The Nick Xenophon gazette

Actually a compendium of news on the South Australian election, but it’s increasingly a fine distinction.

Polling conducted for corporate clients by YouGov Galaxy (as it’s now called) has found not only that Nick Xenophon will succeed in Hartley, but that SA Best candidates are poised to win Hurtle Vale and Mawson on Adelaide’s southern fringe. While the samples are only around 350 per electorate, the results are impressive in their consistency. Xenophon was on 37% of the primary vote in Hartley, compared with 32% for Liberal incumbent Vincent Tarzia and 21% for former Labor member Grace Portolesi, and led the Liberals 57-43 on two-party preferred. In Mawson, SA Best candidate Helen Wainwright was on 38%, to 25% for Liberal candidate Andy Gilfillan and 22% for Labor member Leon Bignell. In Hurtle Vale, SA Best candidate Michael O’Brien was on 33%, with Labor member Nat Cook on 29% and Liberal candidate Aaron Duff on 23%.

Meanwhile, Xenophon continues to play the media like a harp with a series of high-impact announcements of new candidates:

• The hook for Sunday’s announcement was that a father and son team, John Noonan and Jack Noonan, both engineers, would respectively take on Jay Weatherill in Cheltenham and Steven Marshall in Dunstan.

• On Friday, eight women candidates were unveiled: Karen Hockley, accountant and Mitcham councillor, in Davenport; Jassmine Wood, Charles Sturt councillor and Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Hindmarsh in 2010, in Colton; Kate Bickford, a commercial lawyer, in Badcoe; Tarnia George, former staffer to Nick Xenophon Team Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, in Ramsay; Helen Szuty, who was an independent in the ACT parliament from 1992 to 1995, in Playford; Sonja Taylor, a business administrator, in Taylor; Tracy Miller, a “River Murray advocate”, in MacKillop; and Carolyn Martin, “volunteer”, in Enfield.

• Another recently announced SA Best candidate is Tom Antonio, former Whyalla deputy mayor and one-time Liberal Party member, in the Whyalla-based seat of Giles. Antonio is in the news today over allegations his wife, Angela Antonio, was assaulted at a Remembrance Day event by Lyn Breuer, Labor’s member for Giles from 1997 to 2014 and now the mayor of Whyalla. The Advertiser reports that “a number of soldiers” have provided statements concerning the incident, and that the matter is now in the hands of prosecutors. Labor’s current member for Giles, Eddie Hughes, has accused Tom Antonio of distributing racist material and being under investigation for assault charges in the early 1990s.

• Xenophon’s party also has high-profile recruits in Gibson, which will be contested by Marion mayor Kris Hanna, and Port Adelaide, to be contested by Port Adelaide-Enfield mayor Gary Johanson. Kris Hanna held the seat of Mitchell, now abolished but largely corresponding with Gibson, under various guises from 1997 to 2010. He was elected for Labor, defected to the Greens in 2003, quit the Greens and narrowly retained his seat as an independent in 2006, failed to win re-election in 2010, and again ran unsuccessfully as an independent in 2014. Johansen ran as an independent at the Port Adelaide by-election in 2012, when he polled 24.3% in the absence of a Liberal candidate, and in Lee at the 2014 election, when he polled 11.2%.

InDaily reports that not everyone is on board: those to have rebuffed SA Best’s advances include former Port Pirie mayor Brenton Vanstone, who was approached to run against Geoff Brock in Frome after failing to win Liberal preselection; Wattle Range mayor Peter Gandolfi, who ran for the Liberals in Mount Gambier in 2006, and knocked back an approach to run in the neighbouring seat of MacKillop; and Tea Tree Gully mayor Kevin Knight, who “refused to run in King because he likes the O-Bahn extension too much”.

Non-Xenophon news, such as it is:

• The Liberals have promised to provide half the funding for a $24.2 million overpass at Port Wakefield north of Adelaide, though Labor inevitably claims it will cost more than that. While this is in the seat of Narungga (formerly Goyder), which is not normally regarded as a battleground, the Sunday Mail describes the intersection as “a long-running pain for holiday makers escaping Adelaide for the Mid North and Yorke and Eyre peninsulas, as well as a site of regular accidents”.

