals. Then again, however, a uniform 6% swing to Labor at another state election would see it swept to a fifth term with 28 of the 47 lower house seats in South Australia — plus their by-election gain of Fisher if they could hold it, and plus “Independent” Geoff Brock (assuming he remained supportive).

God only knows what would happen at an election to Liberal turncoat Martin Hamilton-Smith (and on one level, who cares) but even without him 30 seats is a smashing election win, and that is where Labor in the Festival State is now tracking.

2014 has been a terrible year for the Liberal Party in South Australia.

Its tepid state election campaign (my scathing election-night analysis of which may be accessed here) already seems to have laid the foundations for another embarrassing defeat in 2018.

I know it has been fashionable to blame the Abbott government for the misadventures of the SA Liberals this year, and to some extent — with its botched federal budget and the incendiary remarks that the SA-based shipbuilding industry couldn’t be trusted “to build a canoe” by sacked Defence minister David Johnston — there may be a modicum of merit in such a view.

But the South Australian division of the Liberal Party boasts one outright state election win in 30 years; in nine elections it has won once (1993), limped into minority government after squandering a record parliamentary majority (1997), and lost the remaining seven in 1982, 1985, 1989, 2002, 2006, 2010, and this year.

With this sort of track record, looking in their own back yard might be a better idea than lashing out to sidestep responsibility: irrespective of how credible the selected scapegoat might appear, or how plausible the latest explanation as to why the SA Liberals are not responsible for their own misfortunes might sound.

Most observers of Australian politics know that South Australia’s Liberals are perhaps the most divided, faction-riven, internally conflicted political outfit in the country; its traditions of internecine blood feuding and personality-based tribal hatreds date back decades.

Every time the party makes a “fresh start” — the leadership of Isobel Redmond before the 2010 election, for example, or Marshall (for what it was worth) heading into the election in March — the old guard of its past warfare finds some way to cruel proceedings. Under Redmond, it was serial agitator Vickie Chapman failing to rule out a leadership challenge if Redmond won in 2010. This time, in a dreadful look, Chapman fought alongside Marshall as his deputy.

It’s an old story that has destroyed a plethora of Liberal leaders: for the bulk of those 30 years of mostly awful election losses, elements within the SA Liberals have been content to fight and bicker and undermine whomever happens to be at the helm. It’s hardly a recipe to inspire public confidence, let alone garner votes.

Make no mistake, when it comes to leadership prospects, the SA Liberals are bereft.

Marshall ought to be a dead man walking, and in any other circumstances, he would be; the loss of an unloseable state election in March — followed up by the loss to Labor three weeks ago of a safe Liberal seat vacant after the death of an Independent — should, in the ordinary course of events, see his papers stamped and his departure from his plush North Terrace offices all but formalised.

Marshall survives for the abhorrent reason that there is literally nobody left who is suitable to replace him; the SA Liberals’ best and most credible alternative, former leader Martin Hamilton-Smith — the bastard — defecated all over his party en route to defecting to a highly paid ministerial sinecure as a member of Weatherill’s Labor Cabinet.

Redmond, it was universally acknowledged, had reached her political use-by date after herself falling short at the 2010 state election; Chapman would love the role, of course, but the shenanigans that have characterised her time in Parliament are such that to make her leader would be to reward exactly the kind of behaviour this troubled division of the party needs to stamp out at all costs. Chapman is a waste of an ultra-safe state seat, and the sooner she relinquishes it in favour of someone with more to offer, the better.

Former leader Iain Evans — alone of the abundance of has-beens in the SA Liberals’ ranks — is doing what Redmond, Chapman, and perhaps a number of others ought to be doing, and leaving Parliament altogether: the date for the by-election in his safe-ish seat of Davenport is set down for 31 January, one month from today.

Yet even this — something that should have happened months ago, as we discussed in June — is a path fraught with political risk; to lose Fisher to Labor a few weeks ago was bad enough, but to lose a traditional Liberal stronghold like Davenport as well would be an unmitigated disaster.

And if a defeat in that seat should come to pass next month, it closes the door to any prospect of renewal during the present term of Parliament, meaning Redmond’s safe seat of Heysen and the veritable Liberal citadel of Bragg — occupied by Chapman — cannot be used to vault much-needed top-shelf talent into the party’s parliamentary ranks.

Whichever way you cut it, the SA Liberals are in a mess.

Yet a clue to just how badly they have failed to capitalise on opportunity lies in the fact that of the nine state elections I listed out earlier, including seven outright defeats, all but one of those elections saw the Liberal Party win more than 50% of the statewide vote on the two-party measure.

