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'Pray for ScoMo': The SA connection mixing politics and religion

Notes on Adelaide

In a special federal election-eve edition of Notes On Adelaide, we farewell ‘SA’s own’ Silver Bodgie, assess the heart-rate of some nervous candidates and State Government staffers and explore the SA links to the Prime Minister’s much-publicised faith.

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The Silver Bodgie’s last gift to Labor?

As he did in 1983 when he seized the ALP leadership on the same day Malcolm Fraser paid a visit to the Governor-General, Robert James Lee Hawke has turned the election campaign on its proverbial head.

Keating’s ruthless but necessary power grab in ’91 not only delivered Labor another term in office, in many ways, it allowed history (unfairly) to largely remember Hawke for that era’s successes, and Keating for its failures.

Their post-parliamentary personae have played into that perception: Keating chiming in on domestic affairs in his inimitable fashion while Hawke revelled in his celebrity on the campaign trail and in the unfortunate annual ritual whereby he was exhorted to chug a Test match pint.

But his passing at age 89 has set off a torrent of universal nostalgia: Boomers wistfully remember the boom; Gen-Xers the heady days of their youth.

And of course, his Bordertown birth has led the SA media to jealously claim his as our own, as we are wont to do.

Bill Shorten visiting Hawke at home, in an image released to media by the ALP.

While Tony Abbott has been roundly criticised for his tone-deaf politicisation of his predecessor’s passing, it’s naïve to presume insiders haven’t pondered how all this impacts tomorrow’s poll.

If the historical fervour doesn’t help Labor, Hawke’s death has certainly shifted the tone of the final 24 hours of campaigning, which was set to be vociferously nasty and is now at least sympathetic to the legacy of a unique and genuine statesman.

And if nothing else, it has ensured that the ‘Silver Bodgie’s’ craggy visage is today emblazoned across newspaper front-pages around the nation, rather than the usual News Corp headlines about Shorten’s shortcomings.

Coalition punted?

Whatever happens tomorrow, a curious feature of this campaign (and presumably modern campaigns in general) is that people seem to more readily believe betting companies than they do opinion pollsters.

While polls generally have Labor with a narrow lead – rather than a commanding one – bookies (and punters) aren’t having a bar of it. One agency has Labor at $1.14 to the Coalition’s $6.00; another is already paying out on bets placed for Labor (and making a bit of noise about it).

Mind you, that same company regularly pays out early – presumably judging that the risk of copping a loss is offset by all the free publicity it invariably garners.

It’s wise not to read too much into it though: in 2011, the agency paid out early to punters who had backed Gary Ablett for the Brownlow medal. Collingwood’s Dane Swan won the AFL’s highest individual honour instead – with a record number of votes.

Dane Swan – a sure bet? Photo: Joe Castro / AAP

SA Libs’ Hunger Games

Generally in the week before a federal election, state party branches prefer to keep their heads down and avoid controversy.

But, as is often the case, the SA Liberal Party didn’t get the memo.

The Marshall Government – whose enduring popularity has generally been regarded as a boon for the Liberal brand in SA, where Nicolle Flint is fighting for survival in Boothby – has had one of its more forgettable weeks, with controversies over a crumbling upgrade to the state’s busiest roadway, revelations of the prospective privatisation of the train and tram services and now the effective axing of Brand South Australia.

Nicolle Flint is facing off against Nadia Clancy.

On the latter, Tourism Minister David Ridgway magnanimously declared that the state brand – unveiled with much fanfare and at some cost by the former Weatherill Labor Government in 2012 – would “remain available to any local business who wished to use it” following what he called “the decision by the independent not-for-profit organisation, Brand SA, to cease operation”.

A decision, it must be said, made considerably easier (one might almost say ‘prompted’) by the Government cutting half its budget.

But if the Marshall Government is counting the sleeps until polling day, so too are its staffers, all of whom are on short-term contracts that expire at the end of the financial year.

If the Morrison Government falls, there will be a swag of well-credentialled advisers looking for new gigs – a prospect that should put the fear of God into any given incumbent with uncertain job security.

