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Altitude Advisory Marketing Manager John Durrant went along to the first state election leaders debate to hear their plans for businesses and the economy. He left disappointed and baffled. Here’s why.
South Australia’s three political leaders (apparently it’s no longer a two-horse race) faced off in the first major debate on Friday as the state election campaigning kicked off in earnest.
I went along with one specific aim: To learn if any of them had anything that resembled economic policy. The short answer is, yes… sort of. Well, not really… but kinda.
To quickly summarize, Nick Xenophon says the economy is important (rapier analysis there), Steven Marshall proclaimed he’ll lower taxes and instigate radical deregulation of businesses and Jay Weatherill wishes we’d just shut up about that bloody Holden closure and focus on the good news… Like Elon Musk.
Of course, campaigns are rarely fought along business battle lines and even the most naïve of us would understand that healthcare and education are the big-ticket items on every political strategist’s shopping list. But, still, how each party sees this state’s economic future is of critical importance.
On this debate’s showing, none of them have really wakened up to that reality.
Each candidate had seven minutes to tell us of their grand plans for this great state before being grilled by media and non-media questioners in the audience.
Xenophon spent about six of his allotted seven minutes telling us how awful the Libs and Labor are. In that time he made a single comment about business. He wants South Australia to be more attractive to business migrants.
Maybe there will be more about the economy in SA Best’s policies… if, indeed, they get around to writing any.
Next up was Liberal Steven Marshall. To his credit, he focused much of his seven minutes on economic policy. He blamed the Labor government for neglecting to focus on growing the economy.
Growth and ‘helping the next generation’ was fundamental, said Marshall.
How do you get that growth? Simple! By reducing costs and taxes and instigating a program of radical deregulation for small businesses and startups.
He’ll establish a handful of entrepreneur schools to harness potential and re-open overseas trade offices. There will be more jobs and more focus on helping the state’s businesses succeed, he said.
Of course, there’s no real detail in how this will be achieved, but let’s not let details ruin some bloody good hyperbole in this election campaign.
Our state Premier took to the floor last, clearly not fazed by the 14-minute pummelling he’d just taken from his adversaries.
This was his big chance to respond to the claims his government hadn’t focused on the economy.
So did he? Of course not! It’s difficult to cite evidence of job creation and economic focus when your government has presided over more than a few big blows.
Instead, Weatherill fought the claims from another angle. Okay, so Holden closed. But guess what? His government managed to keep 75 per cent of the component supply chain in SA. Hooray for Labor!
He talked about how we’ve attracted global tycoons like Elon Musk and Sanjeev Gupta. He didn’t quite go as far as boasting that he has their mobile numbers, but you got the feeling he wanted to.
Satire aside, this election is like no other in the history of this state. Whether you love him or loathe him, Xenophon has quite spectacularly split the cosy duopoly of Lib and Lab and, hopefully, will serve to hold the big two to account. Future premier? Of course not. Kingmaker? Quite possibly.
In reality, no single party has definitely proved their credentials as best custodians of this state’s economic future even if some made more noise about it than others at this debate.
The jury’s out. Over to you, leaders.
Phillip Cross, Royce Cross Agencies
Gloria Rowett, Marion Holiday Park