The Liberal Party could be decimated at the next Federal election, with South Australian voters feeling the strain of the loss of defence, car industry and manufacturing jobs across the state, an expert says.
Flinders University politics researcher Professor Haydon Manning told The New Daily that a decision over whether to award a crucial submarine-building contract to the Adelaide-based Australian Submarine Corporation or a Japanese builder was critical for several Liberal MPs.
He said Education Minister Christopher Pyne – who enjoys a 10.1 per cent margin – Andrew Southcott and first-termer Matt Williams were among the MPs who could lose their seats if the contract was awarded to Japan.
“If the submarines contract doesn’t look good in terms of jobs for South Australia, nearly all Liberal sitting members would be in trouble – including Christopher Pyne,” Prof Manning said.
He said the Liberal Party had until the next election to address the “very jaundiced mood” of South Australians as they currently faced the highest unemployment rate in the country.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), unemployment surged past eight per cent in SA during the past month – well above the relatively steady six per cent national rate.
The imminent closure of Holden in SA in 2017 will also cost tens of thousands of jobs.
To add to the tension, a new player or political party is entering the scene, with SA Independent Senator Nick Xenophon planning to field candidates in up to all 11 seats at the next Federal election.
Currently, the Liberals holds six seats and the ALP five.
Prof Manning said Mr Xenophon’s proposed party would be a major threat to his competitors.
“What we have here is the Nick Xenophon phenomenon. What we need to remember is, Xenophon in the Senate count in 2013, beat the Labor Party,” Prof Manning said.
“It’s conceivable that the combination of Labor and Xenophon votes could potentially unseat a number of sitting Liberals – especially in city areas which aren’t as strongly held as regional seats – and because Xenophon’s profile is much bigger in the city than regional and rural areas.”
SA Labor Premier Jay Weatherill told the ABC in a recent interview: “There will be carnage for Liberals in South Australia – and I think they know it.”
Prof Manning said Mr Weatherill’s commission into nuclear fuel was a smart move which could give South Australians hope of more jobs and a more prosperous future during this volatile time.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott also tried to remedy the uncertainty during August, by announcing $40.7 billion in new and older projects aimed at bolstering the state’s flagging employment.
This included $39 billion of continuous fleet build of frigates and patrol vessels, placing Adelaide at the heart of naval shipbuilding, and another $1.2 billion into the struggling air warfare destroyer project to create an estimated 500 new jobs.
Mr Pyne – who holds the seat of Sturt – told ABC radio that the funding was “not about seats”.
“It’s about the fact that our navy needs to be replenished over the next 20-odd years. We’re going to do that here, as Adelaide is the shipbuilding capital of the country, through corvettes, future frigates,” Mr Pyne said.
“That’s the first instalment and then hopefully the subs will be the second instalment.”
SA rejects free trade agreement: poll
The latest Roy Morgan poll revealed South Australia was the only state to vote against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, fearing more job losses could be on the cards, Gary Morgan told The New Daily.
But Mr Morgan didn’t think the Liberal Party was facing a wipeout.
“The results may be due to the impending closure of the Australian car manufacturing industry next year which will cost many jobs in South Australia,” Mr Morgan said.
“They want more industry in South Australia and they feel the free trade agreement may affect them in jobs.”
The poll figures showed blue collar workers were against the free trade agreement, while white collar workers were for it.
Mr Morgan said the remaining voters, making up all other states and territories, in the poll managed to identify how important China was to Australia – the nation’s biggest trade partner.
The Morgan Poll was conducted with a cross-section of 672 Australians.