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Campaign Diary: dinners, debates and denials

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The major party leaders headed into a suburban footy club for a debate in front of 100 “swinging voters”, their candidates boarded a bus to face “foolish” questions and the Greens were shown to have joined the ranks of the cash-for-access fundraisers.

In defence of the Greens, however, it appears that their $150 a head “Dinner with Christine Milne and Mark Parnell” was a money loser rather than a money raiser.

First, to the debate. This final formal debate between Steven Marshall and Jay Weatherill was telecast on pay-tv’s Sky News and online at Adelaide Now.

The audience numbers would have been very low, but there was enough analysis and coverage in newspapers and radio today to give it some prominence.

Adelaide University political scientist Professor Clem Macintyre told InDaily that while local commentators gave the slight edge to Premier Jay Weatherill, he found it more interesting that Sky News’s interstate (and less interested or connected) analysts had given it to Opposition Leader Steven Marshall.

“Their external view may well reflect the view of voters with only a passing interest in the campaign,” Macintyre said.

“Those people, however, wouldn’t have been watching, so it’s hard to see if this debate had any impact at all.”

While the leaders pondered their latest bout a small set of candidates from the marginal seats of Adelaide, Elder and Bright stepped aboard an ABC Radio mini-bus for a trip through the suburbs.

Along the way they were asked questions about the conscience-vote issues like euthanasia and the federal issue of gay marriage and whether they’d be happier if they lost.

Labor’s candidate in Bright, Chloe Fox, summed up her “morning town ride” best when she declared one question to her as “foolish” and another to her opponent as “a bit harsh”.

If you were after detail, a report in The Australian today showed just why it is that Labor has had difficulty attracting majority support in the period since the knifing of decade-long Premier Mike Rann.

Rann had a three-point mantra in opposition and in government: health, education, police.

The Australian’s detailed analysis of Newspoll results and how voters rated each party on key issues showed that Labor has lost its dominance on health, education and ‘law and order’.

On the key issue of the economy (hardly on the radar in the pre-GFC period of 2002 to 2009) the Liberals have a clear advantage.

The Newspoll data explains why Labor’s campaign has focused on fear and derision of Steven Marshall.

The two candidates in Elder gave a window into how that’s been played out in key marginal seats.

The ALP’s Annabel Digance admitted today that she is continuing to warn Housing Trust tenants of an “unused bedroom charge”, despite the denials by the Liberals that such a charge would ever be levied.

The Libs’ Carolyn Habib said the fear campaign was having an impact: “It has really frightened people; one old lady aged 95 hearly had to go to hospital because she was so worried”.

So, while the leaders provide the TV images of a broad campaign, there’s a serious war going on in the seats that will decide who wins.

Back in the city and Campaign Diary was intrigued to be sent a now out-of-date flyer from the Greens.

Their bearded leader Mark Parnell has been a long time critic of political parties raising funds by charging large amounts for dinners with federal or state leaders.

The Greens, as it turned out, hosted a “Dinner with Christine Milne and Mark Parnell” at the National Wine Centre on February 15.

“Enjoy pre-dinner drinks with our special string quartet in the unique ambience of the National Wine Centre followed by a sumptuous three course dinner,” the flyer promised.

Diners were treated to poached King Salmon with a citrus and native lime salad, followed by a choice of rack of lamb, chicken or the vegetarian option of zucchini, sunflower seed and lentil slice.

Dessert was a baked lemon and lime tart.

After paying the venue hire, the food bill and entertainment there’s very chance the Greens lost money – which may explain why Parnell has taken to the piano accordion as his campaign backdrop.

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