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The Independent Weekly
September 4 - 10, 2009
Tom Richardson state politics
They say those who don't
remember history are
condemned to repeat it. On that
logic, there's little chance of any
of the mistakes of recent political
history being made again any time
South Australian politicians have
long memories and, apparently, are
happy to defer to another old adage,
that revenge is a dish best served
Thus it was that the Premier's
first order of business on returning
from his two week "trade mission"
was to declare war on the Olsen
Government. That's right, not the
Opposition, but the last Liberal
government but one, which held
office from November 28, 1996, to
October 22, 2001.
Funnily enough, Mike Rann's last
order of business before leaving
on his trans-Atlantic sojourn was
to declare that, as of October 1,
cabinet records would be made
available to interested parties after
As it turned out, though, this was
apparently less about throwing the
light of accountability on govern-
ment decision-making and more
about opening a can of whoop-ass
on a few Liberal relics.
Labor has long lampooned the
contentious decision of the Olsen
Government to privatise the state's
water and power assets, the latter a
monumental broken promise that
divided the Liberals and, ironically,
split the Labor Party.
"The people who sold ETSA
should be clapped in leg-irons,"
Rann used to thunder, one of the
many phrases he liked to repeat ad
nauseum. As it happens, a handful
of the people who sold ETSA still
reside on the Opposition front-
bench, given that the Opposition
frontbench currently consists of
practically every living member of
the SA Liberal Party.
So Rann's effort to procure a set
of Cabinet documents from the
mid-1990s relating to the ETSA and
United Water deals seems a fairly
transparent effort to embarrass the
likes of Rob Lucas, who has become
Labor's number one whipping boy
since returning to the frontbench
fray. "The public has a right to see
these documents," Rann's media
release tells us. "And, quite frankly,
I'd quite like to see the entire set of
Well, two can play at that game!
Rob Lucas's eyes lit up when he
learned there would be a 10-year
statute of limitations on Cabinet
He's keen to track down docu-
ments relating to the embarrassing
loss of the Grand Prix to Victoria,
a symbolic moment of failure in
the state's psyche that marred
Dean Brown's early premiership,
but which the Liberals always
blamed on Mike Rann's brief stint
as Tourism Minister. The Libs are
also itching to get their mitts on
anything related to -- yep, you guess
it -- the State Bank collapse.
So, there we were thinking next
year's state election was going to
be a referendum on law and order,
economic management and vision,
and instead it's going to be all about
the ETSA sale, water privatisation,
the Grand Prix and the State Bank!
So, just like every other election
since the early '90s, then. But what
will distinguish this election is
the fact that, for the first time in
state history, one of the two chief
protagonists will be a woman.
Perhaps this shouldn't matter;
indeed, as Isobel Redmond herself
lamented upon succeeding Martin
Hamilton-Smith, "we will only have
true equality when it's not even an
issue to be raised".
Mind you, some said the same
about Barack Obama becoming
President, and no-one who saw
the jubilation on the faces of the
masses on election night could say
that event meant nothing to black
Redmond even called herself a
"novelty" in one early interview
-- not the best choice of phrase, but
one could see what she meant.
She represented a genuinely fresh
face for the Liberal Opposition, a
fresh approach. Too bad then, that
her approach relies so heavily on
a team ethic, providing an active
role for every non-retiring elected
representative, and generally
allowing her shadow ministers to
front the media on issues within
Nothing wrong with that per
se; indeed, one might be equally
critical of a leader who surfs in
on any given issue in a bid to hog
the limelight. But the fact is that
the talent pool on the Opposition
benches is shallower than the
Lower Lakes in high summer.
It's all very well to emphasise the
strength of the Liberal "team", but
it won't take long before the public
realises that the constituent parts
of said "team" are a tad wanting.
True enough, the same could be
said about the Labor frontbench,
but it could be argued that the
Premier does what he can with
a bad situation; when factional
duds are foisted on him by party
powerbrokers, he at least stuffs
them in out-of-the-way portfolios to
ensure their media exposure is kept
to a minimum.
Isobel Redmond is an intriguing
prospect, but as yet she remains a
relatively unknown quantity. Those
who watched her go through the
rigmaroles of "a day in the life"
on A Current Affair this week,
were somewhat enlightened, with
homespun nuggets such as "I intend
to grow old disgracefully", which
sounded like nothing so much as a
diminutive Adelaide Hills solicitor
trying to be Johnny Rotten.
But the true "novelty" people
are looking for in Isobel Redmond
isn't our first female Premier, or a
feisty woman leading the Liberals,
but rather, a measured, competent
Leader of the Opposition who can
unite the party behind a substantial
policy platform and present an
outfit that people will trust with the
government of the state.
That is something that, one way
or another, successive Liberal
leaders have been unable to convey
since the party lost office in 2002.
And if they don't learn the lessons
of the subsequent myriad failures,
they will be indeed condemned to
The Federal Government has
back-flipped on changes to
youth allowance proposed in the
Under the planned laws,
criteria would have narrowed
for a student to be considered
"independent", a title which
allows them to claim the full
This would have left students,
taking a gap year to satisfy
existing criteria, in trouble.
Although they had deferred
university specifically to
qualify for youth allowance they
were unlikely to meet the new
Students formed coalitions,
and parties from opposite ends
of the political spectrum banded
together to fight the changes.
Last week Deputy Prime
Minister Julia Gillard
announced the implementation
of the new laws would be
"Some students who had
chosen to take a gap year would
have been disadvantaged during
the transition between the two
systems," Ms Gillard said.
The new system will now
come into effect on June 30, 2010.
Brenton Peltz said his
daughter Chelsea was relieved.
Chelsea lives in Berri and her
educational future had been
uncertain since the changes
were announced in July. Chelsea
was already half way through
her gap year and had been
working in a local restaurant,
but both her hours and wages
would have fallen short of those
required by the new criteria.
Without youth allowance
Chelsea's family would have to
pay for her to live out of home
and attend university.
"It's certainly good news
for her because the way she's
going at the moment she'll
meet the old criteria and that
will guarantee her getting the
independent youth allowance. It
gets her what she's entitled to,"
Mr Peltz said.
The delay is welcomed by
Greens and Liberals.
"I'm pleased that some coun-
try students in their current
gap year will be catered for. This
has just been a monumental
blunder," said Member for
Barker Patrick Secker.
Greens Senator Sarah
Hanson-Young said the delay
addressed the urgent problems
of the youth allowance changes,
but there were others to
consider. "Rural and regional
Australians remain disad-
vantaged in achieving their
university dreams as they often
have no choice but to leave their
family home," she said.
National University of
Students president David
Barrow agrees there are
He said regional students
were worried about being able
to find 30 hours of work per
week, as would be required
under the new system.
"What defines thirty hours
of work is also an issue for
regional areas. You can imagine
it's hard to get those hours in
tourism and agricultural areas
and that was something they
brought up," he said.
The rest of the changes
proposed for youth allowance
are predicted to reach the
Senate in September.
Students welcome youth changes
You can say that again
Isobel Redmond: intriguing, but unknown.
called herself a
"novelty" in one early
interview -- not the
best choice of phrase,
but one could see what
Chelsea Peltz and her parents
are relieved the changes to youth
allowance have been delayed.
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