Words by Daniel Neser
As results were filtering in on election night, a picture was starting to build of what South Australia would be facing for the next 4 years. As the Liberal Party looked to be ascendant, the victory speech of Steven Marshall indicated clearly it was not he who won the election, with his right wing anti-human platform. The plastered Vincent Tarzia’s brief cameo on stage with his leader suggested that he’s the selfsame self-interested right-wing prat he’d defeated in Nick Xenophon.
Indeed, it was Labor who should truly count themselves as the determined losers of this election. The flood of statuses the next day were understandable, lamenting the rise of Marshall and his pro-business austerity agenda. But sometimes attached to this was a sentiment that South Australia had voted against climate action and modernisation, had voted against progress in voting out Labor.
A reality check is needed. This is the same party who, over the very same period in the Batman by-election, indicated opposition to the Adani coalmine as out-of-touch inner-city middle-class elitism. But the same pandering to big business, big ticket proposals was on display in South Australia with the greenwashed Musk venture.
A curiously timed article from InDaily by Malcolm King, released after the election, showed who the elitists really are. Despite some suspect political analysis and not mentioning the elections, the article hammers one important point: in all, 3 in 5 households in SA earn less than $787 a week, $41 000 a year. Entire households, with some earning much less. King argues it’s a working class and poor Adelaide with isolated and few pockets of affluence.
Even the most vapid political science theories will recognise that this means that Labor should theoretically have the upper hand in elections against the Liberals with this backdrop of a working class city.
But this is the situation after 16 years of Labor, and working class people can feel it. Occasional crises of some section of government (TAFE, Oakden, manufacturing) overlaid the general anger over declining living standards and the steady increase of un- and under-employment. The big jobs announcements offered up were toxic waste dumps and submarines ($50bn for 2500 jobs, that’s $20m per job that could be spent elsewhere), foul industries in themselves.
When Jay sung his own praises about being a world leader in renewables, he had actually left behind hundreds of thousands in poverty. I want to be clear that there is no fundamental incompatibility between renewables and lowering the cost of living and energy. But there is an incompatibility between the latter and the demands of the big end of town. Inspiring politics of wealth redistribution and attacking inequality in this state could have had a massive resonance. Instead we got fawning over the billionaire messiah. We got Labor support for extortionate billionaire private ownership over the power grid, and support for the other extortionate billionaires when the bank tax was dropped very meekly. And nothing real was mentioned on wage increases, possibly because Labor was committed to holding down thousands of public sector wages to 2.5% yearly increases or less.
Mild election promises of course came too little, too late. When you attack the Liberals’ privatization of ETSA, rightly blame that for high power prices but then do nothing to reverse that for 16 years, people notice. Give up the tired mantra that people just get sick of the same faces over time. This bad result is Labor’s to own especially given the unpopularity of the Liberals federally. Labor had governed for the elites and failed to distinguish themselves from the Opposition. They paid the price. Having been unable to stop Steven Marshall of all people, Labor’s legacy will now be handily built upon by the Liberals and taken further. Expect cuts to public services, slashing of regulation and the reign of neoliberalism. More of the same, but more.