This year’s embarrassment, achieved with a tick more than 53% after preferences, was probably the worst result of all of them.

But it raises a pivotal question: in full and clear knowledge that the electoral boundaries are, to put it bluntly, rigged — and despite the fact a redistribution occurs every term to try to ensure “fair” boundaries exist — why are the Liberals’ election strategies in individual electorates so deficient?

Even with the 53% they scored in March, the SA Liberals needed a further uniform swing of 1.5% to snare the final two seats required to form a majority government, and any electoral system requiring in effect 55% of the two-party vote to seal victory is not “fair:” it is rigged, and no amount of explanation can hide the fact. It may be deliberate or it may be the product of defective methodology. Either way, it is flawed.

I put it thus because with so many years of electoral data to support the fact it faces barriers to winning office over and above a straight majority of the vote, the SA Liberal Party should have devised the strategies to overcome these hurdles by now.

It isn’t as if it has lacked support, given the only election won by Labor in 30 years with a majority of the two-party vote was the thumping win by Mike Rann in 2006.

But Labor in South Australia has every chance to consolidate its grip on government there; now armed with the parliamentary majority it initially relied on alleged Independents and traitors to secure, the prospect of Weatherill hitting hit straps and riding the beaten Marshall into the Adelaide dirt looms as a nightmare scenario for the Liberals that may very well materialise sooner than they think.

A loss in Davenport next month would do the trick. Were it to occur, the SA Liberals would be confronting a scenario akin to the political equivalent of nuclear Armageddon.

I haven’t even touched on the impact (if any) the Abbott government might or might not exert over the state Liberals’ fortunes over the next few years, or the further report from The Australian suggesting the Liberals could lose three of the six federal seats they hold in South Australia at the next federal election, including two — Boothby and Sturt — they have held for decades. I don’t have to. The state Liberals are in a disastrous state as it is. They don’t need any help from outside to notch up that dubious achievement.

There is the suggestion that the Liberals’ state director, Geoff Greene — one of several Liberal Party executives who has been circulated through a merry-go-round of different state divisions, a practice that has seen the orchestrators of some of the party’s worst defeats recycled and rebadged in new roles elsewhere in the country, and which must stop — is about to be given the boot.

I’m very much in favour of this, and I think too often those charged with the stewardship of the party’s fortunes have been allowed to survive or be sent somewhere to start “afresh” when the campaigns they have been responsible for have ended in ignominy; it’s a gravy train that sees few if any of them ever held to account for presiding over electoral beltings, and as good as these individuals may be as people, they should be held to account. Kicking Greene off the cart would at least signal the SA Liberals are serious when it comes to yet another fresh start.

But this is a state division in need of a root and branch overhaul — rebuilt from the ground up, not merely sacking a single staffer — and circumstance, electoral configuration and sheer incompetence have all conspired to ensure such a reconstruction job is next to impossible to complete in a timely and adequate fashion.

In the final analysis, the services of former Foreign minister Alexander Downer — championed in this column as the rightful claimant of the SA Liberal leadership prior to the March election — should have been pursued at all costs; with a decade of experience in government and another decade in Parliament beforehand, along with virtually unrivalled networks and a deep contact book, Downer would almost certainly be Premier of South Australia today had he stood, and his party would have had the opportunity to rebuild from a position of relative strength.

Instead, the heavyweight in Downer was substituted for the lightweight first-term MP Marshall, and the SA Liberals have paid one hell of a price for such an experimental indulgence.

For South Australia’s Liberals, it’s a minute to midnight. The portents for the new year are not good.

*Lots of links today. Just “because.” South Australia is home to some of my favourite places in Australia. I just wish its conservative forces could get their shit together.

SA: Another Week, Another Liberal Election Debacle

THE LIKELY DEFEAT of the Liberal candidate at yesterday’s by-election in the seat of Fisher means that for the second time in two weeks, Labor has claimed majority government in a mainland state; rigged boundaries may have saved Labor at an election early this year but a win in a safe Liberal seat, vacant after the death of a popular Independent, makes this detail redundant. It also confirms the start of a national swing back to the ALP.

It’s hard to imagine a more innocuous, yet pivotal, by-election.

Popular Liberal-turned-Independent Bob Such — re-elected for four years in March, only to be diagnosed with a brain tumour and pass away soon after — left behind what was universally regarded as an otherwise very safe Liberal electorate; the SA Liberals, in turn, were expected to cruise to victory in the ensuing by-election, held yesterday, putting enormous pressure on turncoat Martin Hamilton-Smith and the biased “Independent” Geoff Brock, whose sleight-of-hand deal while Such was on his sick bed propped Labor up in minority government despite garnering less than 47% of the two-party vote at the state election.