• As part of their defence of Hartley from Nick Xenophon, the Liberals promised last week to spend $7.5 million on a Park ‘n’ Ride facility at the Paradise interchange. Quoth The Advertiser: “Libs vow to pave Paradise and put up a parking lot”.

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.

52 comments on “The Nick Xenophon gazette”

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  1. X is on line to shatter the established political system in SA.

    None of his opponents know how to deal with him. He’s the ultimate Teflon leader: the more he is attacked, the stronger he becomes.

    It matters not that he has no real answers to the problems besetting the state. He’s a passing phenomenon but he will have one major impact. The main political parties are going to take a big hit and they’ll never be the same again. It may even be good for them in the long run.

    Time will tell.

  2. It certainly looks as though ex-Senator X is on track to be the king-maker in the new SA parliament, though it seems unlikely, at this stage at least, that he and his team will be able to command a majority in their own right.

    This suggests a three-way split in parliamentary numbers post-St Patrick’s Day, and much will depend on who comes first, second and third. At first blush, it appears that SAB will affect the Libs more than Labor (though, frankly, it’s impossible to be sure at this point), which may well mean that Labor is biggest single party (but short of a majority), with SAB second, and the Libs third.

    There is a big dilemma for SAB if they can’t get a majority on their own. Parties like this are born out of protest, and typically don’t translate to the compromises of governing very well. They also trade on being “not Labor or Liberal”, and a minority government will mean getting into bed with one of them at least (either as the lead party, or as support). It will be interesting to see what people who vote for them make of the decisions the party makes in such circumstances.

    It’s certainly fascinating, and given that SA, like Tasmania, largely runs on and is funded by Federal money, I don’t suppose it matters much in the greater scheme of things. Still, it may well be a harbinger of other disrupting influences to the two-party system in other States, and Federal.

  3. With the ALP and LIBs both preferencing each other, perhaps they will prefer to go into coalition with each other, rather than negotiate with SAB to form government. That certainly would be interesting. At the very least a journalist should ask them about it…

  4. Are they both preferencing each other?
    That would be a very dangerous strategy for a major party that wants to maintain its integrity.
    X has a Liberal background like many of his candidates. In a way, the ALP is fighting two Liberal parties and really needs to make it clear it is not in bed with either of them.

  5. Unless DVC has some evidence to back up their claim, it is unlikely anybody has any form of preference deal happening at this point.

  6. To what extent are Xenephon and SAB candidates ex-Liberals? I understand X was involved in them in his early years. Is SAB a splintering of the Liberals, or a genuine third force in the middle of both? The SA Libs have been an old boys club for a long time, so many right leaning types must have been annoyed by it.

    Also, why does X oppose the O-Bahn extension? From a transport planning viewpoint it makes sense, and would benefit a lot of people, now that the new bus tunnel is open.

  7. As for being kingmaker, if X wins more seats than Labor or Liberals (possible), surely he will seek to be premier with whoever will deal with him?

    As the recent NZ election result proved, when it comes to being in or out of power, policy can change fast. I suspect that either Labor or Liberals will deal with X if they have to to stay in office.

  8. More than happy to see Mr X and others take on the longstanding majors – anything to make the voters think a bit longer and harder about policies & choices for representation.
    May the best political quiche win government.

  9. There was plenty of “what ifs” with One Nation and Palmer Party too…..

    But you know, they both were overblown by the media, and now both were either corrupt or have citizenship debacles.

    SA should be warned.

  10. The SA election is unlike any other. No one – Antony Green, NX, Jay, Marshall or any Bludger – knows the outcome.
    It’s Rumsfeldian. There are unknown unknowns, unknown knowns and known unknowns.
    My old gut tells me just one thing – and that is Marshall will not be SA’s next Premier.
    But it will be fun watching.

  11. As in Tasmania, Labor and the Liberals would have to be mad to consider going into a coalition with each other. It would be the dream scenario for Xenophon – he becomes the official opposition, and doesn’t have to make any of the compromises or hard decisions that would sour his supporters against him.

