South Australian election guide

Introducing the Poll Bludger’s comprehensive guide to a South Australian election that’s now a shade under two months away.

The Poll Bludger’s guide to the South Australian election on March 17 is now open for business. It features detailed guides for each of the forty-seven House of Assembly seats; a guide to the Legislative Council election, which will elect half the chamber’s twenty-two members; a detailed overview; and a poll tracker feature that will be promptly updated as new data becomes available. My next task is to craft a similar effort for the Tasmanian election that will either be on March 3 or March 17, which in the latter case will set up a clash with South Australia for the third time in a row. However, there is increasing chatter that the former date is being favoured, with Premier Will Hodgman potentially to fire the starter’s gun as early as Sunday.

If any of this strikes you as entertaining or useful, you might care to show your appreciation by tipping some coins into the PressPatron donations facility at the top of the page and the bottom of this post. If you have any to spare afterwards, you are encouraged to do the same for the similarly donation-dependent InDaily, whose coverage of South Australian politics has been of the greatest value to me in putting this together.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

54 comments on “South Australian election guide”

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  1. I was great friends with the editor of InDaily, David Washington, when I was a kid. Haven’t seen him in thirty years. Fantastic guy.

  2. Well, Will, I suppose colour-coding for Labor and non-Labor majorities, based on the previous election results, is the easiest thing to do, but it’s not a lot of use as a predictive tool now that there’s a Third Force in the field, is it? Can you do an alternative map that shows the chances of the X team in the various seats, or are the guesstimates of the different pollsters too divergent to make a realistic map?

  3. In the seat of Colton, you have Matt Cowdrey as Labor instead of Liberal.

    Heard that a feisty woman, a local councillor, paid the required $20,000 to become the SA Best candidate for Colton but nothing has been heard of her since, generating speculation that Mr X does not want a potential boat-rocker on the team.

  4. Is Cory Bernardi’s party contesting SA election?

    I hope Holden Hillbilly’s tips are wrong. I would like Weatherill to win as I don’t think the anti Labor parties will improve the lives of South Australians

  5. Cory Bernardi’s party has merged with Family First, which has two members in the upper house, one of whom is up for re-election. Apparently they won’t be running many candidates in the lower house.

  6. Heard the Labor candidate for Morphett, Mark Siebentritt, speak today. Most impressive – articulate, impassioned and a clear enunciator of policy.

  7. Conservatives have announced that they will run candidates in 20 seats. Most of these will be Liberal held seats. They will probably get 5% of the vote, further reducing the Liberal primary vote.

    This makes my earlier prediction that the Liberals will get only 14 seats out of 47 more likely.

    Bedford a former ALP running as an independent may even come back into the fold if she wins.

    As long as Labor get more than the Liberals then they are very likely to form a minority government with Independents in Cabinet and supply guaranteed by SA Best.

    My tip for the 47 seats:
    ALP 21
    Libs 14
    SA Best 8
    Independent 4 (Bedford, Brock, McFetridge, Bell)

  8. William
    There is an article on the SA election in the Weekend Australian which suggests that Bernardi will be running candidates in around 20 Lower House seats.

  9. HH, surely you don’t really think Troy Bell will win Mount Gambier. He would be doing incredibly well to break 10%, from where I’m sitting. (His presence would help out SA Best, though, if they run.)

  10. If the Morgan poll is anywhere near the mark, you’d have to think it would be more like Libs 21, ALP 14 and SA Best 8.
    A bit early to say, though, especially with SA Best the joker in the pack.

  11. HH, are you game to name the 8 that SAParochial will win? The top 8 on Will’s list of Senate-vote percentages, or something more complex than that?

  12. HH: no way will Frances Bedford rejoin Labor.

    They made the offer to rejoin after Snelling withdrew his nomination, but after more than 15 years of being shafted by the dominant factions (she is of the “wrong” Left, and effectively unaligned for a while), she rightfully told them to take a running jump.

    The fact they honestly thought she would dutifully rejoin the fold after the appalling way she’s been used and abused over the years tells you all you need to know about the way SA Labor is being run at the moment. A bunch of arrogant wankers, to be precise.

