THE KEY ISSUES IN THE 2022 SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ELECTION:
* Health – Labor has made this the central theme of its campaign, promising to spend big on more doctors, nurses, and ambulance officers as well as pledges to upgrade hospital facilities, improve services and even build a new hospital in the Adelaide Hills. The Liberal government has largely stood on its record after four years in office, pointing to major upgrades to public hospitals across metropolitan Adelaide which it says have eased the burden on emergency departments and are helping to curtail ambulance ramping. It also points to its plans to build a new women’s and children’s hospital.
* COVID-19 – The impact the pandemic will have on the election result is hard to judge. Six months ago an almost complete absence of community transmission reinforced government claims that SA had handled the global health crisis as well as just about any jurisdiction in the world. But then came the opening of the state’s borders in late November at the same time as the Omicron wave struck. It meant a surge in new infections and escalating deaths. But after climbing to a high of more than 5500 in January, daily infections have stabilised and the number of people in hospital has fallen gradually. Labor was at pains to support the government’s mantra of “following the health advice” early on but has been highly critical of the government’s preparedness for the removal of border restrictions.
* Jobs – It’s always a key issue at any election and especially so this time when so many people lost work or lost hours because of lockdowns and other restrictions during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment has fallen to historically low levels, but the base number doesn’t reflect the level of concern across some sectors, including hospitality, where many workers are still struggling to get enough hours to make ends meet. The Liberals say their push to grow key sectors like defence and the space industry will result in a jobs boom and also laud incentives to reduce business costs, such as payroll tax, and to increase traineeship and apprenticeships. Labor is equally pushing a strong jobs strategy but the usual debate over the appropriate size of the public sector has been surprisingly absent during the current campaign.
* Cost of living – It’s not been front and centre in much of the policy offerings from either party this time, but it’s always a key issue for voters. The Liberals say they have cut hundreds of dollars from household budgets in their first term in office by reducing electricity and water prices and other imposts. Labor’s campaign promises haven’t focussed strongly on cost-of-living issues, but Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas has pledged not to introduce any new taxes. Labor has also promised to scrap the government’s plan for a tax on electric vehicles.
* Infrastructure – This has been a key area of conflict between the two major parties. The Liberals have stood firm behind a plan to build a new $660 million Riverbank Arena in Adelaide to host concerts, conventions, and major sporting events, something the opposition says is an unnecessary waste of government funds. Labor wants to put that money into health but has promised its own big-budget item, a $593 million hydrogen plant in the state’s mid-north that the Liberals claim is unproven and will cost much more than Labor predicts. Both parties have also pledged to rebuild the aging Adelaide Aquatic Centre along with further spending on health, hospital, and road projects.