  12. I think X will smash the greens vote in SA (lots of ex-Democrats there) as well as take a lot of votes from the libs and ALP. Will he win enough seats to hang the parliament (likely it seems), will he have enough seats to demand to be premier or deputy premier in a coalition with the LNP (I expect this would be the way he’d go? ). Then he’ll see stunts only get you so far. Other than get rid of pokies, get water down the murray, and get federal $$$ for SA’s dying manufacturing industry in exchange for his senate votes, what does he actually stand for? He’s basically a wet lib who is good at self promotion isn’t he? It’d be great if he reformed their voting system for the lower house to be Hare-Clark or like NZ so seats were more proportional to votes – the Tories would always have to team with NXP or similar, and labor with them or the greens. A fully conservative government would be close to impossible without a massive landslide, and progressive government would be the norm with periods of very progressive government. it would be much more reflective of the community and might save the liberal party from itself.

  13. I don’t think people in other states “get it”.

    X is not a Clive Palmer or a Pauline Hanson. He’s built his reputation in SA over a long time. He’s made one or two ghastly errors but they’re pretty well forgotten. Basically he’s not a sleaze. He’s trusted while other pollies are not. He’s super-smart and hyperactive. His finger’s always on the political pulse.

    It’s true that the perception is far greater than the reality. He’s not the Messiah. It may all end in tears. But for now he brings hope.

    If the polls we’ve seen so far are indicative, he’s going to win far more than two or three seats. He’ll hit Labor as much as the Libs. Anything could happen.

  14. Sustainable future:

    You mention ex-Democrats. Funnily, the Australian Democrats are dipping their toe in the political waters this election for the first time in yonks.

    They have a candidate in Liberal-held Morialta, Peter Smythe. He’s running as Independent Australian Democrat because they haven’t quite got their act together to register as a party for this election, but the last parliamentary Democrat, Sandra Kanck, is the party’s State Campaign Director.

    Best of luck to Peter Smythe, who in normal times might do well up in them thar hills. These are not normal times.

  15. No preference deals have been announced and Labor has already said it would be happy to govern again with SAB’s support, which is the most likely outcome IMHO. But this election is unprecedented.

  16. SA Best does represent a potential break with the Australian political system of 2 nationwide major parties/1 party and a coalition that are the government or opposition in every state and territory. It is a move in the direction of Canada and the UK with their regional parties and significant variations between provinces/nations/states.

    SA Best is an immediate existential threat to the major 2-party status of the SA Liberals and a longer term threat to the SA ALP in that an SA Best state government can be in opposition not only to a Commonwealth ALP Government (like the SA Liberals) but also to a Commonwealth Coalition Government (usually the purview of the SA ALP), meaning SA Best is more likely to win a state election held when the Coalition are in power (unless SA Best are propping them up in a hung parliament), compared to the SA Liberals and thus the proportion of time the SA ALP spend in state government is likely to be significantly reduced.

    A SA Best Premier Xenophon is under less political constraint to call half-Senate elections at the same time as the PM calls House of Reps elections, particularly if there is an SA Best majority in the House of Assembly. The threat of reprisals when the current Commonwealth Government are in opposition but they have state governments represents a risk for an ALP or Coalition state government calling a separate half-Senate election that is not present for SA Best (unless they are in opposition at state level and are propping up a government at Commonwealth level). Thus the chances of a separate SA half-Senate election being called late on a Monday afternoon (to reduce the ability of the Commonwealth Government to call a House of Reps election) are significantly higher than under a nation-wide party SA Government.

  17. I may have jumped the gun a bit. I saw the comments reported in the indaily piece HH referenced and memories of the 2013 Senate race flooded back.

  18. Labor has a history of accommodating moderate Libs in Government. They’ve appointed a couple to their Ministry after all. So, teaming up with X is not that big a stretch and would probably be supported by the voters.

    If that situation arises, Labor should give X a major portfolio like Health or Industry Policy and make him prove himself. For too long X has had a free ride as a populist orator long on rhetoric but short on actually ever being held accountable for his views.

    The easiest gig in politics is to be a sniper. It won’t take long for the terns to worm on Mr X.

  19. GG
    My guess is X prefer a deputy PM role without a major ministry.
    You are right about the number of right wingers Labor has given ministries to.
    Maywald, Hamilton-Smith, Brock, McEwen as a minimum.

  20. Diogs,

    I have bad news. No role in SA politics makes you deputy PM.

    Labor should make it a condition of any coalition!

    Either pony up or forever be seen as a woos!