Pray for ScoMo

Talking of the fear of God, Scott Morrison this week angrily denounced Bill Shorten for bringing his religion into political debate, when Opposition Leader demanded to know the PM’s stance on whether gay people went to hell.

For the record, ScoMo initially responded that he didn’t mix “my faith with politics” and supported “the law of the country”, before later clarifying that no, he didn’t believe gay people go to hell per se. Tellingly, neither leader took issue with the underlying premise that Hell actually exists in the first place.

“I am not running for pope – I am running for prime minister,” the prime minister noted at the time.

“These are issues about religion and I don’t want to see those controversial topics brought into the political debate.”

Nonetheless, it’s more than arguable both leaders have blurred the lines between religion and politics, inviting media into their respective churches to showcase the way they worshipped their respective brands of Christianity.

There is an SA connection to the much-discussed images of ScoMo praying, arm aloft: Brad Bonhomme, the senior pastor at his Sutherland shire Pentecostal Horizon church, was previously a pastor and chief executive at SA’s Influencers church, formerly known as Paradise Community Church.

Both Horizon and Influencers are part of the Australian Christian Churches family, whose website notes experienced “great growth” after SA pastor Andrew Evans became General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

Family First founder, pastor Andrew Evans. Photo: Facebook

Evans, of course, founded Family First (which was later usurped by Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives), and served in the SA Upper House for six years from 2002.

He’s now retired to the Gold Coast, where he’s kept up a fervent stream of social media support for ScoMo, arguably his denomination’s most high profile parishioner.

“Don’t forget to pray for a Liberal victory on the 18th May every day… PLEASE SHARE,” Evans posted recently.

And later: “Every day our PM needs our prayers.”

“I was reminded of the story in Exodus, when Moses’ hands were held up Israel won the battle. Let’s hold up Scott Morrison in prayer until the election is over and won.”

His prayers are getting more fervent as polling day nears, with a post last night declaring: “The latest polls show that the Liberals are on a knife edge from victory. Please step up your prayer for the next 2 days so that we can get Scott Morrison over the line so that he can continue as our Prime Minister.”

While ScoMo is adamant religion and politics don’t mix, Evans – who remains a revered figure in his church – is evidence to the contrary.

“I’m voting for the Australian Conservatives in the Senate for the below reasons,” he wrote on a post highlighting Bernardi’s insistence that “there are only two genders”.

On April 30, he shared an article from a site called Natural News headlined “Over 30,000 scientists say ‘Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming’ is a complete hoax and science lie”.

“That’s what I believe,” Evans added to the post.

Natural News is described on Wikipedia as “a conspiracy website that sells various dietary supplements and promotes alternative medicine, controversial nutrition and health claims, fake news and various conspiracy theories”.

Evans also posted a ‘cheat sheet’ for “my fellow South Aussies” to elect “as many competent Christians, and Senators of goodwill” to the Upper House as possible.

“With Christian values threatened like never before, many sense the vital importance of this Federal election for the future of our nation,” he wrote.

“I know that [Liberal] Senators Lucy Gichuhi and David Fawcett, as well as [Australian Conservatives] Riki [sic] Lambert, share my values. The other nine candidates have been carefully selected by a group of senior Christian leaders.

“Please consider the flyer prayerfully, share it with others and let the Australian church be a voice.”

An excerpt from the Evans-authorised flyer.

Along with candidates from the Liberals, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and Clive Palmer’s United Australia, one Labor senator makes the cut- South Australian right-winger – Alex Gallacher.

For the record, Evans also weighed in on the whole ‘who goes to hell’ question, in an apparently now-deleted post:

Working holiday

Evans’ prayers will be welcome for Bernardi who, on current polling, will need some divine intervention to see a fellow Australian Conservative elected to share the crossbench alongside him.

He’s also been light on for assistance lately, with his media man Nic Nolan – a former radio stalwart who also had a stint advising then-state Liberal leader Isobel Redmond – jetting off for what appeared to be a Thailand holiday for the past fortnight.

