One of the poorest states in Australia is turning out to be an unlikely important battleground for the elections on July 2nd that could threaten the agenda of the government by handing the balance of power to a folksy independent sector. In May, Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister dissolved both houses of Parliament and blamed the intransient independents in the upper house for standing in the way of his agenda, but a political firebrand has been thrown up by the election campaign. Turnbull has been forced to divert the highly needed resources towards seats that were previously safe due to the growing appeal of a senator from South Australia, Nick Xenophon.
Even though it is the home of the naval shipbuilding industry, the area has had to deal with high unemployment rates. Sean Edwards, the South Australia Liberal Senator said that this federal election is quite different as there is a three-way contest for the first time in modern political history, something that is taken very seriously. 50 candidates are being fielded by Xenophon’s party in the election and he could end up coming out as the kingmaker in a hung parliament. This scenario is now becoming a solid possibility as opinions polls show that the Liberal-National coalition government of Turnbull is going neck and neck with opposition Labour.
Xenophon said that if he was to find any common ground with the economic agenda put forward by Turnbull, it could only happen if it includes his own election plank of increasing manufacturing jobs. He said that the existential threat of manufacturing in the country was of the utmost importance, but others are unable to understand it. Tony Abbott, the former Prime Minister made a decision in 2014 to purchase a A$50 billion fleet of 12 submarines from Japan, which sparked a widespread political fury and Xenophon used it to his advantage for building his own position.
Abbott had promised to make the vessels in the capital of South Australia, Adelaide and this decision broke that promise. Xenophon stepped in and began his relentless effort to push the government into opening up the process and holding a tender. The winner turned out to be DCNS from France as it managed to beat out Germany and Japan, but this didn’t happen before a party coup led to the ousting of a badly weakened Abbott. While A$90 million has been pledged by Turnbull in naval contracts, but the six senate seats and the ten lower house seats in South Australia are still up for grabs. This has forced the diversion of resources from traditional areas such as Western Sydney.
Jobs from these naval contracts will arise in a decade and Xenophon is luring voters away by discussing and focusing on their current struggles as almost 60,000 Australians are out of work right now. Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens Party Senator, said that people are aware that the submarines are not going to get them out of the job crisis so they want the other players including Xenophon and Greens to show a positive outlook.