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SA Liberals: changing leaders again? « Previous | |Next »
October 23, 2012

The SA Liberals are at it again--fighting amongst themselves. It is what they do best, and they have done this for decades. Today is leadership spill day for the scatty, policy-free Opposition, even though the Liberals are currently way ahead of Labor in the polls. They even keep on talking about unity, undivided loyalty and moving forward. Go figure.

It is unclear that the divisions and the conflict causing the leadership spill between Martin Hamilton-Smith and Isobel Redman are policy ones, as distinct from those over personality. The Liberal Party is committed to private enterprise, championing small business, slashing the public sector, more law and order etc --the standard conservative policies. These underpin the small target electoral strategy for 2014.

Check out Mark Hamilton-Smith's "policy vision." He's the one standing for change and policy engagement.

Changing leaders and destabilization is what they do best, not policy, and as a result, state government is a bit of a novelty for most SA Liberals. Behind the personalities of the Liberal Party lay the deep division between factions, which for 40 years, have played out their warfare in the public arena. The moderates--or social liberals--- are now out of fashion with the shift to the right.

Latter-day conservatives in the Liberal Party consider that moderates have no place in that party. Any moderate objection to the conservative agenda is met with a chorus of "Why don't you go and join the Labor Party?"

One gains little sense of the Liberal Party's policies as to how SA should define itself in the context of a global economy, or even how the city of Adelaide should reinvent itself as a city. The SA Liberals deliberately shirk the big issues affecting South Australia which, however imperfectly the Weatherall Labor Government is in addressing them, need to be addressed and not avoided.

Isobel Redmond has retained the Liberal leadership 13-12 over Martin Hamilton-Smith. Her new deputy will be Steven Marshall. If that marks a line in the sand for the Liberal party, it doesn't resolve the tendency for constant speculation about leadership challenges that quickly surface whenever the current leader makes a gaffe.

So nothing much changes. The politics of the SA Liberals remains mired in conflict and empty talking points about the private sector being more efficient than the public sector, public debt is always a risk and running down wind farms. They seem to be so anti-renewables (wind farms especially) that their position could have been written by someone in the fossil fuel industry, even though wind power has allowed South Australia to transform itself from almost entirely being an importer of power from Victoria to being an exporter during high wind periods, whilst significantly reducing the state's carbon emissions.

They say nothing about the $40 billion of network upgrades have been committed over five years in the National Electricity Market to ready us for ever increasing peak demand, such that now around a quarter of our generation is used on only 1-2 per cent of days. Nor do they say anything about both demand in general falling, and the peaks in demand falling. The latter makes the claims of ‘gold plating’ a serious policy issue.

Nor do they say anything about the current regulatory arrangements of the national electricity market creating an incentive to over-invest in network infrastructure.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:01 AM | | Comments (14)


The Liberal Party in South Australia has vowed to ban wind farms within 2 kilometres of any residence. Another key element of the Liberal's policy is a ban on wind farms within 5 kilometres of townships.

The South Australian Liberals hold that the high electricity prices are due to SA's high reliance on renewable energy technologies.

Redmond’s support base now consists of rural lower house members and Upper House MPs.The urban MP's supported challenger Martin Hamilton-Smith., who has gone to the backbench.

Redman will probably continue her timid policy approach. If Redmond stumbles then Steven Marshall, the new deputy, wins. It is unlikely that the endemic tensions within the South Australian Liberal Party will fade in the near future.

The regulatory rules are eexcessively biased towards encouraging new network capacity. This led to a five-year $40 billion binge in network capacity, based on forecasts of peak demand that have never materialised.

We have way more coal-fired power stations in Queensland and NSW than what we need, and that was the case a long time before the Renewable Energy Target was increased.

This surplus capacity has resulted in Alinta mothballing its Northern power station in Port Augusta. Energy Australia is also mothballing its 360MW unit at Yallourn, as is Stanwell with the 700MW at Tarong in Queensown.

The Liberal Party in South Australia appear to be energy dinosaurs in their opposition to wind energy.

"The Liberal Party is committed to private enterprise, championing small business, slashing the public sector"

Its all about restoring confidence. Big business believes this “confidence” can be restored only by major government concessions to businesses and the wealthy. Given this sector’s (ideological) rejection of deficit spending, this requires savage cuts to other sectors, especially health, welfare and education.

Would you lump Hamilton Smith with the Downerites and Redmond with the Minchinites?

I really don't know how the factions in the SA Liberal Party line up with the federal Liberal factions.

Steven Marshall, the newly elected deputy of the SA Liberals, is backed by the moderate-aligned federal MP Christopher Pyne. Marshall had been actively destabilising the leadership team of Redmond and Williams for months.

Presumably Hamilton Smith was backed by the conservatives---senator Cory Bernardi and former senator Nick Minchin.

The general consensus is that Redmond would be replaced before the next state election, due in March 2014, by her newly elected deputy Steven Marshall.

"These underpin the small target electoral strategy for 2014. "

In 2009 the rural conservatives in the Liberal Party backed Isobel Redmond in order to block Vickie Chapman wining a ballot against the unaligned Hamilton-Smith.

The Redmond group – led by Iain Evans and Upper House leader David Ridgway---favour a low profile, or small target, strategy. Avoid policy engagement.

The moderate faction voted as a block for change along with a couple of unaligned metropolitan MPs.They lost.

The country conservatives in the SA Liberals had a victory yesterday. However, the seats they need to win in March 2014 are in the city.

The last part of this discussion reveals if nothing else, what failure the Advertiser has been in reporting state politics, apart from Labor faction disputes.
Particularly in explaining how the Liberal factions rub up against each other; EG, Country/City, religious/ secular, liberal/conservative.

"These underpin the small target electoral strategy for 2014."

The Liberals under Redmond are doing little more than reacting to the new Weatherill government. Rather than aggressively marking out policy initiatives of their own, the focus seemed to be more on low-key critiques of the government.