The new Coalition administration hasn’t even been sworn in yet and South Australians will no doubt be happy that local media are already turning their attention to the next state election. SA goes to the polls in just over six months time with the incumbent Labor administration warned by The Advertiser that it’s ‘on notice’ following Tony Abbott’s federal election victory.
The usual caveats about the separation of state and federal politics apply, but it’s likely that the polls in SA and Tasmania will still be regarded as the first major tests of the Coalition’s popularity. It will also be a test of the independence of the local press given the issues likely to define the state election.
Support for the car industry and Murray River water management are both issues where the Coalition’s national and state interests might diverge. There’s a potential headache here for Liberal opposition leader Steven Marshall if he has to reconcile contradictory political interests. It also provides a challenge to The Advertiser, which firmly stated its support for Tony Abbott in its pre-election editorial, whilst also implying that South Australians might not be certain about exactly what a federal Coalition victory would mean for the state.
Much has been written over the course of the federal election about the influence of News Corporation on Australian politics. This might seem of acute concern in a supposedly one News Corp’ paper town, especially given Adelaide’s status as the birth place of the Murdoch empire. But media influence on politics only comes when support can’t be taken for granted.
It will be fascinating to watch over the next six months while the ‘Tiser adjusts to the new realities of a radically changed dynamic in nation-state political relations. Simply rerunning the federal editorial line during the state campaign looks like the easy option, but will readers buy into this if the Labor source quoted by The Advertiser is right and “people do differentiate between the two levels of government”?
Meanwhile other voices, like InDaily (off-spring of the old Adelaide Independent), put the lie to the one paper furphy having answered Murdoch’s challenge for publishers to enter the market to offer choice to readers seeking an alternative to his columnists’ offerings. Interestingly enough their post-election coverage probably makes even less comfortable reading for Jay Weatherill than does the ‘Tiser.
The state election in March 2014 will be a tough test of whether Labor has sufficient energy and cohesion to make a convincing case for reelection in South Australia. It could provide a sign the party is on the come-back trail nationally, but looks more likely at the moment to mark a new all time low.