Funnily enough, his farewell post appeared on the same day as the Conservatives held an “SA Campaign Rally” to showcase their local candidate Lambert – with a media alert for the event sent out by Nolan himself.

Indeed, Nolan -who was back on Australian terra firma this week – tells InDaily his trip was very much a working holiday, and while the scenery was agreeable, there were plenty of long hours bashing out media releases and fielding calls in between the odd dip in the hotel pool.

“I was on-call 24/7,” he insists, explaining that the trip came his way after he bid on a charity auction several months ago and he couldn’t reschedule.

Dare we say, nice work if you can get it?

X-factor returns

Someone else with a penchant for inopportune exits is former SA political heavyweight Nick Xenophon, who disappeared from view after leading his fledgling SA Best party to a crashing failure at last year’s state election.

He’s spent the months since telling any journo who calls that he’s out of public life, and beseeching them in as many words to “please leave me alone”.

Then-SA Best leader Nick Xenophon with former candidate Graham Davies – who is now running for the Senate. Photo: Tracey Nearmy / AAP

Funny then, that he’s suddenly turned up in the public spotlight again just weeks from the federal poll, spruiking his fight for the good-old-Aussie Ugg boot and signing off on a full-page paid ad in News Corp’s local Advertiser urging people to stick with his former party (albeit in its post-Xenophon Centre Alliance guise). Conspicuously, he only mentions Senate candidate Skye Kakoschke-Moore by name, and not Mayo incumbent Rebekha Sharkie, who appears to have eschewed party branding from her campaign material.

Given the man himself has let it be known he doesn’t want to talk about his 2018 campaign, it was left to his former candidates to explain why.

https://twitter.com/SlatteryNetwork/status/1124608239029456897

Funnily enough, Xenophon’s former Waite candidate Graham Davies, is back in the political fray this time around, making a bid for the Senate under the Sustainable Australia banner.

Getting down with GetUp

SA has been ‘gifted’ with the dubious honour of hosting a GetUp campaign this election.

The left-wing activist group has targeted the Liberal-held marginal of Boothby with its peculiar brand of preaching to the choir (and largely alienating everyone else with its particularly vociferous electioneering).

They draw the line on alleged stalking though: when InDaily revealed last month that a former campaign volunteer for Centre Alliance incumbent Rebekha Sharkie in Mayo with links to GetUp had been arrested and charged with allegedly stalking Liberal hopeful Georgina Downer, GetUp promptly suspended his membership.

Mind you, they also went to great lengths to spin the report as best they could, even writing to InDaily of their “particular concern” about what headline we might use.

“It would be great if our General Counsel could see the story before it goes to print,” a GetUp representative wrote.

InDaily politely declined.

Funnily enough, the group’s website states: “We’re harnessing the power of persuasive conversations and cutting-edge campaign tech to connect with voters on our shared values; together we’ll change what’s possible this election.”

We’re not sure about persuasive conversations, but perhaps “change what’s printable” might be more apt?

A touch of magic

GetUp’s efforts may not swing Boothby, but the southern suburbs seat remains the sole SA seat widely regarded as having a chance of changing hands on Saturday night.

There’s a gaggle of eight candidates contesting the seat, including the Greens’ Stef Rozitis, Fraser Anning’s envoy Adrian David Cheok and independent Trevor Jones, a software engineer who has taken soundings from fellow independents including former Xenophonite Karen Hockley, former high-profile Fisher by-election hopeful Dan ‘Woody’ Woodyatt and perennial election enthusiast Rob de Jonge.

The margin in Boothby? Well, how long’s a piece of string?

“I just see that the major parties are based on what’s going to get them votes, and not committing on things like climate change,” Jones tells InDaily.

Of course, the real battle is between incumbent Nicolle Flint and Labor’s Nadia Clancy, with the other six hopefuls requiring a miracle to enter genuine calculations.

Fortunately, one of them – UAP candidate Peter Salerno – is a magician by trade.

And while he may not be able to conjure up a seat in parliament, he’s at least managed to keep his fellow candidates entertained on the hustings:

And while there’s plenty going on behind the scenes, the most likely Lower House outcome for SA appears to be the status quo.

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

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