Elder Electorate

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:26 :11 ): During the last sitting week the other place made an important and long overdue call. It finally conceded that indeed the Labor campaign in Elder was a racist one. Members may recall that the member for Chaffey avoided rejection from the chamber by clarifying an assertion that the member for Elder ran a racist campaign rather than being a racist. That point, Mr Acting President, is still up for debate, however.

The following day, Tom Richardson, writing in InDaily, wrote an article which I think was an excellent piece, but it was also quite confronting, offering readers an insight into just how brazenly immoral the Labor Party can be, at the best of times, but particularly when there is a state election at stake. As a result of the racist flyer that was distributed in the Elder campaign, nearly every media outlet—including the ABC, The Advertiser, The Australian and every TV station in South Australia—was outraged at the blatant racist attack on Ms Carolyn Habib.

I believe it was a premeditated and well planned campaign. Members will recall in this place that I have referred before to a discussion I had with former minister Pat Conlon, where he suggested Carolyn Habib 'wouldn't fly in that electorate'. He indicated they had a plan for her and that it would damage her name. As you can see, the planning of this racist campaign started very early indeed, because that was some 15 or 18 months, perhaps, before the election.

Then, of course, you roll in the campaign manager. A senior Labor source who has been involved in the South Australian Labor Party for several decades indicated that it was Mr Tim Picton who was the campaign manager. Of course, his brother, Chris, is now the member for Kaurna. I am also a bit confused as to the role of Annabel Digance's husband, Greg Digance, who may well have been a sort of 'booth captain' or something; I am not quite sure. Members will recall that Mr Tim Picton was the architect of the 'Andrew Southcott's on holidays in Fiji' campaign, which of course failed dismally, and which was a lie and inaccurate.

These sorts of people, though, do not act alone. Every indication is that this campaign went to the very highest levels of the ALP. Of course, Annabel Digance's husband, Greg, was taunting Carolyn Habib's volunteers in the weeks leading up to the distribution of that flyer—that racist flyer—with things like 'We've got a plan for her,' 'We've got some stuff on her,' 'We've got some dirt on her.' He was continually taunting her volunteers.

Likewise, Tom Richardson's article has informed us that Labor members had said, off the record, that the authors of the infamous 'Can you trust Habib?' leaflet were cock-a-hoop on election night over the fact that the tasteless, offensive and downright factually incorrect piece had won them government. They apparently said that it was 'okay to alienate the Lebbos' if it meant another four years in power.

The article obviously infuriated the current Treasurer, Mr Tom Koutsantonis, because he was the campaign spokesman a lot of the time during the campaign. He responded on Twitter that he doubted Richardson had ever been the subject of racist taunts. Since when does it take a victim of racism to identify or advocate against it? He almost seemed to be saying that compared to the racism that he personally had experienced this act deserved no attention. Since when does he set the benchmark for racist behaviour?

Ever since the flyer was distributed, Mr Koutsantonis, in my opinion, has been trying to capitalise on the very misguided perception that those of ethnic origin who may be more susceptible to racial abuse could not possibly perpetrate it or condone it. I believe that Mr Koutsantonis and his comrades at the time have a lot to answer for, not just for direct actions but how they are grooming some budding Labor members. I witnessed some very questionable on-the-ground activity on polling day and I recall a poster that was displayed on the day having been cut in about thirds because it had some more racially unpleasant stuff about Caroline Habib on it, but it was not displayed on election day.

This type of behaviour filters down from the highest level. It is about the culture and the values of this Labor government and it has been ingrained in some of those young volunteers who may have future careers in this parliament. It is at high levels. We have seen the Premier, the Hon. Jay Weatherill, the Treasurer, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, and Mr Reggie Martin, the state secretary of the Labor Party, saying there was absolutely nothing wrong with this. I believe they are saying that because they knew it was going to be distributed and they are not prepared to admit that they knew it was going to be distributed because in that way they would be absolutely condoning its use. They should be ashamed of that.

Like Mr Richardson's article, Labor will be haunted by that campaign—and so they should. Just last month I attended the Maronite Feast with the Lebanese community with the member for Waite, who shamelessly sided with the Labor Party and, in doing so, has endorsed this behaviour. The Maronite community was delighted to have Carolyn Habib as their guest on that day and she attracted an intense amount of attention. It is fair to say that that community is still offended and has a sour taste in its mouth that just will not go away when they talk about the actions and activities of the South Australian Labor Party.

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