Why Marshall didn’t star on green survey
The Marshall Government has made much of its green credentials – sometimes to the frustration of its own conservative base – so it might be a bitter pill that an alliance of 24 environmental groups has marked the Liberal Party with a big ‘fail’ on their pre-election report card.
A survey, spearheaded by Conservation SA, asked all parties to address a mammoth 90 questions covering 71 policy areas, including “keeping gas in the ground, law reform to protect big trees, no nuclear waste dump, investing in nature protection and restoration, ensuring protection of important areas [and] standing up for the Murray”.
The result gives the Government a scorecard ranking of just half a star on both their ‘nature’ and ‘climate’ credentials – while the Greens (unsurprisingly, one might suggest) scored the maximum five stars on both.
Labor hardly passed with flying colours, but mustered three and two stars for the respective categories – behind SA Best.
Green groups have sung the praises of many Marshall Government initiatives – particularly an ongoing commitment to SA’s green energy industry and bans on single-se plastics.
So what went wrong?
It appears a big reason for the poor showing is the Government’s refusal to hand in its homework according to its marker’s instructions: rather than painstakingly fill out the survey point-by-point, the Libs instead responded by way of a 10-page letter from renowned environmentalist and Treasurer Rob Lucas, reflecting on the many successes of the past four years.
“Unfortunately, despite many requests, the Liberal Party has only provided a broad statement which focuses on their achievements to date with virtually no commitments or responses to any of our election asks,” the scorecard explains.
“This has made scoring their position extremely difficult.”
The other three parties played ball and were marked accordingly.
“South Australia is home to some of the world’s most important remaining wilderness areas – it’s encouraging to see Labor, SA Best and the Greens all acknowledge this and commit to a statewide wilderness assessment and investigating further protection for places like the Lake Eyre Basin and the Great Australian Bight,” said Wilderness Society director Peter Owen.
Conservation SA says the situation is a reversal of its 2018 report-card, when the incumbent Labor Government failed to properly furnish it with answers.
“In the lead up to the 2018 election, the Marshall-led opposition made a series of strong commitments, while the Labor government chose to rest more on their record in government – the situation has now reversed,” said CEO Craig Wilkins.
“As a result, a big gap has emerged between the Liberal and Labor parties when it comes to what they have promised to deliver for the environment over the next four years.”
Lucas told InDaily the survey was one of around 130 stakeholder submissions he had waded through on behalf of the Government in the election lead-up.
“I don’t think we’ve ever scored very highly on Conservation Council and other environmental groups’ scorecards [but] I think we’ve had an excellent record in terms of environmental issues,” he said, action on single use plastics, carbon emissions and “a range of other areas”.
“We’ve obviously not adhered to a number of specific requests for funding that a number of groups have called for,” he said.
“Unsurprisingly Labor, the Greens, SA Best and other minor parties have said ‘yes we’ll give you whatever you want’.”
Lucas said the Government would “proudly stand by our record of what we’ve done”, noting that “most other commentators have contrasted our position with other conservative governments around the nation”.
He said the environment had been a major focus of the Marshall Government “probably compared to previous iterations of the Liberal Party in SA… and that scoring process doesn’t really reflect that”.
On this occasion, he argues, “we got scored on the basis of their specific funding requests for certain initiatives”.
“We don’t get big scored for big issues in terms of what we might have achieved,” he said.
“They’re perfectly entitled to score in any way they wish -we’re equally entitled to respond and say, ‘look this is what we’ve done, but we’re not going to just put a tick in the box in response to your survey’.”
The alliance insists it is not partisan, but will nonetheless now distribute the scorecard “across key electorates so that voters are informed about where the parties stand, and factor nature, climate action, cleaner waste, transport, and energy into their decision about who will represent them in state parliament”.
Environment Minister David Speirs argued that “unfortunately some of these environmental lobby groups have become increasingly politically aligned and are more focussed on self-interest than genuine outcomes”.
