The election campaign is just getting started, and South Australia could provide the government with its toughest challenge yet.
Expected job losses in manufacturing have hit voters hard, and even Christopher Pyne’s once-safe Liberal seat could be under threat.
The Industry Minister holds Sturt by a margin of 10 per cent.
Relative newcomer Matt Loader will challenge him for Labor, but Mr Pyne could also feel the heat from minor parties.
Political analyst William Bowe, who runs the Crikey blog ‘The Poll Bludger’, said the potential impact of Independent Senator Nick Xenophon’s political party could not be discounted.
“There’s no question that he’s going to get a big share of the vote, but the jury really is out on whether that becomes big enough to make him really competitive in the lower house,” he said.
The Greens candidate for Sturt, Rebecca Galdies, said the party’s firm commitment to same-sex marriage will help her win hearts in the electorate.
“I’ve been out doing a lot of door-knocking in the area. One of the things that comes up quite a lot is marriage equality,” she said.
“The Greens are the only party that have been 100 per cent consistent on pushing marriage equality.”
The division of Hindmarsh, west of the CBD, has an older voter profile and many one-person households.
Liberal Party MP Matt Williams won the seat from Labor as part of the coalition’s landslide win in 2013 but it now sits on the tiny margin of 1.9 per cent.
The smallest swing would put it back in Labor hands.
Mr Williams said his focus if re-elected would be continuing the government’s work on shipbuilding.
“It would be making sure that we maximise Australian industry involvement in the submarines, and also the frigate program,” he said.
“Because it is one thing to build them here, it’s another thing also to make sure Australian defence industry suppliers are getting the maximum value out of it.”
Labor’s Steve Georganas, who lost the seat in 2013, now wants it back.
He’s also supporting job creation and defence projects and said the party politics that hurt Labor’s chances three years ago were a thing of the past.
“That was one of those elections where we had a fairly high swing away from Labor around the country,” he said.
“When you look back at that era, I think there were a lot of internal politics that were taking place, and people can see through that.”
He is cautiously optimistic about his chances.
“I have never seen the party so united as it is at the moment,” he said.
“You can never be completely confident. All I can do as a candidate and former member is work as hard as I can to prove myself to the voters, and it will be the voters that’ll make that decision.”
John Spoehr of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute at Flinders University said the loss of several key industries and the looming threat of job losses was likely to weigh heavily in the minds of voters.
“The election here in South Australia is all about jobs, jobs and jobs, particularly because of the closure of the auto industry here in Adelaide in 2017, but also with the prospect of the closure of Arrium in Whyalla, which is going to affect a really substantial proportion of the workforce,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s recent announcement 12 offshore patrol vessels will be built in the state has been welcomed across the political spectrum
Mr Spoehr said voters would also be looking out for an announcement on the $50 billion future submarines project.
“It’s very important that the right choices are made, that they are locally built, and that there are 12 subs,” he said.
“That could make a substantial different to South Australia, there are about 3000 jobs associated with that.”