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Campaign Diary: Stones, Stott and Cyndi

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The Rolling Stones aren’t coming. Cyndi Lauper, however, may yet rock state politics.

The Stones concert had a political tinge after the Weatherill State Government threw in $450,000 last year to bankroll a tour bid by the Adelaide Oval’s management.

The Premier enjoyed the glow of celebrity when he announced the Stones gig at an Adelaide Oval press conference on November 20.

Now, there will be no concert (see separate report), the State Government is getting its money back and Jay Weatherill has already banked the electoral benefit – almost.

And that’s where Cyndi Lauper rolled in.

The long, slow electoral count is expected to leave both major parties short of an absolute majority, leaving them in the hands of two independents.

One of those two, Geoff Brock in the Port Pirie and Clare-based seat of Frome, is seeking the advice of his “council of councils”.

Brock regularly meets with the five mayors in his electorate – he says they are closer to the people than he is and he values their input.

The mayors are: Wakefield (Balaklava) Regional Council’s James Maitland, District Council of Barunga West’s Dean Dolling. Port Pirie’s Brenton Vanstone, Clare and Gilbert Valley’s Allan Aughey and Northern Areas Council’s Dennis Clark.

At a press conference after their meeting yesterday Vanstone made it clear what they wanted.

“Remember that song by Cyndi Lauper, Money Changes Everything?” he laughed.

The councils will give written, costed project and infrastructure submissions for Brock to take to both major party leaders.

The future government of South Australia, therefore, will be decided on the basis of a cash grab by one region.

This is not the first time that the state has been beholden to the wants of a single electorate.

South Australia’s longest-serving independent Tom Stott held the balance of power, not just once, but twice.

And it was his demand for a dam on the River Murray at Chowilla that nearly ruined the river and the state’s finances.

Stott was a farmer and after losing pre-selection for a Liberal Party seat in and around the Riverland, he went it alone, holding the seat of Ridley from 1938 to 1970.

In 1962, with the seat count tied at 19-19, Stott took the Speaker’s chair and gave his support to incumbent Premier Tom Playford.

In 1965 Playford didn’t need him and Stott returned to the cross-benches.

In 1968, Playford had gone, but replacement Premier Steele Hall had to turn to Stott to retain power.

Stott was suddenly back in the Speaker’s seat and Hall then placed great store on the suggestions made by Stott, including the idea of a dam at Chowilla.

Hall agreed – at first.

Eventually, however, Hall realised the Chowilla project would be an expensive white elephant and would also cause enormous environmental damage.

Stott’s locals pressured him to stand by the project and in 1969 he switched his support away from the Liberals.

That led to the return of Don Dunstan as Premier, the axing of Chowilla and the construction of the Dartmouth Dam.

Money had changed everything;

Or as the Cyndi Lauper sings:

They shake your hand and they smile

And they buy you a drink

They say we’ll be your friends

We’ll stick with you till the end

Ah but everybody’s only

Looking out for themselves

And you say well who can you trust

I’ll tell you it’s just Nobody else’s money –

Money changes everything

Back at the Electoral Commission’s counting house, meanwhile, the staff are having a break from vote counting to resume vote bundling and checking.

In yesterday’s brief count, the numbers show neither party is able to confidently predict where it will end.

What did emerge, however, is that there was a major shift in the voting trend evident in postal votes sent earliest in the campaign, compared to those that arrived later.

Clearly, something had gone wrong in the Liberal campaign’s final week – or had the Labor campaign of fear once again landed a crucial blow?

The scrutineers are suggesting the result will focus on the seat of Colton where it is estimated the final margin will be fewer than 100, “maybe even closer”.

One person who knows what that means is Mary Lou Corcoran, daughter of the man who succeeded Don Dunstan as Premier in 1979.

In 1968 Corcoran held his seat of Millicent by one vote.

It could yet be that close.

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