At the weekend South Australians headed to the polls and elected a new government, with Liberal leader Steven Marshall defeating Labor Premier, Jay Weatherill. The result brings an end to 16 years of uninterrupted Labor Government in South Australia, with the Liberal Party set to hold a small majority in the 47-member parliament.
As always, a change of government will bring with it a change of policy direction in South Australia. First, there will be a rather drastic change in the state’s energy policy. The former Labor government had aggressively pursued an agenda that heavily backed renewable energy, pledging to implement a Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 75 percent by 2025 if re-elected. Mr Marshall, however, has confirmed that his new government is committed to joining the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) and will not be pursuing a separate RET.
Not only is this a significant change in policy direction for South Australia, but it also has federal implications. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg had often clashed with the Weatherill government on energy policy and the new government’s pledge to join the NEG is welcome news for the embattled federal government. Time will tell as to whether this shift in policy will address the state’s energy problems which has resulted in numerous blackouts in the past 18 months and seen South Australians pay more for electricity than any other state.
Moreover, the new Premier has also stated that he will seek to implement a pro-business agenda aimed at addressing the state’s high unemployment figures. This includes abolishing payroll tax and red tape, reforming the state’s antiquated Sunday trading laws, establishing a state-based Productivity Commission and opening international trade offices.
One surprising outcome from the weekend’s election was the poor performance of minor parties, particularly Nick Xenophon’s SA Best. The former federal Senator’s fledgling party failed to win a single lower house seat and is set to only pick up two seats in the state’s upper house. The result demonstrates that, despite a large degree of voter disillusionment with the two major parties, it is still incredibly difficult for minor parties to break up their duopoly.
SA Best has clearly failed to transition from a personality-based protest party to one capable of obtaining enough electoral support to shape and influence government. The future for Mr Xenophon and his party now seems unclear following his failure to win the seat of Hartley. He has announced that he will attempt a political comeback at some point in the future, but in the meantime will act as a mentor to his federal and state parliamentarians.
Mr Marshall and his Ministry will be sworn in later this week and there is expected to be little change from the frontbench line-up that he took to the election.