WHILE Nick Xenophon’s party looks set to make a splash in the South Australian election, there’s one reason he’ll fall short of victory.
ABC election analyst Antony Green told news.com.au one factor makes it hard for any minor party to break through and form government against the major parties.
“It’s simply because, probably about two thirds of an electorate already has a firm commitment to another party, which is generally a strong alignment to either Liberal or Labor,” Mr Green said. “So there’s maybe a third who will shift their vote.”
Basically, people are so set in their ways they always vote for the same party.
“Most people don’t think a lot about politics, and their attitudes were formed years ago,” Mr Green said. “It’s rare that one of the major parties get less than 30 per cent of the vote.”
Another challenge is that the election result is decided on a seat-by-seat basis and in many of the seats, there is a concentration of support for either Labor or Liberal parties. In these strongholds, Mr Xenophon’s party SA Best would have to secure closer to 40-45 per cent of the vote.
But some recent polling has come back with some interesting results and South Australia’s election on March 17 will likely throw up some surprises.
A Newspoll published last year in The Australian found nearly half of all South Australian voters wanted Mr Xenophon to be premier.
The Advertiser-Galaxy Mad Monday poll found SA Best was within striking distance of the Liberals in Heysen and deadlocked with Labor at 50-50 in the Whyalla-based seat of Giles.
While the numbers seem close, some believe SA Best’s primary vote is still not high enough to topple major party candidates, and Mr Xenophon may even have trouble winning his own east of Hartley in Adelaide’s east.
However, Mr Green said he did not think the polls so far were very convincing because results were varying widely, and were showing statewide swings between 19 and 32 per cent.
“That is a ridiculously wide range,” Mr Green said. “If (Xenophon) gets 19 per cent he’ll get nowhere, but if he gets 32 per cent, he’ll win seats”.
Mr Green said if SA Best could get 25 per cent of the vote, that would be a record for a minority party in any election. This would be more than the 23 per cent Pauline Hanson won in the 1998 Queensland state election that saw her win 11 out of 89 seats.
SHOULD YOU VOTE FOR XENOPHON?
Ever since he emerged as a force in politics, Nick Xenophon has attracted detractors who call him an attention seeker and others who love his political stunts (such as turning up in pyjamas for a late Senate sitting) and policies including his war on poker machines.
During his brief stint in federal politics, the Nick Xenophon Team helped pass a reworked child care package and blocked changes to Sunday penalty rate cuts.
Mr Xenophon has now decided returned to South Australian politics and is aiming to at least win the balance of power, running candidates in 36 of the 47 lower-house seats.
“Since the massive power blackout last year and our record power prices, I have concluded they are symptoms of a much bigger and deeper problem,” Mr Xenophon said when announcing his resignation.
“I’ve decided that you can’t fix South Australia’s problems in Canberra without first fixing our broken political system back home.”
His campaign has already started with a bang, with a cheesy election ad that’s polarising voters.
But Opposition Leader Steven Marshall has accused Mr Xenophon of forging a deal to return Labor to power, while Premier Jay Weatherill has argued Mr Xenophon is a former Liberal member who wants to be that party’s leader.
With energy already emerging as a key issue in the election, SA Best last week unveiled its policy to push for a non-profit energy retailer to provide cheaper power to lower-income households and small businesses.
SA Best’s scheme for a non-profit retailer would be available to households with an income up to $75,000 and to businesses with power bills under $20,000.
Mr Xenophon has also vowed to withdraw support for any minority government if it fails to cut power prices by 20 per cent within two years.
He has also announced a policy to protect Adelaide’s beaches from erosion and other environmental issues.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
The man to beat will be Labor’s Jay Weatherill, with bookmakers already predicting he will win a fifth term. However, they’re also tipping a hung parliament with SA Best potentially deciding the result.
South Australia’s energy problems have prompted a wide range of solutions from different parties.
Despite continued criticism from the federal government and warnings of higher power prices, Mr Weatherill has committed a re-elected Labor government to lifting the state’s renewable energy target to 75 per cent.
He is also setting a 25 per cent target for renewable energy storage, the first of its kind in Australia, to be hit by 2025.
Under its plan, Labor will commit $20 million over four years to leverage private sector investment in extra storage, and the premier said the two initiatives would help drive down power prices and maintain the state’s leadership position in the renewable energy sector.
Mr Weatherill has also committed to build another tram extension to North Adelaide, with the $259 million project to support 133 construction jobs and be completed in just over two years.
Meanwhile Liberal Leader Steven Marshall, who has said he won’t form a coalition with SA Best, has announced a $100 million fund to get solar panel batteries into 40,000 homes.
Mr Marshall said his plan, what would deliver an average grant of $2500 to households, had been independently modelled and would deliver direct benefits to homes as well as taking pressure off the power grid.
He has also pledged a Liberal government will spend $60 million establishing an international culinary school on the site of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital. The centre would move Adelaide’s Le Cordon Bleu campus and other TAFE hospitality programs offered in the northern suburbs into one school of excellence.
Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party is taking a different tack, pushing for a nuclear waste dump in South Australia to generate up to $6.7 billion.
Mr Bernard has called for changes to the law to allow for “all forms of energy production”, including nuclear power, urging authorities to “complete a full rigorous analysis” of the idea.
Australian Conservatives is also fielding a large number of candidates with 33 contesting the lower house and two standing for upper house seats.
— With AAP