Premier backs O’Hanlon for second Dunstan run
Labor has confirmed Cressida O’Hanlon will get a second chance to run in Dunstan at the upcoming by-election, with Premier Peter Malinauskas saying he was “determined” to see her preselected for the seat.
Premier Peter Malinauskas with Labor's preselected candidate for Dunstan, Cressida O'Hanlon. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily
Labor’s state executive ticked off O’Hanlon’s widely expected preselection on Wednesday night – less than 24 hours after former premier Steven Marshall announced he would not be seeing out his term as the member for Dunstan.
O’Hanlon, a small business owner and local resident, nearly unseated Marshall at the 2022 election after recording a seven per cent swing in Dunstan.
The eastern suburbs seat, which takes in the suburbs of Norwood, Beulah Park, College Park and Kensington, is the most marginal in the state and held by the Liberals on just a 0.5 per cent margin.
Malinauskas announced O’Hanlon’s preselection this morning at a press conference at the under-construction Norwood Ambulance Station, ahead of a campaign in which the Liberal Party will focus heavily on health and ambulance ramping.
Malinauskas said O’Hanlon’s preselection was an easy decision for the party.
“She has a degree of perseverance that I think has a lot of value in politics,” he said.
“I was very determined that Cressida be the candidate myself. She’s just done a wonderful job.
“At the last state election… Dunstan wasn’t on the party’s radar and Cressida was able to achieve an extraordinary result.
“That’ll be hard to replicate in the context of a by-election, but my word what an outstanding thing to show that commitment to her community.”
Cressida O’Hanlon speaking to media at today’s press conference. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily
The date of the by-election is not yet known as Marshall is yet to set a date for his resignation. The former premier indicated yesterday it would be at the “halfway point” of the election cycle – likely March.
O’Hanlon’s success in Dunstan in 2022 was helped by advice from former Labor ministers Michael Atkinson and Jennifer Rankine along with a campaign team of more than 100 volunteers.
Asked if she would be bringing Rankine and Atkinson on board again, O’Hanlon said: “It’s very early days, our campaign team hasn’t been put together yet, but I would always welcome any advice they can offer.”
Asked whether she thought the by-election would give voters a chance to voice their frustrations about Labor’s struggles with health, O’Hanlon said: “No, I mean this is a government that’s barely halfway through its first term.
“What I’ve seen, I guess as an observer outside of government, is enormous investment in areas that really matter to people such as education and health.
“I have asked people directly if they have any concerns they would like me to convey to the government, and they struggle.”
Both the major parties have played down their prospects in Dunstan, with only the Greens so far openly touting their chances of winning the seat.
Asked today if he was confident about winning Dunstan, Malinauskas said: “I wouldn’t characterise it that way.
“What we’re confident about is doing our level best to present a clear choice for the people of Dunstan between a government that has an agenda and a plan that we are executing versus a political mess that has no plan at all – that’s the choice.
“We’re confident about presenting that as best as we can.”
The Liberal Party also appears to be on a fast-tracked preselection process for Dunstan.
Opposition leader David Speirs said party nominations for the seat opened on Wednesday night and will close tonight.
“It’s a short period of time, but… in a by-election where you want to hit the ground running, that’s not unprecedented,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide today.
“If someone’s serious about being a candidate, they should have their house in order and ready to go… this hasn’t been a significant surprise.”
The widely touted frontrunner for the party’s nomination in Dunstan is moderate-aligned former ministerial adviser Anna Finizio.
Finizio has been publicly critical of a focus on “niche culture war issues” within parts of the Liberal Party and has argued that women voters are being let down by policies from both major parties.
The Liberal Party also currently only has two women – Ashton Hurn and Penny Pratt – in the Lower House, compared to 13 men.
Speirs today said he would prefer a woman be nominated for the seat and touted Finizio as a “dynamic, energetic young woman”.
“She brings a lot of energy to a campaign. So she’s the only candidate that I know of at the moment that’s shown interest,” he said.
Former premier Steven Marshall and Opposition leader David Speirs speaking to media on Wednesday. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily
“I would love a female candidate… I would like a young candidate who can present a fresh approach.
“She ticks a lot of boxes so we will see who else emerges.”
Only three Liberal MPs – Frank Webster, John Cummins and Steven Marshall – have represented the seat of Norwood/Dunstan since 1953.
The seat was last held by Labor from 1997 to 2010 by Vini Ciccarello until she was unseated by Marshall.
Speirs said Marshall has a “big personal vote” and “if that personal vote goes out the door with him, we would be struggling to hold that seat”.
But he also said it was a better time for the Liberal Party to have a by-election than earlier in the election cycle.
“There is no doubt there is a general feel that the Liberal Party has its house in order, Labor are struggling, and this is probably a better time to see a by-election than 18-months ago or a year ago,” he said.
“I don’t think the leader of any political party is ever thrilled about having to fight a by-election or an election outside the normal cycle – but, you know, I’ll give it my best shot.”