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Jay abandons bullish prediction as leaders make their final pitches

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Premier Jay Weatherill today refused to repeat his claim that the Labor Party will win the most seats at tomorrow’s election, as party leaders made their final pitches to the electorate.

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Weatherill repeatedly declared late last year that the ALP would win more seats than the Liberal Party – and more than any other party.

“On any view of it, we’ll be the largest single party after the next election,” he said in November.

But asked this morning whether he still believed Labor would win the most seats, he declined to repeat the claim.

“We’ll see what the people have to say,” he told reporters at a press conference, which was set within the same suburban garage that hosted his famous confrontation with federal Liberal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg on this day last year.

Weatherill used the location to hammer his “standing up for South Australia” mantra, while Liberal Leader Steven Marshall appeared at an UltraTune garage in Unley this morning for his small business pitch, urging South Australians to choose him to “get on with getting this state back on track”.

“It’s now down to the people of South Australia,” said Weatherill.

“I’m interested in winning. I’m interested in winning for South Australia.”

Weatherill’s final parochial pitch to the electorate was framed by his Government’s energy policies, urging electors to keep the “momentum” going by re-electing Labor.

“It’s been extraordinary, what’s been achieved over the last 12 months,” he said.

“What we’ve seen is the world’s largest battery, we’ve seen the world’s largest solar thermal plant … we’ve seen today another extraordinary announcement – the world’s largest battery has now been overtaken by the world’s largest battery (Sanjeev Gupta’s proposed battery for Port Augusta, announced this morning).

“We are the only party going into this state election with a credible energy plan.

“This is the single biggest issue facing South Australians. We cannot turn back now. The momentum is growing.”

But Marshall said Weatherill’s energy policies had got the state into a “mess”.

“I’m hopeful for South Australia that we have a decision tomorrow night because it’s absolutely critical that South Australia gets on with getting this state back on track,” Marshall said.

“It’s now time to hit the reset button.

Steven Marshall at his final press conference of the election campaign at Ultra Tune on Unley Rd. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

“Any renewable energy, any interstate or overseas investment or state-based investment in our energy infrastructure in South Australia is welcome.

“But let’s be very clear – Jay Weatherill is out there on a daily basis now handing out subsidies to companies to come to South Australia to try and fix the mess that he himself created.

“We wouldn’t need this in such a rushed way if Jay Weatherill had of managed the transition to renewable energy in a far more orderly fashion.”

Weatherill told reporters the Liberal Party’s claims about its own energy policy had been shown to be a “pack of lies”.

Earlier this week, the state Electoral Commissioner slapped the Liberal Party, as well as Labor and SA Best, with adverse findings over their campaign material.

The Liberal Party was hit with an adverse finding over claims that its policies, including a new interconnector to New South Wales and subsidised household batteries, would see power prices fall by an average of $302 a year by 2021/22.

Releasing the policy last year, the Liberals cited independent modelling provided by ACIL Allen Consulting, but the research actually showed the Liberal policy measures would only cut around $60 to $70 a year and that the bulk of the savings would be delivered even if the measures were not in place.

“They self-defined (energy) as the biggest single issue in the election and they have failed the test,” Weatherill said this morning.

“Within 24 hours their plan was dead.”

Both men argued that their party could best be trusted to increase jobs in South Australia.

“I’m going to be spending the entire day the same way that I’ll start a government, if we form government on Saturday – and that’s out talking to businesses in South Australia about how we can grow the economy and create more jobs,” Marshall said.

“I think the Liberal Party is in the best position it’s been for a very long period of time.

“I’m confident that the Liberal Party has the policy agenda to get our state back on track.”

Weatherill said jobs were Labor’s “number one priority”.

“Making sure that we have jobs as our number one priority, always standing up for South Australia – that’s why I’m asking South Australians to vote Labor tomorrow,” he said.

“We’re standing up for South Australia, just like we stood up for the Murray, just like we stood up for future submarines, just like we stood up for Holden workers, and fought for them every step of the way, even after Holden closed.

“It’s only the South Australian Labor Party that will stand up for you.”

Both Weatherill and Marshall attempted to distance themselves and their parties from SA Best and its leader, Nick Xenophon – who is due to make his final pitch to voters and release the costings of his policies this afternoon.

“People now see Nick as another version of the Liberal Party,” said the Premier.

“He teamed up with them to (cut) $210 million from South Australian schools.”

Marshall suggested the opposite.

“(Xenophon) refuses to rule out doing a deal with Jay Weatherill,” he said.

“A vote for Nick Xenophon is a vote for another four years of Labor Government in South Australia and that would be a disaster.”

In explaining his decision to make his final pitch this morning in the West Beach garage where he gatecrashed Frydenberg’s presser last year, Weatherill claimed that he didn’t go there “for a fight”.

Some journalists expressed their scepticism about this claim.

But Weatherill explained: “I tell you what happened: I came along, I was feeling very good, I had a nice night the night before, I had a cup of tea on the couch with my wife. I was feeling very relaxed”.

“I didn’t actually expect (Frydenberg) to turn up once I heard the announcement about the Snowy (Hydro 2.0) scheme. I thought he’d be with the Prime Minister, and when he arrived, he used that typical condescending way in which he dealt with things.

“As it went on, I became more and more angry about the way in which he’d talk down South Australia.”

Marshall argued Weatherill’s final press conference should have been held in front of the shuttered Oakden Older Person’s Mental Health Service.

“I think Jay Weatherill should have held his final press conference out the front of Oakden and apologised to the people of South Australia,” said the Liberal leader.

“Jay Weatherill should hang his head in shame.”

The premier’s press conference this morning was gatecrashed by a protester, who demanded Weatherill help protect the Great Australian Bight from oil drilling.

Weatherill said his Government had always relied on “the science” for its marine policies and that it would be very difficult for any oil drill proposal to achieve the required environmental approvals.

That’s despite Labor Treasurer Tom  Koutsantonis telling reporters after BP announced it was scrapping plans to drill in the Bight last year that “every Australian has a right to feel disappointed by BP”.

“They made a promise to the Australian Government that they would spend nearly $1.4 billion on exploration in the Great Australian Bight when they tendered for these tenements and now, they withdraw,” he said at the time.

InDaily contacted Xenophon for comment, but he did not respond before deadline.

– additional reporting by Stephanie Richards

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