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Campaign diary: the computer says Rau

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The State Government has one week left to clear the decks and sail into a 28-day election campaign.

However, some key members of government are already looking at life beyond the election in the smaller craft of Opposition.

Premier Jay Weatherill, meanwhile,  kept busy during the weekend as he sidled up to an emotion-charged release of $1 million rewards for each of 13 high profile cold case child murders.

Police assistant commissioner Paul Dickson had come up with the idea to ramp up the focus on cases dating back to 1966 when the Beaumont children disappeared.

Dickson pitched it to his boss Commissioner Gary Burns who then took it to his minister Michael O’Brien.

Whether O’Brien had time to sign off on the Cabinet submission before he fell on his sword in the “Farrell-for-Napier” debacle, remains unknown.

Weatherill’s advisers would have seen the reward story as a policy-must and a political opportunity and so it was that the Premier spent Sunday and Monday spruiking the decision. A nice farewell gift from O’Brien.

He would also have had his eye on another opportunity – and a rare one at that because it involved the creation, not loss, of jobs.

That opportunity was diminished, however, when plans by computer giant Hewlett-Packard to set up a new research facility in South Australia were dropped to the media.

The Australian Financial Review reported Sunday the deal includes the relocation of jobs from Victoria.

In another reflection of the past, this deal has similarities to the one struck by then-Premier Dean Brown in 1995  when he convinced Texan computer company EDS to set up shop in South Australia, in exchange for a “whole-of-government” contract to supply information technology services.

When the deal came up for renewal in 2003, the Rann Government decided to split it into many parts.

Currently, the largest part belongs to Hewlett Packard.

Their contracts for mainframe computing services, server mangament and supply of PCs and laptops are worth $600 million.

The major ones (server management and supply of PCs etc) are up  for renewal this calendar year.

The detail of the contractual negotiations and what the state offered HP in return for their commitment to the jobs deal would make interesting reading.

HP, coincidentally, acquired EDS in 2008 and absorbed its key Adelaide staff.

The Opposition chimed in yesterday with a claim via Twitter that the deal has been leaked to them by a disgruntled member of Weatherill’s parliamentary team.

Nice try, but InDaily understands the leak came from the IT industry where there are still some Liberal loyalists.

But that doesn’t close the door on the Premier’s problems.

While he was pushing his $13 million crimes-of-yesteryear rewards yarn and working on the old-style IT deal, his Labor Party colleagues were busying themselves with the future.

The party is actively preparing options for the leadership should it lose the state election.

Deputy Premier John Rau, until recently not considered a serious contender, is being promoted by his supporters as a “compromise” candidate as Opposition Leader.

Rau has told those close to him that if the Liberals win on March 15, he believes they have every likelihood of repeating their efforts of 1993-97 and imploding into their own factional stoush.

Rau had been discounted in earlier talk of post-election leadership.

From the dominant Right faction, he isn’t closely connected with the so-called hard Right, of which Health Minister Jack Snelling, another potential leadership contender, is a member.

Tom Koutsantonis, often mentioned as a contender, appears to have lost some support from key powerbrokers over recent weeks when he stood firm with his Premier as Don Farrell’s bid for the safe seat of Napier was torched live on ABC Radio.

While numbers aren’t being counted, MPs are being sounded out about their potential support for a Rau candidacy.

It’s the kind of steady ship that might be needed when the Farrell hard right seeks its revenge on the left.

When InDaily put the Rau speculation to a very well-informed source he made it clear that the softly spoken, cautious lawyer was definitely in the frame.

One interesting twist to the campaign build-up came via Twitter from Labor’s candidate for the seat of Lee, Stephen Mullighan.

Mullighan lists his most recent job as deputy chief of staff in the Premier’s office.

On Sunday he tweeted; “Great privilege to present West Lakes Tennis Club with $46,000 grant for lighting and facilities on behalf of Minister Leon Bignell.”

While it’s common for backbenchers in marginal seats to present government cheques, or candidates to get in camera shot on such occasions, Campaign Diary is unsure just how it is that a staffer/candidate gets to hand over $46,000.

Check InDaily for our campaign diary blog throughout the state election campaign. It will run daily once the campaign-proper begins.

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