By JESSE NEILL
Giles is the largest electorate in the state, covering almost 500,000 square kilometres of the South Australian outback north of the Eyre Peninsula.
The seat’s main population centre is the industrial town of Whyalla on the south-east border of the electorate.
Stretching all the way to the Northern Territory and Western Australian borders, this seat includes the area west of Lake Torrens and north of Ceduna including remote towns such as Coober Pedy, Andamooka, Hawker, Kimba, Roxby Downs, Woomera, Iron Knob and Quorn.
Giles also covers a substantial amount of pastoral leases and remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Aboriginal land in the north of the seat.
The electorate is named after William Ernest Giles, an Australian explorer who led several significant expeditions throughout central Australia after arriving in Adelaide in 1850.
Giles replaced the abolished seat of Whyalla in 1993 and is one of the only seats outside the greater Adelaide metropolitan area where support for Labor is consistently strong.
A large portion of these votes come from Whyalla, where there is a longstanding history of support for the party, particularly from indigenous communities and remote mining workers.
Following the previous state election, the liberal area of Cowell was transferred from Flinders to Giles, reducing Labor’s two-party preferred margin from 7 per cent to 5.2 per cent.
A recent Galaxy poll conducted by the Advertiser reported that SA-BEST is within striking distance of Labor, with 31 and 37 per cent of the primary votes respectively.
The key issues in Giles surround the vital industries this region relies upon for its livelihood and local economy.
The takeover of the steelworks in Whyalla by GFG Alliance has been praised by locals, after months of uncertainty following Arrium – the region’s biggest employer – entering voluntary administration.
However, what this will mean for locals and the amount of financial support received by GFG will depend on the party that wins the seat.
This will also play a role in how much parties will push for Whyalla-made steel to be used in local and international projects.
The way parties react to GFG’s intentions to expand the Whyalla port will also likely play a part in the outcome of Giles.
Another flashpoint in this election is the effect Coober Pedy’s controversial power supply arrangement is having on locals.
The local council has raised concerns that the water supply could become compromised if a plan to drill for commercial quantities of gas and oil commences.
Furthermore, the Coober Pedy Renewable Diesel Hybrid project has turned into a legal dispute between councillors and developers.
What was meant to reduce the amount of diesel consumed by the existing diesel plant has become a disaster for the town.
The cost is being charged to the council and subsidised by the government, which is more than double the cost of original alternatives.
The party that is able to adequately address the issues at the centre of Coober Pedy’s energy crisis are sure to go a long way towards winning this seat.
Another key issue in Whyalla surrounds health services, where paediatricians from Port Augusta service the area.
SA-BEST candidate for Giles, Tom Antonio, wants to have a team of paediatricians permanently based at the Whyalla hospital.
“We have a 70-million-dollar federally-funded hospital here but if there are issues when our children are born we have to bundle them down to Port Augusta in an ambulance,” Mr Antonio said.
“That is enormous stress on a woman who has just given birth, that should not happen.”
“SA-BEST will do everything we can to make sure we have paediatricians and obstetricians permanently stationed in Whyalla.”
Other electorate issues that locals have reported are high instances of substance abuse in their towns, the exodus of young people from rural areas, poor aged-care services, lack of investment in big projects for the communities, as well as the lack of attention toward the poor standard of the regional road network in the electorate.
The current member for Giles is Labor candidate Eddie Hughes, a worker at the Whyalla electorate office.
Mr Hughes is a long-time Whyalla resident and has served as the local councillor for Whyalla for more than 20 years, including tenure as Deputy Mayor.
Hughes’s main competition is SA-BEST candidate Tom Antonio, another member of the Whyalla City Council who has served as both Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor.
Mr Antonio owns the largest electrical installation business in Regional South Australia.
Mark Walsh is the Liberal Party’s candidate and is currently a truck driver for a Whyalla-based company, a former Rural Sales Consultant, and self-employed farmer.
Former Family First candidate Cheryl Kaminski is running for Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives.
Ms Kaminski works as an office manager and personal assistant, having previously worked in banking, building, and education.
Cyane Westerman is the Dignity Party candidate for Giles and has studied residential drafting, has a diploma in interior design, and has hopes of creating more accessible housing while using her knowledge to advocate for a greater range of accessibility services.
The candidate for the Greens is Anna Taylor, a local on the Eyre Peninsula for more than 20 years.
Ms Taylor has previously worked in agriculture and outdoor education and has currently set up her own permaculture farm, becoming a fulltime home educator and organic grower.
It is important voters familiarise themselves with their local candidates and the party policies each of these candidates endorse.
While it is expected that Mr Hughes will retain his seat, any of these members could challenge this electorate in an election that is increasingly difficult to call.