So much for the prepared text.

It appears that Labor has scored a stunning win in the Fisher by-election, aided by preferences from an Independent endorsed by Such’s widow; at the close of counting last night and with the provisional distribution of preferences completed, Labor’s Natalie Cook was leading the Liberals’ Heidi Harris by a 51-49 margin, and the only question mark around these numbers — which, if resolved, would favour Labor — centred on a reporting error by the Electoral Commission and the suggestion that with the purported anomaly corrected, Labor’s lead over the Liberals would almost treble.

Some 22% of voters in Fisher voted early, and these ballots will be counted over the course of the coming week. Even so, observers seem to concur that these will at best for the Liberals maintain the present Labor lead, or narrowly favour the ALP.

Two weeks ago, the ALP governed in minority only in the ACT and SA; now, it has acquired majorities in Victoria and South Australia, with an imminent state election in Queensland looking increasingly ominous for the LNP.

But unlike last weekend’s humiliating result for the Liberals in Victoria — which I maintain was decided on state issues — it is impossible to suggest that the result in Fisher was not influenced, in significant degree, by voter disaffection with the Abbott government.

Compounding the result in Fisher for the Liberals is that a 12-year-old Labor government secured a swing of close to 10% in what would ordinarily be regarded as a safe Liberal seat. I simply can’t think of a precedent for such a result. It is almost a political absurdity.

In my article yesterday, I gave a comprehensive critique of what is wrong with the Abbott government as it stands; and to the extent tangible evidence is required to support the case I presented, it appeared via the ballot box at the hands of voters in Fisher yesterday.

One thing that is beginning to become clear is that there is a national movement toward Labor now solidifying, at the very least in the states: and as much as state factors will influence this movement to varying degrees depending on the unique circumstances of each jurisdiction, the Coalition is failing to consolidate its position in any state or federally, with the only likely election win in the offing for the Liberals anywhere in the next few years set to occur in NSW in March — albeit with a swing of 7-10% to the ALP there too.

And in the case of South Australia, we have discussed the deficiencies in the Liberal operation and, specifically, what needs to be done to revitalise the ranks of its parliamentary wing: I do note that former leader Iain Evans has resigned his seat of Davenport, with a by-election due there on 31 January; it is not too late for others — especially Vickie Chapman in the ultra-safe seat of Bragg — to follow suit, the result yesterday notwithstanding.

My comments this morning are intended to be brief, not least because a final result in Fisher won’t be declared for some days, although it seems disingenuous to suggest it will be anything other than a Labor win.

But I wanted to include some reference to it on account of the discussion of federal issues we had here yesterday; it has been long thought that a government of one political persuasion in Canberra faced by state governments predominantly composed of the other was mutually advantageous to all of those administrations at the ballot box; it remains to be seen, however, whether this holds good over the next few years as at least one other state ALP government (Queensland) before the 2016 federal election is plausible, with another in WA to perhaps follow in early 2017 unless the Barnett government rights the state of its ship.

The point is that if ever there was an environment for a federal government travelling poorly to poison its state-based siblings, that time is now: and yesterday was a graphic illustration of this. After all, the usual “kick the bastards” protest vote that appears at by-elections, if it was aimed at Jay Weatherill’s state government at all, was overwhelmingly counteracted by other baseball bat-wielding voters determined to take aim at Canberra.

There are two points to make in closing.

One, the episode merely underlines the critical importance of the Abbott government getting…itself…together in short order; voters are more than willing to take aim at any available target to punish the kind of mistakes the federal government has been making, and whilst it is too early to speak of a “rising tide” of Labor support or similar, just how far that tide rises — and how much Coalition territory it inundates — will be determined by the Liberals in isolation from anything Labor might or might not do.

And two, no longer reliant on two Independents to prop his government up and despite announcing he will retain the pair as ministers, it would be fit and proper for Weatherill to now set Liberal Party traitor Martin Hamilton-Smith adrift: to cut the bastard loose, and leave him marooned as the isolated irrelevance he deserves to be.

I don’t like criticising my party, but will do it when indicated in the name of impartial comment; those who run off and jump in bed with Labor, however, deserve the belting they receive in review, and one of the more satisfying pieces published in this column, dealing with Hamilton-Smith, did precisely that.

