Heading into the final week of the the South Australian election campaign there’s still no clear winner a campaign that’s at times been messy, but lacking any knockout blows.
While some of the gloss appears to have come off former senator Nick Xenophon, the high-profile SA-BEST leader still appears likely to be the kingmaker in the clash between Premier Jay Weatherill and Liberal leader Steven Marshall.
Mr Weatherill stole the early march in the campaign with Labor’s glitzy launch and promise of a $2 billion transport infrastructure program.
Mr Xenophon also had his best days early as he finalised his field of 36 candidates and fought off attacks from the two major parties.
While Mr Marshall had his best moment in this week’s televised debate, looking more relaxed and less scripted than his opponents.
But they’ve also had their hiccups, Mr Weatherill’s largest coming last week when the report into the failed Oakden nursing home was released, casting a bleak picture of the care of its elderly residents.
Mr Marshall’s biggest problem has been controversy surrounding a possible $1.2 million donation from Chinese businesswoman Sally Zou.
The issue has dogged the opposition leader since Saturday, the day after Ms Zou tweeted out a picture of a cheque made out to the Liberal Party.
The cheque is yet to arrive, but Mr Marshall has still been forced to bat away criticism over the prospect of such a large single windfall.
Mr Xenophon’s campaign struck trouble on Wednesday when one of his candidate’s John Noonan attended the premier’s media event and declared SA-BEST could win more seats than the Liberals or Labor on March 17.
And if that was the case, he would expect it to take more than one spot in next state cabinet.
That put him at odds with his leader who said previously his party was not looking to form government and would not take cabinet positions if it secured the balance of power.
Policies, promises or pork?
Mr Xenophon has also been forced to denied he is pork-barrelling, despite announcing more than 30 community funding promises in key electorates since the South Australian election campaign began.
SA Best’s promises have been announced either through press releases from Mr Xenophon’s office, or on the social media pages of his candidates, and many stipulate they will not be delivered unless the individual candidate is elected.
They add up to almost $40 million in commitments, but Mr Xenophon said it did not amount to pork-barrelling.
“No, it amounts to acknowledging that all politics is local,” Mr Xenophon said.
These are small community clubs that have been starved of resources to do what they need to do, to be able to provide that community facility and to grow and expand.”
Liberal leader Steven Marshall described Mr Xenophon as a “sell-out” and said he had never seen funding promises tied to specific candidates before.
Mr Xenophon said he needed the numbers in Parliament to be able to deliver on the promises, and without the individual candidates he would be in a weaker position to lobby for funding.
“It’s about having enough members of Parliament from SA Best in there to be able to make a difference,” Mr Xenophon said.
“We’re not going to be much use to those community clubs and sporting groups unless we’re in a position to influence outcomes.”
-With AAP, ABC