February 1, 2013
The SA Liberals, who have historically been deeply divided between their conservative and moderate factions, now have a chance to get their house in order after Isobel Redmond, the stop gap or compromise leader, has resigned. Will they finally be able to do so?
That factional division has been so entrenched and embittered that the SA Liberals are a dysfunctional political party with often stock policy responses based on a few talking points about debt and deficits. They have been in the political wilderness for a decade or more and continue to publicly deny that there are no factions in the Liberal Party. They need a game changer more than just a breath of fresh air.
Redmond's time as Opposition leader was characterized by her anti-politician persona, a small-target, policy-lite approach to Opposition, political gaffes, and a lack of policy innovation. Despite this we know some of the policies:--- eg., the public service is to be reduced by 25,000 jobs, but the Liberals are afraid of saying and defending this kind of slash and burn in public.
This implicit neo-liberal politics of austerity has allowed Jay Weatherill, the Labor Premier, to stamp his imprimatur on the state political scene. Labor gives the impression of having got its house in order and Weatherill being in charge of things.
The Liberals are mostly climate change denialists, have little time for renewable energy, and should they get into power – they are promising to bring in laws that will make it unviable to build any more wind farms in many rural areas. They are backing fossil fuels and don't want to do do much at all about reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
They hold that wind and solar power are a major cause of rising electricity prices in South Australia despite wholesale electricity prices falling during the period when most of South Australia's wind farms were coming on-line.
Whoever is the new leader--Steven Marshall?--- of the SA Liberals, it remains a backward looking party. They continue to back the fossil fuel industry even though one of South Australia's coal-fired power stations in Port Augusta only operate for six months of the year whilst the other is to be closed-down indefinitely (largely due to the introduction of a significant amount of wind power in SA).
Steven Marshall, the Member for Norwood, is the new leader of the SA Liberals. The old factional conflict was over the deputy leadership in the form of a Vickie Chapman (moderate) and Iain Evans (conservative) contest. Chapman wins and the Liberals are talking about unity.
ill the Liberal leadership group, which encouraged former leader Isobel Redmond to pursue a small-target strategy since the 2010 election, continue with that strategy now? Are they going to stick to a hard edged politics of austerity as a solution to a fragile, slow-growing regional economy in transition---that is, continue to argue that fiscal tightening is needed for economic growth is to recover? Will they address the declining minimum reading standard and declining standards of science and mathematics education in South Australia?