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.