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Campaign Diary: Scare campaigns reveal what the parties think of you


In today’s diary, the Liberal scare campaign on the GST treats everyone like idiots, the Electoral Commission slaps down the major parties, focus group research with local voters shows we’re in three minds, and more.

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A tax on brain cells?

It must have seemed a cunning plan months out from the election: a coordinated scare campaign to convince South Australians that the state Labor Government was going to impose higher taxes on every local household.

Liberal Treasury spokesman Rob Lucas started phase one yesterday with a press conference and media release proclaiming that Labor had a “secret plan” to increase the GST “by 50 per cent”. Then “robocalls” went out to thousands of local phones overnight (including, it seems, to just about every political journalist in town) warning that Labor wanted a new tax hit on households.

Not many reporters took this particularly seriously, given that it is self-evidently cynical rubbish. Firstly, the plan was never “secret”: as has been widely reported, Jay Weatherill had pushed for a reconsideration of the GST – including an increase – with the support of then NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird but opposition from federal Labor colleagues. The idea, which had compensation for low-income earners and other adjustments built in, fizzled out through lack of support.

The idea that re-electing Labor would threaten an increase in the GST rate is a very, very long bow: it would need the support of the Federal Government and the other states. Even if there was a change of government at the federal level, Weatherill’s Labor colleagues fiercely resisted his change the first time round.

The evident reality that an open-minded debate on taxation is impossible at the best of times in Australia, let alone during an election campaign, is somewhat depressing.

More troubling is that fact that the Liberals presume – or hope – that most of the South Australian electorate have not the slightest inkling about how the taxation system works and would be open to such superficial scare tactics.

It seems timely to recall Rob Lucas in an earlier incarnation – as the state’s Treasurer in 2001-02. In those twilight Liberal days, Lucas was not only a fan of the GST – he was positively scared that a future Commonwealth Government might take away some of the rivers of gold.

Here’s what he said in his Budget speech that year.

“It remains the case that the tax reform package will deliver medium and longer-term benefits to the State from the receipt of revenue from a genuine growth tax in the form of the GST,” he said.

“It remains critical to the State’s future that there is not a roll-back of the GST by a future Commonwealth Government. Members need to be aware that roll-back means less money for schools, hospitals and police services in the States. If such a policy was to become a possibility then it will be critical to have strong bipartisan opposition to such a plan which could cost South Australia tens of millions of dollars in future budgets.”

Of course, Labor has been called out for spreading its own BS about the GST (see below).

Electoral Commission rules out Nick’s car

The Electoral Commission says Liberal leader Steven Marshall’s claims about power bill savings under his electricity plan are false and should be corrected, while it has also slapped down Labor for its unsubstantiated claims that the Liberals want to cut South Australia’s GST take.

Nick Xenophon has also fallen foul of the state’s electoral laws – due to an oversized sign on his Fiat Bambino.

Read our full story here.

“Soft” voters want a change – but aren’t convinced by the alternative

Confusion about the state’s electoral choices has marked new focus group research, carried out by the University of Canberra in South Australia last week.

The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan summarises the voters’ feelings about “an ‘old’ government, an opposition leader many people find lacklustre, and a popular centrist player adept at exploiting discontent”.

“That’s the confusing choice facing ‘soft’ voters in next Saturday’s South Australian election. It’s little wonder that observers are unwilling to predict the election’s outcome.”

She says voters were divided over whether the state is headed in the right or wrong direction.

Read Grattan’s full analysis here.

A snag in your plans

If you like to grab a greasy sausage while waiting to exercise your democratic rights, you should take into account some new research released today.

Researchers at The George Institute for Global Health analysed the salt content in more than 1000 processed meat products like sausages, ham and bacon from Australia’s four major supermarkets from 2010 to 2017.

While bacon and sliced meats reduced their salt content, there was no change to the salt content of sausages during that seven-year period.

On average just one sausage contains more than one-quarter (28 per cent) of an adult’s recommended daily salt intake.

The analysis also revealed huge variation in salt content, with some snags three times saltier than others.

Coles thin pork BBQ sausages were the saltiest, containing 2.9 grams of salt per 100g of sausages, according to the research.

Today’s policy round-up

SA Best today pushed a new deal for victims of crime, Steven Marshall went to Cape Jervis to offer goodies to Kangaroo Island voters, and Jay Weatherill continued his final-week education focus.

Nick Xenophon released another flurry of promises this morning, chief among them reforms to the way victims are treated in the criminal justice system.

Among a long list of reforms, he wants to give victims a say before any plea bargain is struck, increase resources for support services and give victims access to legal representation at pre-trial hearings. He also announced his full support for a package of child protection reforms wanted by Uniting Communities and Anglicare SA.

Marshall’s Liberals are promising to extend the Cape Jervis breakwater to maximise the numbers of days that the KI ferry is able to operate. The $2 million project is aimed at voters in the seat of Mawson, where a poll yesterday showed Labor on level pegging with the Liberals.

Weatherill today went to the seat of Hartley, where Xenophon is standing, to announce a $13.4 million “tradie package”, including giving first-year apprentices $800 to buy their tools.

– additional reporting by AAP

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