    The only thing that will save Labor this election (apart from SA Best acting as a spoiler in some of the Libs’ more marginal seats) is that the Libs are 1,000 times worse – in such a way that it’s been pretty obvious for so many years that they remain unelectable outside of those vast rural electorates in which voting Liberal is both generational and – once one is in the ballot box – almost Pavlovian.

    My guestimate is that Labor will squeak it in again and govern with the support of SA Best and Independents.

    Also … the Libs will again win more than 50% of the TTP but will be again unable to translate that into seats won. Sad

  13. Also, I can’t see Troy Bell winning this time.

    My money is on this being an SA Best gain off the back of Bell, ALP and Other preferences.

    Mind you, they need to get a candidate first {winky face}

  14. All the experts say that we are in uncharted waters and the result of the election is anyone’s guess.

    Well here’s an educated guess: Liberal 27, ALP 17, SA Best 2, Ind 1.

    Preposterous, you say. The Libs are bloody hopeless. Marshall is no match for Weatherill. Labor campaigns better. I agree. But when it comes to the crunch, the following factors will be decisive:

    1. It’s time. Actually, overtime. Labor’s been there 16 years. It has done many good things but also has made enough errors to piss a lot of people off. Last time the Libs got nearly 53 percent of the two-party vote and still didn’t quite make it because Labor managed to sandbag a handful of key seats. It won’t be so easy this time, partly because the Libs have learnt their lesson, partly because several Labor stalwarts are retiring, but most importantly because . . .
    2. Boundary changes have made it impossible for Labor to hold on to its existing marginal seats, let alone win others. Especially if the Morgan poll is anywhere near the mark and Labor is significantly behind both the Libs and SA Best.
    3. SA Best is seen as a new third force. I’ve a hunch its support will slump as the electoral machines of the established parties swing into gear. Some of its candidates look pretty ordinary. Xenophon himself has picked the wrong seat and will fail because of the Italian vote in Hartley. A couple of SA Best people may fall over the line but in the end many of its current supporters will return to the Libs. Nick will have to look to the Senate or the Legislative Council if he wants to resume a political career some time in the future.

    Of the Independents, only Frances Bedford has a snowball’s chance.

    So there you have it. No need for further discussion. QED.

  15. So dogmatic that I could be completely wrong. If SA Best does happen to suck all the oxygen out of the Libs, the equation is reversed. Still think the first scenario is the more likely.

  16. With an unpopular Coalition Government at Commonwealth level and Xenophon`s campaigning experience in SA, there is a reasonable chance that SA Best will not have its oxygen sucked out.

  17. Predictions:

    Right wing, anti-fact protest party. No policies, just populism. Polling well, all the commentators assume they will get balance of power. But really their support is spread too evenly – so they will do alright in lots of seats but not good enough in many. Actual primary vote will be disappointing low as they can’t attract enough candidates to run in every seat, and volunteers to man booths properly. Am I describing PHON in Qld, or NX’s party now?

    So, with it down to a 2 horse race, we can just look at the 2PP figures from the pollsters.

    And they are predicting a mammoth, 4.6% swing to the government using all polling since last election (4.4% using 2017 and 2018 polling).

    Sure, there’s been a redistribution that made a few Labor marginals, Liberal marginal. But a 4.5% swing will flip them back. The downside to gerrymandering is that when the swing is larger than expected, you lose a lot of seats.

    Right now, with polling pointing to a Labor win, and with NX barely fielding a candidate in Labor seats, it’s looking like a win to Labor.

  18. VE: the difference between ONP and SAB is that the latter positions itself in the middle. More ALP voters would preference SAB ahead of the LIBs.

  19. ADELAIDE Mayors Gary Johanson and Kris Hanna will run for SA Best at the state election, with a high-profile Labor minister and Liberal frontbencher in their sights.
    Mr Johanson is the mayor of Port Adelaide Enfield, and Mr Hanna in Marion.
    Mr Johanson will contest Port Adelaide, held by Education and Child Development Minister Susan Close.
    Mr Hanna will take on Liberal employment spokesman Corey Wingard in Gibson, a new seat created in Adelaide’s southwest after the 2016 re-distribution.

