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Win or lose, Labor needs to change


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If Labor manages to pull off a remarkable victory on Saturday, then things will need to change – starting at the top.

Premier Jay Weatherill will be safe – in fact, he’ll be considered a Labor hero to have achieved victory in such trying circumstances.

His temptation will be to keep things as they are – but wise heads in the party will encourage him to relinquish the Treasury. He has struggled with the dual roles of Premier and Treasurer and needs a “bad cop” to manage the ballooning budget deficit.

The options are few, but perhaps it’s a job for Tom Koutsantonis – at least until new chum Stephen Mullighan finds his feet in the Parliament.

READ MORE: Our analysis of what a Marshall Government may look like.

Repairing Labor’s tattered economic credentials should be the number one task. Under Rann, the Left didn’t have much time for Kevin Foley – but his firm hand on Treasury’s rudder has been desperately missing. Can someone of the likes of Koutsantonis add that muscle again? I think so.

Beyond the central financial task, a second term of the Weatherill Government would need to refocus on the basics – especially health and education.

In the last parliament, reforms in these basic areas of state responsibility slowed to a trickle.

In fact, both portfolios became liabilities, beset with management problems, political dramas and very little evidence of a positive reform agenda.

In health, Labor will need to go beyond simply pointing at the great big, expensive, new hospital rising from the railyards. One reason why Labor wasn’t able to gain much – or, indeed, any – political gain from this multi-billion dollar spend is that the medial profession isn’t out there singing its praises.

Labor  and the department of health have mismanaged relationships with the key medical bodies. Representative groups are incredibly frustrated by a lack of basic information about the make-up of service delivery at the new hospital, and how this will play out across the system.

In education, the appointment of a police officer to the top job in the department may have (eventually) calmed the political storm over child protection, but it hardly gives the public confidence that educational achievement is at the forefront of Labor’s concerns. Labor will need to make the department leaner and more effective at helping schools deliver education outcomes and decouple the broader child protection function that made an unwieldy department even more cumbersome.

In the transport portfolio, Labor also has enormous work to do to implement its ambitious transport plan. Work will be slow-going, given the plan depends on a steady flow of cash from the Federal Government.

Politically, Weatherill should ditch his confusing seven-point plan. No-one understood any of it, except perhaps the “vibrant city” agenda (and that has become almost a parody, despite the Government’s solid achievements in this area).

Of course, the most likely outcome from Saturday’s election is a loss for Labor.

In that case, Weatherill’s leadership is certainly over.

Labor will be desperately hoping that Mullighan wins his western suburbs seat of Lee (which is likely), so he can add some much-needed new energy to its frontbench.

Chris Picton, its candidate for Kaurna, former health minister John Hill’s old seat, will also be considered for a decent role in Labor’s Opposition line-up, as will Susan Close, the member for Port Adelaide.

These three, along with leadership contenders John Rau, Koutsantonis and Jack Snelling, will be the heart of Labor’s Opposition attack.

And the leadership?

It’s looking increasingly likely to be a battle between Koutsantonis and Rau (a choice between political fire and ice).

It’s going to be a frantic 48 hours for the contenders if, as expected, Labor goes down on Saturday night.


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