“This survey has no transparency as to how areas were focused on and weightings behind individual questions were not revealed – the Marshall Liberal Government will let its record speak for itself delivering record investment in South Australia’s environment,” he said.
But Wilkins said the survey exposed significant policy gaps between the major parties, with Labor committing to scrap a tax on Electric Vehicle users, opposing the Kimba nuclear waste dump and pursuing World Heritage status for the Great Australian Bight, among other wishlist items.
Activist group targets mayor
One of the more intriguing electoral battles is shaping up in the southern suburbs and Adelaide Hills seat of Waite, where incumbent Sam Duluk – who quit the Libs despite being acquitted of a basic assault charge stemming from a boozy Christmas party – up against his former party, with local mayor Heather Holmes-Ross and Labor’s Catherine Hutchesson also snapping at his proverbial heels.
While major party insiders are sceptical of Holmes-Ross’s chances, the Mitcham mayor is clearly making someone nervous – enough, at least, to prompt the conservative activist group Advance Australia to devote an electorate-wide push-poll to discrediting her candidacy.
The phone survey conducted last week rankled with some constituents, with the Electoral Commission today confirming that “a complaint has been made and we are investigating”.
It’s understood the survey included questions about whether the respondent was aware that as mayor Holmes-Ross cancelled the council-run Christmas carols – a reference to a highly-unpopular council move to bin its annual Carols By The Creek festivities in 2019, citing the event’s cost and lack of inclusivity for non-Christians.
The move was quickly reversed amid a predictable backlash.
In a statement on its website, Advance Australia dubs Holmes-Ross “the mayor who stole Christmas”, amid other critiques of her tenure, including that she “petitioned for the biggest single rate rise in South Australia (so she could plant trees)”.
“But her tilt at State Parliament is set to come a cropper, with a survey of voters finding they are less likely to support her given her record in office,” claims the group – formed in 2018 as a sort of anti-GetUp!
Holmes-Ross appeared bemused to be the sole SA subject of the national group’s ire, saying she was “flattered that they think it’s worth spending money on me”.
However, she adds, “I just think it’s a disgusting form of politics”.
“The claims they’re making are huge misinterpretations of the truth – it’s disappointing to see this type of American-style false news politics coming into Australian politics,” she says.
“No-one can cancel Christmas – and I didn’t vote on that whole saga… the mayor didn’t have a vote, that was a decision of council [and] I didn’t speak to the decision.”
She argues the much-lambasted rate increase was also a whole-of-council decision.
Holmes-Ross is set to benefit from both Greens and Labor preferences – assuming she finishes ahead of both candidates.
The Greens got more than 10 per cent there last time, but the mayor says she hopes to outpoll the party and receive their preference flow.
“If I can’t get more than 12 per cent I shouldn’t be in the race,” she said.
“My expectation is it will be higher than that, and the Greens have preferenced me.”
She said Waite loomed as an “incredibly interesting seat”.
“I guess that’s why it’s been targeted… there’s a chance the seat will move [from the Liberals],” she said.
She said with a modestly-safe margin of 7.6 per cent “it’s unlikely to move to Labor”, making her a likely beneficiary of any swing away from the Government or the incumbent.
“I guess I’m a threat,” she says.
Don’t be Siri, Mali
Labor leader Peter Malinauskas learnt a valuable lesson on the campaign trail yesterday – keep your friends close, and your technology far away.
During a particularly impassioned soliloquy on the perils of SA’s health system, the Labor honcho’s iPhone sprang to life, with its built-in ‘Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface’ – aka Siri – repeatedly chiming in.
Thus, when Malinauskas waxed lyrical about his plans to end the ramping crisis, Siri interrupted: “I didn’t get that – could you try again?”
Perhaps we have found the perfect moderator for the next election debate.
Campaign Diary is a regular feature in the lead-up to the election, taking you to all corners of the campaign.
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.