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Campaign Diary: Pompous lectures, mass debates and scurrilous attacks

Politics

In the final diary, Lyn Such campaigns against a Liberal candidate, electors vote early in record numbers, the concept of the set-piece debate dies a slow death, and Rupert Murdoch’s national newspaper offers a pre-election lecture to South Australians.

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Debatable

This election will be remembered for the campaign that killed the set-piece debate.

There have been so many of the three-way structured arguments between Jay Weatherill, Steven Marshall and Nick Xenophon – and their responses so predictable – that the debates have become just more white noise in an already confusing scrabble for votes.

The formal part of the campaign started with a debate at the Press Club, followed by televised debates hosted by the ABC and SkyNews, and a plethora of other platforms hosted by various interest groups and radio stations.

All three leaders have stuck to well-established scripts – there have been few surprises or arresting moments.

Strangely, though, this morning’s on-air debate between the three leaders on ABC Radio Adelaide was probably the most compelling of the campaign: the three leaders were actually allowed to debate each other, rather than just making set-piece pronouncements.

The approach to debates is a far cry from 2010, when then party leaders Mike Rann and Isobel Redmond engaged in a single televised debate which gained blanket attention (although it’s now most remembered for Rann’s unfortunately cadaverous make-up).

An ABC screenshot of Mike Rann looking less than fresh during the 2010 debate.

Lyn Such slams the Liberals

Lyn Such, the widow of long-term MP Bob, has made a withering entry into the campaign in Adelaide’s south, asking voters to consider carefully whether the Liberal candidate for Davenport, former Liberal state president Steven Murray, is worthy of their support.

While Bob’s old seat of Fisher was carved up in the latest electoral redistribution, Lyn Such has distributed a letter to voters in those sections of the old electorate that are now in Davenport.

She says that Murray, as campaign chairman for Sam Duluk (now standing for the seat of Waite), had been involved in a “scurrilous attack on Bob’s integrity and his standing in the community”.

Lyn Such contends that the 2014 campaign material erroneously claimed that Bob was giving preferences to Labor, when he didn’t allocate preferences to any party.

“My late husband Bob Such had contested many elections during his twenty-five years as the MP for Fisher and ‘had never encountered such blatant, false and misleading pre-election materials as he did during the 2014 campaign’ by the Liberal Candidate Sam Duluk and his Fisher Campaign Office,” the letter contends.

It finishes with this statement: “Is Steven Murray worthy of your vote considering his involvement in Fisher in 2014?”

The Liberals, in turn, are complaining that Lyn Such’s letter is “false and misleading”.

InDaily contacted Murray for his response but he referred the issue to Liberal Party state director Sascha Meldrum.

Meldrum said Lyn Such’s letter was not authorised as required by electoral law, contained “false and misleading statements” and a complaint had been lodged with the Electoral Commission.

Murdoch newspapers all-in for the Liberals

One of the more odious parts of an election campaign is when the interstate pundits glance our way, only to tell South Australians why we’re either boring, backward or both.

Another tradition – which surely has had its day – is the newspapers telling us who to vote for. What purpose does it serve?

The Sunday Mail declared itself early in the week for the Liberal Party, The Advertiser did the same today and The Australian followed suit, giving Steven Marshall the full deck of Murdoch cards.

The Australian’s position is unsurprising, given its generally hostile approach to state Labor and Nick Xenophon (despite his media deregulation gift to the Murdoch empire last year when he was a senator).

Nevertheless, its pompous editorial today reveals a degree of contempt for large swathes of the local electorate.

After describing South Australia as the beneficiary of “multi-billion-dollar defence pork-barrelling”, it then it offers an ultimatum: vote Liberal or else.

“If South Australians are reckless enough to stick with Labor or leave their fate in the hands of an independent known mainly for silly stunts, then they must forfeit the right to ever put their hand out to the rest of the nation again,” it warns.

That reads a lot like a “basket of deplorables” moment.

Record numbers vote early

Unless tomorrow night reveals an electoral slaughter, it’s likely that the results in many seats won’t be known for days.

The Electoral Commission reports that South Australians have voted early in record numbers – and these votes won’t be counted tomorrow night.

As of 5pm last night, 95,420 postal votes had been received and 97,447 pre-poll votes issued – and there’s still opportunity today for more votes to flood in.

If some of the contests are as tight as predicted, we could be waiting days for a result.

In 2014, just over 70,000 postal votes were accepted and 91,622 electors took the opportunity to lodge a pre-poll vote.

That figure was double the number of pre-poll votes lodged in the 2010 election.

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