  20. Elections are won in the center, neither Labor nor Liberal can win there, because SA Best is in between them, and will get good preferences.

    I think there is an argument that Labor has been there too long, and they need a break, but SA Labor seem to be getting the right sort of attention to rally the troops one more time… And voters who want a change will likely go to SA Best before Libs.

    I think Libs must have been a bit broken after the last election, that they probably should have won, and i doubt they are as confident this time.

    SA Best dont need many seats to take the balance of power, and my understanding is its pretyt much trench warfare over there, there arent many seats ALP/LIB to take from each other.

    I dont think there is any chance anyone will get a majority, the only questions is who will SA Best guarantee supply for.

  21. I dont think there is any chance anyone will get a majority, the only questions is who will SA Best guarantee supply for.

    I think they will support the party with the most seats.

  22. The profiles of the seats from 2014 is wrong. In the seat of Heysen the greens came second. So the 2pp should have that factored in. If the liberal vote is split the 40/60 majority of the liberal party will be sorely tested.

  23. Susan Close won’t be loving the railway signals fiasco which closed down 40 level crossings in the Port Adelaide area this morning.

  24. Susan close is a walking disaster.

    Couldn’t run a school canteen.

    Failed as a Minister twice (Manufacturing, Education and TAFE).

  25. I just got robocalled on my mobile phone – interestingly, it was seat-specific robocall, so someone must know where my mobile phone lives {winky face}.

    Now, being robocalled might not be a surprise if I lived in a marginal seat, or in the metropolitan area, but I don’t do either. Odder still, I think it was done on behalf of SA Best.

    In case you’re interested, these were the questions (paraphrased, because I can’t remember exactly how they were worded):

    1. What is the issue most likely to swing your vote this election? (1. Growing the economy, 2. creating jobs, 3. a reliable and affordable power supply, 4. better health services and 5. other)
    2. What is the second most important issue? (options listed again minus the one you chose)
    3. Who would get your first preference vote this election (1. Dan van Holst Pellekaan (sitting LIB member), 2. ALP candidate (was named, but didn’t hear it properly), 3. a candidate chosen by SA Best. Note that there was no “Other” option, and no other parties were named.
    4. Which party would get your first preference vote? (1. ALP, 2. LIB, 3 SA Best). Again, no other options were given. Also, I’m not sure why this question was even asked, given the one before is pretty much asking the same thing.
    5. Who is your preferred premier? (1. Jay Weatherill, 2. Steven Marshall, 3. Nick Xenophon)
    6. What is your gender? (1. Male, 2. Female)
    7. What is the first digit of your age?

    Now, for those who don’t know the seat of Stuart, it is dyed-in-the-wool Liberal, apart from odd elections where there was a particularly strong and well-known Labor candidate or boundary changes brought in strong Labor areas and excluded strong Liberal ones. Generally though, it can sit around where is currently is: unwinnable for Labor, and I would thought for anyone else bar an “Independent” that everyone knows is a secret Liberal.

    At the last election, Dan the Pelican got over 65% of the first preference votes, rising to over 70% TPP. So it’s interesting that Mr X wants to put his hand in his pocket to canvass the electorate to see if it’s worth fielding a candidate (which is, I assume, why he’s doing this).

    Still, I’d love this poll to ultimately see the light of day, because the results may indeed be fascinating.

  26. Incidentally, William, I notice in your seat description for Stuart, you mention the moving of Pt Pirie into Florey at one point, which would have been an incredible feat indeed.

    I’m not sure if you meant Giles or Frome, but that would make more sense {winky face}

  27. Correction to my item yesterday: 13, not 40, level crossings were closed down in the Port area.

    Xenophon candidates pose a big threat to Labor in Port Adelaide and Giles (Whyalla).

  28. Nick Xenophon has tried – and failed – to convince another Liberal regional mayor to run under his SA Best banner at the March state election, InDaily can reveal, but he denies the fledgling party is struggling to recruit high profile candidates for key target seats.

