Powered-up Weatherill bids to make history

By , 25/04/2020 19:36

Premier Jay Weatherill is attempting to win Labor a record fifth straight term in South .Premier Jay Weatherill is bidding to do what no other South n Labor leader has been able to achieve – win a fifth straight term for the ALP and extend the party’s rule to 20 years.

It might not sound too hard.

But Weatherill has been forced to navigate a rocky road since he snatched victory in 2014, in what was supposedly an unwinnable election for him against Liberal leader Steven Marshall.

His problems have included shocking revelations of poor treatment of residents at the Oakden nursing home, with the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption releasing a damning finding during this election campaign.

Commissioner Bruce Lander declared the affair a “shameful chapter in the state’s history” and described the facility as a disgrace.

The report found elderly dementia patients at the state-run nursing home were mistreated.

Commissioner Lander made a finding of maladministration against five people who either worked at the home or were health department officials. He cleared two government ministers but Weatherill was forced to apologise to those impacted.

Two other issues that have hampered the premier’s chances were the loss of car manufacturer Holden and the state’s struggles to get its jobless rate under control.

Add to that the statewide blackout in 2016, which reduced SA to a laughing stock in the eyes of some locals and many interstate, and it would seem almost impossible to fathom a win for Labor on March 17.

But that would be to underestimate Labor’s almost peerless ability to campaign, and the premier’s ability to find smooth footing when all those around him are hitting potholes.

Since the infamous blackout, Weatherill has managed to turn what could have been his biggest political weakness into a position of strength.

Teaming with American tech billionaire Elon Musk, he has built the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, putting the state on a bold push towards renewables.

He has made energy a key election platform, promising the state will source 75 per cent of its power from renewables by 2025.

A $2 billion infrastructure plan with an extended tram network, a new deep-water port and the removal of train level crossings to ease congestion is another measure intended to woo voters.

Weatherill, who started his career as a labour lawyer, was always destined for a leadership position. He joined former premier Mike Rann’s ministry on his first day in the parliament.

Since his election in 2002, Weatherill has held a range of portfolios, from local government to education. He even made himself treasurer for a brief period after deposing Rann in a relatively bloodless coup in 2011.

A number of child abuse scandals from across Weatherill’s time as families minister and premier have been big sources of pressure.

But since then he’s managed to put much of the scandal behind the government, focusing instead on energy and transitioning the SA economy from a reliance on traditional manufacturing to one that embraces advanced industries.

The question about whether the premier’s work to ensure reliable electricity supplies and put downward pressure on electricity prices will be enough will soon be answered.

But for now it is very hard to tell, with a seat redistribution favouring the Liberals and with former senator Nick Xenophon running candidates in up to 30 seats, creating a genuine three-way contest.

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