Next year’s State Election will be critically important, and the election campaign needs to be like no other, because South Australia is at a cross road.
We can continue sliding down a path of decline, where we’ve fallen behind the rest of the nation on so many key indicators, including high unemployment, a declining population – so many with talent, particularly young South Australians being forced to leave our state to seek opportunities elsewhere.
Our state has been falling behind for so long because we have been failed by our state’s political leaders, their parties and institutions.
It seems that Labor and the Liberals are more interested in fighting about who gets their snouts deeper in the trough, rather than fighting for real people.
I’m sick of seeing this contest of low expectations.
We have a Government that is tired and cynical, that has abandoned accountability and transparency – Oakden, for instance. It is a Government that has failed to deliver reliable and affordable essential services that we depend on for our core needs for our everyday lives.
And I’m dismayed that the Liberal alternative doesn’t promise anything better.
If anything, the Liberals seem to be driven by a sense of entitlement that they are overdue for their turn in office, for the perks of power, rather than a coherent vision to make South Australia a better place.
Both sides disappoint me to the brink of despair.
We have a Government that deserves to lose, and an Opposition that does not deserve to win.
When the votes are counted on Saturday night, March 17 next year, the worst result would be politics as usual, more of the same – or as The Who once put it, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.
We’ve got to do better than that.
After a decade in the State Parliament from 1997, in October 2007 I made the decision to stand for the Senate because I believed I could do more for SA as an independent in Canberra.
Since then, both as an independent and with the Federal party NXT, with my colleagues Rebekha and Skye and Stirling we’ve punched well above our weight for SA.
Whether its subs or ships or steel, fighting for the River Murray, boosting apprenticeships, Solar Thermal for Port Augusta, funding for Proton Therapy and much more, I’d like to think we’ve done our bit to help our State.
But since the massive power blackout last year and our record power prices, I have concluded they are symptoms of a much bigger and deeper problem.
I’ve decided that you can’t fix South Australia’s problems in Canberra without first fixing our broken political system back home.
Our State politics is broken, politically bankrupt.
We have the same old soap opera script between Labor and Liberal, but little real policy debate, let alone solutions for the State’s many troubles.
South Australian politics has been reduced to a triumph of low expectations – where just keeping the lights on over the next summer will be presented by the government as a major achievement to be lauded and applauded. It’s embarrassing.
To quote Shakespeare, it seems our State Parliament has become nothing more than a stage for a troop of players, led by the Premier and the Opposition Leader.
“Struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
I don’t want this coming election to signify nothing.
I don’t want the next four years to be more of the same broken, dysfunctional politics with Labor or Liberal in Government, but nothing really changing.
I know South Australians don’t want that.
We are at that crossroad and South Australians want real change they can trust.
I intend to be part of that change, with SA-BEST strongly contesting seats in both houses of State Parliament – especially in the lower house where Governments are formed.
SA-BEST will go all out to at least win the balance of power in the State Parliament, so we can hold, with a proverbial blow torch, whoever does form Government to the highest standards of accountability, decency, honesty and good governance.
Just as NXT has unashamedly used its position in the Senate to advance better outcomes for South Australians, SA-BEST will relentlessly use a position of influence in the State Parliament to secure reforms that will lead to better Government, to the more reliable and affordable services South Australians deserve.
So, as the saying goes, I am going to put my money where my mouth is.
In order to achieve that end, to bring Government back to the people, I announce today my intention to run as the SA-BEST candidate for the seat of Hartley – my electorate, I’m a true local, I’ve lived there for decades.
I will remain in the Senate fighting for the State, until the High Court determines the outcome of the so-called citizenship case affecting me and six others, to be heard next week. While my lawyers are confident I will succeed, whatever the outcome, once that decision is handed down I will be in a position to leave the Senate.
I will not, as some have speculated, seek my reappointment to the Senate as I could if I wanted to.
I do not want to do that.
What I want to do is drive a campaign for change in SA – real change you can trust.
I will, of course, still have a very active and direct role in decisions made at a Federal level with NXT.
Running for the seat of Hartley will be a big gamble for me, even though, as you know, I’m not a gambler.
I’m sure that both Labor and the Liberals will pull out all the stops to try to prevent me and my team from breaking through into state parliament.
They don’t want their cosy little duopoly broken up.
I’m sure they will throw everything at us.
So, I expect plenty of dirty tricks. Plenty of mud will be thrown, probably the kitchen sink as well.
For my part, it will be a do or die effort.
It has to be that because whatever way you look at it, our state desperately needs a complete political overhaul.
We need deep and lasting reforms to put an end to the shallow political games our self-proclaimed leaders like to play, and get South Australia back on the right path.
The fact is Labor has been taking us down the wrong path, and the Liberals want to take us to a dead end.
With SA-BEST and NXT holding the balance of power in both the state parliament and the federal Senate, we will work together as a united team under my leadership to drive real change to improve the lives of all South Australians, in the city or the country, regardless of their age, their hopes and their dreams.
So today is the beginning of another challenging campaign – this will be the toughest fight of my political life.
But I’m up for that challenge because I love our state, our people and I believe that if you are in politics, you should be there to make a difference.
In the days and weeks to come I will be announcing SA-BEST’s other candidates and the issues and policies we will be focussing on between now and March 17, 2018 – and in the new Parliament after that.
Finally, my plea to the people of South Australia is this: if you want change, only you can make that change happen.
And with enough support SA-BEST will deliver real change you can trust.
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