    The SA Branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said Xenophon’s party had failed to respond to “repeated requests” for health policy detail ahead of the March state election.

    As a result, SA Best has been ranked as “poor” on every measure considered by the federation.

  29. I got blocked by Steven Marshall on Twitter today. I wasn’t that scathing or nasty. Just criticised him for his invisibility.

    While it probably was a staffer, I still imagine it might have cut a little close to the bone. And there might be a little anxiety amongst Team Marshall right now that, not only is he in danger in his own seat or that he could lose to a 16 year government but that a plausible scenario for him is he ends up being Deputy Premier to Nick Xenophon. I can imagine there’s a little stress there.

    Probably the same in the Weatherill camp but he entered that role with the odds against him which, to his credit, is probably why he always seems to be able to keep his cool when under pressure.

  30. InDaily has been told as many as 10 new candidates will join SA Best’s lower house campaign, in addition to the 16 already announced, which would give the party at least 24 potential seats at the March election – the number required to form government in the 47-seat parliament. Of course, that would entail winning in every seat SA Best contests – an outcome well beyond the bounds of possibility. But insiders say that, with a glut of other contenders in the pipeline, Xenophon could yet contest well over 30 lower house seats – a prospect that would terrify strategists in both major parties.

  31. Will, you’ve shown us the NXT’s primary votes in their best seats from the Senate election. I’d be interested to see the converse of that – by how much did the votes of each of the (previously) major parties decrease? I have a general impression that NXT steals about twice as many votes from the so-called Liberals than from Labor (because, after all, it basically appeals to small-l liberals who don’t like where the “Liberals” are heading), but I’d like to see real figures. If you have the booth votes already entered into a database that you can play with, could you run that off without too much trouble? Please?

  32. Actually, looking at your SA Poll Tracker, Will, I’ve realised that SAB is stealing almost equal fractions of votes from Lib and Lab, and some from the Greens and Misc Others as well. Intriguing. And then of course in electorates where the 3 are nearly equal you have to factor in the preferences from the Greens and Misc Others, some of which will go to the X-Team. So the 3PP distribution of votes would be about 32.5/35/32.5. They could win a lot of seats, if they avoid picking candidates with bad secrets in their past. (Those numbers I asked for would still be interesting, if they’re easy to produce.)

  33. X has just announced eight more candidates – all women and most of them standing in Labor seats. On first impressions, they won’t frighten the horses. They appear to be a cut above some of his male candidates.

    He now has 24 candidates for the lower house – enough for a bare majority if all were to win.

    Instinct tells me Labor is going to do badly out of this.

  34. My previous kind thoughts for X fled in the wake of his deals with the Fed Coalition gov’t.

    I cannot see much good coming out of X holding any balance of power in SA. He will deal with a lib govt for little and probably frustrate a Labor govt, going by his federal behaviour.

  35. Hmmm – the more data I look at, the confuseder I get. (Which could be a song title for Paul Kelly or Courtney Barnett.) But it does strike me that the first-preference Senate votes for 2016 may be a better starting-point than the last SA election. The overall numbers (see were
    Libs 32.58%,
    ALP 27.32%,
    Xenos 21.74%,
    Greens 5.87%,
    the rest about 12.5%.

    Now Will’s tracker shows
    Libs 29.4 (down 3),
    ALP 27.7 (up just 4 tenths, ie virtually steady),
    renamed Xenos 31.2 (UP another 9.5) and
    Greens 6.0 (virtually steady).

    So it looks as if SAB has stolen a further 3% from the Libs and 6.5% from those who voted for others in the Senate election. Any ALP or Greens voters who were going to defect had already done so, at least on the white ballot paper, in 2016. So for predicting seats, starting with the booth figures re-collated into State districts and adding a swing to SAB would make more sense than starting with 4-year-old State voting figures. Any of you psephos up for it?

    I still think, assuming Xeno unveils even more candidates by the nomination date and unless the majors unearth a fantastic scandal about him and/or his candidates, the 3PP will be about 32.5/35/32.5 and SAB will win a lot of seats, where a lot = something between a majority and damn near all of them.

