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New challenger for Haese; "Pro-GM" prof to review ban; SA Health's media hustle

Notes on Adelaide

In today’s Notes on Adelaide, a third contender emerges for the Lord Mayorship, the State Government appoints an economist with established pro-genetically modified crop views to review the state’s ban, and we offer a sneak peek inside SA Health’s media handling of its own minister.

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Third candidate enters Lord Mayoral dance

Lord Mayor Martin Haese faces a new challenger in his bid for re-election in the coming council elections.

Until recently, Haese faced only one opponent – former councillor and previous lord mayoral candidate Mark Hamilton, who’s been campaigning for months.

With nominations closing next Tuesday, a new candidate has emerged.

Steven Kelly, whose nomination form lists the address of the Steven Kelly International Dance Studios in Grenfell Street, has sashayed into the mayoral battle.

Kelly has a Facebook page and a website for his election bid, but neither yet contain any information about his candidature.

He didn’t respond to InDaily’s repeated requests for an interview.

‘Pro-GM’ researcher hired to review SA’s ban

The State Government today announced it had appointed an independent expert to review South Australia’s long-standing ban on genetically-modified crops.

The Government’s media release – and the Murdoch media’s story after it was given the announcement as an “exclusive” – failed to reveal the established views of the eminent expert on the question of GM crops.

The reviewer, Emeritus Professor Kym Anderson, has had a long and distinguished career at the University of Adelaide, specialising in trade matters and agricultural economics.

He is also a well-known researcher on the economic aspects of GMO, producing numerous research papers on the matter. As long ago as 2000, he wrote about the potential economic gains from GM crops, particularly for developing countries, concluding that: “A less-emotive, more-informed debate is clearly called for so that such opportunities to boost the well-being of potentially billions of poor people are not diminished.”

In 2014, he told InDaily there was no evidence that GM crops pose a health risk.

While that is beyond the scope of the current review, which will evaluate the benefits and costs to the South Australian economy of the ban, Anderson also expressed a view on that point.

Four years ago, he told us that the evidence was “pretty skimpy” that the GM ban offered SA any marketing benefits – the key selling point of the ban in the view of the then Labor Government.

“In the Japanese market you could identify a premium (for non-GM products), but it was so skimpy as to not be worth worrying about,” he said of his research into the matter.

His large body of work on GMOs includes a warning to developing countries that a ban on GM crops would cause huge losses to both farmers and consumers.

While there is no question about his credentials or independence, his body of work is already causing angst among anti-GM campaigners.

A review of South Australia’s moratorium on GM crops was a Liberal election promise (which probably should have gained more attention during the campaign). The moratorium is legislated until 2025, which means overturning it would require a vote of Parliament.

Greens leader Mark Parnell said today the Government should have chosen a different person to lead the review.

“It’s clear that Kym Anderson isn’t convinced about the merits of South Australia remaining GM-free,” he said.

“Appointing a pro-GM person to undertake this review isn’t a wise choice for the Marshall Liberal Government if they want the findings of the review to be widely accepted by the community.”

A cross-party committee of Parliament is conducting its own review of the moratorium.

InDaily has attempted to contact Anderson for his response.

SA Health gives Wade short notice

The SA Health media unit has cultivated a long-standing reputation for dropping media releases late in the day on unsuspecting journalists.

The MO tends to be an announcement around 4pm, giving TV reporters very little time to scratch the surface of whatever controversy is being revealed.

But disgruntled journos can at least take some consolation that, it appears, even the highest levels of the State Government are subject to the same treatment.

An email trail published by the Premier’s Department under Freedom of Information laws shows the build-up to the May 31 announcement that authorities would take the controversial step of erecting temporary fencing outside the new Royal Adelaide Hospital’s emergency department – to ameliorate a supposed design flaw that SA Health conceded “compromises patient privacy”.

The release dropped in journalists’ inboxes at 4.35pm.

But little more than an hour earlier, a draft version was sent by SA Health principal media adviser Hayley McDonald to a list of recipients that included Health Minister Stephen Wade himself, along with his press secretary Greg Charter.

“Hello all, see attached media release for your approvals,” McDonald began.

“We would like to send this out in an hour, so a prompt response would be much appreciated. Apologies for the tight timing.”

It’s good to know there’s an established pecking order when it comes to health announcements.

Notes On Adelaide is a column telling the inside stories of Adelaide people, politics, institutions and issues. If you have information that you believe should be noted in this column, send us an email: editorial@solsticemedia.com.au

– Additional reporting by Tom Richardson

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