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Labor takes poll position as boundaries battle threatens to drag on

Politics

The battle to win the 2018 state election today opened a new front in the Supreme Court – as a new poll gave Jay Weatherill’s Labor Government a surprising lead.

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The Labor Party’s appeal against the final report of the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission entered a directions hearing this morning before Chief Justice Chris Kourakis, who forecast the matter should be decided before the full bench by the end of February.

Kourakis noted the possibility that if the appeal was successful the matter could yet proceed to the High Court – which could put pressure on preparations for the state election, fixed for March 2018.

As InDaily revealed yesterday, Labor’s state secretary Reggie Martin opted to pursue the appeal over the commission’s interpretation of the “one vote, one value” principle enshrined in the constitution act.

But the ALP may need deep pockets in opposing the redistribution, with Kourakis foreshadowing that the party may be ordered to take out advertisements in newspapers across metropolitan and rural South Australia giving notice of its appeal so that interested parties could join the action.

Kourakis noted that “we have to be a bit conscious of how far down this path we go [at this stage], as any other person with an interest may wish to appeal “ before the January 7 deadline.

The matter will return to court on Friday, with Liberal state director Sascha Meldrum formally joining the appeal as a “contradictor” to Martin.

Neither party official was in court today.

The boundaries commission had determined that the goal of ensuring the same number of voters resided in each electorate was secondary to that of ensuring that the party that won the statewide vote be given the chance to form a parliamentary majority, opting to use the 10 per cent tolerance allowed under law to help engineer its electoral ‘fairness’ mandate.

The redistribution was widely seen as gifting the Liberals a long-awaited advantage in the run-up to the election in March 2018, with four Labor-held seats being designated as nominally Liberal if the Opposition replicated its 53 per cent statewide vote.

But a new Essential Vision poll published on Crikey today suggests that is no sure thing, with Jay Weatherill’s government retaining a two-percentage-point lead over Steven Marshall’s Opposition, 51 to 49 on a two-party preferred basis.

Labor’s primary vote, while down three points from the previous quarter, remains above the Liberals, 35 to 32, with independents and minor parties likely to have a decisive say in who forms the next government.

election_table

Today’s Essential polling data compiled against previous polls

The Nick Xenophon Team’s vote, which has fluctuated between 15 and 20 per cent since the party’s formal inception, sits at 17 per cent. The former state MLC-turned senator’s party is set to target half a dozen lower house seats, likely in Liberal strongholds covering the same footprint as the hills seat of Mayo, which Rebekha Sharkie won in the July federal election.

The Essential poll follows a Newspoll published in January this year, which also gave Labor a 51-49 two-party lead.

The lack of any significant headway in that time will send shivers through the Liberal camp, which has had a golden run of late as Labor has laboured under a series of controversies and own goals, from the ongoing stoush over the vacant new Royal Adelaide Hospital, to a litany of child protection failures, to the citizens’ jury kneecapping Weatherill’s nuclear waste dream, to the contentious Gillman land deal falling through, to the misadventures of Attorney-General-cum-Senior Counsel John Rau, to a statewide September blackout widely linked to Weatherill’s penchant for renewable energy.

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