State election: the week ahead (Feb 20-26)

Monday, 20 February 2006

In the leadup to the March 18 State Election, Senior Lecturers in Politics at the University of Adelaide, Dr Clem Macintyre and Dr Greg McCarthy, will examine the political week ahead. Who's performing well? Who needs to lift their game? What are the major issues on the campaign trail this week? Dr McCarthy and Dr Macintyre will offer their thoughts on these topics and other election issues on a weekly basis.

The following comments can be attributed to Dr Clem Macintyre, Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Politics, University of Adelaide. For further comments about any aspect of the forthcoming election, please contact Dr McCarthy or Dr Macintyre on their contact details listed below.

Four weeks is about the usual length of a State election campaign - yet we are already a third of the way through the lead up to the 2006 election. The polls indicate that Labor is still a clear leader and that there will be a net swing to the Government. The Liberal Party's early run out of the blocks does not appear to have shifted the mood of the electorate. The Liberals now face the hard task of sustaining the pace and continuing to put credible policy alternatives before the voters for another full month.

Labor has all the benefits of an incumbent government and will have a shorter and sharper campaign that will peak just before polling day when the undecided voters are making their choices. Mike Rann enjoys a strong lead as 'preferred Premier'. He will run a presidential-style campaign with the focus on him as leader and playing to 'safe' policies of economic management, law and order and service delivery. A recent opinion poll suggests that the government's weak areas are health and electricity policy. But until the Liberals can persuade the voters that they would do a better job, the Government won't be damaged.

As long as there are no major stumbles by the government, it will be hard for the Opposition to seize the initiative and turn the mood of the campaign. The danger with a long campaign is that boredom can set in. Given all this, the Liberals and the minor parties may be tempted to take more risks.

If they can recapture some of the drifting voter support, then a high-risk campaign will be seen as a masterstroke. However, there is always a danger with such a course: it can go badly wrong. The Liberal Party will never admit it, but they might in the end be tempted to play it safe and minimize losses - rather than risk all and possibly face more substantial losses.

Tasmania will also go to the polls on March 18. This will be the 12th time since 1901 that two states have held elections on the same day. It means that the national focus and media coverage will be divided - and this will suit Labor. Four weeks out, it seems that everything is running the government's way.


Contact Details

Professor Clem Macintyre
Head, School of History & Politics
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5601
Mobile: 0432 977 055

Dr Greg McCarthy
Senior Lecturer, Discipline of Politics
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 4735
Mobile: 0419 809 938

Ms Robyn Mills
Media and Communications Officer
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 6341
Mobile: +61 410 689 084

Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762