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Labor launches "first policy" as by-elections loom

Politics

Labor leader Peter Malinauskas has committed to re-open three Service SA centres earmarked for closure in the Marshall Government’s first budget, in a by-election pitch aimed at shoring up by-election support in Enfield and drawing a political battleline on government spending.

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Treasurer Rob Lucas’s September budget flagged the closure of service centres in Prospect, Modbury and Mitcham, with the former likely to be patronised by residents in the safe Labor seat of Enfield, where voters will go to the polls on February 9 to elect a successor to retired former deputy premier John Rau.

With a glut of independents entering the fray, Labor is throwing plenty of firepower behind its cleanskin candidate, commercial lawyer Andrea Michaels, with Malinauskas today unveiling what he trumpeted as his “first policy announcement” as Opposition Leader.

That’s despite him having previously arrived at positions on shop trading hours and rate-capping – with Labor even introducing “rate-payer protection” legislation with cross-party support – after broad party consultation.

The policy is currently costed at $3.1 million – the saving earmarked in the Liberals’ budget – but Malinauskas conceded it would exceed that, with further administrative expenses yet to be factored in.

He has also committed to “investigate the way we can improve service delivery through Service SA more broadly”, such as expanded operating hours – including on weekends – increased staffing levels and “what additional government services the centres could provide”.

“We do acknowledge there will be potentially additional costs, [and] inflation needs to be factored in,” the Opposition Leader told media today.

“[But] we’re creating a very clear point of difference… we’re determined to develop policy in Opposition.

“We’re planning for a return to government and that’s going to be underpinned by substantial policy which we’ll release before the next election.”

He conceded Labor was “leaving no stone unturned in regards to the by-elections” in Enfield and Cheltenham, former Premier Jay Weatherill’s former seat, despite the Liberals not fielding a formal candidate in either.

“We’re not taking anything for granted… but this is a policy we’re committed to regardless of the by-elections,” he said.

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephan Knoll, who has cabinet oversight of the Service SA closures, said in a statement that Malinauskas was “responding to changes that haven’t even been implemented yet”.

“Peter Malinauskas this morning claimed a cost of $3.1 million and then within minutes admitted the policy would be an ‘undetermined amount’ – this is the Labor Party rushing to make commitments because of a tricky by-election coming up,” he said.

“The Marshall Liberal Government is committed to improving Service SA by ensuring there is a better online presence and more places to transact; these change will be in place before any centres are closed.”

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