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Democrats Legislative Council team (L-R) Jeanie Walker, Sandra Kanck, Tom Salerno
The Independent Weekly
February 26 - March 4, 2010
Let there be Light
If McLeod and his daughters were
on the electoral roll they would
vote Liberal. The real Drover s
Run where the series was shot
is in the electorate of Light, and
the strapping sons and stripling
daughters of mid-north cattlemen
have always voted conservative.
Light has been Liberal since
cattle mooed, but Tony Piccolo
saddled up alongside Light s Dark
Side. In 1985 and 89 he stood as the
unpopular Labor candidate against
sitting Liberal MP Bruce Eastick.
The margin -- 17 per cent the Lib s
way -- was so wide you could drive a
mob of cattle through and not touch
The electoral commissioner
changed that in 2002. A
redistribution shifted many
graziers into adjacent electorates,
and added to the seat fringe
metropolitan suburbs down south
where Light merges with the neon
signs of Adelaide City. Piccolo
contested a third time, and this time
"The electorate changed," Piccolo
says triumphantly. He campaigned
hard. He was well-known as
Mayor of Gawler. He travelled and
door-knocked small settlements,
canvassing farm and factory
labourers, rural workers and the
new families in new suburbs on the
seat s southern extremes. He won,
but there were just a handful of
votes in it. On the numbers Light
is Labor s most vulnerable seat in
SA -- the margin is a decimal place
above 2 per cent.
Gawler mid-week. A man drives
his hay-laden ute along the main
street and waves to a woman
strolling along the footpath in
jodhpurs and riding boots. She
walks past Tonza Toys, selling pogo
sticks ($49), dolls and backgammon
sets, but not a single video game.
There are bristle shaving brushes
in the barber-shop front window,
and Crowther s lolly shop offers
tastings of home-made treacle
toffee. Gawler is to Adelaide what
Grandma is to the kids: old but
strangely comforting. Here is H.B.
Crosby s furniture emporium
with its leadlight glass windows
and pendulum clocks. There is
The Bunyip, Gawler s newspaper
established in the 1800s to "expose
pomposity and humbug", according
to its founding publisher. Cottages
with roofs of Mintaro slate and bull-
nosed verandas. Old, yet strangely
But Gawler is changing. Instead
of being a unique country town
and rural service centre, it s
becoming a dormitory suburb of
the capital city. New brick homes
are outnumbering stone cottages
and the Government is planning a
huge influx of population through a
massive and controversial housing
development in Gawler East.
And now we have an election.
Tony Piccolo sits in his electorate
office on Murray Street and takes
a deep breath. "I don t know," he
says. He s been asked who will win
Light. Will it be decided between
Mike Rann and Isobel Redmond,
the party leaders, or between
Piccolo and his local Liberal
opponent, Cosie Costa? With a 2.2
per cent margin, Labor needs every
cartridge to fire.
Piccolo came from Italian stock.
His mother still makes her own
wine. His father was an orchardist
growing almonds, apricots and
pumpkin at Munno Para Downs.
He went to the local state school
by bus, and riding to the nearby
Catholic school on the same bus, a
few classes below him, was the kid
called Cosie Costa.
"Yeah, people expect Tony and
me to be enemies," says Costa
disarmingly. "But we re more
friends, known each other 40 years."
Even their birthdays coincide:
Tony celebrated his 50th this week,
and Costa is 48 years and two weeks
today. Costa has his own heavy-
vehicle equipment business. He s
pulling his weight in the campaign
for Light, too, going to local
meetings, sitting on the school and
nursing home boards, and renting a
former beauty salon premises in the
main street as his campaign office.
"Yes," he says, face beaming from
his Liberal posters taped to the
walls, "they used to do waxes and
nails right here."
Water, he believes is a big issue.
Piccolo agrees. Jobs? Yes, both
candidates nod that jobs are a
big issue. Health? Yes, health too.
Roads? Oh, yes, they say. They
both welcome the new housing
developments but say there should
be infrastructure -- schools, roads
and services -- to support it. These
candidates agree so much they
could almost vote for each other.
But there s a difference. Only
one will make the trip down to
Parliament House in March, and
neither wants to trip up in the last
three weeks of the campaign. Costa
reveals that nothing he says or
does, no interview he gives, is done
without checking first with Liberal
Central, the party HQ on Greenhill
Road in faraway Adelaide. Malcolm
Mackerras thinks Labor will win
Tony Piccolo: Crusade for Light.
Por trait: George Aldridge
Continued Page 9
profiles of the
toughest seats in
the state -- and
finds them on
Cosie Costa in his campaign office.
Photo: Kate Elmes
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