By RYAN COLSEY AND JESSE NEILL
Tomorrow South Australian voters will decide who they want to run their State — and while that’s usually a two-horse race, this time a dark horse has emerged in the form of SA-BEST.
In the most recent Newspoll, SA-BEST averaged 27 per cent of the primary vote in the seats it is contesting.
In order to win seats, SA-BEST’s primary votes will most likely have to poll more than 30 per cent.
If an SA-BEST candidate were not able to win on primary votes, they would need to outperform one of the major parties to be close enough to the leading candidate to win with preferences.
If they are able to place in the top two candidates for a number of seats, it is conceivable that they could win on preferences, while this might seem plausible, it will still be difficult in most seats.
ABC political pundit Antony Green spoke at Flinders University on Tuesday about the election and the difficulty SA-BEST faces in the lower house.
“Xenophon voters are not concentrated in any specific area so it will be difficult for them to poll well in the House of Assembly,” Mr Green said.
However, this is not necessarily a disadvantage in the Upper House, which is determined by proportional representation.
This means SA-BEST can still have significant influence in the Legislative Council, forcing whichever party takes power to incorporate their policies.
Mr Green also spoke about the challenge in the seat of Hartley, where Mr Xenophon is a candidate.
“[Hartley] will be decided by whoever finishes third — the preferences of the bronze medallist will determine gold and silver.”
To form a majority government in the House of Assembly, SA-BEST needs to win 24 out of the 36 seats they are contesting.
Any fewer means a deal would need to be struck with another party or independent to form a minority government.
Mr Xenophon has stated on record that neither he nor his candidates would accept a cabinet position in the case of a hung parliament.
However, last week the SA-BEST candidate for Cheltenham, John Noonan, contradicted this when he told reporters he expected they would accept a position should they win the most seats.
His son, Jack Noonan, is also an SA-BEST candidate and is running against Steven Marshall in the seat of Dunstan.
The younger Mr Noonan outlined what an SA-BEST-led government would implement.
“We’re fixing TAFE. So many graduates have not received adequate training and are entering the workplace without the proper skills,” he said.
An audit from the Australian Skills Quality Authority in December last year revealed 14 TAFE SA courses were below an acceptable standard.
Both SA-BEST and the Liberal Party are blaming Labor for the poor upkeep in quality, with Nick Xenophon’s party ordering an independent review into the situation.
Other key SA-BEST policies include increased funding for community services, a royal commission into health care and waiving the payroll tax for small businesses.
But arguably their most publicised policy is to slash the number of pokies in South Australia by half within five years.
“We would take on the pokies instantly, it would be one of the first things to happen,” Mr Jack Noonan said.
“Nick [Xenophon] has been campaigning on this issue his entire career and we need to do something about it.”
It is this policy in particular that has led to a multi-million dollar advertising campaign against the party from the Australian Hotels Association (AHA).
The AHA has strongly criticised the reduced tax income from gaming machines for state governments and the flow-on effect it would have on smaller independent pubs and family businesses.
According to the AHA, reducing the number of gaming machines and bet sizes will cause a loss of jobs for casual employees such as returning-to-work mums and university students and will make it increasingly difficult for smaller venues to remain financially stable.
Voters will get their chance to determine the future of SA-BEST and Nick Xenophon’s influence on South Australian politics when they go to the polls on Saturday.
Image Source: ABC