Perhaps fittingly, the closing week of a flat and lacklustre South Australian election campaign has been dominated by back-and-forth claims over campaign advertising.
In the dying days of the South Australian election campaign, voters yearning for the vision thing have instead been treated to a series of spats over truth-in-advertising:
• Electoral Commissioner Kay Mousley has apologised to Nick Xenophon after he was sent a letter which mistakenly told him his complaint about Labor-authorised posters saying the “X-Team policy is to cut wages” had been upheld. The letter was supposed to say the advertising was “not misleading”, but crucially omitted the former word. This prompted Xenophon to make public statements about the complaint being upheld. He rejected Labor’s call for an apology when the matter was clarified, saying the ruling was based on a “technicality”.
• Carolyn Habib, the Liberal candidate for the crucial Labor-held margin of Elder, has accused Labor of a “thinly veiled racist attack” over leaflets it has disseminated headed “can you trust Habib?”, which tenuously attack her over rate increases at the City of Marion, where she is a councillor. Steven Marshall responded that there was “no room for racism in South Australian politics”, and even federal Attorney-General has weighed in that the pamphlet was “overtly racist”. While the phrases “thinly veiled” and especially “overtly” may be off the mark, it is interesting to observe, as does Sarah Martin of The Australian, that the distinctive typeface used in the heading was last seen in the Rudd government’s “you won’t be settled in Australia” advertisements, ostensibly targeted at asylum seekers yet curiously run primarily in Australian newspapers. Nonetheless, conservative Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi won points for intellectual consistency for demurring from the party line, asking “how it’s racist to use someone’s surname”.
• Responding to the above, Jay Weatherill took pleasure in observing there was “only one party who have been found guilty by the Electoral Commissioner to have put out inaccurate and misleading information and that’s the Liberal Party”. This referred to a ruling requiring the party to withdraw and retract a radio advertisement it paid for and authorised which was voiced by Mel Calone, an independent candidate for the seat of Lee who is campaigning against the government over its handling of the school sex abuse issue. Calone said Jay Weatherill “chose not to tell parents” about the rape of a seven-year-old school student, which was at odds with the findings of the Debelle royal commmission. Personally, I have my doubts about the value of charging the Electoral Commissioner with ruling on such issues, which inevitably draw her into the partisan conflict that surrounds them.