With South Australia heading to the polls this weekend, Saturday 19 March, incumbent Liberal Premier, the Hon Steven Marshall MP, will face Labor’s alternative Premier, Mr Peter Malinauskas MP in what many see as the entrée election to the main course in May.
The team at Nexus have collated the issues of the election, vital factors, and candidate profiles to see how the battle for the future of South Australia will impact the State and Australia.
PREMIER MARSHALL – OVERVIEW
Having been the SA Liberal Party Leader from 2013, and serving as Premier for a complete term, Premier Marshall is asking voters to grant him a second term.
In his capacity as a member for Dunstan, Premier Marshall has shown leadership capacity in several Shadow Cabinet roles, including in the portfolios of Industry and Trade, Defence Industries, Small Business, Science and Information Economy, Environment and Conservation, Sustainability and Climate Change.
Before entering parliament, Premier Marshall ran his family business, Marshall Furniture, until it was acquired by Steinhoff International in 2001. He then held various board positions, including on the South Australian Manufacturing Industry Advisory Board.
While initially praised for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, some voices in the health community questioned the speed of the border re-opening and the lifting of public health orders as too slow.
Media and community perceptions of the Premier diverge; currently behind in the polls, the Marshall Government was put into the minority by the resignation of several Liberal members.
OPPOSITION LEADER MALINAUSKAS – OVERVIEW
Mr Malinauskas is an archetypal Labor leader and trade unionist. Born into a working-class family of Hungarian refugees, Mr Malinauskas began working as a trolley boy for Woolworths.
While working at the supermarket chain, he entered politics through his involvement in the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee’s Association (SDA), while earning a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Adelaide. Before entering parliament, Mr Malinauskas worked as the SA/NT Secretary of the SDA from 2008 to 2015.
Serving first in the SA Legislative Council in 2015, he moved to the lower house seat of Croydon in 2018, before becoming Leader of the South Australian Labor Party later that year.
As a member of Labor’s Right faction, Mr Malinauskas is considered a more conservative member of the ALP.
THE ISSUES: ECONOMIC, HEALTHCARE & EDUCATION
With South Australia now the country’s fastest-growing economy, Mr Malinauskas has the difficult task of selling Labor’s alternate vision for the State.
Both leaders have expressed their support for the critical industries of space, shipbuilding, and wine.
Both leaders will look towards productivity gains to balance the books with the state’s economy currently in deficit.
Labor is consistently strong in the healthcare space and has promised a comprehensive renewal of the State’s hospital infrastructure.
If Mr Malinauskas is elected, he promises to redirect $662 million of funding from the planned Riverbank Arena towards Health, including a $120 million ambulance depot.
The Government has pointed to its track record of funding the public healthcare system, including a $500 million investment over the next few years.
Both parties have promised to spend big on education.
The Liberal Government pledges to rid the SA school system of demountable classrooms by providing $39 million to expand brick-and-mortar school infrastructure.
The Labor Opposition promises to deliver free and universal access to preschool by 2026, in addition to the construction of five technical colleges.
With Labor leading 2PP by 53-47% in the latest state Newspoll, Mr Malinauskas is also leading as preferred Premier at 46-39%.
With two debates and only a few days until the election, time is running out for Premier Marshall to regain ground.
While the polling looks promising for Labor, memories of the 2019 Federal Election will likely temper expectations within the party.
This election’s most notable shift in preferences come from the newly formed and socially conservative Family First party, whose leadership consists of former state Labor ministers Mr Jack Snelling and Mr Tom Kenyon.
The original Family First party was dissolved when it merged with the Australian Conservatives in 2019. The new version of the party was formed on 28 July 2021.
As reported in the Adelaide Advertiser, Family First has preferenced against the Liberals in the key marginal seats of King and Newland – seats Labor must gain to win Government.
It is believed Family First preferences will be enough to turn the tide and deliver Labor electoral victory.
With one day until polls close, many South Australians have already cast their vote.
South Australia has a difficult choice ahead: while both leaders are capable, it remains to be seen whether Labor can sustain its lead in the polls or if the Premier’s COVID-19 management has earned him another term in office.
With the Federal Election not far behind, stakeholders should closely watch the finish line in South Australia and consider its impact on the national battle ahead.