  21. There is a history here – splits with the Liberal party in SA with Steel Hall and the Liberal Movement – and Australian Democrats had their strongest support in SA – so yes South Australia is different

  22. When in Adelaide for the Tour Down Under some years back, and there being a State election, the Editorial of The Advertiser (Murdoch in a One paper town) proclaimed that over their 120 odd years they had only twice supported the election of a Labor government and was proud of that record

    And they were not supporting Labor in that election!

    Kenny, now of The Australian, was the political editor at that time

    So what is the position of The Advertiser (Murdoch) now?

    Mind you Labor has won many an election despite Murdoch

  23. @Toff
    Lol X isn’t bla blah blah

    X is Church nutter….

    And also he claims to be looking after everyone…

    Fine print ‘merits’…

  24. X is clearly trying to broaden his appeal, as his list of policy principles demonstrates.

    However I note that, for example, roads, public transport and infrastructure generally are entirely missing from this list. So there is still quite a lot of homework required.

    One big difference between X and Palmer or Hanson though (apart from IQ): X knows how parliament and the government bureaucracy works, after more than a decade’s experience. Hence I agree with others it is a big mistake to write him off as another PUP or PHON.

  25. William – you haven’t commented on the Legislative Council yet. Will be very interesting. Despite a lot of noise I don’t think the voting system has changed significantly which means directed preferences above the line. That means all parties will need to show their colours on preferences although multiple tickets should also be possible.


    While jobs, education and health were key talking points of the first televised South Australian leaders’ debate, the simple act of forming government dominated the conversation.

    Premier Jay Weatherill, Opposition Leader Steven Marshall and SA Best leader Nick Xenophon went head to head at the SA Press Club in the lead-up to the March 17 poll.

    It was the first time three leaders had the chance to debate key policies and share their vision for South Australia, but much of the time was spent explaining what they planned in the event of a hung parliament.

  27. The odds on next premier for SA on this site look unusual. Labor behind Libs and SAB. Libs can’t campaign but they can put some money on their team?

  28. That is a very low result for SA Best from Reachtel compared to what we have seen in other polls. Far from convinced.

    While skepticism is always advisable when a poll says something radically different, we’re in virtually untested waters here, so anything is possible.

    It’s not unprecedented for louder support for third parties in opinion polls vs. results on the day.

  29. Also a terrible result for Labor, which used to sail past 50 per cent under Dunstan.

    Was it a three party race under Dunstan?

    Can you please contribute something interesting to the discussion instead of the usual brand of Chicken Little concern-trolling you provide here during every single election?

  30. Be rational, Rational Leftist.
    For a long time, Labor was the dominant party in SA. According to this poll, it’s now running third.

  31. It seems that all the pollsters are having trouble finding truly representative samples in South Australia (or all but one are, and we can’t tell who the one is). Have a look at Will’s table on I’m ignoring the ones at the bottom which weren’t even rating SAB, and looking at the ones since December 2015.

    In the order in Will’s table, Lab/Lib/SAB percentages:
    Essential is consistently finding 37-38/low 30s/15 rising to 22.
    Morgan says 24-27/low 30s with a bump to 34-35 mid-late 2017/24 dipping to 19 and then rising to 28.
    Galaxy finds 27-28/33-34/15 rising to low 20s.

    Then Newspoll weighs in with Lab 27, Lib 29, SAB 32. (Will, you gave that a high weight in your aggregate, yes?) Then YouGov/Galaxy tells us SAB are coming first in 3 electorates with 33-38%. And now ReachintoTheEntraiLs tells us that it’s Lab 26.1, Lib 33.4, SAB 17.6. At least nobody can accuse them of herding! But would you seriously pay any of these people to do a poll for you, when they produce such different results? Truly, the only poll that matters is the one on polling “day”. And we’ll either find that one of the pollsters was about right and the others were wrong, or that they all missed the mark

  32. @Holden Hillbilly

    haha SA LNP is weak sauce, i mean Payroll tax is paid by both Employers and Employees, I wonder who will get the cut.

  33. I Australia, as far as I am aware, payroll tax is only paid by the employer (although it can effect hiring and wages) and employees pay income tax. With the former being levied by the states (although there is an argument (possibly a fringe argument) it is a labour excise and therefore not allowed to be levied by the states) and the latter by the Commonwealth.

  34. The former Federal Court judge who was to have stood for the Conservative Party to thwart X’s ambitions in Hartley pulled out for “personal reasons”.

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