19 March 2010

Election eve

I've followed the ups and downs of the state election campaign probably more closely than most voters, though nowhere near as closely as those who post regularly and sometimes argumentatively on blogs and websites such as The Poll Bludger. I have tweeted a few times @Pathfinder79, usually with links to articles and, space permitting, sometimes a comment.

The consensus among the experts (both generally acknowledged and self-appointed) is that Labor will scrape back in, without having to negotiate with independents or other parties (read National) . Here'san example

For a succinct summary of some of the wider issues see this by Peter Van Onselen in The Australian

Along with Tasmania, SA lags behind other states on most national economic indicators. Its share of the national economy has declined from the levels Labor inherited in 2002. Its share of gross domestic product is below the national average. Business investment is relatively sluggish and its population share is declining, with growth rates slower than all other states except Tasmania. On the face of it, this sounds like a recipe for removing a government.

The Liberal Party wants to use these indicators to condemn Labor as having failed South Australians during its eight years in power. As is often the case in politics, the situation isn't that simple.

On each of the above indicators the rate of decline in SA was substantially higher eight years ago than it is now.

In other words, while Rann hasn't managed to transform the state from an economic laggard to a miracle economy, he has made important headway to improving long-term prosperity.

I and, I suspect,.many other voters think that Labor has overdone the spin. As an example consider the matter of Lance Armstrong and the Tour Down Under in 2009. It took the New York Times ,not a local media outlet, which revealed that the fee paid to Armstrong was not donated to charity, as the government had claimed, but pocketed by the great man (I'm not referring to the Premier).

The US Boulder Report explained how something which could have been handled positively backfired and added to the growing public perception that the government was being economical with the truth:

It’s less the donation than the secrecy surrounding it that seems strange and excessive. As Adelaide Now reported, the South Australia Tourism Commission just got a $1.506 million boost to its budget from the state government, even as Rann said that wasn’t related to Armstrong’s appearance fee.

Armstrong has every right to ask for personal appearance fees. And just as he has every right to solicit donations to his foundation, (most) donors have every right to keep those donations private. But ones made with taxpayer dollars, in an ostensibly democratic and open government, fit a different standard of disclosure. And, a governmental partnership of any kind is the thing you’d think they’d be proud to discuss, particularly since the money may end up right back in the Australian public health system. There shouldn’t be anything about this that’s shameful, but the tight-lipped approach creates needless drama.

The Liberal campaign has not been gaffe-free either but Ms Redmond seems to have been able to put most of her messages across. It's a very tall order for the Liberals to make up all the ground they've lost at the last two elections, but the evidence of polls etc suggests they'll make up a lot of it. We shall see.

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