With just five weeks until the state election, South Australians would be forgiven for expecting politicians to be focusing on the big issues.
For nearly two years, the state has been under an emergency declaration.
COVID-19 has infected tens of thousands of people, with 146 deaths in SA linked to the virus.
Businesses have gone bust and the education of children has been repeatedly disrupted.
Despite the challenges that South Australia faces in a post-pandemic world, the state’s political debate has descended to a tawdry level in the past 24 hours.
In scenes described by SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo as “a disgusting sh**show”, the major parties last night took to parliament’s Upper House to level a range of allegations against staff and MPs.
Treasurer Rob Lucas kicked off proceedings, using the protection of parliamentary privilege, to read a copy of an email he received from Maggie Dawkins, the wife of former federal Labor treasurer, John Dawkins.
In part the email stated:
“Recently, I have been made aware of party members and staffers who say they are afraid to provide information to the South Australia Police joint anti-child exploitation team for fear of being labelled disloyal to the party.
“Apparently, they feel that, if they contact police, they may spoil Labor’s chances of winning the next state and federal elections.”
Ms Dawkins’ daughter sought pre-selection for the federal seat of Spence ahead of this year’s election – and threatened legal action against the Labor Party over the process, which she described as “undemocratic”.
The email also referenced the child sex crimes committed by former Labor staffer Ben Waters and MP Bernard Finnigan.
Mr Lucas also recirculated — under privilege — allegations and claims of bullying in the offices of numerous Labor MPs, including Tony Piccolo, Katrine Hildyard and Jayne Stinson.
Labor hits back with claims of bullying, sexual harassment
Outside the chamber today, Opposition spokesman Stephen Mullighan, accused Mr Lucas of a ‘smear’ at the end of his 40-year Parliamentary career.
But, how did Labor respond in the Lower House when the accusations were covered by privilege?
Last night, it began with allegations of poor behaviour by employees in the office of Liberal government whip, Richard Harvey, who holds the seat of Newland, South Australia’s most marginal electorate.
Labor MLC Russell Wortley took it further in parliament this morning.
He told the Upper House a male employee of Dr Harvey’s had made rude comments to a fellow staffer, “that were possibly intended as a joke but then escalated into alarming and disturbing behaviour”.
“Then the inappropriate and unwanted touching started …”
He continued to tell the Upper House that the victim informed the Labor party they had received a Snapchat image from the male offender in late July 2021.
“It was of him sitting at his desk and he had taken a photo of his erection and then sent it to the victim with the parliamentary carpet in view,” Mr Wortley said.
The government has confirmed the staffer at the centre of the allegations did not have their contract renewed.
‘A disgusting sh**show’
In a statement, Dr Harvey said “a complaint relating to a dispute between two staffers was raised and appropriately acted upon”.
As for the Premier, he told reporters this morning he had not be following what had been happening in the Legislative Council with regards to his Treasurer’s comments.
While SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo summed up the back-and-forth more succinctly.
“Last night’s debate was nothing short of a disgusting s**tshow,” he said.
“The people of South Australia deserve much better from their politicians than the debate we saw last night.”
And we haven’t got into the proper election campaign yet.