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27 March 2014

Did Pyne's meddling cost the Liberals victory in S.A?

While the state Liberal Party bemoans the way the numbers fell on March 15, it might want to re-visit the way it did its own numbers in pre-selecting a candidate in Colton, the seat that ultimately cost it government.


The pre-selection hit the headlines a couple of times: in late 2012 when it was delayed and re-opened in controversial circumstances, and again in 2013 when the decision was appealed.

When the Colton branch eventually had its say on who would run in the 2014 state election, the result was 25 votes to 21 in favour of former Federal Police officer Joe Barry.

Party insiders have said that the unsuccessful candidate, and frontrunner before the re-opening of nominations, Jassmine Wood had scored the most personal votes, but lost after preferences were cast by the remaining three candidates, none of which went Wood's way.

The Colton stoush started in late 2012 when then leader Isobel Redmond joined with left faction leader and federal MP Christopher Pyne to reopen nominations in the seat.

Up until that decision, the favoured nominee was Wood, who had previously bloodied Labor's Tom Koutsantonis in the 2010 state election with an 11.7 per cent swing against him in the Labor stronghold of West Torrens.

In that 2010 result, Koutsantonis won 56.7 per cent to 43.3 per cent, a margin he rebuilt at this year's election, winning 60.8 per cent to 39.2


Jassmine Wood's reputation was riding high and she was considered a 'shoo-in' for the Colton pre-selection, a winnable seat.

The 33-year-old local business owner declined to talk about the pre-selection, but her supporters remain outraged at her treatment.

Their main beef is that 'factional meddling' to secure the left's numbers in the party was placed above the need to actually win an election.

Wood also had her own beef which came to light in February 2013, when The Australian reported details of a statement she made as part of an appeal to the Liberal Party disputing the integrity of pre-selection for the seat.

Wood had alleged unfair treatment and grave irregularities in the ballot, a claim that was rejected by the party's appeals committee.

Wood was a member of the party's right faction, but her supporters says she had angered some when she backed a failed bid by former State Director Bev Barber for a Senate vacancy spot in 2012.


On the day of the pre-selection vote in February last year, the Left had two players in the race. They placed Scott Young at the top, Joe Barry second and Wood at the bottom.

Inexplicably, the Right went for Joe Barry at the top and Wood below him, leaving her stranded unless she gained a majority of first preferences.

She fell two votes short.

The tight numbers game had some risks, party insiders say.

The Right got so wrapped up in trying to keep out the Left's top candidate, they ensured that their own best prospect got rolled,

a senior party insider said.

Jassmine Wood was a good looking candidate, had a profile courtesy of her runs in West Torrens and Hindmarsh and had official links with key ethnic groups.

So while the factional power players complain about unfair electoral systems depriving them of Government, they actually deprived themselves because their need to meddle got the better of them again.


When the votes were cast two weeks ago, Labor's Paul Caica defied expectations and retained the seat of Colton, the crucial 23rd seat that gave Labor the edge.


The finger pointing has already started in the Liberal Party and this result will be key among the decisions made that may have back-fired.




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