It would be a small satisfaction, in view of yesterday’s result, for the karma truck to now pay Mr Hamilton-Smith a visit.

In the bigger scheme of things, however, the by-election is no laughing matter: the latest in a series of very potent warnings was delivered to the Liberal Party in stark terms by the voters in Fisher.

It is more food for thought for Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin over the summer as they mull which way to move when Parliament reconvenes after the silly season early next year.


SA Independent MP Bob Such Dead At 70

VETERAN SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MP Dr Bob Such has died, aged 70; his passing — confirmed this evening — will trigger a by-election for his seat of Fisher, and an overwhelmingly likely win for the Liberal Party would tighten, but not overturn, the result of the South Australian state election in March. This column wishes its condolences to Dr Such’s family. Even so, life goes on: and a re-energised swipe at another Liberal turncoat now falls due.

I wanted to comment e’er briefly tonight on the sad news that former Liberal turned SA Independent, Bob Such, has passed away, aged 70; re-elected just seven months ago for a further four years, Such was one of two Independents who held the balance of power after the state election in March, until erstwhile “Independent”and ALP stooge Geoff Brock took it upon himself to re-install the ALP in office despite the Liberal Party winning more than 53% of the statewide two-party vote.

At that time, and amid uncertainty as to who did what in ceding the election outcome to Labor, this column incorrectly apportioned blame to Dr Such in what was at the time the common view he had collaborated with Brock to return Labor to power. I apologised and issued a correction at the time, and it remains a point of regret now.

I certainly wish to minute my condolences and good will to Dr Such’s family at this difficult time; the terrible affliction of a brain tumour is one I have witnessed more than once within my social network in recent years — once involving a young boy — and it must rank as one of the most awful things to have to deal with. I do wish those who mourn Dr Such peace, as I do Dr Such himself in death.

But life goes on, and this development will quickly have consequences for South Australian politics; it seems almost certain that the Liberal Party will now reclaim the seat Dr Such took with him when he left the Liberals in 2000, winning re-election as an Independent on four subsequent occasions.

The news of Dr Such’s death is barely an hour old at time of writing, and already there is an overwhelming amount of social media chatter suggesting the Premier, Jay Weatherill, will find some cynical ploy to deny the voters of Fisher a by-election and/or to rig the outcome. Whilst I don’t subscribe to either of these ridiculous conspiracy theories for a moment, the fact they are being floated at all belies the real cynicism and disenchantment that exists in South Australia in the wake of an election conducted on rigged boundaries, whose outcome was determined by a stooge and a treacherous ex-dog of the Liberal Party.

Any by-election in Fisher will take place against a statewide backdrop of 24 Labor seats, 21 Liberals, and one other “Independent,” which is Brock; the starting point would have been 23-22 Labor’s way were it nor for former Liberal leader Martin Hamilton-Smith selling his party and the state out to accept a ministry earlier this year.

With no disrespect to the late Dr Such, it seems the 2014 state election simply won’t go away in South Australia; should the Liberals win his seat — and had Hamilton-Smith put responsibility before his back pocket and his ambitions — then a deadlocked Parliament, 23-all between the Liberals and Labor, would again place Brock in the hot seat, but I contend would make it far more difficult for him to justify backing his Labor Party mates.

Certainly, the justification he relied on most heavily — that Labor needed a single additional vote for a majority whilst the Liberals required two, and in Dr Such’s absence this could not be provided — would no longer exist.

Whilst the death of Dr Such is very sad, South Australians are once again going to be forced to confront the fact that their state election — without putting too fine a point on it — was rigged, and that they are saddled with the resulting illegitimate government for a further three and a half years before another opportunity to be rid of it presents itself.

I would remark, however drily, that it now seems impossible for the Liberal Party to win a majority in South Australia: with the exception of the Labor landslide in 2002, the party has now won a majority of the two-party vote in that state at every election for the past quarter of a century, winning an outright majority only in 1993.

Ultimately, the culpability of Liberal turncoat and former leader Martin Hamilton-Smith grows that little bit heavier with tonight’s news, for a win in Dr Such’s electorate — added to Hamilton-Smith’s vote — would have given the Liberals 23 of the 47 lower house seats and with them, an overwhelming moral case to form government.

This column enthusiastically and unapologetically tore into Hamilton-Smith when he defected earlier in the year to accept a ministry in Labor’s government. I stand by every word penned in that article, and it deserves to be read again now by anyone with an interest in South Australian politics and where it is headed in the aftermath of Dr Such’s passing. Readers can access the article here.

Vale, Bob Such.