  36. The problem with speculating on how preferences will flow is there’s not a big enough historic sample to make any form of reliable estimate. Nor, for that matter, how reliable opinion polling is (when we get something.)

    I am hoping we get a little more information regarding polling and educated preference estimates (as well as any preference deals) after the writs drop in three weeks time.

    It’s because of this, I cannot give any sort of envelope prediction of what kind of seat results we will see after all is done. And I don’t believe anyone else knows either. Say what you will, I can’t think of another election (that wasn’t influenced by a heavy malapportionment system) where a 16 year old government is going in and it’s not a foregone conclusion that the opposition are going to sweep into power (and it wasn’t even before NX dipped his toe in)

  37. If Xeno can get above 25% in a seat and the leader of Lib/Lab(Grn) get less than 40, then it is hard to see how Xeno loses. Are Lib/Lab voters really going to preference the each other in great numbers. Directed to do so or not.

    Seems that most seats would be in that range , so Xeno could romp it in with <30% statewide.

  38. Bryon, it’s still possible on your scenario that the Xeno candidate could be third. His people need to be coming first or second after elimination of the sprats – which can happen (i) if they get more than 33% or (ii) if they get 28ish and there’s an imbalance between the other majors, like 45-27. But I agree that once they’re second it’s hard to see many Lib or Lab voters preferencing the traditional enemy. And I think they’re going to get 28+ in a lot of seats, and neither Lib nor Lab are going to get 50+ in very many.

  39. Probably you will consider this forum is not for my comments. But how else can punters get other important info. eg Susan Close has been criticised……
    Too bad no media scrutiny has been done into Xenophon’s true history.
    Almost no comments ever made of his Directorship in his father’s Construction business – while a politician. X didnt disclose it to AEC for the majority of his political life.
    Nor that the business went pearshaped, owing $6 million to the Taxation Dept. Just a tiny paper advert in the Courts. Who knows who owed, who paid?
    How did this happen?

    Only lately has his Govt Wikipedia
    mentioned his (now) former wife and son. Only lately his many years relationship disclosed.
    Families should always be protected, but every other pollie’s Wiki is truthful.
    A protected species is Nick Xenophou.

  40. X has announced a father and son who will stand against Weatherill and Marshall in their seats. He reckons they have a good chance of winning.

    If they did win, and my prediction that X will fail in Hartley is borne out, we’d have three leaderless parties in the new parliament!

    More likely, when polls show X is slipping back in Hartley, voters will come to regard SA Best as a headless chook party and revert to old habits.

  41. Factual error at

    Mid-sentence it says: “with Labor maintaining solid majorities in the CBD booths”.

    The Adelaide CBD is not as solid Labor as it might appear at first glance. The use of the word “maintaining” in particular is wrong.

    2014 Labor 2PP vote by CBD booth:
    Adelaide – 51.8%
    Adelaide Hospital – 55.4%
    Adelaide South – 57.2%
    Adelaide West – 65.8%

    2010 Labor 2PP vote by CBD booth:
    Adelaide – 48.0%
    Adelaide Hospital – 49.1%
    Adelaide South – 52.8%
    Adelaide West – 62.7%

    (BTW – in case of any ambiguity, the Adelaide Hospital booth is just another visible ordinary polling place, not an electorally-volatile special roaming hospital patient team)

    In 2010, 3 of 4 booths returned indisputably marginal results and only 2 of 4 booths returned Labor 2PP majorities. In 2014, only 1 of 4 booths returned an indisputably marginal result and all 4 of 4 booths returned Labor 2PP majorities.

    So to say that Labor maintained solid majorities in the CBD booths is patently wrong and needs correcting.

    Further – if you add the four Adelaide CBD booths’ raw 2PP vote numbers to extrapolate an overall Adelaide CBD 2PP vote:

    Labor 2PP vote, four Adelaide CBD booths combined:
    2014 – 56.6% (fairly safe)
    2010 – 52.8% (marginal)

    So if can be re-worded so it is correct that would be great.


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